November 26, 2020

“Theatre on the River”: My ghost story for Halloween

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Theatre on the River

I have written this story especially for Halloween. If I tell you it is true and happened to a friend of mine who swears it happened I know some of you will still be skeptical.

My friend ‘s name is John Plumbridge and this is his story:

 

I was twenty-seven years old at the time and living in a village called Hersham, near Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England. The description of myself is average. Looks, height, weight and body. Fair hair, clean shaven and blue eyes almost hidden behind the wire framed spectacles I wear because of my shortsightedness.

Being an accountant and having just been promoted to Associate Partner, I had been celebrating with my fellow workers. Allow me to make it clear. I do not drink alcohol as my father died of alcoholism and watched the effects of drinking had on his marriage to my dear mother. From a kind, considerate husband he turned into an abusive loud mouthed stranger. That was not a path I wanted to follow..

My wife is a wonderful and beautiful lady, Vera, who is one year my senior and a journalist with a local newspaper. When she walks in a room everyone notices. Long blonde hair, tall, slim, engaging smile and a 38C bust! We are both thespians and active members of a local amateur theatre group. She is a very proficient actor and I produce, direct or stage manage.

We have no children but that is not by design. One day we hope it happens.

I left the office around nine and Vera was not expecting me home until much later so I was going to surprise her. I had been given a silver cigarette case filled with my favorite brand Dunhill and this was now going to make it harder to give the habit up. But, then, most of us have a vice or two, don’t we?

It was a horrible night. Much of the day it had been raining steadily, but now it was pouring and lightning was flashing and thunder was rolling in the distance. I was glad I had not left it later to leave.

My car was a two door, five seater Ford Anglia Super and the journey home would normally take half an hour but with the torrential rain I decided to take it slowly even though I was familiar with the route.

There was hardly any traffic and what there was, was going in the opposite direction. I hadn’t got very far when my headlights picked out two persons both wearing identical plastic hooded Macintoshs’, huddled closely together under a single umbrella and both frantically waving their arms at me to stop.

My first instinct was to drive past but my better nature took over and although I had driven past them I stopped and backed up.

Without asking if I was going their way they both climbed in, even pushing the front seat forward so one of them could get into the back seat.
They didn’t say anything at all. No words of thanks. Just stared straight ahead. I found this somewhat unnerving so after a few miles of driving I asked the lady sitting next to me where they wanted to go?

“You’re doing fine,” she said. Her voice was sweet and cultured. With a slight accent I couldn’t recognize.

“I’m only going as far as Hersham,” I warned.

“That’s fine,”she said.

“You live in Hersham too?” I asked.

“No.”

“Just before.” The woman in the back spoke and leaned forward. Her voice was similar, just slightly deeper. The accent was a little stronger, maybe Irish. “I apologize for my sister, Grace, she never thanked you for picking us up. We would have drowned if you hadn’t come by and stopped.”

“Drowned.” The woman by me hissed. “Don’t say that word. You know I don’t like it.”

There was a deathly silence.

I tried to break it. I could sense the tension. Obviously something traumatic had happened.

“How close by to Hersham do you live?”

The woman beside me was still agitated when she echoed her sister’s words.

“Just before.”

There was no more point in trying to make conversation and we continued the journey in silence. However, just before entering Hersham, the woman beside me said urgently, “Slow down.”

I did.

“You will see a turn off on the left in a few yards.”

“On the left?” I queried. The road I was on was alongside The River Mole, a tributary of The Thames. “There’s a river there.”

“Yes. And there’s a bridge on the turn off to cross the river.”

The sister in the back laughed. “Grace, I think this nice young man is worried we’re out to drown him.”

Grace screamed at her sister. “You’ve said that word again! Stop!,”

I thought the word ‘stop’ was aimed at her sister but the banging of her fist on the dashboard and the window made it clear it was meant for me. I jammed on the brakes and thankfully we were going at a slow enough speed not to skid on the very wet road.

And there in front of me was the turn off with a sign that the car headlights clearly picked up “TO THEATRE” and an arrow pointing left.

I was amazed. I had travelled this route for years and never noticed there was a turn off with a clearly labelled sign. A theatre. Vera and I had moved to Hersham four years ago. We had lived in the Walton-on-Thames area longer. Vera all her life. Five years ago I moved to the area from Brighton, Sussex. During all that time no one had ever spoken of a theatre near by.

I made the turn and saw a wooden bridge almost immediately. The turnoff and the bridge were narrow with just enough room for a car. I had to drive very slowly and carefully. Both sides were flanked by heavy oak trees that poured the rainwater like a hose onto the car. Thankfully, once I was over the bridge the trees opened up onto spacious grassed areas. I caught glimpses of them from the lightning which was getting closer.

Then I saw the building and there were lights on in front of the doors. There was no doubt it was a theatre now obviously used as a home.

“You both live here in a theatre?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes,” Grace said, her voice more pleasant.

“Wow.” I replied. “That’s great. I love the theatre. My wife, Vera, and I are both big in the local amateur theatre scene. “The Jason Players”. You’ve probably heard of us. We make the local papers all the time.”

“No.” said Grace.

“We never read any papers. Local or international.” the other sister explained.”We live in our own little world.”

“Our world is more pleasant.” Grace said.

I pulled up right outside the entrance doors.

“Is the theatre used ever as it was intended?” I asked. “Do you ever stage a production?”

Grace had opened the car door and was already stepping out. She didn’t answer.

The car seat back leaned forward as did the seat and out stepped her sister struggling past me.. We were under the theatre atrium so it was at least dry.

“October 31st.”

“Pardon?”

“You asked Grace if our theatre stage a production. We do. Once a year. October 31st.”

I decided to get out of the car myself. I was dying for a cigarette.

Grace had opened the doors to the theatre. I was curious to see inside.

I took out my silver presentation cigarette case and took out a cigarette.

“May I have one?”

“Of course.”

She took the case from me, took out a cigarette and then examined the case.

“It’s lovely. I haven’t seen a case so nice. Silver. Oh, and it’s engraved. JOHN PLUMBRIDGE. You?”

“Yes. I received it this evening. From my firm. I’m an accountant. Just been made an Associate partner.”

She was still examining the case whilst holding the cigarette between two fingers of her left hand. It was then I noticed the ring. It was a Claddagh, silver with a large green stone, an emerald in the centre. Irish. I took out my lighter and lit my cigarette. I gently took her hand holding the cigarette and extracted it. I put it to my lips and lit it, then gave it back to her. She took it and came up close to me, her face now hovering inches from mine.

I looked deeply into her eyes but could not make out her face. It was still concealed by the hood that stood proud, masking the contours of her face and concealing the color and length of her hair. I could just make out her lips when her hand suddenly sprung and took the cigarette from my mouth and then her lips pressed hard against mine. They were cold. Ice cold. Then she was gone. My cigarette was thrown onto the ground and she ran through the now open doors that suddenly slammed shut.

Her sister had already entered the building ahead of her and I was alone.

I shook my head and started to get back into my car when I realized she had taken my cigarette case. I walked back and banged with my fist on the door. I waited but the doors remained shut. I banged again and again getting more angry. It must have been ten minutes when finally one of the doors opened. It was dark inside and whichever sister was there she didn’t come out into the light.

“Yes?” she inquired. I recognized the voice as belonging to Grace.

“Your sister took my silver cigarette case. I want it back.”

“The case is beautiful. Elizabeth showed it to me. Silver is feminine. Silver doesn’t belong to a male. She told me you had given it to her. A present. It was very kind of you and to bring us home. Do you like our home?”

“From the outside it’s very nice.” I was now getting even more angry at the lie her sister had told her. “I did not give it to Elizabeth. Good God. Why would I do that? I had only just been given it. I told her it was a gift from the firm I work for. It has my name on it.”

There was no response.

“If I don’t get it returned I will call the police,” I warned.

“I see.”

The door slammed shut in my face.

I only waited less than a minute when it opened.

“Elizabeth said you kissed her.”

“No,” I protested,”She kissed me. It wasn’t really a kiss. Our lips touched for a second. I didn’t know she was going to do it. I would have resisted. I’m a happily married man”

She laughed harshly. “As if that would stop you.” Her voice was scoffing. There was a pause as if she was making up her mind.

“All right, Mr. Plumbridge. You will get back your cigarette case. It will have to be tomorrow though. Elizabeth has it under her pillow and is asleep. I will not be able to wake her. Neither of us will be here but the door will be open. I will leave it where you will find it.”

“I will be here first thing in the morning on my way to work. Around 8 o’clock.”

The door slammed shut and I heard bolts being drawn across.

I drove home the events playing out in my mind. I decided not to tell Vera about it when I got there. Just the barest details and said I was very tired which I was. As soon as I put my head on the pillow I had a highly erotic dream of a strange woman. We made love for hours and hours. Never ending. The only thing I could remember was the woman had a ring. A silver Claddagh with an emerald. The woman scratched the side of my face with it and I woke up.

It was morning. My left cheek was smarting and I went to the bathroom. It was scratched and had drawn blood. It was then I remembered the ring in my dream was the same one I had seen on Elizabeth’s finger.

I bathed, my heart beating fast, and abandoned breakfast. I left a note to Vera I had to leave early for work. She was still sleeping.

I drove back to the turnoff but I had a job to find it. Everything was overgrown but I eventually found the sign that was lying on its side with the letters barely visible. It looked like it had been this way for years.

There was no way my car could get through the undergrowth. It was blocking what was a turn off. Yet it was clear last night.

I left the car by the side of the road, Thankfully, it had stopped raining and with some difficulty made my way by foot onto the bridge that was in need of repair. It barely took my weight as I clambered over it. Many planks were missing and I could see the rushing angry waters of the River Mole less than a foot below. The Mole has a bad reputation for bursting its banks. More rain like last night and it could happen again and wash that bridge completely away.

So how could my car had driven over it last night?

The trimmed grassed lawns I had seen from the flashes of lightning were just overgrown wild grass. Had I been dreaming all of this?

The theatre building loomed ahead but I could already see it was in need of great repair. Even most of the roof was missing.

When I got to the entrance one of the doors was lying flat on the floor inside and the other hanging on just one hinge.

I gingerly made my way inside and there lying on the floor inside was my silver cigarette case. I stooped and with shaking hands picked it up. I heard something rattling inside. I opened it. There were no cigarettes. Just a ring. A silver Claddagh with an emerald!!

Colin Wilson

IMAGE: TripAdvisor

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  1. […] Source: Cayman Eye News Theatre on the River I have written this story especially for Halloween. If I tell you it is true and happened to a friend of mine who swears it happened I know some of you will still be skeptical. My friend ‘s name is John Plumbridge and this is his… Link: “Theatre on the River”: My ghost story for Halloween […]

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