Souls in Black Velvet: 1861

© Hans Hillewaert

© Hans Hillewaert

An English officer had lately arrived at Bonn from Madrid, and, during his residence at the latter town, having heard it stated that on “All Souls’ Night,” certain departed spirits would answer the call of the priest, and appear for a short time to their longing friends, he thought it quite worth while to witness such a wonderful sight. He followed the crowd into the chapel. A gloom so deep pervaded it that it required some little time to become accustomed to it. Many priests were at the altar, addressing the awestricken multitude. The most breathless anxiety prevailed, when, presently on the floor, in every direction, black objects appeared moving. It was no delusion; there they were. The priests solemnly declared to the people they were the souls of their departed friends, which by virtue of their alms and the intercession of their holy fathers were thus permitted to visit the earth.

An indiscribable feeling of dread seemed to pervade all present. Screams, cries, confusion, terror, prevailed. Captain___ himself felt somewhat squeamish; but like an honest son of Britain, determined to sift the imposture to the bottom. He watched the motions of the visitors; and, seeing one apparently disposed to make his acquaintance, kept his eye steadily fixed upon it. Onwards it toddled, and at last favored by the gloom, arrived so near his feet, that he stooped down unobserved, captured, and put it into his pocket!

Here was a delightful adventure—a soul fresh from purgatory a captive in the pocket of a British officer! Never was such an event heard of before—no, not in all the histories of the most outrageous acts ever detailed against the unbelieving heretics. There it was; and as soon as he could leave the abode of falsehood and imposition, he hastened to his lodging, carefully secured the door, and then proceeded to examine his prize. Judge, then, of his amusement, and, at the same time, honest indignation, when he found that this black thing, this creature solemnly declared by the priests to be a soul from purgatory, was nothing more nor less than a crab covered with black velvet!

Vincennes [IN] Gazette 22 June 1861

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  We anticipate the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, celebrated 2 November. Today is officially All Hallows, or possibly The Day of the Dead.

Mrs Daffodil can sympathise with the gallant British officer in his distaste for the pious imposition. Not quite the straight bat. Not quite playing the game. One wonders if the creatures were later gathered up by acolytes sworn to secrecy and made into crab-cakes for the rectory table.

You will find last year’s post on All Saints festivities among the tombs of New Orleans here. See Mrs Woodyard’s post on “The Kiss of Death” for Dia de los Muertos over at the Haunted Ohio blog.

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.


One thought on “Souls in Black Velvet: 1861

  1. Pingback: The Feast of All Souls in Tyrol: 1874 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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