A Street of Shadows: 1867

A PSYCHIC EXPERIENCE

By MRS. RANDLE FEILDEN

The following experience took place two and a half miles from Oxford, in either November or December, 1867. I was seventeen at the time, and had been at an Advent evening (week-day) service in the church, together with my sister Maud, aged twelve, and a maid.

The night was “moony” and light, but so misty that the moon itself, which was full, was not visible, on account of the density of fog.

As we were returning home about 7.45 we met a man (the only ordinary individual whom we saw on the way); he passed us, and his footsteps sounded naturally as he walked. A few seconds later I was surprised to see my sister not move to make way for another passer-by who had appeared quite suddenly and noiselessly at her elbow. I took her sleeve, and whispered, “Maud, make way,”— when— all at once— our eyes were opened! We were in a crowded street, in which men and women were moving, and also dogs. All was silence, all was stir.

The forms kept appearing from the broad belt of grass on our right hand, and from the narrow belt on our left; they passed right through us— from the front— from the back. They seemed full of energy.

Being all shadows we could not say accurately what the dresses were like, but they appeared to be of a fashion such as I could remember my mother wearing when I was a small child— viz. a high, pointed sort of bonnet, with shawl and flounced skirts— a “wedge-shaped figure”— so to speak.

My companions both began to cry, and were terrified. For myself, I felt I was, as it were, responsible for all of us, and that I must hold myself together. Each of them seized one of my arms; I did not cry— in the ordinary acceptation, but from my two eyes I found two regular streams flowing, though I was able to keep my voice— and my head.

My two companions kept pulling us all three (tightly clasped as we were) first to one side, then to the other, in order to “make way,” as it were, for the “spirits” to pass; the feeling was utterly bewildering, and especially so as we saw one or another disappear into ourselves— to come out behind, or in front, as the case might be.

If one saw a man— all saw a man; if a woman, or a dog, all saw the same; several times we found this to be the case, for when “making way” we remarked “let this man—or this woman—pass” never once was there the slightest doubt as to what we saw.

I dare say the “vision” continued about a hundred or a hundred and fifty yards. At one spot, on our right, a figure stood motionless (unlike the rest), and he had, if I may so express it, the attitude of a mendicant; he had stars round his face, marking the contour, perhaps seven or nine. A few yards further on a second appeared exactly resembling him. I think he was about the last of the “shadows” on the footpath. The high road is a broad and beautiful one; it was clear of the “shadows” the whole time except for one—a tall man, bigger altogether than any of the others. He had a sort of cape thrown over the shoulder, and he took great strides, keeping just about even with ourselves— he on the road, we on the footpath.

When all the others had vanished this one still strode beside us. We reached our own gate, and I thought: “If he goes through the gate and up the drive, I can’t stand it any longer.” I have no doubt I was ” played out.”

However, to my intense relief he strode past our gate, and still on—up the road. As we turned into our own premises he was still to be seen, marching on.

I remember, all the time the vision lasted, how we kept casting sidelong glances towards this gaunt and particularly uncanny “shade.” There was a difference between him and the rest. They appeared bustling busily (though so noiselessly) about. I think all were independent of each other, but this tall creature strode as if he had an end in view, with big strides, and never turning right or left.

It would be perhaps thirty years later that I was staying in a small town in Westmorland and made acquaintance with a lady about my own age, who in her young days used to pay visits to mutual friends near Oxford, and we naturally talked of these departed friends.

My new acquaintance told me that once when she was visiting them and her host had not yet returned home in the evening, she and her hostess were sitting in the drawing-room, when at last he entered and told his wife, “I have seen a wonderful sight to-night!” And to his wife and visitor he related the vision exactly as I have written above.

He had been driving home in his dog-cart, the night foggy and moonlight, when all at once he found himself in the midst of a crowded street of “shadows.” My informant had not been half so inquisitive as I should have been, and she could not tell me whether Mr ___   drove on through the “shadows” or whether he waited; anyway they disappeared, leaving the road unoccupied as usual.

That road is the same one as the one on which we saw our vision, the spot perhaps a quarter of a mile further from Oxford. My friend knew it was an autumn night and with a dense fog, and I think— though I am not absolutely certain— that she could say it was in 1867. At any rate she was quite certain it was as nearly as possible that time.

The Occult Review April 1914: pp.  219-221

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A strange and bewildering tale and how very unpleasant to  have to dodge hurrying shades when all one wants is to be home by the fireside with a nice cup of tea and some muffins.

But what do we make of a bustling crowd of spirits fashionably dressed for 1847, simply going about their business and walking through the witnesses? That supernaturally au courant person over at Haunted Ohio has told Mrs Daffodil of similar incidents that appeared to be what she called “time slips”—the controversial Adventure of two respectable English ladies at Versailles, for example, or occurrences on Liverpool’s Bold Street, which seems particularly prone to ghosts in the road.  The sceptics would, of course, say that the street of shadows was merely a trick of the light or folie  à trois.

For her part, Mrs Daffodil, shuddering, considers that the young persons did well to get home at all.  Although the tall, caped creature seems merely to have escorted them to their gate and strode on, there is an unpleasant whiff of brimstone about him—the Devil in the road…

 

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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