AN AUTHENTIC GHOST STORY
INCIDENT WHICH COMPLETELY ALTERED THE WRITER’S OUTLOOK
Henry C. Hall
At a dinner party at a friend’s house recently, the conversation turned to a subject on which, to my surprise, I was the only one present able to give first-hand information. The subject was that of ghosts, or spirits, and a general discussion developed. Not ghosts, or ghost stories, talked of in the usual flippant manner, but spirits from the other world, and whether they are visible at times on this earth. During the conversation, a lady remarked she had never yet met anyone who had actually seen a ghost. I was immediately an object of interest, when I quietly announced the fact that I had definitely seen one. As the details of my experience caused considerable astonishment, I have decided to write them down for the benefit of readers of Light.
The incident happened when I was a boy of 15 years of age. We lived in a large house at Nottingham, a very old house with fairly extensive grounds. As the actual house is occupied at this moment, I do not propose to reveal the exact address, as it might upset the present occupier to know it is haunted. But the house stands in what is known as the Sherwood Rise district, and to those who know Nottingham, this will give them an idea of its whereabouts.
It was a summer evening in July, and the day had been oppressively hot. The time was round about six o’clock, so that it was broad daylight. I had been in the garage with one of my brothers, where we had been amusing ourselves with shooting darts form a toy revolver. Presently, I left to go into the house, and crossed the yard with the toy revolver in my hand, still loaded with one of the harmless rubber darts. I made to enter the house by the back way for a short-cut, passing through a glass porch to the back door, which opened into a small square lobby. On this hot evening, the back door stood wide open; and, passing into the lobby, the kitchen door was on my left, and this was also wide open. Facing me on the far side of the lobby was a swing door that led into the front part of the house, and this door was closed. At this particular moment the kitchen was unoccupied, the maids being elsewhere in the front portion of the house.
I should mention here that the kitchen quarters were entirely isolated and cut off from the rest of the house when the swing door referred to was closed, so that the lobby, kitchen, scullery, and larder (each leading out of the other) being deserted, there was no human being on this side of the swing door besides myself. There was no back staircase or other means of communication from this part of the house, to the front. It is important to remember this.
Hanging on the far side of the kitchen wall, directly facing the kitchen door, was the kitchen clock, one of the old-fashioned type, with a large dial. When the kitchen door was open, it was an easy matter to glance at the time as you walked across the small lobby, and I did so on this occasion. Suddenly a bright idea entered my head. What a perfectly delightful target the clock face made for me with the loaded revolver in my hand. Now for a bullseye with my last shot. I would stand and take direct aim at the clock, through the open kitchen door. I took up my position, pointed the revolver, and prepared to take sight before pulling the trigger. During these few seconds there was dead silence. A great stillness seemed to pervade the place, a hushed deep calm, which I could almost feel. That kind of stillness which is inseparable from a house on a hot summer evening, when there is no life or movement; and save for the regular ticking of the clock, the silence was profound. It was at this precise moment that the great event happened.
With my finger still on the trigger, taking deliberate aim, I saw a ghost—a ghost in human shape—appear before my eyes. This unearthly apparition was that of a man, tall, and of medium build, enveloped from head to foot in a hooded long grey cloak or shroud. The substance of this uncanny thing appeared to be some kind of vapour, or thick smoke, partly transparent, but with a well-defined, clear-cut outline. It emerged slowly and stealthily from the interior of the kitchen, presenting a most eerie sight, and drifted noiselessly and warily along the floor, directly across my line of fire.
I was so utterly bewildered and dumbfounded, that I could not move, and stood and gasped in amazement. I gazed before me as if in a trance, completely stupefied. Suddenly my hand released its grasp of the revolver, which fell to the tiled floor with a crash. This breaking of the silence appeared to startle the ghost, for it turned its head in my direction, as if caught unawares, not knowing till then that I was there. We stood face to face for one awful second. Then hesitating, as if uncertain as to its next move, the ghost mysteriously glided back again, and withdrew from sight to where it had come from. It had completely vanished; the kitchen was empty. Where was I? Had I been asleep? Was it all a dream? No, I had not moved. There was the clock, there was the revolver on the floor, there was the daylight, and there was I, fully conscious of everything, so that it was all real and true.
Uttering a cry, I dashed through the swing door leading into the front hall, rushed up the front staircase, and stirred the whole household with shouts that I had seen a ghost. My mother and other members of the family came to know what the noise was about. By this time, I was in a very agitated and excited state caused by the shock, for I had experienced something beyond all belief and passed through a somewhat terrifying ordeal. Between my sobs I told of what had happened, and, gradually coming round, I gave them a more graphic account. They saw I was genuinely upset; and, while wanting to discredit my story, were anxious not to increase my distress by doing so. After a time, they went down to inspect the exact spot and make investigations, and try to prove to me there was nothing there. Of course there was not, and the kitchen, scullery, larder, and cellars, were all searched in vain to prove I was mistaken. There were no curtains, no draperies about, no shadows, no dark places; nothing in fact could be found to help the family in their argument. It was still daylight with the evening sun streaming through the windows.
I was not mistaken; there was nothing to be mistaken about, and the search was futile so far as I was concerned. What I had seen was as clear and definite as my own reflection in a mirror. My experience, however, was the sole topic of conversation for the rest of that night, and finally I went to bed, but could not sleep. I had seen something that was not of this world, and was worried to think I should never be able to explain it, never be able to make it real or believable to others. It had to be seen to be realised.
It was not long after all this happened that my father decided to sell the house, and we ultimately left it for another residence. And then it was that I was told something of which my own experience was a counterpart. It seemed that some two years previously, late one winter night, one of our maids had rushed from the kitchen, and through the same swing door, screaming she had seen a ghost, and went off into hysterics. Everyone had gone to bed except my father and mother, and they returned to the kitchen with the maid to prove the absurdity of her assertions. They declared such a suggestion was wholly preposterous, and so annoyed were they about it, that the maid was given notice to leave the following day and–leave the poor girl did, all for having seen a ghost! I had never been told of this incident, and it was not until after we had left the house that I heard of it. There is not the least doubt of course, it was the identical ghost that I saw two years later. And while my experience needs no support from outside sources–being beyond all doubt or dispute–the incident of the maid-servant doubly strengthens my story of the whole phenomenon.
And that is the end of my uncanny adventure, strictly true in every detail. I have seen a ghost just as definitely and assuredly as I write these lines. I can see it to-day as vividly as I did at the time; it is indelibly stamped upon my memory and consciousness. The experience became part of my conscious self or personality, and will remain part of it for all time.
And now for the sceptics, if any, and to answer possible queries of readers of this narrative. As a boy, I was perfectly normal in every way; I was mentally sound, I had no delusions, and had no foolish fads or fancies. I was certainly not imaginative, and had never even read a ghost story. To-day, as a man, I am a very normal sort of individual, plain and matter of fact, but a great and keen searcher after truth. Had it not been for the amazing occurrence just related, I am the type of person who would have laughed to scorn any idea of the possibility of seeing a ghost. But this incident completely altered my whole outlook from that day onwards, and at this juncture I am as certain and as matter-of-fact about this, as about anything that has been actually solid and substantial in my life.
In these days it is difficult to be certain about anything, but I am well convinced and satisfied beyond all doubt, about just three things. More than that, I am equally convinced about each. Those three things are:– (1) I have seen a ghost. (2) I am a living being. (3) I shall live again after death.
Light 14 July 1933: pp. 433-434
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wishes she had a pound for every time she has heard of an hysterical servant being given notice after seeing a ghost. Still more does she wish that those servants sacked on such grounds could appeal their inequitable dismissals by bringing evidence to a labour tribunal that said premises were, in fact, haunted. Heavy damages would inevitably lie….
Mrs Daffodil has heard a story from that ghost-hunting person over at Haunted Ohio about a young woman who came home from school every day, only to be terrified by the heavy footsteps of a man walking upstairs and a “presence” looking into her room from the hall. She would flee the house in a panic, sometimes wedging herself between the screen door and the door, until her parents came home. When she grew up, she said something to her mother about the horror she had experienced. Her mother, who no longer lived in the house, said casually, “Oh, yes, we knew there was a ghost, but we didn’t want to tell you, so you wouldn’t be scared.”
After such a revelation, Mrs Daffodil would not have been surprised to hear of a matricide.
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.