10-10-2007, 05:27 PM
By the following Christmas, the new building was ready. Myles Phillipson and his wife held a great banquet on Christmas Day to celebrate. That night Dorothy's curse became more than a thing of mere words.
Guests crowded into the new Hall, admiring, envying the owners, impressed by such a show of wealth and social position. The dinner was boisterously merry. In the middle of it, Mrs Phillipson left the table to fetch a jewel that she wanted her guests to see.
The rooms and stairs of Calgarth Hall were lit by candles that threw deep shadows which danced and flickered when touched by draughts. But Mrs Phillipson was used to this kind of vague illumination And Dorothy Cook's curse was long since forgotten.
As Mrs Phillipson turned a corner in the dimly-lit stairs, she came on something that made her blood run cold; her eyes stared in terrified amazement. She stopped dead in her tracks, for a moment unable to utter a sound or move another step.
No more than inches in front of her, resting on the wide banisters - so near she could have reached out and touched them - were two grinning skulls. From one, hair streamed down in wispy strands. Both the deathsheads seemed about to open their grinning mouths and speak.
With a scream, Mrs Phillipson recovered her senses, turned and fled. Whimpering in terror, she ran in to the startled dinner party; trembling, white, and stammering, she gasped out what she had just seen.
Phillipson at once grabbed up a sword and a candle. Others male guests followed his example. Hosts and guests ran to the stairs. The skulls were still there. Even the men were shaken by the sight. For a moment, no one moved or said a word. Then a man bolder than the others went cautiously up to the skulls and thrust at them with his sword. They were real enough. The sword rang as it struck solid bone.
'Someone is playing a trick!' shouted Phillipson, livid with anger. There and then he set about questioning the servants For some reason, one of the houseboys was suspected. He denied having anything to do with the presence of the skulls. Phillipson did not believe him and ordered the boy to be taken to the cellar and left there, tied to a pillar, until he confessed. The skulls were picked up on a sword blade and thrown into the courtyard.
There was no more merry-making that Christmas night at Calgarth Hall. The party broke up. Guests who lived nearby went home; the others retired to bed.
About two o'clock in the morning, the household was woken by a number of anguished screams. A crowd of tousled guests gathered round Myles Phillipson. The screams came from the staircase. Bunched together, fearful of what they would find, the startled group crept cautiously towards the sounds.
What they saw struck deeper terror into them than anything they had seen before...or wished to see again. Perched on a step, gleaming in an eerie light, were the two grinning skulls. No one slept again that night. When dawn came, Myles Phillipson himself took the dreadful objects and threw them into a pond.
This was but the beginning. Next night, from behind locked doors all over the house, came chilling screams. Next morning, the two skulls were found once more on the stairs. So it was night after night. No matter what was done to rid the Hall of the skulls - burying in quicklime, burning or even smashing with hammers - always the following night ghastly screams echoed throughout the building and the skulls were found on the stairs!
One by one the servants left the house. Phillipson's friends, remembering Dorothy's curse, refused invitations to stay at Calgarth. Nor would they have the Phillipsons in their own homes. For Dorothy's curse promised misfortune not on the Phillipsons alone, but on all with whom they associated.
Even so, Myles Phillipson and his wife refused to give up the house. They remained, with their children, suffering the nightly terrors. If the skulls had been ghostly apparitions, perhaps people would have minded less. But they were not. They were tangible bone; solid images of death; fearsome reminders of the evil deed on which Calgarth Hall was built. Every night as they climbed into bed the Phillipsons wondered when the time would come that the screams would wake them and they would open their eyes to find the grinning skulls there on the pillow beside them.
Meanwhile, just as Dorothy had predicted, Myles Phillipson's business began to decline. No one would deal with him; everything he touched failed. Slowly his wealth dwindled. When at last he died, he left his son with little fortune. And the skulls screamed ceaselessly all that night.
From the time of Phillipson's death, the skulls appeared only twice a year: on Christmas Day - the anniversary of the treacherous dinner - and on the day of the year on which Dorothy and Kraster were hanged. Even so, the heir fared little better than his father. No project he undertook prospered. Once he tried holding a party for his friends in his parents' old home. In the middle of dinner the dining-room doors were flung open. Across the floor rolled the two skulls; they jumped up onto the table, and lay there gaping at the assembled guests.
So it went on, one heir succeeding the last, each one inheriting the dreadful curse; each worse off than his father before him, until the family came to an end. The last member lived as an outcast and died a penniless beggar in 1705.
The dwindling state of the Phillipsons' fortunes meant that Calgarth Hall was neglected; its occupants used only parts of the building and allowed ever greater portions of it to fall into disrepair. As late as 1891, a Victorian chronicler stated that two skulls (which had been present as long as anybody could remember) sat on a window ledge in a large, semi-ruined unoccupied room. Today the Phillipson coat of arms is still visible on one old fireplace.
Dr Watson, the Bishop of Llandaff (who only visited his diocese on one occasion) acquired the property. According to some sources, he had the skulls bricked up within the walls and conducted an exorcism. The local people had doubts about the effectiveness of this service; for many years afterwards strange sights and sounds in and around the Hall were reported.