Imagine you've booked a room at the Dutch Hotel, and when you arrive, they act like they weren't expecting you at all. After a lot of waiting around and commotion, they realise they've actually booked you in for the next year! Or when it's time to check out, your bill has skyrocketed, and you discover they've charged you a mind-boggling £4,332 for a croissant.
You might start thinking that you've ended up in a rather incompetent hotel. If they told you that it wasn't a mistake of the staff, the management, or a hiccup in their technology but instead the antics of a playful ghost, would you believe them?
Well, the Dutch Hotel in London takes pride in its impeccable service. I can assure you that when these peculiar incidents began to pile up, not all the guests were willing to accept that it was the work of a ghost.
Zelda, the owner of The Dutch Hotel, was seething with anger over the string of mistakes plaguing her establishment. She summoned her manager, Alan, for a tense meeting.
"Alan," she began sharply, "You were doing admirably when you reopened the hotel for us. But now, it seems like everything is spiralling out of control. Just look at these reviews on Trip-Complainer!"
The bell-hop showed us to our room, which turned out to be a broom cupboard. I don’t mean it was smaller than we expected. I mean when he opened our door, it was an actual broom cupboard complete with a bucket and mop.
"Alan," Zelda exclaimed in frustration, "Where is your head? These incidents not only cast us in a poor light, but they make us seem incompetent!"
"I couldn't agree more," Alan replied mournfully, "But we both know that this is quite an unconventional place to stay."
"Just listen to this review: “Everything was going swimmingly until we ordered strawberry ice-cream, which oddly tasted like Chicken Tikka Masala.”
“Embarrassing,” agreed Alan.
‘Or this, Every time we ordered something, whether it was a simple cup of tea or a three course meal, they brought us fish and chips. This happened time and time again. We could only conclude that they were playing some kind of sick prank!”
Alan hung his head, unable to respond. But Zelda was merciless. She read another review, even stranger than the ones that came before.
"I went to sleep with my golden labrador at the foot of the bed, only to wake up in the morning to find that he had transformed into a black poodle. To my astonishment, my dog was found sound asleep on a four-poster bed in the bridal suite. The poodle, it turned out, belonged to the manager. Very strange. The staff could only mumble something about the hotel being haunted.”
Alan," Zelda said sternly, "Do not tell me this is all the fault of the ghosts in the hotel. It is too easy to make such excuses."
"But Zelda," Alan replied, "You, of all people, know that the hotel is haunted."
“You were fully briefed on that before you took on this role. It is your job to deal with these spirits. So deal with them! I do not want to read any more humiliating reviews on Trip Complainer, is this clear?”
"Yes, Zelda," Alan replied, his job hanging in the balance. Even if Zelda didn't fire him, which seemed increasingly likely, these negative reviews could spell the end for the hotel.
Until now, Alan’s two children, Nafsi and Yogi, had found the ghost’s antics amusing. But when they came home and saw their father’s face they both knew that something was awry. When their mother, Angeliki, explained the situation, Yogi piped up:
“I have an idea! let’s ask Father Kostas. He knows all about the hotel and its ghosts. He’ll tell us what to do.”
Now, it's worth noting that Angeliki was somewhat sceptical when it came to the activity of ghosts in the hotel. When they saw her frown, Alan pleaded:
“Angi, this is an emergency. One more spooky trick and Zelda will close down the hotel. I really think you should call father Kostas.”
So rather reluctantly, Mum called the Greek orthodox priest.
“Angeliki, you are not troubling me at all, my dear. I’ll drop In about 7 this evening and tell you what I know,” reassured Father Kostas
Naturally, 7 pm signalled dinner time - and at the Dutch Hotel, their chef was celebrated for his culinary wizardry. Angeliki took the hint and extended an invitation to dinner.
Father Kostas arrived punctually, taking his seat in the ornate dining room of the Dutch Hotel at a table with Angeliki and Alan. The distinguished priest, with his wise, grey beard, perused the menu as though he hadn't eaten for days, eventually deciding to explore some Dutch specialties.
He selected a hearty dish featuring mashed potatoes and kale, crowned by a smoked rookworst sausage, all swimming in a delectable, savoury gravy. Every bite was met with his admiration, but he reserved the storytelling until after the dessert: warm stroopwafels accompanied by two velvety scoops of vanilla ice cream, washed down by a glass or two of Amaretto. Finally, Father Kostas felt ready to unveil the mystery of the mischievous ghost.
"My friends. Picture a time before the Great War, around 1910 or so. In those days, one of the waiters at this very hotel was German, and his name was Rudolf, or so they say. Unfortunately, the other waiters couldn't resist teasing him for his peculiar accent. Some even whispered that he might be a spy in the pay of the Kaiser.
Now, you see, Rudolf harboured a deep love for one of the cooks at the hotel. Alas, the cook did not return his feelings and instead made him the subject of her cruel jokes.
One fateful day, the cook left her position to live with a wealthy aunt. This left poor Rudolf heartbroken. But the worst was yet to come. Some of the serving maids forged a letter, pretending it was written by the cook herself. In this false letter, they claimed she was sorry for her unkind words to Rudolf which hid her true feelings. She professed to be deeply moved by his unwavering love and invited him to visit her at her aunt's house near Dorking.
Rudolf implored the management for a few days' leave, and boarded a train bound for Dorking. From the station, he went directly to the Aunt’s house, where he was met with a storm of cruel words, and sent away with a flea in his ear.
Shortly after, Rudolf vanished. The hotel staff believed he had returned to his native Hamburg. However, peculiar happenings began to plague the hotel. Knives would migrate to different drawers, salt was mysteriously swapped with sugar, and mysterious knocks on doors occurred in the dead of night. According to the hotel's tradition, all these ghostly pranks were carried out by Rudolf, the heartbroken waiter who had returned to haunt the establishment.”
"That’s quite fascinating," Angeliki remarked with gratitude, "Thank you, Father Kostas, for sharing this tale. But how are we meant to soothe this poor, heartbroken ghost and convince him to stop these pranks? None of us alive today teased or mistreated him."
Father Kostas offered a thoughtful shrug. "I propose that, for the next two weeks, we light a candle for Rudolf in the church and offer prayers for his eternal soul. In my experience, this is the only way to bring peace to a restless spirit."
"Yes please, we would be immensely grateful," Angeliki implored.
"It is my pleasure," Father Kostas assured them. "I will unlock the church doors at 6 am tomorrow. You are welcome to visit and light a candle for Rudolf. Prayers work best late at night or first thing in the morning."
For the next two weeks, Angeliki faithfully visited the church every morning at 6 am. She lit candles and fervently prayed for Rudolf, beseeching his forgiveness on behalf of the hotel for the mistreatment he had endured. It seemed that Rudolf's spirit indeed heard her pleas, as the pranks gradually wound down during this period. However, just when they believed the haunting had come to an end, an unfortunate incident occurred.
A valuable ring went missing from a guest’s room. It belonged to a Canadian folk singer, who is somewhat famous, and was staying at the hotel. He bought the ring in London for his girlfriend, and was planning to propose to her on his return to Vancoover.
Stranger still, the singer had a vivid dream in the early hours of the morning. In this dream, he saw, or perhaps dreamt, a white squirrel sneaking into his room through the open window. The squirrel casually picked up the ring from the table and, with the ring in its tiny paws, made a daring escape by leaping out of the window, onto the branch of a tree which grew right behind the hotel.
The whole episode felt surreal. Confused and drowsy, the folk singer fell back asleep, only to awaken later and realise that the ring had indeed vanished.
Fortunately for the hotel, the guest was so embarrassed by this psychedelic story, that he did not want to call the police. He sat in Angeliki’s office and asked her if she thought he was crazy.
“Not at all,” she assured him. “I'm afraid there are many strange things that go on in this hotel. So much so that the staff believe it’s haunted.”
“So do you think that the white squirrel was some kind of spirit?” he asked.
“We have suspected a spirit of playing pranks, but not stealing… until now,” she said, adding, “I am very sorry. This is an extremely disappointing development. I promise to do everything I can to find out what really happened to the ring.”
“So do you think I’m right not to call the police?” he asked.
“Well actually,” she replied, “I’m going to call a priest. I think he is more in line with what we need.”
This time, Angeliki invited Father Kostas over for tea and cake. The kids were back from school and joined them in the hotel’s lounge area.
Father Kostas praised Angeliki for dutifully turning up at the Church to light a candle every morning.
“I think our prayers have been answered,” he declared. “My feeling is that Rudolf the German waiter is finally at peace.”
“Actually,” said Yogi, “He’s gone to live in a white squirrel that sneaks into the hotel and steals stuff.”
Father Kostas laughed, “I doubt that very much!”
“No, it’s true,” insisted Yogi. “One of our guests who’s supposed to be famous, but we’ve never heard of him, saw the white squirrel swiping his valuable ring. He climbed in through the back window.”
“So,” said Father Kostas. “I think I know about this white squirrel that you are talking about. He lives in Kensington Gardens. I’ve seen him often on my walks. He is a very cheeky fellow. Sometimes he sits in a tree and throws acorns at the tourists. He’s also been known to steal shiny objects. I expect it is him that stole the ring, not Rudolf the German waiter.”
“So if the squirrel stole the ring, do you think we can get it back?” asked Nafsi.
“If the squirrel returned the ring, that would be a miracle,” said Father Kostas. “But I can tell you, miracles do happen. So let us try.”
And Yogi added, “Mum’s ring is not nearly as valuable as the one that got stolen. She could give it to the squirrel as a swap.”
“Darling, I couldn’t possibly give my engagement ring to a squirrel,” exclaimed Angeliki.
“No. I don’t mean that old ring Mum. I mean the one you got in a Christmas cracker. It’s made of plastic, but it looks shiny and real.”
“Oh yeah, that one,” she said. “True, I wouldn’t mind giving that one up.”
So it was all arranged. The following morning, which was a Saturday, they met Father Kostas by the pond in Kensington Gardens, and then they went to look for the white squirrel. Father Kostas knew that his nest was in a tree somewhere near the big playground. He led the way.
Sure enough, there was the white squirrel, nibbling on an acorn. Father Kostas took the plastic ring and held it out to him. The white squirrel cautiously crawled forward, thinking it was a nut.
“Now listen here, you are one of God’s creatures, and you should know that it is wrong to steal, especially things that mean a lot to people. I’ll give you this ring, but you bring back the one you took from the Dutch Hotel,” said Father Kostas, touching his cross with one hand.
The Squirrel seemed to understand because he took the ring in his mouth and ran off to his tree.
“I don’t suppose we’ll see him again any time soon,” said Angeliki.
But she was wrong because the squirrel did return with the ring - not the plastic ring - but the one that he had stolen.
“Thank you. And God Bless you. You are a very special Squirrel,” said Father Kostas. And then he turned to the kids and said:
“So children, remember this lesson. Miracles can happen.”
And of course the folk singer who had lost the ring was delighted to have it returned to him, and was very intrigued to hear the story. He said it made the ring even more romantic, and he promised to write a folk song about the whole incident. Perhaps it will be on his next album.
And as for Rudolf the German waiter, it seemed that Angeliki’s prayers and apologies had appeased him because the ghostly pranks stopped. Or at least they were not nearly as frequent.
And more importantly, Alan could breathe a sigh of relief. The hotel's reviews on Trip Complainer were coming in more favourable and his management position was once again safe. And Zelda actually smiled at their next meeting, a sight rarer than a white squirrel.
And that was The Mischievous Ghost, read by me Jana for Storynory.com.
And for parents and older kids if you would like some ancient history in a relaxed style,tune in to watch our video just published on our Relaxivity YouTube channel.
It’s all about the famed Egyptian Queen Cleopatra.