A Ghost at Table: 1890s?

bones in landscape 1870

Phantasms in East Africa

[Die Uebersinnliche Welt; Berlin, June, 1905.]

Die Uebersinnliche Welt gives an account, by Colonel Langheld, of his experiences while in charge of a station in the interior of German East Africa. The only non-native civilian there was the son of a large colonial merchant in Hamburg, who was travelling to gain experience and promote the interests of his firm. He was of a strong and earnest nature, and had made a firm friendship with the Colonel, who, on the occasion of the young man’s departure for the Victoria Nyanza [Lake Victoria], felt an uneasy sense of danger, and recommended him to be prudent. His friend replied: “If anything befalls me you shall know of it at once; I will give you a sign, wherever you may be.”

About two months later, the pigeons, in their cote in the middle of the yard, appeared to be disturbed by some animal. Having set a watch, the Colonel was aroused in the night, and saw two round points, more like glowing coals than the eyes of a wild beast, gleaming from the dovecote. He fired, and saw an animal like a chimpanzee, having long reddish-brown hair, fall to the ground and immediately rise and disappear round the comer of the house with lightning rapidity, uttering a terrible shriek. An old Soudanese Sergeant declared that it was a “devil,” and that European weapons were powerless against it. He said that it came as a warning when a European had died an unnatural death, and that this was the third time he had seen it.

A strict search revealed no traces of blood, although the shot had been fired at only four yards’ range, The Colonel’s dog was found to have hidden himself in great terror, and could not be induced to pass the comer of the house where the creature had been last seen.

Later in the same night the Colonel, still awake, heard light footsteps on the verandah, where he was accustomed to take his meals, and soon he heard sounds as though glasses and other articles were being moved on a table. Rising to see who was there, he was surprised to find a man sitting at the table, which was fully set out for a meal. As the stranger raised his head in the full moonlight, he saw that it was his friend, the young Hamburg merchant, but hollow-eyed, with sunken cheeks, and a suffering mien. The Colonel, with a feeling of icy chill, managed to utter a question, when suddenly the apparition vanished, and the table appeared clear of all dishes, etc., as was usually the case after the last meal. On getting a light, nothing was to be seen of the visitor.

Six weeks later, word came to the station that, on the same day on which these remarkable events had happened, or seemed to happen, the young merchant had lost his way during a hunting expedition, and had been partly devoured by wild beasts. His body, when found, was recognised by a portrait which the Colonel had given him.

[Light, June 24th, 1905.]

The Annals of Psychical Science, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1905: pp. 137-8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What a cracking ghost story—with both a monstrous beast and the gaunt “forerunner” of the young merchant! Psychic researchers of the day would have described the vision as a “crisis apparition,” while they might have characterised the devil at the dove-cote as an “elemental” or malign, earth-bound spirit. Mrs Daffodil would have said it was an “ourang-outan,” but, alas, those long-haired great apes are found only in East Asia. And chimpanzees do not have long coats. So perhaps the Sudanese Sergeant was correct after all. It was a devilish bad end to the young man, in any event, poor fellow.

Apropos of nothing, Mrs Daffodil is reminded of the film The African Queen, set in German East Africa, and its climactic scene on Lake Victoria.

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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