This is Jana. Have you been following our new series, the Dutch Hotel? If not, catch up now! Here’s a little recap - the Jones family are going to manage a hotel in London. They keep on hearing stories that it’s haunted, and Dad, whose name is Alan, has seen two dogs walk through a closed door at the stroke of midnight.
Read by Jana.
Story by Bertie.
None of the family slept particularly well for the rest of the night - if at all. In the morning, the kids were tired but somehow relieved. At breakfast, they sat on cushions on the dining room floor and crunched their toast and marmite, trying not to make too many crumbs.
“At least we know now,” said Nafsi. “There’s no more doubt about it. They really do exist.”
“What exists?” asked Mum.
“Ghosts of course!” replied the kids in unison.
“Are you sure?”
“Well, yes, Dad saw those two dogs walk through a door that was closed,” said Yogi excitedly.
“Perhaps he was asleep and he dreamt it,” said Mum with one of her little smiles.
“Dad, were you asleep?” asked Nafsi.
“I don’t think so,” replied Dad.
“Listen. Unexplained things happen sometimes. That doesn't mean there is no explanation. It just means we don’t know what it is.” Mum explained.
“But he did see them. And Heracles saw them too!” said Nafsi indignantly.
Mum was clearly annoyed that her children were learning to believe in ghosts. She flashed Dad one of her stares as if it was his fault - which perhaps it was. After all, he was the one who had brought them to this hotel.
On Monday morning, Dad walked the kids to school, before returning to start his day’s work. His first zoom meeting was with two executives from the public relations agency - they were responsible for making sure that the world knew that the Dutch Hotel was re-opening. Mum had to help him set up his zoom call because in his previous job as a Chauffeur he did not have to do that sort of thing.
The PR women were Petronella and Emily. Even though they were calling from their homes, they were dressed up with plenty of jewellery. Both of them were tanned as if they had just returned from the South of France, which they probably had. In fact, they might still be there for all Dad knew. In their well-paid jobs, they travelled often and stayed in luxury hotels for free. But they had not yet experienced The Dutch Hotel.
“Can you take us on a virtual tour?” they asked. So Dad walked around the hotel with his phone showing them all the nooks and crannies.
“It’s gorgeous,” declared Petronella.“Though a bit spooky without any guests or furniture.”
“We’re never lonely,” said Dad. “There are plenty of ghosts here.”
“Are you kidding?”
“No,” said Dad. “That’s the reputation.”
“How absolutely fabulous,” declared Emily. “We can do a lot with a haunted hotel. It’s a great marketing hook.”
Emily and Petronella were fast workers. It took them just 10 days to set up the shoot with the photo and video production company. The hotel was still looking rather empty of furniture, but fortunately, at least a few beds and some tables and chairs arrived just in time.
You would have thought that these days you could do a lot with just a camera phone, but the PR company had a budget to spend and so they spent it. They arranged for a director, two camera operators, a make-up artist, a costume adviser, lighting and half a dozen models, three men, and three women. Zelda, the hotel’s owner, came to watch. After all, it was her money they were burning!
The kids were at home because it was half-term. In a spare moment, the make-up artists gave them spooky make-up with ghoulishly white faces and dark eyes, and scarlet blood dripping from their mouths.
The models were dressed up in the styles of the 1920s. The women wore feathers in their hair, and their skirts had high waists and stopped just above the knee. If you’ve ever seen the film of the Great Gatsby or an Agatha Christie mystery you’ll know what I mean. They would have puffed cigarettes in long cigarette holders, but you can’t do that these days. The men wore dinner suits with black boy ties or plus-fours, which are kind of golf trousers.
“Where are the ghosts?” asked Yogi - who now looked like a ghoul.
“Just a minute?” called out a model who was still having his makeup done. He fitted some fake fangs in his mouth and stood up. He also wore spooky makeup and was wearing a cape. Yes, there was no mistake - he was a Dracula. He posed by a marble fireplace with one of the female models, pretending to bite her neck.
“We’ll add some more spooky stuff in post,” explained the director.
“Can’t you email it?” asked Yogi.
“Post-production happens after the filming is all done,” explained Zelda.
The filming and posing for still photos took all day - and there were plenty of costume changes and re-arranging of the lighting in various rooms.
It took about a week before Dad received the video and the photos from the PR Agency in his email.
The video gave a good overview of the hotel and included some shots of horse riding in Hyde Park.
“Welcome to traditional elegance in the heart of London,” said the voice-over as the camera opened up to show the Lobby with all its impressive marble and alabaster. They featured a pair of models sitting at the dinner table looking refined and relaxed, and the voice-over talked about the history of the Hotel and the legend of the Dutch twins who had once owned it and who had fought a duel. Only at the end did the voice say: “And if you call for room Service this Halloween, you might just meet a ghost but don't worry, the spectators at the Dutch Hotel always extend a warm welcome!”
“What do you think?” asked Dad
“A bit lame,” said Yogi. “Not much horror at all.”
“Well we don’t want to frighten off the guests,” said Mum.
“They didn’t even show the vampire biting a girl,” said Nafsi, disappointed.
“We’ve got a still image of that,” said Dad. And he brought it up on the computer screen. “We might use it in our Halloween advertisement.”
“Any other scary stuff?” asked Yogi.
“No, not really,” said Dad.
But just as he spoke, his phone began to sound. It was Zelda, the hotel owner.
“Alan here,” he answered.
“Have you seen the shoot?” she asked.
“Yes, we were just admiring the photos and the video,” replied Alan.
“Did you notice anything unusual?”
“No, not really,” said Alan.
“Well check your email, I’ve just sent through another set of still images,” said Zelda.
Alan looked on his computer. He opened up the photos. These ones were black and white. They showed the hotel looking quite full of guests and staff, and the tables in the restaurant were full of rich-looking food. Some of the men were leaning back and smoking cigars.
“It’s amazing what you can do in post,” said Alan. “It looks like a full house.”
“The thing is,” said Zelda. “None of those people were added in post. When our designer added a black and white filter to the colour photographs, all those people just appeared.”
“You’re joking,” said Alan.
“You know me,” said Zelda. “I never joke about business.”
When Dad put the phone down, mum was fuming. “Now this is getting quite silly,” she said. “Zelda is in on this scheme. She wants to spread the word the hotel is haunted to get publicity for the opening. All of you are just making this stuff up. But it’s not on because it’s frightening our kids.
“We’re not scared!” insisted Nafi and Yogi.
But mum was not happy.
And that was the third part of our series, the Dutch Hotel. Read by me Jana, for Storynory.com. And before I go, here’s Bertie with a short message.
Hi, I hope you are enjoying our new series, the Dutch Hotel. If you do like Storynory, you can always leave us five stars and a nice review in Apple Podcasts or wherever you catch your podcasts.
I’m here to tell you about a new podcast that Jana and I are launching ourselves. It’s been a bit delayed because of a big family event - my 101-year-old mother passed away. But now that big chapter has closed, we are going to publish episodes on Relaxivity every week. Relaxivity will be recognisably like Storynory, but just a bit more grown up. For example, there will be a lot of ancient myths. We know you love myths! But we can’t do many of them on Storynory, because they are just too grown up. So now older kids and adults will be able to hear them on Relaxivity. We are going to work through the whole of the Metamorphosis by Ovid. When you’ve heard all of that, you will be well up on your Classical mythology! So tune into Relaxivity - on Apple Podcasts, Google, Stitcher, Amazon, Podcast Addict, Spotify - wherever you listen to podcasts. And just so you don’t forget, it’s called Relaxivity by Storynory.