1. Arrival at the Black Horse Inn
It was 1826 and the wind was howling through the bare trees. I always liked October, I loved the smell of wetland and rotting leaves and all the changing colours but this time was different. It was nearly dark and bitter cold already and the rain and hail slammed my face so hard it hurt. It shouldn’t be long before Autumn was over and Winter would come now. I entered the inn and the door slammed shut behind me as the wind grabbed it and blew leaves inside. There were only a few guests in the room lit with a few oil lamps and candles and two candles were blown out instantly by the gust of wind.
One of the guests looked up briefly but no one seemed to care. The Landlord hurried to lit the candles again and greeted me as he passed by. I ordered a pint of his finest Stout and sat down in a corner. I had no business here but being inside rather than having my face pounded by rain was the only sensible thing to do right now. I had to stay here for the night if the Landlord had room to spare or else it would be a long walk for shelter in the city. Outside was no safe place at this hour of the night and the mud made me slide on my boots a few times walking along the dirt road.
I asked the Landlord if he had a room for the night for me and he had. I paid in advance, I always did. One of the others looked up seeing me exchange money but I paid no attention to it. Best to ignore it I thought, I always kept my pound notes in my boot with a string attached around it. That way I could always drop the string in my trousers when in danger and I kept the shillings in my other good pocket. One should never be too careful when on the road, travelling. Do you have a pen and paper in the room, I would like to write a letter in the morning when it is light. The Landlord nodded, it’ll be a thruppence extra for the paper guv’ he said, the stage-coach will be here around 10 o’clock do you want me to hold it for you? I said that would be alright and I drank my pint quietly in a corner. I wanted the storm to lay down so I could get a decent night of sleep.
But that night I was woken up by the sound of a horse’s hooves galloping, but they were so loud that the sound raised above the howling of the storm, in fact, it seemed as if it was in my room! And then it went silent again, except for the wind outside. I sat up straight in my bed, terrified.
Eventually, the storm laid down and I went to sleep again. I was woken up by the sounds from the kitchen downstairs and the maid knocked on my door. I went downstairs and had a full breakfast. I asked the Landlord if he heard something last night to which he replied, you mean that horse sounds guv’? I said I did hear such sounds and he shuddered. That sound is driving us insane, it’s there ever so often lately sir but no horse can be seen outside. I am the third Landlord here since this inn was built and all my predecessors have left within a year, terrified. I don’t believe in ghosts but this is beyond me, I do not know where it is coming from. I asked one of the locals once, an old man, and he said that sound could be heard long before the inn was here but our guests that came here in the past said it was as if it was coming from within their rooms upstairs! The old man said it has been part of their lives for many, many years and that no one knows the reason why it happens. It is not heard every night and sometimes it stays quiet for months. Even so, the people who owned this place before me couldn’t handle it and left.
Now, this was something worth investigating I thought. Local folklore always interested me and as a writer, I just needed this, this could be the lead for my next book! How exciting! I would like to speak to the old man I said, could you please introduce me to the man today or tomorrow? But the Landlord just grumbled and walked away.
The old man, who was wearing fine Tweed clothes and a Brookland cap with flaps opened the door from me, the vanilla-scented tobacco smell from his pipe lingering in the hallway. He did not say much except that he had heard the sound every now and then over the last ten years and that it didn’t follow a pattern or occurred on a regular basis. He thought it was just strange since nobody owned a horse in this town. He always thought the inn was spooked but that he didn’t know for sure as he didn’t dare to go near that place. So far I heard nothing that I didn’t know already. But as that was no real news he then continued by saying that whenever it happened there always seemed to be strangers in the in and that a stagecoach seemed to be in front of the inn. Now, this was exciting, I needed to know more of this!
So, in fact, when that sound occurs there are horses in town? Yes, he said, but that wouldn’t explain that particular sound as it appeared to be a running horse, not one of those slow horses from the stagecoach in the stables. And there were men, strange men with their hats pulled deep over their heads and unwilling to communicate with anyone from this town except for the Landlord of the inn. Do you think he would have anything to do with it then? I asked but the old man said it wasn’t any of his business and he stayed quiet from thereon. So I left, with more questions than I got answers for. How strange this was I thought, and it would be a lot more complicated to find out why.
When I returned to the inn it was nearly dark and the atmosphere inside seemed to have turned sour, the Landlord seemed irritated for some reason and wasn’t very friendly as he was the day before. No, he appeared crossed with me. Would it be having anything to do with me snooping around and asking questions? Did he have something to do with the sounds and was I here at the wrong place and time? I went up to my room to think. And I had to write a letter, a very important letter.