The Phantom Huntsman: 1890s?

Sargent, John Singer; Lord Ribblesdale; The National Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/lord-ribblesdale-114725. Shown in hunting costume. He was Master of the Buckhounds from 1892-95.

The Phantom Huntsman

When I was about nine years of age, I went to live with my grandfather on a farm near the little town of Yarm, on the banks of the river Tees. One day he happened to be short-handed. He had an order for a ton of potatoes to be delivered in Yarm on that day. He loaded the cart and sent me off to deliver them in the afternoon. It was a November afternoon, therefore, it turned dark early.

I delivered the potatoes and set off home later than I expected, in the dark. I knew the old horse knew every inch of the road, and, being a lonely road and practically deserted, I gave the horse his head and laid down in the bottom of the cart on the empty sacks. I got along all right until I landed at a part of the road which led between two plantations, one at each side. I still had about two miles to go, as we lived four miles from the town, when I was startled to hear what I thought was the rustle of a saddle and the tread of a horse on the frosty road. Being lonely and nervous, I jumped up to see what was coming, delighted to think I was going to have company.

To my utter surprise, I saw a horseman riding alongside me on a beautiful bay horse. He was dressed in a red coat, white riding breeches, huntsman’s hat, and everything complete. I grabbed my reins to pull off and make way for him, but he kept to the grass at the side of the road.

I said, “Good evening, sir.”

He didn’t speak, but only lifted his whip to his cap in response. I was delighted, as I loved to see the huntsmen and the hounds, although I was surprised to see this one. I knew perfectly well that there was no meet in the immediate district on that day, or my grandfather would certainly have attended it, as he never missed a run when possible to get there.

I said to the gentleman, “Where did the hounds meet to-day, sir?”

He only looked down on me and smiled. I had then got as far as the gate leading into the fields off the main road to the farm. I got out and opened the gate and let my horse and cart pass through, then still held the gate for the huntsman to pass, as he was standing waiting.

Instead of coming through the gate, to my great surprise, he suddenly vanished.

I was terribly afraid as I could not make out where he had gone or how he had gone. I let the gate go and jumped into the cart, and made the old horse go as fast as he could for home. Although I had no idea of ghosts then, I landed home scared to death. I rushed into the house and scared my grandfather and grandmother as well. When I got pulled round I related to them what had happened.

Then my grandfather said he wouldn’t have let me go if he had thought about it. He said there had been a follower of the hunt killed in those woods two or three seasons before and that he had haunted the woods during the hunting season ever since. My grandfather himself had been present on the very day the accident happened and he said my description of the gentleman tallied exactly with the one who was killed. He had no doubt I had seen and even spoken to the ghost that others had seen riding at night about those woods. He mentioned the incident at the next hunt meet and it was generally accepted that I had seen the ghost.

Curiously enough, my grandfather had the misfortune to be killed himself with a horse and lorry sometime after my experience. Whether it had any bearing upon the after trouble that befell me I can’t say, but this goes to prove that there are ghosts. As the saying goes, seeing is believing.

True Ghost Stories Told by “Daily News” Readers, S. Louis Giraud, 1927: p. 77-78

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What a vanished world is reflected in the young man’s eagerness to “make way” for the gentleman, the aristocratic ghost’s touching of its cap with its whip, the ghost waiting, with the expectation that the boy would open the gate for him and his horse. Even in death, the social distinctions were maintained by the phantom huntsman and his witness.

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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