“You’re a winner!”
It was an email I hadn’t expected to see in my inbox. Gmail was fairly effective in weeding out spam, well, spam I didn’t sign up for. This email could have been referring to any number of giveaways I’d registered for the night I broke up with my ex. There was a fair amount of alcohol involved.
Everything seemed like a fabulous way to get my mind off him: the two night stay in Cabo, the weekend in Stowe, and even the single night in the supposedly haunted Evanmire Castle. Even then, each sign up seemed like a ploy to get one on an advertising list.
To my surprise, this was a legitimate email for me and one guest to fly to Switzerland and stay at the infamous Evanmire Castle; a castle home to one of the bloodiest urban legends in Switzerland’s history.
I forwarded the email and picked up my office line to dial out.
“Hey, Dee, it’s Jillie,” I said
“Hey, Jills. Sup?”
“Did you get that email I just forwarded to you?”
“No, I haven’t checked my email in the last hour or so. I’m avoiding a ‘reply all’ chain to this nasty office memo one of our former employees sent out. We all would have ignored it if it wasn’t accurate in describing the flaws in this place.” She lowered her voice. “My boss is pissed.”
“Good. I’m going to be honest, if I have to listen to one more drunken diatribe about how much you hate your job, I’m going to lose it.”
“Oh. Well then. Good to know you feel that way, bitch.”
“Just read the email, Dee.”
There was a bit of fast clicking from her end as I waited.
“And there it is,” she said.
“No. That stupid ‘reply all.’”
“Fine! Calm down. I need to skim through this bullshit.”
“Okay, here it is. A night at Evanmire Castle. You and a friend are… wait what is this?”
“I guess I won a contest. I’m surprised it took them this long to get back to me. I think I signed up for it like a month ago.” I drummed my fingers on my desk.
“You mean after your break up with ‘what’s-his-douchebag?’”
“It says here it’s from October 31st to November 1st… in Europe. Are we seriously considering flying 6000 miles for a one night stay in some dank, old castle?”
“It’s free?” I sighed. “I don’t know. It sounded like fun. I figured we could roam around with our GoPro’s and investigate any hauntings.”
“You know, the ones were supposed to use for our weekly hiking trips?” I pressed my tone and waited for her response.
“Oh, haha, yeah. About that….”
“Exactly. Anyway, we can probably get some good use out of them.”
“I don’t know, Jillie, I was invited to this “Eyes Wide Shut” sex party on Halloween.”
“Kidding. However, there’s a rumor that creep-boss of mine is hosting a swingers party.” There was an audible shudder from her side of the line.
“You should definitely ditch the free stay at a fancy castle in Europe, for that.” I leaned back in my chair and rested my feet on the desk.
“Don’t be smart. Besides, I’d rather not get into another one of our bitchy spats before the trip.”
“So, you’re coming?” I asked, sitting up straight again.
“Of course, silly Jillie. Besides, it’ll give me a chance to break in this new overnight bag I bought from Prada.”
“Yay. See you next week then. Oh, and stop spending money you don’t have!” I hung up the phone and immediately went into the planning phase of our trip.
After researching further about the castle, as well as reading the detailed information contained in the email, I learned that this was an annual contest hosted by Gustavo Evanmire, a descendent of Johannes Evanmire. Gustavo rarely made an appearance, but he was said to be on the premises during each event. It seemed that each guest was treated to full accommodations, and if you “survived the night,” you’d have a reward of a year’s supply of Swiss chocolate.
Despite the countless books, stories, and even Hollywoodized accounts of the 16th century massacre which occurred there, my belief in the supernatural seemed to have waned with adulthood. Also, I’d probably sleep in a pit of snakes for a year’s supply of chocolate of any kind.
“That’s right, boys, bribe the girl with chocolatey goodness,” I muttered to myself.
Rather than look ridiculous with a head mount for the GoPro, I opted to use chest mounts. Aside from the tech, the short duration in stay allowed me to pack light. First there were travel clothes for the plane ride, something reasonably nice for dinner, and something comfortable to sleep in as well as roam around the castle in.
There were two weeks in advance required for backing out of the stay, and naturally, something came up with Dee.
“Remember that email I told you about?” she said.
“Yeah?” I twirled my finger around the usb cord of my mouse as I leaned my phone into my shoulder.
“Some of the higher-ups decided a corporate retreat was in order to smooth things over. Guess what day it is.”
“Bingo. It’s mandatory if I want to keep my job. I’m so sorry, Jillie. Are you still gonna go?”
“Probably. I mean, why not? Some women swear by traveling alone.”
“Yeah, but not to spooky castles across the world.”
“Sure they do.” I sighed.
“Look at it this way: I’m sure we’ll both have crazy stories about our trips by the time we get back.”
“True. Good luck on your retreat, I guess.”
“Hah, thanks. At least the creeper boss won’t get to have his wrinkly little swinger’s party.”
“Lunch tomorrow?” she asked.
“Sure. See ya then.” I hung up and went back to RSVP’ing the ticket for one.
I wasn’t nervous when I left; I wasn’t nervous when I landed. In fact, uneasiness didn’t hit me until I stepped out of the taxi and stared up at the towering castle before me.
Even with a member of the staff trying to get my attention, I couldn’t take my eyes off the center spire.
“Madame, your bags?”
I snapped to it and smiled at the man who was gesturing for my luggage. “Sorry. Yes, thank you.” I handed him my overnight bag while keeping a tight arm on my laptop bag and purse.
“Welcome to Evanmire,” he said as we stepped through the threshold.
For a moment, it felt like there was a dense mist in the air just inside the door. “These old castles sure are musty,” I said.
The man smiled and nodded.
“And you are?”
“Do you live here?” I asked.
“No. I’m the day time caretaker. I’ll also be serving your dinner this evening.”
“Oh. Thanks for that,” I gave him another warm smile. “So how many for dinner?” I asked.
“Just you, Madame.”
“I thought….” I paused, trying to recollect the contents of the email I’d read top to bottom nearly a dozen times over the course of three weeks.
“My instructions indicated that you RSVP’d for one only. Was that incorrect?”
“Uh no. I just didn’t think my party would be the only party.”
“Ah, yes. This event is strictly reserved for one to two people.” He headed down the hall. “Follow me, please.”
As we walked, I took a close look at each painting on the wall. Some depicted scenes, others were portraits of those from times passed, along with their cold stares.
He opened a set of double doors to an enormous bedroom, complete with a roaring fire. On the bed was a robe and towels that were neatly folded and tied with a ribbon.
With this being a vacation for one, I could at least rule out the “And Then There Were None” scenario I had running through my head. It didn’t even occur to me all of the possible scenarios and setups that could be potentially created for just one person.
“Dinner is precisely at 7PM,” Martin said, pulling me from my irrational fears for but a moment.
“Thank you, Martin.”
“Is there anything you’ll be needing during your stay here?”
“I think this about covers it. Oh, is there soap in the bathroom?” I hadn’t planned on washing my hair since it was just an overnight stay, but I neglected to bring any body wash.
“Yes, there is.”
“I don’t suppose you have Wi-Fi?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, but we don’t have internet here. There’s internet at the café down the road though.”
“That’s okay. I have my cellular data plan if need be.” With further thought on the matter, I figured it would probably be good for me to “disconnect” for at least a day, lest I be tempted to check a work email or two.
“Very good, Madame.”
After my long trip, a hot bath was in order. Since I’d prepared for a group setting during the dinner, I brought one of my more modest looking cocktail dresses; a black, knee-length wrap around with a fairly deep neckline. It also gave me a chance to wear the silver Tiffany choker I’d bought for myself just after my tumultuous breakup with the ex. I kept my hair simple yet elegant, with an over-the-shoulder curl pinned to one side. Once I fastened the straps on my heels, I headed toward the dining room.
It didn’t dawn on me how awkward this would be—eating dinner for one.
One thing I didn’t account for, was how rich in calories everything was. Granted, I wasn’t one to eat this much to begin with, but nearly everything was butter or cream based. Out of respect for my host, I forced myself to take a bite of dessert before excusing myself back to my room to peel myself out of my hosiery. Whatever exploring I wanted to do during the night would have to wait until I digested for at least an hour.
The howling wind created by the corridors added to the spookiness I already felt just from walking to the dining hall and back. And while I didn’t expect to catch anything on camera, I figured I’d at least record the eerie sounds coming from all around.
Around nine, I slipped on my yoga pants, tank top, and zippered hoodie before venturing out of my room for a quick gander. For one, I needed to see if the coast was clear, and second, I needed to be sure if this was worth the attempt at novice ghost hunting.
On my way back to grab my tech, I noticed a door slightly ajar with a soft glow coming from underneath. Prior to my brief reconnaissance trip, I hadn’t noticed the light, let alone an open door. I slowly pushed it inward to catch sight of a roaring fire in the fireplace and bookshelves that were at least thirty feet high. If someone did indeed come into this room while I was away from it, they weren’t here now. Rather than get caught wandering around the premises without permission, I backed from the door and into the hallway once again.
“Leaving so soon?” a man’s voice asked from farther in the room.
My body froze, unsure of what to do next.
“I—I… sorry. I just saw a light and—”
“And you thought you’d come and check it out?”
In front of the fire were two arm chairs facing away from the door with a small table between them. It was odd that I hadn’t noticed the glass of wine resting atop that was now being grabbed by a hand.
“Don’t be shy. Come in.”
“If you insist,” I said with a slight nervous chuckle resonating in my throat.
As I approached the two chairs, the hand set the glass of wine back on the table.
There was no “please,” but the tone was gentle enough that I obliged. While I walked around the chair to sit, I took a good look at the man sitting there. Granted, I hadn’t done too much research on anything except the history of the castle itself. One thing I did read, however, was that the only living descendant of the family who owned it was known as a bit of a party animal and a playboy, but that an accident had left him a recluse.
Judging by his appearance, I didn’t see any evidence of an accident, but I could see the “play boy” side: he was handsome enough to leave me at a loss for words. His hair was dark brown with a natural wave, and from what I could make of his eyes in the glow of the fire, they were light and reflective. He didn’t have much in the way of facial hair, but he had a strong jaw and thick eyebrows, which only made the fierceness in his eyes stand out more. He sat relaxed in the chair with one leg crossed over the other. His black slacks and matching blazer came across business-like, but his V-neck t-shirt underneath took a bit of care away from his appearance. From what I gathered from his sitting position, he was fairly fit underneath it all.
The only thing I found strange was that he didn’t lift his eyes from the fire to look at me as I approached. He said nothing else until after I sat down.
“Comfortable?” he asked.
He turned his head and his gaze went from my legs to my face.
It wasn’t until after I noticed the curious look in his eye, that I realized I was sitting as stiff as a Doberman awaiting her master’s orders.
“Nice library,” I said.
For a moment, he lifted his head and glanced in various directions. “I’ve read them all.”
“Really?” I was genuinely shocked. If it was a bold-faced lie, it served no purpose, mainly because of the dismissive way in which he’d made the claim. “I suppose I’d read them all twice if given the chance.”
“After a dozen, you get bored of the monotony.”
I had a feeling he wasn’t talking about books anymore.
He resumed staring at the fire as he took another sip of wine.
“I should probably go to bed. My plane leaves at—”
“Your plane doesn’t leave until the afternoon. Surely you were attempting to wander the grounds.”
It was like he had an idea of my plans. “Honestly, I was supposed to come here with a friend. I was a little curious, so I thought I’d see if this place was really haunted.” I followed up my statement with a warm smile hoping he wouldn’t be too upset with me.
His gaze went to a painting above the fireplace for a moment.
When I met it, I nearly did a double take. “Is that your ancestor?” I looked back to the man. “You look just like him.”
“Genetics are a crazy thing.” More nervous laughter… and it was still coming from me.
I glanced back to the painting. “Is it true? What he did?”
If it was a sore subject, I couldn’t imagine why since it had taken place almost 500 years ago.
“Does it matter? Anyone it ever mattered to is no longer alive. Besides, the legend of the story is what keeps the lights on, so-to-speak.”
After another bout of awkward silence, I figured a formal introduction was in order. “I’m Jillian. Friends call me Jillie. And you’re Gustavo, right?”
The way he kept looking at me made me feel like I was making all the wrong moves. He took another sip of wine before answering. “Yes. And I know who you are. I personally approve all visits from guests.”
“I read that this is an annual thing for you?”
“That it is. So, you wanted to explore the grounds?” he asked, finally looking at me in a relatively normal way.
“It was just an idea. I brought a camera—”
“Camera?” He arched a brow.
“Yes. It’s a tiny thing… just to capture any weird sights or sounds.”
“There are places I prefer you not go, so I will have to decline—”
As he spoke, I nodded. “It’s okay. It was a silly idea—”
“Unless you allow me to accompany you.” He finished up his wine and stood from the armchair, glass in hand.
“Oh. That would be nice. You probably know more about this place than anyone.”
“To be sure.” He stepped over toward me and held out his hand.
I took it and stood up. “Thank you. I have a second camera. I forgot to take it out of my bag when my friend canceled on me. You’re welcome to wear it.” I gave him a sheepish grin.
“Wear it? A camera?” A small curl creeped into the corners of his mouth.
“It’s a mountable camera. I have chest straps. It’s supposed to be used for outdoor activities.”
He began walking toward the hall. “I see. Since this is your idea, I’ll let you do whatever is necessary.”
“Thanks.” Once we stepped out of the room, I took the lead and headed toward my room with him following close behind. I glanced behind me to check out his form, he was indeed fit.
He looked down at himself. “Something the matter?”
“No. I just wanted to make sure the chest mount will be able to fit you. It might appear ridiculous at first, but after a while, you’ll forget it’s there.”
After we entered my room, I pulled out my purse and began digging for all the necessary items. Gustavo, took a moment to peer into my overnight bag.
“I think you’ve packed the lightest of all my guests,” he said.
“Is that good or bad?”
“I imagine it’s good… for you.”
“Less stuff to lug on and off a plane, I suppose.” I pulled out both cameras and their chest mounts. “Here we go.” When I faced him, he was mere inches from me. “Is it okay if I touch you? Uh… to put it on, I mean.”
“Like I said, you’re in charge of this endeavor.” He set his wine glass down on the nightstand, then took off his jacket before I strapped on the chest mount with the camera fastened in the middle. After he slipped his jacket back on, he resumed carrying his empty glass.
While I fiddled with my own chest mount, he tilted his head at me and grinned.
“Need assistance?” he asked.
“No. I’ve got it, thank you,” I said with a smile. Once I heard the final click, I pressed the power buttons and set both to record. “Good to go. So, where to first?” I asked.
As we walked, he pointed out some of the paintings and explained who was in them.
“What do you know of the history here?” he asked.
“Only what Wikipedia said, that there was a gruesome massacre here during the 16th century. Plus, there were all those books, documentaries, and movies about this place.”
“Ah, yes. Such an annoyance. Again… it keeps the lights on.”
“The fascination with horrors and atrocities of the past always seem to be the biggest money makers.”
He turned to me and smirked. “Indeed.”
“But outside of the fiction, I don’t know the facts.”
We continued to walk as he began his tale. “In 1572, Johannes Evanmire was struck with a sickness. One no doctor, at the time, could cure. His sickness turned into a sort of bloodlust that made him kill his family.”
“Did anyone ever figure out what it was?”
“I can let you decide, but it was one that forced him to crave blood like one would water, after walking in the desert for days without any.”
“You mean vampirism?” I asked.
He said nothing and smiled at me.
“You’re totally messing with me.”
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. But one thing is for sure… I’m quite thirsty.” His smile faded as he stopped and looked directly at me.
For a moment, my heart fluttered. I couldn’t tell if it was the mild seduction in his gaze or the fact that I might have been paralyzed with fear.
“I need a refill.” He lifted his wine goblet then turned toward a locked door.
I took a deep breath and tried to calm my racing heart while his back was toward me.
“This is one of those areas I keep private. I have a lot of expensive wine in here, and these days, you can’t be too sure about people.” He pulled out a set of keys and unlocked the door.
“No worries. I’ll just stand right here,” I said.
“Very good.” He closed the door behind him while I took another look around.
The sound of the door opening brought me to attention as Gustavo came back with a full glass of wine. I didn’t take note of it previously, but it was a deep crimson.
“Merlot?” I asked.
He smiled and took a sip.
“I was wondering if I could see the room where it all went down.”
“Where what went down?” he asked.
“The murders.” I pointed towards a staircase. “What’s up those?”
He straightened his stance. “Nothing. Just more rooms. Another area I prefer to keep private.”
Well, I did read he was a recluse. “Understood.”
We turned and backtracked to a branching hallway we’d skipped earlier.
“So what do you do for a living?” he asked.
“I’m a paralegal at a corporate law firm.”
“No. No, it is not. I’m basically a glorified assistant.” I felt my voice trail. “Just another cog in the machine.”
“It can’t be that bad.”
“It keeps the lights on,” I said with a chuckle.
He laughed. “Fair enough.”
“You mentioned a friend who couldn’t make it. Is she a friend?”
“Oh, no. She’s just a close friend who has an even more boring job—she works for a tax attorney… a real piece of work.”
“No, her boss. He’s one of the reasons she couldn’t make it.”
“So, no husband?” he asked.
It seemed as if the conversation was turning more personal. “No. It’s not in the cards for me.”
“You’re young yet. There may be someone out there for you.”
“Then I fear for the man who ends up my husband. No doubt he’d inevitably suffer the same fate as Johannes’s family before too long.” While I laughed at my own words, Gustavo didn’t seem to find them funny. “Sorry. And… I apologize if I’m making light of something serious. Like I said, I don’t have all the facts.”
“It’s all right.”
“I suppose I just have this mindset of, if I’m not laughing, then I’m crying my eyes out.”
While pausing at another painting of Johannes who eerily looked like Gustavo, I yawned.
“I suppose it’s late for you?” he asked.
“Yeah. I should probably head to bed.”
“Let me escort you back.”
When we got back to the room, I assisted him with removing the camera and mount before he assisted me with mine.
“Listen, I hope everything is okay with all this. It’s just for my own personal collection. It’s not like I’m going to sell this footage to some news outlet or anything.”
“It’s fine. I’ve given you a stay of execution,” he said with a grin. “Feel free to do with it as you wish.” He took my hand and kissed the back of it. “Goodnight, Jillian.”
“Goodnight, Gustavo,” I said as he walked out of the room.
As soon as the door closed, I took to writing a quick “Thank You” letter to leave behind in case I never saw him again.
I’d like to thank you for your hospitality and for opening up your home to me. I only hope that I haven’t insulted you enough to stop future invitations. In the spirit of reciprocity, if you’re ever in New York, you are more than welcome to stay in my humble, little apartment.
I added my address for good measure… just in case.
It wasn’t until I returned home, that I realized how exhausted I was from the trip. It took me a full day to reach out to Dee.
“What a shit show,” she said as soon as she answered the phone.
“That bad, huh?” I asked.
“Let’s just say, I’m coming over with a bottle of wine, and we’re gonna kiki.”
“See you in a few, then.”
It normally took me at least a few days to properly unpack from a trip, but I was so excited to see Gustavo’s face again, I unpacked the cameras and began downloading the footage to my computer.
The incessant ringing of my door bell pulled me from the process.
“Why didn’t you just use your key?” I asked Dee as she barged in.
“Meh, I’m lazy.” She made a bee line to my kitchen and rummaged the drawers for a bottle opener.
“Third one on the right,” I said as I walked back over to my computer.
Dee walked into the living room with two glasses and an open bottle. “Okay so, who’s first?”
“I’m still working on the footage from my trip… so you go.”
“Made use of that camera, huh?” she asked as she began pouring.
“Something like that. The guy who hosted this thing was gorgeous.”
“Grade-A man meat?” she asked.
I gave a slow, deliberate nod.
“Ooh. Maybe you should go first.”
“Here, let me pull up a picture.” I typed in “Gustavo Evanmire” into a Google search and sorted through any and all pictures. Nothing familiar came up. “Hm. Maybe he’s camera shy.”
I added “Evanmire Castle” to the same search and saw the same first grouping of pictures. When I opened up the associated Wiki page, I carefully analyzed a single picture.
“This can’t be right,” I said.
Dee moved to sit next to me as she looked over my shoulder. “Who’s that? He’s old.”
“The picture title says this is Gustavo Evanmire, aged 79. This picture was taken in 2010.” The image was of an older man in a wheelchair. When I looked up his history, it said he was the last descendant of the Evanmire line and had no children since an accident during a 1955 New Year’s Eve party left him paralyzed from the waist down. “What the fuck?”
“I don’t get it.”
“This is not the man I met at Evanmire Castle,” I said.
“Maybe he was a member of the staff?” she asked.
“No way. I mean, this guy looked exactly like Johannes Evanmire.” I went back to Google and did a search for a picture of Johannes. The first few results were of images that I’d seen at the castle with my own eyes. “That’s who he looked like. I mean… painting interpretation aside, this is the guy.”
“He’s pretty hot, for a murderer… I won’t lie.”
“I’m sorry, Dee. Your story is going to have to wait until I get to the bottom of this.”
“By all means. I just realized, I haven’t eaten shit since I got back. I’m gonna go to that pizza joint around the corner and pick up one of those ready-made’s.”
“We can just have them deliver,” I said.
“Nah, I’m cheap.” She set down her glass and headed toward the door. “I’ll be back in twenty. You had better put those investigative talents of yours to good use by the time I get back,” her voice echoed just before she shut the front door.
After another few minutes browsing Wiki, the footage from the second camera finished downloading. When I skimmed through mine, I documented places where I could show Dee a clear view of “Gustavo’s” face. Outside of that, there wasn’t anything of note.
His footage was a different story. As I skipped through it, there wasn’t anything special until I got to the part where he’d left my side to refill his glass of wine. That’s when I saw it.
“No worries. I’ll just stand right here,” my voice echoed through the video.
“Very good.” It played out just like before, except from his point of view. He closed the door and walked farther into the room. At first, it was too dark to see anything, until he opened yet another door and over to a man who was chained to some sort of slab.
My hand went to my mouth as I continued to watch in horror.
He then turned some sort of metal object fastened to the man’s neck as blood began pouring out of some kind of tiny antique spigot.
The man groaned out in pain.
“Oh my God,” I found myself saying.
“No worries. I’ll no longer have need for you since I’ve found a suitable replacement.” He turned the spigot “off,” then lifted his glass up. The echo of a gulp made my stomach turn. “Delicious as always.”
After, he made his way back to the door.
“Merlot?” It was me in the image.
I paused the footage and just stared at it as the picture blurred before my eyes.
A soft knock at my front door slowly pulled me from my mind’s eye.
“It’s still open, Dee,” I called out.
After a second, I realized her hands were probably full with food and she wouldn’t be able to turn the knob.
“Just a sec,” I said as I stood up and rushed over to the door.
When I opened it, I nearly screamed.
“Well hello, Jillian.”
It was him. I couldn’t move or speak.
“You left me an open invitation, so I thought I’d take you up on it.” He grinned.