Lately, while two men were employed in the interior of a family vault, a strange figure, black from head to foot, glided into the sepulchral mansion; the man whose eye first caught the spectre became instantly petrified with horror, his speech forsook him, and it was only by a vigorous effort that he could job the elbow of his fellow, and point to the object of alarm. Like the shock from the electric spark, the terror was communicated by the touch, but the symptoms were not so strong in the second as the first subject; taking courage, he addressed the ghost in a faltering accent, and said, “in the name of God, what is your errand to this world?”
“I have no errand: I was going past, and thought I would just look in.”
These grateful sounds instantly dispelled the illusion, and the workmen recognized in him the well-known voice of a neighboring chimney sweeper. Steubenville [OH] Herald 18 July 1817: p. 4
The newest thing in mourning is that girls whom death bereaves of their accepted lovers may wear mourning. It consists, however, of no more than a black ribbon, where it loosely fastens her pretty gown in front, or it may appear in any part of the toilet. Another dainty fancy of these almost-not-quite widows it to dye their hair black. At all events, it was done in one case—that of a comment-courting actress. She had for several years bleached her hair to a light yellow, but on the death of her affianced husband she turned her hair to jet by means of dye, and in the same way blackened her eyebrows. Ah, well, if women were not peculiar, their mere beauty might become insipid to their adorers. Whimsicality makes them piquant. I saw two girls seated together and they wore such pretty dresses! One had an open album, and was gazing in sentimental grief at a photograph of her lately-deceased cousin.“Oh, I loved Jim very dearly,” she said, “and I mourn him as for a brother.” “Why don’t you put on mourning for him?” the other asked.“Because,” and she turned her tear-dimmed eyes on her friend, “my eyes are a light gray, and black would surely spoil their effect. Jim had exquisite taste in colors, and he would not, I’m sure wish me to wear anything unbecoming to my eyes.” St. Paul [MN] Daily Globe 22 January 1888: p. 12
FACED THE “SPECTRE” WITH A HAT PIN
Lock Haven Bug-a-Boo Met Its Match in a Plucky Girl
Special to The Inquirer.
Lock Haven, Pa., Oct. 3 For two weeks or more hundreds of men and boys, armed with revolvers, guns, dirks, and clubs, have been watching nightly for the human Will-o’-the-Wisp, called the Woman in Black, which has been bobbing up in dark places to frighten women and girls, and the police force has been augmented by several specials with the hope of catching the “spectre.” But it remained for a demure miss of sixteen to put the ogre to flight, and all she used was a hat pin.
When the “Woman in Black” stepped from a dark place last night and confronted a trio of girls, this miss stood her ground, and when she seized her hat pin the “Woman in Black,” who is believed to be a man, fled in the other direction. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 4 October 1899: p. 6
An infantry private in a Delaware regiment has been “devilled” into quitting his company and wants redress, but cannot find a method. An indictment for militia’s mischief might lie. The Mt. Sterling [KY] Advocate 31 March 1891: p. 7
TELEPHONE GIRLS MUST GIVE UP PUFFS AND RATS
Also They Must Quit Chewing Gum and Enunciate More Distinctly.
Chicago, Dec. 18. Puffs, rats, curls and also transformations—whatever they are—will be shorn from the heads of the thousands of telephone girls under a new rule just promulgated. They are also forbidden to chew gum during business hours.
The branch managers had reported that the operators spent too much time replacing loosened wisps of tresses when their fingers should have been busy with the plugs.
Here is the way the operators were instructed not to talk over the telephone:
“Numberpleeze.” “Phone’s takenout.” No fault is found with their enunciation of “Drop a nickel, please.” Fort Wayne [IN] Journal Gazette 19 December, 1909: p. 49
Boston Mourning Cards.
The other day a very dainty young woman in black, with mourning veil so draped as to set off her shapely head and neck to advantage, entered a large stationery store on Washington Street, and said sweetly to a clerk behind the counter:
“Do you have all kinds of mourning cards?” “Yes’m; we have the cards, and can get them engraved for you.” “Oh, I don’t want the kind they get engraved—I want playing cards, you know.”
“Mourning playing cards!”
“Why, yes; don’t you think they would be real nice and tasty?”
The clerk was obliged to confess that the trade hadn’t yet reached the point of supplying playing cards with mourning borders for bereaved lovers of whist and poker, and the lady left the store disappointed. Boston Record Fresno [CA] Republican Weekly 11 March, 1887: p. 2
It is told of Charles Lamb, that one afternoon, returning from a dinner-party, having taken a seat in a crowded omnibus, a stout gentleman subsequently looked in, and politely asked, “All full inside?”
“I don’t know how it may be with the other passengers,” answered Lamb, “but that last piece of oyster-pie did the business for me.” Cyclopædia of Literary and Scientific Anecdote, edited by William Keddie, 1859
Footstool May be Used as Dog Kennel
Paris, Jan. 2. The Parisienne’s love of canine pets has led to the invention of a pretty little piece of furniture. This is a small footstool of gilt wood, upholstered in material in keeping with the hangings of the apartment. The stool is hollowed and padded inside and is furnished with a small door in one side, and serves for a comfortable nook for a small dog. Parisian hostesses can thus keep pets with them when receiving friends. St. Louis [MO] Republic 3 January 1904: p. 12
English Sparrows at A Dollar Apiece
Delaware, N.J. The residents of this section have been investing heavily in French canary birds, and now have as fine a lot of English sparrows on hand as they could wish for.
A couple of men came through here at few days ago and sold the birds at $1 apiece. They promised to return in ten days and refund the money if the birds were not satisfactory.
They left explicit directions not to give the birds a bath under a week, for fear they would take cold. When the bath was given, the coloring matter washed off, and a fine lot of sparrows was the result. New York World. Cleveland [OH] Leader 18 October 1903: p. 24
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The story of the Woman in Black “bug-a-boo” put to flight by a plucky girl reminds Mrs Daffodil of the “Woman in Black” panics so often found in the American papers and occasionally in those of the better-regulated British press. These panics were the result of sightings or visions of ghastly females in widow’s weeds, gliding around in the dark. They were often described as unnaturally tall (leading to a suspicion that they were really men) and had the ability to disappear inexplicably. There were a great many of them terrifying the populace in Pennsylvania in the 1880s through the 1910s. Those scientists who study social movements would probably say that the apparitions were some visual manifestation of financial crashes and coal-mining disasters. If one asked the inhabitants of Pennsylvania who had experienced these panics, they would delicately suggest that such scientists were talking through their hats and that everyone knew that the black-clad creatures were actually modern banshees.
There is a chapter on the Women in Black in the upcoming book, The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past.