THE GHOST OF STRANDGAP PRIORY AND HOW SEXTON BLAKE LAID IT
by William Shaw Rae
UNION JACK · 1st series · Issue 250 · 4/2/1899 · Amalgamated Press · ½d
Other content: Dan Darrel by Henry T. Johnson
Notes: Upon the death of his uncle, Stanley Strand inherits Strandgap Priory. He's determined to live there but, unfortunately, finds he cannot keep any staff due to the old house being haunted. He commissions Sexton Blake to "lay the ghost." The following day, Blake and We-wee arrive at the ancient mansion, which is atop chalk cliffs, facing the sea. Greeted by Strand, they also meet Ralph Roscar, a country squire who lives nearby and who has befriended their client. That evening, the detective takes a stroll in the grounds and is confronted by the glowing apparition of a ghostly monk. He makes a grab for it but succeeds only in gaining a handful of torn cloth. The spook visits him again during the night, this time invading his bedchamber and warning him to leave the priory. Next morning, Squire Roscar visits again and Blake learns from him that the district has recently been plagued by a spate of burglaries. The following night, Blake sees the ghost again and gives chase. In the darkness, he slips over the edge of the cliff and plunges into the sea. From there, he spots a crumbling staircase cut into the chalk. He climbs it and rests on a wide ledge. Meanwhile, We-wee has discovered a secret panel in the house and passes through it into a passageway. He comes to a spiral staircase, descends, and emerges onto the very same ledge upon which Blake is sitting. The pair re-enter the passage and discover a room in which the costumes and luminous paints used to create the "ghost" are stored. They return to the house where they are met by Roscar, who in the course of conversation declares himself safe from the local burglars as his strongbox is impregnable. The third evening descends, Blake once again walks the grounds, again sees the ghost, and again pursues it. The apparition races into a thicket and emerges from it on a horse. Blake grabs a bicycle and races after it, eventually resorting to his revolver to unseat the fugitive. The pursuit ends when the fleeing man loses himself in an encampment of hop pickers. Next morning, Strand shows the detective valuable jewels, which the detective insists he should place with a bank in London. Strand, though, accepts an offer from Roscar to store the gems in his impregnable strongbox. The very next day, Roscar reports that the box has been broken into and everything in it stolen. That night, Blake instructs Strand and We-wee to hide in the secret passages below the mansion. They do so, and there witness Roscar donning the garments of the ghostly monk. Blake, disguised as a spook, steps out of the shadows and scares Roscar so badly that the squire falls down the spiral staircase and breaks his neck. The detective reveals that Roscar was the burglar and had used the empty priory to store his loot, thus his attempts to frighten Strand away.
Trivia: Blake's fees are "stiff." This was reprinted in PENNY POPULAR issue 66 as THE HAUNTED PRIORY (1914).