Helloouuu it’s the month of October , days are getting shorter and colder and I thought we could huddle together and tell scary stories around our virtual fire. Everybody put on a kettle of soothing tea cos this could keep you up! Whoever has for a tale of real life scary stuff, share! It can be paranormal or not, ghostly or burglary. Only rules are it has to have happened to you or someone you know and trust and the story has to be trooohooohoooo!
It doesn’t fit my character to go first but I guess I have to get the ball rolling. I share an experience from a few years ago. I obviously lived to tell the tale and tried to write it out as true and best I could
a few years ago in our late 20s my boyfriend and I had booked two nights in a cheap walkers’ lodge in a tiny remote Scottish hamlet during one of our trips to the Highlands. we had planned to camp one night, stay one or two in the hostel, depending on weather, then camp some more. as it was late autumn and the weather forecast was wild we needed some accomodation to be flexible and safe. I won’t name the place but it was a tiny forgotten settlement as you’ll come across anywhere in rural Scotland, barely a few houses left and right and far between along a windy narrow road, with all sorts of rusty rubbish in their yards and with overgrown gardens, fallen in fences, half of them uninhabited. it was a couple of miles walk from the nearest train station, which is how we arrived there around noontime. we were carrrying extra luggage as we had spent a few days with boyfriend’s family in the city so we were looking to leave our city bags as we call them at the hostel and then set of with only our camping and walking gear into the mountains. the house was ancient, very large and looming looking, with a roof that stretched low down towards the ground like eyelids drawn down to sleep. the front garden was all torn up, someone was trying to unearth massive old trees and the roots were half exposed and reaching up into the air as if in agony, suffocating. a few large black tarpaulins were stretched out on the ground, covering up what we did not know. next to the house was a shed. as we approached, no one was to be seen, no doorbell, no phone number. we yelled hello etc, but nothing. we looked around the untidy garden and decided to just leave our stuff in the shed. this is not uncommon for rural accomodation amongst walkers in Scotland. everybody is pretty trusting and respectful usually. surprisingly, this shed was massive and new inside. someone had obviously had a vision. it was neatly stacked with vast amounts of chopped wood, there were sharp axes and clean tools, tidily arranged, it was almost homely. even decorated with a few animal heads as trophies, if you’re into that kinda thing. we left left our stuff, then made off.
on our way out of the village we encountered a lone walker with no gear, making his way back home speedily. against highland custom, when we passed each other this guy didn’t give a friendly greeting or seem willing to exchange a bit of small talk regarding conditions on the hills etc, as you’re wont to do in these situations. I remember my boyfriend asking him if he’s from the village, meaning to enquire about the bunkhouse, but the guys is visibly uncomfortable and draws away, resuming his walk abruptly.
Anyway, off we went. we spent a night so windy in the tent I woke up a few times with the entire tent flattened against our bodies. we had attempted to summit one mountain but it was useless as winds were as predicted upwards of 70mph, so we just spent a loud night outside basically. it was pretty grim.
walking back to the village next day coming up to evening, we are tired from the day spent on the other side of the glen, up and down a few hills in the rain. as we near the village, eager for a shower and some food, we notice a walker is quickly coming up behind us with no gear. he must have gone for a day trip and he has an impressive speed on him! at some point he overtakes us and we notice it’s the same guy we had seen the day prior. again, he gives no greeting or sign of recognition. he takes a left where the main path curves right to return to the village and quickly disappears in the tall grass on the backside of the houses and gardens. weirdo, we think.
we approach the bunkhouse, hoping to find someone there this time. as we stare around for any movement on the property, all of a sudden someone walks into view between the shed and the main house. a slender tall guy is intently, slowly walking from the left, already looking in our direction as if he was expentig to see us as he came further into the yard, and he is carrying an axe. it’s the lone walker. we had just seem him on the path a few minutes earlier. now he seems to have been here the whole time, chopping wood. so he mutters.
the guy introduces himself as “Tony” and very quickly it becomes clear, everything about Tony is off. he eyes are intently staring, but he has a slight squint. he is looking at me, not the boyfriend, the entire time we interact, but his squint makes it as if he is trying not to. his mouth is constantly contorted into a massive smile but his eyes remain cold. he is visibly uncomfortable talking with us, especially I seem to be an anomally for him. he makes a big effort to do things right, show us the house, where the rooms are etc, but is evidently bothered by the fact we are even there and is socially so awkward, unfriendly, intense and giving off creepy vibes, he makes your spine tingle. he makes us take of our mountain boots and gear outside so as not to dirty up the place. usually walkers’ accomodation have a wet room outside, where you can hang up and air your filthy stuff, but this guy’s didn’t, I think we had to leave our stuff in the tiny 3qm bathroom. I remember thinking how good I was wearing proper leggings underneath my waterproofs, seeing as I had to undress before entering. I don’t know how this would have worked had the place been busier.
he mentions several times how he had to turn on the hot water for our sake (did he shower cold?) and pointed out shower times to us, even though we were the only guests. there were two rooms full of bunk beds at the ground floor, divided from the common area with comfy old sofas and a fireplace, by heavy full size carpets hung up as divisions. this makes the place extremely dark, disorienting and a few times during the evening I attempt to go back and forth to find our host suddenly appearing on a sofa or preparing logs for a fire where he had not been before. he must have taken shortcuts through the carpet walls regularly and always when I was on the move, or he wouldn’t have startled me so often. he keeps staring intently at me, yet seeming displeased the whole time, almost angry, and very uncomfortable. he mentions he had taken over this hostel from his Dad, also Tony, who’d been very popular in the village. the subtext is, that he himself is not popular with the neighbours. he mentions he had an intense dislike for the village as a young man which is why he spent his life in the city (I don’t know which, the nearest is a while off). the house seems stuck in between Tony the Dad and Tony the son. it is cosy with old battered furniture and simple practical things that give comfort after long days on the hills - but the whole atmosphere is clammy and sour, moody and hostile.
Tony - insane smile, constantly scratching his arms, cold dead eyes fixated on me - sais: village people are crazy. he asks my boyfriend who’s a doctor about a chronic dermatological condition. my boyfriend can’t say he has heard of it. Tony half smiles half nods. he mentions again about the shower times. no boots in the rooms. by the way, the room. we sleep upstairs, Tony says. and he sleeps next door.
we are not located in the large open bunkroom, but he leads us up a windy narrow staircase that gets so tight at the top we can hardly fit our backpacks through. it has an Alice in Wonderland feel. at the very top is almost no landing but a door to a room with slanted walls, directly underneath the roof. this room feels like a trap. there is only one way out and that is via the stairs. we swallow hard and try to make the best of it.
during this whole introduction and time spent getting to know the house and Tony, an increasing feeling of danger has grown in me and I had become very aware of the remoteness of our location. it is late autumn and by now pitch black out. on our walk home we had seen many of the houses remained dark, not many neighbours around. we feel trapped and hopeless, yet unpleasantly alert. during dinner (we have lost our appetite) we wonder what Tony meant by “he sleeps next door”. then we discover a second staircase, much like the one that leads to our room, on the other side of the house. we don’t go up. in a vain attempt to negate our growing panic and to do something normal we listen to a record in the common room, my favourite Johnny Cash. I remember we hear “The Man comes around” from an album I had played hundreds of times at the ends of nightshifts to ease my overwrought nerves. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse / And his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him.”
but the record doesn’t work its charm this time. we are exhausted and feel oppressed, mentally wanting to retreat after a long day in the hills and all this weirdness we don’t know how to place and so we go up to our room, as uncomfortable as it makes us feel. as we get ready for bed, we notice a small wooden door set in the opposite wall of the room, the same colour as the wall, only about less than half a normal door size. as there are no other rooms off our staircase, and judging from where the window is directly above our bed, Tony’s room must be adjoining ours on the side of the tiny door, probably at the top of the other staircase that we saw. calling a room with no shared corridor “next door” strikes me extremely odd. unless he was thinking of this tiny door.
all we want is to leave. but there is nowhere to go in this forsaken village in the night. and if we leave, Tony will know we are onto his weirdness, his potential dangerousness, and he could find us in the wilderness, he could follow us. so we stay. but we don’t sleep. we lie there rigid, with our contact lenses in/glasses on nose, rucksacks packed, all our valuables on our bodies, boots next to the bed open ready to be laced up in a hurry. we discuss how we would escape: up onto the roof, then down from there. it’s doable. my boyfriend jams a chair underneath the doorknob and we loop the ropes of our ice axes around our wrists and … wait. our mobile phones have not had signal for two days now, which is typical for remote Scotland.
as I say, we don’t get much sleep that night. true enough, I remember hearing footsteps on the stairs a good long while after we “went to bed”, muffled as there is carpet everywhere. I wake my boyfriend up and we both lie there, absolutely fired up inside. at one point my boyfriend positions himself in front of the door, staring at the chair, expecting the door to move. but no one tries to enter. we don’t hear footsteps retreat, I don’t know if we fell asleep - or if Tony fell asleep on the stairs, I cannot be sure. in ragged sleep I dream of a huge stag standing before me, watching over me.
I don’t know the deranged mental state we are in the next day as we hurry from the hostel on to our day walk. due to bad weather we will have to stay another night and somehow, because nothing happened to us, we convince ourselves that we maybe overrreacted. maybe it’s not so bad. also other guests are expected at the hostel tonight.
outside the village there is a large white horse. he comes up to us and bites our rucksacks, looking for food. he follows us a while.
we spend another night, uneasy but less scared. Tony is nowhere to be seen. the other guests are two older guys who seem unblinking and weathered. Tony obviously doesn’t feel the need to give them the grand tour or chat with them about his skin condition. in fact we don’t see him again at all.
I swear I will never go back there and am still periodically checking the news up there for hostel murders. Boo!