"The Seventeenth Hole at Duncaster"
from They Return at Evening
by H.R. Wakefield
They Return at Evening is a collection of ghost stories by H.R.
Wakefield. It's his first such collection, published in 1928. I'll be
posting reactions to stories individually.
A golf club has gone to considerable trouble and expense to re-do one of the holes on their golf course. This renovation involved tearing through an old forest, which has a strange, eerie reputation among the unsophisticated, rural inhabitants of the nearby village. Now it's time for the first big golfing get-together since the course's reworking, but instead of fun and games, the seventeenth hole becomes the site of mysterious and horrible murders.
Again, the story's not its freshest in my mind, because I've been reading others since-- but I think this was a pretty good one. Possibly there wasn't as much of an "explanation" as I tend to like, but I think I may want explanations more than the average reader...
-- When you learn that the contractor's men died of "blood-poisoning of some kind"-- and in the next sentence, that there are rumors that "it had something to do with those skulls and bones they dug up"-- ha! Yeah, that's your first clue to abandon the project. Maybe digging up skulls and bones is more common in England and Europe in general. (Ok, not really. Only in places where people have been living in higher concentration for more hundreds of years.) Around here (in a rural area of the New World), it's not a common occurrence to turn up a skull or two in the garden. ;o) But by European standards-- Digging up skulls? Well, that could happen to anyone. Digging up skulls and having several men die of a mysterious "blood-poisoning"-- and then continuing with the project? That's just stupid. C'mon, guys! Smarten up!
-- "The Secretary took his number three iron, and knew from the moment the ball left the club that he didn't want it back. It was ruled on the flag." ...Huh? (I know very little about golf.)
-- The local people think the forest is not "healthy" and call it "Blood Wood". This is another red flag. (g) (Come to think of it, wasn't there an actual red flag marking the hole? Are those golf flags always red? I'm sure I could look it up in a minute or two, but... *yawn*... Too lazy.)
-- As I indicated before, the "explanation" was a bit lacking, imho. "'Almost certainly the work of our friends the Druids, whoever they were! A mound and an oak-- such places are death traps. Not all the time; the peril is only periodic, why, we don't know.'" Ah, those crazy Druids! Up to their old death-trap shenanigans again! Well, you know what they say-- "an oak and a mound, don't hang around". Yep, yep, yep... You're gonna run across the occasional Druid death-trap-- not as common as the sand-trap*, of course, but still... Keeps you on your toes.
* Look! I made a golf joke!