Scottish castles are really scary. Especially because of the low doors. After two days entering and leaving the infinite rooms of Castle Menzies in the Highlands, Holmes and I had got a tremendous headache. Those damn stone lintels! Holmes had the outlandish theory that the Middle Ages were populated by dwarves. However, the ghost we had seen the first night in the castle was of a larger stature, which led Holmes to think that the ghost that harassed Menzies family was not of medieval times; that he might even be a contemporary of ours… and not exactly dead. “And how do you explain that he has no head?” I asked. And then Holmes mentioned the huge amount of aristocrats who ended up guillotined during the French Revolution. I didn’t know whether he was teasing me or he believed that all those people had continued to lead a normal life after their heads had been cut off. Sherlock Holmes’ mind was inextricable.
By way of background, let me say that Lord Menzies had placed his trust in my friend to get rid of the ghost that haunted his castle. On her way to Loch Ness to visit the monster, Queen Victoria was planning to make an overnight stop at the castle, and lord Menzies didn’t want her frightened because of the ghost. Naively, I observed that if she wasn’t afraid of the monster, why would she fear a ghost? The difference was, according to our host, that the monster kept its head on its shoulders. Apparently Her Majesty could not bear the vision of a headless being, for it brought her unpleasant family memories such as the beheading of Anne Boleyn by one of her ancestors.
The fact was that, after two entire nights touring the castle in the light of candlesticks, we had not progressed much in our investigation and we both had a tremendous headache. So we decided to dedicate the third night to fall asleep. Each of us locked ourselves in our respective room willing not to leave our canopy bed no matter what happened. Unless it happened that we had a physiological need and we were forced to get out of the castle and get in the bushes. (Holmes had the outlandish theory that medieval people lacked physiological needs.)
However, we had not counted on the possibility that the ghost would enter our rooms and delivered a message to each of us in the form of no less than forty shots. Luckily, his aim was what could be expected of a being who wore his head under his arm turned face down. When the ghost left, it seemed that an interior decorator with a penchant for wall ornamentation based on little holes had passed through our rooms.
Immediately Holmes and I met in the corridor equipped with our nightshirts and our night caps. Holmes was carrying his candlestick but, because of the nerves in shock, instead of the candlestick I had grabbed the coat-rack my clothes hung on.
“Holmes, is the first case of a gun-armed ghost of which I have news!”
“It’s not a ghost, Watson, but a vulgar criminal with the easy trigger.”
We both sneak up the corridor.
“Your candlestick illuminates more than mine, Watson.”
“It is not a candlestick, Holmes, but a coat-rack. And what illuminates so much are my clothes burning.”
“Have you lit your clothes?”
“I was in shock.”
“I hope at least you brought your gun.”
“I thought I wouldn’t need it to get rid of a ghost, so I left it at home.”
“Shit! We will have to face a shooting by spitting!”
At that moment there was a providential coincidence. At the same moment that I was starting to burn because of my makeshift candlestick, the ghost stood in front of us in the middle of the corridor. While I instinctively threw away the burning coat-rack from me, the alleged ghost dropped the head he wore under his arm and pulled a gun from his pocket. The coat-rack flew through the air and landed on the “ghost” just at the moment he was about to shoot. Immediately, the fire enkindled his clothes and the “ghost” yelled and started running aimlessly. Without being able to do anything, Holmes and I witnessed how, in his crazy run, the “ghost” collided with the railing of the corridor and he fell into the stairwell.
Meanwhile his head had rolled right up to my feet, and I could see that it was made of wax.