The Ghost Who Had to Catch His Train: 1850s

Three Young Cricketers, George Elgar Hicks, Southampton City Art Museum.

Three Young Cricketers, George Elgar Hicks, Southampton City Art Museum.


We are indebted to the Paris correspondent of the Nation for the following narrative:—

“My friend, Colonel Sir William D__, an officer in the British army, having seen much service in various parts of the world, has been for some time past residing in Paris with his family, consisting of his wife, two sons, and a highly accomplished and charming daughter. From Sir William and his daughter I have the following story, which I give—changing only the names and initials of the parties—exactly as they told it to me a few evenings ago:—

“‘The eldest son, when pursuing his studies, a very few years since, at the Military College of Sandhurst, near London, was on intimate terms with another of the cadets, whom we will call Hartly. Young Hartly was a general favourite in the college, a promising, active young fellow, fond of the sports usually played by young men in England, and especially addicted to cricket. On Saturday afternoon, young Hartly having been absent for some time from the college on a visit to his parents in London, the pupils all turned out for a game of cricket. It was a fine sunny afternoon; the cricket-ground was full of animation, and the game was going on merrily. Presently, to the surprise and satisfaction of all the pupils, young Hartly was seen to enter the ground, dressed as usual and looking in all respects exactly like his usual self. He went up to the ushers and shook hands with them, and with a number of the pupils. All present appear to have seen him perfectly, and to have felt pleased at seeing him come back. Presently he threw himself on the ground, took a cigar from his pocket, lighted it, and began to smoke, watching the game, meanwhile, with his usual interest, and every now and then commenting upon its progress, criticising this stroke, applauding that, and seeming as intent on the game as any of the players. At length he suddenly drew out his watch, and started to his feet, exclaiming, “I am wanted in London at four o’clock, and I must be off at once, for I have but just time to catch the train,” and rushed from the ground in the direction of the railway station. Much surprised at so sudden a departure, several of the pupils took out their watches and discussed his chances of being in London by four o’clock, as it then wanted but a few minutes of that hour.

“‘Next day brought to the astonished inmates of the college the news of young Hartly’s death, which had occurred the preceding day at his father’s house, exactly at four o’clock. He had fallen ill during his visit home, and, as was afterwards ascertained, had not once left his bed from the time of his falling ill. It was also ascertained that during the whole of that last day, through which he lay in a sort of quiet stupor, his mother had never left his bedside. “We’ve seen a real apparition for once in our lives!” was the shuddering admission of the cadets when the news of Hartly’s decease reached them. But the awkwardness of such an admission, and the impossibility of classifying or explaining so inconvenient a fact as the visible and tangible presence of their comrade on the cricket-ground while he was really dying in his bed in London, were too obvious not to produce a certain reaction; and so it came to pass that, in course of time, the cadets gave up the idea of having “seen an apparition,” and settled down on the more convenient hypothesis of an “hallucination.” A few of the number, however, of whom young D__ is one persist firmly in their first belief in regard to this remarkable incident, and stoutly declare that they did see, touch, and hear the perfect image of their friend, though utterly unable to explain the nature of such an appearance.'”

The Spiritual Magazine 1868

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A puzzling and chilling anecdote, indeed! Mrs Daffodil, who is not a “fan” of cricket, suggests that the young departed gentleman mistook the grounds for Eternity, due to the interminable nature of the sport. 

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.




2 thoughts on “The Ghost Who Had to Catch His Train: 1850s

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