The Late Storyteller


Here is a story that was told by Pete Castle at The Eden Valley Storytelling Club on Monday, 14th. October 2002. I liked it and asked Pete for permission to include it here. He generously said 'Yes'. So here it is, somewhat re-written from Pete's original telling:


Tommy McCracken was feeling pleased with himself. He had been trying to book Jack Jordan ever since he took over the job of programme secretary, eighteen months ago. Each time he had offered a date, Jordan was unavailable. But now he had him! And for Hallowe’en!

Of all the dates in the year, to get the best teller of ghost stories in the country for Hallowe’en was amazing. The posters had been printed. The local press notified and the ‘phone calls were coming in. His problem was going to be in accommodating all of the people who wanted to attend.

The usual turn out for an ordinary member’s night at Trimble Heights Tale-Tellers Club, was around fifteen. If a special guest was performing, then he could expect twice that. For Jack Jordan there might be a hundred!

Tommy had circulated the news to other clubs within travelling distance and he felt certain that some of their members would be there. Jack Jordan had not been in the area for over ten years! In fact nowadays, he was more likely to be abroad, such was his popularity. And now here he was due to appear at Trimble Heights with his, ‘Ghostly Tales for a Ghostly Hour’ presentation.

Tommy arrived at ‘The Plough’ in good time. He wanted to decorate the function suite, but not with pumpkins and witches masks. They were alright for a children’s Hallowe’en party but not for the Tale-Tellers Club, and certainly not appropriate for Jack Jordan!

He had managed to acquire some black candles and a pair of ‘cobra’ candlesticks. He would put these on a table behind the performance area. On all of the other tables he put night-lights in the ashtrays. By arrangement with the pub manager, he replaced the light bulbs with sixty-watt greens and reds. He also had two spot lamps that would illuminate Jordan from the front. The final touch was two further lamps at ground level covered with green gels that would throw a green glow from below!

People began to arrive at about six thirty. They went into the bar, which was soon full of amateur storytellers, eagerly anticipating a memorable night. Some had seen Jordan before at a couple of festivals in which he had appeared. But that was a long time ago and most only knew of the storyteller through magazine articles. He had made a couple of television appearances but most had missed them.

The presentation was due to start at 8.00 p.m. Tommy looked at his watch, it was 7.15 and Jordan had not arrived. He had ‘phoned Tommy in the morning and said that he would be driving up from London. He expected to be at Trimble Heights at about 7.o’clock.

At 7.30, Tommy started to let people into the decorated lounge. There were murmurs of approval and a few nervous chuckles. ‘Very spooky, Tommy’, said one of the local members. By 7.50 Jordan had still not arrived and Tommy was beginning to feel uneasy. ‘What if he doesn’t turn up?’ he thought. There were a few members who would no doubt be able to tell some spooky tales, and he knew a couple of stories. But there were about ninety people in the room. Some of whom had travelled quite a distance. He had charged them all £7.50 to see this man, a large sum for a storyteller. What would he do if Jordan didn’t arrive?

It was now 8.10. ‘Where is he?’, someone asked. ‘Is he going to materialise in front of us?!’ quipped another. A laugh rippled around the room. Tommy felt that he had to say something. He stepped into the dimly lit performing area. ‘I’m sorry folks’ he began….’I’m here! I'm here! My apologies, there was an accident on the motorway and I was held up in the mayhem!’. Jack Jordan was framed in the doorway. He was wearing a leather top coat and carrying a bag that resembled an old type doctor’s bag. ‘Just two minutes, and I’ll be ready’, he said. And he was.

He began at twenty past eight and continued until 9.30 when he stopped for an interval. Twenty minutes later he began again and finally ended the presentation at ten-thirty. During the whole of his performance, the audience was enthralled. They laughed, they shivered and they applauded. He was a master at his trade and he held them in the palm of his hand. For nearly two hours he told them the most spine-chilling, creepy and funny stories that they had ever heard.

At 10.45, he was ready to leave. ‘Are you sure I can’t put you up for the night?’ Asked Tommy, ‘I’ve plenty of room and it’s no trouble’. ‘No thanks’, replied Jordan. ‘I’ve got to get back’. Tommy walked him to his car, thanked him for a great night and watched him drive away. He went back into The Plough and took down the decorations, replaced the light bulbs and returned the function suite to its former condition. He paid the landlord the fee for the hire of the room and went home.

He was awakened the following morning by the ringing of the telephone, he looked at the clock, it was 8.15. ‘Hello, is that Tommy McCracken?’ said a voice at the other end of the line. ‘Yes’ replied Tommy, ‘Who’s this?’ ‘It’s Jack Jordan’s brother’ said the voice. ‘I’m sorry about last night – I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Jack was killed in an accident on the motorway, on the way to your 'gig.'

‘I don’t understand’, said Tommy, ‘When was he killed?’ ‘At six-forty, yesterday evening’ said the brother. ‘He was in a multiple crash and died instantly. That’s why he didn’t make it to your club!’

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