I received an unexpected phone call from a colleague at work who had retired a year ago. She’s a pleasant acquaintance rather than a friend as such and in conversation she said that her husband had passed away and that she had moved to a two-hundred years old thatched roof cottage out in the country.
She was her usual jovial self on the phone and, somewhat surprisingly, she invited me to visit her for the day so we could catch-up on old times.
I was not that keen on the idea, but she insisted and I was persuaded to go and see Hilda.
She was her usual bubbly self as we sat down to tea and biscuits reminiscing about work. After she retired she left the city and moved with her husband to the countryside and then he died a few months later.
I nodded politely and made small talk wandering why she had insisted on this visit and then it came … right out of the blue.
“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked. “You know … you having beliefs and all that? Are there ghosts do you think?”
Before I could answer she went on “The reason I ask is because I believe this house is haunted. I wanted to speak to someone about it and then I remembered you from work.”
“What makes you think the house is haunted?” I asked, “Have you seen anything?”
“Not seen as such,” she replied, “but I heard him … Robert … he’s often screeching especially at night.”
“Robert …” I repeated politely and then after a short pause I asked “is Robert your husband?”
“Oh no …” she laughed, “my husband was called Kenneth. He did not die here. He died in hospital. And he’s far too lazy to haunt me! He was so lazy that if he ever fainted he’d need help to get him to the ground” she giggled.
“I see …” I said still not seeing where all this was leading to. “So Robert must have lived in this old cottage centuries ago?”
“No … no …” she giggled again, “He lived here with us. Robert died here four weeks ago and a few days later his ghost started haunting the place!”
My mind started doing somersaults wandering who Robert was. Was he a lodger? A boy-friend? Living with her and her husband? How did he die? Was it a tragic accident? Or something more sinister?
She interrupted my train of thoughts and totally derailed it by declaring “Robert was my parrot!”
“Parrot?” I repeated.
“Yes … he was my parrot. I got up one morning and found him off his perch. He was lying on his back on the ground with his feet pointing upwards as stiff as a board. I buried him in the garden!”
“And you believe a parrot is haunting this house?” I asked tentatively not believing I’d ever ask such a question.
“No doubt about it … I hear him screeching at night when I’m in bed. I think he’s frightened when I put on my face cream and have my hair in curlers … he’s never seen me like that when he was alive!”
I imagined her in face cream and curlers and suppressed a smile crossing my legs tightly for extra security. I suppose the sight of a woman in cream and curlers would frighten the most threatening of ghosts.
“Well …” I hesitated, “I’ve heard of people seeing ghosts but never the ghost of a parrot before!”
“I’ve not seen him,” she said, “only heard him. I’ve asked a ghost exorcist to come today. That’s why I asked you here.”
About an hour later a man in his fifties turned up carrying a small suitcase.
We sat in the main front room and he brought out a small metal plate explaining that first he needed to incense the place. He lit a few pieces of charcoal on the plate and then added what seemed to me an excess of incense.
There was smoke everywhere; so much so that we could not breathe or even see each other, and then we heard the screeching sound … it was the smoke alarms in the corridor and the kitchen which set off simultaneously.
The three of us stood up coughing and wheezing and dancing as we waved handkerchiefs and newspapers around the smoke alarms trying to dispel the smoke and silence the deafening sound.
Eventually all was quiet again and the man asked Hilda about the ghost.
“His name is Robert” she said, “he’s lived with me for 8 years!”
“Was he your husband?” asked the exorcist cum smoke-maker.
“No … my husband was called Kenneth” she replied “Robert has always been very dear to me and I’ve always loved him” she continued in all innocence not realizing how confusing her answers were.
“Can you describe him for me?” asked the ghost hunter “so that I can visualize him as I send him on his way …”
“He was green, about 11 inches tall and he had a wonderful personality.”
The man looked at her in total surprise as I stifled a guffaw and crossed my legs even more tightly; wishing I did not have that second cup of tea.
“I … I … don’t understand” he said hesitantly “green and only 11 inches tall?”
“Yes … our parrot had such a lovely personality. Even though he could not talk!” she explained with a smile.
“A parrot?” he mumbled, “do you mean to say that the ghost is a parrot?”
“Yes … I thought you knew”.
A cold sweat suddenly appeared on his forehead. He stood up and said “You didn’t tell me … I have to go … I have a morbid fear of parrots, all birds in fact … chicken especially. It’s their vicious beaks … I have nightmares about them!”
“But this isn’t a real bird” I said flippantly, “it can’t harm you, it’s a ghost bird!”
“They’re all the same … dead or alive … all birds have beaks … sharp ones. I was once chased by a turkey you know!” he continued as he gathered his paraphernalia in his suitcase.
“What am I to do?” she asked me after the man had gone “how am I to get rid of Robert’s ghost?”
“I thing the ghost has flown away after him to haunt him” I replied jokingly, “you’ll be OK now.”
As far as I know she has not been disturbed with screeching noises since.