Category Archives: Ghosts

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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A Mother’s Ghost Visits Her Child: 1870s

1870s mother and child

A PLEASANT GHOST STORY

Supposed Visit of a Dead Mother to Her Child

A rather a queer story is told and can be vouched for by over a dozen persons in Springfield. It appears about three years ago a young man living in Summit got married, and in due time his wife gave birth to a child, which was a girl. When the child was about one year old the mother died. About five months later the young widower became lonely and took unto himself another wife. But before doing so he took all his first wife’s clothing, packed it in a trunk, locked it up, and allowed no one to have charge of the key but himself. Among the clothing put away was her wedding shawl and a pillow his wife had made for her first-born, and also some toys she had bought just before she died. Then he brought home wife No. 2, who, it is said, made as good a mother as the average step-mothers do. Things went on lively till one night last week, when there was a party at the next neighbor’s house. So, after putting the babe in its little bed, the father and mother No. 2 went over to spend the evening at the party. Shortly after they left, two men came along on their way to the party also. They saw a wonderful light in the house as though it might be on fire. They also heard the cries of the babe, as though in great pain. They went to the house, and as soon as they reached the door the light went out, and all was silent as the grave within. They hastened on to the house where the party was and told the man what they had seen and heard in his house as they came by. Five or six men, including the owner of the house, started to investigate the report. When they arrived they found every room and door fast as they were when the owner left. On going inside everything was found to be in its place except the child, which, after a long search, was found upstairs under the bed on which its mother died, covered up with its mother’s wedding shawl and its little head resting on the pillow its mother made for it, sound asleep. Alongside of it lay its playthings. On examining the trunk it was found to be locked and nothing missing except the above mentioned articles. Now, how the things got out of the trunk and the key in the owner’s pocket, and he half a mile from it, and how the child got upstairs, is a mystery. The above may sound a little dime-novelish, but, as, we said before, the facts of the case can be and are vouched for by over a dozen respectable citizens of Springfield.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 16 September 1878: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is shuddering at the notion of “as good a mother as the average step-mother.” Although there are certainly many splendid step-mamas, it is often the “average” ones–or at least the classic “Wicked Stepmothers”–who end up in the papers and the dock for cruelty.  

That collector of ghostly horrors over at Haunted Ohio previously shared the story above and added an additional fillip:

A Dead Mother Visits Her Living Child—She Sits at Its Cradle and Caresses It.

Correspondence Cincinnati Commercial.

Richmond, VA., Jan. 23.

A strange story is current in certain circles here. About two years ago Mr. A. married. In due time he became a father, but the wife died when the child was a few months old. On her deathbed she exhibited intense anxiety as to the fate of the little one she was to leave behind her, and earnestly besought her husband to confide it, after her death, to the care of one of her relatives. He promised, and, I believe, did for a while let the child stay in charge of the person whom the mother had designated. Some weeks ago, however, Mr. A. again married, and at once reclaimed the child, who as yet had never learned to speak a word, and was unable to crawl. One day this child was left alone for a few moments in its stepmother’s bedroom, lying in a crib or cradle some distance from the bed. When Mrs. A. returned she was amazed to see the child smiling and crowing upon the middle of the bed—In her astonishment she involuntarily asked:

“Who put you here, baby?”

“Mamma!” responded quite distinctly the child that had never before spoken a word.

On a strict inquiry throughout the household it was found that none of the family had been in the room during Mrs. A’s brief absence from it. This, it is solemnly averred, was but the beginning of a series of spiritual visitations from the dead mother. Whenever the child was left alone it could be heard to laugh and crow as if delighted by the fondlings and endearments of someone, and on these occasions it was frequently found to have changed its dress, position, &c., in a manner quite beyond its own unaided capacity.

Finally, as the account is, the first Mrs. A. appeared one night at the bedside of Mr. A. and his second wife, and earnestly entreated that her darling should be restored to the relative whom she had indicated as the guardian of the child on her death bed. The apparition, which, it is declared, was distinctly seen and heard by both Mr. A. and his wife, promised to haunt them no more if her wish was complied with. Both Mr. A. and his wife were too much awe-stricken to reply; but the next day the child was carried back as directed by the ghostly visitant. Such is the story as seriously avouched by the principal parties concerned, who are most respectable and intelligent people, and no spiritualists.

New Philadelphia [OH] Democrat 10 February 1871: p. 2

It’s practically obligatory for the ghostly mother in this genre of story to assert her dominance over her successor or make sure that her children are being properly treated. Even with some advances in obstetrics, women knew that death was a possibility with every pregnancy and anxiety over what would become of their motherless children is a constant theme in death-bed narratives. But perhaps mother-love never really dies.

For a previous story of a ghostly mother who threatened a new stepmother, see this post. That story also appears in The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past

Mrs Daffodil has told the heart-warming story of a ghost-mother who comes to assist her dying boy to the Other Side. And a shiversome tale of a phantom mother’s revenge.

 

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.

A Jockey’s Ghost: 1880s

death and the jockey 1825

With the event known as the “Run for the Roses” scheduled for to-morrow, Mrs Daffodil yields the floor to that perpetual ray of sunshine over at Haunted Ohio, who shares the thrilling story of

A JOCKEY’S GHOST.

He Re-visits the Stables at the Race Course Where the Man was Killed.

 “A dispatch from Rochester, N.Y., dated August 19th, to the Indianapolis News says;”

Some years ago, in a running race at Detroit, Danny Mackin, a jockey, was killed by the horse he was riding making a sudden and vicious bolt and hurling his rider to the ground. When the jockey was picked up a stream of blood was running from a hole in his temple down his cheek and neck, A story has been current among jockeys and stablemen ever since Mackin’s death that his ghost walks at night among race-track stables, the quest of the spectre being presumably the horse that killed the jockey. This story has always been believed by stablemen, and if any ever had any doubt of it they are dispelled now, for the ghost itself was seen by at least a dozen of them at the Washington Driving Park stables one night recently.

The midnight watch of stablemen had come on duty, and the men were lounging in front of the stables, when one of them saw a slim figure in white approaching the stables from a clump of trees on the grounds. The man called the attention of his companions to the object. They all saw it clearly as it glided noiselessly towards the stable. When the apparition came full in the light of the large hanging lamp in the front of the stable and revealed the figure, clad in jockey garb and a face as white as the clothes, with a red streak running from the right temple, down the cheek and neck, like a line of blood trickling down, the stablemen were paralysed with fear. The spectre jockey passed into the stable through the open door. The door leading to the stalls where the racers were was closed, but the ghost kept right on, passed through the door as if it had been opened, and disappeared. One of the stablemen recovered himself sufficiently to think that perhaps this might be a clever trick of some one to get at the horses to do them harm, and he hurried forward and opened the door leading to the stalls, with the intention of preventing any such purpose. Two or three of his companions followed him. The apparition was moving slowly along the stall, stopping an instant at each one and then passing on to the next. The horses seemed to be aware of the mysterious presence. They neighed and plunged and stamped in their stalls as the spectre passed along.

The stablemen were again paralysed by this second vision of the jockey ghost, and stood motionless and speechless at the door. The apparition glided to and paused at every stall in the stable, turned its face for a moment toward the three terror-stricken men in the door, and disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as it had come. That they had seen the wandering ghost of poor Danny Mackin not one stableman of the midnight watch has the shadow of a doubt.

Oakland [CA] Tribune 17 September 1890: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does not like to spoil a thrilling yarn, but despite the best efforts of some of the finest scholars of the historical paranormal, the strict veracity of this story has not been confirmed. There are many stories of jockeys dying during races, but to date no actual trace of poor Danny Mackin’s existence, let alone death, has come to light. The fact that the horse and the Detroit racing venue are not named and that various syndications of the tale name Rochester Driving Park rather than Washington Driving Park as the location of the ghost’s walk, suggests that this may be a Victorian “urban legend” rather than the exact truth. Alternately, a prankster may have been at work—ghost-impersonators were a perennial nineteenth-century problem. Still, if true, the story begs the question: What revenge was the phantom jockey prepared to take—indeed, what revenge could a disembodied spirit take—upon the horse that killed him?

 

Other supernatural tales of the race-track: The Jockey Wore Crape, and Hunches and Hearses at the Racetrack.

 

 

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.

Why is the Cat Uncanny?: 1912

fairies riding cat 1894 McDonald Phantasies

Fairies riding a cat, 1894

In various parts of Europe (some districts of England included) white cats were thought to attract benevolently disposed fairies, and a peasant would as soon have thought of cutting off his fingers, or otherwise maltreating himself, as being unkind to an animal of this species. In the fairy lore of half Europe we have instances of luck-bringing cats—each country producing its own version of Puss in Boots, Dame Mitchell and her cat. Dick Whittington and his cat. It is the same in Asia, too; for nowhere are such stories more prolific than in China and Persia.

To sum up then,—in all climes and in all periods of past history, the cat was credited with many properties that brought it into affinity and sympathy with the supernatural— or, if you will, superphysical—world. Let us review the cat to-day, and sec to what extent this past regard of it is justified.

Firstly, with respect to it as the harbinger of fortune. Has a cat insight into the future? Can it presage wealth or death?

I am inclined to believe that certain cats can, at all events, foresee the advent of the latter; and that they do this in the same manner as the shark, crow, owl, jackal, hyaena, etc., viz. by their abnormally developed sense of smell. My own and other people’s experience has led me to believe that when a person is about to die, some kind of phantom, maybe, the spirit of some one closely associated with the sick person, or, maybe, a spirit whose special function it is to be present on such occasions, is in close proximity to the sick or injured one, waiting to escort his or her soul into the world of shadows—and that certain cats scent its approach.

Therein then—in this wonderful property of smell—lies one of the secrets to the cat’s mysterious powers—it has the psychic faculty of scent—of scenting ghosts. Some people, too, have this faculty. In a recent murder case, in the North of England, a rustic witness gave it in her evidence that she was sure a tragedy was about to happen because she “smelt death in the house,’’ and it made her very uneasy. Cats possessing this peculiarity are affected in a similar manner—they are uneasy. Before a death in a house, I have watched a cat show gradually increasing signs of uneasiness. It has moved from place to place, unable to settle in any one spot for any length of time, had frequent fits of shivering, gone to the door, sniffed the atmosphere, thrown back its head and mewed in a low, plaintive key, and shown the greatest reluctance to being alone in the dark.

This faculty possessed by certain cats may in some measure explain certain of the superstitions respecting them. Take, for instance, that of cats crossing one’s path predicting death.

The cat is drawn to the spot because it scents the phantom of death, and cannot resist its magnetic attraction.

From this, it does not follow that the person who sees the cat is going to die, but that death is overtaking some one associated with that person; and it is in connexion with the latter that the spirit of the grave is present, employing, as a medium of prognostication, the cat, which has been given the psychic faculty of smell that it might be so used.

But although I regard this theory as feasible, I do not attribute to cats, with the same degree of certainty, the power to presage good fortune, simply because 1 have had no experience of it myself. Yet, adopting the same lines of argument, I see no reason why cats should not prognosticate good as well as evil.

There may be phantoms representative of prosperity, in just the same manner as there are those representative of death; they, too, may also have some distinguishing scent (flowers have various odours, so why not spirits ?); and certain cats, i.e. white cats in particular, may be attracted by it.

This becomes all the more probable when one considers how very impressionable the cat is—how very sensitive to kindness. There are some strangers with whom the cat will at once make friends, and others whom it will studiously avoid. Why? The explanation, I fancy, lies once more in the Occult—in the cat’s psychic faculty of smell. Kind people attract benevolently disposed phantoms, which bring with them an agreeably scented atmosphere, that, in turn, attracts cats.

The cat comes to one person because it knows by the smell of the atmosphere surrounding him, or her, that they have nothing to fear—that the person is essentially gentle and benignant. On the contrary, cruel people attract malevolent phantoms, distinguishable also to the cat by their smell, a smell typical of cruelty—often of homicidal lunacy (I have particularly noticed how cats have shrunk from people who have afterwards become dangerously insane). Is this sense of smell, then, the keynote to the halo of mystery that has for all times surrounded the cat—that has led to its bitter persecution—that has made it the hero of fairy lore, the pet of old maids? I believe it is— I believe, in this psychic faculty of smell, lies wholly, or in greater part, the solution to the riddle—Why is the cat uncanny!

“Cats and the Unknown,” Elliott O’Donnell The Occult Review December 1912

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil really must take issue with the Great Ghost-hunter O’Donnell. It is axiomatic that if there is one person in the room who is highly allergic or antipathetic to cats, it is into the lap of that person which a cat will leap. Mrs Daffodil has never seen it fail.

That said, the idea of a spirit having a particular odour, like a flower, is a diverting one. One elderly American gentleman was queried by a “psychic researcher” after he divulged that he had smelt a ghost. He retorted “You ask me how ghosts smell. They smell like ghosts—that’s all I can tell you. How you speck they smell?”

Mrs Daffodil is fond of cats and does not consider them uncanny in the least. However, Mrs Daffodil is reminded by Mr O’Donnell’s assertion that cats can scent the approach of death of the handsome and remarkably prescient Oscar, who has foretold fifty to one hundred deaths at a Rhode Island nursing home and even has his own “Facebook” page.

Some other stories of uncanny cats are What the Cat Saw, The Cats Came Back, The Black Cat Elemental, Murder by Cat, and The White Cat

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.

 

A Lover’s Ghost: 1880s

A LOVER’S TRYST

By A.G.A.

The following may interest those who, like Hamlet, think “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy!” I have set down a plain and simple statement of facts, for the absolute truth of which I can vouch, as I was one of the two persons who, through the medium of the table, obtained them at first hand.

Some years ago I was living in a central part of the S.W. district in London. The numbers of the houses were even on the one side and uneven on the other. I lived on the even-numbered side, and on the opposite side, only a little lower down, lived a friend whom I saw nearly every day. If I called about tea-time and found her out, I was sure to be told “Mrs. West would be back for tea, and that I was to wait.” I was then shown into the drawing-room, and would take up a book or paper to amuse myself with till her return, my companion being a pretty little pug belonging to Mrs. West. Very often, whilst reading, I would suddenly feel that there was a Presence in the room, and this feeling was so strong that I felt it impossible to shake it off, and would get up and examine every nook and corner to see if any one had come into the room and was hiding for a joke, but t never found any one, and would sit down again, still with the feeling of some one being near me. The little dog shared this feeling, for she would spring up on my knee whining and shaking from head to foot, her coat bristling, and exhibiting every sign of terror! I would pat her and say “We are a pair of geese to feel nervous when there is no one here!” On my friend’s return, I would laugh and say: “This is an uncanny room, for I feel sure some one comes into it, but I cannot see who it is!’’ One day I was dressing to go out when a note was brought up to me ; it was from Mrs. West, to say that she wished to see me particularly; if I had no other engagement, would I dine with her that evening? I sent an answer in the affirmative, and at 7.30 I walked across to her house. I found Mrs. West and her cousin, Mrs. Meade, who was visiting her, both in the drawing room. The former said: “I am so glad that you were able to come this evening, I expect you are wondering why I want to see you so particularly, but not a word till after dinner.”

When we had settled down again in the drawing-room and pulled our chairs nearer the fire, Mrs. West said: “Now for my story! Grace (her cousin) and I had been out shopping, and we came home at one for lunch. We both came upstairs together, and I was just turning into my bedroom, which, as you know, is behind this drawing-room, and Grace was going up to her room, when I saw my housekeeper, Mrs. Brown, as I thought, pass between us on the landing, and walk straight into the drawing-room. I wanted to see her particularly, so saying: ‘Oh, Mrs. Brown, you are the very person I want to see,’ I turned back from my bedroom door and followed her into the drawing room. The room was empty. I looked everywhere, but no, not a sign of any one. Then I wondered if I had made a mistake and if it was Grace who had gone into the room. I stepped out, and going to the foot of the staircase, I called out: ‘Grace, did you go into the drawing-room just now?’

“‘No.’ came the reply, ‘but Mrs. Brown did! Did you not see her pass between us, when we were outside the drawing room?’

“I did not answer, but when my cousin and I met at lunch, she said— ‘Was there anything wrong? Because I fancied from the tone of your voice that there was!’

“I then told her of my speaking to Mrs. Brown and following her into the drawing-room only to find the room empty. She was astonished and said: ‘But I saw her!

“‘So did I,’ I replied, ‘but no one was in the room!’ I then made up my mind to ask you to come to dinner this evening, for I knew you would be much interested.”

I told Mrs. West that I was indeed interested, and should much like to find out who had gone into the room, and I continued— “I have told you more than once that II have felt a Presence in this room!”

We then resolved to see if the table, which had often rapped out things, could throw any light on this subject. Mrs. West and I put our hands on the table, and Mrs. Meade sat by, paper and pencil in hand, ready to write every word down.

After waiting a little time, the table began its communications. It stated that the figure which had appeared was that of Louise D—–. At the time of the Indian Mutiny [c. 1857], she had come to this house to take leave of her lover, George S—–, who had been ordered off with his regiment to the seat of war. It was their last meeting, for he was killed; and every year she returned to revisit the scene of their last farewell.

We were immensely interested in this, and Mrs. West asked a military friend if he could find out anything about George S—–. He hunted through the records and found that an officer bearing this name had been in the regiment named by the table, and had actually been killed at the place mentioned.

Two years passed away, and we thought no more about this incident, when one day I got a message, asking me to go and see my friend. This was in the afternoon. So I went about five o’clock. She was brimming over with excitement, and exclaimed, “You will be so interested to hear what I have to tell you!” “You know that Mrs. Thompson has been staying with me, and has been taking lessons in wood-carving at South Kensington. This morning we went out and came in at one o’clock for lunch. She went upstairs first, and I was following. Presently I heard her say: ‘Oh! Mrs. Brown (the name of the housekeeper), you must not go down till you have seen my carving!’ I said, ‘Mrs. Brown is not there.’ ‘Oh!’ said Mrs. Thompson, ‘you did not see, but she went into the drawing-room?’ We both went into the drawing-room, but it was empty. I at once recollected what had occurred two years previously, and looking over my note-book I found that this was the same hour of the same day of the same month on which the figure had been seen by my cousin and myself.

“Louisa D—– had come back to keep her tryst.”

The Occult Review September 1905: p. 140-42

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil confesses herself somewhat puzzled by this story. By this time Louisa D__ should have pined herself to death and been ecstatically reunited in the Afterlife with George S__.   And if she was still alive, surely a kindly note could have been dispatched to the bereaved lady, suggesting that she cease her astral-projection–so distressing to the the lawful current tenants.

Mrs Daffodil wonders about the status of George S__ in this spectral drama: did he also return to the drawing-room—but at the wrong time because of the different time zones, thus missing the tryst? Or was he waiting somewhere else—tapping his foot impatiently on the platform at Paddington Station, when he should have been at King’s Cross?  Or—unromantic thought!—was he so absorbed in the attractions of the Afterlife—perhaps the excellent cigars and whisky Oliver Lodge‘s late soldier son Raymond mentioned—that he had entirely forgotten his erstwhile Beloved?

Mrs Daffodil has heard from the footmen who sometimes watch “ghost-hunting” shows on the television, that certain individuals simply do not know that they have died and need to have the news tactfully broken to them so that they can “go to the light” or something of the sort. One tactic is to tell the lingering spirit that the Beloved is waiting for them so that they will “move on.” Mrs Daffodil is surprised that the narrator did not try this approach, although one wonders what awkwardness would have ensued if George S__ ,  absorbed in a game of billiards with a whisky-and-soda at his elbow, refused to be summoned from the ranks of the Blessed to keep a tryst with his Louisa.

 

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.

Parson Patten and the Ghost: 1750s

LAYING A GHOST.

The following story of Parson Patten laying a ghost was told to Captain Grose, by the reverend gentleman himself.

A substantial farmer, married to a second wife, and who had a son grown up to man’s estate, frequently promised to take him as a partner in his farm, or, at least, to leave it to him at his decease; but having neglected to do either, on his death, his widow took possession of the lease and carried on the business, the son in vain urging the father’s promise, and requesting she should at least take him as a partner. In order to terrify his step-mother into compliance, he used to rise at midnight, and, with hideous groans, to drag the waggon chain about the yard and outhouses, circulating a report that this noise was occasioned by his father’s ghost, and that the dead man would not rest quietly in his grave till his promise to his son was fulfilled.

This was carried on for some time, till at length the widow, who had no relish for giving up any part of the farm, applied to Mr Patten (in whose parish the farm lay) for his advice, saying she would have the ghost laid in the Red Sea, if he could do it. Patten, though no believer in ghosts, resolved to turn this matter to his own advantage, and putting on a grave countenance, told her, that what she required was no small matter; that besides a good stock of courage, much learning was required to lay a ghost, as the whole form must necessarily be pronounced in Latin; wherefore he could not afford to do it under a guinea. The widow hereupon demurred for some time, but at length tired out with the freaks of the supposed ghost, who every night became more and more outrageous, agreed to pay the money. Patten, moreover, required a fire in the best parlour, two candles, and a large bowl of punch. These being all prepared, he took his post, expecting the nocturnal visitor.

The farmer’s son, who did not know the sort of man he had to deal with, thought he could frighten the parson, and accordingly at twelve began his perambulation. No sooner did Patten hear the chain and the groans, than he sallied forth, and, without any further ceremony, seized the supposed ghost by the collar, and commenced belabouring him heartily with a good oak sapling. Finding himself by no means a match for his opponent, the young farmer fell down on his knees, and confessed the contrivance; beseeching the parson, at the same time, not to expose him, nor to reveal it to his step-mother, who would have been glad of the pretence to turn him out of the house. The parson, on the young man’s promise never to disturb the house again, let him go, and undertook to settle matters with his step-mother.

Early next morning she came down, anxious to know what had passed the preceding night, when the parson, with a well-counterfeited terror in his countenance, told her he had been engaged in a terrible conflict, the deceased being one of the most obstinate and fierce spirits he had ever met with ; but that he had at length, with great difficulty and expense of Latin, laid him. “Poor wicked soul,” says he, “I forgive him; though great part of his disquiet is owing to thirty shillings of tithes of which he defrauded me, but which he desired, nay, commanded, you should pay; and on that condition only he has agreed to trouble the house no more. He does not insist on your completing his promise to his son, but wishes you would, at least, let him have a share in the farm.” To all this the woman assented, and Patten received the thirty shillings over and above the stipulated guinea.

The book of clerical anecdotes, Jacob Larwood, 1881: p. 146-7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Rev. Mr Thomas Patten, as another portion of the book above informs us, had been “chaplain to a man-of-war, and had contracted a kind of marine roughness from his voyages. He was of an athletic make, and had a considerable share of wit and humour, not restrained by any strict ideas of professional propriety…He had such an esteem for punch, that when his sermons were too long, someone showing him a lemon, could at any time cause him to bring his discourse to an abrupt conclusion, that he might be at liberty to adjourn to the public-house.”

The book of clerical anecdotes, Jacob Larwood, 1881: p. 61

This ingenious ornament to the C of E also lived openly with his mistress and was a terror to smugglers, especially if they did not pay tithes on their profits. He died in 1764, aged 80, to the relief of Church authorities.  He was obviously well-suited for his role as “ghost-layer.” Parsons were frequently called upon to “lay” (“exorcism” smacked too much of Papist rituals) troublesome spirits. A popular tactic was to coax, command, or conjure the spirit into a bottle, seal it, and throw it into a local pond, although it was claimed that some spirits were banished to the Red Sea. Another way to deal with a restless spirit was to put the ghost to making ropes of sand because, after all, idle hands are the Devil’s playground.

 

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.

Nero’s Ghost: 1885-1905

tomb of nero Piranesi c 1745

The Tomb of Nero, Giovanni Battista Piranesi c. 1745 https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-tomb-of-nero/GAE_RpRhWJ-twQ

For the Ides of March, a Roman ghost story about the notorious Emperor Nero.

The early history of [Santa Maria del Popolo] is a strange one. After the suicide of Nero in A.D. 68, the Senate expressed its loathing of his character by a decree of Memoriae damnatio, and by prohibiting his interment in the Mausoleum of Augustus, the burial-place of the Caesars. His body was therefore interred by his mistress Acte and two faithful servants in the Tomb of the Domitii on the Collis Hortulorum, or Pincian Hill. But even here the unquiet spirit of Nero found no rest. Many centuries after, the people of Rome were affrighted by shrieks as of tortured souls and ghostly apparitions, which were seen at nightfall in the woods and thickets of the Pincian slopes, so that, as the Monkish chronicler says, “No man dared pass that way for fear of what he might hap to see and hear.” In their trouble the people appealed at last to the Pope Paschal II., who was Pontiff at the time when these ghostly visitations reached their climax ; and he, advised in a dream by the Virgin herself, went in procession with all the Cardinals and Arch-priests of Rome to the haunted spot, and there, with his own hands, sawed down a certain walnut-tree, which had been the centre of the ghostly sights and sounds; this he did regardless of the demons, who with roarings like that of lions strove to terrify the holy Father. Under this tree the body of Nero was found– cause of all the hellish riot—and on this very spot Paschal II. laid the foundation of the high altar of a church dedicated to the Virgin, under the name of Santa Maria ad Portam Flaminiam.

This happened in the year 1099….

The name S. Maria del Popolo, by which this church is usually known, was given to it from the fact that it was founded to relieve the terrors of the people, and built, partly at least, by a public subscription. That the story about its origin is not a mere popular legend, but a solemnly accredited tradition of the church, is borne witness to by a large inscribed slab in the pavement of the retrochoir.

The Portfolio: An Artistic Periodical, Vol. 16, Philip Gilbert Hamerton, editor, 1885: pp. 118.

Those roaring “demons,” seem to have been an infestation of crows roosting in the walnut tree.

There, at the northern gate of the city, where the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo now stands, was once the tomb of Nero. Over it grew a great walnut-tree, and in its branches multitudes of crows were wont to caw and chatter, unmindful of the travellers who passed in and out through the gate below. In the closing days of the eleventh century, Pope Paschal the Second had a dream, which told him that these evil-omened birds were demons, waiting upon the detested spirit of the Roman emperor, who came out at night and wandered on the Pincian, attended by the unclean brood. To lay Nero’s uneasy ghost, the Pope tore down the remnants of the tomb, scattered his ashes, and built upon the spot a church to the Blessed Virgin, with money collected from the common people, hence ” del Popolo,” — of the people, — a name which has since been given to the piazza and the gate as well. But the demon crows, driven from Nero’s walnut-tree, moved higher up the Pincian, and it is supposed that Nero’s ghost still wanders here, for the crows are yet in evidence, and why should they remain if their master spirit has departed?

Rome, Vol. 1, Walter Taylor Field, 1905 : p. 27

Ms Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is, of course, the Ides of March, a day of several religious rituals for the ancient Romans and best-known for being the fateful day of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC. There is no record of Caesar haunting the site of his death or appearing to his assassins, but somehow the phrase “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” entered the lexicon as an expression of frustration.

“Great Nero’s Ghost!” might have been a more accurate catch-phrase.  The wicked Emperor Nero, whose name is a byword for the decadence and excess of the Roman Emperors, did not rest easily in his tomb. There were legends persisting for centuries that he did not, in fact commit suicide, but had fled to a far country and (like our King Arthur) return in the Empire’s time of need. He also seems to have been—and rightly so—concerned about his post-mortem reputation:

The spirits of the worst of the Roman Emperors were, as we should expect, especially restless. Pliny tells us how Fannius, who was engaged upon a Life of Nero, was warned by him of his approaching death. He was lying on his couch at dead of night with a writing-desk in front of him, when Nero came and sat down by his side, took up the first book he had written on his evil deeds, and read it through to the end; and so on with the second and the third. Then he vanished. Fannius was terrified, for he thought the vision implied that he would never get beyond the third book of his work, and this actually proved to be the case.

Greek and Roman Ghost Stories, Lacy Collison-Morley, 1912

Nero was known for his sensitivity to criticism. He had an army commander executed for imprudent remarks about the Emperor at a private party and exiled a politician who wrote a book critical of the government. And he thought highly of his own talents to the bitter end. It is said that Nero’s last words were “What an artist dies in me!”

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.