A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900


What with the rush of life yesterday, Mrs Daffodil missed the Kentucky Derby and all of its glorious hats.  So naturally, she thought her readers might enjoy a ghost story on the subject of hats.


Returns to Earth and Leaves Order at Millinery Shop.

Strange Customer Shows Rare Taste in Selection of a Bonnet Which Has, Thus Far, Not Been Called For.

That spirits do return from the grave and appear to mortals is a proposition that for ages has had its believers and disbelievers, but in the little town of Dublin, Ind., there is now only one opinion, and that is that spirits do walk the earth at times in mortal form. The reason for this pronounced belief at Dublin is an occurrence which has recently taken place there and which is so well vouched for that there is not a skeptic in the town.

Dublin, says the Chicago Inter Ocean, is occupied by a well-to-do and intelligent class of people, shrewd, hard-headed specimens of the Hosier type, a class that is not led away by its emotions, and is intensely practical. Among the residents is a Mrs. Sallie Smith, who has lived there many years and who conducts a millinery store.

One day last May a nice-looking old lady came into Mrs. Smith’s store. She appeared to be about 70 years old, and was tastefully dressed in black. She introduced herself to Mrs. Smith as Mrs. M___, and said that she had only recently come to Dublin and wanted to order a bonnet. The selection  of this and the determination of its trimmings proved to be a long operation, for old ladies are quite as fastidious as the young ones when it comes to the selection of a bonnet.

During the work of choosing the bonnet Mrs. Smith and her customer got quite well acquainted. In the course of their conversation Mrs. Smith learned that her customer was the sister of Mrs. Rhoda Scotton, of Brownsville, Ind., who is well known to her, and that Mrs. M___ was well acquainted with many of Mrs. Smith’s people. When the customer left she said she felt as if she had always known Mrs. Smith because she knew her family so well and had heard her sister, Mrs. Scotton, speak of Mrs. Smith so often. The last seen of Mrs. M___ she was standing underneath a shade tree in front of Mrs. Smith’s house.

A few weeks later another lady called at Mrs. Smith’s store to order a bonnet. She, too, gave her name as Mrs. M___, and said that she had only recently moved to Dublin. There was a decided resemblance between the former customer of that name and the last, and yet the last had something about her that puzzled Mrs. Smith and made her doubtful of the identity. Finally Mrs. Smith became satisfied that it was the same woman, and remarked that the bonnet ordered some weeks preceding was ready for her.

The customer was greatly surprised.

“You must be mistaken,” she remarked to Mrs. Smith. “I am a stranger in the town and have not only not ordered any bonnet of you, but have never been in your place before.”

Mrs. Smith looked at the woman and was puzzled. She looked like her former customer, and yet there was a something about her that did not appear the same. Mrs. Smith finally became convinced that she had made a mistake, and this led her to tell her customer all about her previous visitor. Mrs. M___ appeared greatly interested in the narrative and asked Mrs. Smith to describe her former customer. When the latter had done so Mrs. M___ said:

“You have described by dead sister. She was older than I, and we married twin brothers.”

Mrs. M___ then told Mrs. Smith that her sister had died at Indianapolis in September, 1900, and was buried in the cemetery in the west part of Dublin. Mrs. M___ is 68 years old, while her sister, had she lived, would have been 70. She is not a spiritualist, but is satisfied that it was her sister that called on Mrs. Smith and ordered a hat. The bonnet that was ordered, a small black Tuscan straw, prettily trimmed with black chiffon, is still in Mrs. Smith’s possession, and she does not expect it to be called for.

“And I’m not going to sell it, either,” she says. “It’s the first bonnet I ever had ordered by a spirit, or that I ever heard of one ordering, and I’m going to keep it just as a specimen of the taste of spirits in millinery.”

Daily Herald [Biloxi, MS] 14 September 1901: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil was skeptical of this interesting, but rather predictable tale. However, in consulting the census reports for 1880 we find Rhoda Scotton, age 50, at Brownsville, Indiana keeping house with her 17-year old son.  One supposes that the author might have inserted the name of Mrs. Scotton to add a touch of verisimilitude to the thing, although one doubts that readers in Biloxi, Mississippi or any of the other newpapers where this story appeared would know, or care, about that detail.  Alternatively–and certainly more unnervingly–one might believe that the story is  true.

This story appears in The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past by Chris Woodyard, also available for Kindle.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



13 thoughts on “A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

      1. ghostbusterbev

        Occasionally I share a few ghost stories on my blog…would it be okay to share some of the details from A Ghost Orders a Hat…with a link to your blog plus I would also mention the book coming out?


    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      Such a lovely picture of small-town life: a millinery shop or two in every community. Also of fashion: helping to design your own hats. And of social attitudes: elderly ladies are just as careful about the details of their hats as young ladies. Thank you for visiting Mrs Daffodil!


  1. ghostbusterbev

    Hi Chris…I posted a condensed version of your ghost story in today’s post ‘The Man With the Hook and Other Ghostly Tales’ and provided a link to your blog. Thanks for allowing me to share this story!


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