Roger Moore’s Strange But True Story
“It’s a strange thing about ghosts,” Roger Moore said in his precise, impeccable British accent. “Either you believe in them, or you don’t. I do. My wife does. But it wasn’t always that way . . . It all started one evening soon after my wife and I had moved into the big rambling country home we had just bought near the little town of Bexley, Kent. It was a large house and, for years and years back, had been called St. Mary’s Mount, since it was built on top of a high hill, and was part of an estate that was reputed to be hundreds of years old. It was a lonely house, in a strange sort of way, yet we liked it.
“The day after we moved in, my wife Dorothy, who is a singer, had to go up to Glasgow, Scotland, on tour. Before she left—just as dusk set in—she kiddingly asked me if I were afraid to stay in the house alone. I just laughed and kissed her goodbye, telling her not to worry, the servants would take care of me. I had been working hard on a television series and decided to remain home. I remember saying to her, ‘I just want to be lazy for a change.’
“Quite early in the evening, for some reason, the two servants retired to their quarters in another part of the house, and I settled down in my favorite chair—a large black leather one—in front of the fireplace in the living room. A pleasant fire was burning and I had added a few more logs before I sat down so I wouldn’t be disturbed. I was pooped. I glanced through the daily newspapers from London and then concentrated on the crossword puzzles. They always relax me.
“I think it was about eleven o’clock when I folded the paper, got up from the chair and put out the fire before making my way up the long, winding stairs to bed, turning out the hallway lights as I went. My bedroom was on the third floor. It was a large corner room that was sparsely furnished, yet comfortable.
“Nothing out of the ordinary took place as I undressed, folded my clothes and got my nightclothes out of the dresser drawer. I felt awfully good, suddenly, and I started, I believe, to sing—or maybe I was just humming to myself. As I climbed into bed, I remember thinking how lucky Dorothy and I were to own such an estate and I dozed off to sleep, quite contented with my good fortune.
“Then, something aroused me to semi-consciousness. For the moment, I didn’t open my eyes but just lay there listening, as the church clock over the hill struck two. Suddenly, I sensed a strange odor in the room. I felt myself gasping for breath. I opened my eyes and looked around to see if anything was wrong. What I saw, made my hair stand on end!
“Right. above me, through the darkness, was a blob of mist swirling around and around over the bed. It was about five feet long—I remembered noting this distinctly—and about a foot-or-so deep. Maybe I’m just dreaming, I thought. There are no such things as ghosts. But the spirit kept swirling overhead, moving silently. I tried to move, but I found I couldn’t. I couldn’t even make a sound come from my mouth.
“Finally, I pulled the covers over my face and shut my eyes tight. Oddly enough, after I did this, I began to breathe freely again and, a few moments later, when I looked out from under the covers to see if the ghost was still around. much to my astonishment, it had completely vanished! I don’t know what time I fell back to sleep again, but I was glad that when I awoke, it was daylight. I got up immediately and checked the windows of my room. I thought perhaps a fog had rolled in during the night but the windows were latched as tightly as I remembered leaving them the night before.
“At breakfast, I decided, finally, to ask the servants—with as little alarm as possible—if they had seen anything strange the night before. They hadn’t. But the maid said seriously, ‘I have heard tell, Mr Moore, that this house is supposed to be haunted by poltergeists—you know those mischievous ghosts that indulge in table-tipping, knocking, bumping, breaking earthenware and tossing furniture around. And,’ she added knowingly, I know they have been playing games with me. Sometimes, when I run the vacuum, they shut off the switch. I go turn it on, and they go cutting off the power, again, until I get so mad, that I swear at them. Then they stop!’
“ ‘Is that the cure? You mean, shouting at them?’ I remember asking her. ‘I certainly do,’ she answered, collecting the dishes and going back to the pantry, leaving me alone.
“I laughed. What with the sunlight streaming in and the dogs barking outside, the whole thing seemed utter nonsense and I picked up the morning newspaper from the table and told the butler I would be out to lunch. I decided to take a walk through the gardens and then into town.
“I especially remember that morning because, as I left the house, it suddenly turned grey and cold. The air seemed particularly eerie and still. I’d shrugged the matter off, though. It’s just the after-effects of last night, I thought, and, after a tour of the gardens, walked straight off toward the village.
“It took me about a half hour and when I got there, I stopped off at the local pub for a drink. I was suddenly very tired. The bar was fairly full, crowded with local farmers and villagers. I ordered a pint of ale and as I was taking it back to a small table in the corner, a funny thing happened. As I was walking across the floor, a remark caught my ears which made me stop dead in my tracks.
“ ‘Wonder how long he’ll last?’ I heard someone say. And turning, I saw two elderly men sitting huddled together, staring at me. It was obvious they were referring to me. ‘Do you think he’s found out?’ one finally answered.
“I was annoyed. I turned around and walked directly toward the two men. I wouldn’t normally let such things upset me, but this whole business wasn’t too normal anyway. Look here,’ I said, somewhat flustered. ‘What’s all this mystery about my house? Every time I mention I live there, everybody nods a knowing nod as though . . . well . . . as though it were haunted!’
“The two men merely smiled. I could tell they had no intention of telling me more, so I just walked to the corner table, taking my glass of ale with me. It didn’t take but a minute, when an old man who looked like something out of ‘Long John Silver,’ came over to my table and sat down. He said he knew what the mystery was all about. He pulled his chair up close to mine, so that our faces nearly touched. I couldn’t help notice that he had a bad eye that wouldn’t stop twitching, and a scar just above it. ‘What a scary-looking character,’ I remember thinking to myself. Then, he started to whisper in his deep country brogue: ‘That estate you ’ave—St. Mary’s Mount—it’s got quite a ’istory. Did ya know,’ he went on, ‘that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the mystery writer, used to live there? An’ did ya know that many of ’is legendary tales of Dr. Watson and Sherlock ’Olmes originated right in that ’ouse? Those thick woods nearby—they’re supposed to ’ave been the setting for ’is story, “The Hounds of the Baskervilles.” Lots of folks, ’ereabouts, say it’s ’aunted, even though only a few ever seen ghosts there. Seems them spirits only show themselves to certain people. But ya can’t listen to stories, now can ya?’ he said, almost mockingly—his bad eye twitching even faster than before.
“ ‘No,’ I answered coolly, trying to appear undisturbed.
“ ’ave . . . ’ave you and your missus seen any ghosts lately, sir?’ the old man asked, breathing heavily on my face.
“ ‘No, of course we haven’t,’ I replied. ‘I don’t believe in such things.’
“ ‘Ah, that’s what they all say,’ chuckled the old man in a tone that sent chills up my spine.
“Gulping down the rest of my drink, I thanked him and left. I wouldn’t think about it, I promised myself, as I walked homeward. Instead, I thought about Dorothy who was due back in two days. I couldn’t wait to see her.
“Life was being good to both of us, I thought. Dorothy was enjoying a successful singing engagement, and I had been signed to star in a TV series called ‘Ivanhoe.’
“Because of this, we had decided to take advantage of our good fortune and put into action a plan we’d had for a long time—to build a swimming pool in the gardens of the house—despite the chiding by our friends that the British climate wasn’t exactly suitable for outdoor bathing.
“The builders had moved in to begin working on it and, when I returned home, I stood watching them before going in for tea. But, then, at around sundown, a strange thing happened. It was about quitting time for the men, when suddenly one of them came charging in. He was as white as a ghost. No pun intended!
“ ‘Mr. Moore, excuse me,’ he said, ‘but one of the men, when he was digging, unearthed what seemed to be decayed roots but we think they’re human bones!’ After calming him down, I went out to the garden. After I saw the remains, I summoned the town constable. When he came, we all took shovels-in-hand and searched the spot. More bones were found.
“The whole place was in an uproar soon. Before even I knew what it was all about, news of this finding spread like wildfire. Tongues of the townspeople buzzed with bizarre speculations, including the bloodcurdling theory that Jack The Ripper may have dug deep graves in the garden to bury his victims.
“Fortunately, the town constable lived up to Sherlock Holmes’ reputation. After four hours, he confirmed that the bones were human and, by checking the records of the township, he found that this was no case for Scotland Yard. Our garden, it seems, was, probably in the late 16th Century, a cemetery for a convent!
“Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, and I really didn’t give the incident much more thought because I. too. had accepted the graveyard theory. Accepted it, that is, until late that night. I was so exhausted, that I retired early and fell into a deep sleep almost immediately. Then, just like the night before, I awoke suddenly. I heard the clock strike two. I smelled that horrible odor and began gasping for breath. I looked up and there again, above the bed, was the mysterious, swirling form. But, this time, it looked as though it were swirling out ol’ the ceiling. I watched, momentarily stunned, and then I remembered the maid’s conversation of that morning on getting rid of the spirits: I swear at it and then it stops, she had said.
“I didn’t swear, but I yelled as loud as I could. ‘Get out of here this instant,’ I screamed. ‘I want to get some sleep!’ And, surprisingly enough, the ghost just vanished before my very eyes. I was relieved, but it took me some hours to doze off to sleep again.
“The next day, everything went wrong. The men had some trouble with the cement for the pool, which was supposed to be finished that day, and Dorothy had telephoned that she wouldn’t be home until the day after because she had missed her train connections. To make matters worse, all day I seemed to be hounded by the episode of the night before.
“Sometime in the afternoon, I made up my mind to have a showdown with the ghost. Instead of going to sleep, I decided I would prop myself up on two large feather pillows and wait for it. Which is exactly what I did. I was prepared for it, I told myself as I waited. I must have smoked a pack of cigarettes by the time midnight chimed in. I grew a little nervous as two o’clock approached. Two o’clock came. Nothing happened. Three o’clock. still no sign of anything. My eyelids became heavy and I finally dozed off to sleep, still propped up on the pillows. For the first time in two nights, the ghost didn’t appear. I was sure, the next morning, that this whole nightmare was finally ended.
“But you can’t be too sure about these things, for odd things continued to happen in that house. A few days after Dorothy returned home, a cycle of strange events started. It began her first night home, when she’d decided to take a bath. She let the hot water run in the tub, until the steam filled the room. She always liked a hot bath. Then, barely seconds after she turned off the hot water and stuck her toe in to test it, she jerked her foot back in utter amazement. The water was ice cold!
“After that, lights would mysteriously flick off and on in the unoccupied bedrooms in the middle of the night. My three poodles, for no apparent reason, would suddenly gather in front of one of the upstairs rooms, late at night, and start howling—and we couldn’t do anything to make them stop.
“On another occasion, when we were preparing to go out for the evening, Dorothy daubed some perfume behind her ears and placed the bottle back on her dressing table. We hardly got through the door, when we heard a glass-shattering bang behind us. We turned and found the perfume bottle had been smashed against the wall at the opposite end of the room from where Dorothy had placed it on the table. But what puzzled me most was the fact that Dorothy saw all these things happening, yet she never saw the actual ghost itself—only I did.
“With these unbelievable occurrences. Dorothy and I went to London, just to get away for a little while. Dorothy had to stay on and since we didn’t want to leave the house empty, indefinitely, I returned on a late train, one stormy night, a few days later. It was about a mile’s walk homeward to St. Mary’s Mount, from the tiny rail station. I couldn’t explain to myself why, but I was especially nervous that night. The wind was howling and it was pitch black outside. As I walked, only the sounds of my footsteps were heard. Beads of sweat started to form on my brow.
“Just as I passed the town’s cemetery and had started up the long slope to the estate, out of the trees came a misty figure. My hair was standing on end again! The figure hovered over, moving along with me as I walked. I didn’t run, although I thought of it, because I didn’t want to show the ghost that I was frightened—but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t walk much faster. It didn’t do much good, though, because it just followed me at the same pace.
“Then, as we approached the house, it disappeared into the trees and, I realized then, that I had been so alarmed, I had completely forgotten to scream! . . . And that was the last I saw of the ghost.
“Dorothy and I left, soon after, for Hollywood, where I was to begin work on the TV series, ‘The Alaskans.’
“We still own the estate and it’s a funny thing, the ghost must have liked St. Mary’s Mount, because it didn’t follow me across the Atlantic. Maybe it was afraid of becoming seasick. Or maybe it couldn’t swim. Or perhaps it just thought America wasn’t old enough to be haunted!’’
. . . And, as Roger Moore said this, he sniffed the air and then looked up at the ceiling. “Just wanted to make sure,” he laughed, “that the didn’t decide to take swimming lessons.”
SEE ROGER MOORE SUNDAYS ON ABC-TV, 9: 30-10:30 P.M., EDT. APPEARING IN “THE ALASKANS.” ALSO SEE HIM IN WARNERS’ “RACHEL CADE.”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JULY 1960