Welcome to Chilling Tales, our storytelling series of ghosts, madness, and murder.
Today’s entry comes from short story writer Alan Derosby. In “The Ghost of Old Pier’s Pub,” a woman and her husband set off for a romantic trip through the Irish countryside to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Little do they know that a ghostly presence is about to disrupt their lives forever.
My husband and I had been sitting in the Old Pier’s Pub, in Kinsale, Ireland when our lives took a sick twist. It seemed like whenever Paul drank, misfortune was sure to follow.
I had been saving up for the past four years, squirreling away any spare change, to surprise my husband with a tenth anniversary trip to Ireland. He had always wanted to go and our plan had been to come here on our honeymoon. However, finances and life wouldn’t allow that to happen. I became pregnant two months before the wedding and everything went on hold, except for the ceremony. Unfortunately, I lost the child before ever bringing that sweet soul into this world. Since that time, our relationship had been rocky at best. He made mistakes, which I forgave, and I did the same, which he forgave as well. The word “divorce” was never mentioned but I know I thought about it often. To hopefully turn things around, I had decided to go on the one trip both of us always wanted. Now, after a long day of driving, we sat in a pub on the southern coast of Ireland, enjoying a drink.
“What do you say we have one more before we head upstairs?” Paul wasn’t much of a drinker but when he did, he made up for lost time. Before I answered, he ordered us two more.
While waiting for the bartender to return, Paul stood up and began looking at pictures that hung on the walls of the pub. I waited alone, feeling more uncomfortable when I realized a few locals were staring in my direction. Looking around, I quickly understood why. I was the only woman in this seedy establishment, and though I didn’t have the body I did in my twenties, I still looked good. To assure that I wouldn’t be harassed, I joined my husband. There I found a picture I wasn’t expecting in any normal business.
“Kind of morbid, don’t you think?” I said to my husband, looking at a picture of a mass grave. There had to be close to fifty caskets in a deep hole, surrounded by onlookers and military. My husband gave me the look, the one I always got when asking a question he found insulting.
“Honey, sometimes I wonder what you learned in school.” Paul said this without flinching, as if he had no idea how this comment would hurt me. “It’s from the Lusitania disaster. In 1915, during the First World War, the Germans shot at and sunk a passenger liner off the coast of county Cork. It sunk in less than twenty minutes.”
I had seen movies about sinking ships but had never heard of this story. I listened as he told me the story of the events of May 7 of 1915. It was a sad tale of wartime intrigue, with innocent civilians paying the price.
“So how many people died?” I asked, feeling a heavy sadness fall on my shoulders.
“Close to 1200,” Paul said, “both passenger and crew.” He looked back at the table in search of his drink.
“Did they find all the bodies?”
“Not at all. Many died, trapped on the boat. Others were lost to sea. For weeks after the event, dead bodies were stored in places like this, all for families to find. It’s said that widows would sleep on the floors of those buildings, hoping someone would either bring word or the body of their loved one.”
It was then that I noticed that we were not alone in our interest. It wasn’t until I saw the hand on the shoulder of my husband that I shockingly turned around.
“How many survived?” A woman said. She was wearing a long blue dress, frills around her neck and hands. Her hair flowed down her back, long and dark. Her skin was like porcelain; the only color was the red around her eyes.
“Ummm, about 750 or so.” Paul turned around, and a smile grew on his face. I knew almost immediately he appreciated our stranger.
“Was any of the missing ever found alive? The woman almost pushed me aside. Paul willingly allowed this woman to get as close as she wanted.
“Sure, I guess.” Paul was guessing. I could tell almost immediately. Whether it was the beer or the prospect of something more, he was now lying through his teeth. He was fairly bright but was no historian.
“Good. Good.” The woman wiped her eyes, smiling at my husband. She turned and walked away from us and soon out the pub itself.
Neither of us brought up this until we were back in our room. He wanted to make love, like he did every time he drank. I, however, did not feel like allowing him inside me, especially after he chose to flirt with the strange woman.
“Why’re you being such a prude? You bring me here to this wonderful place and now lock your legs like a bear trap. This is why we fight.” Paul had enjoyed way too many drinks and now his argument was based off that courage.
“No, the reason we fought was because you were cheating. Am I supposed to just let you lay on top of me while thinking about someone else? No thanks, Paul. No thanks.”
“Are you pissed about that woman in the pub? How was that my fault? She just overheard us talking and was interested in what I was saying.”
I was angry now, upset more at what he had done to me in the past than what he did tonight. “That woman pushed me aside and you let her cuddle up right next to you. I saw you checking her out. Your eyes told me everything. Damn it, did you see what she was wearing? Not exactly flattering but that didn’t stop you from imagining what was underneath that dress.” I turned my back to him, closing my eyes in hopes he would drop the subject. I felt his hand fall on my shoulder, possibly to comfort me but he quickly removed it. I fell asleep like that; my face buried in my pillow. When I awoke, the room was dark and I was alone. I turned on the lights, searching around the room for Paul. He had gone. I waited a few minutes before throwing on clothes to search for him. Sure, he had made mistakes but those were in the past and I had told him I forgave him. There would be no sex that night but that didn’t mean I didn’t owe him an apology. I walked the hallway of the inn we were at, still not finding him. I went down into the pub, which was still serving despite the fact that it was almost two in the morning. He was not there either.
“Excuse me.” I approached the bartender, who was busy serving one of the locals. He smiled at me and after delivering the drink, returned.
“What can I get ya, miss?” He looked at me, seeing the puffiness on my face from tears.
“I’m looking for my husband. We were here earlier.” I said
“Yeah, he was in here about twenty minutes ago. Caught him staring at those pictures over there. I had to tell him to either order a drink or take off. He took off.”
“Was he alone?” I asked. If my husband returned here, after I spurned his advances, then he was looking for someone and something else.
“Sure he was. Except for you two, only my regulars been drinkin’ tonight.” The bartender wiped the bar with a dirty cloth he took from his back pocket.
“What about that other woman?” I remembered how I was ogled at. I couldn’t imagine a beautiful young woman wouldn’t get more looks, especially considering how she was dressed.
“Listen, I’m guessing you don’t trust your husband much. But you’re the only woman who stepped in here tonight. Now if you don’t mind, I have to get back to work.” The bartender walked away, obviously annoyed with my questioning.
I made my way out the pub, looking back one time at the pictures. The barkeep and his friends were looking at me, whispering in hushed tones. An elderly gentleman broke a slight smile, shaking his head my way. I smiled back and walked out, now not only sad but frustrated. How could those men not have seen that woman?
I returned to my room and heard the shower running. Lying on the bed was my husband’s clothes. They were quite soiled, especially on the bottom of the legs of the pants, which was stained with mud. I slipped back into my nightgown and slid back bed. When my husband came out of the bathroom, he questioned where I went. I was honest with him, telling him about my return to the pub. I didn’t bring up the stranger however, not wanting to start another argument. Instead, I merely inquired as to where he wandered.
“I went for a walk. Just needed to blow off some steam.” Paul said. When I mentioned how he returned to the pub to look at the pictures, he grinned.
“For some reason, something struck me. When they kicked me out, I just took a walk. I ended up at the coastline, standing next to the lighthouse that looks out into the Atlantic.”
“If I were there when the Lusitania was sinking,” he continued, “I would have watched it go under. I’d see the boat disappear and the people, looking like ants, float. The screams and cries would have filled my ears as the cold water took one life after another.” Paul mind was somewhere else. He looked at me, or should I say through me before sliding himself into bed. I felt guilty for mistreating him and doubting him. Clearly what he saw in those pictures touched him.
“Maybe in the morning, you can show me the place? We can go for a walk before getting some breakfast.” I wanted to show an interest, even though I was confused.
“Maybe….maybe.” Paul mumbled, turning his back to me. In moments, he was snoring. I had a harder time falling asleep. When I woke up, Paul was gone. He left no note but this time I knew where he went. I rushed downstairs in my nightgown and immediately went into the empty streets. I had no idea where I was going so I turned around and went to the Old Pier’s Pub. I didn’t expect it to be open but it was and all the locals were still there. They turned and looked at me, stunned at my apparel.
“Looking for your husband?” The bartender said. He no longer smiled or smirked. Instead a look of fear sat on his face.
“Yes of course. He came back last night but was gone this morning. How do I get to the lighthouse?” I was sobbing uncontrollably.
One of the locals, who looked like he had been drinking all night, turned and shook his head. “It’s too late. She has him now.”
He could tell I was in shock at his comments because he took my hands in his and helped lower me on to a barstool. I made no attempt to fight him off.
“If you want my advice, go and pack your things and leave now. You don’t need to see it to believe me.” He looked sad and I now realize he knew I wouldn’t accept that answer.
“Where is the lighthouse?” I asked again, this time calmer.
The old man looked at his friends, who all shook their heads. “Once you leave this place, take a right and follow the road. Keep going until you reach a pier. If you glance to your left, you’ll see the lighthouse on a small hillside. But please, don’t go.” He wiped his eyes and I understood they were not red from drinking but from crying.
I did not heed his warning. I ran down the street, barefoot and underdressed. I didn’t scream Paul’s name because I knew where he was. Before long, I could see the pier in front of me. I glanced to my left to see the lighthouse, in full view though a fog covered most of the water beyond. There on the cliff were Paul and the woman from the pub. They held hands as they walked closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. I screamed at Paul but he didn’t hear me. Even if he did, it didn’t show. However the woman heard me. She turned to face me and I saw the features, not of the beautiful woman, but of someone who had died many years earlier. Flesh was dripping off her bones. One of her eyes was missing while the other hung out of its socket. Though her lips had long since been gone, a large toothy grin grew across her face. Even as she led my husband closer and closer to the edge, she kept her eyes on me, smiling that awful smile. When they got to the edge of the cliff, the woman leaned to my husband, whispered something in his ear and kissed his cheek. I screamed for him one final time but it was too late. Paul stepped over the cliff, falling into the icy waters below.
The woman stood on the edge of the cliff for a moment. She buried her head in her hands, crying for the loss of another. She looked at me one last time, let out a loud shriek that forced me to cover my ears, and was gone, disappearing into the fog. I rushed forward, making my way to the cliff’s edge. I fell to my knees, peering over but the fog covered everything below. I yelled my husband’s name a few times but knew he was gone. When I returned to the pub to ask them to call the cops, I found the men huddled around the pictures on the wall. I moved towards them, asking for help. It was only when I got to the pictures did I see what they were looking at. It was the same picture that Paul was focused on. In the corner of the picture, her head bowed near the mass grave, was the woman I just saw.
“She’s claimed another.” The bartender said as he took my arm and led me to a table. There, he and his friends fed me and gave me the only advice they could. Call the police; tell them about the missing person and then return to the states. Before I left, the bartender told me that while I would always be welcome to the rest of Ireland, the Old Pier Pub belonged to another woman.
Alan Derosby, a Maine native, has spent the past several years focusing on his passion: writing. He has made it to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel awards with his young historical fiction novel Purgatory. Since that time, he as placed his focus on creating original and spooky short stories.
When not writing, Alan is teaching world history at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Maine or spending time with his family.
Alan encourages readers to share their opinions on his writing. Please send your letters to: email@example.com
Photos (in order): Neil Tackaberry / Flickr; Wikimedia Commons; Patrik M. Loeff / Flickr; Masterbutler / Flickr; Ed Wohlfahrt / Flickr; Masterbutler / Flickr; Masterbutler / Flickr