“You May Now Kiss the Ghost:” A Haunted Justice of the Peace: 1887

Day of the Dead Bride and Groom

Day of the Dead Bride and Groom


Two People Return from the Spirit World and Are Properly Married by a Justice of the Peace.

New York correspondence Cincinnati Enquirer: How remarkably the evidences of the existence of a spiritual sphere about us accumulate! Still they come, these spectral messengers, to teach us that there are more truths under the sun than science takes cognizance of. Here is another:

The village of Farmingdale, Queen’s County, Long Island, is a suburb of the rapidly growing city of Brooklyn. Its people are of the most conservative nature, mostly descendants from old Puritan fathers, who came here before the Revolution and Presbyterians almost to a man. All are very much excited at present over the occurrence of a remarkable spiritual manifestation that came to light without the presence in their midst of a medium. Three days ago the Enquirer correspondent received a letter from his aunt who lives in the village mentioned, requesting him to come down and hear the remarkable story. On arriving in Farmingdale the following is the story which he heard, and which is authenticated by the persons before whose eyes the strange event occurred:

John J. Powel, Esq., is civil magistrate for the village, or rather he is Justice of the Peace. He is a member in high standing of the church, and every way reliable. He is married and has several grown children. He lives in a large, old-fashioned house, surrounded by tall spruce and elm trees, with a high stone wall around the lawn. Last week, one night, he had retired to bed and got into a doze. Mrs. Powel was sleeping soundly. There was no light in the room, but the moon, half way up the sky, was sending a broad beam of ghostly light into the east window. Everything was as still as a country town usually is, but a slight moaning wind that tossed about the leafy spruce tree boughs. Suddenly Mr. Powel


From his doze. He had heard a door open. What could it be that had made the noise? He thought of thieves and quickly arose, and was pulling on his clothing when he heard a light tread of feet to his door. He stopped breathing in his anxiety for he thought he was about to be robbed. On came the tread to his door, which was quickly thrown wide open, and in an instant almost was closed again. Did any one enter? Mr. Powel asked himself, for he could see no one; but the doubt was soon settled in the affirmative. Something, at least, did enter, for he still heard the light tread of footsteps on the carpet approaching him, but could see nothing. Did his eyes belie him, or did he see two feet, without body, approaching? His hair, he says, bristled up and his spine  verily crept—a nameless horror seized him. Ghosts, thought he; is it possible that there are such things? Suddenly the tread passed into the broad moonbeam from the window. Now was the marvel revealed! The greenish moonlight lit up the outlines of two persons—shadows that were perfectly transparent, and seemed to reveal a ghostly gleam only on their outlines. A man and a woman—both young, both handsome—and as their spectral forms became more strongly materialized on passing out of the moonlight, Mr. Powel though he could recognize both their faces. Soon he was sure of it, and in a moment more they both confronted him, no longer looking like ghosts, however, and no one seeing them then would have believed that they were not entirely human; in fact, dwellers upon earth. In spite of what he had already seen, Mr. Powel began to think he was being played a trick upon, but on looking again, after rubbing his eyes, he saw that they could not be human, as both, to his certain knowledge, had been dead nearly a year. This only increased his horror, but he gathered strength to speak to them, which somehow he remembered was the proper thing to do on such an occasion.

“What—do—you want?” stammered he.


Was the answer, which the more greatly horrified the Squire.

“Married!” he echoed.

“Yes, married, and quickly, in the most binding form known to the law. We haven’t any time to lose, either.”

“But you must have at least one witness.” Said the squire, hoping he had found a good idea.

“Well, then, take Mrs. Powel,” said the would-be ghostly bridegroom; not waiting of the Squire to do so, he approached the bed and shook Mrs. Powel’s arm quite sharply. She at once awoke and on seeing such a strange sight, gave a piercing shriek. “Be still,” said the ghost. “You will not be hurt; you are needed for a few minutes.” By this time she had awakened and was looking at her husband. He returned her gaze as he says “without flinching,” and simply said, “My dear, those people want to be married, and you are needed as a witness.”

“What! Katie Baylis and John Van Sise here, and want to be married? La! I thought they had died more than a year ago!” Well, however, they are here now, and I’m going to hitch them as soon as I can dead or alive,” said the Squire growing desperate. “Shall I light the lamp?” “No, no!” said the ghosts, “for you can not see us if you do; but proceed at once with the marriage.” Squire Powel told the ghosts to join hands and stand before him. Then he proceeded with the usual formula until it came to “Until death do us part,” which was left out as unnecessary. Then the groom produced a blank marriage certificate, which all present signed, and which the bride put into her bosom.

“Is that all there is to it?” said the groom.

“Yes,” answered the Squire. “except the magistrate usually kisses the bride,” added he, forgetting the ghostly character of the contracting parties, and remembering, perhaps, occasions in which he had availed himself of this privilege. “Then the bride must be kissed,” said the groom. “This at once brought the Squire to his senses and made his hair raise again.


He echoed. The bride stepped forward at this, evidently thinking it an invitation. She brought her face to his, and with a desperate endeavor he gave her a proper kiss. As his lips met hers, he says, a terrible coldness seemed poured into him. He felt as though he was dying, but almost at once recovered himself. “Is there anything else?” asked the groom. “Nothing,” answered the Squire faintly. “And now I suppose you would both like to know what this is for. There is no reason why you should not. You already know the story of our guilty intercourse while we were alive on earth, and that it resulted in our deaths. We are now in the spirit world, which is far more like the earth than is usually supposed, only we have greater privileges and powers, but the man who does not marry while on earth cannot marry in the spirit form, and must live apart from  all the married, who inhabit a higher sphere and will in the end inherit greater powers than the unmarried, but I can’t explain this, as it is not to be revealed. However, when we died, we left a son, born to shame, and without our marriage, which you have solemnized, to be a bastard forever. As we are now, for the time being, in material form, we are able to contract marriage by the laws of mortals, and this marriage will be recorded as perfectly lawful by the Almighty.”

By the time he had finished this long speech he had perceptibly grown less material, and in a few minutes both bride and groom had faded away.

Such is the story which Mrs. Powel told on the next day, and her husband confirmed it in every particular.

The story of the lives of John Van Sise and Katie Baylis is quite romantic. John Van Sise was the son of a poor farmer in the neighborhood. Katie was the daughter of a well-to-do country gentleman, a retired merchant. They fell in love. Their parents were dead against their marriage, and it was the old story that followed. Love was too strong for parents or any other bonds. They met constantly. At last Katie gave birth to an illegitimate child, still alive. She died in child-birth. John died soon after of what was called by the neighbors hasty consumption, but his friends knew it was of a broken heart.

How strange Fate works!

Daily Inter Ocean [Chicago, IL] 28 December 1887: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The ghostly groom expresses some unusual theories about the post-mortem world, probably derived from the Theosophists or Spiritualists, although Matthew 22:30 tells us “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” The situation raises an interesting legal point: did the marriage of the two ghosts “in material form” legitimise their little son?


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.


3 thoughts on ““You May Now Kiss the Ghost:” A Haunted Justice of the Peace: 1887

  1. Pingback: A Wedding at Midnight; A Phantom Bride and Groom: 1902 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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