Category Archives: History 1800-1837

Encore: A Bashful Bridegroom: 1830s

Country Wedding, John Lewis Krimmel, 1820

A Bashful Bridegroom

Senator Sebastian, of Arkansas, was a native of Hickman county, Tenn. On one occasion a member of Congress was lamenting his bashful awkwardness. “Why,” said the

A Bashful Bridegroom

Senator Sebastian, of Arkansas, was a native of Hickman county, Tenn. On one occasion a member of Congress was lamenting his bashful awkwardness. “Why,” said the senator from Rackensack, “you don’t know what bashfulness is. Let me tell you a story, and when I get through I will stand the bob if you don’t agree that you never knew anything about bashfulness and its baneful effects. I was the most bashful boy west of the Alleghenies. I wouldn’t look at a girl, much less speak to a maiden; but for all that I fell desperately in love with a sweet, beautiful neighbor girl. It was a desirable match on both side, and the old folks saw the drift, and fixed it up. I thought I should die, just thinking of it. I was a gawky, awkward country lout about nineteen years old. She was an intelligent, refined and fairly well educated girl in a country and at a time when the girls had superior advantages, and were therefore superior in culture to the boys. I fixed the day as far as I could have put it off. I lay awake in a cold perspiration as the time drew near, and shivered with agony and thought of the terrible ordeal. The dreadful day came. I went through with the program somehow in a dazed, confused, mechanical sort of a way, like an automaton booby through a supper where I could eat nothing, and through such games as “Possum Pie,” “Sister Phoebe,” and all that sort of thing. The guests one by one departed, and my hair began to stand on end. Beyond the awful curtain of Isis lay the terrible unknown. My blood grew cold and boiled by turns. I was in a fever and then an ague, pale and flushed by turns. I felt like fleeing into the woods, spending the night in the barn, leaving for the west never to return. I was deeply devoted to Sallie. I loved her harder than mule can kick; but that terrible ordeal!—I could not, dare not stand it. Finally the last guest was gone, the bride retired, the family gone to bed, and I was left alone—horror of horrors, alone with the old man. “John,” said he, “you can take that candle, you will find your room just over this. Goodnight, John, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul,” and with a mischievous twinkle in his fine gray eye the old man left the room. I mentally said “Amen” to his “Heaven help you,” and when I heard him close a distant door, staggered to my feet and seized the farthing dip with nervous grasp. I stood for some minutes contemplating my terrible fate, and the inevitable and speedy doom about to overwhelm me. I knew that it could not be avoided, and yet I hesitated to meet my fate like a man. I stood so long that three love letters had grown in the wick of the tallow dip and a winding sheet was decorating the side of the brass candle-stick. A happy thought struck me. I hastily climbed the stair, marked the position of the landing, and the door of the bridal chamber. I would have died before I would have disrobed in that holy chamber, where awaiting me a trembling and beautiful girl, a blushing maiden, “clothed upon” with her own beauty and modesty, and her snowy robe de nuit. I would make the usual preparations without, blow out the light, open the door, and friendly night would shield my shrinking modesty and bashfulness and grateful darkness at least mitigate the horror of the situation. It was soon done. Preparations for retiring were few and simple in their character in Hickman, altogether consisting of disrobing, and owing to the scarcity of cloth in those days man was somewhere near the Adamic state when he was prepared to woo sweet sleep. The dreadful hour had come; I was ready. I blew out the light, grasped the door-knob with a deathly gripe and a nervous clutch; one moment and it would be over.

One moment and it wasn’t over by a d__n sight. I leaped within, and there around a glowing hickory fire, with candles brightly burning on the mantel and bureau, was the blushing bride, surrounded by the six lovely bridesmaids.”

The Fresno [CA] Republican 24 June 1882: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil really has nothing to add….

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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Shrieks in the West Room: 1835

Shrieks in the West Room at Flesbury

A plain statement of the facts, as they occurred, without any attempt to embellish or magnify them, will be given.

Early in 1835, my brother John was taken seriously ill, and for many weeks his life hung in the balance. A crisis was reached and passed, followed by a fortnight of mingled hope and despair. At the end of that time his condition showed so great an improvement that the most sanguine hopes for his recovery were entertained by all the family, except his mother and aunt, who continued to be very anxious so long as the doctors were unwilling to give a decidedly favourable opinion.

It was between five and six o clock on a fine spring evening, towards the end of March. The sinking sun was cheerfully lighting up the West room, where three of John’s sisters and his brother William were sitting, having just left their father in the dining-room. Their mother and aunt had returned to John’s room. The West room adjoins the principal staircase, which leads up from the entrance hall through the centre of the house. There is a small landing at the door of the West room, the stain ascending a little further to the principal landing. A second flight leads to the upper landing, on which opened the room occupied by John. Owing to the centre of the house being open, any sound in the hall is distinctly audible on the upper floor. The offices are reached by a long passage behind the hall and the dining-room, so that ordinary sounds from the hall or the staircase cannot be heard there.

The children in the West room were all in the highest spirits. They were no longer feeling anxious about their brother and were even a little inclined to think that their elders had been unnecessarily alarmed. Poor dear Johnnie, they told each other, after all the fuss that had been made, was getting well.

To be sure, it was impossible to spoil him; he was such a dear good boy and never made a fuss about himself. But even now Mamma and Aunt would not believe that he was not going to die. In fact, that very day at dinner. Mamma had been actually crying again. The children went on to discuss the two doctors who were attending John. The younger of the two had particularly annoyed them that day m reporting on the state of the patient to their father. While admitting an increase in strength and appetite, he had added, ‘Still, I see no improvement.’ ‘Papa said he was ridiculously inconsistent,’ one of the children remarked; and someone went on to say something which raised a general laugh. The laughter had not ceased when a piercing shriek rang through the room. It was as if uttered by someone standing on the landing just outside the open door.

There was silence, and then a second shriek like the first; another silence, and then yet a third shriek, even louder and more prolonged than the others, and ending in a rattling, gurgling sound, as though someone were dying.

The children in the room were struck with horror. None of them is likely to forget that awful sound. As I write, it seems to ring in my ears.

In a moment the door of the drawing-room, on the further side of the hall, was thrown open, and Mr Carnsen, who had been sitting in the room alone, hurried across the hall to the foot of the staircase. He called in an agitated voice to his daughter, whom he knew to be in the West room ‘Gertrude, what is the matter! Who is screaming in that dreadful manner!’

‘Papa,’ we answered, ‘we don’t know. It wasn’t one of us, though it seemed quite close.’

‘It sounded as though someone were in great distress,’ our father said. ‘Go down to Grace and ask her if the people in the kitchen are all right, although the noise did not seem to come from there.

Gertrude went at once and found the housekeeper alone in the big front room. She was standing as if listening and declared she had distinctly heard three shrieks. She was wondering what could be the matter and though positive that the sound had come from further off than the kitchen, she went there to enquire if the servants knew anything.

When she returned her usually florid face was quite pale. ‘Oh, Miss Gertrude,’ she said, ‘there is no hope for Master John — that is what it means. What we heard was none of the servants, and no human voice. The servants heard the screams too but they seemed to come from far off.’

‘How can you talk such nonsense!’ Gertrude replied. ‘A person like you ought to know better. Papa says you must find out what it was and let him know.’

The girl then returned to the hall, where she found her father talking to the old doctor, who had just arrived. Mr. Carnsen was saying: ‘It was like a woman’s voice, screaming as though in the utmost distress. You would have supposed she was being murdered.’

The doctor replied that he had been crossing the lawn at the time, and that if the noise had come from outside the house, he must have heard it.

After Gertrude had reported the failure of her enquiries, her father asked her to tell her mother, who was in John’s room, of the doctor’s arrival. On her way upstairs, she looked into the West room, where she found that the others had been joined by Ellen, a faithful and attached servant, with the youngest child, then about two and a half, in her arms. Ellen said they had been in one of the rooms on the first landing when they had heard the shrieks, coming, as it were, from the West room or near it. The child asked, ‘Who is screaming, Ellen; I didn’t scream’; and picking her up the maid had run to the West room to find out what was the matter.

One of the children remarked: ‘Poor Johnnie! How frightened he must have been!’

Whereupon Ellen suggested: ‘Could it have been Master John seized with a fit?’

Struck with this idea, Gertrude ran upstairs. The door of her brother s room was partly open, and when she went in she saw him lying with a very placid look on his fact. As she passed the bed, he gave her a look and a smile, but did not speak. Her mother was resting on the sofa and her aunt was reading by the window. Nothing in short, could have been quieter or more composed than the room and its inmates.

After announcing the doctor s arrival, Gertrude went over to the bed to discover if possible, without alarming her brother, if he had heard the shrieks.

‘Johnnie, how quiet you look!’ she said. Have you been asleep?’

No, Gertrude,’ he replied, ‘I was not asleep and I knew the doctor had come. I heard Dash give his little bark’ — meaning a short single bark which the old dog, who lay on a mat in the hall always gave when the doctor arrived. So it seemed that John had heard the bark, but not the awful shrieks which had rung through the house and been heard by everyone in it except himself and those who were with him.

The doctor was now on his way up and Gertrude, as she left, beckoned to her aunt to follow her. In the West room she told her of their experience, the aunt replying that everything had been exceptionally quiet that afternoon in John’s room.

He had been lying awake, but without speaking for some tune and no unusual noise of any kind had been heard.

An immediate search was made, every possible and impossible cause being sought for and suggested; but all was in vain; no explanation was forthcoming.

Next morning, the doctor came to breakfast, accompanied by his brother, the old clergyman, who occasionally visited John; and while they were there, the housekeeper and the farm bailiff were called in and questioned as to the result of the enquiries which, by Mr. Carnsen’s orders, they had made. One point was clear: the sounds had been made in the house, since no one outside had heard them. The accounts of all those inside the house talked: there had been three shrieks at short intervals; it was as though a woman’s voice were being strained to the utmost; and the noise had ended in a dying rattle. What was most unaccountable was that the shrieks were loudest on the staircase, close to the West room, and therefore should have been distinctly audible in John’s room just above; yet everyone there was utterly unconscious of them.

Nothing more could be done. The servants were given strict orders not to allow any report of what had happened to leak out. Mr. Carnsen, who disliked the subject so much that no one ventured afterwards to allude to it in his presence, enjoined a similar silence on the children. The clergyman, after hearing all the evidence, pronounced the incident to be of a kind for which it was impossible to give a natural explanation. He told us that we could not pretend to deny the reality of what we had heard, but must not give way to superstitious fancies Some lesson or warning which time would make more clearly known, was intended.

From that day onwards, even those of us who had been most hopeful, found their confidence gone, though for another week John’s health continued to show signs of improvement.

After that he took a turn for the worse, and three weeks from the day when the shrieks were heard he died. It may be asked whether a similar warning was given on the occasion of the death of any other member of the family

Fifteen years later, John’s young sister, Emma, was on her deathbed. In the middle of the night, just before the end, those who were watching in her room heard sounds of hysterical wailing and lamentation passing through the house The noises ceased as she drew her last breath A few months later, when the daughters were watching by the deathbed of their mother they had so strong an expectation of hearing that unearthly voice once more, that they told each other they ought to doubt the evidence of their senses if it came but it did not come. Nor was any warning given of the deaths of two of the sons in distant lands, or when Mr Carnsen himself passed away in March 1860 as he knelt in prayer by his bedside.

Further Stories from Lord Halifax’s Ghost Book, 1937, pp. 3-9 (reported earlier in an abbreviated form in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 16 November 1888).

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: As the Proceedings and the introduction to this story in The Ghost Book says, ” Lord Halifax copied the following story from a manuscript, written by the sister of John Carnsen, the child concerned, who died on April 22nd 1835, aged eleven. He added the information that ‘the house where the events of this narrative occurred is Flesbury, a lonely country house on the north coast of Cornwall. The family who reside there are the only descendants of the Carnsens of Carnsen, in Cornwall.’ The names are given as they appear in The Ghost Book, but Carnsen should probably be Carnsew, the name of an old Cornish family, and Flesbury, should probably be Flexbury, near Bude.”

Ah, that is so often the trouble with supernatural accounts: the narrator wishes to disguise the name of the family or the location so that the family is not embarrassed or the house does not get a bad name. One wonders if such subterfuges confused the wailing spirit, who did not appear at the death of the narrator’s brothers, mother, or father, but instead found itself in the Bude-Stratton Business Centre car park, puzzling over a Ordnance Survey map in search of a non-existent family and house.

 

 

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.

Mrs Daffodil on Flowers

A miniature flower painting by Jan Frans van Dael, mounted as a brooch. http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?qu=jewellery&oid=156467

Since the Family is away on holiday over the week-end, Mrs Daffodil is taking this opportunity to take a brief holiday of her own, possibly paying a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show and returning, refreshed, Wednesday next.

She has posted on floral themes many times, so, to while away the hours for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers who will be counting the moments until a new post appears, here are some posts pertinent to the topic of flowers.

Strange Flower Superstitions of Many Lands

Queen Adelaide’s Flower-Acrostic Dress

The Wild-Flower Wedding

A Miniature Matterhorn and Gnome Miners

Funeral Flowers for Young Helen

Napoleon and the Gardener

A very recent post: The Black Rose

And Mrs Daffodil’s favourite gardening story, “The Occasional Garden,” by Mr H. H. Munro [Saki]

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a delightful and restful week-end with well-filled picnic hampers and unclouded blue skies.

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.

Nanny the Witch: 1820s

That bewitching person over at Haunted Ohio suggested to Mrs Daffodil that a Walpurgisnacht post might be amusing and instructive.

A CUMBERLAND WITCH

By Mrs. J. Allsopp

I have been asked by some friends interested in occult subjects to record some information which came to me in my youth, as likely to prove interesting to others. The facts narrated were told to me by my grandmother, who had personally known the author of the proceedings.

About a hundred years ago near the small town of Brampton, in Cumberland, lived a woman who went by the name of Nanny. She was supposed by the country-folk to be a witch, and to have the power to ill-wish and overlook. The people stood in great awe of her and treated her with a fearful respect. Some envied her powers, others conciliated her as much as possible. She was the usual referendum when things were lost, and could always tell where they were. It chanced that my grandfather, who kept a large dairy farm, had for some time been annoyed by the loss of his butter firkins. This became more and more frequent, and as he could not catch the thief, he decided to seek Nanny’s aid in the matter. A neighbour offered to accompany him, as he was rather nervous. As they approached her dwelling she came out and called to my grandfather before he had the chance to speak, “Don’t come any farther, the man who has your firkins is with you.” And it turned out to be true. The man had the firkins.

She was of a rather peculiar appearance, and a less terrible person than she would have been subjected to ridicule. It happened one day that she was going past a farm where the maidens were washing in the open air. As she passed they laughed at her. She stopped, came back and said: “Ye may laugh and dance till I choose ye to stop.” And they began to laugh and dance, and nothing would make them cease. At last in desperation their master went to the old woman and prayed her on bended knees to forgive the girls. This she did, but they had danced twenty-four hours.

It is said that she once entered a house and all the doors both upstairs and down flew violently open. She is supposed to have uttered many prophecies. Her most famous one is that regarding an important local family. This was that when the church bell should toll without hands in L__ church and the hare litter on the hearth-stone great misfortune would happen to them. This did actually come to pass. The church, fallen into ruins almost, gave free ingress to the cattle, and a cow got in and caught her horns in the bell rope, causing the bell to ring. At N__, their ancestral home, a hare got into a disused room and littered on the hearth. Strange as it may seem, a long period of misfortune ensued.

I have said that her power was envied by some. A girl who had watched her very closely for some time, greatly desired to be as clever as she was. She met her one day and plucked up courage to tell her so. “All right, lass,” said the old dame, “come to my cottage to-night at midnight and see thou tell no one, and thou shalt be as clever as I am.” Greatly elated, the girl determined to do as she was bidden, and at midnight sought the lonely cottage of Nanny. She entered shrinkingly, but Nanny assured her there was nothing to fear. Then she asked her if she really meant what she had said that afternoon. Nanny was assured that she did. “Well then,” said Nanny, “put thy hand on thy head and the other under thy foot and say ‘All’s the Devil’s,’ and thou must really mean it.” There was a terrific burst of thunder, and the girl fled in terror from the cottage. This story about the girl had a very weird effect on me. When I retired that night, it seemed that some one stood by the bed and urged me to repeat Nanny’s words. It became a terrible strife of wills and lasted all night. I insisted on saying “All’s the Lord’s.” It passed with the day, but in the morning the bed was saturated with perspiration, and for many years after I dared not sleep alone. How can these things be accounted for?

Many are the tales still current in the country-side about Nanny. The day she died there was the most awful thunderstorm ever known in those parts. The lightning ran along the ground and the thunder was terrific. She is buried in the tiny churchyard of the old Saxon church of Denton, near Carlisle.

The Occult Review December 1921: p. 341-3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:   Nanny seems to have followed the traditional “cunning-woman” career path of “overlooking” (with the Evil Eye), telling the future, finding lost or stolen objects, and dealing out retribution to those who crossed her. The young ladies were fortunate that they weren’t forced to dance until their feet were worn off, as in the old tale.

When “The Queen of Scottish Witches,” Isobel Gowdie, confessed her witchery in 1662, she declared that she “did put the on of my handis to the crowne of my head and the uther to the sole of my foot, and then renuncet all betuixt my two handis, ower to the Divell.” This hands-on method of dedicating oneself to His Satanic Majesty’s service is found in a number of witch testimonials.

Mrs Daffodil fails to understand why a simple job interview or visit to a hiring fair was not sufficient, but H.S.M. does seem to have a flair for the dramatic: fiery whiz-bang entrances, sulphurous exits, pacts signed in blood, etc. etc. It has often been said that “the Devil walks as a gentleman,” but no gentleman would be caught dead outside of a fancy-dress ball in those red tights.

There are quite a few fascinating posts about witches and witchcraft on the Haunted Ohio site.  Bagging a Witch in Ohio gives a look at New World beliefs, while The Witch Wreath at the Museum tells of sinister feather crowns found in the pillows of the dying, and The Poear Dear and the Wicked Woman: A Suffolk Witch Story. shares the vernacular story of a “spite” accidentally laid on a wife instead of the husband for whom it was meant.

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.

The Princess and the Equerry: 1798-1810

Mrs Daffodil is charmed to welcome once again author Catherine Curzon, with an excerpt from her new book Kings of Georgian Britain. We have had the pleasure of Ms. Curzon’s company before, in “A Coronation for the Ages.” She is a royal historian and, among other things, Madame Gilflurt at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life. Her theme to-day is the melancholy story of

The Princess and the Equerry

The children of George III and Queen Charlotte were many and their fates were varied. Some lived tragically short lives, some entered scandalous unions and some were never out of the papers. Of course, fun was generally confined to the males whilst for the royal daughters, excitement was a notion that could only be dreamed of. They lived a secluded life at Windsor, serving as companions to their mother as she struggled with the challenges of her husband’s mental disorder.

Princess Amelia was one such cosseted daughter. From her birth in 1783 to her death in 1810, Amelia’s life was wracked by ill health, yet she still found time to embark on the kind of doomed love affair best suited to the pages of romantic fiction. However, there was to be no happy ending.

Princess Amelia was the fifteenth and youngest child of the king and queen. She was born at the Royal Lodge, Windsor just three months after the sad death of 4-year-old Octavius, George’s favourite son, and her birth was a bittersweet time for the family. They soon doted on her and gave her the diminutive nickname, ‘Emily’. George, who was hit hardest of all by the death of his son, transferred his adoration to the newborn and lavished affection and attention on her.

When Amelia was just 5 years old the king suffered his first episode of mental illness. Eventually these periods of sickness grew more frequent until George’s initial plans to take his daughters to Hanover in search of husbands were set aside. Since the king had no desperate wish to see his daughters married off, the princesses remained unbetrothed, drawn into their mother’s secluded, secretive circle. No suitors existed at court so, with little opportunity to meet gentlemen, the girls settled into their domestic niche.

By 1798 Amelia was showing signs of tuberculosis and she was sent to take the air of Weymouth in the company of the Honourable Sir Charles FitzRoy, an equerry more than two decades her senior. During this fateful trip, Amelia and FitzRoy fell in love. They dreamed of marriage but their hopes were dashed when the queen refused to tell her husband of the affair. It meant the end of any marriage plans, yet Amelia would not let go of her dream and she and FitzRoy clung to their love, with the young princess even styling herself as AFR, Amelia FitzRoy.

Recalled to Windsor, Amelia grew increasingly despondent and in 1808 suffered a severe attack of measles. Two years later she took to her bed, wracked by tuberculosis. She knew her time was short and commissioned a mourning ring that would be given to the father who doted on her. She also took pains to ensure that she might make her farewells to the man she loved and, with the help of Amelia’s sisters, FitzRoy was given leave to make visits to Amelia’s bedside. One can only hope that the presence of her love gave Amelia some small comfort during her final days yet it must also have reminded her of what she had lost.

On 2 November 1810, 27-year-old Princess Amelia died. Her final thoughts were for the man she loved and her dying words, related by Princess Mary in a letter to FitzRoy, were, “Tell Charles I die blessing him”. She left him all her worldly possessions, still true to the man whom she had once dreamed of calling husband.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Many thanks for that affecting story and heartiest congratulations to Catherine on the release of her newest book.

About the Author

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian who writes on all matters 18th century at www.madamegilflurt.com. Her work has been featured on HistoryExtra.com, the official website of BBC History Magazine and in publications such as Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austens Regency World. She has provided additional research for An Evening with Jane Austen at the V&A and spoken at venues including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, Lichfield Guildhall, he National Maritime Museum and Dr Johnson’s House.

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

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About the Book

For over a century of turmoil, upheaval and scandal, Great Britain was a Georgian land.

From the day the German-speaking George I stepped off the boat from Hanover, to the night that George IV, bloated and diseased, breathed his last at Windsor, the four kings presided over a changing nation.

Kings of Georgian Britain offers a fresh perspective on the lives of the four Georges and the events that shaped their characters and reigns. From love affairs to family feuds, political wrangling and beyond, peer behind the pomp and follow these iconic figures from cradle to grave. After all, being a king isn’t always grand parties and jaw-dropping jewels, and sometimes following in a father’s footsteps can be the hardest job around.

Take a trip back in time to meet the wives, mistresses, friends and foes of the men who shaped the nation, and find out what really went on behind closed palace doors. Whether dodging assassins, marrying for money, digging up their ancestors or sparking domestic disputes that echoed down the generations, the kings of Georgian Britain were never short on drama.

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.

The Duke’s Private Bell: 1804

death-on-bell-rope

THE DUKE OF ROXBURGHE AND HIS SERVANT.

[A Glasgow Professor at the Scott Centenary cited Sir Walter as a witness against Spiritualism. Certain we are that as Spiritualists we rarely find ourselves out of sympathy with Scott. The Edinburgh atmosphere wherein his life was passed was deadly to every form of supernaturalism, but the poet’s honest natural instincts, if oppressed, survived, and are manifest in a multitude of utterances. The following anecdote is from his ” Notes” to the Antiquary.Ed.]

All who were acquainted with that accomplished nobleman, John, Duke of Roxburghe, must remember that he was not more remarkable for creating and possessing a most curious and splendid library, than for his acquaintance with the literary treasures it contained. In arranging his books, fetching and replacing the volumes which he wanted, and carrying on all the necessary intercourse which a man of letters holds with his library, it was the Duke’s custom to employ, not a secretary or librarian, but a livery servant, called Archie, whom habit had made so perfectly acquainted with the library, that he knew every book, as a shepherd does the individuals of his flock, by what is called head-mark, and could bring his master whatever volume he wanted, and afford all the mechanical aid the Duke required in his literary researches. To secure the attendance of Archie, there was a bell hung in his room, which was used on no occasion except to call him individually to the Duke’s study.

His Grace died in St. James’ Square, London, in the year 1804; the body was to be conveyed to Scotland, to lie in state at his mansion of Floors, and to be removed from thence to the family burial-place at Bowden.

At this time, Archie, who had been long attacked by a liver complaint, was in the very last stage of that disease. Yet he prepared himself to accompany the body of the master whom he had so long and so faithfully waited upon. The medical persons assured him he could not survive the journey. It signified nothing, he said, whether he died in England or Scotland; he was resolved to assist in rendering the last honours to the kind master from whom he had been inseparable for so many years, even if he should expire in the attempt. The poor invalid was permitted to attend the Duke’s body to Scotland; but when they reached Floors he was totally exhausted, and obliged to keep his bed, in a sort of stupor which announced speedy dissolution. On the morning of the day fixed for removing the dead body of the Duke to the place of burial, the private bell by which he was wont to summon his attendant to his study, was rung violently. This might easily happen in the confusion of such a scene, although the people of the neighbourhood prefer believing that the bell sounded of its own accord. Ring, however, it did; and Archie, roused by the well-known summons rose up in his bed, and faltered, in broken accents, “Yes, my Lord Duke—yes—I will wait on your Grace instantly;” and with these words on his lips, he is said to have fallen back and expired.

The Spiritual Magazine, February 1873

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Would that all staff were so punctilious in the pursuit of their duties!–it would certainly make Mrs Daffodil’s life a good deal easier. One does wonder, however, if there are vails and half-days in the World Beyond.

The Duke’s fabled library, consisting of some 10,000 items, was sold at auction in 1812 (forming a plot point for that recent book, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell). One wonders if the ghosts of the late Duke and his servant were in attendance.

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.

 

Die For Love: 1830s to present

Esther Hale, The Ghostly Bride

Esther Hale, The Ghostly Bride, art by Jessica Wiesel

To-day Mrs Daffodil once again—well, “welcomes” is perhaps too strong a word—but shall we say “accommodates” that ghost-writing person over at Haunted Ohio, who says that 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of the very first volume of her Haunted Ohio series. Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously over the assertion that this is grounds for celebration, but in this world of fleeting fame, twenty-five years is a long time and a ghost story for Hallowe’en never goes amiss. This story comes from the second volume in the series, cunningly entitled Haunted Ohio II: More Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State.

DIE FOR LOVE

Beaver Creek threads its way through the steep hills and thick forests of Beaver Creek State Park. During the canal boom of the 1880s the area prospered, but today it is an area of deserted logging camps, ruined canal locks, and ghost towns.  One such town, Sprucevale, is accessible only by bridle path.  And all that remains of Sprucevale are the three walls of Hambelton’s grist mill—and the legend of Esther Hale.

On the morning of August 12, 1837, Esther Hale was happily preparing for her wedding. The table in the parlor was decorated with flowers and greenery; the cake was in the kitchen, covered with a cheesecloth veil to keep off the flies.  The wedding was set for ten in the morning.  By half past ten the guests were beginning to fidget and smile behind their fans.  By half past twelve they climbed into their wagons and drove away.  The messenger Esther sent could find no trace of her lover.  The cabin was deserted, he said, the ashes in the stove were cold.

When her friends tried to help her to bed, Esther quietly rebuffed them until they left her sitting alone in the dark by the window of the parlor. When they returned the next morning, the curtains had been drawn, as if in a house of mourning.  They were never again opened in Esther Hale’s lifetime.

All summer Esther moved like a ghost through the house. In the kitchen, beetles tunneled through the cake.  The flowers withered in the parlor while the spiders spun their gossamer hangings.  Her friends coaxed her to eat and drink a little, but when they tried to get her to change her dress or remove the wedding decorations, she flew at them with claw-like fingers.  Eventually they left her alone.

Broken hearts kill slowly. Four months later a neighbor noticed that the door to Esther’s house was open, banging back and forth in the December wind.  He notified the sheriff and the doctor who took a party of men to the dark house.  Snow had drifted throughout the rooms like a white shroud. Esther was slumped over the parlor window sill, her veil over her face.  Someone held up a lantern.  The doctor drew back the shredded lace.  Esther had been dead for several weeks.  When they saw the horror beneath, they silently covered her over again.  She was buried so, shrouded in her wedding clothes.

You can still see her, dressed in white, looking for her lover. It is said that she haunts the bridge over Beaver Creek, waiting there every year on August 12, a hideous figure in tattered white satin and lace.  If she touches you, she will become young and beautiful again—but you will die.

Nanette Young of Harmony Hills Stables enjoys taking people on trail rides and telling them the ghost stories of the area, especially the tale about the ghostly bride. Local people say they’ve seen Esther run in front of their headlights.  Nanette says that her car shuts off every morning by the grist mill.  Other people have had the same experience.

“One Christmas I was out looking at the Christmas lights with my mother. I told her, ‘This car is going to shut off as we pass that building.’  My girlfriend who was with us said, ‘Yeah, it happens every morning.’ My mother didn’t believe me, then it shut right off.  When this happens I just coast down the hill.  There are forty thousand hills out here.  But the car doesn’t shut off on any of the others.”

On August 8th, Nanette took a group of riders out on the trail. It was a clear night, but a mysterious fog rose from the creek up to the horses’ legs.  As they passed Esther’s house and rode onto the bridge, the last man in line said, “I feel a cold force pulling on my sweat shirt!”  Nanette could see nothing, but when they reached the safety of the barn, the hood of his sweat shirt was torn.

If you are in the area in early August, drive through quickly with your windows rolled up. And keep a sharp lookout for a skeletal woman in a wedding dress stained by the grave for she will lunge at your car, her bony fingers scrabbling at your windows, desperate as Death to touch and claim your living flesh.

Haunted Ohio II: More Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State, Chris Woodyard, 1992

Like most local legends, there are a number of variations in the stories about Esther Hale. She is said to have been a Quakeress preacher, she is said to walk out of the Hambleton Mill in Beaver Creek State Park in Northeastern Ohio, and write “Come” on one of the stone walls of the mill on Christmas Eve.

The Haunted Ohio series is available at online retailers and through Barnes & Noble stores, and for Kindle.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.