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Ghost Stories

The Canterville Ghost

Mr. Otis asks the Canterville Ghost to oil his chains.
Mr. Otis asks the Canterville Ghost to oil his chains.

Mr. Hiram Otis was moving his family to Canterville Chase in England. It was a grand old house and everyone said it was haunted. But Mr. Otis did not agree. "There are no such things as ghosts," he told Lord Canterville.

Lord Canterville described all of the ghostly sightings. But Mr. Otis refused to believe. A few weeks later, he was joined by Mrs. Otis and their four children.


Mrs. Umney, the housekeeper, was standing on the steps when they arrived. She led them into the library to have tea. Mrs. Otis noticed a dull red stain on the floor. "I'm afraid something has been spilled here," she said to Mrs. Umney.

"Yes," replied the old housekeeper, "that is blood."

"Well, I do not care for blood in the library," said Mrs. Otis. "Please remove it at once."

The old woman smiled. "That is the blood of Lady Eleanor. The bloodstain cannot be removed. And her husband, Sir Simon, still haunts this house."

"That is nonsense!" cried Washington, the oldest Otis son. "Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover will clean it up in no time."

He scrubbed the spot and the stain was gone.

Just then, a flash of lightning lit up the room. Mrs. Umney fainted. Mr. Otis came into the room and found Mrs. Umney on the floor. He splashed cold water on her face.

"Mr. Otis," Mrs. Umney said, "beware of the ghost that haunts this house."

"Thankfully, we are not afraid of ghosts," said Mr. Otis.

The next morning, Mr. Otis and Washington found the bloodstain in the library again.

"I don't think it is the Champion Stain Remover that is to blame," said Washington. "It must be the ghost." Each morning, they found a fresh stain on the floor. Mr. Otis was beginning to think the ghost existed after all.

One night, Mr. Otis was awakened by a curious noise outside his room. It sounded like the clank of metal. Right in front of him was a ghostly old man.

"Dear sir," said Mr. Otis, holding up a bottle. "Kindly oil your chains with this Rising Sun Lubricator. I must get some sleep."

The Canterville Ghost threw down the bottle and disappeared through the wall. He went to his secret chamber. He was greatly insulted. He thought of all the people he had frightened in the last three centuries. "They never treated me like this," he said. All night he thought about his revenge.

The next night, the ghost appeared again. The family had just gone to bed.

Suddenly, they heard a fearful crash in the hall. Mrs. Otis rushed downstairs. There she found a large suit of armor scattered on the floor. The Canterville Ghost sat on the stairs holding his head in his hands.

"Stop! Hold up your hands!" shouted the twin boys. They had brought their slingshots with them. Each of them fired a shot at the poor ghost.

Just then, Mrs. Otis leaned over and offered some medicine to the ghost. "You are far from well," she said. "I have brought you a bottle of Dr. Dobell's Soothing Remedy."

Mrs. Otis tries to cure the Ghost's ails with a spoonful of medicine.
Mrs. Otis tries to cure the Ghost's ails with a spoonful of medicine.

The ghost glared at Mrs. Otis. With a groan, he vanished in the air.

The ghost retreated to his room. He was very upset. "How could they treat me this way?" wondered the ghost. "It's humiliating!"

The ghost felt very ill after this. He hardly left his room, except to put the bloodstain on the floor in the library.

When he recovered, the ghost resolved to try again. He planned to go quietly into Washington's room. Then he would mumble and mock him at the foot of his bed. Then he would go see the twin boys. He planned to sit on them until they screamed.

"What a marvelous plan," he thought.

That night, the ghost set out down the hallway. He waited for the clock to strike twelve. A raven croaked from an old tree outside. The wind rattled the shutters on their hinges. "What a perfect night for a scare," thought the ghost.

The ghost chuckled to himself and turned the corner. Suddenly, he wailed and fell back in terror. Right in front of him stood a horrible ghost. Its head was round, fat, and orange. Its eyes were empty black holes. It laughed at him with an awful grin.

The Canterville Ghost had never seen another ghost before. Naturally, he was very frightened. After a second glance at the strange phantom, the Canterville Ghost covered his eyes and ran back to his room. In his bedroom, the ghost hid his face in his blankets.

As the sun came up, the ghost gained some courage. He decided to talk to the other ghost. "Perhaps he can help me scare the twins," thought the ghost.

The ghost tiptoed down the hallway. He reached the spot and gasped. Something had happened to the ghost. It no longer looked frightening. The Canterville ghost could see that the ghost's head was only a pumpkin. He read a sign that said "YE OTIS GHOST."

The Canterville Ghost had been tricked!

A few days later, Virginia Otis went riding and tore her skirt. She knew her mother would not be happy! Virginia went to the sewing room, hoping to fix her skirt before her mother saw it. When she opened the door, she was surprised to see the Canterville Ghost! He was sitting by the window, watching the leaves fly by. He looked very sad.

Virginia felt sorry for the ghost. "My brothers are leaving tomorrow for school," she said. "If you behave yourself, no one will bother you."

The ghost turned around. "It is my job to misbehave," he said.

"Nonsense!" said Virginia. She turned to leave.

"Please don't go, Miss Virginia," cried the ghost. "I am so lonely, and I don't know what to do. I want to go to sleep, but I cannot."

"That's absurd," said Virginia.

"I have not slept for three hundred years," he said sadly. "And I am so tired. I wish to fall asleep and never wake," said the ghost. He continued to explain why he haunted the old house. The ghost needed Virginia's pure heart. If she would be his true friend, the ghost could sleep forever.

Virginia considered the ghost's request. She stood up and said, "I will help you." She took the ghost's hand and followed him through the wall.

About ten minutes later, the bell rang for tea. Mrs. Otis was greatly alarmed when Virginia did not appear. Mr. Otis rode his horse across the countryside to search for her. He could not find her.

Then at midnight, a panel at the top of the stairs flew open. Virginia came out looking very pale and tired. She was holding a small white box.

"My child!" cried Mr. Otis. "Where have you been?"

"Papa," said Virginia quietly, "I have been with the ghost. He is dead now."

Virginia led them down a secret corridor. Finally they came to a great oak door. Virginia opened it. They found themselves in a small room. A huge iron ring was attached to the wall. A chain led from the ring to a skeleton.

The Otis family finds the body of Sir Simon.
The Otis family finds the body of Sir Simon.

Virginia explained that Sir Simon was locked in this room long ago. "Now he can rest," she said.

Four days later, the Otis family had a proper funeral for Sir Simon. After the funeral, Virginia remembered the white box the ghost had given her. She brought it to her father. Slowly, Mr. Otis opened the box.

Virginia gasped. "Look at those beautiful jewels," she cried.

Virginia's father handed them to her. "You must take them," he said. "We certainly want Sir Simon to rest in peace."

Follow the famous Headless Horseman from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" in the next section.

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