A Ghostly Mother’s Warning: c. 1870s

With their mother's ghost.

With their mother’s ghost.

A Mother’s Warning

“Mr. B , an intimate acquaintance and near neighbour of ours in Lancashire, had the misfortune a few years ago to lose his wife in the most melancholy manner. This sad bereavement rendered the house in which he lived so distasteful to him, that he at once left it, and, with his four children, went to reside in a large, old rambling mansion, situated in another part of the county.

“On their arrival, Mr. B ‘s attention, and that of his servants, was naturally taken up with domestic arrangements, so that the little ones were in a great measure left to themselves. Exulting in their freedom, the merry sprites ran hither and thither, up one stair and down another, along corridors ending in blank walls, through stately apartments— the size and gloom of which filled their young minds with awe—now in quaint odd nooks and corners; anon in a picture gallery; again in chambers cob-webbed and dreary-looking. At length by means of a spiral stair leading up from one of these they reached a room cedar-panelled, and of dark cold aspect. Into this chamber the sun never shone; there was but one window, and that almost entirely closed up. Three or four dismal pictures representing some quaint, old, mythical legends were empanelled in the walls. The hitherto noisy children gazed around with hushed voices and bated breath. A something in its aspect frightened them. They left hastily, and ran down stairs, the eldest, a girl of eight years old, leading the way. In her haste she passed the door by which they entered on to the stair; onwards in her terror she sped, down —down into darkness.

“Suddenly her flight was stayed, and she retreated backward, the wild startled cry of ‘Mamma!’ bursting from her lips. The others, terrified, stood for an instant in mute dismay, then turned and fled, she following them, sobbing out, ‘I have seen mamma, and she waves us back.’

“Thoroughly frightened, they sought their father, and, with pale faces, faltered out their story. Much moved, Mr. B provided himself with a candle, and, in company with his children, descended the staircase. To his unspeakable horror the light of the candle revealed to him a wide yawning well within a few paces from where his eldest girl had stood, and into which she would inevitably have fallen but for the spirit mother who stood at its brink, and by her ministering presence saved her child.”

Ghostly visitors: a series of authentic narratives, Spectre Stricken (pseud.), 1882

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: For Mrs Daffodil’s British readers, today is Mothering Sunday. The holiday began as a religious observance when parishioners would visit their “mother church.” Under the influence of the U.S. Mother’s Day holiday, it has become a day for thanking mothers with presents and flowers.  The motif of a spectral mother returning to warn or impart advice to her children is a popular one in ghost literature: young men at sea or in soldierly peril often report warnings from their mothers. One young man in a fox-hole in France saw his mother smiling at him. He ran to her, just as a shell fell onto his previous position.

Mrs Daffodil has previously reported on a jealous ghost-mother who came back to warn a young step-mother to treat her children kindly, threatening violence if she found neglect.


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.

1 thought on “A Ghostly Mother’s Warning: c. 1870s

  1. Pingback: “After twenty years I have seen her”: A ghost story for Mother’s Day: 1885 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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