Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ruth Chatterton

Most people wouldn't know the name these days. Ruth Chatterton was a stage and screen actress (among other films, she made the classic Dodsworth with Walter Huston and a young David Niven in 1933). She was also fond of flying; she flew the Atlantic solo many times, and was acquainted with the ill-fated Amelia Earhart.

Chatterton also wrote a fascinating story called "Ladies' Man", reprinted in an Alfred Hitchcock compilation titled Stories for Late at Night. The story - and a very well-written one, too - details her experiences at her good friend Noel Coward's country home, Goldenhurst.

It seems that, due to the house being filled with guests, Ruth was allocated a bedroom on the ground floor, next to Mrs. Coward's sitting room. There were no other guests near her; all the other bedrooms were on the upper floor. Late that night, a voice called out, "Ruth!" Chatterton instinctively called out, "Come in!"

The door swung open... and she saw only the blackness of the hall beyond. She heard, though, the sound of footsteps pacing through the room. In sheer terror, Chatterton closed her eyes, only opening them hours later, after sunrise, having fallen asleep despite her fear.

With the sunlight and activity the following day, Chatterton found it easy to dismiss the terror of the night before. She even convinced herself that it had been some sort of practical joke on her - but a conversation with Coward and another woman soon made her realize that the ghost was all too real, and that he had been seen by other women in the same room. While Chatterton heard a voice and footsteps, the other women had actually seen him, and had been terrified beyond belief.

Despite Coward's tales of the other women's experiences, Chatterton still tried to deny his story, until their mutual acquaintance broke in. The woman (given a false name in the story) told Chatterton that the room was haunted, and that she knew it... because she had been one of the previous guests in that room.