The Halloween Skeleton-In-The-Closet
This is Jana and I’m back with a new episode from our series about the haunted Dutch Hotel. We began this series a year ago, in the run up to Halloween. If you have been following, you will know that the Jones family manage the Dutch Hotel. There are all sorts of strange apparitions that might be ghosts, or might be time travellers. One member of the family is steadfastly sceptical about all things supernatural. And that is the mother, Angeliki. In this episode, we find out why.
The Halloween Skeleton-In-The-Closet
It was October, and of course the main event in the Dutch Hotel’s calendar was Halloween. The staff were planning a fancy dress ball, with or without any real ghosts. But in the personal life of the Jones family, who managed the hotel, the biggest event on the horizon was the arrival of Angeliki’s mother from Cyprus. She was planning a two week stay. “Just in time for Halloween,” Alan remarked dryly, and as soon as he had muttered the words, he was relieved that his wife had not heard them.
The truth was, Alan didn’t mind his mother-in-law too much, it was just that she could be a little bit domineering. On her previous visit, Alan had been growing a beard. Eleni - that was her name - chided him every day saying, “What, are you becoming priest?”
Fortunately Alan could smile about Eleni and her eccentric views. But what he found harder to bear was when Angeliki and her mother started quarrelling. Sometimes the shouting got so loud that he had to go out to the pub for some peace and quiet. That was in the old days, when they were in the small mews house. Now they had moved into the Dutch Hotel, he could find a quiet corner of the property because it had 66 rooms.
When Eleni arrived at Heathrow Airport, Alan was there to collect her. He was pleasantly surprised with her warm greeting and her maternal kisses on either cheek followed by a hearty slap on the back. For a moment he hoped that his mother-in-law was a reformed woman. But then she prodded him in the stomach and remarked,“Liki’s been feeding you well I see! Look at that tummy! And I thank the Lord you finally took my advice and cut off that dreadful beard.”
He took her bags which were extra heavy, and led the way to the Rolls Royce in the car park. “Alan, when are you going to get rid of that old car?” She asked, but he pretended not to notice. Once he was in the driving seat, he reached for his air-pod phones and plugged them into each ear. He selected his favourite 1970’s playlist, and drove blissfully, only pretending to hear her incessant chatter.
At least Eleni was suitably impressed when they arrived at the Dutch Hotel. She didn’t say so, but Alan could tell by the way she was looking around the fluted columns, marble floors, and works of art. Angeliki met her mother with hugs and kisses, before showing her to her suite of rooms which was bigger than a whole floor of the mews house. “What’s this? It’s bath or swimming pool?” She asked. “You want me to drown in it?”
The kids were slightly afraid of their nana, because she was always telling them off. But they also liked the fact that she gave them gifts of money when she arrived, even if the notes were in euros. Not only that, but she always brought boxes of Turkish Delight, only the kids were ticked off for calling them Turkish because Nana was very patriotic about them being made in the Greek part of Cyprus.
Even before she had any time to rest, Eleni wanted to cook supper. The family had a kitchen in their apartment, but they usually ordered food from the hotel. After all, the chef was one of the best in London, with a Michelin star, and anything they ordered was free because they managed the hotel. Eleni couldn’t resist scolding Alan, saying that he should not feed his family on takeaway food.
“Too much salt and preservatives you know,” she chided. “No wonder you are getting so chubby.”
And so she sent Allen out to buy the ingredients for Greek Salad and Mousaka. She supplied the olive oil herself. Now Alan understood why her luggage was so heavy. She had brought four large canisters of Extra Virgin Olive oil. Soon she was busy at the stove.
Even Allen, who considered himself to be a dab hand at cooking, could not deny that Eleni’s food was excellent.
While they were enjoying their delicious meal, Yogi asked, “Nana, what are you doing for Halloween?”
“I have no plans, dear,” she said.
“I just wondered, because Dad said you got here just in time for Halloween,” said Yogi.
Angeliki gave her husband a fierce glare across the table, and he quickly averted his eyes.
Eleni went about explaining that it hadn’t been Halloween that had brought her to London in October. In the years when she had lived in North London, bringing up the family, autumn had always been her favourite season because the trees turned a beautiful shade of gold.
“Nana, you’ve come to the right place at the right time, because our hotel’s haunted and Halloween is going to be extra SPOOOOKY!” added Yogi excitedly.
“Haunted you say? You sound just like your mother. She extra-superstitious, you know?”
“No I’m not,” protested Angeliki. “I don’t believe in any of that nonsense. And I’m fed up telling the kids not to believe in ghosts.”
“Is that right Liki? You're different now?” Eleni asked, looking her daughter in the eye. She then recounted how terrified of ghosts her daughter used to be. And how she would scream at the top of her lungs after a bad nightmare. “You have forgotten rushing into our room in the middle of the night crying about ghosts creeping about your room? I had to beg the priest to come, but that made you even more crazy.”
“Mumma! That’s not true! Stop telling stories.” Exclaimed Angeliki who was now very agitated, but her mother seemed oblivious to her daughter's frowning face. She just went on:
“Oh the stories I could tell kids about when you were little. Remember the fortune teller?”
“Oh please don’t,” begged Angeliki now with her head in her hands.
Eleni turned to the kids and began disclosing their mothers secrets. When she was about 12 years old, living in Finchley, her best friend was a neighbour whose name was Eliza - a very strange girl.
“No Mumma. Please stop.”
But Eleni took no notice.
“Eliza called herself a goth. Her long, pitch black hair went all the way down to her waist.”
“It wasn’t that long Ma.”
“It grew until it reached below her knees. Her face was as white as my wedding dress,” She continued. And told them how easily Eliza could have passed as a ghost. Eliza, she said, had been a very bad influence on Angeliki, because she believed superstitious nonsense, and one particular Halloween, she dragged her to see a fortune teller at the fairground. It was after that, the worst nightmares began. “There was no sleep in our house until Christmas.”
“Enough!” Screeched Angeliki standing up and banging the table. “I said stop it, Mumma. You exaggerate everything 1000 times over! I had an occasional nightmare, that’s all. It is a perfectly normal thing to happen while you’re growing up!”
“Okay, if you say so dear,” sighed her mother, who held her peace for the rest of the supper. But of course the kids were very intrigued about everything that had been said and wanted to know the rest of the story. It might explain why their mother was so against superstition and believing in ghosts - even when they were living in a hotel with actual apparitions that appeared all the time.
The next day, Yogi begged his nana to tell the rest of the story about their mother and the fortune teller, but she was no longer in a talkative mood. “You'll have to ask her yourself about the skeleton in her closet,” she said. “She has made me take an oath of secrecy.”
“You mean mum has got an actual skeleton?”
Eleni shook her head and refused to say anything more on the subject. Later that day, his sister Nafsi got Yogi up to speed, explaining that the skeleton in the closet was just a figure of speech.
Yogi knew that if he asked his mother any uncomfortable questions, she would respond by yelling at him to do his homework or tidy his room - so he did not bother trying. But his sister Nafsi was more subtle. When she was alone with her mother in the living room, she said:
“Mum, I sometimes have nightmares. They are really scary. How did you get over yours?”
“By using healthy thinking and good psychology,” said her mother.
“What do you mean by that? Can you explain?” She asked craftily.
“Well this is what really happened to me when I was young,” said her mother. “It’s true that my friend Eliza introduced me to a fortune teller, but it wasn't at a fairground. We visited her flat, which was above a shop on the High Street. That was my first mistake. I should never have agreed to go there without telling my parents. Anyway, she dealt us Tarot cards which are used for fortune telling.
“Oh! She didn’t deal you the death card did she?” Asked Nafsi, who thought she could see where the story was heading.
“No. In a way it was worse. She pulled out a card called ‘The Fork in the Road’. She said it meant that my life could go in one of two directions, and it was all up to me. If I could dream positive dreams, they would all come true. But if I had bad dreams, they would also come true - and here’s the really heavy part - not just for me, but for all of the world.”
“How could that be?” Nafsi was intrigued.
“Well, she said that we each live in our own dimension, and our thoughts come true at a particular stage in our life. The ‘Fork in the Road’ card meant that I was at the special stage where my dreams would determine all the world’s destiny.”
“Wow! That’s insane!”
“I knew it was crazy, but I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, and Eliza made it worse. On the way back home, she told me that I must have positive dreams, or else I and I alone would be responsible for everything bad that happened in the world. I was only 12. It was too much for me. I couldn’t control my dreams, and I started to see every plague, pestilence and war that anyone could imagine. Eventually it ended with psychopathic aliens invading the world. I couldn’t sleep for weeks on end, and I was exhausted and miserable, and falling behind at school.”
“So how did you cure yourself?” Asked Nafsi.
“Well fortunately, there was a teacher at school who was interested in hypnosis and psychology. He noticed that I was in a bad way, so we used to have talks about all that I was going through. He gave me some of the best advice that I’ve ever had. He told me to think of something positive, and write it out 15 times a day. That way it would come true.”
“But isn’t that a sort of magic?”
“You might think so, but he said not. He said my subconscious would start to notice opportunities and I would release positive energy from my brain. I would see the world in a better light and make good luck for myself.”
“And did it work?” Asked Nafsi.
“Oh yes, the most remarkable things started to happen to me. I wrote down every day that ‘There will be peace in the World’, and you know what happened? When Mr Reagan was president of the United States, he met Mr Gorbachev who was president of the Soviet Union, and they agreed to be friends and not bomb each other.”
“But that can’t have been you Mum,” laughed Nafsi.
“Probably not, but at least it felt good, and I slept better. So next I tried writing, ‘I will get A’s in all my exams’, 15 times a day. Of course I started working harder on my homework and I was less tired. So it wasn’t all just some supernatural force, but when my results came through, every result was A.”
“That’s incredible!” Smiled Nafsi. “I’m going to try it too.”
“You mustn’t do it instead of working hard for your goals,” added her mum. “You have to put the effort in too, but it will help you achieve the impossible. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe that you can change your own luck and your own world. You have to programme yourself to do it. That’s all.”
“That’s fantastic, Mum,” said Nafsi. And she began to think about all the things she would like to achieve. Her important exams were not due for another two years, so she wanted to think of something else.
“I know,” she thought, “I want to pass my grade 8 at piano.” As she was still struggling with grade 2, this was a suitably ambitious test for writing out an affirmation 15 times a day.
And when she told Yogi, he was excited too.
“What do you want to achieve?” Asked his sister.
“That’s easy, we’re going to have the best Halloween ever.”
“But it’s only in two days time?”
“Well if Mum’s magic spell doesn’t work fast, it’s probably not going to work at all,” he declared.
“It isn’t magic, it’s good mental health,” insisted Nafsi.
Yogi diligently wrote out, “We’re going to have the best Halloween ever at the Dutch Hotel,” 15 times, and his labours paid off.
On the night of the party, Dad allowed the kids to stay up until after midnight so that they could see him play the saxophone with the Jazz band that he had hired. He was dressed in a black boiler suit with a luminous skeleton painted on it. The guests were all in good spirits dressed up as ghouls, vampires and characters from their favourite horror movies.
The kids were hoping to see some of their ghostly friends, and they were not disappointed. Mr Lucas and Mr Levi, the Dutch twins who had founded The hotel 200 years ago were there, and they brought their employees Maria and Mr Cooper to the 21st century for the party. But the strangest thing happened. When Yogi ran over to say, “Trick or treat!” They just vanished.
And so when the ghosts appeared again ten minutes later, the kids resisted the temptation to approach them.
But there was another ghost who caused even more of a stir. His name was Mckenzie, an old butler from years gone by, who looked about 100 years old. He kept appearing in a chair next to Eleni, and disappearing again a few moments later. Eleni, who was dressed as the wicked witch of the west, grew more and more impatient with him and said “You don’t fool me with your trick or treating.” The fourth time he appeared, he leant over to say something in her ear. That was the final straw, so she stood up and gave him a good beating with her handbag.
This caused the kids a great deal of laughter, especially as McKensie’s costume split in half, revealing the old butler in his under pants. Both the kids saw what really happened, but the other guests could only see an old witch thrashing a chair with her hand bag and shouting, “You should know better at your age!”
All in all the Halloween party was enjoyed by everyone. The faithful chef put on a magnificent feast of ghoulish but delicious food fit only for the best event in London and Alan’s solo was a success!
And although the family missed Eleni when she flew back to Cyprus in November, they were also quite relieved.
And that was the latest in our series, the Dutch Hotel. We know from your messages that we have some avid fans of the series, and some other listeners who tell us it’s a little too spooky. Well if you’ve listened this far, you’re probably one of the fans, and like me, you enjoy a bit of spookiness now then. I would like to wish you the Best Halloween EVER!
Tune in soon for more stories. From me, Jana, at Storynory.com, catch you soon!