The Hangman’s Mirror
A ghost story
The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own, I didn’t know who it was but they looked as miserable as me. I don’t even know why I chose to look into it, it was there and hell, I wasn’t ever going to see my own face again. There’s no point in offering me any pity as that is something I don’t deserve, my trip past the mirror was my own doing and I owned it, even as the hangman placed the noose around my neck I didn’t flinch, apologise or beg for mercy. I killed them, i killed them all and let me be very clear I enjoyed every last minute of it. No. This was where my life was always heading and it was in its own way, beautiful. But that mirror i wish that i had never stopped. That I had never looked into it because I am there, now and forever.
I was the last to die at that prison, by the hand of that hangman, I suppose that probably added to my infamy but it was my association to that damn mirror that made it into the books. What made it worse is that those books were turned into half rate tv programmes on channels nobody watches.
Perhaps I should tell you a little about Brian Littler. He was the UK’s final hangman, a minor celebrity, he made an appearance on What’s My Line with Eamonn Andrews. He was a stickler for detail, he was the most punctual and precise individual you could ever meet. He was professional, courteous and dull. Oh, and had killed more people than any of us murderers had. Rumour had it his number was in the hundreds. Not a Pierrepoint but by no means a lightweight at dispatching the worst society had to offer.
He had a very rigid routine on ‘business days’. He was professional and extremely dispassionate about what he did. He was a stickler for details but for our purposes there is only one thing that we need to be aware of and that is why there was a mirror on the wall outside his office on the corridor the condemned individuals would walk down. It seems that it was all the product of a simple miscommunication. He asked for a mirror to help him ensure his appearance was up to his own exacting standards before each, as he called them, ‘transaction’. He told the prison caretaker he would like a mirror on the wall opposite his office door. The caretaker chose the wall outside rather than inside and the rest is history. He left it there and each time he walked out to fulfil his duties he straightened his tie in the mirror and went on his way. Thing is, the condemned saw it too as they walked down and that was the last time they’d see themselves so in most cases the temptation, well it was just too great.
After my ‘transaction’ the whole wing was shut down. The office was empty and the mirror just stayed there unused for about five years. Then that section of the prison was repurposed for more inmates and the mirror was removed and disappeared without anyone caring one bit.
It resurfaced in the mid 70s, and some half found its way into a bric-a-brac shop in East Yorkshire. From there, it was bought by the owner of a number of student flats and was placed in one of them. This was as an uninteresting as as you can imagine, due to the fact, it was simply a mirror on the wall of a grimy student flat. Then in November 1973, things changed. Without fanfare or even mention on the local news, television programme, Bryan Littler passed away of natural causes. The man who had corrected his tie in that mirror over 200 times had it corrected once more and then that was it and from this point on that mirror was no longer just a mirror.
The following December Louise Price, a second year Geography undergraduate was found in a lay-by near Huddersfield. She had ligature marks around her throat. It was assumed she had been hitch hiking to visit her boyfriend in Liverpool and had met with her killer somewhere along the M62. This could not have been further from the truth. Two months later Pete Cooper, her housemate was found on the beach at Great Yarmouth, again strangled though this time it was attributed to suicide brought on by grief. Again completely wrongly.
The truth was far harder to explain, in fact there is no explanation. How do you explain that someone could be brushing their hair in front of a mirror one minute and next minute floating face down in a rock pool 200 miles away. It makes no sense, why would it start when Littler died, he was the good one, the one who dispensed the justice.
The house stood empty for a year, not for any particular reason, it was just the way it was. The mirror went unused in the dusty abandoned home but as a new academic year ticked around the deposits were paid and a new group of students took over the tenancy of the house. They were young, optimistic and absolutely oblivious to the monstrous item innocently hanging at the bottom of the stairs.
There were three young men in the house, Paul, Andrew and Liam. Nice boys, whole lives in front of them, but with that mirror in the house it was only a matter of time. It was Andrew who succumbed first, he just wanted to check his hair, Paul was with him but didn’t see that strange hue in the background and what appeared to be a tie round his neck. Paul left to catch the bus and expected to see Andrew follow him up the road, he expected to see him sitting in the lounge watching the television when he got home. But he wasn’t there. He was in a storm drain in Exeter, he was there quite some time before he was found.
Liam was the next to make the mistake of looking at his reflection. He was double checking his hair before going out on a date. Again Paul was there too and this time he was close enough to notice the strange aging of Liam’s face that took place. Had he been a connoisseur of the hangmen of the UK’s penal system in the middle part of the 20th century he may have noticed the similarity between Liam’s reflection and Brian Littler. He also had the strangest sensation that the hands in the reflection were out of place and momentarily seemed to be reaching towards Liam. Paul turned away and headed up the stairs to his own room, when he turned and looked back down the stairs Liam was gone, Paul assumed he had left for his date and paid no attention to the mirror rattling back into place.
Liam didn’t come home that night, this wasn’t something that would initially draw concerns from Paul, it was the nightmares he began to have that did that. It recurred, three nights in a row. He saw Andrew and Liam standing expressionless the other side of a doorway, both had ropes around their necks. Behind them was a man Paul didn’t recognise. He was dressed in a smart suit that looked very dated. He was smiling in a very unfriendly way, if that is at all possible and I’m sure you have already worked out that the man was Mr Littler, though this was of course, unknown to Paul. What Paul did notice was that the doorframe was very familiar, but it didn’t look like a normal door frame it was too ornate. Alex woke in a sweat with a feel of panic and fear and on the third morning as he walked to leave the house he noticed the frame of the mirror. He knew where he had seen the doorway before.
The nervous student walked along the corridor towards the mirror to inspect it further, as he got closer, from the angle he was stood at, he realised that the reflection was not of the hallway. There was something about the colouring in the light in that small corner of the mirror that he could see that reminded him of the dream. He instinctively grabbed the mirror and took it off the wall without looking in it. He took it into the kitchen, wrapped it in a tea towel and left it on the table.
Breathing heavily Paul picked up his bag and disappeared out of the front door and off to the university for his day. He couldn't decide whether he was relieved, or even more terrified that when he returned the mirror had gone. When the strangled body of Liam was discovered in undergrowth near Loch Ness, Paul made a decision to return home for the rest of the term and not to go back into the house. By that time, the house was no longer a danger to him as the mirror was long gone.
Nobody is entirely sure where that mirror is today. I am, as are my friends and colleagues who live within it. We are sitting on a bench in the back of a bric-a-brac shop in a small Cotswolds Village. We have travelled extensively round the country and sat on many walls. Which one of us, you may ask, is the reason for the deaths?
Well it’s none of us. It would seem that Mr Littler was by far the best of us. Because, after death, his tally continues to grow. What does the frame look like? Now that would be telling.
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