Who's afraid of the light?
Buying the farm
Lifting the Veil
Cats and Goats
In Search of a Bottom Line
Night of the Day-Fly
The Dancing Puppet
The Baby from Beyond
Going, Going, Gone!
The Great Escape
Copyright © 2022 Peter Frensdorf
All rights reserved by the author. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
The jet is ready for take-off, the pilot has received his "All clear". He pushes the handle forwards and starts making speed. Here comes the infamous Point of No Return. To brake off the start, it must be at this exact moment, if his instruments indicate that something is wrong. Two seconds later is too late, regardless of danger signs. From now onwards, nothing ensures a smooth flight, arriving on the destination with mind and limps intact.
The sky may be blue, zero wind on ground level, thousands of meters into the air there may be a totally other situation, invisible from sea level. There could be heavy turbulence ahead. The weather may take a turn for the worse. Or, as happened some years ago, one of the pilots could entertain suicide tensions that only show when his copilot leaves for his toilet break. Then he shuts the door and heads towards a nice mountain. Hijacking is also still a possibility. No matter what, the human herd in the back is powerless, they are sitting tight, awaiting their fate.
I had envisioned myself as the pilot in this true story, in control of our fate. Nothing the reality of flying blindfolded into a completely new sphere, an unknown paradigm. Myself being reduced to little more than a bewildered, powerless spectator.
I have written adventures of imaginary individuals, partly based on my own experiences. A book can get stuck, and often dies there. This story is different, because it must be written, hard or not. It must be read even when it weighs heavy on my hart, and even heavier on paper.
The reader is passenger and can get out on any level. Pia and I, we did not have that luxury.
Pia, my Danish wife. Happy, optimistic incredible hard worker and the most wonderful companion for better or for worse. Flexible of mind, she can deal with problems that would send others in freezing panic. Sensitive and great eye for detail, nothing goes past her.
Peter. That's me, the Dutch boy who grew tired of putting fingers in dykes and went to the USA where I met Pia. We returned together and after spending twelve years in the Netherlands, we moved to Denmark. We already owned a beach house there. At the time we made the move, Pia has turned forty-one, and I am forty-eight.
Heidi, my ex-wife. We grew up together for fourteen years and are still great friends. The paranormal is not unknown to her, in that respect she stands alone in this story.
Nancy is my stepmother, but only a few years older. No-nonsense voice of reason and constant support. She believes what she can see. No more, no less.
Marco is the husband of Chantal, who was manager of my sportswear company in the Netherlands. He deals in non ferro metal products. Great with facts & figures and has a wealth of knowledge of just about everything. He brought several business friends to our hotel restaurant.
Christine and Olaf are two of the sellers of the property. Olaf is a real Viking, thin, tall and a beard with knots in them. Christine is a friendly strawberry blond, Pia is still in contact with her.
This is the true story of what happened to people who never believed in aliens, ghosts, or houses that have a tendency to resent and even refuse occupants.
Who's afraid of the light?
I vividly recall the time when I was afraid of the dark. As a small boy, the walk to the attic where I slept meant taking the stairs in a rush, because the light switch was short tempered and could leave you in the dark halfway. Then the corridor towards our bedroom. It must have had a light somewhere, sometime, but this was no longer the case. Pitch dark, counting steps to the last door to the right. Was I a real man or not? That question came up every night, especially in the winter when my cold breath seemed to freeze in the air. Mind you; there was zero heating in the hallway or our room. Darkness was the scariest thing- then.
Some forty years later darkness was no longer scary. Only because by then I had experienced so much worse.
Pia was visiting a friend that night and I had just said goodbye to Heidi and Nancy, left them in the safety of their apartment. Inside the courtyard I was greeted by such abundance of unrest that I took a moment, attempting to digest this event with all my senses. The restaurant was closed by now, all the guests had left or were in their room. There was an old chestnut tree in the middle of the yard and a wild cat ran around it. Yes, there was a wind circling the area, while there was none to speak of anywhere else. The energy seemed touchable and I surprised myself by standing in the middle of the turmoil calling out:
"WHAT is it you want? What is this?"
I expected neither answer or explanation and none were given. Desperation welled up inside me, we had been through so much by then. Finally I entered the main house through the kitchen. The same kind of wind was here, but not quite. It was more a sensation of rapid movement. and after switching the lights on, I immediately shut them off again.
In near complete darkness, apart from a bleak moonlight shining, I tried again to put words on the incomprehensible events taking place around me. The cat had been replaced by a big fat fly, who at frantic speed covered the length of the whole kitchen, back and forth, forth and back. Annoying as it was, I did not even attempt to kill it.
I wanted the lights out, to see what happened outside. A lit room would mean the outside remained black, but I knew by then that whatever was bugging us, could never be kept outside. It went through walls and doors as if none were present.
Earlier that day we had been sitting in the living room, all four of us. And we had talked openly with Heidi and Nancy. How in a certain parts of the building strange things were happening, and that we just had to live with it. But the house decided otherwise.
The change in temperature in the far corner of our living room meant that nobody wanted to sit there. In fact nobody could.
So I made it my place, usually with a blanket around me against a chill that could not be explained. It was not the wind, no draft, just really cold. The hairs of the back of your neck standing up, touched by an invisible hand. Now I had put Nancy in that fateful spot.
"I cannot sit there. It feels all wrong, so scary!" said Nancy. "When you wanted to show Heidi something in the office, I HAD to come. I could not stay here alone."
"There are strange things happening, that's for sure!" None of us had ever experienced anything like this before anywhere. Pia and I, we only believed what we could see, feel and touch. But these events matched all too well.
Buying the farm
One could easily forget why we bought this property. We had been seeking a home in Denmark and decided that the mainland of Jutland would make sense. It would cut over two hours from the drive to the Netherlands, for starters.
The Danes on Sealand and Jutland differ quite a bit, and both parties eye each other with a mixture of amusement and suspicion, at times even distrust. They speak differently, people from Copenhagen are seen as snobby, while the ones living in Jutland are known to have a trailer behind their car, and adore black money.
What could be better than a cottage on Sealand and living on Jutland? Best of both!
In the beginning, nothing was interesting for us. We had this dream of a small bed and breakfast. Great idea. After investing, easy money coming in daily. That was quite a dream!
First Pia flew from Holland to see some houses, and filmed for me why they were not good enough.
We also viewed a hotel together. Being experienced business travellers we demanded all rooms to have private bathrooms which this place did not have- nor the room to create them.
There was a restaurant serving inexpensive meals and the overall condition of the building is not according to our ideas. The price was low, seller wanted to quit the business.
We were seeking a more exclusive venue, having seen examples doing very well in the Netherlands. We want to do better than most Danes, who seem unimaginative to us.
On business trips, any times we had stayed in overpriced mediocre places, serving deep fried half chicken and soup from a can.
Some time later we were on tour with a real estate broker, tempted by our larger than normal budget. Twenty kilometres north of Århus we were shown a rather regular house with somewhat of a Seaview. Far from impressed, we asked her if she could offer something more interesting.
The broker had asked us what our budget was, all I could answer was that it depended on the property. That I had just sold my company and was looking for a new challenge.
She took a long look at us: "I have something else, actually close to here. But it is a very unusual property, with lots of rooms, even apartments.. Do you want to see it?"
"Sure, why not?"
Very close indeed, we drove a few hundred meters towards the sea and made a left. Through the ports on a winding unpaved road towards a huge building.
Painted light yellow with black details and I don't really know why I said:
"Oho, we're in trouble!" while driving the narrow path.
I think that the saying: "Never truer words were spoken" applies here. Somehow I knew instantly that our lives were about to be changed, forever. Which raises two valid questions, why and how?
Why would anyone buy a property that spells trouble? Every deathtrap must be enticing, or nobody would fall victim to it. The flesh eating plant has a sweet aroma, or would die of starvation.
How could I know this on first glance? I think many of us predict sometimes, and usually ignore that impulse, just because it cannot be explained.
How could Natalie Wood know all her life that she would drown, and be afraid of water? Or what about Richie Valens' terrible fear of flying?
Jim Morrison, after the death of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin the name 27 club was born. In a bar with friends, Morrison stated: "And you're having a drink with number three!"
Rasputin predicted his own violent death and that of the Romanov family with eery accuracy. There are countless examples of mere humans getting a glimpse of their future and ignoring it.
The tour excluded one of the two apartments because it was rented out, the main floor entrance showed a gorgeous curved brick ceiling with rooms on both sides. Then a larger room and to the right a space large enough to house a restaurant. Then we went over the inner courtyard to the main house.
Soon both of us were lost in the complexity of the buildings. Imagine that all this included a large piece of land with two outer buildings with thatched roofs, and a nice Seaview.
The area was fantastic and we understood why the price was higher than the regular house we had just seen before.
Owning such a building could bring a sure steady income, we could see bedrooms downstairs, apartments to be rented out, restaurant space, we just needed to install a kitchen.
By then, I was totally hooked on the project.
"This is the wood-burning sauna."
We nodded in silence and I could feel just one emotion, I needed to buy this building!
So we were in trouble indeed.
That is how we learnt that a nightmare is also a dream because the idea of owning this building was glued solidly into my brain. I started to imagine... How proud I would be to own it! Walking through the hotel part with the rounded ceilings, I envisioned bathrooms and TV's, minibars in every room, checking guests in at the desk who all wanted to stay here.
The building dated back to 1750 and was not only huge and so complicated you could easily get lost, but straight from a most idyllic image. During the nineteen sixties, a range of movies were made in Denmark based on the stories written by a certain Morten Koch.
They all took place in such buildings. The owner, a strappy handsome guy, was very wealthy without having to work for it. He would meet a young innocent girl, penniless and finally, after some initial problems, they would fall in love. In those days the same ten- twelve actors would play all roles and people never grew tired of watching them.
This was such a building. Thatched roofs and half timbered walls, yellow and black painted bricks and wood constructions, here and there painted parts where the wood had been replaced, black to resemble timber. The large main square had cobble stones in all sizes so the surface was very uneven, one had to walk carefully in order not to stumble.
There were buildings on all four sides, making it one of the rare farms of great importance. Others had one or two sides, three was rare. Another way to value farms was by chimneys. Two was impressive, three means pure wealth because they all needed wood to burn. This building had in common with the Titanic that it had four chimneys, one just for show. That should also have been an indication of the icebergs on our path.
Yet, all that beauty! In winter-time you could imagine snow on the thatched roofs, a postcard picture. Summertime bright red apples were hanging in abundance on the trees. The surrounding land was fifteen thousand square meters with sea views from the hill. The sandy beach was close, right across the road. This part of Jutland was among the prettiest, very hilly with impressive views.
We started out strong and optimistic, with abundance of energy and finances. The two apartments were basically fine, living room, kitchen, bedrooms we did not have to touch. Downstairs there were rooms that we would turn into hotel rooms, each with separate bathroom. The large meeting room would become restaurant and reception, one of the side rooms we wanted to place a professional kitchen. A smaller room in the hallway would have to become a separate shower and toilet for personnel. That was the law, one of many rules that we had to face.
Parts of the property had large and deep compartments of white-painted concrete, taking up space that could be used better. With a large sledge hammer I started there and soon noticed that they had steel bars inside them. Hard work. The hallway leading to the hotel room had openings to allow the heat to pass through, as the rooms were used as combined living space for one of the families. These had to be closed. In some places the ceiling needed repair. But the separate rooms all had space to add bathrooms, which they clearly had been once before.
The living room in the main house. We had decided that the ceiling was too low and had hired a crew to dig out the sand that the house and probably all buildings, were based on. When that huge work was done, we placed isolation pellets in thick layers between the beams. Upon which I laid the solid wooden floor myself.
The team we had hired to do the job arrived after ten, with the smell of alcohol on their breath. The leader measured in clumsy manner and then proceeded making a wrong cut. Everyone with just a little experience knows that you measure by turning the next part around, so you make your mark correctly. This led to an argument that I cut short by kicking them all out and doing they work myself.
Meanwhile the stress of owning the most prestigious building in the area was getting to us. Contractors were writing bills with a fork, charging us for ridiculous things like unpacking tools, picking up parts and driving to work. Everything was a struggle. A part of the building had a leaking roof, so we hired someone to fix it. Of course that was impossible, he needed to replace the whole roof. That amounted to a hefty bill and the work looked fine, until the rain came.
The new roof resembled the old, it was leaking just the same. The man looked at it and could not understand why. Unless there was something structural wrong with the building. Yes, that must be it! This was of course not his responsibility. We refuse to pay his bill until he fixed the problem and because he was unable, his reaction was putting us on a national blacklist. We tried argumentation but it was the privilege of contractors to report non-paying clients, regardless of the merit of their case. The result would be that nobody would trust us any more, or do any kind of work. So we ended up paying for the new leaking roof, which one fine day, stopped leaking anyway. Don't ask why.
When it rained heavily we found out that the path around the house was higher than the floor on the inside. So in the middle of the night, water was overflowing the stone floors and we had to use a wet vacuum cleaner to drain it before more damage was done.
Other unexpected complications were drowning us too. Idiotic ancient rules and plans. The road leading to the house did not belong to us, but to the farmer. He had to take care of it, but he was not using it himself so why would he? Our water supply came from the neighbour, a camping that had just changed ownership. As good neighbours, we met the owner to see how we could work together, maybe arrange live music. The man asked if he heard right that we were opening a hotel and restaurant, seating fifty? We proudly said yes. Then he informed us in clear terms that he would lock off the water supply on the day we would open.
"If you do that, I will bury you with my bare hands!" I answered, just as clear as he was, and just as hostile.
He demanded that I would leave, and because I was on his property, he was entitled. I left and let Pia try to talk sense into him: "Okay, just remember what I said!" I meant every word. Without water, we would be finished. Pia came back about an hour later, and she had not been able to change his mind either. If she was unable to, we stood no chance.
"So we're in deep shit!" I stated.
Pia shook her head; "You and I, we are just not scared enough!" She was so right. Normal people take a job for life and never get themselves in such trouble.
In the end he did not close the water, instead he called the police to report that I had threatened his life. They would not bother to come around a year later when we had a burglary, but were quick with picking up the telephone:
"You cannot do that, sir!"
"He cannot close off the water. I hope I made that clear."
We agreed I would not return or speak to him again, but a few days later we received a written demand that we had to get our water supply elsewhere. Again we were in a desperate situation, there was nothing else to do, he gave us a reasonable period to find water supply. Finally, at great expense, - ours of course - we had contractors digging all the way over the farmers fields to our buildings in order to lay the water pipes.
Those costly thatched roofs needed to be insured which costs a fortune every year. The second winter a storm took part of the roof and when we contacted our insurance, they did not waste any time on it. They did not even send someone to check the damage because the roof was too old to be covered.
"So we paid insurance for the roof, right?"
"I can see that you did."
"But we are not covered for the damage?"
"That's right, because the roof is over twenty years old, it says here."
"So we paid you for nothing?"
"If you say so..."
Insured and paid for, no problem, but claiming damage was not possible.
One day the water pipes broke and the second meeting room was under water. We did not bother with insurance any more, had the leak repaired and I put in a new floor myself. The straw roof was leaking in unexpected places, but never the same ones.
Meanwhile the non-stop work continued and bills stuffed our letterbox to vomit levels.
Picture: Our living room after rebuilding , on the left part nobody was comfortable
Lifting the Veil
We had worked restlessly for nearly a year and moved finally into the main house. Months later I walked into the living room, passing the door.
Until that moment I had never realised how different a whisper can be. Muted, soft-spoken and neutral or like this one, mysterious, heavily toned with urgency.
"PETER" Intonation: "Shh! Don't tell anyone, I'm not supposed to be here, it's a secret!" Like the aftertaste of wine, the last timbre kept hanging in de room, light as a ringing bell. It could not be ignored.
The sound came from a low point, like a kid was hiding behind the door. Now I have had enough, there was precious little room for doubt left.
When something like this happens you first question yourself and rightly so. However, this was no longer the case here. For months I had ignored the feeling that someone looked through the window, a vague person ran around the house, someone walking upstairs and other sounds that could not be explained. I had to disregard it because the alternative, that this house was haunted, the building itself rejecting us as occupants, was impossible to accept. On one hand I was far beyond the point of questioning my own sanity. But one clings on hope. Maybe Pia had been calling and tired as I was, I had looked in the wrong direction.
"Pia!" No answer. She could be anywhere in the twelve-hundred square meter building of which three parts were not connected. So I started looking. She was not outside. Where did I last see her? Okay, the restaurant then. And there she was, stacking our first wine shipment into the large white concrete blocks we had left intact for that purpose. This was our point of no return. I could still ignore what happened and pretend that nothing was wrong.
Me, such an open book towards my wife, sharing every little detail. But nothing as big as this! After spending all this money, the building could not be haunted, impossible. This was something we could not handle after a year of non-stop work and investing more and more hard earned money into a project that had outgrown our capabilities. Yes, we bought a haunted mansion and could not remain here.
"Did you call me?" I asked foolishly because there was no way I could have heard her. Not in that soft voice, and with that urgency, from such distance.
She looked up: "No." and opened a new box.
Short silence. Then: "You heard something. Something strange, huh?"
She gave a huge sigh and put down the bottles. "Oh, I am so glad! I thought I was getting nuts!"
We sat at one of the empty tables. Passed the point of no return. Engines in full blast, our plane has gained speed. From that moment- no matter what happens- we must go up in the air. We could not unsay our words, unhear, unfeel or deny like I had been doing for months.
Pia repeated: "Oh, I'm so happy!"
"Happy? It is terrible."
"I thought that I was crazy, hearing voices and things.... being moved all the time. But I did not want to say anything, because what can we do about it?"
She had heard voices from the exact same place but she had also noticed things that would never occur to me, items always reaching for the edge, as if to escape by falling down. Pia would put them back all the time. My admission towards Pia became a feast of recognition between us, now finally the mystery cloud had lifted.
Our money was invested in this huge project, and it never occurred to us that this place could be haunted. Despite all the signs.
Five groups of people had lived there, three families had shifted living space taking turns between the main house, rooms and apartments. Nobody had lived in this part of the building for a long period, ever!
The day we took the property over, there were clouds of smoke coming from the technic room, one of the heating panels of the boiler caught fire. I had never heard that this was possible. We could not meet Christine without her asking; "Is everything okay with you guys? Nothing strange has happened?"
Her brother, who told me about his long mental conversations with an old man that no longer was alive. This Ivan was a genuine Viking, with tattoos and ancient lifestyle he would sit in front of one of the outside doors in sunlight, mesmerising about the people who had lived there, and had long passed away.
The main house had fuel heating and the man filling our tank complained he would rather stay away, because he saw vague figures from the corner of his eyes. But when he turned they were gone. Did we have the same experience?
And the bedroom had a wide range of weird smells. Brussels sprouts one day, boiled cabbage the next, all dishes that I never cooked for us. Pia would constantly feel unrest inside the wall of the bedroom and we never slept well there.
By ignoring these events, we hoped they would not be there the next time. And then, I would almost forget about the cats.
Cats and Goats
We had Milly in the Netherlands, the best cat I ever had. She was black and white, totally attached to us. When we travelled abroad, which we did quite often, she would always manage things. Our neighbours would feed her and let her in and out of the house, she knew that. So she would come to their house to fetch them to do something for her, that's how smart she was.
When we moved to Denmark, by that time she had been on vacation in our summerhouse many times, she loved it there! So travelling was not a problem, unlike some other cats, she would not complain and just sit in her basket until we reached our destination, all day long. No vomit, pee or shit, ever. Anyway, when we moved we went to quite another place, where she had not been before. We stayed overnight in a hotel, of course Milly too. She used her litter box, ate her Whiskas and went to sleep.
The next day we arrived at her new house, a very hostile surrounding. The previous owners had cats, but they had become wild and were out of control. Breeding new wild ones. I, who would never want to put any animal asleep that was not suffering, was forced to catch them to deliver them to the vet, never to be seen again. Maybe 20-30 cats left that way, others still roamed around freely. Upon arrival a group wanted to attack Milly, but that was something else, she was afraid of nothing. Not dogs, foxes or other cats.
The apartment were we lived at the beginning, Milly was so attached to us that she did not mind walking over the metal raster stairs with her small feet, which must have been unpleasant, to say the least. She never lost her way home and about a year later, when the main house was finally finished, she moved in with us. We inherited a second cat by then, Jimmy that she accepted too. Now she had a friend but after the move her attitude changed immediately.
Both cats would hide on top of the ceiling beams as if they could see things that we could not. They acted scared or even aggressive sometimes, which they had never done before we moved into the main house.
We also inherited three goats, which we had to take care of without any experience.
It was easy, so we were told. With one tied to a pole, the others would stick around. The location of this pole needed to be changed every few days so they had enough grass to eat. The one tied to the pole was called Carla, the male Oscar and their son Ib. One of our first days I took a large carrot to Ib, who looked at me funny, before running away as if it was a weapon, aimed at him. I followed with a huge smile and broke the carrot in three pieces, which they gladly accepted. Funny animals, these goats. But we had to watch them all the time. Once Carla had tied herself up with the rope and was laying motionless on the cold grass, shaking when we untied her. Much longer and she might have died.
After some months watching how the males took advantage of the fact she could not get away, I released her and tied Ib up instead. Oscar would always look for a chance to ram you with his horns, for instance if you were bending over to pick up something. Very funny! Ib accepted his fate and Carla hopped around with a big smile on her face. Because the goats could not manage to eat all the grass, we bought a mowing tractor, a used one. Trying to cut the tsunami of expenses....
When I used it at home, I noticed that the clutch was worn out and further inspection showed that the registration plate had been scratched, so the numbers were not readable any more. In my mind, there was just one reason why anyone would take such action- and that was when it was stolen!
Pia and I were so drained of energy by then that it became a huge fight. She sided with the sellers, instead of me. According to them it meant nothing, that the numbers were removed.
That winter there was snow and ice, so I placed Ib in the huge open barn, tied him to a pole. There was lots of hay, so they would be fine. The day I needed to travel to Holland, I did check on them before leaving, just to make sure all was well. And there was Ib, sitting in a strange position, on his behind just like a human. He did not move! Then I saw what had happened, goats, they love to jump and he took a leap of fate, just a few centimetres further than his rope was long. He hung himself.
After I told Pia, she called to have his corpse picked up. The only thing was, Ib could only be collected by the road. So here I went, pulling an adult goat corpse through the snow, several hundred meters.
The pleasure of owning this property was far away that morning, and not only then. Instead of being proud, all I could see now was trouble and expenses. Sweet as Carla was, I never cared for Oscar, a nasty goat. We decided that we could not keep them when we opened for business. We would be far too busy and they liked scraping their body against the buildings, and shit everywhere. Pia found a man who would take them, and we were welcome to visit them anytime. Later became clear that his information was incorrect and I'm sure they ended up in the glue factory. But we had bigger fish, and problems to fry.
Milly survived the ordeal with us and moved into our summerhouse five years later. She had lost some of her health because from that moment she would get epileptic attacks that were horrible to watch. We ended up giving her medication for the duration of her life, the next ten years.
By the time we were getting ready to open the hotel and restaurant, we were seeking personnel. This was the worst time to do so. All the good people seemed to be taken and we had to make due with Heidi, a blond girl for serving and cleaning, Torben, a young boy as servant who claimed that he had worked in a German restaurant for one season.
Heidi was unavailable for two or three days weekly. Her son was ill or she was not feeling well. She parked her car next to the entrance, and soon we found things were missing. Whole cartons with salt or sugar, knifes, flour, pasta, whatever was not nailed to the floor disappeared. I argued with Pia who defended her, but in the end she could not deny that we had to let her go.
Our cook Susanne was in her thirties, and nicely overweight as good chefs are supposed to be. She was excellent, came highly recommended and we worked well together. Our timing was spot on, we could always tell if we were ahead or behind. Then we worked hard to catch up. Some days I ran the kitchen alone because Susanne did not want to work weekends, because she wanted to be with her family then.
Then came chef number three; Morten. Only because he had asked to work here and Pia was feeling a bit sorry for him. He was not educated as chef but he was used to making food for parties, or so he said. He was not good enough to run the kitchen alone, but he was a extra help. His timing as off, he was sometimes clumsy and when things went all wrong, he needed a cigarette break. Neither Susanne or I smoked so this was a problem.
To make up for his many failures he suggested he could make ice cream. Fine, we put it on the menu, home-made ice cream, strawberry, chocolate and lemon. Diners who ordered it became too confused to eat any of it. And a taste test made clear why.
"Chocolate ice cream you call this? Really? Tell me how you made it!" As it turned out, he had used chocolate powder instead of real chocolate, and mostly colouring for the other flavours. Confusing indeed when you get three colours and they all taste the same!
My kitchen ran just fine without any panic or screaming. I see these TV chefs passing the impression around that the efforts of kitchen helpers and chefs improve when they are yelled at. Personally I do not know any profession where that may be so, and having the need to raise your voice means that your kitchen is out of control. That never happened here. Sure, chefs must have a clear view regarding timing. Behind the clock means no breaks of any kind, and only talking when the subject is on the menu. Ahead have us time to joke and play around. Working hard, but never hastily brings the best results.
Morten would often be behind and then he got the shakes, dropping chicken parts on the floor and picking them up again to cook them. We had to let him go.
The day we knew was coming, had finally arrived. From opening we had instructed everyone that worked for us that Pia had accepted a lunch party for a day that the restaurant would be open too. So we were cutting things close, party arrival 12.30, 13.00 food being served, 17.00 party over, cleaning and setting the room restaurant style to accommodate arrival from 18.00. All hands on deck!
Pia was up early to set the tables, and I was busy in the kitchen with Susanne. It was tight, but possible with three servants, Pia, Torben and Simone. The latter had real experience, a small short haired woman around Pia's age. She arrived on time and got to work. I looked at the setting, it looked really good as always. Pia, phone in hand: "Torben isn't here!" He also did not answer the phone. He could be dead, and I hoped he was because that would have been the only acceptable excuse. We had told him so many times that this was the day he had to do proper work, we needed him. Pia came to the kitchen, phone in hand: "Everything okay here?"
Of course we were. However there was this funny smell... Pia: "I noticed that. Oh! You don't think it's the shit tank, do you?" The sewer system was the most basic and had to cleaned every two years. Surely it could not be possible that today- of all days.....? I had a quick look, rather a smell.
"Pia! Ring the slam people, it is really coming from there!"
Susanne: "You are not serious. We are having guests here in one hour..." Picking up, or rather sucking out the sewer was a smelly affair, it could be terrible. Pia instead of opening wine, had to find someone to come right away. She came back, shrugged; "They will call back!"
Then her phone rang. "That must be them now!" But it wasn't. Pia said very little, wisely kept the conversation short. "What was that then? I asked.
"That was Morten's mother, he's not coming!"
"Not coming? He's fired then!"
Pia nodded: "Of course he is. But not just yet. For now he is in jail. He and some friends tried to break in somewhere, for fun, she said!"
Simone's husband was also a waiter, and she called him if he wanted to work a few hours. The moment the guests arrived our sewer was being emptied. Wind in positive direction, we got away with it.
I had told Simone to wait with seating the people until I gave the sign. She came into the kitchen: "They are seating now!"
I shook my head: "I told you to wait."
"Oh I thought that you wanted me to tell you when..." Luckily Susanne and I were well prepared and ready to serve within minutes. We had to hold some of the next courses on account of speeches, singing, which Danes love to do at parties like this one.
Later Simone's husband came to help, and he was very professional. We got the guests to leave on time, and rushed to set everything up for the evening.
That evening, we offered a choice between oxtail soup or steamed sole or Prosciutto with melon as first course and that was how it all went wrong. Everybody, but really everyone wanted oxtail soup. We had never seen that nobody picked anything else.
Simone: "Four oxtail!"
"No more now. We are sold out in oxtail!"
She went away, only to return minutes later:
"Two times oxtail!"
"Simone, I told you that we are sold out, offer them anything else. We can also offer salmon mousse instead!"
"I cannot do that, they all want oxtail!"
Pia also showed her face: "Three times oxtail!"
We ended up with a mixture that I was embarrassed to serve, and that was the first and last time that happened. Even cooking without any budget as we were doing, it was impossible to make enough of each course for the whole restaurant. It would bring too much waste.
Torben, by the time he got out of jail, never bothered to pick up the shoes he had left behind. There was a coming and going of servants for the restaurant, Simone despite lending me a deaf ear all the time, worked well with Pia, so we used her sometimes anyway.
The restaurant ran very well, I created all the dishes, home-made from groceries that were hand-picked which took three to four hours in Århus area. Fresh fish, red tuna flown in on ice, lobsters, filet mignon, greens and mushrooms, only the best was good enough. Pia made sure all ran well inside the restaurant, as I did in the kitchen. It was very hard work with long hours.
We had bought a salat-bar so guests could pick and chose their vegetables, our kitchen was equipped with state of the art oven with damp function. We had a professional dish wash machine and a person to run it, everything anyone could wish for, we had it. With our limited kitchen space we installed a turning rack for forty plates so I could prepare appetisers and stock them there before serving, while working on the main courses. I was extremely strict with handling of food, as both Pia and myself needed to follow a course to be certified as chef. Running a restaurant means great responsibility and we never took the slightest shortcuts there.
We offered a three course meal, every day different with three choices for two hundred Danish crowns and guests would gladly drive from Århus to get there. Because the restaurant looked out on the inner courtyard or to the road I bought over one hundred autographed pictures of celebrities to hang on the walls. Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Princess Diana and Elvis overlooked the place so guests were never without something to talk about. Everything had been bought as genuine, but I found out that this was sometimes a quite disputable matter, as faking these items was big business.
We were overbooked some nights, as our staff took in people who did not have an reservation at all, they forgot to check. Which lead to Fawlty Tower like situations, where guests were moved while eating and drinking, table and all.
Susanne, it was for her a source of constant irritation that she had the four year education, while I had none. She would panic sometimes, suddenly unable to make Crepes Suzette, while I made perfect batter within a minute. At other times she made great pesto as amuse, and she had taken over my recipe for Indonesian sate. Tiramisu was always a bit tricky to make. Often the mixture would not stiffen and needed a night in the freezer and defrosting before serving. If it had to do with pasteurized eggs, or how fresh the marscapone was, we will never know, it's a common question mark.
I went all in with my signature dishes, like lobster bisque, coq au vin, honey balsamic crème saltimbocca, filet of beef with mushrooms.
After working all day in the kitchen and Pia in the restaurant we would be very tired. However, I managed to deal in sportswear and branded watches in the office upstairs, to make some much needed extra cash.
Where we expected serious income, money was dripping in instead of flowing, and vaporised immediately again.
Our friend Marco came for several stays with businessmen from Italy and UK. His Italian contact said that my tiramisu was as good as his mother's. But even during the short period that I showed them the main house, both could sense something was wrong there.
My family came from the Netherlands to stay in one of the apartments. When they arrived, it was dinnertime and the restaurant was totally oversold. I delivered their menu upstairs and they were impressed with how well the place was running.
We got several articles in local newspapers and they were all positive. We had a fine wine list, all at prices that anyone could afford. The hotel was certainly not always fully booked, but that would take some time. We had placed a large sign by the road but at the end of the summer, business was calming down. The season was over. Time to do some accounting.
In Search of a Bottom line
Despite of our success our bank account seemed to flow into the wrong direction. My personal experience in the USA and the Netherlands showed that doing well with a restaurant meant income and profit. In Denmark all turnover included a hefty twenty-five percent VAT, personnel was entitled to benefits when they worked on holidays, double pay and free time.
After working like mad for seven months, I took time to do some accounting. All our prices had no other basis than what we found acceptable. Rooms seven hundred kroner with breakfast, dinner went from two to three hundred kroner but wine remained inexpensive.
In short, I soon calculated that for every krone that we turned over, it had a cost to us of two or three, when you included all expenses. The floor heating of the restaurant and all equipment used electricity which was extremely expensive in Denmark. We had bought the latest Rational oven, with self washing system, cleaning itself inside, just like a car wash. This was a sure subject of entertainment to see in action, the latest technology. All equipment, dishwasher, coffee machines, a complete cooled salat-bar and large beautiful dishes.
We had everything which amounted to a loss for every bit of income. Closing the place would mean saving money. It was a easy decision.
One of our suppliers told us that none of the better restaurant were making any profit, everyone was deep into de red numbers. I was flabbergasted:
"So why would anyone own a restaurant?"
"Companies own them for their customers. They see it as a flagship. Most hotel-restaurants are not good enough, so they own one. Remember, in Denmark expensive food is too cheap and fast food is too expensive!"
This would have been good information to have before we started all this! In the Netherlands restaurant owners made a bundle, we never realised Denmark was so different in that respect.
But we had dinner in one of those top restaurant before starting our own. The food was fine, but I noticed that they use cheap meat, pork cheeks. Walking by the kitchen window, we saw no less than six persons working there. That was the same number as guests eating that night. No way that this one on one ratio could turn a profit.
With our own hotel and restaurant now closed with the exception of parties, and all staff fired the vision of selling the property became all the more clear. The worst was that overall real estate prices had been rising.
Which made me say the following:
"If we had taken a blind donkey, and bought every property he ran into. We would have made money instead of losing it!"
That a seemingly intelligent couple would have weighed all options- and end up buying this example of a money pit, was an unfunny joke.
Part of the problem had been that this kind of property was not protected by any rules. Normally the state of structure, condition and upcoming expenses, all would have been documented with a normal house. So the buyers would know what they were getting into. Not here!
We ended up have someone looking it over, a far family member who was supposed to be a building expert. Not knowing how Danes avoid confrontations at all costs.... That day we went over every part, and he said very little, which for me indicated that nothing was wrong. Had he said: "This is not right and that will cost you so much money." And so on.. It could have cooled even me down to point of reconsidering. But no.
Later he would tell everyone, but us, that he would never buy such building. He had just been too polite to tell us that! He did, however, accept the cash we handed him, without the slightest sign of remorse.
Let's not forget that while this venture where we had put all our strength, finances and soul into, failed to make a profit, we also happened to live in a ghost house. Running away was no option. Yet we needed to get away for a while to our beach house on Sealand. There we could rest and most of all, sleep really well. When two weeks had passed we had to return, grass had been allowed to grow wildly and so had other forces of nature.
Night of the Day-Fly
Upon our return, I opened the door to the bedroom and was greeted with an overwhelming odour. Boiled potatoes, sprouts, cabbage. Pia sniffed and went to the living room to open her laptop computer, seeking help. A popular TV program had been showing haunted houses and we saw how the medium was trying to get in contact with ghosts, who were bothering house owners. This was exactly the kind of programs we had always been sceptical about, laughed at in the past. But now we were not laughing any more, as we recognised so much. Sounds, moving items, and strange smells that could not be explained.
I went inside the bedroom and in utter desperation laid on my back, palms up and cried out in utter silence: "Speak to me!"
Immediately I sensed a corpse, female, on top of me. I cannot speak to deceased, don't know how. As I was about to find out, the dead speak with thoughts and images, not words. I would see an image and give an image back:
"Is that what you mean?"
This is a very tiring way of communication, I promise you. You show something that they usually do not understand. So you repeat it until they do. And so back and forth. It is a extremely slow, tedious way of communication. Hours pass with the simplest message. Then they answer in the same manner.
During the next period I found out that she had been a servant in the farm, she showed me the storage room, what it looked like then. And how she had been mistreated, misjudged and misunderstood by a man, the owner and his wife. She showed me how she and another woman were bossed around while baking and cooking for them. Flour was flying around. They complained to me showing all sorts of details of their misfortune, most had little meaning to me.
Meanwhile my own lack of fear was bewildering. I had always imagined that, seeing a ghost, I would faint or become one of them. The whole idea had been too preposterous to consider but watching movies on the subject gave me foresights that were way off the mark. When I was a child my stepbrother used to say something really stupid when asked if he had been afraid. He used to say; "No, because I was there myself!" In this case I could just agree. If you had been there I'm sure you would not be frozen of fear. It was more mysterious, weird. Far more troublesome than fearsome.
Looking up, I saw clouds of flour turning to genuine clouds, some very dark. From one point, turning your view just right, there was an opening towards the light. I could see it clearly. That was their way out of here! One could easily miss it for years or centuries if you did not know where or how to look. And these women were so hyper, not even trying. All they saw was clouds.
I showed them, and after some time, they left. Not that I could see or hear them leave, they were just no longer present.
In the days that followed, others came to visit. Telling me stories like the smiling boy that had a mystery riddle. How he was able to come up with words while others did not, I will never know.
"Why are my shoes too big for me?" He laughed. As he showed me that he drowned in a lake, wearing his father's boots, which filled with freezing water when he stepped through the ice.
This story was known to Pia, but she had never told me about it. It happened elsewhere, namely in Kalundborg many years ago. It seemed the building was some kind of antenna, and I, who never had any experience whatsoever and did not believe in ghosts, was receiving them.
And then Pia's grandmother died.
The Dancing Puppet
The grandmother and I had never shared a single word during the handful times we met. She only spoke Danish and I understood nothing. But she looked at me first with interest and later more friendly. In strict contrast to her husband, who was looking down on anyone dumb enough not to understand Danish, spoken in mist horn volume. There was something wrong with me, he knew instantly.
Pia: "My grandmother says that you have a very nice nose." The meaning was unclear at first but Pia explained that her grandma judged people by their noses. Well, we are all entitled to private weirdness, I suppose.
We made the mistake to agree to have Christmas dinner with these grandparents, who looked angry on all pictures. And somewhat disturbed expression on their faces like asking "what are we doing here?"
Danish grandparents, they are titled according to which parent they belong. So Morfar (mothers father) and Farmor (fathers mother) and so on.
Morfar happened to be a learned person without a hint of education.
Having been a farmer all his life, he valued himself as a scholar. The man had left the motherland twice, highly praised three day bus trips to Germany and England. There he had studied the rest of the world intensely.
All cultures on the planet where crystal clear to him after these extensive travels. However the same could not be said for languages.
He was a short stocky fellow without any waist. Square-faced he narrowly eyeballed me with the appropriate amount of distrust that non-Danes deserve.
When Pia left the room I discovered his opinion; that Danish was the only language in existence, and all others spoke a sloppy dialect. So if I did not understand him, it was because he did not speak loud enough.
With a deep pleasant baritone he explained something he found funny, followed by a loud:
When I signalled that I did not understand him The Joke was repeated with raised volume. As far as professor Morfar was concerned, foreigners were really ridiculous.
Food is for Danes more than a way to feed yourself, just like their drinking has nothing to do with thirst. They eat, eat and eat and double that by drinking. A formal dinner can take up to six hours, easily.
Morfar got so excited by the view of the duck being served that he started sucking air in loudly.
I did not understand this until one of his daughter hurried to cut of a leg (of the duck, not the grandfather) to bring it to his mouth.
He slurped the meat off the bone and part of his neck tie with it. What a sight! I had been raised to wait until everyone was served before starting eating.
But this part of table-manners is not big among Danes. They just start eating when they see something on their plate that looks good to them. Viking table manners. Strangely enough they are polite to the extreme in other things, like thanking for dinner or lunch. They do that all the time, even in a restaurant after they paid for it.
Grandfather died sometime before his wife and I heard that when they moved her into another bed the nurse asked how high she wanted to be raised.
"All the way!" she pointed to heaven thus showing her sense of humour in the process. And that she really wanted to die.
Nevertheless I was the last person she would pay a visit, yet there she was! Livelier than ever.
During my most complicated encounter with any person, alive or dead, I was awake all night conversing with her.
First she showed her aged body, dancing like a puppet, free of dead weight. She was so happy without that stocky, bony body that was holding her back, dancing like a puppet on a string, completely weightless.
Information was flowing in the shape of pictures, but I was careful and demanded she would show proof that I was not speaking to myself.
Images of her in her new dress, with flowery pattern, her hair being done in curls. She showed me that she did not like her own looks, and had not been allowed to use her great sense of humour. Or pick a partner she wanted. When asked about her husband she shrugged that he was no soulmate, they would pass each other without a second look. There had not been much choice in males, not when she was young. You married and that was it, for better or otherwise. After hours of troublesome conversing I insisted that she would show me actual proof that I was really in contact with her, and that my mind was not playing games with me.
She tried, and tried again. Dresses, her hair. Humour, dancing, tired of that old body. Hours of repeating. Then she showed me images that were unclear. She stood next to a bicycle? No. A car? No. A motorbike? No! What was it then? Finally we could not put words to the unclear images she send me. It was some smaller transportation thing, not a car.
Hers? No! Someone she knew well.
The moment you die you encounter a new atmosphere that is much more complicated than the life you had. Dates, time or titles, they are lost right away when you reach the overall new consciousness, and oversee what you missed in life. Everything becomes clear that had been clouded and the other way around. That is why speaking to ghosts fell so hard on me. They are the same people, but somehow very different.
The next morning I was worn out, but not nearly as tired as I should have been. I knew that I had not slept at all and could not wait to tell Pia what had happened. I was worried I would not remember otherwise, as if these messages from beyond did not nest well inside my brain.
I told her what I could remember, some things seem to be floating away already. But the proof, I had repeated in my mind. In the days that followed Pia and her mother would acknowledge what I reported was true. The flower dress had been a gift from her husband, and indeed she had never liked her own appearance. Her sense of humour and other details that I could not have known, were all true.
But everything was bleak compared to a forgotten picture that was found days later. We spoke to Pia's mother who at first did not believe me, can you blame her? I would not have believed it myself!
We started cleaning up and what she found in one of the drawers dumbfounded her. She had never seen that picture before..... it was her mother, posing with a scooter, with a grandchild as her husband looks on. This scooter belonged to Pia's father.
She had never driven on it, not even as a passenger. The vehicle that was not a motorbike, and not a car, it was a scooter!
I could almost feel her smile, that we had finally found indisputable proof of her speaking to me. Even Pia's mother was dumbfounded.
After this experience I closed the door and never had another encounter. It was just too draining for me.
Some of the worst unrest was gone too. The kitchen smells, and the voices never were heard again. But our office upstairs still made sounds like someone or some two were walking around. After hundreds of times running upstairs to find nothing, Pia and I just shrugged at it.
And there was the living room.
When we started rebuilding, all the way at the end stood a metal stand with a thick black marble plate, too heavy to move so they just left it. Maybe it was used to put a stereo on, something like that. But it had to go, so I tried lifting, which was not possible alone. While attempting the metal structure suddenly collapsed and the plate hit the floor. Hard! My fingers went over the surface in surprise, because it turned out to be a gravestone. I managed to have it removed when the workers dug out the floor. And when the house was completely ready, Pia had bought a large seating section for that corner, opposite the TV. Whenever we were off, we would sit there and also entertain guests. At least, that had been the meaning because that corner, not a single person could sit there!
Pia and I did, rather it was me sitting in that spot, usually with a thick blanket around me because while the rest of the room was nice and warm, that one spot seemed several degrees lower in temperature.
In the years that followed we tested everyone we knew, all people that did not believe in anything supernatural. We spoke to Pia's father about it and he laughed at this idiotic idea. That was just our imagination! So the next time her parents came, we made sure to place him in that spot. He stood up abruptly and walked away.
One night Pia and I were watching TV when a huge light turned into the room, bright as headlights of a truck. We jumped up to see, but there was nothing. That would also have been impossible because there was one long corridor, consisting of our living room, hallway and kitchen and entrance. Even if that light could pass all that by and shine through thick walls, there was no road anywhere. It was a total mystery.
Afterwards I came to the conclusion that this part of the property worked as an antenna. One day I saw a group of people walking by, oddly dressed in rough cotton clothing and big woollen scarves. Pia told me that she had allowed this group of (as they named themselves) witches to do their yearly ceremony there. They passed by the side of our haunted house and went up the nearby hill to do their business.
I must make clear that I am a businessman, and never encountered any kind of abnormal events before buying this property and living there. I have had unpleasant feelings in some houses, as we all have at one time or another. My first and last contact with deceased had taken place here. Not in the apartment were we lived while rebuilding, although the mother of the family had died right there in a fire.
And that it was not I, who was seeking them. I placed myself open to anyone who needed to speak out in order to leave us in peace. I would have loved to talk to my own mother, who had died at a young age but it had been them picking me and she never did. With the huge antenna of the location, I must just have been more accessible than Pia. But why me?
The Baby from Beyond
Only a handful people know that I was born with the feeling of being torn away from a full life and dropped into the body of a baby. Everything I could decide and owned was lost. I found myself depending on others for the smallest things! It angered me that these strangers could decide what I may or may not do, when and where I would sit or wear, things like that. I studied my new body during the first years, because that was what I had to do it with in this life. But now I had to start all over again.
What a terrible step backwards, nowadays it would feel like you played a video game for many hours, came really far and suddenly you had to start all over again, a terrible reset! But instead of hours lost, now it was many, many years before I could be back to where I had been-if ever.
By the time that I started to speak, I did so in my own language. And so convincing that my mother wrote a dictionary down and tried to find out where it all came from. Another country maybe? She could never find any similarities. Those words of mine were picked up by the rest of the family. By the time I went to school, my first teacher wrote a letter that I would never be able to learn proper Dutch any more, it was too late. Which from that moment onwards became the only language in our house. And mine became forgotten history.
It may be rare, but I am certainly not the only one, born like that. I resented my position so much that I became very ill as a baby, and again when I was around ten. Both times I could have died from heavy pneumonia, and we were told that the third time would certainly be fatal.
At first I tried to keep both worlds, and estimated I would be fully able five years after being born. Which I changed later into seven, because I was not quite there yet, 1959 instead 1957. I knew so much about the other place then, but I found out that I would have to lose that previous knowledge in order to fit into this new life. When I was asleep, I was totally aware of the fact and when a dream scared me, I would just order my body to move, so I would wake up. But these two worlds don't communicate well together. All I ended up remembering was very few bits and pieces, and that I would die young.
Writing this, I will be seventy in six months. And I think I understand my premonitions better. Because I feel very young, maybe younger than thirty years ago. I love playing games, buying and selling things. No matter if I die now or in ten years, I will feel that I died young.
Another idea came to me recently, that I started over from THIS life, instead of a past life. That it all goes full circle.
It could explain why I may have been more easy to reach, because there was still a tiny bit left in me, from that other universe. I just hope that it will not happen again, that one day I wake up as helpless and useless baby. Imagine, those dark days seven years after the second world war. I could not bare it.
We must take care when watching documentaries on the subject of near-death experiences. To be more exact, about people that actually were dead and returned. There is a lot of manipulating and false testimonies around, as this is a popular subject.
Just one or two decades ago we were sure that no pulse meant no life was possible. But science has placed the bar much higher, they are now able to place patients in such state, being clinically dead, no heartbeat, and bring them back to life again. During such operation, the subject would not be able to experience anything at all, should not even be able to dream.
Then came this patient Pam Reynolds in 1991, who after being brought back to life could tell exactly what had happened to her body. Who did what, who said this, every tiny detail! She:"made several observations during the procedure which later medical personnel reported to be accurate". This should not be possible.
Another well documented case showed Stephanie Arnold having very clear premonitions of her own death. She talked to her gynaecologist Julie Levitt about it because these visions were so clear. She gave Stephanie medication to relax, not to worry so much. Nobody believed her, not even her own husband.
But at the moment that she had predicted, Stephanie "suffered from a rare and often fatal condition called an amniotic fluid embolism". She was dead for thirty seven seconds. Not only that, but during the period that she was dead, she could see her husband taking a train to come to the hospital as well as record what took place in the room. She was brought back to life and gave a complete report to the bewildered doctor. None of this can be explained with our current knowledge.
Levitt had been there all the time and confirmed every aspect of this event.
Neuropsychologist Peter Fenwick has been studying near death experiences for forty years and is still seeking all the answers. As our medical knowledge progresses, maybe one day we will know more.
For now these cases fit as a glove with my own experiences. Overseeing yourself, passing by walls and ceilings and being greeted by relatives or even complete strangers when you die.
Meanwhile Christine kept on asking if something strange had happened, but we gave her no indication. By then we feared that if it was known that the building was haunted, we would never be able to sell it again.
Going, Going, Gone!
We had been so terribly tested and tried, our hard-earned money flying in all directions, deprived of sleep and peace of mind, desperate to find a way out of this disaster.
We decided to put the building for sale and cut our losses, but more important, come away from here with our health, our life intact.
Once we had decided to sell, regardless of loss of invested funds, we were met by a series of peculiar persons. It was like the circus came to town. The twelve hundred square meter building with apartments, hotel rooms, sauna and main house was outside the financial reach of most.
One man showed up and his decision was quick, he would buy the building.
"Yes but it will not be so easy to get finances, mind you!" I warned.
He was around sixty years old, wore a beard and somewhat excentric clothing. That way, he could pass for a strange kind of person, of which you could wonder if he had anything to spare or was filthy rich.
Both seemed possible.
He smiled: "I'm a bank-man, all my life. Leave it to me!" He sounded so sure that we handed him everything he needed to close the deal.
This Brian came around sometimes and brought his girlfriend to see what he was buying. She was given the grand tour and seemed impressed. But time passed and nothing happened.
On one occasion he asked if I could do something for him.
"Sure, if we can..."
"Okay, this is the case. The bank is willing, surely, but they would want me to put up more finances too. And I have invested quite a lot in stupid things that I don't want or need. You are a businessman, can you help me to sell them?"
A bit surprised, I agreed, expecting lots of gold jewellery and expensive paintings.
That weekend he showed up with a minor load of, I have no other words; worthless crap, that we would throw away. That was Brian.
Then came the family Rex, young couple, mother with infants hanging from all limbs plus some loose ones following them. I lost count. They would buy!
"But you will need a significant amount of cash, you know!"
That was no hurdle for them. They needed more details than we had available. So one day, with our permission, they went through our property creating a very long list of valuables. TV's in all rooms and apartments, pots, pans everything brand new, kitchen equipment, no expenses spared, they were busy all day and their kids were everywhere, always one on each of her arms and legs.
Pia smiled: "They're counting forks and spoons now!"
And yes, on the floor in the restaurant kitchen sat the woman counting spoons while her husband made notes on a large note block.
We would not have given them so much attention if their name had not been Rex, which gave Pia the impression that they may well have been relatives of the queen. However, I suddenly thought that this farce had gone far enough and when she was finished with the restaurant spoons I said:
"Listen, you are doing all this trouble, but you do realise that you need to have quite a bit of money in order to get the loan, right?" It was hard to believe any bank would want to get into a venture with a couple who had their hands overfull with kids.
She nodded: "We have money."
"I believe that, but you need several hundreds of thousands in cash."
One brad was on the run, and she came back with it, face surprised: "That much? You're sure?"
As it turned out, they had just about one percent of the buying price.
Next came the wine importers. The place was perfect for them but we did not waste too much time. They made their highest offer and could not raise more money. It was over thirty percent below the asking price. Then a group of police officers. Their union had several of these small hotels all over Denmark and it would have made sense for them to buy. Officers could use it at lower rate so there would be a sure income. But they were around twelve investors who could not agree on what day it was, let alone what price would be fair. They finally came with an offer with so many If's and But's that I would not even consider it.
We went to Norway for a short week on ski's and on the way back Pia received a phone call from a man who wanted to meet us as soon as possible, if the building was still for sale? Jim owned a recording studio and was stepfather for a young black boy. We showed him the property and went to see his place too. It did not seem that he had any money and he came with rental suggestions that would not help us. Renters can leave, and we would still own it and have to keep it up. Lots of talk, which in the end amounted to nothing.
So here we were faced with a steady stream of buyers and the years came and went. We used different brokers, one insisted that we needed to pay them to put their own sign up, ridiculous. Not a single reaction from their clients. Meanwhile Pia and I decided to stay open for parties and without any personnel, we could finally make some profit. These were good evenings, Pia serving and myself in the kitchen, plus the dishwasher to help out when needed. Now we should make a profit. Or did we?
One winter a couple wanted to celebrate their wedding anniversary and hired all the rooms, apartments and ordered a nice dinner. So after our experiences, we demanded that electric costs were not included. This way we found out that starting the hotel boiler, floor heating of the restaurant and the kitchen up for four days cost as much in electricity as a complete party at the prices we were selling for! It was a most shocking discovery.
So we kept on hoping that one day, a buyer would show his face.
"Not one." I said: "We need two." I suddenly had the impulse that we could never sell if there was just one person interested. Yet the idea that we would find two seemed utter fantasy, after the experiences we had.
After trying every broker, we returned to the one we had bought from. They were far from sure they wanted to handle it, because it was more a company, not a house. The promise of a nice commission, more than our arguments, won them over.
After some months with zero viewings, there was a couple that took a quick look and did not seem very interested. Yet after some time, and without second viewing, they wanted to sign a contract. The issue was as big as the property, it was subject to their own house being sold first.
The broker was positive, it was a good house with lots of interest. We signed - nothing to lose - which meant that these people had now right of first refusal. If we had someone else, they would have the right to decide then if they wanted to take the risk of owning two properties until the other sold.
Time passed and we were getting wary of waiting. By then both of us resembled the ghosts that bugged us for five years and I actually feared that we would not survive another period. I decided our health had suffered enough so I spoke to the broker and we decided to offer a discount if they signed without any escape clause. This offer was barely accepted when a second buyer showed up!
These newcomers were eager to buy for our asking price and were certain they could get the bank behind this venture because the place was perfect for them, they sold and installed wooden floors.
"Fine, we have a buyer already, but I will give you one day to get the mortgage. Otherwise I must sell to them!"
That day passed and in the evening I received an optimistic phone call from them. Everything looked really good, the bank was very positive.
With my business experience I spotted a danger, if we made the wrong decision we could lose both buyers.
"So let's cut through the chase, did you or didn't you get their yes, so you can sign without escape clause for financing?"
"No not quite yet, but that will come soon..."
"So if I ask if you have the finances, yes or no, then the answer at this time is no?" He had to admit that he had failed to get his finances at this point.
Should we give him more time? Pia and I were drained. I had a fever already and called buyer number one:
"I want you to know that we have another buyer, willing to pay full price."
Pause, while I was waiting for him to raise his offer. Because he did not react, I made it short:
"But if you sign now without any conditions, we will sell to you anyway."
The difference was a large amount of money I really wanted to lose. Imagine pissing off this buyer and the other one could not buy? Unthinkable. But the place was not ready with us just yet.
The moment Pia was on the phone with the broker, finalizing the details of the sale, the building came with a last attack.
Pia, from the kitchen:
"Come here! I can hear water running!"
I could not handle it any more, sick with fever, tired beyond believe, the suggestion that something else was wrong was more than I could take in.
"Oh don't start, it is probably nothing!"
But of course she was right and sure enough, at the entrance port water was rising, over flooding the stones. I would never have noticed that sound, but Pia sure did.
We called the contractor and he told us that he could not dig there in the spot because of the overhang of the port. I had to do it myself, by hand.
So there I went, with a dripping fever, digging a hole filled with water. I reached the pipe about a meter deep and the man had closed off the water and cut the metal main water pipe to replace it with a plastic one. He emerged out of the hole with the removed piece:
"Take a look at this!"
Where the water came out, that spot in the thick iron was dented. "What is that?"
"That was done with a hammer and a big nail. Someone sabotaged the water pipe!"
"Impossible, they would have to dig that hole to do so."
The young man shook his head:
"No, it was done when they laid the pipes, so many years ago. Someone who did not like the owner, I suppose. I have never seen anything like this before! That person knew that it would burst one fine day. And that day was yesterday!"
The Great Escape
One fine morning, the broker called to say that the money had arrived. A bit late, but it would be on our account in a day or two. This finalised the sale.
We were told later by friends that our skin was ash coloured, bags under our eyes. They feared for our health. Personally I am sure the place would have done us in, had we stayed much longer. It was a deathtrap.
That day it snowed, much like when we arrived here and I was loading the last items into the truck we had rented. We left everything that was not personal property behind. And I mean everything!
In the movie, I did not see Steve McQueen carry stuff on his motorbike trying to outrun the Nazi's. It was the same here and the buyers must have been pleasantly surprised when they arrived.
TV's and minibars in each of the hotel rooms, apartments fully equipped, the complete professional kitchen inclusive that famous Rational steam oven, our complete collection of large expensive plates, freezers and wine cooler, all the knives, forks and not to forget spoons (that the Rexes had counted so well). The antique lion feet bathtub that we never had placed.
We left a small fortune behind but brought all that mattered, ourselves and Milly the cat.
Standing on the loading platform of the truck, I somehow managed to lose my grip and fell backwards.
I had been wearing a heavy coat and landed on the snow, and was beyond feeling pain anyway. I just jumped up and resumed the work.
Arriving at our trusted beach house, we were too happy to speak much and must have slept most of the days for weeks. Slowly we recovered but a minor part of our health would always remain in the farm. There is only so much that a person has to give in a lifetime. We could never dig so deep into our reserves again.
Finally Pia decided to return to her original work, in the pharmacy. That must have been hard because so much had changed, but she did it. It was a pleasure to see her at work, she was super professional.
I wrote NegoLogic, my book on negotiations which was received really well among the very limited group of readers, mostly professors of universities and business schools. For a while it looked like I had a future, teaching, training and giving lectures. But the training circuit that had been so booming before my arrival, had dried up after the finance crisis and I started working for a catering company instead. First just bookkeeping, but soon I started negotiating for them and became fully responsible for the finances of the whole company.
After living north of Copenhagen for a few years for Pia's work, we rebuild our beach house and ended up living there permanently.
To this day, we cannot run into anyone who has been at the haunted location that does not share some of our experiences. And in hindsight, we are still proud of what we accomplished, changing the building into a genuine hotel restaurant that ran well if you look past the financial part. Which I, as businessman cannot manage.
Seeing people divorce over small things these days, I can only say that this ordeal has made us so much stronger as a couple. Neither of us ran away, we did not panic because what good would that do? We tried ignoring but when that was no longer possible, we faced the problems head-on.
But we lost the power to think straight, really. Of course we could have moved back in one of the apartments. Cut our costs and wait. Twenty years later the building must be worth so much more. Instead of serving expensive food, we should have made the switch to a pancake house, where the cost of ingredients are neglectable. It is easy to accept all that hindsight. Because at the time, we just had to get away.
We have been worried about the new owners.
It seems that they had tried to sell, but were unable to. So they still live there and rent out the building for parties, which seems to go very well. As far as the ghosts are concerned, they were less noticeable than when we moved in, certainly.
But they were still there. And I guess, always will be.
The true story of a couple who fall in love with an old farm house and dream of turning it into a B&B. They get much more than they have bargained for when they, after rebuilding for almost one year, move into the haunted main house.
It seems that the property itself rejects these owners, as one disaster follows the other. They manage to open their hotel and restaurant only find out that despite being a great success, the bottom line is scarlet red.
Attempting to sell the property while being worn down by encounters with the dead seems a impossible task. Will they manage to leave the place with their health and sanity intact?