The Spectral Hound: c. 1900

black dog hound

THE SPECTRAL HOUND.

The following story is as true as the Gospel. Several years ago, while sojourning with my invalid mother in a hamlet in Northeastern-Pennsylvania, during an epidemic of la grippe, when there were not enough well people to take care of the sick, I had a curious experience.

For eight nights I had watched beside my mother’s couch without sleeping as many hours. On the night in question my mother was so ill that her physician declared she would not live till daybreak, but she had fallen into a restful sleep about 1 o’clock in the morning and I ventured to leave her room in order to get some much-needed refreshment.

I found a good fire in the kitchen range, made a cup of coffee and went into the pantry for a dish of batter, thinking that some warm buckwheat cakes with butter and honey could be quickly prepared. As I came out of the pantry, which opened into the kitchen, judge of my surprise on seeing a large, black hound standing in front of me, snarling silently and showing his white teeth, as if disputing my passage.

I saw him as plainly as I see this paper, and recognized him as my girl friend Kathryn’s pet dog. Thinking that his mistress had entered the house quietly, I cried: “Kathryn! how did you and Major get in? I thought the doors were all locked!” There was no answer. I looked down at the dog and saw him slowly waste away before my eyes until only a skeleton remained. Then, for the first time since I had beheld the apparition I was so beside myself with fright that the earthen bowl fell from my hand and was shattered into a hundred fragments, and, of course, spilled its contents.

The noise awoke my mother and I heard her labored breathing. The ribs of the skeleton faded away as I sprang past it and entered the sick room, where I found the dear invalid struggling for breath. She had slept too long, and but for my sudden fright would have strangled to death in all probability. But the crisis had passed. In my effort to resuscitate her my courage returned and I said to myself, “Pshaw! It was only a spectral illusion!” then went to the kitchen, but there where the dream-hound had stood were the fragments of earthenware and a pool of creamy batter; but the outside doors of our cottage were all locked securely.

Even horses, cats and dogs are often terrified by things which to us are invisible. What do they see?

Modern Ghost Stories: A Medley of Drama, Impressions and Spectral Illusions,  Emma May Buckingham, 1906

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A ghastly apparition, indeed!  That keen student of Spiritualism over at the Haunted Ohio blog assures Mrs Daffodil that there are historic parallels:  the skeletal figures materialized by Brazilian medium Carlos Mirabelli, who were clothed in flesh before multiple witnesses, then de-fleshed and dematerialized. There were also the transformations of a living man into a corpse and thence into a skeleton at the Decadents’ Cafés de la Mort (Cabarets du Neant) in Paris and Brussels.

Be that as it may, Mrs Daffodil wonders why it was necessary to send a “dream-hound” of such ghastly aspect to aid in rousing the narrator’s mother? Ladies in White, Radiant Boys, and Angelic Apparitions are of proven reliability in announcing crises, although, given the la grippe epidemic, perhaps those messengers were simply too busy with other clients.

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.

 

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