Christmas at the Phantom Hotel

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Christmas Eve 1962 

It was approaching 10pm when the lorry dropped me off around twenty miles south of Scotch Corner on the A1. White flakes of snow had just started to appear from out of the black sky and the driver seemed concerned about leaving me at such a desolate spot. I told him ‘not to worry’ and gave him a reassuring wave as he drove off through the thickening curtain of snow. I remember just standing in the amazing silence of it all – apart from the soft hiss of the falling snowflakes. The driver had no need to worry however – I was seventeen and therefore immortal…….

…….I must have stood for around half and hour, when it became apparent that my chances of hitching a further lift to Durham before daybreak were slim. It was also becoming painfully apparent I was starting to freeze. 

Squinting through the snowflakes, which were now falling heavily, I could just make out the square light of an upstairs window, in the blackness beyond the other side of the road.  It seemed a little odd I hadn’t noticed it earlier, but I reasoned that whoever lived there, must have switched on the upstairs lights as they were going to bed.

I carefully picked my way across the deserted carriageways and eventually found myself at the entrance of what seemed to be a farmyard. I hesitated for a moment, but crossing the carriageway had shown me how my legs were seizing up in the sub-zero conditions and I knew I had to find shelter at once.

I knocked on the farmhouse door – softly to begin with and then with increasing force – nothing.  I then carefully tried the door-handle and for the first, but not the last time in my life, it turned and the door opened…

…onto a small porch, leading to a steep flight of stairs. I slowly climbed the stairs, eventually finding myself in a corridor of bedrooms. Every room had been cleaned and prepared, as if for a guest – but every room was empty, with the door to each room left open. I can remember choosing the second from the last room at the far end of the corridor and sitting on the side of the bed, until my shivering had subsided. I was relieved that a sad end in the snow was no longer on the cards, so that worry was at once replaced with a different concern.

My new worry was a lack of money, other than a few coppers. I was a young student and I knew I could find myself in trouble if I was found sleeping in a room with no means of paying for it. I reluctantly crept downstairs and called out several times, even going carefully around the unlit breakfast/dining room, to see if I could find anyone. The hotel was empty.

It may have been empty, but thankfully it was warm. I had been thumbing lifts for over twelve hours and the combination of fatigue and warmth had begun to make sleeping an urgent need. I returned to ‘my’ room – and slept.

I woke with a start at around 10am on Christmas Day. Everything was silent, except for the occasional wet-tyre sound of a car passing by. I dressed quickly – knowing I had to find someone and explain to them what had happened. Hopefully they would then accept my home address, together with a promise of the rent being sent by post. I searched the house and the yard outside, but there was no one.

Looking back, I feel a little guilty that I didn’t leave a note, but everything had begun to feel a bit otherworldly and oppressive. I needed to get away from the building, as I knew that in some undefinable way, I was no longer welcome.

Fine rain was falling as I crossed the A1 to the northbound side. as I reached the grass verge, a car stopped beside me. An hour later I arrived home.

I have driven past the spot where the lorry-driver dropped me, many times over the years, but I cannot find the farmhouse hotel. Was it demolished? Or did it simply fade, like the village of  Brigadoon – melting and dissolving with the night-snow.


So was I just lucky, or were there other forces in play? There have been a few ‘narrow squeaks’ in my life and each one had a flavour of ‘spiritual protection’. If I personify that protection, I find myself considering guardian angels and spirit guides. If I go beyond a three-dimensional view of God, I find myself in a state of harmony, together with the knowledge that generosity and help will be given back to me and greed and disharmony returned in kind.

If you have read The Angel of Inverness (next post down), you may have recognised the symbols of a gateway into a yard of danger with the safety of a house beyond, and a risky journey through the night, combined with an unlocked door and a haven of safety. The significance of this in my life is most relevant, especially as the symbols, although having a dream-like quality, also possessed an actual physical quantity, as I experienced them during my so called ‘waking’ hours.

In other words, it actually happened.santacowboyhat

Merry Christmas and Good Yule

click on the thumbnail to read “A Christian-Pagan Christmas Story” ~



celestial image at header ~ Wikimedia Commons

~ by soulmerlin on December 21, 2008.

14 Responses to “Christmas at the Phantom Hotel”

  1. My goodness, how wonderful is that and how fortunate for you that someone was looking out for you. The Farmhouse Hotel. I wonder what happened to it? I love the way you write as I am always transported to that time and place with you. Gosh it makes me think when I was a student of the same age sleeping in a rail carriage all night too on the way home for Christmas. Off to read your other post now.

  2. I know Lilly ~ I sometimes think that it must have been knocked down or converted beyond recognition – but even then, it cannot take away the ‘co-incidence’ of the door being unlocked, or the rooms all being prepared and ready – of the room doors all being open around 45′. I didn’t realise the link between this post and the previous ‘Angel of Inverness’ one, until I was in the middle of writing this one. I’m still a bit taken aback and excited about it all.



  3. I do believe in “Guiding Spirits” I have had subtle suggestions from mine on a number of occasions. I think if one is open minded enough to “listen”, a path will be revealed. It sounds to me like you may have both a Guiding Spirit, and a guardian angel. I can think of only a few times in my life where something other-worldly has “saved” me from some uncertain consequence. Each time it was when I was foolish enough not to listen to that subconscious guide.

  4. I too believe in “Guiding Spirits” or “Guardian angels”. I have really experienced some strange happenings in my life. I cannot explain it, I cannot really understand it…and your experience here is really quite spooky. But, whichever you you look at it, someone, somewhere was lookng out for you that night which is rather wonderful. Very strange story but a lovely one.

  5. henry you are such a master at this kind of tale. I always enjoy them thoroughly. It does seem you have someone watching out for you. May that always be the case.

  6. I remember this story, and love it. I agree with tricia…I always look forward to them! Merry Christmas, Dear Henry!

  7. Hi merry Christmas.

  8. @ Aree – A Merry Christmas to you and a Happy New Year. 🙂

    @ Tamera – The Phantom Hotel still excites me. I drove past the spot only a few days ago…and I still can’t find it!

    @ tricia – I do enjoy my spiritual adventures and although I dramatize them in the writing, it’s only to get closer to exactly how I remember feeling at the time. Every detail is true and not elaborated on. I take your comment as a great compliment as you are such a gifted writer.

    @ Hi Chrissy – Whenever my belief in the supernatural gets a bit thin, I go back to my memories of the things that have happened to me over the years…and I feel better and stronger.

    Hi Eric – I’m going to dig out a book written by an explorer called Fawcett, who mapped Chile around the time of the first world war. He stated that whenever he needed help, he would pray…not by kneeling, but by asking the Universe to help. He then said that help always came…My mother used to say that she had spirit guides and that she could see them out of the corner of her eye. When she was troubled, she would sit with her head bowed and she would feel a gentle hand on her forehead.


  9. Hi Henry,
    I love this story, you tell it so well. I have had similar experiences in my youth. You feel you are safe no matter where you travel, but were we really safe,or nieve, I think a little of both. I now look back and realize there must of been Gaurdian Angels around me. I think they were around you as well. The Angels may have set up the home for you for the night to survive, and carry on.
    Take Care,
    Janet 🙂

  10. Hi Janet ~ You’re right; I love to think that the hotel appeared and disappeared like Brigadoon – a hotel from or in a different dimension. Even at the least, my ‘instinct’/’guardian’ led me to the one building where there was an open door and a warm bed for the night. Yes we were naive and foolish and blessed.

  11. Your conscious awareness may simply have shifted. That is, you may no longer have reason to sense or perceive this place you encountered in your past. You can make an analogy with relationships from time gone by. People enter and exit your life as part of your learning process. You move on when you are ready. The universe has the upper hand. It holds the universal perspective. You only grasp with human senses what you need to know at a given moment in perceived time.

  12. Wow! I don’t know what to say, Henry! It’s creepy yet… it’s so reassuring.

    Were you just lucky? I tend to think that there were forces behind this… like in the Angel of Inverness.

    Thank God they were there when you needed them.

    Or could it be that they were there because you needed them? Hmmm…

    Anyway, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Valentines all in one greeting. Sorry I’ve been away.

    Take care. 🙂

  13. Hi Friend! How are you doing?

  14. henry, each time you read this recollection, you can enter the experience at a vibration that is compatible with how you feel at that moment or, based on what yo uare that is unchanging. You can view a memory with fear or with unconditional love and understanding. Every choice is itself a meaningful teacher.

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