The Hired Boy’s Ghost: 1830s

ghostly head at foot of the bed

A PHANTASM OF THE DEAD.

[The following true and interesting account of a ghostly manifestation reaches us from a lady correspondent who says: ‘The person who saw the ghost is closely related to me. He is bedridden now but often speaks of the occurrence. —Ed.  Light.]

I am an old man now, but never while I have my senses shall I forget what happened while I lived, when a boy, with a farmer at Little Steeping, a village about three miles from Spilsby. The house was old and rambling, with latticed windows, so green with age and scratched that one could hardly see through them. My bedroom was over the kitchen and nowhere but the kitchen could I get to from it. I generally went to bed at half-past eight; but one night, when the farmer and his wife had gone to a meeting at the chapel, I sat up longer than usual to prevent the girl from feeling lonely during their absence, and as soon as they returned I hurried off to bed, and after locking and bolting the doors they too retired. Generally I was asleep almost as soon as my head was on the pillow, but this night I was still wide awake after I had been in bed about an hour.

The moon shone full on the window, rendering my little box and the few articles of furniture in the room quite visible. Suddenly I heard footsteps on the causeway and expected to hear a knock at the door. However, to my astonishment, the door, which I knew had been locked and bolted, opened, and someone entered the kitchen. After a few seconds I heard sounds as though the new-comer was washing at the sink; then I heard sounds as of steps going across the kitchen floor, a chair being dragged to the table, and someone partaking of supper. After some minutes the chair was moved to the fireside, followed by noises as if shoes were being kicked off against a fender. Then there was silence, during which I sat up in bed listening and staring, and expecting I knew not what.

In the floor of my bedroom, about a yard from the bed, was a small knot hole, by peeping through which I could see all that was going on below. I crept to the place and was pulling aside the carpet that was over the hole, when suddenly it occurred to me that whoever was in the kitchen he was doing exactly as I had done that night, and all other nights since I had lived there, and somehow the thought made me feel sick and faint. I let the carpet fall over the aperture and crept away to bed again. No sooner had I done so, however, than I again heard movements below, and, to my horror, a creeping, creaking sound on the stairs.

The unknown visitor was coming up to my room. On he came until he was by the side of the bed, and seemed to be tearing off his clothes. That finished, he walked to the window and stood for a few minutes looking out. I could see him quite plainly outlined against the window, and he appeared to be a lad about my own height, only thinner. I was extra strong and big for my age. I felt as if I should choke and could neither move nor cry out, my terror was so great, for, young and inexperienced as I was, I felt he was no being of flesh and blood.

After he had stood a little while he turned and made his way to the bed again, and seemed to jump in and place himself by my side. That was too much for me and I fainted. When I came to I lifted myself on my elbows in the bed, half expecting I should see him by my side, or somewhere in the room, but he had gone without leaving any trace behind him to show that he had ever been; while I, too terrified to go downstairs or to close my eyes in sleep, lay trembling until morning dawned.

At breakfast time I told the farmer and his wife what I had seen and how terrified I had been, but they were a hard, unfeeling pair, and only made game of me, saying that I had either had the nightmare or had seen a white owl fly past the window; but I knew different, and I believe they did also before the day was over, though they never, either then or afterwards, owned that they did.

Just as we were sitting down to dinner a neighbour came rushing in with the intelligence that he had just heard that the lad who had lived at the farm the year before, whose place I then filled, had been delivering coals the day before, and when nearing home late in the evening his horses had bolted, and while endeavouring to stop them he had been knocked down and killed on the spot. I could eat no dinner that day, for besides feeling sorry for the poor boy, I felt that it was his spirit that had so terrified me in the silent night.

I did not tell the farmer all that was in my mind respecting the occurrence, as I did not relish being made game of twice in one day, but I told him that I would not sleep over the kitchen any more. As he did not want me to leave him, it was arranged that either he or the mistress should remain in the kitchen and keep watch. This they did for several nights, and as nothing occurred to disturb either me or them, I soon became my old fearless self, going to bed after a hard day’s work and falling asleep as soon as my head rested on the pillow—but I did not forget, I could not.

Light 14 May 1910: p. 229

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: From conversations with that ghostly expert over at Haunted Ohio Books, Mrs Daffodil gathers that it is not unusual for the spirit of someone newly dead to return to a familiar place, as if they are lost and seeking their bearings before they can “move on.” In this case, it seemed as though the new hired boy was invisible to the ghost, who was merely going about his business as he had formerly done. But why did the unfortunate young man, so recently deceased, not seek his new home? Perhaps sudden death is so disorienting that one clutches at any familiar straw.

Still, if the dead can appear anywhere—and Mrs Daffodil has read accounts of persons in India and other remote localities, appearing to their relations in England, as if to prepare them for the fatal black-bordered letter—why do they not go somewhere pleasanter—the Lake District or the South of France, for example?

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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One thought on “The Hired Boy’s Ghost: 1830s

  1. smseattle

    What a sad story! I hope the spirit of the hired boy was able to find rest. And the conditions under which the boys worked are sad too! When people look back in time I hope they remember the circumstances of child workers.

    Like

    Reply

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