The Silver Cigarette Case
The story I am about to relate, is perhaps one of the most popular ghost stories in Malta. It is set in an opulent seventeenth century old house in St. Ursula Street in Malta’s capital city- Valletta. The last persons to have entered this magnificent house were two English naval officers.
One night, two English naval officers were approached by a mysteriously clad lady in black, at Citygate (in those days it was called Porta Reale). When the lady spoke, the officers immediately noticed that she was a cultured woman. The lady informed them, that she had locked herself out and needed their help. Why the lady had requested the help of two British officers and not asked any Maltese man in the vicinity to help her, is still unknown to this day. Strangely enough, she also refrained from going to the police station which was not far away…
The two naval officers decided to help this lady and started to follow her to her house in St. Ursula Street. During their walk, the lady did not utter a word. When they reached the house in question, it was not difficult for the men to enter the house. One of the officers got to the window with the help of his friend, and with a pocket-knife, spring the latch of the window shutters. As soon as the officer got into the room, he found candles to light. In the light of five candles in a silver candelabra, he had his first surprise, as he found himself in a beautifully decorated room. He immediately realized that he had entered the house of the well-to-do. And what a spectacle it was! On descending a beautifully marbled staircase to the ground floor, he could see a display of wealth in the paintings, curtains and other rich ornaments which decorated the walls.
He then reached for the door and could see the key on the inside. This should have set him thinking, but at that moment, he did not realize any peculiarity in the situation. It is worth noting, that during the seventeenth century, there were no Yale keys or the like, that enabled one to lock a door just by pulling it! The man quickly opened the door and let the lady and his friend inside.
When more lights were put on, the house glittered in splendour. Crystal was everywhere and its owner was a very beautiful lady with a very charming smile. The lady invited them to sit down and have a drink with her. The two men concluded, that their time had not been wasted. They were in great company and enjoyed talking to this intriguing lady. At one point, one of them asked their host if he could have a smoke, and the lady nodded. After having a second drink they decided that it was time to leave for their ship. Whilst they were walking, thoughts started to assail them. How could such a stately home have not any servants? Its top-notch state was impossible to achieve without any assistance! Another question that perplexed them was: How could the lovely lady have locked herself out, when the key was still in place from inside? They also wondered who this lady was. Unfortunately, they had a ton of questions but no answers. Soon enough, one of them decided to have a smoke. It was at that moment, that he realized that he had forgotten his silver cigarette case in the lady’s dining room. They decided to return to the house the following day and retrieve the cigarette case.
The following day, they returned to the house and received their first shock. The stately, beautiful house they had entered the previous evening, was nothing but an abandoned and uninhabited house which was left in a state of dereliction for decades. Was this possible? Did they visit the wrong house? But no. The shutter they had forced open on the previous night was still ajar.
For a moment they stood still, not knowing what to do. Then, one of them started to pull the rusty bellpull that was hanging there by a heavy chain. He pulled and pulled but it was all in vain. They approached a nearby shoemaker’s shop and soon learnt that the house had been uninhabited for quite some time.
Without much thinking, they repeated what they had done the previous night and got into the house. In the absence of candelabra, the officer used his matches to see and be able to walk about the room. What he saw sent shivers down his spine. The house was no longer clean and sparkly, but everywhere was covered in thick layers of centuries- old dust! Could they have dreamt of this episode? Certainly not, as underneath a blanket of dust amidst cobwebs and dirt, lay the silver cigarette case which shimmered in contrast to everything they saw. It was evident, that the night before, they had been entertained by a ghost!