Category Archives: Spiritualism

Week-end Compendium: 9 January 2016

Random notes 1910 lady writer

That assertive person over at Haunted Ohio has persuaded Mrs Daffodil to substitute for her Saturday posts a “week-end compendium” of the week’s posts, plus archival posts and a notable current link. Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously, but will see if this format finds favour with her readers. Heaven knows, Mrs Daffodil could use a little extra time for a spot of tea or reading some improving book, but does not wish to impose an unwelcome new regime.

Mrs Daffodil will add a fashion photo-gravure to her portion of the entertainment and, in future, will warn her readers if she finds any of the Haunted Ohio posts to be unusually tasteless or grewsome, as they are sometimes wont to be. This week’s are odd, but relatively innocuous, unless one recoils at the thought of lizards in one’s stomach. Mrs Daffodil will now turn the floor over to her erstwhile colleague:

In this Weekend Compendium where Mrs Daffodil meets Charles Fort, we find

From Mrs Daffodil:

The Jag Matron, who knows how to handle the toughest cases of the DTs.

A Naughty Story on Ice featuring adultery on skates.

The Captain’s Vision, wherein a bullying sea-captain sees his wife’s ghost. Deaths ensue.

See Mrs Daffodil’s Sunday post on “The Widow’s Baby“; not quite what it seems.

From the Haunted Ohio blog:

Skrats and How to Make Them: DIY Brownies. Allen wrench not included.

The Lizard Cure A Canadian farmer is cured of a multiple lizard infestation by a gypsy.

From the vaults: The Psychic Howler, a discussion of vintage ghost-hunting equipment.

A favorite link from The Warrens and the Enfield Poltergeist case.

French evening gown, c. 1911. This is woven with what appear to be Prince of Wales feathers. A court presentation gown, perhaps?

French evening gown, c. 1911. This is woven with what appear to be Prince of Wales feathers. A court presentation gown, perhaps?

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 Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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 Reviews Her Readers’ Favourite Posts of 2015

reading woman


Mrs Daffodil has been leafing through her scrapbooks and noting the posts that most found favour among her readers. As the year 2015 passes, here are some nostalgic favourites. Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the happiest of New Years!

An archival post on The Angel of Gettysburg is a perennial favourite.

A look at the grewsome relics of King Charles I was also popular.

A Bashful Bridegroom was the “hit” of the June bridal specials.

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands continues to fascinate.

How to Make Stage-Thunder and Lightning seems to have struck a chord.

Also popular were An X-ray Spook Party, Motto Dresses, Men who wear Corsets, Bicycle Jewellery, and, a personal favourite of Mrs Daffodil, who was able to “scoop” that person of mortuary fancies over at Haunted Ohio, The Death Drawer.

Mrs Daffodil will return to her regular level of service early in January 2016. Happy New Year!

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.




Ghosts at the Seaside Resorts: 1882-1926

A travelling ghost show, such as would visit sea-side resort towns, c.1900

A travelling ghost show, such as would visit sea-side resort towns, c.1900



Writing on the subject of ghosts that haunt the seaside resorts of Great Britain, a London correspondent says:—

Last year a man took a furnished house at the seaside, as he wished to spend the summer there on account of his wife’s health. The house was roomy and double-fronted, but at the end of a fortnight the wife’s nerves were worn to a frazzle and they were glad to return home.

No one saw anything, but there were crashing noises, sounds of heavy breathing in the passages, and sounds all through the night of someone moving from room to room. One does not usually associate the sunshine and ozone of a seaside resort with spooks, but this seemed like a case to the contrary. Weird happenings were reported from a boarding-house at Blackpool which the superstitious insisted were genuine manifestations of the supernatural. But practical folks were inclined to credit “unseen” boarders with a turn for practical joking.

First queer sounds were heard, and then strange handwriting appeared on a screen and on a table, both of which articles of furniture performed as graceful a dance as their rigid legs would allow. Spiritualists who appeared on the scene were hit by flying pepper boxes. Bells rang mysteriously, and the hands of the clock had a habit of going round the wrong way.

It was thought that a certain boarder had a psychic influence, as the moment he returned to town the manifestations ceased.

A vicar who took a certain locum tenens job at the seaside for the regular clergyman, who had gone to Scotland with his wife, had a curious experience. The back garden went down to the beach, and the newcomer liked to stroll to the end of it late at night.

Leaving a low light burning in the study, he had been lounging and smoking for half an hour and then returned up the garden path. Judge of his surprise when he saw the Rev.__ whose place he was taking, sitting at the desk of the study, a pile of books at his side.

The sequel was singular. News came the next morning that the vicar and his wife had been in a railway accident and were both in hospital.

Peculiar Manifestations.

Certain places along the British coasts have their special and peculiar manifestations. There are, for instance, the spectral longships of the Solway Firth. The story is that in the old days two Danish sea-rovers, their long ships loaded with spoil, put into the Firth for shelter. A squall came shrieking from the sea and sank the ships at their moorings. Ever since, on the anniversary of their destruction, these two ships glide up Solway, and no local man is bold enough to put to sea when they are visible.

There is a certain small town on a beautiful estuary on the south coast to which small coasting vessels go. One of these was lost in a great storm a few years ago, and several families in the town mourned their relatives for lost. Then, five months later, after another great storm, she was seen coming up the river in the dusk. Many people declare they saw her, but she never arrived she faded into mist.

A story is told of the Needles, the famous headland of the Isle of Wight. A fine ship was proceeding up the Channel in a dense fog. The captain had gone below, thinking his course was right, but a stranger came to him and told him to take soundings at once. Scarcely knowing what he did, he obeyed and found but seven fathoms beneath his keel. He tacked at once, and, the fog lifting, found that had he proceeded when the “ghost” appeared he would have been wrecked on the Needles.

Pukekohe & Waiuku Times [New Zealand], 10 December 1923: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A learned psychical researcher named R.S. Lambert suggested that hauntings in Britain occurred most often in the presence of tidal water and that water was a kind of conductor for ghostly energies. He also noted, more practically, that underground water could undermine ancient houses, producing mysterious phenomena like groans or opening doors.

Mrs Daffodil cannot really see the attractive of the sea-side for ghosts unless, with their shrouding draperies, not unlike a bathing cap and towel, and deathly-pale faces, like those of bathers slathered in zinc creme, they hope to be mistaken for the Living.

Shall we have a few more?

Another writer states that while staying at Brighton with some friends in November, 1879, he was walking alone on a moonlight night on the seaside of the Esplanade, when a carriage and pair drew up alongside the rails. He was greatly startled, as the wheels made no noise, but he at once took half-a-dozen steps towards the carriage, and then distinctly recognised its occupants as his grandmother, an old lady of 83, whom he had left perfectly well at Cheltenham a few days before, also her coachman and footman on the box. Vaulting over the rails he made one step forward to greet her, when to his horror the whole thing vanished. On his relating the circumstances to his friends they of course laughed at him, but next morning they received a telegram that the old lady had been found dead in her bed, at 7.30 that morning. Previous to this occurrence the correspondent had always laughed at the bare idea of ghosts. The Spiritualist 21 October 1881

Blackpool has several hauntings, though none more remarkable than the one popularly ascribed to the sea. According to tradition, the church and cemetery of Kilmigrol once stood about two miles from the shore, and were one day submerged. Ever since then, on certain nights in the year, even in stormy weather, a ghostly chime of bells may be heard ringing, far under the waves. I have met people in Blackpool who assure me they have actually heard them.

A similar haunting is stated to take place off Whitby. According to local tradition, the bells of Whitby Abbey were sold when the Abbey was suppressed in 1539. They were put on board a ship to be conveyed to London, but as soon as the vessel conveying them weighed anchor and tried to leave the bay she sank, and the bells found a home on the sea bottom. And ever since then at certain times, as in the case of Blackpool, bells no human fingers touch ring their hidden chimes.”

I am told there is a house near the Blackpool Winter Gardens which is periodically haunted by the phantasm of a girl in blue. All blue—blue hat, bodice, skirt, and eyes.

She is encountered on the staircase leading from the hall to the first landing, and looks so much like a real person that those who see her invariably take her for one, and it is only on learning afterwards that there is no such live individual in the house that they realise she is a ghost.

The house is not known to have any particular history, and the cause of the haunting is a baffling mystery.

At Brighton ,the ghostly happenings are in a house almost within sight of Brunswick square. They are invariably in the form of whistling on the staircase. The whistling sometimes ascends, as if the whistler were walking up, descends to the hall, or is stationary, but nothing is ever seen.

Elliott Donnell, 1926

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.


Encore Presentation: Captain Smith of the RMS Titanic Seen After His Death: 1912

Captain Edward J. Smith, Master of the Titanic

Captain Edward J. Smith, Master of the Titanic

This has proven one of Mrs Daffodil’s most popular posts. The anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic is here once again, so here is a strange and ghostly story from that tragedy.


Of the Ill-Fated Titanic

“Seen” on Streets of Baltimore, According To a Former Shipmate of Captain Smith

Special Dispatch to the Enquirer.

Baltimore, Md., July 20. The statement that Captain E. J. Smith, commander of the ill-fated Titanic, was not drowned in the disaster, but was seen safe and sound Friday morning in Baltimore, was made to-day by a retired mariner, who claims to have been a shipmate of Captain Smith for more than 17 years.

Peter Pryal, 9074 Valley street, who was Quartermaster on the steamship Majestic, of the White Star Line, 30 years ago, when Captain Smith commanded the vessel, made the statement, and added that he had not only seen the Captain, but talked with him.

Mr. Pryal also said that he saw Captain Smith last Wednesday morning, but was skeptical as to his identity, and to confirm his belief that the Captain was alive, went to the same spot Friday morning to see the Captain again. So shocked was Mr. Pryal at seeing the man he believed dead that on his return home he suffered a nervous breakdown.

At 9 o’clock Friday morning he went to Baltimore and St. Paul streets and stood on the corner for almost an hour. Finally to his astonishment he saw the same man approaching him. Walking up to him, he said, “Captain Smith, how are you?” Then, according to Mr. Pryal, the man answered: “Very well, Pryal, but please don’t detain me; I am on business.”

Hardly able to stand, so great was his astonishment, Mr. Pryal, without realizing what he was doing followed the man to St. Paul and Fayette streets.

Several times the man turned and when he finally saw Pryal behind him rushed into the Calvert Building, and, according to Mr. Pryal, endeavored to lose himself in the crowd. Pryal was behind him, however, and followed him through the Equitable Building and saw him board a west-bound car on Fayette street.

His pursuer boarded the same car and saw the man get off at the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Station, where he purchased a ticket to Washington. As he passed through the gates to board the car he turned to Mr. Pryal, smiled and said: “Be good, shipmate, until we meet again.”

Mr. Pryal when seen to-day said that he did not expect to be believed when he told of the incident and added with great earnestness that he was willing to swear to his statements.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 21 July 1912: p. 3

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin 3 August 1912: p. 3 adds the details that “It was while on his way to the office of Dr. Mactier Warfield for treatment for an internal disorder last Wednesday that he swears he first saw approaching him the commander of the Titanic. Attired in a neat-fitting business suit of a light brown color, straw hat, and tan shoes, the man carried two suitcases and was staring straight ahead. Pryal approached him and spoke, but received no reply. The man seemed unconscious of his surroundings and continued walking rapidly west out Baltimore Street.”

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A detail given later in the article is that Dr. Warfield (who appears to be related to the grand-father of that rather dreadful American woman who ensnared the Prince of Wales, briefly King Edward VIII.) was treating Captain Pryal, but “felt he was perfectly sane.” We meet Captain Pryal again in 1914 under rather sensational circumstances. 


Supplications to the Virgin Mother give Man Relief, he Claims

Baltimore, Jan. 21. In answer to his prayers to the virgin mother for two years a cancer on his nose from which he has suffered for the last 27 years has been cured, declares Peter Pryal, aged 72.

The old man said he retired one night, and on awakening he discovered that the cancer, which had been eating its way into his left eye and into his brain, had been cured. Pryal discarded the shield which he has worn over his nose for years and the skin of the nose was perfectly dry.

The Mahoning Dispatch [Canfield, OH] 23 January 1914: p. 5

One wonders how much an incipient cancer eating into the eye and brain influenced Captain Pryal’s vision of the master of the Titanic? It seems beyond doubtful that Captain Smith survived the sinking of his ship. In fact, a Spiritualist medium was pleased to be able to bring the late Captain Smith the exoneration afforded him by the maritime court of inquiry. It seems a little odd to Mrs Daffodil that a spirit able to see from the Great Beyond to a séance room in Great Britain should not have been able to hear the verdict for himself.

Disregarding chronological order I will here state what came to me as I read the verdict of the British court of inquiry pronounced on July 30th by Lord Mersay, the presiding Judge. In reading the words: “In the circumstances I am unable to blame Captain Smith. Other skilled men would have done the same thing in the same position,” I hear Captain Smith say: “I thank God for that—I have wished and wished and wished I might know how that investigation ended and now I have read it when you read it, and I cannot sufficiently thank God for showing it to me. I don’t see how I could have done otherwise than as I did. I had done it hundreds of times before and nothing had ever happened. Every captain who crosses the ocean does it. It is wrong of course but then it is the custom. Could we know such terrible conditions as had never been known before prevailed? As I said before, those long ships are too unwieldy to use in crossing the ocean or in any other place. Tell them if they use them again there will be just such another accident and they must give them up. No other ship must be built of the size of the ‘Titanic’ It will be fatal to many more people than were lost on her. I insist upon your publishing this. It is most important. That is all. Smith—late Captain of the’Titanic'”

There Are No Dead, Sophie Radford de Meissner, 1912

Madame de Meissner also appears in this post over at the Haunted Ohio blog about tales of Titanic premonitions.

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 Mysterious Face in the Window: 1872


Mrs Daffodil has invited that image-conscious person over at the Haunted Ohio blog to tell us of one of the many ghostly face-in-the-window stories in her files. There are numerous reports in the 1870s of mysterous faces appearing in window glass. These are described variously as “lightning daguerreotypes,” or “etched by lightning,” because they were believed to have been photographed on windows by lightning bolts. Sometimes they were seen to be inexplicably embedded in the glass. These faces had several characteristics: They appeared on window-panes; they could only be seen from the outside–the window glass from the inside appeared unmarked; and attempts to clean the images off the window only made them clearer. This account of a “window-pane ghost” of a dead “wanton woman” appears in The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales.


Our readers will remember the notice of the death of Mrs. Mollie Sullivan in our last issue [Mrs. Sullivan, 38, died Oct. 3, 1872 at her Fourth Street residence. To judge by comments in other articles, she had a reputation as a prostitute or kept woman.] On last Saturday, a lady living near the house lately occupied by the deceased woman, discovered the outlines of a human face in a window pane of an upper apartment where Mrs. Sullivan was wont to sit. The news rapidly spread, and so great was the crowd on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, that the owner of the house, Mr. Thomas, crushed the pane with a missile to keep the visitors away.

Before the destruction of the glass it was subjected to thorough and repeated scrubbings, and was perfectly transparent; no chemical coating could be discovered, which disproves the assertion that the woman had a negative taken on the pane and placed in the sash before her demise. It is without doubt one of the wonderful phenomena, either of light or electricity, imprinted on the window while the woman sat looking out. It is to be regretted that the glass was not preserved for examination, instead of being destroyed. Portsmouth [OH] Times 5 October 1872: p. 3

Soon, the papers added a sinister twist.



The Vanceburg Kentuckian prints the following story:

There formerly lived in [Portsmouth] a woman who kept a house of prostitution, and her name was Mollie Stuart. She, like other women of her stripe, had her “man,” and his name was Sullivan. Well, a week or two ago her man fell out with her and tapped her on the head, from the effects of which she died in about 4 days. And since that time the strangest part of the whole transaction has transpired, and that is that on the panes of one of the windows in the house which she formerly occupied is to be seen, at all times, an apparition, or something for which we know no better name, in the form of Mollie Stuart….Waterloo [IA] Courier 7 November 1872: p. 1

The reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer went up a ladder to see the mysterious image for himself:



Portsmouth, Ohio, October 5, 1872.

“Have you seen the ghostess?” is the question you are asked at every corner and crossing in the city. Here a group of men sit on the stone steps of All Saints or are gathered together on the sidewalk, the topic of conversation, the ghost. Little children, hurrying to the Sabbath-school, their faces blanched with fear, their lessons unlearned, talking in undertones of the wonderful thing that they have all heard of, and all have seen. Old women hurry down the streets in the burning sun: mothers, with babes in their arms, the cripple on his crutches, the aristocrat in his carriage, the man of business with his quick pace, the doctor, the lawyer, men, women and children of the different nationalities, the professional sport, the women of the town, all hurrying to the spot where thousand-tongued rumor has located the picture of her who was taken from the house last Friday and consigned to the dust from which she was taken.

Mollie Sullivan, or as she was better known, Mollie Stuart, lived on North Fourth Street, four doors below Jefferson, in a two-story frame dwelling, keeping what the keno gentlemen denominate a “sporting house.” The house stands in a little yard about twenty feet front, the end fronting the street. A window in the second story in the side of the building looks out on Fourth Street. Here the woman would sit for hours at a time looking out… For the past three weeks she had felt that her end was approaching and during the early part of the week when a friend said, “Mollie, we will miss you when you are gone,” she replied that they should see her again. “I will come back and look out of the window again,” said she, “after I am dead.”

Yesterday, Saturday afternoon, a lady whose residence is near, rushed breathlessly into the house exclaiming, “Mollie is looking out of the window upstairs.” No credence was given the report, but as the news was communicated, many came to see the wonderful and unexplainable what-is-it? …Your correspondent, not to be outdone by others, was soon on the ground, and there on the middle pane of glass, of the lower row of panes in the bottom sash, was a distinct negative of the dead woman.

I am not one of those superstitious beings who rush into print with a long list of names to bear out the assertion that I have discovered something supernatural, and so I decided to convince myself that there was nothing deceptive in what I seemed to see. Mounting a ladder I reached the window. The room was vacated; no pictures adorned the walls to cast a reflection; no extraneous matter was on the surface of the glass. Thrusting my hand through a broken pane, I placed it over the negative: it still remained. Next, the glass was scrubbed on each side, the sash taken down, but the negative remained on the transparent pane. There was the rounded face, the full forehead, the short black hair, the modeled bust of the dead woman; and there it will remain until the glass is destroyed.

This Sunday forenoon I again visited the house. The window was undisturbed, but the image of the dead woman was still silently looking out into the dim invisibility of the Unknown, heedless of the hundreds that block the streets, sidewalks and neighboring yards. It requires no eagle eyes to see it there, just as she sat. Some crossed themselves as they approached the house. Some would come jesting, laughing at the idle rumor, stand gazing in awe at it a moment, and then retrace their steps, wondering why it was…

Persons visit the place prepared to discredit it anyhow, are the most puzzled of all. Various are the reasons given. Superstition leads all. The vast majority say that it is but the fulfillment of a dying woman’s prophecy. One says the evil spirit placed it there; the moralist claims that the Almighty put it where it is to warn others of her mode of life, and prepare them for a reformation. Another says that her picture was negative in the grease and dirt on the surface of the glass by atmospheric pressures; some say that one of the freaks of electricity caused it. In the absence of any well-known reason, I think some strong reaction going on in the rays of light made a negative of the woman at a single sitting, and the woman may have discovered it herself before she died. Scientific men would do well to secure this pane of glass.


Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 9 October 1872: p. 4

NOTE: A Cyprian was a fancy name for a wanton person or prostitute. The image is described as having short black hair. Women’s hair was usually worn long at this time. If Mrs Sullivan was ill or had in fact been hit by her pimp, her hair might have been cut.

The Mollie Sullivan case set an entire city abuzz. Here are a few more details:

A notorious courtesan, named Mollie Sullivan, who resided on Fourth Street, below Jefferson, died on Thursday last. It was rumored that she came to her death from the effects of a blow inflicted by one Tim. Sullivan; and Tim. was placed under arrest, and a post mortem examination was held over the deceased, which resulted in his acquittal…

The window is a 12 light, and the apparition is in the middle lower pane, the back pane of glass being out, the resemblance is that of a rather dim negative photograph….The imagination of different spectators, whoever, clothes the picture with different surroundings. Some see a man standing by her side, some a dog sitting in her lap. Some would swear to a recognition of the features of Mollie. Some see the surroundings changing from time to time. Others can only see the faint outline of a face, the hair, the eyebrows, some semblance of eyes and nose. This much of the central figure appears to be visible to all, and the posture and features always the same. A curtain or blind hung inside the window extinguishes the picture, nor can the picture be seen from the inside of the house. The glass has been removed and examined, and is said to be a smooth glass, with no unusual appearance when out of the window, but when replaced the appearance immediately recurs…To my vision there was only apparent the general outlines of a face, the flow of the hair, and the curve of the eyebrows being well defined. I could see this much from the street, at any point within fifty yards, when the window was fully visible. But the most distinct view was presented from the yard of the house next above, at a distance of about fifty feet. I there fancy I saw the color of the dress—dark ground work, with white spots—a bow or locket on the bosom; the posture, sitting with face nearly fronting the window; some person or thing standing behind and to the right of the picture—picture’s right. But this last description may be imaginary; but I tried in vain to force upon my imagination any such appearance in the other panes of glass. At a nearer view the picture becomes more confused; a magnifying glass does not make the outlines any more definite… The only natural solution coming within any known hypothesis, is that the accidental formation of the glass reflects an outline resembling the human face, and that imagination fills up the space, and this is perhaps the true solution, but it is curious enough to challenge investigation. S. Cincinnati [OH] Daily Gazette 9 October 1872: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: How these ghostly images were produced is a mystery, although some sceptics suggest that reused daguerreotype plates inserted into windows accounted for the phenomenon. Others offered a theory that dust on the surface of the window mimicked human features. Mrs Daffodil can assure her readers that such things would never happen at the Hall where the windows are spotless.

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. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle.  Please visit the Haunted Ohio blog for fortean and historical tales from around the world and the Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard Face-book page for paranormal links from Ohio and beyond.



A Haunted Cloth: 1923


A piece of embroidered yellow Chinese silk, c. 1770s

A piece of embroidered yellow Chinese silk, c. 1770s


By E.B. Gibbes

The following account of a strange episode that occurred in connection with Mrs. Dowden (Travers Smith) and myself, may perhaps be of interest to your readers. I went to her house one evening in October, 1923, and by way of testing what influence had come with me, she took some foolscap paper and a pencil. Then closing her eyes she prepared herself for writing. I placed two or three fingers lightly on the back of her right hand. Immediately a curious communication was received in a sprawly writing. It ran as follows: “Why have you kept me waiting. I have been waiting a long time to speak to you. You have my cloth, you must give it back to me. It should have been wrapped round my body.” The allusion conveyed nothing to me at the time. We paused when the end of the page was reached to read the writing. Mrs. Dowden said she had a piece of cloth that had once been wrapped round a mummy. She produced this and placed it on the paper. Resting her hand on it a moment, she asked aloud if this were the cloth alluded to. Immediately her hand wrote, “No, no, that is not my cloth. It is another cloth. You have no right to it. You must make a big fire and burn it. It is mine, it should be ashes as I am and you will soon be.” (This individual seemed a cheery companion. It subsequently transpired that the communication came from a member of the fair sex.) We read the page and resumed the conversation. I remarked that if this piece of cloth was not hers we did not know to what she referred. At once the hand wrote violently, “No, it is not hers; it is YOURS.” “Oh, mine,” I replied; “I can’t think of what you are alluding to. Tell us where you come from.” “CHINA” I repeated that I did not know anything about a piece of cloth, and asked her what it was like. She then described some material with a yellow gold background, which was much embroidered ad almost covered with work. We stopped and read this second page and commenced a third. She wrote, “You must give it back.” I replied that I could not do so as it was not in my possession. She continued to state that it was, and that I must make a fire and burn it, so that she and it would be united. Here the telephone bell rang and we did not resume this experiment.

That evening on returning to my flat, into which I had recently moved, I recollected that I had a long piece of old Chinese embroidery answering the description in the script. I had had it about twenty years, and did not recollect whether I had brought I myself form the East, or whether it had been given to me. A few days previously I had taken it out of its box and tried its effect on the piano. However, the colours did not harmonize in the room, and I put it away without another thought.

Mrs. Dowden came to my flat a few nights later. I decided I would get Johannes [One of Mrs Dowden’s spirit guides, who had an odd name for a Jewish neo-platonist who lived several centuries before Jesus.] to tell me something, if possible, about this material. I placed it on my Ouija board and Johannes wrote as follows: “This came from a country far over the sea, not a very hot place, rather high in the mountains, and I see people there making it. It is a long, long time before they finish it. Then I see it sold in an open place. It is sold to a very ugly woman, so ugly that she frightens people. She hold this up and examines it, and after a time she carries it away. It has passed out of her hands into the hands of another woman. She had left a very strong impression on it. She is a very evil person I am afraid, full of nasty habits, and she gives it to a younger woman who is not so disagreeable, but very much given to complaining and objecting to everything that meets her on her way through life. This thing has been used at a funeral as a decoration; it was not round the dead body, but has been over a coffin. The other woman had it for a long time. She was quite different, often ill; she too has passed on here and I think she is near us now. I feel her coming; here she is.” Mrs. Dowden then felt a different control. Her hand was pushed violently about the Ouija board and the following communication was written at lightning speed.

“I want my cloth, it is my mother’s cloth. I want it; you must not have it. I used to put it round me; it should have been on my body.” “Why do you bother about it now?” I asked. “It is an heirloom. It ought to have been on my coffin.” I explained that now it was in good hands, that I would take great care of it, and tried to console her by remarking that it would eventually become dust. I told her that, as far as I was concerned, I had come by it honestly, that it had been bought and paid for and not stolen, and suggested she thought of something else. Mrs. Dowden’s hand wrote in reply: “I know I have a lot to learn, but it is my cloth and you must burn it.” I remarked that it seemed very silly to make so much fuss about a piece of material of its kind and assured her I would take good care of it. She replied: “You are a Christian, you do not understand. I will go, but I will watch. This is the substance of the old dame’s remarks. She has not been heard of since.

Now to what can we attribute this communication? Is it an example of subconscious invention? Or was the old lady’s soul really stirred into its memories by the production of her cloth? Did her spirit really speak to us?

Had the first allusion to the old embroidery been made at my own place with the material on or near the table one might have attributed this to the invention, perhaps, of our subconscious minds. As it was, however, it came seemingly from nowhere at Mrs. Dowden’s own house where there was no connection whatsoever, she never having seen or heard of this cloth; and when I took it out I had never given a thought as to its hidden memories.

Occult Review October 1925

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A curious episode, indeed, where an ancient Chinese lady writes and speaks perfect English. Of course the Spiritualist explanation is that the English-speaking medium is the conduit and naturally she would translate the spirit’s remarks into her native tongue. Since Miss Gibbes had only seen the fabric a few days before, it seems a bit disingenuous to rule out the influence of the subconscious mind.

Mrs. Dowden is Hester Dowden/Hester Travers Smith, an Irish Spiritualist medium who claimed communications from Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare and other literary notables.

E.B. Gibbes was member of the Society for Psychical Research and a friend and mentor to medium Geraldine Cummins. She took Miss Cummins into her Chelsea home for the better part of several years and encouraged the medium’s automatic writings.

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.

“Call me ‘Eddy:'” A Seance with the Duke of Clarence: 1895

The tomb of the Duke of Clarence

The tomb of the Duke of Clarence

Today is the anniversary of the death of Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Let us commemorate the occasion with a curious story of “Prince Eddy’s” posthumous return by Florence Marryat:

The cabinet séances I am writing of were quite private and held amongst friends, so that the forms that appeared were mostly known to the sitters. The first that appeared in whom I took any interest was that of the Duke of Clarence. Not being on the royal visiting list, I had no personal acquaintance with him during his lifetime, and was puzzled at first to think why he should have singled me out to pay the compliment of a visit to. But I had, in common with the rest of the nation, been deeply grieved at the announcement of his death, and, as will be seen hereafter, he seems to have been aware of it. For some time before he appeared, we heard him remonstrating inside the cabinet, and saying: “Leave me alone; do leave me alone! Can’t you see that I’m ill—let me rest!” He evidently believed himself to be still lying in his bed at Sandringham. We did not know who was talking after this fashion, but as soon as the Duke appeared, I recognised him from his photographs. I exclaimed: “Why! it is the Duke of Clarence,” and he replied: “No, not that ! Call me ‘Eddy.”’ I then remembered a story I had heard to the effect that, some few months before his death, he had been to visit a clairvoyant, who told him, amongst other things, that “Marriage for him spelt Death.” “So the clairvoyant was right, my poor boy,” I said, “and marriage for you did spell Death.” He drew himself up, retreated a few steps, and exclaimed in a clear voice, so as to be heard by everybody: “No! Miss Marryat, not Death—Life! Tell everybody it spelt Life—Life!”

This was the first time of the Duke’s appearing, but after that he came whenever we sat. Sometimes he was remarkably like himself—at others he was not. He generally asked me if he looked as he used to do. One day I told him he would be just like, according to my opinion, if his complexion was a little fairer. He retired to the cabinet, but returned a minute later with a much fairer complexion, but also a much shorter face. I laughed and said: “Oh! go away! You are not a bit like yourself now!” at which he smiled too, and disappeared altogether. Lady G , who had known the Prince well during his lifetime, was much interested on hearing I had seen him, and called on me for the express purpose of asking how he looked and what he had said. “Was he just like himself?” was one of the questions she put to me. I hesitated. “Well, not always,” I replied, “and I noticed one thing about him which seemed very unlike. You know how particular he was about his hair. It was always so neatly arranged with the curl over his forehead. Well, the curl is gone. His hair seems ruffled over his forehead, as if someone had ruffled it with his fingers on purpose.” “You have given me the best possible proof of his identity,” said Lady G; and she then went on to tell me that she had been at Sandringham at the time of the Duke’s lamented death, and the lock of hair he used to wear had been cut off as a memento, and the remaining hair ruffled over his forehead just as I described his wearing it. If Lady G ’s account was true (and I have no reason to doubt her word), it was a pretty good proof I had given her, considering I had never seen the Duke of Clarence except in his published likeness. Of course I talked to him on the many occasions on which I saw him on various subjects, but equally, of course, it is hardly possible for me to repeat our conversation here. When I asked him why he came so perseveringly to a humble individual like myself, who has never had anything to do with royalty in her life, he said: “Because you wept for me.” “But half the nation wept for you,” I replied. “Yes, perhaps so, but you—you are not one who weeps for everybody,’” which is quite true. Once, when I accompanied another Duke to Mr Husk’s, and Prince Eddy appeared, he at once addressed the new-comer by his title, and so betrayed the incognito which he had wished to preserve, and of which Mr Husk had not the least suspicion.

On another occasion I was invited to join a séance with Mr Husk given by several young men in town. I accepted, believing them to be sincere seekers after the truth instead of a set of scoffers, who merely assembled to make fun out of all they might see or hear. Amongst them, however, was a gentleman who, I was told, was or had been a clergyman or tutor at Sandringham, and acquainted with the Duke of Clarence. At any rate, as soon as we had sat down, the Duke appeared, and went straight up to this gentleman and spoke to him. My sailor son was ashore about this time, and I told him of the foregoing interviews. He asked me why I did not let those who were most deeply interested in the Duke’s reappearance know of what I had seen. I laughed, and said, “No, thank you, my boy! I don’t want to bring a storm of royal hailstones about my ears.” And, in fact, many people are quite affronted if you tell them you have seen their dead. They seem to think it a great impertinence on your part to have experienced what they have not done, and forget that such things are beyond your own control. I did not therefore act on my son’s suggestion, and the subject was not again raised between us. The next time I visited Mr Husk, however, and Prince Eddy appeared, he stood just outside the cabinet, and beckoned me to go to him. On my approach, he whispered: “Don’t tell my people yet, Miss Marryat.” I did not remember at first to what he was alluding, but when I did, I answered: “Oh, you are talking of what my son said to me. Well, if you overheard him, you must have also heard me say that I had no intention of bringing a storm of royal hailstones about my unfortunate ears.” “It’s not that,” he said, “but they are not ready for this phase of Spiritualism yet. You say yourself that I am not always recognisable. Sometimes I am like myself and sometimes not, and if they were to see me when I am not, it would set them against it altogether. The time will come, but it is not yet.” I have never sat with Mr Husk without this spirit appearing to me, and if, on the news reaching high quarters, I am condemned to be led forth to “hinstant hexecution,” I shall say so with my last breath. With him has often come, but not always, the Prince Imperial— another beautiful young treasured life cut lamentably short. Now, with regard to this apparition, I would like to mention what I call proof of identity. I knew this Prince no more than I did the other, and could only recognise him from his photograph.

Any distinguished-looking young man with an olive complexion and dark eyes and slight figure might have passed for the Prince Imperial with a stranger; but it was the pure Parisian accent with which he addressed me that convinced me of his identity. We were all men and women of education, as I have said before, but I will venture to affirm there was not one of us that could speak French as the spirit of the Prince Imperial spoke it to me. There is no mistaking a pure Parisian accent. It is something that very few Englishmen acquire even though they may live in Paris, and on the lips of this spirit it was undeniable. I have not seen him so often as I have the Duke of Clarence, but for the first few times they always came together or immediately succeeding each other, and the Prince Imperial invariably spoke with the same accent.

The Spirit World, Florence Marryat, 1895

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Cecil Husk, an opera singer turned medium, was exposed in 1891 by a sitter who removed his luminous gauze “spirit mask.” It is curious how multiple exposures did not dampen séance-goers’ enthusiasm for their pet mediums. A previous account of a spiritual visitatant written by Florence Marryat also featured a disgraced medium.

The Prince Imperial was the son of Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie, living in exile in England. The Prince was a brilliant student at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and received his commission in 1875. He chafed at staff work and longed to see military action. The Duke of Cambridge helped the Prince transfer to South Africa where he took part in the “Anglo-Zulu War,” and where he met a soldier’s end pierced by Zulu spears.

Much has been whispered and written about the deficiencies, dissipations, and alleged murderous propensities of the Duke of Clarence. He was deeply loved by his own family and, a very short time after becoming engaged to Princess Mary of Teck, was said to have died in 1892 of the influenza. Mrs Daffodil caught one of the footmen reading a rather sensational book that claimed that his death was only simulated to remove an unfit heir from the succession and that he actually lived a long and quiet life as an artist, often visited by his beloved mother. The book was illustrated with photographs purporting to show the “late” Prince with Queen Alexandra, long after his “death.”

The Prince’s deathbed was attended by his parents, his fiancée and her parents, Prince George, two of his sisters, three nurses, three physicians, and the Prince of Wales’s chaplain, which, if we accept the premise that the Prince did not die in 1892, suggests either a very wide conspiracy of silence or a deathbed scene invented to appeal to the sentimental public.

As to Mrs Marryat’s curious visitations and the late Duke’s insistent on secrecy, one suspects that lady was duped by an unscrupulous medium who did not wish to find himself in the awkward position of putting on a command performance for the Royal Family.  Or “Prince Eddy” was an one of those imposter spirits, who (we are told) so frequently intrudes in the séance room to make mischief. Mrs Daffodil suggests that the former explanation is the more likely.

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.

For more on the death and mourning for the Duke of Clarence, see The Victorian Book of the Dead’s Facebook page.


The Divine Sarah at a Séance: 1892

sarah bernhardt in coffin


Not Being Able to Understand How Spirits Are Materialized She Denounces Members of Her Company as Confederates


Darmont, Her Leading Man, Locked the Medium in the Cabinet, but the Actress Said He Had Been Duped.


Scientific Frenchmen Engineered the “Circle,” Which Broke up in Something Very Much Resembling a Row.

Mme. Sarah Bernhardt began by being an ordinary spectator at a spiritualistic séance on Thursday night, but before the close she was the “star performer,” and every one else, including the medium, the members of her company, the French scientific men present and perhaps the spirits, sank into insignificance when she stalked up and down the room in tragic rage.

Those who had the pleasure of witnessing her outbursts declare that they excelled anything she had done the previous evening in “Leah the Forsaken.” She was not acting at the séance. Even magnificent Sarah can’t beat nature, and her natural fury is a trifle more interesting than her stage rage.

Madame was taken sick at the soiree mendier at the Manhattan Athletic Club on Thursday evening. It was given as a benefit by members of her company, and her indisposition brought it to an abrupt close. The disappointed spectators imagined that Sarah went at once to her hotel and took to her bed. She didn’t. She had made a tryst with the ghosts of the departed and she meant to keep it.

Two carriages drove up to the house of Mrs. Carrie M. Sawyer, a materializing medium at No. 232 West Twenty-first Street at half-past eleven o’clock. Mme. Bernhardt jumped out of one; two imminent French scientists resident in New York followed her, and out of the other carriage emerged M. Albert Darmont, her leading man; a young lady of the company with big blue, frightened eyes and straw colored hair, and a stout gentleman who takes old men’s parts in the show.

In the second story front parlor a little group of people were awaiting the advent of Mme. Bernhardt. There was a tall, thin Frenchman of high position, with his good-looking French-American bride; an attractive young lady of “The Great Metropolis” company, a little fat man with a red face and pink mustache and a young lady from Australia. When Mme. Bernhardt went in she shook hands with all these people and then took a seat in a low and luxurious armchair.


In one corner of the parlor stood a cabinet built of strong framework and wire netting. It is what is known as a “test” cabinet, having been built at great expense by Henry J. Newton, president of the First Society of Spiritualists. Mr. Newton considers this cabinet the crowning glory of a lifetime devoted to psychical research, and he offers $1000 to any one who can get out of it without aid from the other world.

Mme. Bernhardt was attired richly, being in the tight fitting sort of dress which she uses so much on the stage. Her thick hair of burnished gold was thrown to the breezes like the flowing locks of Paderewski and she wore no hat or bonnet when she entered. Her pose was that of Cleopatra on her throne.

There were no formalities after the introductions and the Professor, at whose invitation the séance was given, explained to the company that spiritualism was undoubtedly a wonderful force. He thought it was well worth investigating from a scientific standpoint and he was devoting a great deal of his time and some of his money to the study of it.

“I have made a thorough examination of this cabinet,” he said, “and that there may be no mistake I have brought a padlock of my own.” The medium was then seated in a chair in the cabinet, and the Professor and M. Darmont proceeded to lock her in. There was a quiet smile upon the face of Mrs. Sawyer as the two enthusiasts applied the tests to her. They padlocked the door, and then M. Darmont got a two cent postage stamp, wrote his name upon it and pasted it over the keyhole of the padlock.

“If anyone gets out of that cabinet,” M. Darmont remarked, “I’ll get some sauce tartare, pour it over my hat and eat it.

Then they turned out the gas and the audience began singing religious songs. The only light was from a candle covered with tissue paper. Then it transpired that the eminent professor, at whose request the séance was held, was provided with a lantern which lighted itself when the holder pressed a button. The man who takes the senile parts in Mme. Bernhardt’s company, and who was sitting on a lounge behind the tragedienne, had in his overcoat pocket a revolver, a box of matches, a pair of handcuffs and a false beard. M. Darmont was armed with matches, a lasso with which to catch ghosts and a small wax candle. It looked as if the Bernhardt contingent were investigators in earnest.


After a lapse of twenty minutes spirits of the departed began to emerge from the cabinet in large numbers. The “spirit control” of Mrs. Sawyer is a child named “Maudie,” who speaks in a babyish voice, and this spirit took charge of the proceedings and explained to the audience what was coming.

Mme. Bernhardt was very much impressed with the conversation of the baby spirit “Maudie.” When the spirit first announced its presence she said in English.

“Is that you, Maudie? I would like to go up to de cabine and kees you. May I kees you, Maudie?”

The spirit replied: “You promised my medium to give her your photograph. If you will do so you can get a picture of Maudie. Presently you will be able to go into the cabinet when the forces become strong enough to materialize.

“Tank you, Maudie; you vera good,” said Mme. Bernhardt.

Then the audience sang: “Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching,” a favorite of a spirit named Elan, the uncle of “Maudie,” who is one of the medium’s “controls.” The spirits seemed to like this and a banjo which heretofore had taken no part in the proceedings began to sail through the air playing the tune.

“I do not know how zat is done,” said Bernhardt. “Zat is vare funny.”

After a dozen spirits had come from the cabinet, careened through the atmosphere and then vanished into space, a particularly depressing scene took place. A cold air seemed to rush into the room and a presence appeared twenty feet from the cabinet. Everyone felt “spookish.” “That is the woman who was drowned in the steamer Ville de Havre,” whispered the Professor with bated breath.

“Help, help! Save me, save me!” screamed the form, and then it vanished through the floor.

It reappeared in a moment. It asked to speak to Mme. Bernhardt, and the actress advanced to the cabinet and took its hands. The form looked like a corpse and its hands were wet, madame said. It gave a gasp and disappeared. Sarah dropped back into her seat.

“I take her hand,” she said. “I scratch. I try to make the spirit cry. I tear de flesh with my nails. She no scream at all.”


The French Professor and all the others recognized forms as departed relatives. They went up to the cabinet and talked with them. Mme. Bernhardt asked questions about the phenomena. While she was talking a pair of handcuffs that had been sitting on the piano suddenly jumped in the air and threw themselves at the feet of M. Darmont. If they had fallen on his toes he would have uttered an agonizing yell, of they weighed about six pounds. There was a feeling of consternation all around.

“The medium no do that,” exclaimed the Professor. “I lock her in the de cabinet myself. It is a thing quite remarkable.”

Oui,” joined in M. Darmont, ”et moi j’ai la clef.” Or in English, “Yes, and I’ve got the key, see?”

“Let us sing ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee,’” suggested the Professor. “It requires the music for to make the spirits come some more.”

Oui, chantons,” said madame, “pour faire venir les apparitions.’”

Every one joined in the chorus. By this time the room was close and suffocating, all the doors and windows being hermetically sealed. Mme. Bernhardt was reeking with perfumes and they filled the room and possessed the senses of the audience. It was a spice-like odor, very captivating.

More spirits emerged from the retreat of the captive medium and every one made exclamations of surprise. The Professor was very explicit in his definitions of the limit of the power of spiritualism. The members of Mme. Bernhardt’s company asked questions frequently and accepted the explanations gratefully and with much politeness.

“I would like to know if it is necessaire for de young lady at de piano to sit before me in front so I no can see,” said the actress with the straw-colored hair humbly when the Professor inquired if there was anything any one wanted to know.

The mistake was corrected and the actress was given a better view of the apparitions.

The last phenomenon was the passage of the medium through the locked door of the cabinet. A young lady and the fat man with the pink mustache were called up to join hands so that the spirits might draw from them sufficient “forces” to perform the wonderful act. There was a rattling as if of chains and the medium suddenly appeared. The gas was lighted and the séance was over.


It had been apparent for some little time before the finale that Mme. Bernhardt didn’t like the way the spirits were treating her. They distinctly slighted the great actress, making revelations to everyone in the room but her. Instead of being the centre of attraction, she seemed to hold a second rate position spiritually, and it made her mad.

Immediately after the close she made a demonstration. “You didn’t do this thing properly,” she screamed, addressing M. Darmont and the professor. “You didn’t have the medium locked up. It was an optical illusion. You thought she was in the cabinet, but she was not. If she was locked up these manifestations could not have occurred.”

She stalked up and down in tragic rage, growing more furious every moment. “No, it cannot be!” she screamed. “You must be in league with the medium. It is impossible.” She perambulated from north to south, followed by M. Darmont, who was greatly agitated.

“Madame,” he exclaimed, “I swear to you that I locked the medium in the cabinet. Believe me, madame, I am not mistaken. She was there, and I closed the door.”

“No,” screamed the actress, “it cannot be! It is impossible! It must be the work of the devil. You are all fools or confederates.”

“But, madame,” put in M. Darmont, “I beg of you. I am not a fool or a confederate. I am a member of your company. The professor is engaged in a great scientific work and he would not deceive you.”

Mme. Bernhardt was livid with rage. She made a rush at the cabinet and tried to find out if it was ghost proof. She ran all round it and banged at it with her firsts.


“There must be a confederate,” she howled. “It is a trick. You say that the medium cannot speak French. Bah! One of the spirits said to me, ‘Ah, Sarah, c’est toi!” How can that be? You must all be confederates. I cannot believe it.”

One of the French scientists drew himself up.Mon Dieu!” he exclaimed. “I wish it was a man who said I was a confederate. He would not live; no, not one day. Madame, you insult me. I have never been before here, and I am a gentleman.” “Madame,” screamed the professor, keeping pace with her in her frantic march up and down the room, “you are unkind. I have acted in good faith. What do you want? You saw the medium locked in the cabinet. You think it is a trick. You are angry because you cannot find out how it is done. You will be sorry for having accursed your friends.”

Ou a fait la nuit!” shouted madame, throwing up her left arm and letting it fall upon her hip with a thud. “I have not seen anything. You assist the medium. You think you locked her up, but you didn’t. Ah, you think you are smart, but you are not.”

“Do not insult us, I beg of you, madame,” exclaimed M. Darmont. “I assure you that what I say is correct. I do not try to explain it, but I know that the medium was in the cabinet when I locked the door. I am not a madman, and I can rely on what I see. The postage stamp is intact and the lock is just as the professor left it.”

“It seemed as if she was in the cabinet,” screamed the actress, “but there must be some deception.”

Madame. Bernhardt left the house in a towering rage. The members of her company followed her, greatly chagrined at her conduct and humiliated at the suggestion she had made that they were in a conspiracy to deceive her.

The most miserable man in New York was the French professor, who has been her intimate friend for years and who was heartbroken at the suggestion that he had been hoodwinked or was a confederate.

New York Herald 23 April 1892: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is difficult to say how much Sarah Bernhardt truly believed in the occult. Like many artists of her time, she over-dramatised her enthusiasm for death and its trappings. The photograph above of her “sleeping” in her coffin caused a scandal. She was known to have attended séances at Alphonse Mucha’s studio and elsewhere, but it is difficult to escape the suspicion that she sought drama and sensation more than spiritual enlightenment.

Some of the background: Mrs Carrie Sawyer was a well-known materialization medium, although one investigator said of her “Mrs. Sawyer is a gentlewoman and a strong medium, but she is surrounded by a coarse magnetism, the baleful influence of which she seems powerless to resist. [Source: Materialized Apparitions: If Not Beings from Another life, What Are They?, Edward Augustus Brackett, Boston: Colby and Rich, Publishers, 1886]

Mr Newton, the provider of the test cabinet, was well-known in Spiritualist circles. When the Fox sisters confessed that the raps had been caused by the girls cracking their toe joints, he refused to believe and announced that the manifestations he had seen could not have been caused by fraud.

“Leah the Forsaken,” was a popular tear-jerker play about a Jewish maiden in love with a Christian youth in a small Austrian village. The heroine rages and pronounces a curse on the man who betrays her. It was the perfect “meaty” role for a scenery-chewer like Madame.

“Maudie” is typical of the child “spirit guides,” so popular during this time. The child’s prattle could disguise the medium’s voice and we have previously seen how mediums might purchase child-sized figures to be used in the séance room or go down on their knees in the dark to impersonate a toddler.

SS Ville du Havre was a steamship running between France and New York. 22 November 1873, Ville du Havre hit a Scottish clipper and sank in only 12 minutes. 226 people died.

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.


How a Spirit Sat For Its Photograph: 1894

An example of a "spirit photograph."

An example of a “spirit photograph.”


Once, upon a time, a gentleman who lived in St. Louis was happy enough to have a good and beautiful wife, whom he loved fondly.

However, while she was yet a young woman, she died, and he was left desolate.

After his first grief was a little softened, he began to regret very bitterly that he had no portrait of her. The fine picture by some famous artist, which they had decided to have painted in Paris, would now never exist, and his lost wife had always refused to sit for her photograph.

The poorest representation of her features would have been valuable to him now, and he blamed himself for not having urged her to have one taken.

One night, when he had fallen asleep thinking of this matter, he dreamed that a hand touched his, that he opened his eyes and saw his wife sitting beside him, dressed in a very beautiful white lace dress, which he greatly admired. She smiled and leaned across the pillow to kiss him:

“I should have done what you asked, my dear,” she said. “I am sorry now, because you fret over it; but I have done what I could to please you. You will find my photograph in New Orleans; I sat for it to-day—I wore this dress.”

She kissed him again and he awoke.

He was much agitated and moved to the point of shedding tears; but as he knew that his wife had not visited New Orleans since her childhood, though she was born there, merely supposed that the dream was the natural result of his thoughts. However, a few weeks later, he dreamed the same thing again, and this time heard his wife mention the street in which he would find her portrait.

“I have been trying in vain to make you dream of me, for nights,” she said. And he thought he answered: “But I do dream of you very often.” “Yes, in the dreams of sleep,” she replied. “But this is a vision, a dream of the soul. It is I, myself, who tell you to go and get my picture, which you will find in ___ street, in the city of New Orleans.”

Again he awoke, this time much impressed; but as he believed that he knew that there was no portrait of his wife in existence, had no thought of going to New Orleans, or anywhere else, to find one.

Time passed on—his wife had been dead more than two years—when again he dreamed the same dream. This time he was awake, or believed himself to be so, and he took his wife’s hands and held them.

“Dearest, I shall not come again,” she whispered. “You will come to me one day, but never shall I return to you. If you want my portrait, you will find it where I have told you that it is.” This time the hands seemed to melt in his; he saw the figure fade and believed that his wife’s spirit had visited him. The next day he was on his way to New Orleans, and, on arriving, turned his steps toward the street mentioned. As he walked slowly along, a photographer’s show-case caught his eye, and from it his wife smiled upon him in all the beauty of her prime. There could be no mistaking the fact. Besides, she wore the white evening-dress he knew so well, trimmed with lace of a peculiar pattern, and on her throat a necklace which he had had made to order for her.

He stood gazing upon it for a long while; then hastened up-stairs and questioned the photographer. The result was that in a little while they were exchanging confidences.

The widower had told his dream; the photographer had narrated his experience—it was this:

Some time before, he had fallen asleep in his studio, and had awakened to find that a lady had posed herself for a sitting. She was dressed in white, and as if for the evening; but he fancied that she had left her wraps in the dressing-room.

Starting to his feet, he apologized, and felt that a conversation must have ensued; for, afterward, he remembered the size desired, and that the lady had said that her husband would come for the pictures; but he was sure that he must have been curiously confused, for he never could think just how all this was said, and sometimes fancied that not a word was spoken.

Also, he was unable to say when the lady left the studio. He waited for some time for her to return from the dressing-room, and was surprised when the young woman in attendance declared that no lady dressed in white had been there that day.

However, he finished the pictures, had a crayon head made and framed, and, coming to the conclusion that the lady who posed so well was an actress, took special pains that the work should be perfect. At last, however, he decided that all this had been in vain; that no one would ever come for the pictures, and placed the large crayon portrait in his show-case.

The picture had been taken about a year before. The lady had been dead more than two years, and had never been in New Orleans since she was five years old; but the husband not only paid for the photographs and the crayon head, but subsequently sent the photographer a check for a large amount.

Not half the value, he declared, of his inestimable treasure. People have tried to explain this story in several ways, but those most interested have always believed that, for once, at least, a spirit returned to earth to sit for its portrait.

Another photographer, having taken a portrait of a baby, whose mother died at its birth, found behind the little bald head the face of a young woman, which was declared by those who had known her to be a perfect likeness of the child’s mother.

He was greatly excited and deeply interested at the time, for he was sure that the plate was entirely clean and new. But, though he made many experiments afterward, he never had any other experience of the same sort.

The Freed Spirit: or Glimpses Beyond the Border, Mary Kyle Dallas, 1894

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Spirit photography began in the 1860s with Boston jeweller William H. Mumler, who found the “ghost” of his dead cousin in a self-portrait. Mumler was quite successful with his photographs, but was eventually  accused of fraud by P.T. Barnum in a breathtaking example of the pot calling the kettle black. It was said that Mumler sometimes broke into the houses of the bereaved to steal photographs which he could use in his work. He also used living models who were then recognized as actresses or other non-ghostly persons. He was acquitted of fraud, but was effectively put out of business as a spirit photographer.  Many others followed in his train, some sincere and some rank charlatans.

In spite of this exposure, spirit photography flourished, even up into the 1920s, fueled by the casualties of the Great War. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a great believer in spirit photography, used to show his audiences a photograph of the Cenotaph on Armistice Day with the following commentary:


[By The Associated Press]

drew gasps of astonishment from a large audience in Carnegie Hall last night when he gave a lecture on Spiritism.

“Do you see the dead creeping through?” Sir Arthur asked, pointing to the spectral faces on the screen. “You can see them everywhere.”

There were two photographs, described as taken by Mrs. Dean, an English medium. The first, a snapshot, showed the great crowd standing bareheaded before the cenotaph. A faint luminous patch appeared over the throng.

The second picture showed countless heads of sad visaged soldiers floating above the memorial. The spectators were blotted out.

Sandusky [OH] Register 8 April 1923: p. 2

Unhappily for Sir Arthur, the faces were recognized as those of living football players and boxers by investigators of The Daily Sketch.



A Ring Brought From the Grave: c. 1880s

Today Mrs Daffodil brings you a tale from the séance room narrated, rather oddly, in the third-person by medium Maud Lord Drake.


On one occasion a man came for the express purpose of mischief. He said it was all a fraud. Maud met him and looked steadily into his face for a moment. The others all knew something was coming. Finally, with a quick, gasping noise, she jumped forward, reached for his hands, and gave him a sign known only to Masons, and in a strong, clear, masculine voice told him everything he had said on the road; what he had told the boys, and repeated verbatim his jeers and contempt for the subject. She ended by saying, “Now, John Bronson, if you wish to conform to the rules of this meeting you can come in, and welcome, but, if not, you cannot attend.” The Captain admitted that his doubts had been utterly vanquished and that he would be only too glad to attend and learn more facts.

Thus was arranged one of the most surprising materializing seances that the medium had held, up to that date. During the seance this same penitent and contrite skeptic was called to the cabinet by the spirit of a young lady. When he approached she eagerly reached forth her hand and took his, saying—”My brother.” He recognized her face, and in his excitement almost screamed to her to give her name. She spoke distinctly, “Ella.”

“My God! my God! It’s my sister,” said the thoroughly convinced skeptic. He almost fainted, and was led back to his seat by his smiling and thoroughly triumphant companions, to whom he had only a few hours before ridiculed spirit return.

The influences were not yet through with him. His sister who had been buried only a short time, came again with messages for those in her far away home in the East. A thought of further identification struck him, and he said, “Ella, what did I give you when I came home on a furlough?”

“A ring set with ruby and pearls,” she replied.

“Yes, yes,” he replied, “where was it left when you were buried?”

“On my finger” said she, putting the hand out and plainly showing the ring to all present. He recognized it at once. He then asked for the wedding ring that had also been buried with her.

She had married a comrade of his company, and when she died, was buried at Keokuk, Iowa. This ring, he said, was left with her wedding ring upon her hand.

She seemed a little puzzled, disappeared for a few seconds, came back, recalled him, and reaching out her hand,’ put the ring he had given her upon his hand and said, “Keep it, but show it to Charley.” Charley was the name of her husband, and Charley’s name had not been called by any of the party.

There are many people to-day in Keokuk, Iowa, who will remember this young Captain Bronson. He attended to show others of his company who had been present several times their folly. On the way to the séance he had scoffed and sneered at his companions for believing anything so utterly ridiculous.

After this strange experience, the Captain, still in possession of his sister’s ring, declared he would not rest until his sister’s coffin was opened that he might know this was no delusion. He, with several of those present, went to the grave, where, with the sexton, they opened the coffin and examined the hand that had worn the ring. When the coffin was opened, he said, “Boys, look first and tell me.” The hands wore no gloves, and strange, but true, the ring was gone! The dead, white hand, they said, bore the impress of the missing ring. The indentation was there. The ring was taken from the soldier brother and slipped upon the finger for the second time.

Psychic Light, the Continuity of Law and Life, Mrs. Maud Eugenia Barrock Lord Drake,1904

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The much-married medium, Maud Lord-Drake [1852-1924] was a star of the séance circuit for over 65 years. She was said to have twice given readings for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.  A young Maud was christened “Daughter of the Orient” by the spirits who compared her favourably to the medium at the Temple of Delphi 4,000 years ago. We know this because Mrs Drake tells us in her 600-page autobiography called Psychic Light. The book is packed with thrilling psychic incidents, including her much-publicised disappearance:  drugged and hauled onto a ship bound for Glasgow by enemies who told the stewardess that she was mildly insane and had been prescribed a sea voyage for her health. The book also offers tales of astonishing predictions, full-body materialisations, music played by levitating guitars, and Mrs Drake’s discreetly elided anecdotes about her consistently execrable taste in men.

The ring incident reminds Mrs Daffodil of a story from the confessions of a former professional medium. He told of an elderly lady who had been attending Spiritualist circles. One day she lost a valuable diamond ring. When she went to the medium, she was told that she would find it frozen in an ice cube in her freezer, where it had been placed by the spirits. To her amazement, she found the ring exactly where the medium had said it would be. After that she was as wax in the hands of the unscrupulous Spiritualist. What she did not realize was that a friend of the medium had come to her house on some pretext and had surreptitiously purloined the ring and placed it in the freezer to be “discovered.”

Mrs Daffodil does not like to cast aspersions, but the sceptical Captain’s sister had only been buried for “a short time.”  Time enough, perhaps, for someone to exhume her body and remove rings of sentimental value that might be of some use at a future séance.

For a previous post on a “cursed” royal ring, see here.  And a post on a deadly diamond, here.

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.