Category Archives: Supernatural

A Jar of Sugared Fruit: 1869

little girl and grandmother offering sweet

WAS IT INSANITY?

Madame Rosine was sewing some light, dainty stuff; her nervous fingers flashed to and fro in the twilight, and the diamond bracelet on her white arm glistened like the eye of a snake, as she held her needle up to the fading light, and inserted the gossamer thread.

The world generally, I confess, uses women up in about forty years: they shrivel and grow grim and enervated in its atmosphere…But, Madame was an exception; she grew rounder and rosier and plumper every year; every year nature seemed to discover some unfinished beauty in her which she proceeded with artist hand to “touch up.” There was a sense of color, and light and warmth in her stately presence, that fascinated me, as well as her younger pupils.

It was after school-hours, yet Madame, who was a very conscientious teacher, was expounding to me patiently a chapter in Ancient History. A very ancient and profound chapter in the story of the world.

How the old heroes met death; stoically, yet as a king of terror. How the terrible king held high revel in the bleak walls and grave-like secrecy of the inquisition. How men’s lives were wrenched out of them by sheer physical force, and death was made hideous by his association with all that was vile and cruel in man.

“Those were frightful times!” said I with a shudder. “I’m glad we got over them before I was born!”

“We haven’t got over them, my dear,” said Madame, with her courtly smile. “We have arrived at great achievements in medicine, certainly, and great attainments in art. Every year we are conquering the world’s roughness, and making it easier to live—we have yet to perfect the science of death. We are perfecting ourselves in every thing—only in this we are barbarous; we let men gulph out of existence brutishly.”

“It is a difficult field of study, Madame,” said I, “and dangerous.”

“And so,” continued Madame, not noticing the interruption, “not a hand is lifted, not a voice raised; we die hideously, when the passage might be made dewy and fragrant as a walk over a land of flowers. We keep our halt, our sick and suffering, hovering cruelly on the brink of death, when death is inevitable, and no one leads them kindly by the hand down the dismal road. They are left to crawl out of life alone, and open the doors of the other world with their own trembling hands, because we are too cowardly to be courteous; we will not venture to usher them in thither while there is a better life, and glow and pleasure left—we send them out in the dark.”

Madame’s voice grew into a thoughtful whisper, and she looked dreamily out into the twilight, as she said these words.

I looked up at the lady, as she sat there in the flash of the yellow sunset, her silk dress falling about her in shining folds, her dark eye and crimson cheek catching strange luster as she spoke. Yes, she was indeed the model of a Frenchwoman, well dressed, well cared-for, tasteful and philosophic.

Madame Rosine was my teacher; she was also the teacher of my younger sisters, who, during our father’s absence, were left with her in her cottage on the sea-shore.

The cottages on the sea-shore were very sparse; they were let out to strangers during the summer months, who came down to bathe and reinvigorate themselves with the fresh sea air.

She and her old grandmother, a queer, half silly, but kindly old lady, inhabited the little white house just beyond the turn of the hills, where they swept off from the shore, leaving the white line of beach-sand for the waves and the bathers. There were one or two other little pupils, from among the summer residents.

My father thought a deal of Madame’s French; and of her powers of training. And Madame thought a deal of my father. We had been very happy at the cottage this summer; the sunshiny, breezy days had passed like a swift flight of birds that paused to dip their wings in the radiant waters, and vanished beyond the hills.

Madame Rosine arose and approached the doorway which looked out on the far line of beach, and the brimming, heaving sea, tinged with the ruddy light of the departing sun.

“I believe,” said she, “grandmother is getting too old to trust with the children.”

A nodding, smiling old woman in a red kerchief came, leaning on her stick, up the gravel path, a little child toddling on in advance of her.

It was little Fanchette, my sister, with her hands and tiny white apron full of green, shiny seaweed.

She held the dripping mass up to Madame’s gaze as she skipped eagerly forward.

“Me dot a fower!” she cried.

Madame withdrew her silken dress from possible contact: an expression of disgust warped her face. She had sent the little thing out so clean and shining, to be admired by the gazers on the seashore, an attractive exposition of her system and her care.

But with the self-control which she inculcated in her pupils, she checked the expression; her face resumed its courteous complacency as the old woman came slowly up the path.

“I think, grandmother,” said she, “these walks are getting too much for you. The children are too much of a charge—I will accompany them myself next time.”

It was grandmother’s charge to walk with the little ones on the beach of an afternoon, and to take the little day-pupils home. The toddling things liked the old woman well; she was “grandmother” by election to the whole of them, and that she sometimes wandered off with them for half a day or so, did not discredit her claims in their eyes.

“Rosine,” said she, “thou wilt not deprive me of the little ones!” Her old voice quivered.

Madame did not answer. She was busy disgorging Fanchette’s little apron of its contents.

The next day, bright and early, I saw the old grandmother, staff in hand, making her swift way toward the gate, her ruffled cap blowing back in the breeze, and Fanchette, with a many furtive glance backward, trudging valiantly by her side.

I supposed that they were only going down for milk, but school-time came, and Fanchette’s face was absent.

I did not trouble myself much about the child; it was safe and happy, no doubt, and I had my head full of French verbs.

We were expecting my father up that day; he would come in the afternoon train. He usually came out once a week. On that day Madame always wore red ribbons in her hair, and looked younger and more coquettish than usual. She was also very kind to us on those days; we had cakes and sweetmeats for lunch, and made a sort of gala-day of it.

But if my father came and little Fanchette was unaccountably absent—what then?

I saw that Madame grew uneasy as the morning waned, and her uneasiness reflected itself in me. We spent the intervening time between lessons, in walking down to the gate, and glancing up and down the road for the fugitives. Madame had a saintly patience with that childish old grandmother, but it gave way as the day passed, and no sign of them appeared.

“I will go out,” said she, “Sophie, and take a walk along the shore. Doubtless they are there among the shells.”

Madame walked thoughtfully along the shore, while I, less anxious, strolled on, flinging pebbles into the water. The tide was rising; nearer and nearer came the creeping waves; they wetted my feet; they drove me further and further from the beach toward the line of rocks overhanging it.

Just then, where the water and the rocks met, and a tangled mass of scraggy, wild growth overhung the steep ascent, I caught a glimpse, just above my head, of some red, glittering object, and parting the bushes, there lay Fanchette asleep, her rosy face pressed against the stones. A dangerous sleep in such a chamber, when the tide was rising.

“Madame! Madame!” I cried, “I have found her!”

Madame came quickly back; she stretched up her round, strong arms, and caught the child hastily down from its eyrie. She turned homeward without a word; not a word during all the long walk, either to Fanchette or me.

As we reached the cottage gate, who should look up from the porch, and smiling, knock the ashes from her pipe, but the old grandmother.

“Ah, aha!” said she, cunningly, eyeing Madame with that half fearing, half defiant expression which I have seen in the eyes of animals when doubtful of their master’s intentions toward them. “Ah, yes! too hot, too hot, you see, to bring the little one home. Grandmother only left her to cool a little!”

To cool! If Fanchette had not happened to wear her red dress, she might have been cooling under the waves tonight, I thought to myself.

It seemed, however, that Fanchette had strolled away from the old woman, who, in her bewilderment at losing her, and terror of Madame Rosine, had thought of no better way to shield herself than to deny the fact.

Fanchette, all curled and smiling, was ready to be brought in when my father, immediately on his arrival, asked for his favorite child.

We said nothing about her recent adventure.

“I so hate to disturb your dear father, Sophie,” said the complacent Madame, “he has already so much on his mind.”

Madame waited assiduously upon my father on these days, spread his hot biscuit with her own dainty fingers, and showed him an attention which my own sweet mother never did; but I think my father liked it. We were little half-orphans, for my mother had died in giving birth to Fanchette, but Madame often declared she felt like a mother to us.

Madame was alone in the world.

“Monsieur,” said she, sweetly, on the day of my father’s visit, “I am alone; I am very sad; but I feel sure that the good God watches over me and the dear old lady. What, else, should become of us, two poor, lone waifs by the seashore!”

Madame was alone in the world, but she owned the little cottage, or would own it on grandmother’s death, and a snug little sum in the bank, it was said.

My father looked into the lady’s eyes and smiled when she said that so pathetically, and I heard him call her Rosine.

The sunshine streamed over her and little Fanchette, who, wearied with her recent exploits, curled herself up in Madame’s loving arms, and fell fast asleep. A very sweet picture it made, and as my father had something of an artist eye, no doubt it pleased him.

The next day as I walked in the garden, I saw the old grandmother sitting solitary upon a stone; she did not lift her eyes, nor speak to me. The blithe, cheery look that kept her foolish old face like foggy sunshine was all gone out; she looked gray and wrinkled, and sullen.

I did not dare to speak to the old woman when she was in this mood, and strolled on through the garden, among the fallen leaves. Presently, as I stooped among a clump of flowers to gather a low forget-me-not, I heard another footstep rustle the fallen leaves, and Madame passed swiftly, without seeing me.

She was evidently looking for her grandmother. I heard her utter a low exclamation when she came upon the wretched object sitting there alone. Oh, but this was a trying old woman! and Madame certainly had a saintly patience with her!

I trembled in my hiding-place when I heard Madame’s voice speaking sternly and gravely in French; so severely I had never heard her voice sound before, but I did not catch the words.

As I passed out again, when the conversation ceased, the old woman still sat crouching on her stone; her face had a cowed, scared look, and she shrunk away from me.

She continued thus sullen and solitary for days, occasionally varying her grimness by a flight to the sea-shore, whence she would have to be brought home by the maid-servant, or by Madame herself. Or she would sit for long, monotonous hours in the doorway, neither knitting nor smoking as her wont.

The children shunned her; by one leap their old favorite had taken herself out of the cheery little circle of their lives, and become a thing mysterious and apart. Not a child came up to her for a kiss, or to show her new primer, or bring her a flower to smell; they eyed her askance and walked away.

Certainly this old woman, growing into a specter, was making an ominous reputation for the school, and undoing all Madame’s patient labor for success.

Yet Madame Rosine’s saintly patience and politeness was a model to her pupils; she took her own shawl of an evening, and wrapped it about grandmother’s shoulders; the crimson shawl that grandmother used to covet.

“The dear old mother,” she said, “one would fain make her comfortable, if one only could. My dear Sophie, we must always respect the aged, be they ever so ungrateful.”

Ungrateful, indeed, the old lady was; when Madame’s jeweled fingers pressed her angular shoulders with the luxurious shawl dropping down its ruddy folds, the recipient of this kindness repelled her with a gesture of aversion. She got up feebly, and put the crimson drapery from her. After that she hobbled off to bed.

Madame’s eye followed her as she left the room, with a glance of philosophic consideration, as if meditating the possibility of further experiments in her behalf.

After this the old woman kept her bed most of the time; but she had a notion that she would not be treated us a child; a dainty cloth was therefore spread in her room at meal-times, and Madame herself prepared an orderly repast to set before her. The old lady would sit up at the table, querulous and provoking, but eat nothing; some time afterward I would hear her shuffling feet coming down the stairway to sit in the ashes of the kitchen, where she munched a mouthful with the servant, betaking herself back in terror if she heard Madame’s stately step approaching.

But gradually she gave up that; she grew whiter and thinner, and finally kept her bed altogether.

We were sent up in the afternoons to pay our respects to her, shrinking back in childish awe from the spectral figure bolstered up before us, and making our courtesies brief as possible.

One day she seemed to rouse up a little as we entered; she nodded her withered head to us in its wide-frilled cap, and apparently wished to speak; but we could not understand the mumbling words, and shrank nervously toward the door.

The old woman lifted with her trembling hands a gaudy tulip from a vase on the table, and held it toward Fanchette. Fanchette could not withstand the temptation; she faltered slowly, slowly up, and took the flower from the shaking, bony hand; then the wrinkled donor smiled, a wrinkled, quavering, ghost of a smile, and placed her hand on the child’s curling head. Fanchette was not thinking of her old friend much; her childish eyes were wandering over the white-spread table, whose array of jelly and other good things was far more attractive. A nice white bowl of gruel stood near the edge; she stretched up on her tiny tiptoes and peered into it.

The sunshine streamed in over the snowy table, the clean old woman and the gaily-dressed child. We stood at the door and looked, but did not approach. Overcoming all her scruples, the little epicure had mounted to a chair. The invalid drew the table slowly toward her. Apparently she had a whim that they should have a meal together; these two children, the one hoary-headed, the other with her downy, sunshiny hair just lighting with a golden luster her infantile head, used to be attached to each other once; the old attraction seemed to be coming up again as they sat sunning together.

With her trembling hands the old woman took some sugared fruit from a jar, and held it all glistening with crystal sweetness toward the child.

The sight was too much for those of us who did not want to appear covetous, and had outgrown the ingenuousness of childhood.

We politely withdrew.

Madame was on the stairs as we came out; apparently she had been waiting. She, good lady, was always so anxious about us.

“Fanchette ?” she said, quickly, seeing, as we swept out into the garden, that the little one was missing.

We pointed merrily up the stairs, and I saw Madame gather up her long robe and rush up swiftly like a young girl.

I can not tell what had come over me in regard to Madame lately; I took a strange, dreamy interest in every thing she did, and watched her with an apparently motiveless fascination. Why did she hurry up stairs so? Would we, would Fanchette be punished for staying too long with the old lady? Or for touching her dainties, which we had been forbidden to do? An interesting woman, my father always said; and she had become so to me.

***

The old lady was dead. Her troublesome, querulous life had flickered out at last. She lay up stairs folded in the linen so long prepared for her. She had died in the night. Madame, who had sat up all that long solemn night, looked worn and white this morning; she had dark lines under her eyes, and was strangely restless and uneasy, as people are apt to be who have overtasked their strength.

“I so wanted the poor soul to die easy, Sophie,” said she to me, who, being the oldest pupil, was honored with Madame’s confidence occasionally.

As we stood in the breezy, white draped room, and looked at the solemn face from which death had swept out all the silliness and insignificance, there was a stir of the gauzy window-drapery. Madame started: it was only little Fanchette, who peered in with curious, frightened face, and sped away.

Madame called the child, but she would not return; she held aloof from Madame all that day, and would not be caressed or cared for, though it appeared to me she did not look well. But children have queer and eccentric instincts, and Fanchette was an odd child. She wandered about in the garden, and eyed us askance all day, like a bird that has alighted among strangers a moment, and will take wing presently.

When I came down the stairway I found Fanchette sitting in the sunny porch. “Come in, darling,” said I, “to luncheon. We’ve got something good.”

Fanchette was a little epicure; “something good” always won her heart. This time she did not stir. “Me dot somesin dood,” said she. She put her tiny hand in her tiny pocket, and drew out the confection old grandmother had given her yesterday. The cunning little one, arrested by Madame’s entrance in the midst of her dainty revel with the old woman, had pocketed the delicacy.

“It will make you sick, Fanchette,” said I, prudently.

“Did it make granny sick?” said the child, turning her feverish little face up toward the window where her dead friend lay.

I did not answer. Madame called me, and I left the child to her feast.

The pupils were all running wild with the liberty and change death made in the house. I had to assist in keeping the little things quiet, and I had to go to the village for Madame. The death of the poor old woman had upset the usual routine altogether.

When I returned, I saw Fanchette lying curled up among the honeysuckle leaves; the shadow of them flickered over her red dress. The child was asleep. Madame came hastily out to see how I had succeeded with my shopping; she stopped as she saw Fanchette lying there.

“The child,” said she, “will get her death! Run up with the things, Sophie, and I will wake her up.”

Anxious to show my purchases, I waited impatiently in the upper chamber. Apparently, it took a long time to wake Fanchette.

I listened. A cry rang through the house that thrilled me to my finger-ends, and some one came staggering heavily up, as if burdened with a dead weight.

It was Madame; her white face blanched to a death-like hue; her eyes set. The burden she carried was Fanchette.

“Oh, God?” she cried, “who will make death easy for me!”

 For little Fanchette was dead.

***

The line of demarcation between sanity and insanity physicians tell us is very difficult to discern. It melts off indistinctly between the passions, the emotions, and even the intellectual and philosophic processes of the mind.

This woman was sane when she essayed to study the problem of death. But when the little innocent child unwittingly entered through the door which she had dared to open for the decrepit and miserable old woman, reason, long clouded with subtle and metaphysical arguments, went out in the gust. Its light never was relit.

The cottage by the sea-shore, where Fanchette had partaken of the death feast whose subtle poisons Madame had prepared with skillful hands, is deserted and in ruins. But to the moping maniac, whose cell I sometimes visit, Fanchette and the old grandmother are often present; they come together, hand in hand, whispering and eyeing her together.

A. M. Hoyt

Beadle’s Monthly, Volume 3, 1869: p.524-529

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Moping maniac,” indeed… It seems a shocking lapse of judgement on the part of the philosophic and conscientious Madame Rosine—so enchanted with dewy and fragrant death—that she did not think to reserve a sweet or two from the old lady’s jar for use in an emergency.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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The Miserly Couple’s Ghosts: 1889

death steals buried treasure 1873

In Bullock county, Ga., not long since, a man and family by the name of Brannen moved onto a farm formerly occupied by a very old and miserly couple. These old people (man and wife) had no children or relatives, and, both dying within a few weeks of each other, were kindly buried by friends in the neighborhood.

It was found that they had been living in the most abject poverty. The place presented a miserable appearance, there being very little furniture or cooking utensils, with scarcely any provisions, and several emaciated cats and half-starved fowls completed the poverty stricken aspect. Mr. Brannen bought the place at auction shortly after the two old people died and immediately moved there with his family. But they were there only a short time before they wished they had never seen the place. Strange beings were to be seen flitting about after nightfall, and dismal, unearthly sounds were to be heard during the day. Mr. Brannen, his wife and sons, being honest, hard working people and non-believers in “ghosts,” they paid little attention at first, thinking it some practical jokes of the neighbors But as the weeks sped by things grew worse instead of better. Cold, clammy hands were laid on different members of the family at all hours of the night, sending them into nervous chills.

The bedsteads were jerked about the room, occupants and all, by some unseen power. Everything was turned topsy-turvy and it was impossible to keep anything like order on the premises. Pandemonium reigned. It seemed as though the very air was filled with uneasy spirits. The Brannens grew desperate, and were thinking seriously of hunting “pastures new,” when one morning Mr. Brannen and one of his sons, being in the yard, were startled by a strange, roaring noise, which seemed to proceed from the ground at their feet. As he described it, it appeared to be a small “whirlwind of noise,” and something seemed to impel them to follow it. It gradually drifted over into a corn field, and at the farther corner seemed to sink into the ground at the roots of an old dead peach tree. They went to the house, procured implements, returned, dug, and found, no one knows just how much, but that it was a great deal of money, and the hoarded wealth of a lifetime of the old couple that died, is well known. The Brannens have decided to still remain on the old farm, and it is quiet and serene there now, where all was chaos a short time ago. The uneasy spirits have accomplished their mission and are at rest.

The Kansas City [MO] Gazette 21 March 1889: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A cautionary tale about the prudence of using established financial institutions. Had the miserly couple invested their wealth, or even placed it in the bank, rather than under a dead peach tree, they might have not only increased their assets, but been able to enjoy holidays abroad or, at the very least, to properly feed their cats. The emaciated cats are a telling detail:  even rats and mice had deserted the misers’ impoverished larder. 

The Brannens were right to consider the possibility of a practical joke by the neighbours. Mrs Daffodil knows of a case where the neighbours, knowing exactly where the miserly farmer had concealed his money, scared away the new tenant by terrifying his young bride with various tricks. After the tenants had left, the money was dug up and the neighbours boasted of their ghostly impostures.

The guiding “whirlwind of noise” is unusual in the literature of treasure-hunting. A more usual trick is a ball of light drifting to the “X marks the spot” locale. 

 

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 Girl in the Car: 1903

woman in coffin 1876 American Enterprise. Burley's United States centennial gasetteer and guide

Ghost Editor, Fort Worth Telegram

Dear Sir: I had never been a believer in the supernatural prior to the occurrence of the incident which gives rise to my story, but the facts which I am about to relate had the effect of purging the skepticism that had hitherto prevailed in my mind regarding such matters.

During the year of 1903 I was employed as an express messenger on the Fort Worth-Texarkana run.

One night there was transferred to my car from the western division a coffin containing a corpse consigned from El Paso to Schenectady, N.Y., and while this is no unusual traveling companion for an express messenger, the night in question was one which prompted thoughts of the supernatural, gloomy with a stillness in the air that foretold the approach of a heavy storm.

Being absorbed with routine matters which demanded my attention, little time was given to thought of the contents of the pine box lying in a far corner of the car. Vivid flashes of lightning and the ominous aspect of the sky made it plain that the elements would soon be warring. Being forty-five minutes late out of the last station passed and due in Longview at midnight, we were traveling at a rapid rate with an endeavor to make up the time lost. The air of the car being somewhat close, I stepped to the door and threw it half open. Simultaneously a blinding flash of lightning, accompanied by a crash of thunder, made me start back involuntarily from the open door. Before I could recover my composure, a gust of wind swept thru the car, extinguishing every light. I sprang to the open door and slammed it together, avoiding a deluge of rain that fell as the sluice gates of heaven had been opened. Turning quickly with a view to relighting my lamps, a flash of lightning revealed to me the form of a girl about twenty years of age standing in the center of the car. In my astonishment, thinking that my imagination had served me with an illusion, I waited for a second flash that again revealed the form of the girl, and while my gaze was limited to the momentary glare, I took in every detail of her figure and dress. She was attired in a brown street dress with long gloves to match, and her dark hair fell loose in a mass around her shoulders, contrasting strongly with the paleness of her face. For a moment I could scarcely move. My first thought was of how this girl could have gained entrance to my car while the train was moving at the rate of forty miles an hour. Another lightning flash showed the girl advancing toward me with her arms outstretched in a imploring attitude. My glance in this brief second also reverted to the farther par of the car, and to my horror observed the lid of the coffin thrown to one side and now standing open. This was the first time that I had associated the form of the girl with the supernatural, and my senses seemed to leave me as I dashed to the door and slammed it violently ajar. As I did, something seemed to pass me, and vanish out into the storm, followed by a wailing cry that even now at times rings thru my ears. I staggered back from the door from which I had sought to plunge and fell heavily to the floor of my car.

When the train reached Longview the baggage man climbed into my car and discovered my condition. A stiff drink of whisky brought me back to my normal senses and I recited my story.

After the lamps had been re-lit, a promptly investigation was made of the box in my car, which was found intact and strongly nailed.

Various opinions were presented by my train associates, and I caught  some of them winking knowingly.

I carefully noted down the address and destination of the coffin and the name of the consignor. A few days later I wrote to Schenectady requesting of the consignor a description of the corpse, and a week later received an answer describing in both feature and figure the girl whom I so fully described to my fellow workers the night of the visitation. I answered this letter, confiding my interest in the matter, with the request to be advised if the lady had formerly worn a brown dress, receiving a reply in the affirmative and to the effect that it was in this she had died from heart failure thru climbing a flight of stairs at a hotel in El Paso.

Do I believe in ghosts/ Well, I have another occupation than that of express messenger. Yours truly,

W.K.T. SCOTT

Fort Worth [TX] Star-Telegram 13 December 1907: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A nice, shuddersome story!  One can readily understand the narrator’s resignation from his occupation after such an uncanny encounter.

After the American Civil War, when embalming became more widespread, it was commonplace to ship corpses via the rails. The Wells Fargo company was one of the first in this field; they found an ingenious and heartless way to exploit the deaths of consumption patients.

AN INDUSTRY IN CORPSES
How an Express Company and an Undertaker Whack Up on Consumptives.

The Wells-Fargo Company does some queer things in the way of business, but the strangest perhaps is a new line, worked up by one of the shrewdest agents of the country at Denver. Colorado is a sort of last chance of consumptives, and pretty generally they die there. Most of them are supplied with money from home in regular installments, so when they die not enough coin is found among their effects to pay an undertaker. Undoubtedly many of them would be buried by the county, but right here’s where the company gets in.

It has a contract with an undertaker who takes charge of the body, embalms it, and gets it all ready for shipment. Then the Fargo agent wires to the agents in the towns from which the deceased received letters. If any relatives can be found it is a sure thing, and nine times out of ten enough friends can be found to put up a check for the undertaker’s charges and transportation. When this has been done the body is shipped to the friends or relatives by fast train, and turned over by the agent. The company makes a fat annual profit out of this melancholy business–“the corpse industry,” they call it—it is a good snap for the undertaker, and this county is saved just so many dollars. Many a time there have been three to four corpses at once in the company’s “cooling room” at Denver awaiting notice from friends in just this way. It is a cold day when W.F. & Co., can’t discover a new way to turn an honest penny.

The Pittsburg [PA] Dispatch 19 July 1891: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil thanks Chris Woodyard for that diverting Wells Fargo anecdote, which appears in her book, The Victorian Book of the Dead, also available in a Kindle edition.

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 Cats Came Back: 1911

angel cat

An article appearing in the April issue of the National Review from the pen of Capt. Humphries, once more draws attention to the subject of the apparition in visible form of deceased animals. Capt. Humphries has various stories to relate which have come within his own personal knowledge, and they are stories in several instances which can be paralleled by the records already given in earlier numbers of the Occult Review. Take, for instance, the following story of the apparition to a child of its pet cat:—

The following authenticated case (says Capt. Humphries) happened in the Midland counties of England at a house where the writer was frequently present, and from personal observation can confirm every detail, and which can also be vouched for by the mother and father of the boy. The boy was four years old, and spent much of his time in the company of a large white cat who shared his joys and pleasures. The cat died, but its death was carefully guarded from the child, when some weeks after the boy asked why it was that his old cat only came to see him at night, and that immediately after going to bed. Upon being questioned, he said “It looks much the same, only thinner. I expect, as he goes away all the day time, he has not been properly fed.’’

This, says the writer, went on at intervals for about four months.

A close parallel to the above story will be found in the issue of the Occult Review for July 1905, the narrator being the late Mrs. Nora Chesson, and the experience her own. I make no apology for reproducing it here in full. She wrote:—

Perhaps the next time that the Other World touched me, being older I was more ready to be touched, for your ordinary school-girl is a healthy happy animal, pagan to the tips of her fingers, selfish to the last cell of her brain.

I had rolled my hair up to the crown of my head, and my skirts were on visiting terms with my ankles, when the home circle was suddenly narrowed by the loss of a pet cat, a little loving creature who did not need the gift of speech, her eloquent emerald eyes were such homes of thought, the touches of her caressing head and pleading paw so naturally tender and persuasive.

Sickness of some kind had kept me to my room for a week, and I had wondered why my cat Minnie had not courted my company as usual, but accounted for her sudden indifference by a possible reflux of motherly devotion to her kittens, now about six weeks old. The first morning of my convalescence the bedroom door, which stood ajar, opened a little further and Minnie came in. She rubbed her pretty tortoise-shell tabby coat against me in affectionate greeting; she clasped my hand with ecstatic paws in a pretty fondling gesture that was all her own; she licked my fingers, and I felt her white throat throbbing with her loud purring, and then she turned and trotted away.

“Minnie has been to see me at last,” said I to the maid who brought in my lunch.   “I wonder why she kept away from me so long!”

“Minnie has been dead and buried these two days, and her kitten’s fretting itself to skin and bone for her,” said Louisa looking scared. “Your mamma would not tell you while you weren’t well. Miss, for she knew you’d take on, being that fond of the little cat.” Minnie was undoubtedly dead and buried, and a stone from our garden rockery was piled upon her place of burial, yet as undoubtedly Minnie came to welcome my return to health. Is this explicable? I know that it is true.

The Occult Review May 1911: p: 241-242

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Cats have, of course, always been associated with the mystical and the occult. They were witches’ familiars and minions of the Evil One. They were thought to turn corpses into vampires, might prove omens of death and were also believed to have the ability to see ghosts, as we have seen in this story of “What  the Cat Saw.”

So it is refreshing to find cats coming back in a benign manner, just to touch noses and purr at their friends.

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.

In Lieu of Champagne: Mrs Daffodil’s One-Thousandth Post

 

Mrs Daffodil is pleased to report that to-day marks an anniversary of sorts: the one-thousandth post on this site. Mrs Daffodil should enjoy breaking out the champagne for a toast, or at the very least, passing around a box of chocolate cremes, but, alas, this is impracticable, since her readers are scattered all around the globe.

In lieu of champagne, Mrs Daffodil will share her reader’s best-loved posts and some of her own favourites, interspersed with some cuttings from her fashion scrap-books.

gold sequins sun king fan

“Sun King” fan with tinted mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and shaded copper and gold spangles, c. 1880-1910 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/fan/xAG2xDgj6hb8LA

Although it is difficult to choose from posts so numerous and wide-ranging, three of the most popular posts shared by Mrs Daffodil were

How to Make Stage Lightning and Thunder: 1829-1900

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands

A guest post by the subfusc author of The Victorian Book of the Dead on Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914, also made the top of the charts.

Posts about the contemporary costs of fashion were quite popular.

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

Where That $10,000-a-year Dress Allowance Goes: 1903

What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

The Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

As were stories of how to dress nicely on a budget:

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

How To Be a Well-dressed Young Man on a Budget: 1890

spring green Callot orientalist

1923 Callot Soeurs orientalist dress http://kerrytaylorauctions.com

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s personal favourites include

How to Dress (or Undress) Like a Mermaid: 1868 to 1921

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

How to Entertain with Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

 

The Dress Doctor: An Ingenious Lady’s Profession: 1894

A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

A Shakespearean Contretemps: 1830s 

stumpwork casket with garden

Stumpwork casket with a garden on the lid, c. 1660-1690 http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/39240/stumpwork-casket

Mrs Daffodil thanks all of her readers for their kind attention and she would very much enjoy hearing about their favourite posts on this site in the comments.

 

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.

Dancing with the Fairies: 1820s-1840s

 

Polly Williams, a good dame who was born in Trefethin parish, and lived at the Ship Inn, at Pontypool, Monmouthshire, was wont to relate that, when a child, she danced with the Tylwyth Teg. The first time was one day while coming home from school. She saw the fairies dancing in a pleasant, dry place, under a crab-tree, and, thinking they were children like herself, went to them, when they induced her to dance with them. She brought them into an empty barn and they danced there together. After that, during three or four years, she often met and danced with them, when going to or coming from school. She never could hear the sound of their feet, and having come to know that they were fairies, took off her ffollachau (clogs), so that she, too, might make no noise, fearful that the clattering of her clog-shodden feet was displeasing to them. They were all dressed in blue and green aprons, and, though they were so small, she could see by their mature faces that they were no children. Once when she came home barefoot, after dancing with the fairies, she was chided for going to school in that condition; but she held her tongue about the fairies, for fear of trouble, and never told of them till after she grew up. She gave over going with them to dance, however, after three or four years, and this displeased them. They tried to coax her back to them, and, as she would not come, hurt her by dislocating ‘one of her walking members,’ [Jones, ‘Apparitions.’] which, as a euphemism for legs, surpasses anything charged against American prudery.

British Goblins, Wirt Sikes, 1881: pp 79-82

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Young Polly was fortunate that she escaped from the fairy dance with a mere sprained ankle and that she did not meet the more usual fate of those who entered the fairy circle: finding that a hundred years had  passed like mere minutes while she was disporting herself in the barn.

The fate of a lad named Taffy ap Sion was a cautionary tale for those drawn to dance with the fairies.

Taffy ap Sion, the shoemaker’s son, living near Pencader, Carmarthenshire, was a lad who many years ago entered the fairy circle on the mountain hard by there, and having danced a few minutes, as he supposed, chanced to step out. He was then astonished to find that the scene which had been so familiar was now quite strange to him. Here were roads and houses he had never seen, and in place of his father’s humble cottage there now stood a fine stone farmhouse. About him were lovely cultivated fields instead of the barren mountain he was accustomed to. ‘Ah,’ thought he, ‘this is some fairy trick to deceive my eyes. It is not ten minutes since I stepped into that circle, and now when I step out they have built my father a new house! Well, I only hope it is real; anyhow, I’ll go and see.’

So he started off by a path he knew instinctively, and suddenly struck against a very solid hedge. He rubbed his eyes, felt the hedge with his fingers, scratched his head, felt the hedge again, ran a thorn into his fingers and cried out, ‘Wbwb! this is no fairy hedge anyhow, nor, from the age of the thorns, was it grown in a few minutes’ time.’ So he climbed over it and walked on. ‘Here was I born,’ said he, as he entered the farmyard, staring wildly about him, ‘and not a thing here do I know!’ His mystification was complete when there came bounding towards him a huge dog, barking furiously. ‘What dog is this? Get out, you ugly brute! Don’t you know I’m master here? —at least, when mother’s from home, for father don’t count.’ But the dog only barked the harder. ‘Surely,’ muttered Taffy to himself, ‘I have lost my road and am wandering through some unknown neighbourhood; but no, yonder is the Careg Hir!’ and he stood staring at the well-known erect stone thus called, which still stands on the mountain south of Pencader, and is supposed to have been placed there in ancient times to commemorate a victory. As Taffy stood thus looking at the Long Stone, he heard footsteps behind him, and turning, beheld the occupant of the farmhouse, who had come out to see why his dog was barking.

Poor Taffy was so ragged and wan that the farmer’s Welsh heart was at once stirred to sympathy. ‘Who are you, poor man?’ he asked. To which Taffy answered, ‘I know who I was, but I do not know who I am now. ‘I was the son of a shoemaker who lived in this place, this morning; for that rock, though it is changed a little, I know too well.’ ‘Poor fellow,’ said the farmer, ‘you have lost your senses. This house was built by my great-grandfather, repaired by my grandfather; and that part there, which seems newly built, was done about three years ago at my expense. You must be deranged, or have missed the road; but come in and refresh yourself with some victuals, and rest.’ Taffy was half persuaded that he had overslept himself and lost his road, but looking back he saw the rock before mentioned, and exclaimed, ‘It is but an hour since I was on yonder rock robbing a hawk’s nest.’ ‘Where have you been since?’ Taffy related his adventure. ‘Ah,’ quoth the farmer, ‘I see how it is—you have been with the fairies. Pray, who was your father?’ ‘Sion Evan y Crydd o Glanrhyd,’ was the answer. ‘I never heard of such a man,’ said the farmer, shaking his head, ‘nor of such a place as Glanrhyd, either: but no matter, after you have taken a little food we will step down to Catti Shon, at Pencader, who will probably be able to tell us something.’ With this he beckoned Taffy to follow him, and walked on; but hearing behind him the sound of footsteps growing weaker and weaker, he turned round, when to his horror he beheld the poor fellow crumble in an instant to about a thimbleful of black ashes.

The farmer, though much terrified at this sight, preserved his calmness sufficiently to go at once and see old Catti, the aged crone he had referred to, who lived at Pencader, near by. He found her crouching over a fire of faggots, trying to warm her old bones. ‘And how do you do the day, Catti Shon?’ asked the farmer. ‘Ah,’ said old Catti, ‘I’m wonderful well, farmer, considering how old I am.’ ‘Yes, yes, you’re very old. Now, since you are so old, let me ask you—do you remember anything about Sion y Crydd o Glanrhyd? Was there ever such a man, do you know?’ ‘Sion Glanrhyd? O! I have some faint recollection of hearing my grandfather, old Evan Shenkin, Penferdir, relate that Sion’s son was lost one morning, and they never heard of him afterwards, so that it was said he was taken by the fairies. His father’s cot stood some where near your house.’ ‘Were there many fairies about at that time?’ asked the farmer. ‘O yes; they were often seen on yonder hill, and I was told they were lately seen in Pant Shon Shenkin, eating flummery out of egg-shells, which they had stolen from a farm hard by.’ ‘Dir anwyl fi!’ cried the farmer; ‘dear me! I recollect now—I saw them myself!’

British Goblins, Wirt Sikes, 1881: pp. 75-78

A thimbleful of black ashes. Consider yourself warned, you who would be lured by the sweet sound of elfin music to the fairy ring….

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 Summer Ghost: 1899

 

GHOST GIRL WALKS THE OCEAN.

Atlantic City has a New Attraction for Visitors.

Atlantic City, N. J., July 18. Atlantic City’s newest sensation is a ghost–the weird apparition of a young woman who nightly walks on the ocean. She has created much excitement, particularly among the superstitious skippers of the inlet. She has been seen on several occasions by at least four persons. And whether she be ghost or strange phenomenon no one is able to determine. She was first seen Friday night, or rather about 1 o’clock on Saturday morning. William Mahlin, of Baltimore, who is here for a few days, was standing on the end of Young’s pier, alone, and he vouches for the following story:

He says he saw the pale and unmistakable form of a young woman, attired in white and with long flowing hair. She was walking rapidly across the ocean in the vicinity of the bell buoy. Mahlin shuddered. His teeth chattered. But with eager eyes he watched her lithe form as she strode along, moving neither to right nor left. Then she mysteriously disappeared. Mahlin’s blood ran cold. He could hardly move. Finally he went to his hotel. He said nothing about his vision, but he could not dispel from his vision the picture of the strange girl.

He determined, however, that on the following night he would revisit the end of the pier. This he did. The minutes were like hours to him and cold perspiration gathered on Mahlin’s body. At the very hour of 1 o’clock, he says, the apparition again appeared as if from the sea itself and started across the ocean. Again she disappeared. Mahlin was greatly frightened, but more convinced than on the previous night. He had neither been drinking nor dreaming. Nor did he believe in ghosts. Yet twice had he seen the strange specter. He told a friend, Barte Hampson, of his midnight watch. The friend only laughed and tried to persuade Mahlin that he had been the victim of a weird nightmare. Mahlin, however, insisted that he had seen something walking on the water.

The result was that a “ghost party,” including four people, was formed. They went out on the steel pier last evening. Miss Mae Russell and Miss Ethel Brown were in the party and the story of their watch is best told by Miss Russell.

“For several hours,” she said, “we sat together in a pavilion telling ghost stories and as the hour when the ghost would walk drew near we had the cold shivers, and even I felt uncomfortable once or twice, A 1 o’clock all was silent save for the splashing of the waves and the doleful tolling of the bell buoy as it rocked on the swells. Not one in the party said a word. Suddenly, out from a wave, it seemed, came the fair apparition. In the distance it appeared to be a girl scarcely 20 years old. She was dressed in white. Her hair was long and flowing. Her step was firm and quick and as she strode on the perfectly calm water I heard strange noises. The specter paced straight oceanward, and then the sea swallowed her up.”

Miss Russell is a plucky little girl. She doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she is sure she saw something mighty like one. The Norcatur [KS] Register 8 September 1899: p. 2

This earlier article gave some different details.

Ghost of Departed Bather Will Not Down in Spite of Scoffs and Scientists.

AFFIDAVITS WITH THIS

Atlantic City, July 12. Interest in the fair apparition which for several nights past has been seen on the ocean near the bell buoy has been intensified. A party of ten, led by Miss Mae Russell, went out on the pier last night, and each vows that he or she saw the mysterious female. She emerged from the sea not long after midnight. Again she walked quickly across the water and then disappeared. And although none of the party is the least superstitious, they are all convinced that they saw something as Miss Russell describes it, “mighty like a ghost.”
The “weird lady of the sea” is reported to have been seen by quite a number of visitors how happened to be on the board walk between midnight and 1o’clock this morning. One of the night policemen also declares that he saw it and the whole town is excited. Strange to say no yachting parties to investigate the alleged woman ghost have been formed, but “ghost” parties on the pier are increasing in popularity At several leading hotels men and women are organizing parties which will go out this evening. There is an inclination to defy the fair siren, but no one has offered an excuse for her existence.

MAY BE ONLY A FISH.

It was suggested by persons who do not relish the idea of ghosts that the “apparition” is only phosphorescent glow. A scientist who is here and whose attention was called to the ghost stories declares that the spectre may be a ghost fish, which he describes as phosphorescent, and which is often found swimming just below the water’s surface, emitting at night a pale glow. This theory does not account, however, for the remarkable coincidence that the “apparition” has appeared in the same locality so many nights in succession.

The fact remains that the apparition is reported to have been seen by a large number of people, some of whom have volunteered to make affidavit to the fact. Miss Russell, the Baltimore society belle, who saw the ghost, is most enthusiastic. She is not he girl to believe in ghosts, and she laughs at the idea. But still she insists that she saw “something.”

WHOSE GHOST IS IT?

Should the “lady of the sea”—this midnight fairy—prove to be a real ghost there is no end of speculation concerning whose ghost she may be. Superstitious person who pin their faith to spirits have already advanced several stories. They recall the sad drowning not many years ago of a beautiful girl near the place where the apparition is seen. She was a Miss Wilson, of New York, who came here to spend the summer. She was engaged to be married, and one Sunday her fiancé came to visit her. They went in bathing, and had a merry time in the breakers. Then Miss Wilson waded out into the ocean. She went beyond her depth, and a strong undertow carried her to death. As she went down she cried out in despair to her lover, but he could not rescue her. The girl’s body was never recovered.

Another death under similar circumstances is also brought to mind. It occurred about eight years ago, though over a mile further down the beach. This young lady waded beyond her depth, and was carried outward and drowned. Every effort to recover her body was made, but with ill success. It was hoped that it would be washed ashore, but even this hope was never fulfilled. And so there are other pathetic cases with which a ghost with all propriety might be associated.

The Times [Philadelphia] 13 July 1899: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Despite a conciliatory note from the paper, which wrote, that the gentleman had “no desire to challenge the veracity of those who declared that they had seen an apparition,” one Professor James H. Stinson decided to step in and spoil the fun with a scientific “explanation.”

ATLANTIC CITY’S GHOST IS LAID

Science Finds an Explanation of the Weird Lady’s Coming and Going.

SUNDAY CROWDS GATHER

Special Telegram to The Times.

The ghost of the ocean has disappeared—presumably frightened by the curious folk who defied the spirit. Several “ghost” parties were on the pier last evening, but only a pale yellowish glow was visible. Professor James H. Stinson, of the Chicago University, was in one of the parties. With no desire to challenge the veracity of those who declared that they had seen an apparition, Professor Stinson offers to The Times a unique theory of her conception.

He says that the “ghost” was nothing more than a concentration of phosphorescence, which was subject to the ocean tides. He says that Wiliam Mahlin, who first noticed it on Saturday night, was influenced by the thought of ghosts, which induced the conception of the apparition. The longer he watched it, the learned professor declares, the clearer was the impression upon the man’s mind. It was a triumph of mind over matter, and had he continued to keep a close watch on the spiritual lady it is likely that he would have been persuaded to accept the superstition. Professor Stinson has studied psychology for over thirty years, and he believes that all superstitions are created in the manner by which he has explained Mahlin’s impression of ocean phosphorescence.

To account for the same impression which was made upon the minds of others who thought they saw a ghost Professor Stinson submits that the stories which Mahlin told made their minds susceptible to visions of ghosts and it was easy for them to go out on the pier and after watching the phosphorescence imagine that they saw it moving and that it assumed the form of a woman.

This theory is an unkind blow at the residents of the spirit world. But the reported apparition has created a new fad among the visitors—“ghost parties.” They are becoming very popular.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 14 July 1899: p. 9

Ah, the old “power of suggestion” gambit; the good Professor would have made an excellent trial lawyer, casting aspersions on eye-witnesses, who, Mrs Daffodil believes, may have been just as interested in the delicious shivers which obtain when ghost-hunters of both sexes converge at some pleasure spot in the dark, as they were in psychical investigations.  Mrs Daffodil frankly does not put much stock in ghost fish or in ocean phosphorescence, which would have to put in some pretty heavy lifting to assume the appearance of a woman in white with long, flowing hair. Local businesses no doubt called down the wrath of the Summer Gods on Professor Stinson for trying to ruin a lucrative flood of visitors.

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.