Month: October 2019

Gartmore – Sputum and Temper

Psychic investigator Hamilton Coe surrounded by allies and adversaries. Featured characters include Mark E Smith, Vampira, Terry Thomas, Patricia Highsmith, Hayley Mills, Donald Pleasence, Honey Bane, Dennis Hopper, Judge Dredd, Miss Marple and Margaret Rutherford

To Gartmore where I addressed the local historical society on the subject of Haunted Houses – focusing on Ballechin House and Glamis Castle. An attentive and agreeable audience with the exception of a sickly looking character – prominently seated – who coughed throughout, his complexion (already ruddy) turning an increasingly dangerous shade of puce. At one point, completely distracted, I referred to the door between this world and the next, adding that “some of us are already half-way through.” On reflection, this was poorly judged and the rapport I’d enjoyed with the audience started to dwindle – a process of alienation that culminated in an ill-tempered Q and A.

Later, as I waited for Christine to pick me up, I noticed the invalid smoking a cigarette and expectorating a strand of sputum into a drain.

Meet The Oslers

Psychic Investigator Hamilton Coe surrounded by allies and adversaries. Featured characters include Anthony Blunt, GZA, Smiley Culture, Ewen Bremner as Spud, Debbie Harry, Donald Pleasence, Roots Manuva, Divine, John Maus, Judge Dredd, Erkan Mustafa as Roland Browning

My new neighbours have finally moved into Number 12 – the Oslers: Anne-Marie seems agreeable but I was less fussed about Steven who appeared five minutes into our conversation and, on being introduced, demanded, “So what do you do?” As I offered a precis of my employment history, he stared at me with a strange expression that might have indicated belligerence or incredulity – before I could finish, he turned to Anne-Marie, grimaced and disappeared into the kitchen. I think that he was trying to be humorous in the genially blunt manner adopted by boors and numbskulls, though it occurred to me later that he might have incurred an injury in the process of moving – solvent exposure, for example, or a blow to the head.

Go-Ape

Psychic Investigator Hamilton Coe surrounded by allies and adversaries. Featured characters include Robert Carlyle as Begbie, Jilted John, Marilyn Manson, Roland Browning, Erkan Mustafa, Judge Dredd, Robocop, Genesis P. Orridge, Roots Manuva

To Aberfoyle’s outdoor adventure centre ‘Go Ape’ where we finally redeemed the Christmas vouchers I bought as a family gift. Christine, Muriel and – especially – Jackson entered the spirit of the occasion. Perhaps predictably, only Spencer refused to participate, frowning and fidgeting throughout the safety induction before removing his harness, tossing it toward the instructor and disappearing in the direction of the toilets. He eventually rejoined us two and a half hours later, emerging from a thicket as we made our way back to Christine’s car. Rather than apologise for the manner in which he squandered his gift, he complained that the induction had made him feel ‘like a fucking venture scout…’

A Nuisance

Psychic Investigator Hamilton Coe surrounded by allies and adversaries. Featured characters include Jilted John, Robocop, Erkan Mustafa as Roland Browning, Roots Manuva, Michel Houellebecq, Marilyn Manson, Genesis P Orridge

Tonight’s show, I think, might be best described as a curate’s egg – good in parts. Aileen Walsh, my first guest, was excellent, contributing informative and funny observations on teenage depression, blogging and Patricia Highsmith. We might have struck up a rapport had it not been for my other guest – Douglas Mair who was a pain from start to finish: querulous, unprepared and weirdly defensive on the topic of ley-lines – his purported realm of expertise.

Ballechin House, Near Dunkeld

Psychic Investigator Hamilton Coe surrounded by icons of horror. Featured characters include M.R. James, Dave Vanian, Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Arthur Machen, Joan Crawford, Lon Chaney, Elsa Lanchester, Bride of Frankenstein, Michael Redgrave from Dead of Night, Vincent Price, Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu, Barbara Steele and the Children of the Damned

Built in 1806, Ballechin’s reputation as a haunted house* followed the death of its owner, Major Robert Steuart, in 1876. Most histories of the haunting refer to Steuart by his posthumously accorded nickname, “the Wicked Major”, though his depredations seem to have been limited to a clandestine affair with a housekeeper and a compulsion to fill his home with dogs. Semi-invalid by the time of his tenancy at Ballechin, he had formerly served in India where he developed a belief in transmigration. As he hirpled laboriously around the great house, he frequently repeated the desire that one of the dogs should inherit his spirit. Relatives, to whom, presumably, the Major had failed to endear himself while human, thwarted this ambition by ordering a canine cull within hours of his death. Not surprisingly, among the first supernatural phenomena reported in the house was the pungent odour of dogs. Aural manifestations followed, including the Major’s limping gait, knocks and the sound of voices quarrelling. Visitors to the house complained of a presence in their rooms, some claiming that their bed-clothes had been violently removed by unseen hands. While sceptics suggested the phenomena had less to do with the Major’s ghost than the building’s irregular construction, the manifestations became so pronounced that, in 1883, an annexe was built for the security of the family children.

Glamis Castle

Psychic Investigator Hamilton Coe surrounded by horror icons. Featured characters include M.R. James, Dave Vanian, Lon Chaney, Marilyn Manson, Arthur Machen, Vampira, Peter Cushing, Barbara Steele, Bette Davis Elsa Lanchester, Bride of Frankenstein, Vincent Price, Children of the Damned

Situated in Forfarshire, some twenty miles to the north of Dundee, Glamis Castle is the seat of the Earls of Strathmore. Reputedly the scene of Duncan’s murder by MacBeth in 1040, the oldest part of the current building can be dated to the latter part of the fourteenth century. The secret chambers for which the Castle is renowned were a relatively recent addition, their creation in the late seventeenth century a precautionary measure by Patrick Lyon, first Earl of Strathmore, whose Jacobite sympathies rendered him vulnerable to the antipathy of the House of Orange. The notion of a ‘house within a house’ has subsequently excited the popular imagination and various theories have been extended as to what might dwell therein.