Just like last year, I’m posting a ghost story to participate in the @hivebuzz Halloween Trick or Treat badge. And again just like last year, I’m telling a tale from my days in the mid 1980s that I was a tour guide for the Hammond Castle. Yes, I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and happened to live a few miles away from a castle!
While last year I talked about the time I “bumped” into the ghost of Mr Hammond, this year I thought I’d share the story about my unsettling, yet cool, encounter with a suit of armor we’d nicknamed Max.
Meeting Max – my Trick or Treat story for a HiveBuzz badge
First, a bit about Max himself. Back in the day, the aforementioned Mr Hammond was good friends with the good folks at the Higgins Armory Museum and managed to get a suit of armor on a semi-permanent loan (as far as I know, Max is no longer at the castle though). We called him Max because that particular piece came from the Maximilian period…
It’s been far too many years, so I can’t be sure that this is the same one (pretty sure it isn’t though, as I remember there was also a short sword in the case), but I did a quick search for “Higgins Armory Maximilian” and found this picture on their Wikipedia page!
But that gives you a good idea of how “my” Max looked.
Okay, now back to the story. At the time this took place, the tours were booming at the castle, and no sooner would I finish giving one tour, would it be time to start the next. We started the group off on the drawbridge, moved down to the great hall (where Max was), then did the different rooms throughout the living quarters before exiting through the cat garden and back around to the drawbridge. As soon as I left the great hall, the next tour guide would come in, so there wasn’t really a time during the day the room was empty.
After doing about 19 million tours over the course of the months, I’d fallen into a routine – I’d stand in about the same spot in each room, and recite pretty much the same thing (although the theatre geek in me always tried to make it sound new and exciting). In the great hall, I’d start at one end near the bishop’s chair, do my little spiel, then walk across to the steps that led to the courtyard. I had a particular spot on a particular step that I picked because when I told the story of Max, I could turn and be sort of on eye level with him, even though (much like in the picture) the helm was facing away from me, angled to seem as if he were watching over the great hall.
And much like the picture above, he was in a glass case that had an alarm system, and was apparently very difficult to get in and out of (because, precious museum piece). Oh, and the case was positioned at the bottom of the steps.
So the scene is set. I’d run my tour groups through, stop on the step & talk about the suit of armor, move up the steps so the next group could come in, rinse and repeat. On this particular day, I’d gone through at least four or five times, and nothing unusual happened.
Then came the time I walked over to my step, did my little introduction to the armor (where it came from, why it was at the castle), and said something to the effect of, “And we call him Max for short.” I turned and looked at him.
And he was looking back at me.
It’s one of the few times I was at a complete loss for words. I stood staring at Max, who had turned his head a good quarter turn so he was looking directly at me, for long enough that people started murmuring. My brain finally kicked in and I said something to the effect of, “Oh sorry – lost my train of thought for a moment” but I know I was white as a sheet (someone on the tour came up to me afterwards to see if I was okay).
I managed to finish the tour, and tried to get the attention of someone else on staff, but of course no one was around for me to say, “DID SOMEONE DO SOMETHING TO THE ARMOR???” The show must go on, so I started my next tour, and I couldn’t bring myself to look at Max until I was in my spot on the step. This time, I turned to look at him…
And he was again looking out at the great hall.
I was again at a loss for words, but I managed to stammer out the rest of my bit before anyone really noticed.
When I finally got the chance to talk to someone, I recall the reaction was along the lines of, “Oh, yeah – he does that sometimes.”
My boss also brought me over to the case and showed me a long deep scratch on the inside of the glass. She said that a year or two before, they’d hosted a wedding at the castle (it’s a popular venue for those) and since the groom was in the military, he & others were dressed in their uniforms. At some point during the festivities, someone noticed Max had raised his short sword in an apparent salute to the happy couple. By the time the guests had left, the sword was back down at his side.
I hope you enjoyed my tale, and thanks as always to the team behind the HiveBuzz badge for putting together such a fun, seasonal challenge! Happy Halloween!
Also posted on my Hive blog.
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