A Haunted Coat from a “Misfit Clothier:” 1898

A gentleman's cutaway coat. From morningdressguide.com

A gentleman’s cutaway coat.
From morningdressguide.com

A HAUNTED COAT.

Curious Experience of the Original “Misfit Clothier.” 

Denis Shea, the well-known clothier, died at his residence on Washington Heights. After trying his hand at various occupations, he finally embarked in the misfit clothing business. His place on Broome Street is known all over the country—its unique feature being that most of the goods came from the shops of the fine merchant tailors of New York and other large cities. Of this branch of the business Mr. Shea was the originator, and enjoyed practically a monopoly.

  The notion which led to the establishment of the misfit clothing business originated in Mr. Shea’s brain when he worked in a fashionable tailor shop in Fifth Avenue nearly forty years ago. Clothes that did not fit or were never called for he saw lying around the place or packed away to be sold eventually for a song. The fact that the garments were of the highest grade of material and workmanship and that, nevertheless, they brought smaller prices than ordinary ready-made clothes, struck the young man forcibly. He accumulated a little money, and with this as a basis decided to set up in business.

  Mr. Shea used to tell of a peculiar experience he once had in the matter of a cutaway coat. It had come from a Fifth Avenue shop, along with several other garments that had been refused or left uncalled for, and it was sold to a regular customer, who approved it as an admirable fit. A week after the purchase the customer came to see Mr. Shea.

“There’s something the matter with that coat, Shea.”

“It looked to fit you very nicely,” said the dealer. “What seems to be wrong?”

“Nothing that I can explain. It’s a first-class fit, but it doesn’t feel comfortable. No; I don’t mean that it binds or pinches me anywhere. It isn’t that kind of uncomfortable. It’s a sort of nervous feeling as if I didn’t have any right to the coat. It couldn’t have been a stolen garment, could it, that got in here by mistake?”

“Not possible. Came direct from ____’s.”

“Well, just for the curiosity, I’d like to have you find out for whom it was made, and why it wasn’t accepted. I’m sure there’s something queer about it.”

Having occasion to go to _______’s on the following day, Mr. Shea made inquiries about the coat.

“Oh, that was made for Mr. J_____,” said the tailor. “Killed in the big railroad accident in Buffalo the other day. That’s how you came to get that, and a particularly fine garment it is, too.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Shea, “so it is. A particularly fine coat.”

A week later the purchaser of the coat brought it to the shop.

“Give me any price you like for it,” he said. “I wouldn’t put it on again for $1,000.”

“What’s wrong with it?” asked the dealer.

“Well, Shea, you can laugh at me if you want to, but that coat’s haunted.”

“Did you ever see J______, the well-known lawyer?”

“No, but I’ve heard of him often. Let me tell you about the coat. Yesterday evening I wore it, and I felt all through the evening as if somebody were trying to get it away from me. After I went to bed something came into the room and put on that coat. When I jumped out of bed the figure vanished away, and left the coat in a heap on the floor. The figure was that of an elderly man with a white mustache.”

“Very curious,” said Shea. “If I were superstitious I should say that you had seen the ghost of J________. Who was killed in a railroad collision last week. As it is, I’ll take back the coat—yes, it was J_______ that it was made for—and give you another one for it.”

The coat was afterward sold to a Western man, who never reported any peculiarities connected with it.

In his business Mr. Shea became widely known and was often asked to go in to politics, but he steadfastly refused, saying that his business gave him all the exercise he needed. He died possessed of considerable property. New York Sun.

Alden [IA] Times 21 October 1898: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil regrets that the dreaded Dash of Anonymity precludes her from giving the particulars of J___’s death in the big railway accident near Buffalo.  However, she has heard other stories of haunted clothing: a black velvet jacket that choked the actress whose costume it was; a Civil War re-enactor’s shirt which became mysteriously soaked with blood whenever he wore it into “battle.”  An elaborate shawl haunted by the sinister spirit of the former femme fatale owner. Mrs Daffodil once knew a woman who ran a vintage clothing shop. She told how a woman tried on a white cotton blouse c. 1910 and seemed to go into a trance, describing a festive summer picnic by a lake as if she was actually there. And Mrs Daffodil has previously posted the story of the ghost who ordered a hat.

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6 thoughts on “A Haunted Coat from a “Misfit Clothier:” 1898

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