From A Beggar's Wallet by Archibald Stodart Walker, 1905
An Extraordinary Experience at Trincomalee [Ceylon]
Many strange tales come from the East — the ever mysterious East—but I do not remember to have heard many stranger than the one that I am about to relate. It was told to me by a relation of my own—Stuart C. Munro, the laird of Teaninich, Ross-shire, N.B. . . . I had from the lips of Mr Munro himself. . .
In the course of business connected with this estate he found it necessary at one time to visit the town of Trincomalee, situated also on the east side of the island and considerably farther north than where he resided. He arranged to travel to Trincomalee with a companion of the name of Treahy, since dead, and he took with him one or two native servants, including a cook, and a tent and campbed.
On arriving at Trincomalee, Treahy suggested that, instead of going to the rest-house, they should occupy an empty bungalow which he had acquired there. As they had beds, servants, and all the necessaries for camping out, Munro thought it a better plan than going to the expense and discomfort likely to be met with at the rest-house. So to the empty bungalow they went.
It was veritably empty, their bedding brought in and placed where they wished it. The rooms they chose to sleep in were two adjoining one another. They were built one behind the other. The front room had but one entrance, and that was through a door that opened on to a verandah. The back room had also but one entrance, and that was by a door that could only be approached by going through the front room. Munro chose the first and Treahy the second, and their beds were placed respectively in the centre of each.
I cannot remember at exactly what hour I was told that they retired to rest, but I believe that it was a reasonably early one, as there was very important business on hand to attend to on the following day, and the distractions of Trincomalee at that time could not have been either very absorbing or of a late order.
Munro had been asleep for an hour or two when suddenly he was awakened by hearing an exceedingly curious noise proceeding from the direction of Treahy's room. It was as if a branch was being dragged along the floor. He sat up in bed and listened, and as he listened the sound seemed to enter his room through the doorway, and to proceed round it close by the walls. After wondering for a little time what it could be, it occurred to him that it might possibly be a large snake, and, if it were such, that he had better see about getting rid of it; so he felt quietly for his matchbox, and struck a light. Instantly the sound ceased, and nothing could he see but the bare floor, walls, and roof of his furniture less apartment.
The match went out, when immediately the low, trailing sound began again, going round and round the room as before. Greatly puzzled, he lit another match. Again the sound ceased, and nothing strange of any sort could he see. When this second match went out the sound began again at once. He lit several more matches, but, finding that the same thing happened each time that he did so, he gave up wasting his lights, and lay down in bed to discover, if possible, what the Thing would do if left to itself in the dark. A plucky resolution, I think most people would say! But was there ever a Munro who knew fear? Nothing further happened that night.
The Thing, after trailing itself once or twice more round the room, departed through the doorway on to the verandah, and, apparently, away. Munro then rose from his bed and went in to see how his friend was getting on and if he had been disturbed. He found him sitting up in bed in a state of considerable alarm. He had had exactly the same experience, but not being a man of iron nerve it had frightened him horribly. He could sleep no more that night. Munro, however, returned to bed and slept soundly and undisturbed until the morning.
The next day was a very busy one for both of them, and although doubtless the occurrence of the night before was occasionally in their minds they had no leisure to give it more than a passing thought, nor to make any enquiries regarding it, and when bedtime came that night sheer weariness so obliterated poor Treahy's dread of the supernatural that he was glad to seek repose anywhere . . . he again occupied the room with the verandah. Sleep soon closed his eyes, and he slumbered peacefully for some hours; but a little while before the dawn came he was awakened by a sound similar to the one that had disturbed him the night before—the sound as of a branch being dragged round the room in which Treahy was, and immediately afterwards entering his own.
He at first lay still, listening to it trailing round the walls, and when he felt sure that it came right opposite to his gaze he struck a light. The sound stopped and he beheld nothing. The match burned itself out, when instantly the sound recommenced. Several times he lit matches, but always the same thing happened. The Thing that caused the sound was evidently not to be seen, and was only to be heard in the darkness; therefore Munro argued to himself it must be aware of the light.
Could it be a trick played by someone watching from outside, he wondered. As the room was in total darkness it was easy for him to test that, so, fearing nothing, he sprang out of bed and went after the sound, bare-footed and clad only in his pajamas. But the Thing was not to be caught. He found that if he went fast it went faster ; if he turned to meet it, it turned too and fled in the other direction. Then he tried to jump on it, it seemed so very close to him; but he told me that as he sprang it sprang too, for he could plainly hear the soft swish it made as it landed again on the bare floor in front of him. Nohow could he come up with it, and at length, weary of the attempts that he had made, he returned to bed. . .but just as the dawn broke it passed out, apparently right through a closed door, on to the verandah. With a bound Munro was after it. He pulled open the door, he could still hear the swish of the Thing as it passed down the verandah in front of him, but nothing could he see, although it was light enough now to see quite small objects beyond the line that the Thing was taking. At the end of the verandah the sound of this trailing Thing ceased. It was gone for good or for evil; but it did not disturb him again, and curiously enough, upon this second night in the bungalow, it had not disturbed Treahy, who had slept peacefully.
They never discovered what it was. But they afterwards learnt from the natives that the place was well known to be haunted, as they said, by a man who had hanged himself in a tree that overshadowed the verandah. They said that the devils dragged him round and round the rooms at night .. .