"I think I should say that as far as I could ascertain, the boy knew nothing about mountain climbing. I wasn't even sure he knew what an ice ax looked like. For a few minutes he said nothing, then he suddenly sank down on a settee and seemed to be undergoing some tremendous inner emotional stress. He began to shake as if with cold, but at the same time he was sweating. I was still inclined to think he was putting on an act, but I must say I was taken aback by his first words. He gasped, 'Fifteen hundred feet...to...go.'
"Now, I submit that Mallory would not have known at exactly what height he stood—that would have to be calculated when he came down—but it is reasonable to assume that Mallory, as far as he could judge, would have estimated himself to be about 1,500 feet from the summit. The ax was found at 27,600 feet, and Everest—as closely as we can calculate—is 29,000 feet. Either the boy was an incredible mountebank or he was reliving Mallory's last moments, equally incredible. My skepticism, which had dissipated somewhat, vanished almost entirely when the lad spoke again.
"He began to describe an obstacle that must be got over, the so-called 'second step,' in such minute detail that I was fairly staggered. My opinion was and is that he could not possibly describe this buttress unless he had, in fact, been there. He went on to describe his companion as a man of great athletic prowess. Irvine had, indeed, been chosen for the expedition because of his fame as an oarsman, for his physical fitness. Finally, the boy said there was a mist closing in that he could not see through, not so much an actual mist, I gathered, as a mist of time, which may have been the point at which Mallory lost consciousness.
"When the chap had recovered his composure somewhat, I led him into the inner room of the club, saying, 'In this room there is something closely associated with the owner of the object you have been holding.' Without a moment's hesitation, the lad walked up to the mantel and took down the letter Mallory had left behind at Camp Six, the only other relic we have from his ill-fated climb."
Mountains in general might have been designed in their solitary inaccessibility for spirits of the nether world. Ghosts range from mysterious lights flickering in the Brown Mountains of the Carolinas (said to be the ghosts of Indian maidens looking for their slain warrior lovers) to Tsali, a Cherokee brave who restlessly walks the peaks of the Great Smokies, and the Big Gray Man of the Cairngorms in the Highlands of Scotland, a phantom who has terrorized climbers for years, his noisy, gigantic footsteps unsynchronized with their own.
"Most mountaineers," said Shipton, "once they have reached a certain state of fatigue, sense a 'presence' near them. F. S. Smythe, who was part of the 1933 expedition, once broke a piece of mint candy in half and offered it to the 'companion' walking beside him, only to discover he was walking alone."
At Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland, scene of Shakespeare's Macbeth and birthplace of England's Princess Margaret, there are dark tales told of a sealed room behind which unimaginable horrors once existed, and a bloodstain that had to be hidden with new flooring because it would not wash out. Among the army of apparitions that stalk Glamis, flitting silently about the corridors and in dark stairwells, is the ghost of wicked Earl Beardie, who gambled in the tower with playing cards (the devil's bricks) on the Lord's Day. Beardie, it is related, took on the devil himself one Sunday afternoon when he could find no other partner—and lost. To this day, say skittish servants at the castle, they hear the rattle of dice, the thud of heavy feet and cursing coming from the uninhabited, uninhabitable room.
In Ireland, where the younger generation tends to dismiss spectral goings-on as hogwash, their grandparents still build cairns for the "little people"—just in case. Resident ghost collector of Dublin, Patrick Byrne, in The Second Book of Irish Ghost Stories, directs human feet to the unhuman activities at Glencairn, Sandyford, County Dublin. It was there that American millionaire "Boss" Croker, formerly one of the chieftains of notorious Tammany Hall, built a chateau in which to retire, with 600 acres for his racing stables and stud.
Croker held sway over Irish racing circles about the turn of the century and no doubt reached the highest pinnacle of his career when his horse Orby won the English Derby in 1907. Boss Croker died in 1922 at the age of 80, and stories persist that the Boss is a restless corpse. According to Byrne's account, he was seen as late as Christmas 1970 by a former servant named Bartle, who attested, "and I, seeing him plainly, usually at dusk...in the old frock coat he used to wear, too; white beard and all."
Said another of Croker's old retainers, "Mr. Croker haunts Glencairn, and several of us, myself included, have seen him. There is something on his soul. They said wicked things about him in my time, but to us, and to me, he was the perfect gentleman; plenty of money and fine horses he had." In one room the climate (temperature) gets very cold when the master is due to appear, another witness told Byrne. When Croker died he was buried in a grave overlooking his beloved acres. Some years back the grave was moved, an act of high-handedness the Boss probably resents.