I'll preface this entry with a notice that I'm currently substantially redesigning Holme, so don't mind the fact that the city currently looks quite bare. It'll get there in time. Now, on with the story...
The Hauntings of Holme
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like Holme (the fact nobody would ever call Holme "humble" notwithstanding). Here sits a city steeped in history, from the earliest days of a muddy settlement upon the banks of the Garden River, to the gleaming metropolis we see sprawling before us today. Holme is Vodeo's second-largest and second-oldest city, dating all the way back to 1598. For 2¾ centuries, Holme was the largest city in central-eastern Tarephia, only overtaken by Saviso in 1874. It is a financial and commercial centre, although not quite to the extent of its sister to the south, and it is also a great centre of education and culture. It's also where the Queen hangs her hat, hence why the city calls itself the "royal capital" (it's not constitutional, but it's one hell of a marketing gimmick). Yes, Holme is certainly a city with much to be proud of.
But we're not here to drink coffee in fashionable Lenthall cafes or crash on the royal couch (that is not a euphemism). We're here because there's more to Holme than meets the eye. To put it bluntly, Holme is haunted. Ghosts and strange things are everywhere. If that frightens you, I'd advise keeping to the outer suburbs, where you can feel safe and relaxed inside the big malls. For the rest of you, press onward as we look into what's given Holme the title of Vodeo's most haunted city.
One Last Walk
Holme has been the seat of the monarchy for the last 289 years. In the early days, when such an institution was on shaky foundations, the sovereigns lived in a manor house across the river in Remington. But the marshy surroundings and fetid and polluted river were no place for royal personages, and so in the late 1750s construction began on a grand palace upon the hill at Prosford, then out in the countryside where the fresh air and pleasant surroundings would stimulate the mind of the all-wise sovereign. Unfortunately the plans were a little too grandiose and so the palace remained unfinished for nearly 30 years. According to local history, King Alfred was giving a tour of the palace to some friends shortly after he moved in, and as he boasted about the building's quality, he put his foot straight through the floor. Prosford Palace didn't get off to a good start, but today is a marvellously resplendent place for a king or queen to be. Don't think that the palace's grandeur necessarily rubs off on the Queen, though - she herself has admitted to lounging around in pyjamas and with her hair in a towel on days off. But then again, she's the Queen, she can do what she likes.
Prosford Palace has been home to a total of ten kings and queens since its completion in 1787. Touring the palace, it's hard not to feel a sense of history in the place - these were the same corridors that were walked by the likes of Thomas I, Victoria II, David, and in one bizarre instance just over a century ago, Adelaide I.
It is September 2, 1917. For nearly 68 years, Adelaide has sat upon the throne, revered by her subjects, but on this day she is in bed, feeling very poorly. The news is grim - the queen is dying, and the whole country is praying for a miracle. For some time the 87-year-old monarch has been feeling unwell, but for the last fortnight she has been confined to bed rest. By the start of September, she is weak and spends little of her remaining days awake. In her rare periods of wakefulness, she reflects on her life and recalls the demise of her father in a similar manner on October 26, 1849. Her daughter Victoria maintains a vigil by her side through the days and nights, aware that she will soon be Vodeo's second monarch.
That day, Adelaide is joined by her grandson David, who has been rushed home from a naval visit to Latina to be with his grandmother. Late in the evening, as the queen sleeps, David excuses himself to visit the bathroom. As he returns, he catches sight of his grandmother striding briskly down the hallway away from him, but despite calling to her, she does not slow down or seem to acknowledge him, and in a moment she is gone. David rushes back to Adelaide's bedchambers to tell his mother, but as he throws open the door, he sees his grandmother still in bed, quite out for the count. When his mother questions him, he tells her that he had seen the queen up and about with vigour. Turning pale, Victoria tells him that despite also being bedridden, Adelaide's father was seen taking a walk of the palace only hours before his death. Early in the morning of September 3, Adelaide passes, having not woken since 1 o'clock the previous afternoon.
Was it a figment of David's imagination, or did Adelaide's spirit really take one last ethereal walk through Prosford Palace only hours before her death? You might say David's tired mind was playing games with him, but palace guards on duty that night also reported seeing the Queen roaming the palace around the same time. I invite you to draw your own conclusions.
Smile for the Camera
Close to Prosford Palace is the Tealhouse, a building with a number of purposes over the years, including that of a private house, a store, a police station, and the residence of a few members of the royal family. Today, the Tealhouse is a museum telling the history of the monarchy and of colonial Holme. It is a popular tourist destination and a fine example of late-18th century architecture, and as such is a popular photographic subject. If you come to Holme and photograph the Tealhouse, you may be one of the lucky people to get more in the frame than you'd bargained for. The figures of an old man, a young woman, and a child have been seen in the windows of the Tealhouse, even in broad daylight, and tourists occasionally report having caught them on camera. Investigations have never conclusively proven who the figures are, but staff at the Tealhouse are content to leave them be, but advise visitors to make sure they get the ghosts' good sides.
Who's That at the Altar?
The magnificent Saint Clair's Cathedral is the seat of the Apostolic Church in Vodeo. This magnificent edifice was constructed during the first half of the 18th century and has been expanded a number of times since. The cathedral has seen the weddings and funerals of many monarchs and even a few statesmen, and many of Vodeo's greatest figures have been afforded a place of eternal rest either within the cathedral or outside underneath the trees. Some say that there's something a little different about this cathedral - despite the roof and spire getting blasted with lightning and catching fire a number of times over the years, neither has ever been damaged further than a few scorch marks - and this was in the days before fireproofing.
But something even stranger was seen in the cathedral one night in June 1964. One of the cathedral's bishops was working late in his office when he heard footsteps in the main part of the building. Leaving his office, he saw a shadowy figure moving around near the altar. As the bishop strode up the aisle to greet the stranger, he suddenly found himself rooted to the spot. Watching the strange figure, he realised that it was praying. After a few moments, the figure stood up and melted into thin air, whereupon the bishop found himself able to move again. Whan he examined the altar, he found nothing unusual, save for the immediate vicinity being ice-cold. Despite the bishop's best efforts, he was never able to find out who or what the figure was, or why it appeared before him on that evening.
The Last Moments of Mrs McDonald
Here are the facts we know: on the morning of November 1, 1901, the body of a woman was found lying underneath a pile of rubbish at the end of String Lane. Her body was terribly mutilated, and the gash in her neck was so deep that she had nearly been decapitated. Her clothes had been ripped and torn, and her undergarments pulled down and soaked with her blood. She was (barely) identified as Mrs Anna McDonald, a 26-year-old cleaner from the poor parts of Ladobar. Despite an intensive police investigation, her killer was never found, and she remains one of Vodeo's most infamous cold cases. Every year as Halloween comes to a close in the early hours of November 1, so says local legend, a blood-chilling scream is heard echoing around String and Obar Lanes, a reminder of that terrible night when Mrs McDonald's life came to a tragic and sudden close.
The Eternal Encore
The Royal Theatre on Plymouth Street is perhaps Holme's most grand and illustrious theatre house. Opened in 1881, it has been home to any number of performances ranging from glass-shattering operas to world-famous stand-up comedians. Once upon a time, this was the place to be seen, but even though the audiences are smaller in the television age, The Royal can still pull a good crowd. A great number of Vodeo's most famous actors and actresses have cut their teeth here, and for many of them, the highlight of performing at The Royal is performing when the royal family are present. If you perform at The Royal, you've made it.
One of these thespians who had made it was a man by the name of Charles Grahame, who in 1913 was the star of a grand play involving some of the biggest names in the Vodean acting world of the time. Grahame was by all accounts a marvellous actor, who commanded great respect from both his fellow actors and the audience alike. He was a wealthy and famous man, but there was one thing that eluded him - the love of Miss Cassandra Fitzroy, a beautiful young actress who had become romantically involved with another man. Try as he might to win Miss Fitzroy's favour, it was to no avail - much as she liked him, she couldn't bring herself to abandon her beau. The final blow came for Grahame when he learned of Miss Fitzroy's engagement after a performance one evening. Overwhelmed by sadness, he drank himself into a stupor, and, believing he had nothing to lose, that night hanged himself behind the curtain on stage. At this point the story is sad enough, but who should find him but Miss Fitzroy herself? Screaming as she ran from the building, she swore never to set foot inside it again, and gave up acting on the spot. Grahame's desperate last act might have been forgotten in the mists of time were it not for his occasional return to the stage in the afterlife, where he has been seen shuffling across the stage still suffering from a century-old heartbreak that will never heal.
Dig that Crazy Beat
The Jewel Inn in Sohran is one of the suburb's oldest drinking establishments, and has managed to maintain its 19th century feel despite being surrounded by a number of more modern establishments. Other than this, there's not really anything that makes the pub stand out from its neighbours - it's not the known haunt of any famous figures, nor is it particularly historic, since there are a number of much older pubs around the city centre. But there is one thing that's made the Jewel Inn a little more noteworthy than its neighbours, and that's its old Quick jukebox.
So the story goes, in 1956 a new publican decided to boost flagging sales by attracting young people, and the best way to do that was with the rock-and-roll music gripping the country at the time. He had a brand new Quick jukebox installed, gleaming and stocked full of popular records, and indeed the machine did the trick - before long, young people were flocking into the pub to enjoy the rock-and-rollers and doo-woppers well into the night. But it didn't take long before something went awry with the machine - it would constantly turn itself off in the middle of a song, much to the annoyance of the patrons. Thinking the machine was faulty, the publican had it replaced, only for the new machine to do the same thing. Another jukebox was ordered, and you guessed it, it kept shutting off too. The jukeboxes all underwent thorough testing, but were found to be in perfect working order. The pub's wiring was tested, and that worked fine too. Figuring that something in the pub wasn't happy with the music, the publican had the jukebox brought back, and before switching it on, loudly addressed the malevolent spirit in front of his customers and politely asked that it leave the machine alone. Whatever it was that had been shutting off the jukeboxes left it alone, and so the band was struck up and the music played without interruption. Today, the jukebox is still there, loaded with all the old hits that drew the crowds in, and today plays without interruption.
And yet it seems that the Jewel Inn has traded one problem with the jukebox for another - staff have reported that as they clean up after another night's trading, a peculiar and wavering humming sound will start emanating from the jukebox, growing louder and louder until someone approaches, whereupon it will suddenly fall silent.
The idea for this week's entry came from a book entitled Haunted London by Richard Jones, which listed dozens of supposedly haunted locations around Britain's capital. One Last Walk, Who's That at the Altar?, and The Eternal Encore are based (closely in the first story, loosely in the other two) off stories recounted in that book, while The Last Moments of Mrs McDonald is an obvious homage to Jack the Ripper. One Last Walk is an almost exact re-telling of the last night of Elizabeth I, who was seen strolling through Richmond Palace by a chambermaid despite laying in her bed dying - I couldn't resist having Adelaide I and her father doing the exact same thing through Prosford Palace on the nights of their respective deaths. Smile for the Camera is based off the Stone Store in Kerikeri, New Zealand; it is New Zealand's oldest stone building, and an old man has occasionally been seen in the windows in both brightest day and darkest night - and was caught on camera by a tourist in 2009. As for Dig that Crazy Beat, the idea of a haunted jukebox was simply too funny to pass up, and given the sad stories of Adelaide I, Anna McDonald, and Charles Grahame, I felt it necessary to end on a lighter note.
Next week we're going nationwide in search of beings not of this world. Cast your eyes skyward, for you might just see something that has no earthly business being here.
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Hauntings permitted with permits only.
- So the Queen had a permit? This is really good. I'll keep waiting on Wednesday mornings for this, even though I clearly have better things to do with my time. Oh, and you made a mathematical mistake near the beginning, which I fixed for you. FictiveJ (talk) 01:19, 10 October 2018 (CEST)