For centuries the castle had been a lifeless dormant place buried away in the wood – lost in time like a ghost castle out on the edge of reality – on the fringes of what lay beyond.
The inhabitants about the desolate estate even in the twenty-first century had inundated their descendants with alarming accounts of evil mysterious magical forces and transcendent creatures dwelling in the woods.
Local newspapers over centuries had continuously reported and warned their readers of unexplained occurrences.
On the 17th of August 1898, of the worst of the detailed accounts specified, travelers on horseback had come upon the mutilated remains of gypsies scattered throughout the wood south of the castle, at midnight, and had been attacked and chased by things with fearful sounds, and swift-moving lights shifting through the trees.
Thomas Bryson (a renowned and leading research scientist – who had always characteristically disregarded claims of supernatural phenomena) as a teenager had stayed at Grovnor Castle (under the ownership of his uncle Sir Richard Randall), where he had endured a surreal night on his own in a central room listening to extraordinary sounds – like they had been materializing from somewhere – like hell breaking into reality.
Sounds like mischievous demons and unearthly elementals had tormented its confines throughout entire nights!
Stories of the place being haunted, told to him by the servants, had captivated him throughout his life!
So when he had returned there (to the immense ancient castle and estate hidden away in a still desolate region of the Highlands of Scotland), after being in the US, he had found out about Sir Richard’s death and had decided to seize the unique opportunity of investigating what he had really only heard there and one of the greatest mysteries that he had encountered!
Two leading scientists, psychic investigators, from previous psychic investigations that he had tried evaluating had accompanied him to the castle, and in the same room, identical to the way that he had left it, the nightmare sounds had viciously emerged, but neither he nor the two psychic investigators could unravel what had occurred.
Thus during the next morning they had brought in teams of eminent and leading scientists, psychic investigators, and extensive equipment to begin a decisive investigation.
The Haunted Castle
The moon probed deep into the dark clouds radiating the colossal tomb shape of the castle out of the darkness like a haunted castle in a film as the four of them marched along the lane from the surrounding wood.
It was still evening but dark and in the middle of winter, and snow was heavily covering the surreal landscape.
They were breathless and their legs could barely take them fast enough. The outline of the castle was heavenly but deadly from the black wood.
The place was unaltered, and Bryson no longer had the skepticism that he had once had. He had vivid recollections of his first visit to the castle – with his original emotions – as a youth. It had been the most mysterious occurrence that he had encountered.
Even to this day it was still strange! He had tried to disprove it on many occasions through his life, but it had never been possible. Especially due to his uncle, Sir Richard, avoiding his approaches to another visit.
He vividly recollected learning of his death from the small column in the newspaper, while he had been traveling back from California – where he had been on a confidential military project, as leading scientist.
The castle was enormous – and as long as a football pitch, and as high as a five-story building.
It was ancient, weather-beaten, but historical.
Bryson studied pieces of the castle walls strewn about in the grass. They were immense square boulders.
Bryson recalled what he knew of the layout of it.
The castle was surrounded by trees, which went out for miles in every direction. At the front there was only one central door, but at the back there were two. One at the kitchen, and one near the end of the castle, at the right side (from the front).
The front door had a hall that led to the center of the castle, where a long corridor of rooms went from one end of the castle to the other. With rooms on both sides of the corridor (at the front and back of the castle).
The kitchen was in front of the hall (at the back of the castle). In the middle of the hall was one of the two doors to the dining room, located at the right side. The kitchen and dining room corridor doors were almost opposite each other. And the staircase was next to the kitchen, on the left side. The two floors above were almost identical, but without the hall, kitchen, and dining room.
Sir Richard’s room had been on the top floor, at the end of left side of the castle, at the rooms at the back of the castle. And the rooms that they were now staying in were below it (on the second floor), but at the front of the castle. And the room that Bryson had originally stayed in, where the sounds were, was just along from the stairs on the second floor, at the central location, at the front of the castle (where the psychic investigators had brought in extensive equipment to begin a detailed investigation).
Bryson glared at Dr Reid, his late uncle’s lawyer. He reminded him of a German professor, from his early days.
They had collected him from a taxi, on the road that the lane to the castle led to. And they were to join the others in the dining room, where Dr Reid was to reveal the will.
He listened attentively to Bryson, James, and Robert, with eagle-like eyes staring coolly at objects only directly in front of him. He seemed to be constantly controlling his temper! He clearly did not like something, which Bryson assumed was to do with the late Sir Richard, since that was the reason that he was there. He seemed familiar with the grounds, even in the dark, which he gave a sporadic gasp of fright to.
He thought little of Thomas Bryson, and his modern scientist features and approach. But he occasionally seemed to spot his similar resemblances to Sir Richard, which people often remarked about. He was also famous, energetic, used the same business-like approaches, learned everything that he could, and examined the universe at every conceivable angle.
Their shoes crunched into pebbles, as they drew near the castle.
The shapes of all the vehicles there became visible.
Robert, Robert Randall, his cousin, then started loudly chatting to James, Robert’s younger brother.
Robert eagerly joked at Bryson, grinning: “So why do you think the only place to have all that noise is at those rooms then? Where we were – and all of you soon moved to! – I never heard a thing.”
For a moment, from his tone, Bryson considered what the others had heard – as he had heard little at the end rooms where he had moved. They could have heard the winter Highland winds making similar sounds. Sounds at night, in such an environment, were only authenticated by scrupulous investigations.
“There’re too many mysteries and not enough facts to be certain of anything!” he stated.
“I know a little history about this estate,” Robert announced to James, for him to hear. “Few people know it, and I’m sure nobody has kept any written accounts ... My father exclusively told me many things about this place ...”
James humorously observed Bryson. “So what’re your beliefs in ‘ghosts’?”
He stopped himself reacting, and glared at him.
“I think that the universe holds many secrets,” he muttered automatically. “And so far we haven’t had a proper opportunity, and the right means, to prove properly that anything of that nature exists.”
Robert glared, with fascination. “Science may not be able to explain many things!
“Things exist beyond this universe – beyond science!”
His views surprised him.
James’s enthusiasm for answers was building up.
“What’s so special about here? What happened here?”
“I don’t believe that anyone has ever been sure,” Robert answered. “There are legends that mention things ... One of them suggests that it was something to do with what killed some of our ancestors, who’d been visiting here!”
“How did they die?” James asked, with confusion.
“Something slaughtered them, in the trees that once were here ... Before they built this castle!”
James’s face turned pale, and his eyes glared.
“But surely they had suspicions of what’d killed them? All legends have rough descriptions of ...!”
“Nobody knew what they were. But I’ve heard that it was some form of a witch, and that they still haunt here!”
Robert staggered to the doorway; where he banged at the solid wooden doors, almost bruising his knuckles.
A deep thud appeared from somewhere inside the castle, as they stopped in front of it. And the door wearily creaked out. Heavily perfumed air swept out, heating their frozen faces.
A hunched elderly man, wearing thick round glasses, stood glaring at Bryson, from the dim hall.
Bryson recognized him as a cousin of Sir Richard.
“We’ve been waiting on you ...” he explained.
“Has everyone arrived?” Dr Reid asked.
“Yes! They’re all in the dining room.”
He led them into the hall, and their eyes fell on glorious paintings, gleaming on the walls. Their ancient views of the estate, and of his ancestors, were enchantingly realistic.
The Hidden Treasure
The room slowly grew silent, with the suspense, as the moment drew near, and Bryson adjusted his seat.
Dr Reid stopped at the front of them, and ripped off the top of an envelope.
A glint of amusement appeared on his face as he put his head close, and peered into it.
He observed all the people sitting around the large table in the center of the dining room, and he anxiously took out an old video with a typed label by his fingertips. Then he showed it to them, with a glint of humor, followed by some sadness, and he rolled the envelope into a ball, and threw it into the fireplace.
“Sir Richard Randall requested that you watch this video,” he explained blankly.
He signaled the butler, and he keenly took the video from him. Then he gently fitted it into a video recorder, beneath a TV, as though it were an old film reel.
There were signs of deterioration, with its colors making it resemble an old war film.
The shaking camera showed Sir Richard’s bedroom.
The picture flickered, and stopped moving. Sir Richard then emerged, and briskly moved to an armchair.
He sat upright, staring directly at them.
“My ancestors passed this estate over to me – including some wealth. So I intend that this estate stay with my family.
“My only request from my family is for this estate to remain in the possession of a member of the family – who is at least capable of looking after it! No matter what the future holds ...
“This task has not been easy ...
“I’ve had considerable trouble choosing a successor!
“However, I’ve chosen Robert – my dear nephew! I wish you, Robert, to inherit the estate. I’ve left enough cash for you to keep it as I’ve requested.
“Through the years, I’ve acquired a vast sum, from careful business transactions.
“Though, through the years, I’ve learned that I prefer not to use it – and I’ll keep it that way!
“I’ve considered what to do with it – and I wish it to go to the wisest of you, or whoever ... Therefore, I’ve thought of a plan that will give each of you a fair chance to get it.
“I’ve hidden it in a safe place. All you need to do is find it!
“What I’m saying is that if you are good enough to get it – it’s yours!
“I’ll give you the first clue, to where it is, and nothing more ... You must find the rest yourself!
“The clue is: where the last dwell.
“And I’ll give you a week!
“For a week, from the showing of this, the entire estate will legally belong to all of you – and it will be yours if you find it.
“After ten days, it will probably belong to anyone who stumbles upon it.”
He stared once, moved away, and the screen turned blank.
“How are we going to get that loot?” James whispered to Robert, for Bryson to hear. “He must have been rolling in it. He even hid it as a treasure!”
Helen, Robert’s wife, moved over to them, and muttered: “Let’s search the castle from top to bottom!”
Robert looked increasingly more determined to talk everyone into helping. “Our best clue must be that he would not have hidden it out of his sight!”
“So where did he sleep?” Helen asked.
Robert nervously shrugged. “At the top floor, of course!”
The Top Floor
At the top floor, Bryson entered slowly, feeling his way along the wall, as if he were entering a sacred domain.
The corridor had to be the darkest place in the castle. Even with the lights on, there were strange dark and gloomy glows.
Robert wandered about, offering everyone that he met a cigarette. He then spoke confidently with them, giving them confidence and his wisdom in carrying out the task ahead – while gently persuading them to do what he wished.
As they passed different rooms, it became clear that the cleaners had not been near there. Cobwebs and dirt shrouded everything!
“What now?” Helen asked blankly.
“We can separately look about,” Robert declared. “We can cover more ...”
They split into groups, going in different directions.
Bryson marched straight towards Sir Richard’s room, and Robert briskly moved after him.
The others mainly agreed to search the corridor, and to check paintings and antiques.
The door to Sir Richard’s room at first seemed locked. But Robert knew something, and viciously shoved it, until it screeched open, and dust flew out from it – like he were entering a tomb.
The dimness and dust was shocking. Webs and fungus had already shrouded it.
“He liked a luxurious bed,” Robert moaned, humorously, patting the firm mattress, sending up a dust cloud, while checking his reactions. Bryson smirked!
They then crept around, listening to the creaks and cracks of the floorboards.
Bryson’s attention fell on the bed again, where he had died, and had stayed until a servant had found him: a month later.
When he moved away, he saw the humorous side of what he had been doing – eying up his deathbed.
He spotted drawers, and went to them.
They were mostly full of old clothes.
Robert investigated every object that he came to.
“This place turns more gruesome the more I see it!” he remarked, flicking webs away from him.
“Do you believe that he made a mistake allowing us to search here?” Bryson responded.
“He was no priest! He ruthlessly ran his business affairs ... I saw a glint of sympathy in those eyes – which could only mean one thing ...”
Bryson picked up an old bowler hat, realizing how much things had changed.
“Let’s check somewhere else!”
At another room, they could not help smile at James’s methods of searching. He frantically yanked up floorboards, as Sarah, his wife, frowningly held up the carpet.
“Let’s try the floorboards in his bedroom!” James announced.
Robert stood with his mouth open, realized something, and closed it.
“Good idea!” Sarah replied, quickly dropping the carpet, and they left towards the room.
When they moved into the corridor, Bryson realized that it was a good idea, and slowly followed them.
“I’ll see you later,” Robert answered firmly, going in the opposite direction.
Once in the room, James quickly pulled up the carpet, and started pulling up rotted nails with an old metal pole.
Bryson wandered about the room, and wondered if Sir Richard had made a mistake somewhere.
“Where the last dwell!” he mumbled.
He went over to the spot where he had been, when the camera had been on him.
He grabbed a seat, from the other side of the room, and he placed it at the spot - and from it, he studied a painting.
A repetitive forceful hammering appeared in the distance, and occasionally interrupted him enough to stop to listen.
While he considered the room from various perspectives, it escalated into a loud rummaging and banging.
Finally, James went to the door, to gaze along the corridor.
“They’ve found something!” he abruptly announced.
Bryson followed him, as he left.
The noises were coming from a room – where there was a cloud of dust hovering outside.
There were shudders going through the walls, and sounds of rocks crashing down!
Their looks changed to bewildered glances, as they approached it.
Had they found something already?
At the room, he saw chunks of rock and pieces of plaster scattered over the carpet, and the others crowded around an area of a wall, where there was a large hole.
They had discovered something concealed in the wall (perhaps after they had discovered that the wall had given a hollow tone - when they had banged it).
Bryson measured the approximate width of the wall with amazement. It was phenomenal how thick the wall between the rooms was, and he had not noticed it.
Yet it was far older than Sir Richard’s era! And why had someone gone to such lengths to conceal it? Was there any connection between it and the disturbances that had occurred at the place?
Robert viciously smashed a heavy metal pole against the thick stone, while chunks of it crumbled away and crashed across the floor.
Robert dropped the pole, and the clang echoed from in it.
Then he crouched, crept over the debris, and climbed in.