I have decided that nothing scares me more than just an ordinary stare – just a long intense stare, with a hint of a smile. Nothing more. That would be enough to make me shiver in my sarung. No need for any grotesque features with blood, clot eyes or fangs or intestines spilling all over the place. One such stare that haunts me to this day is the look that Mona Fendi gave as she stepped down from the police van in front of the court house. She calmly looked straight into the camera and...smiled!
These are images that were running riot in my mind as I contemplated my trip to a castle last week. At the very last minute, I cancelled the train on the Sunday, which would have taken me to its doorstep at exactly . I would have been met by the caretaker, who would have shown me to my room along the dark narrow corridors, lined with big enormous portraits of previous occupants – portraits that have eyes following your every move. I know this because I have stayed there before – once with the family, which wasn’t too bad but one summer I was there all alone for a whole week. Other guests were placed in different parts of the huge castle in different wings.
This time, I didn’t fancy arriving so late at night, so I took the early morning train from
My uneasiness and fear were not totally unfounded. Castles do have their resident ghosts after all and taxi drivers would gleefully tell you all the gory detail during the 15 minute trip from the station. I bet they were paid by the local tourist board! Anyway, I was there the second time one summer two years ago. It was a lovely summer and the castle was beautiful with greeneries and flowers of all colours and scents. I was then given a room at the upper most level, up creaky staircases and along narrow corridors. I imagine, it must have been a room for the look out for advancing enemies. They have very thick walls with small windows, from where they could shoot arrows and stop any unwanted guests.
It was after lunch in the big dining room which was once a kitchen, where the maids and butlers and cooks used to eat, that I decided to go up to my room. Walking up the winding staircase, I overheard someone telling a visitor, “This is where the Bishop was found. He spent his last few years in a coffin in the small room underneath the staircase, as a penance for his misdeeds.” How my legs carried me to the fourth floor, I don’t know. But I think I must have flown straight up every night after dinner and lock myself up in the room, with the duvet right over my head. Every night!
This bishop’s portrait is among the many decorating the walls of the castle, his beady eyes following my every move and I’d sit transfixed byhis stare, on the sofa by the big fireplace in the grand hall, sipping my coffee before saying goodnight to the other guests and making my hundered metre dash to my room. By some cruel turn of fate, for the stay last week, I was alloted a room, with the Bishop’s name! How I counted the hours before I could go home.
It is a funny thing about fear – you don't want to see, but you will still do so with your hands half covering your eyes. You don't want to know, yet, you are curious. So, during this trip, I wanted to know more. Apparently, the Bishop isn’t the only one still reluctant to leave his home. There’s also talk of other apparitions – one of them a young dancing girl, who was rumoured to have collapsed after being forced to dance non stop. Suffice to say, I planned a quick retreat from the place soon after.
Once we were invited by friends, owner of a castle like hotel overlooking the
Oh yes, the other thing that will make me pee in my pants would be an alien voice coming from what you think is an ordinary face....Linda Blair in The Exorcist suddenly comes to mind!