Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Ghost story

Round the campfire? In the caravan? Here’s a good story to tell. I came across it this week while sorting and clearing old papers. As usual with tales that get briefly reported in old guide-books and magazines, the story had no title. The only identifying feature was that it took place on the island of Mull. I’ll call it Late Encounters.

Late Encounters

P1020006Late one moonlit evening, a hiker was walking through woods on his way back to his digs. The hike had taken him further than he’d calculated and it had got much later than he’d intended. Suddenly, out of the shadows ran a dog. The dog came straight up to him wagging its tail and lifting its head towards him, obviously wanting to be stroked. The dog was an old collie dog. The hiker had no fear of it and when he eventually began walking on, he even began to wonder if the dog would come with him as some dogs do when you come across them in the countryside. So he couldn’t help feeling disappointed when, as suddenly as  he’d arrived, the dog ran off back into the woods without so much as a backward glance.

‘Strange,’ thought the hiker as he went on his way. But about half a mile further on, it felt even more strange when he heard sounds of something  approaching. He hoped it might be the dog. No, it was a man, an old man, as friendly-looking as the dog had been.

‘ Goo’night,’ said the man. ‘Out late?’ ‘Yes,’ said the hiker. ‘Misjudged the path. Got to get back to my lodgings.’ ‘Well never mind,’ the old man said, ‘it’s a good night for walking by any account.’ ‘Strange thing, though,’ said the hiker. ‘I met someone else just now – well, not a person, a dog, very friendly.’ ‘A  dog?’ said the old man. ‘What was he like exactly?’

On hearing the hiker’s description, the old man smiled. ‘Sounds like my old Billy,’ he said. ‘But that would be very odd, that would. For he’s been dead and gone about two years now. Well, well …’

The two men parted shaking their heads, and when the hiker finally reached the inn where he was staying, he went into the bar for a pint before going up to bed. At the bar, he was eager to tell the story of his encounters, first with the dog, then with the old man. The landlord at the bar looked very surprised.‘What did the old man look like again?’ he asked. As the hiker described him again, a couple of other old men at the bar interrupted. ‘Why, sounds like old Tom the shepherd,’ they said, ‘except he’s been dead and gone, why, must be 10 years now.’

Tell it as you like it

P1020002For storytelling purposes, one of the attractive things about this story is how adaptable it is. I’ve retold it with my own detail. There are many ways you  can adapt  it:

  • Set it in a different place – ‘relocate it’ is the storytelling phrase
  • Change the description of the dog
  • Convert the old shepherd into someone else
  • Make it scary

Do whatever you like, it’s a story and telling it will probably set off other ghost stories in the company you are in. What immediately appealed to me about it was that it made me remember a late-night walk through woods of my own.

Personal tale

It was on our way back to our car after a long day’s walk to Whitstable. In Whitstable, we’d been assured there would be a bus. We waited. It didn’t come. Finally, we decided we’d better walk. Going back through the woods, I suddenly jumped almost out of my skin: out of the corner of my eye, I’d seen a flash of white beside me. I only calmed down when I realised it was my own arm waving about. A  few minutes later, the bus came up the road. Fortunately, it stopped when we flagged it down.  

Photo

As for dogs that haunt particular places, there’s this  lovely old dog that always seems to be there when you go down to Abermawr beach in Pembrokeshire. Hence this week’s photos.P1020007

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Ghost story”

  1. Felice Tombs Says:

    Mary your stories remind me of a night many many years ago when I lived in the bush in Northern New South Wales. I arrived home after dark one evening and had no torch with me. To get to my home ( which was shack in the bush) I had to walk across a river and then up a winding path through the tree clad river bank. It was a night with no moon. The river crossing was relatively easy as I could see the slight glimmer of the water and the river made it’s watery sound passing over the river stones. Once I was in amongst the trees it was a different matter as I was suddenly confronted with total dense black, something I had never experienced before. The dark was almost solid. I gingerly put one foot before the other and guessed where I was going; as the path was sandy I could occasionally see a bit of white in front of my feet. I shuffled along for quite a few minutes and, knowing the path so well by daylight, when it felt that I must surely be near to the place where the path climbed up onto the river flat where my little shack was, I looked up to see a the figure of an old man holding a lantern shining a light to show me where the gate to the home paddock was! To this day I don’t know if I was imagining it , but he seemed very real at the time. And I found my shack and its welcome bed.
    I love the photos of the dog. Xxxx Felice

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Felice, your story is fascinating. Of course such events stay in the mind, haunting in their ambiguity. Were you imagining it or not? Once when I was a child, I heard a voice telling me my name and address and all kinds of other details about me. It definitely felt like it was outside of myself. Was it real? I shall never know. By the way, I’m really glad you liked the photos of that dog. You were on Abermawr beach with me when I took them! Do you remember?

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