ENGLISH: Young crime writers craft a chilling tale

Keen young crime writers from RGS’s Wordsmiths club were invited to spend a day roaming the house and grounds of the National Trust’s Beningbrough Hall when it was closed to the public. As well as enjoying a short-story treasure hunt and dramatic readings at the imposing Georgian mansion, they worked in groups and pairs to produce this evocative and haunting ghost story, which will have you on the edge of your seat all the way to the end…

A Beningbrough Ghost Story


THE dismal pond lay forever gazing upward to the weeping grey sky. It sat trapped within its own eight solid walls. Hoping one day it could be as free as the birds it watched all day. They could go wherever they pleased without the worries of boundaries. All it wished was to break free from the hell that holds it. Until one day it realised, even birds are chained to the sky.

As I walk calmly into the eerily silent gardens, the vulnerable flowers look around inquisitively at everything around them. They wait like prey just before the predators catch them. I watch the darkening clouds cautiously as they start to gather, ready to tumble towards me and attack. To relax I breathe deeply in and I can sense the taste of the heavy, moist air, then I wait, I wait for the rain. Suddenly, I feel the heat drop rapidly and the coldness arrive form the darkness. I can smell the darkness awakening from its deep slumber, it was calm before the storm. As the wind picks up, I can hear its quiet, vicious whispers and the low, sleepy voice of the trees. I can sense the touch of the angry rain as it drops from the sky, speeding up as it falls and flies.

An aroma of sweet rotting wood and the musky, freshly dug earth fills the air. Ivy slowly creeps up the gnarled, twisted trunks. Spindly branches reach out like deformed claws ready to strike. Pale slivers of light barely illuminate the sparse forest floor. Muffled owl hoots are the only sign that life had tainted this ‘forest of death’. Shadows flicker above me. I freeze. A chink of light is visible, tantalizingly close. My chance of freedom. A chill runs down my spine, someone is following. I can feel it. A twig snaps behind me. I whip around to face the stranger, and my face drains of colour…

Screaming silence echoed around as the tree coiled around itself like a boa constrictor. It looked like a giant dead troll covered from head to toe in goo filled witch’s warts. Over time the tree like an old person collapsed on the moist smell-less ground waiting, wanting to die. The fluffy moss which coats the soulless tree preserved corpses of the bark and ruins of the branches. A screech of a distressed owl signals our exit.

Overgrown ivy crept across disintegrating crumbly bricks into the gutter above, where mice scuttle & scurry. Cobwebs cover ivy, bricks and windows, a thick blanket keeping what’s inside hidden from the world. Misty, murky windows, a stage to what’s inside, rusty tools revealed by the flicker light, unused for centuries. Proud & centred, hung by rusty nails, a polished blinding scythe. A crack in the window where damp air oozed out carrying the aroma of decaying grass cuttings. The neglected brown door nearly hung off its hinges, it had mud all splashed up its front and the door handle popped out of its place & echoed like a lost boy in a cave every time you turned it. There was something quite sinister about how all the tools were rusty except the scythe, which was polished, and there was a whole eeriness about the place.

The wall was old and grey like elders’ colourless, boring, dull hair. Bricks were worn and falling off. It was almost camouflaged against the wearygrey sky that was gazing down manifestly threatening. The wall was crumbling, it had been there for a few decades now and it lay there lifeless and still. Now forgotten, neglected, ghostly against the green of the wood that stretched out beyond it. The wall was dead. A brick fell off making a muffled crash as it fell on the pile of rubble below. The wall watched as the life come and went. It had seen so many events in its life. It had seen changes, wars and conflict beginning; the end of people and chickens playing in the sun.

The man stood still, with his muscular arms and ripped gardener’s outfit. His face looked revengeful and sad. He had deep bags and scars below his wide eyes and his hair was messy, as if he hadn’t brushed it in years.

Gareth the gardener was very hard working. He was a very kind hearted man with sparkling blue eyes that faded into an ocean-grey colour with age. His smiling face was worn and wrinkled with spots everywhere. He had little hair on top but a long white beard that made him look considerably wiser. He wore old leather sandals that were damp with years of sweat and showed his yellow toenails. He wore old ripped trousers and a grey shirt that offered no protection from the weeping grey sky. He only earned 10p an hour and although this was not much, Gareth made a living from it therefore, he was extremely poor. His dwelling was a run-down old wooden hut on the edge of the site. He had been living there since his son and wife died of illness that they could not afford to care for. He awoke that day smiling as usual and gazed at the blazing sun. He grabbed his rake and set to work as he did every day, all day. Gareth worked hard all day. He raked the leaves, pruned the roses and gathered the tomatoes. He stood over the pond and stared at his refection. He suddenly saw the glinting of a shilling lying amongst crowns, threepenny bits and two pence pieces submerged in the murky water. He immediately dropped to his knees and started to gather the coins in handfuls. A dark figure suddenly appeared behind his reflection and loomed over him. But before Gareth could turn round and greet this mysterious figure, the poor gardener was shoved into the pond without making a splash. But little did he know, he was going to be transported to hellish dimension where he is said to be locked up to this day, tortured by demons in a tower he could not escape.

I have been searching for Gareth for minutes, he told me that if I ever needed him that he would be in the green house. Where is he? I have looked underneath terracotta plant pots, behind prickly bushes and even in the rubbish bins. I am infuriated with that man. A visitor of the hall saw me, I had to pretend that she didn’t and that it was all in her head. Where is he?

A thin, tall woman’s silhouette shadows the blowing clothes as her small, weak darling child stood on her tip toes trying to reach the bird-like white clothes which were as pale as the beautiful lady’s skin. Swishing her long blonde hair that flows like a river from her head. Pearly, plump pink lips under her ocean blue eyes which burst like a balloon with a rainbow of colours that twinkle like elegant stars in the darkest night. Her name held the same amount of beauty, she was called Suzanne Brown. Her hair fell in soft ringlets, a pearl necklace adorned her neck. The most breath-taking thing about her was her incredibly extravagant dress, which had been bunched at her skirt, silk was draped around her shoulders, and a mother of pearl belt was tied tightly around her waist. But there was something strange about her. The way her eyes filled with greed. The way she gracefully glided from place to place, and how her body was not entirely solid but opaque and rippled when she moved. Her matted hair fell down to her shoulders, curtaining her sharp, hungry-looking face. The dark bags that hung under her eyes represented the eternal torments that she had been exposed to. Her long, ripped dress fell beneath her ankles and the muddy face she had showed her spitefulness in her past life.

The Ghost’s backstory

I look out of the new windows onto beautiful grounds, my black hair flowing past my shoulders. ‘Jane! Get back to work’, says sir McKintey. ‘Yes sir’, I shout back.

The dust filled the deserted room as I brushed the mucky floor. My eyes swelled up and crystal tears rolled down my pale face. I walk downstairs to the front room where the McKinteys are sitting intently, staring at me.

‘Jane, I’m really sorry but we’ve decided that you’re not fit for this job anymore’ exclaimed Madame McKintey.

‘But, but’ I say as three tears continue to fall, ‘That means I don’t have a home!’

‘Well, then, we’ll have a wonderful display of body pieces on the wall’ she whispered back.

I start to run. Into the gardens I go to try and protect myself. My face, now wet with tears, was aching and cold and my feet were now sore from running at such speed.

I turn up at a lonely, frozen pond. The tweeting of birds comfort me as I sit on my own. All until I hear a snap from the bushes behind me. My heart pounds in my chest. I didn’t want to die. My body frozen and my wide eyes are staring right where I heard… the noise.

And then, from out of the gloom, I see a figure. A figure with some kind of weapon. And then I realise it was the gardener. The McKinteys’ most loyal slave – ready to get me. He strolls forward – towards me, snapping his plyers at me. I stop breathing as he stops next to me – his weapon at my neck.

‘Goodbye… Jane’ he whispers evilly. He gets his plyers and sticks them into my glazed neck, pushing me into the freezing water. I scream. But it’s too late. I try and breathe but I’m drowning. My heart stops beating and I take my last breath…

I awaken from my horrible nightmare, only realising it wasn’t a dream. My opaque hands were glued to my side and my legs had disappeared, making me float. I’m in my old room, listening to the joy and laughter of the family I once loved. I start to float down the ebony-wood staircase into the dining room where the McKinteys were clinking glasses of blood-red wine. My instinct and heart tell me to go and get revenge. Revenge. Great revenge. Anyone who ever dares to enter my land will pay the same price.

No one will get in my way.

As Gareth peers out from his temporary bedroom window, he notices shadow from the past develop into pale, ghostly figures. As the scene slowly developed a little girl turned towards to face him staring into his eyes, eventually reaching his soul. He notices eight young women standing on an old, crooked, wooden chair as they tie a noose around her delicate, fragile neck. ’Witch, witch, witch’ the people quietly chant in unison. As fast as the visions came they were gone. The only thing that remained was the old splatter of blood. Feeling that he lost his sanity he raced out the door into the abandoned garden. Untamed plants reach for his ankles, he carefully dodges them and carries on. He goes towards the dirty, black pond to rest his feet, he takes a seat and a vision erupted into sight, this time it was an old man bathing in the lifeless pond. ‘Come and sit closer’. As Joe raced away he felt a cold icy hand wrap around to get his wrist. His heart was beating like a scurrying mouse as he tumbled backward into the pond…