August 29, 2011

Curse of the House of Glamis

The following story is found in The Hamlyn Book of Ghosts, Part III by J. Allen Randolph, published in London in 1987:

When I was a young man living in London, I used to frequent the old Strathmore Club, and there I was once treated by a close friend to a remarkable and terrifying tale of familial bonds and the monsters they make. After dinner, as my friend and I repaired to the library for brandy and cigars, he remarked that he hadn’t heard a good ghost story in a very long time, and he lamented the practice’s lapse after his years at university. I was familiar with the form and so I challenged him then and there that we would drink and smoke until one of us was told a story that left the other’s blood cold.

The challenge was accepted and, after the brandy was poured, we began. I regaled my friend with the story of the Brown Lady of Downton Hall and he countered with the tale of the Hanged Man’s Revenge. I repeated the Tale of the Beast of Exmoor and he answered me with the Monster of Croglin Grange. I could see that I faced a man well-versed in his monsters and ghosts, so I fudged the rules a bit and recalled from my boyhood the time when I witnessed a ghostly Roman army marching through my bedroom wall.

My friend was certainly intrigued by my account but not exactly frightened. He puffed his cigar, contemplating the smoke as it lazily drifted in front of the fire, and finally said, “If it’s true ghost stories you want, I have a dandy for you.” Now it was my turn to be intrigued. I could see my entreaties were in demand and I urged him to tell it.

The story’s provenance was twisted, to say the least. My friend had heard it from his friend who had heard it from a business associate who worked with a man who was close to an aide to the American ambassador. “Every word of it is true,” my friend blithely insisted.

the story goes like this: It seems the young heir of a titled northern family had just received the sad news that his father, Lord Glamis, had unexpectedly passed away. Now this son was living in New York at the time and the father had died, it was said, in an automobile accident in Scotland. So, as the son was busy making preparations to return home, he received an urgent summons from a prominent downtown solicitor’s office.

The son hurried to the solicitor’s spacious, well-appointed rooms, no doubt expecting some paperwork pertaining to his status as heir to the Glamis name and the accompanying drafty Scottish castle. He was met by one of the senior partners of the firm and ushered into a conference room where instead of legal documents, he found a film projector and projecting screen.

The senior partner asked the son to sit, started the machine, and quickly left the room, turning off the lights as he did. There the son sat in the flickering light, completely perplexed as to why he had been mysteriously summoned at such a needful hour, only to be shown a picture show. His confusion deepened, however, when the image of his father appeared on the screen.

The father, usually so neat and meticulous in his manners and appearance, wore his shirt open and his face was red and puffy. It looked as if he hadn’t slept in days and had been drinking all the while. The father, eyes downcast, was illuminated by a dim light. The wall behind him was a great black space.

The father lifted a tumbler of whiskey to his lips, took a long sip, then looked directly into the camera and spoke. “Simon, my son, the time has come for you to come into your inheritance and all the privileges and burdens it entails. Our family has known great fortune for many years – many hundreds of years – and there are those who jealously covet all that we have. They see our line, unbroken for generations, succeed where others fail, wring profit from catastrophe, weather all dangers, thrive no matter the circumstance. They do not know, they do not understand, that we have in fact paid a terrible price for everything we have achieved, everything we cherish.”

It was at this point, when the father paused to hang his head and drink again from his glass, that the son first noticed the shadow that loomed behind him. It occurred to him that maybe his father was a captive, that some rogue stood in the shadows, feeding his father this strange speech which would end with the demand of a ransom payment.

Almost imperceptibly, the father’s eyes turned to the shadow and the shadow swayed side to side and the son realized how enormous the figure behind his father truly was. He continued: “Our fortune, however, has lately turned sour. You may not know how many of our investments have failed, how much we have lost both in our finances and in our standing. Nevertheless, the signs are clear: my time is over. He who leads this family carries a special burden, a burden I now pass on to you.”

Anther slug of whiskey and the father fixed the camera with bloodshot eyes: “Only myself and my steward, Wentworth, are privy to this knowledge. Through the years, the head of the family and his man share this burden with no one else until the day they pass it to their successors. I am not Lord Glamis. The real Lord Glamis stands behind me in shadow, secreted here in the family seat in a room that only Wentworth and I can enter. He is the reason our family thrives! He is the source of all our power! He is our family, our only ancestor, our patriarch; he is the father of us all! Without him, our fortunes would crumble and our blood would fail. He decides when to revitalize the family, restore our fortunes, renew our blood. That time has come. Our recent setbacks are a clear enough sign. You will take my place. You will be known as Lord Glamis, but the real Lord Glamis will be here waiting for you. Farewell.”

With that abrupt valediction, the father emptied his glass and, still facing the camera and his watching son, stepped back exactly two paces. All at once, a number of things happened. The son heard the sound of a thick chain being drug across a stone floor as a huge arm covered in dirty black hair reached out from the shadows and tightened around the father’s neck. The glass fell from his hand and the son heard it shatter on the floor. There was a distressing gurgling sound as the father began to choke in the monstrous grip and another noise, like the grunt of a large ape. Above the father’s head, a hideous face emerged from the darkness, deformed with mindless yellow eyes and a mouth full of blood-stained tusks – a monster’s face! It leered at the camera for a moment before it disappeared into the shadows, taking Simon’s father with it. There was a muffled scream and the crunch of bones before the picture went blank white and the only sound above the muffled traffic on the street below was the projector’s mechanism turning over and over.

It was later said that the son returned forthwith to the family seat, only to be sent away to an institute that houses the hopelessly insane. Another story has it that the son never made it out of the solicitor’s office, unless jumping from the twenty-second story window counts. Personally, I have looked into the story and the son’s story is not clear, but whatever his fate, the fortunes of the house of Glamis have never been brighter. The family continues to dominate the financial and social worlds from its formidable redoubt at Glamis Castle. Is the family ruled by some mad monster who lives forever in a secret room? One could do worse, it seems. 

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