Dominating the Ramsgate skyline, the Granville Hotel is now a (mostly) restored and beautifully unusual landmark. To those of us who grew up in the 80s, however, it will always be that half collapsed old ruin with Dracula’s Castle rising out of the end, sticking one MASSIVE middle finger up at the sky. I’m serious, back in the 80s, the rumours were strong: there were things in the basement at the Granville that would snatch you out of the dark and wicked old ladies in the tower offering you tea and biscuits before hitting you over the head with a twenty pound lump-hammer.
‘My dad was once chased around the Granville for TWO HOURS.’
I’d heard the rumours: I actually had an auntie who lived there. Well, I say auntie but in the 80s your auntie was basically whoever your nan last went drinking with. I had an uncle Len who helped my nan out of a taxi once and apparently that was the only time they’d ever met.
My first ever conversation about the Granville Hotel was with an Irish uncle called McVey. He wore a trilby hat and was missing an ear but this also wasn’t unusual in the Ramsgate pub circuit; there were so many men with missing bits that I always believed there must be an entire guy wandering around made out of the stuff other blokes had lost. Ramsgate literally RAN on rumours.
For example, I was in the Horse and Groom pub the night Rudy took a dart to the eye (there were so many wild rumours about this at the time but I was genuinely there and it wasn’t actually a fight at all: it was a drunk guy who didn’t realise his mate was still retrieving his own darts from the board when he went for a treble twenty.
In any case, the Granville was supposed to be haunted and the school playgrounds were always buzzing with talk.
‘I saw two guys kill each other on the top turret and they BOTH fell into all that rubble.’
‘There’s something massive beneath the ruins. It wanders through Ramsgate tunnels at night but during the day it sleep under all that crap at the side of the Granville.’
There was ONE boy who everyone listened to, however, a boy who didn’t really tell stories or spread rumours all that often.
‘My dad worked at the Granville once, as a caretaker. He’s okay now and doesn’t drink nearly as much as he did when he first left the job….but he says he’s never going back.’
I remember the silence more than anything else, the silence where everyone was staring at him and trying to figure out whether we were about to hear a load of old rubbish or something genuine; genuine stories in the 80s were like rocking horse sh*t: rare.
‘His dad was the caretaker there,’ my best mate whispered in my ear, ‘and his dad is really hard. You remember the guy who smashed up those five blokes outside the Halifax?’
‘That was him.’
We listened as the story unfolded. His dad had, it turned out, been employed as an assistant caretaker on a purely temporary basis while the main caretaker – who was coming up to retirement age – took him through the routines of the job. A lot of these involved the basement, a sprawling metropolis of corridors, unexpected turns and sudden t-junctions of the sort that had caused so much trouble for all those Dungeons & Dragons players who got lost in the steam tunnels underneath Michigan State University in the 70s.
It was fair to say that this guy’s dad hadn’t liked the job right off the bat. He’d been fine when he was with the other caretaker (a very strange character who regularly wore a sailors cap and seemed to give people a different name every time he introduced himself) but when he was alone, the activity had proved to be fairy constant.
‘My dad said it started with a weird feeling that he was being followed; he’d turn around and there was nobody there. After that, the noises – crying coming from some of the flats, laughter from others: that’s fine all the while you’re outside the flats and people are actually making those noises but when it all gets filtered through the drains and stuff, it sorts of melts into this wailing sound that doesn’t actually stop.’
Even now, I can still feel the shudder I felt then.
‘Then something came at him one afternoon in the basement…and I mean literally came at him in the middle of the afternoon. He said the whole place went freezing cold and then BANG. I don’t care whether you believe me or not; it happened. Right out of the dark. Half man, half woman, crazy tall and gangly, really long claws, pyjamas, needle teeth, a scream that-‘
‘Pyjamas, you said?’
The boy who’d called him out was named Mark. Always an inquisitive kid, he was frowning a lot.
‘I’ve never heard of demons wearing pyjamas.’
‘It wasn’t a demon, dickhead; it was just a THING. You know, like a ghost or-‘
‘Ghosts don’t wear pyjamas either, do they?’
‘Of course they do! LOADS of people die in their pyjamas and after that they’re just stuck in them. That’s why they’re all so p*ssed off.’
‘What if it was just an old man?’
‘In the basement? In just his pyjamas?’
‘You said it was cold. Maybe he came down to ask your dad why the heating wasn’t on?’
‘Why ask my DAD?’
‘You said he was the caretaker!’
‘LISTEN, you moron. I just told you this thing was ugly and had claws and teeth; right? It was like a giant but with – like – tiny arms and legs.’
Mark squinted a bit. ‘So half giant, half dwarf?’
‘That’s a normal bloke, then.’
‘With claws and teeth!?!?’
‘He’d probably let himself go. My granddad is in such a state that-‘
Mark was shoved onto the ground and the group broke up. Everyone sort of wandered into their own little friend huddle.
My best mate shook his head, sadly. ‘You know what this means, Davey boy?’
Yeah, I thought. It means there’s a really old giant midget with teeth and claws down in the basement at the Granville.
For some reason, I’ve always wanted to know what the pyjamas looked like.