Category Archives: Spiritualism

The Spirits and “The Servant Problem:” 1892

The age-old Servant Question.

The age-old Servant Question.

ONE OF MR. STEAD’S “PRACTICAL GHOSTS”

The following account has been handed to us by a correspondent. The details are trivial enough in themselves, but by no means unworthy of consideration as indicating watchful care on the part of those who acted as guardians of the family.

The narrative is given as it was sent. It is evidently written with a strong sense of the protective guardianship of unseen friends, and will interest many of our readers, and perhaps set some “Cui bono?” critics thinking:

A short time since I lost my cook, and knowing the difficulty of obtaining servants immediately before Christmas I decided not to try as I had a temporary helper, so excellent in every way that I deemed it wiser to wait till after Christmas. This woman, whom we will designate Mrs. B., was a quiet, seemingly respectable, married woman, who came to my bedroom every morning for orders and executed them in the most satisfactory manner. I must here mention that I was confined to my room with a sprained ankle, and so my daughters had to give all extra small orders and look after the general comfort.

A week passed, and so pleased was I that I had B.‘s husband to dinner on Sunday, and wrote to a country friend desiring her not to trouble about me as I was settled, feeling half inclined to continue with Mrs. B. until we should leave this house. On the Monday she came as usual to my room. I asked her how she felt, as she looked peculiarly heavy, and I imagined she had a headache, but she said she was quite well and we had a few pleasant words, in which she thanked me for my kindness to her husband. On Tuesday the same distinguished politeness marked our proceedings.

An hour afterwards, up came my elder daughter to say that her own father, my first husband, had seized her hand and told her. “That B. is a beast, don’t let her worry your mother.” I laughed at the idea and bade her tell him he must be mistaken. At twelve o’clock both my daughters went out for their daily constitutional, but in less than five minutes my younger child (who is a very strong psychic) rushed up to me, saying that neither she nor her sister found it easy to walk, but her legs actually refused to move, and her hand was seized and she wrote on her dress, “Go back! Go back!” They came back, got pencil and paper, and again the same spirit wrote, “Don’t leave your mother, that beast B. will go and abuse her and upset her.”

Now, to my shame be it recorded, I was quite cross, and said “Really, this is too ridiculous. A quiet, orderly woman like that: I am afraid, my dear, you are getting fanatical.”

However, as they had already arranged that one should go out one half-hour, and the other the next, so that one remained with me. I made no further demur. Now comes the sequel. Within half an hour my elder daughter returned.

This woman B. picked a quarrel with her over nothing, and rushed up to me. My housemaid rushed after her, begging her not to come to me. But my daughter having been forewarned ran so fast as to get in front of her and then dared her to go to my room. The woman seemed quite beside herself, but my daughter’s decision quelled her. Our unseen friends then made rather sarcastic remarks upon my incredulity, and begged me to pay her and send her off, assuring me she was a drunkard and a desperate woman.

They said, “She drinks rum, and has a bottle now in her pocket,” so I followed their advice, and she went; and now comes the test of their perfect veracity. I said to my house maid. “Did you know she drank?” “No, ma’am: but on Sunday her husband brought her a bottle of something, I couldn’t make it out; it was not whisky nor brandy; it was darker, and had such an odd smell. She offered me some, and it did smell so nasty!” I think this amply proves the rum’s identity, and I presume I need make no comment on the value of our dear spirit friends’ warning, for all helped, though my first husband was the first to speak. This is not a dreamy experience, and is the more astonishing to us as we are not used to such phenomena, but rather have spiritual teachings. N.S.

Light, 13 February 1892

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This instructive anecdote appeared in the Spiritualist journal Light. Many Spiritualists were tee-total. They might call up spirits, but they did not drink them.

“Mr Stead” was journalist and psychic researcher, William Thomas Stead , who died when the Titanic sank, but, undeterred by death, continued to deliver séance communications.

The Drunken Servant was a figure of fun to the comic papers and the terror of mistresses everywhere.  It was bad enough when the intoxicated servant was a man, but a female inebriate was not to be borne. Of course, being the sole domestic (saving the house-maid) over Christmas in a household with an incapacitated mistress might have driven the woman to drink.  Mrs Daffodil does not speak from personal experience, one understands. Mrs Daffodil, although she has had her share of trying lady employers, has found that one needs a clear head to either deal with or dispose of overly-demanding mistresses.

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 Spook Party: 1897: To Celebrate National Ghost Hunting Day

spook party

Since it is, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed, “National Ghost Hunting Day” in the United States, here is an encore presentation of a popular post on fashionable “spook parties” held in Paris.

SPOOK FUNCTIONS

An X Ray Diversion for the Paris Fashionables.

They Produce All Kinds of Fearful Shudders.

Curious Effects of the Roentgen Rays on Porcelain

And Crystal and Humans Coated With a Fluorescent Substance.

Paris, March. 30. Ghost parties are the latest diversion of fashionable folks who have money and brains in sufficient quantities to manage them. The Roetgen rays make these society functions possible, and their originators say that the amusement is only in its infancy. If this be true, it is difficult to picture what form the ghost parties will take when they are fully developed, for even in their present stage they are calculated to send every known variety of shiver and shudder and chill through the marrow of the spectator. Certainly new emotions of the shivery kind will have to be developed to keep pace with the growth of the ghost party.

The first essential of a spook function is a drawing-room of fair dimensions, containing a quantity of porcelain, glass, crystal and enamel bric-a-brac. Large vases should be numerous, and if the hostess is well supplied with diamonds, additional effect can be obtained if her faith in the integrity of her guests permits her to scatter the gems about in conspicuous places.

In a corner of the apartment should be the X ray apparatus, enveloped in black cloths. This machine only occupies as much space as the ordinary magic lantern, and as the lights in the room are extinguished before the guests enter, its presence is not apparent. An operator skilled in management of X rays should be engaged, also a couple of assistants, one of them a woman, to render various services.

The explanation of the need of the porcelain vases and bric-a-brac of various material rests in the fact that these articles being of fluorescent substance, become phosphorescent at a certain distance behind the X ray apparatus

At the first function of the kind held here the guests were greatly startled, and two or three of the women guests fainted from terror. No explanation of the mysteries were vouchsafed beforehand and the guests imagined that they were in the midst of the occult.

The host had secured form a maker of physical apparatus several glass hands, glass legs and other paraphernalia of the human body, and these, under the careful manipulation of the X ray operator and his assistants, were made to appear especially weird in the darkened room.

When the guests had assembled in the drawing-room the tinkling of a tiny bell sounded, and then appeared what seemed to be a human hand of dazzling brightness. It waved about and circled over the apartment and then disappeared. It was merely a glass hand, made phosphorescent by the action of the penetrating X rays, but it was ghostly enough to satisfy the cravings of the mightiest Mahatma in the love of theosophy.

Then a table in the corner of the room, loaded with dainty cups and saucers, suddenly blazed up out of the darkness. Only the cups and saucers were visible, they seeming to be resting on air. Then they faded away and a huge vase in an opposite corner loomed up with bewildering brilliancy. Next the scores of bits of porcelain in a cabinet were illuminated, each piece standing out separately in the darkness, all other objects and the cabinet itself being invisible.

A dazzling ball of fire then descended slowly from the ceiling, and swung back and forth over the heads of the guests. It was simply a glass sphere, which had been hung on wire prior to the coming of the guests; and was easily operated by one of the assistants standing in a corner of the apartment.

The most interesting and ghostly exhibition of them all came last, when the parting of a pair of portieres at the end of the room revealed a human form all in a blaze of light. The apparition moved slowly forward, and then it was seen that the figure was that of an unusually tall woman.

The phantom at first held her hands so that they shielded the face, and when they were lowered the sight of that face caused the men to move back nervously, nearly all of the women screamed, and two or three fainted. The face had a greenish pallor, and instead of eyes, there were two black holes. The mouth was closed and the hair streamed about, lit by phosphorescent flame. Every few seconds the spook raised her hands and seemed to scatter bouquets of flame about the room. Then when the bell tinkled the phantom receded slowly, and gradually faded from view.

This ended the party, the lights were turned on and the hostess explained how she had managed the mysteries. Everything was soon made clear, except the mystery of the human figure, and this, too, was easily explained. A clever figurante was engaged from a theatre and was concealed behind some draperies. She was enveloped in a veil which had been covered by a fluorescent substance, and her face and hair were glazed with a phosphorescent sulphate of zinc powder. This preparation, of course, could not be applied to the eyes, hence the black holes when the phantom appeared under the X rays.

Nannette du Bignon.

Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA] 11 April 1897: p. 22

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Like the radium given as Christmas gifts by the Smart Set, x-ray “spook parties” were all the rage. And although some scientists warned of the dangers of x-rays almost from the moment of their discovery in 1895, others pooh-poohed the scientists as alarmists. Ironically the lethal rays were discovered by Wilhelm Röntgen using the “Crookes tube.” This was invented by Sir William Crookes, a distinguished scientist and credulous Spiritualist who championed medium Florence Cook, materializer of the winsome spirit of “Katie King.” How strange that Sir William’s invention should come back to haunt by association at “spook parties.” One wonders if the “figurante” suffered any ill-effects from the phosphorescent sulphate of zinc powder or from those entertaining x-rays.

 

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 Missing Ruby: 1900

Our narrator is psychic researcher and Spiritualist Emily Katherine Bates.

Clairvoyance can be extraordinarily accurate even in detail, as another story connected with Mrs. Chester and which came under my personal knowledge, will show.

I went to see some friends in London a few years ago on my return from abroad and was at once hailed by the following incident which had just happened to them. A friend of theirs (whom I did not know until later in the afternoon) had lost a very large and valuable ruby set in a ring with small diamonds surrounding it. The stone had been given to this lady’s grandfather by an Indian Rajah in the old Company’s days, and was quite an heirloom for its historical associations in addition to its great intrinsic value.

The lady lived near Elm Park Gardens and on a very wet and muddy morning had been into several shops in that neighborhood on her way from morning service close by. She had taken off her gloves in church and had not replaced them, was holding up her skirts out of the rain and mud and carrying several small parcels as she stood at her own front door and rang the bell. As a matter of fact she and her mother were expecting a lady and gentleman to lunch, who will figure in the story later on. As she stood waiting at the door, muffled up in a waterproof and holding her dripping umbrella, she chanced to glance at her bare hand and to her horror saw that the enormous ruby had disappeared, leaving the diamond setting intact. She turned back instantly, after depositing her parcels with the maid, and retraced her steps to the two or three shops visited, but all in vain! She was forced to return home and to conceal her trouble and annoyance as best she could whilst entertaining her guests. The moment she could leave the house, she went round to my friends in Evelyn Gardens and told them of her sad loss and asked if one of them would consult a clairvoyant for her. Her reason for not going herself to a clairvoyant was that she considered all such things wrong and therefore evidently preferred that her friends should take any moral risks that might attach to the possible recovery of her property. I think I had given Mrs. Chester’s address to these ladies. Anyway they promised Miss X. (the owner of the ruby) that they would see what could be done in the matter. The stone was lost on a Thursday morning and on Friday they visited Mrs. Chester, having settled beforehand to bargain with her that she should not be paid unless the lost article was recovered through her. She agreed to these terms and took up the crystal. Nothing had been said about a ring, brooch, or any other piece of jewelry but merely the statement made that they came to consult her about some “lost property.”

“You need not tell me anything more,” she said quickly; ” I can see what it is in the crystal. It is a stonea stone out of a ring.” Then she turned round and said, ” But you have not lost it, either of you; the person who lost it ought to have come about it herself. It is giving me a very poor chance.” However this may have been, she seemed very quickly to get into Miss X.’s atmosphere and began describing a peculiar dining-room table with carved corners; and this my friend at once recognized as the dining room table belonging to Mrs. X. Then she said, “The stone has been picked up by an honest man but he does not know what to do with it. He is a workman and has a white cap and working clothes. At first he thought it was a bit of red glass because it is so large, but he has taken it home. I see his home and a narrow mantel-shelf there—he has put the stone in a little pill-box and placed it on the mantel-shelf. You must advertise the stone at once, so that he may read the advertisements and bring it back. Put the advertisements in shop-windows near to the place where it was lost—no use advertising in papers—he won’t get a chance of reading.”

Then Mrs. Chester went on to describe a scene and people acting in the scene, all utterly unknown to my friends. “I see a church and there is a wedding going on. It is either a widower or a widow who is being married, because there is a little child at the wedding and she belongs to either the bride or the bridegroom. Now they are coming down the church and I can see their faces as they pass.”

She then described both of the principal actors in the scene, neither of whom could be recognized by my friends. This, they confessed, disappointed them greatly, for on first hearing of the church and the wedding they were trying to work in some possible romance for their elderly friend who might some day meet a suitable widower!

As a curious fact, I may here mention that the wedding took place on the following Tuesday, but Miss X. was only present as a spectator. It is still more interesting to note that the bride and bridegroom were the two people who had lunched with Mrs. X. on the day the stone was lost and that the lady was a widow, with one little girl who was present at the ceremony. Either the lady or gentleman was a relation of Miss X. and the scene of their wedding must have been read from her psychic atmosphere four days before it took place.

Finally Mrs. Chester returned to the question of the stone and made the very definite statement that it would be found and probably within five days. “I can see a big 5,” she said, so if it is not five days, it must indicate weeks or months but five days is more probable because I see so distinctly the scene when it is returned. There is an old lady sitting at that table I described and she has white hair and a white cap. There is a maidservant in the room and also a working man. He has brought the pill-box I saw on the mantel-shelf. There is a lot of white wool and the stone in the middle. Some one has brought down the ring and he won’t give up the stone until he sees if it fits or not.”

This was all that passed and my friends went away, promising to have the advertisement printed at once and put in the shop-windows according to Mrs. Chester’s instructions; also to return and give her the fee, should the stone be found within any reasonable time. On the following Tuesday morning, before lunch time Miss X. returned home to find the dining-room door open and the exact scene going on which had been so accurately foretold by Mrs. Chester.

Her mother, the working man, and the maid were all present, the latter having been sent up-stairs to fetch the empty ring which Miss X. had taken off her finger five days before.

The man had picked up the stone just outside the church door in all the rain and mud, and supposed at first that it was a valueless bit of glass. He took it home and washed it and then put it in the pill-box as described, being struck by the beautiful coloring and determined to look out for any advertisements in the neighborhood of the church where he had found the stone. He had declined to give it up without seeing the ring for himself, and this bit of identification was actually going on when Miss X. walked through the open door of the dining-room! The man received his five pounds with great delight and the X.’s were equally pleased to get back their precious heirloom. One last coincidence, to make the story quite complete.

Just as my friend had finished giving me all these details, the butler threw open the door and announced—Miss X.! So I made her acquaintance on the spot, and she not only showed me the magic ring, but allowed me to put it on my finger; endorsing every word of the story to which I had just been listening. 

Do the Dead Depart, Katharine Bates, 1908

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must say that it was most shabby of Miss X. to burden her kind friends with the “moral risk” of consulting a clairvoyante. It is tantamount to sending one’s batman out under fire to bring in the tea-tray. But at least there was a happy ending. If this were a Guy de Maupassant story, the ruby would be discovered to be merely coloured glass by the workman, who had tried to scratch his initials on glass with it, the original having been sold by the lady’s bankrupt Grandfather to support his mistress.

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.

 

Week-end Compendium 20 February 2016

The wind is howling outside Mrs Daffodil’s window and she wishes she had the fetching fan pictured above to hold outside so she could watch it spin in the breezes, which are more March-lion-like than anything February. As we are half-way through the month of February, Mrs Daffodil reminds any of her marriage-minded readers that it is a Leap Year. Proposals must be drafted; venues and rings selected.

A young man’s impulsive sending of a Valentine has life-changing repercussions, in “What Became of a Valentine.” Moral: “Always be Kind to Seamstresses.”

(That heartless person over at Haunted Ohio also shared a Spiritualist sentiment for the holiday in “The Medium’s Valentine.”)

The little-known history of the techniques behind false-eyelashes in “Art Eyelashes and Eye Winkers.”  Suffering for beauty.

A strange story of a mysterious woman who saves the life of a dying man far from home in “A Curious Porcelain Bowl.”

On Sunday, Mrs Daffodil will relate shocking deeds and vile insults as a ladies’ club in a small town tries to stage a “Lady Washington Tea.”

Over at the Haunted Ohio blog, a young man is tormented by a “discontented daemon” who strangles him, slashes his clothes, and levitates him over his master’s house into a quagmire in “Some Discontented Daemon.” Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously.

In a late example of a witchcraft trial, a beautiful foreigner is tried for being “The Witch of Leadville,” in 1899 Colorado.

If one wishes to peruse the Haunted Ohio version of the Weekend Compendium, of a decidedly less elevated tone, one should follow this link.

From the archives, The Chignon Horror: hair-curling horror about what evils lurk in false hair and Chignon Satire: Victorian hairpiece humour.

Also art imitates life or vice-versa? in a story about a green jungle hell and a terrifyingly large spider.  Of special interest to M.R. James fans.

Some of the favourite links of the week: A toothsome post on Irish fairies and Irish food.  Incidentally, “The Fairy Investigation Society” now has an official Face-book page and invites all interested to visit for fairy news and art.

Speaking of “daemons,” EsoterX takes on demon-speak in They Talk Funny in West Hell.

Crash go the chariots: The discovery of the first complete Bronze-age wheel at the site called the “Peterborough Pompeii,” is confounding the experts.

 

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.

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.

 

 

Week-end Compendium: 13 January 2016 Valentine Edition

Mrs Daffodil has noticed the fluttering in the dove-cote that is the Servants’ Hall over the upcoming Valentine’s holiday. Mrs Daffodil does her best, but managing a mixed-sex staff is sometimes like directing a Feydeau farce translated into Mandarin.  Here are the somewhat distracted posts for this week:

Hints for the Photographer shares tips on looking one’s best in front of a camera including the colours that photograph as dark or light and how to achieve the desired facial expression. “Say ‘bosom!'” says the photographer.

A Stolen or Stray’d Heart at Vaux-Hall is a rare look at a so-called “missed connections” personal want-advertisement from 1738.

That grave person over at Haunted Ohio contributed some occupational valentine verses in Hearse Verses: Valentines for Undertakers

On Valentine’s Day, Mrs Daffodil will share a heart-warming piece of Victorian Valentine’s Day fiction. Happy endings are guaranteed.

A late 18th-century buckle of a cameo showing "the education of Cupid" framed in pastes http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/19760/lot/230

A late 18th-century buckle: a cameo showing “the education of Cupid” framed in pastes http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/19760/lot/230

Over at the Haunted Ohio blog, in honour of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey, a post featuring a Cornish road-demon and monkey ghosts in Aping the Devil.

And for the anniversary of the first appearance of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette, a post on the giant angel a psychic saw drifting over Lourdes.

Bonus holiday post: The Medium’s Valentine, should one be in love with one who talks with the dead.

From the Archives:  Speaking of vile valentines, the “vinegar valentine” roused some recipients to violence in The St. Valentines’ Day Massacres.

Favorite recent posts:

Posthumous portraiture: Is it live or is it a memorial?

The sad lives of some of the First Children.

That unlucky fellow who married not one, but two women accused of witchcraft. Or were witches just his type?

The best quotes about gin, AKA “Mother’s Ruin.”

Cover art, Richardson's New Fashionable Lady's Valentine Writer or Cupid's Festival of Love, 1830

Cover art, Richardson’s New Fashionable Lady’s Valentine Writer or Cupid’s Festival of Love, 1830

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.

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.

 

Week-end Compendium: 23 January 2016

"The Snow Queen"

“The Snow Queen”

Mrs Daffodil  hopes that all of you are warm and safe from the impending snow-storms, or, if house-bound, have sufficient bread, milk, and brandy laid on.

This week’s links for Mrs Daffodil:

Sixteen-button Bouffants: A Chat with the Fashion Gazette Editor: 1888, in which an innocent young girl is given some quixotic fashion advice by a well-meaning male editor.

The Flapper and Her Corset: 1921 offers dire warnings to all flappers who wish to leave off their under-pinnings. An early example of “fat-shaming.”

The sad story of Old Lisbeth and her ghostly visit to a former master who had treated her kindly.

See Mrs Daffodil on Sunday for how to make a sandstorm on stage.

Over at the Haunted Ohio blog we find the following:

“Uncanny Meteors:” Spook Lights in New Zealand, in which a naturalist relates his very close encounter with apparently sentient glowing orbs.

The Ghost of Mary Seneff, who haunted the site of her watery grave, after she was hacked to death and thrown into a local creek.

From the Archives: Enough Rope: The Hangman’s Rope in the Press, a light-hearted look at specifications for hangmen’s ropes and the superstitions surrounding them.

Favourite posts of the week: Cellphones and the Paranormal. And The Awful Greatness of the Cherry Sisters.

A "Snowflake" costume by "Zig," c. 1925. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1222891/costume-design-zig/

A “Snowflake” costume by “Zig,” c. 1925. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1222891/costume-design-zig/

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.

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.

Old Lisbeth: 1887

old woman bent double 

Mr. T., a high judicial dignity, now pensioned off, had in his service a faithful creature, “old Lisbeth,” handed over to him by his parents, to whom he had promised to keep her for life. Lisbeth had saved money during her life-long service in the family, and this seemed to have aroused the cupidity of some relatives, who finally induced her to leave her kind master, and live with them. She parted from him in tears, and Mr. T. was also deeply moved, having tried his utmost to dissuade her. Years elapsed. He had moved to a distant town, but on her birthdays and also at Christmas he had invariably written to the old woman, and sent her some money, without, however, getting a single acknowledgment. Still, he never doubted that she was otherwise than well and happy, as he had strictly enjoined on her to appeal to him in case of need. But Mr. T. narrates: “One cold, dark November night in 1887, at about 4 A. m., I was suddenly and violently awakened, and made to sit up in bed. A nameless terror seized on me. In full possession of all my mental faculties, and with my eyes wide open, I felt spellbound and paralyzed by a strange influence, and by a will apparently more powerful than my own. Involuntarily was made to look in a certain direction, and then with terrible reality a vision was presented to me. I saw a deep river faintly illuminated by a yellowish-grey light, and floating on it, with head and body distinctly visible, and the long grey hair tossed by the stream, the well-known form of old Lisbeth. She stared at me reproachfully with eyes fixed and expressive of despair, intensified to frenzy, from which I was unable to avert my own. They held me spellbound, and a conversation without words, but distinctly striking my ear, took place between us.

“‘Master,’ she said, ‘master, why did you leave me so entirely forlorn? You were my only hope and consolation: your fault it is that I must die so miserably.’

“‘Lisbeth,’ I replied, ‘you had money, and in every letter I wrote to you I sent you some. Why did yon not write or return to me? Your faithful services to me, your devotion to my parents I never forgot.’

“‘O master,’ said the form, ‘now I know you did not forsake me; but my relatives intercepted your letters, and kept the money. They flattered me, until I had given them nearly all I had, and the rest they forced from me by threats. They would not let me write or come to you, and when I had nothing more to give them they beat me, starved me, and made me sleep, half-naked, in a cow’s pen on a little straw. Only last evening my own sister’s child said unto me, “Make sure you die soon. Yon are not fit for anything else. Tomorrow you most leave this house.” To-night I could not sleep, and knew not what to do. I thought of you, but then I said: ‘He will have nothing more to do with me,’ and I heard a voice saying: “Nobody will help you; make an end to your misery.” I ran to the river and jumped in. Master, you are good.’ With these words a happy smile lit up the old face. The eyes lost their terrible expression, and assumed one soft and peaceful. The whole vision became gradually more distant, faded, and was gone. Further sleep that night was impossible. Mr. T. determined to write at once to the clergyman of the parish in which Lisbeth lived, but urgent business that day prevented him, and he was already beginning to smile at himself for allowing a “vivid waking dream” to agitate him so much. When reading his paper on the following morning, he found in it an account of old Lisbeth’s suicide by drowning, at the time he had the vision, and under circumstances and from causes exactly identical with those revealed to him at that time, an incredible story, or at best but a marvellous coincidence, says the ignorant skeptic. Marvellous, indeed, says I, but one of those marvels of God’s spiritual universe, of which but an infinitesimal fraction probably is revealed to us in our earth-life. The spirit of a drowning woman in the very act of departing from the body, rushes to the person then uppermost in her thoughts, and impresses on that person not Only these thoughts, but even her own picture, and that of her surroundings.

Religio-Philosophical Journal 4 January 1890

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This is a sad tale. Yet it is curious that Mr T., who had the legal training and had been so good a friend to “old Lisbeth,” did not think of bringing her vile relatives to justice. There were many cases in the popular press where the families of persons of even a slight fortune were convicted of neglect, torture, and extortion to the accompaniment of stern remarks from the bench. Still, it should serve as a warning to all domestics who might be thinking of leaving a place where they are well-suited in search of betterment, which too often turns out to be illusory.  That plausible widowed gentleman in search of a companion to his young daughter invariably turns out to be an arch-seducer in disguise; relatives pretending to be solicitous of the welfare of their aged sibling end by openly wishing her dead.

Mrs Daffodil has been prudent with her money in the course of her career, but has also been fortunate enough not to have any remaining relatives whose cupidity might be aroused by her little nest-egg. As far as she knows, she is the last of the Daffodils.

For another servant’s ghost, please see “Ann Frost’s Ghost.”

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.