Tag Archives: death omens

Empress Eugenie and the Scent of Violets: 1880

It is Bastille Day, so Mrs Daffodil will share a strange French tale. Let us preface this story with a few words of historical background.

Napoléon Eugene, the Prince Imperial, son of the exiled French Emperor, Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie, had enlisted in the British Army and, eager to see action, had managed to have himself posted to Zululand to fight in the Anglo-Zulu War. On 1 June 1879, the Prince Imperial was ambushed and killed. His body was returned to England for burial; a funeral was held on 12 July 1879. In 1880, the Empress made a pilgrimage to Zululand, wishing to see where her son fell.

SCENT FROM BEYOND

Of the many stories told of uncanny experiences, that related of the late Empress Eugenie is one of the most amazing.

After her son, the Prince Imperial, was killed in Zululand, the Empress, accompanied by the late Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, paid a visit to his grave. This spot had been marked by a cairn of stones, but by the date of the visit the jungle had encroached so that even the Zulu guides, who had been among the Prince’s assailants, could not find it.

The Prince had a passion for violet scent; it was the only toilet accessory of the kind he used. Suddenly the Empress became aware of a strong smell of violets. “This is the way,” she cried, and went off on a line of her own.

She tore along, stumbling over dead wood and tussocks, her face beaten by the high grass that parted and closed behind her, until, with a loud cry, she fell upon her knees, crying, “C’est ici!” (It is here). And there, hidden in almost impenetrable brushwood, they found the cairn!

“The Empress told me,” said Sir Evelyn afterwards, “that the first whiff of perfume had been so overwhelming that she thought she was going to faint. But it seemed to drag her along with it; she felt no fatigue, and could have fought her way through the jungle for hours.”

News-Journal [Mansfield OH] 3 July 1921: p. 17

In addition, after the Empress had spent the night in prayer at the site,

Towards morning a strange thing happened. Although there was not a breath of air, the flames of the candles were suddenly deflected, as if someone wished to extinguish them, and I said to him: “Is it indeed you beside me’? Do you wish me to go away’?” Quoted in Featherstone. Captain Carey’s Blunder, pp. 21S-16.

Another version of the story of the scent is related by Dr Ethel Smyth, musician and friend to the Empress.

When these Recollections were first published, much interest was excited by a curious psychic experience of the Empress’s in Zululand, whither she went in 1880 to visit the spot where her son had fallen. When, she told me the story I remembered having heard something about it from Sir Evelyn Wood who was in command of the expedition, but in those days I kept no diary, and certain details had distorted themselves in my mind.

I will therefore collate my version with that given by my friend, Lucien Daudet—one of “les enfants de la maison”—in a Memoir [L’Imperatrice Eugenie, par Lucien Daudet (A. Fayard).] of which, before it finally appeared in book-form, the Empress herself corrected the proofs. She disliked being written about at all, but this particular work gave her great pleasure. And though her weaknesses find no mention here, (“inevitable, but a pity!” as she herself remarked) this is the most faithful and delicate portrait of her in later years that exists.

When, at length, after many days trekking across the veldt, the expedition was nearing the goal, the Empress begged that instead of pressing on they might pitch camp. The first sight of the Zulus in war panoply had produced a terrible impression on her, and she wished to brace herself for the last stage. Since many months it was only with the aid of chloral and by inducing physical fatigue that she could win a little sleep in the 24 hours, and at the close of that long sultry day she slipped out of her tent for her usual solitary walk.

It appears that the Prince had a passion for verveine, that to think of “mon petit gargon” was to think of that scent. Suddenly the air was full of it; so unexpected, so overwhelming was the perfume that the Empress told me she thought she should faint. But it seemed to drag her onwards, and presently, without sensation of fatigue, ever faster and faster, she was following it “comme un chien sur une piste,” passing over rough, broken ground, pushing through thickets, crossing hidden ravines without conscious effort. . . . Then, quite as suddenly, the perfume failed, and with it her strength. She found herself on a hill covered with curious flat stones and knew she could never retrace her path. Presently men sent after her by her alarmed suite appeared and led her back to the camp.

Next day, as they neared the spot where the Prince had fallen, no need to tell her the goal was at hand; she recognized the hill and the stones.

This story is doubly impressive since, as I have said, she was not imaginative, and to all appearance anything but psychic.

Streaks of life, Ethel Smyth, 1922: p. 56-60

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  There are several little inaccuracies in the newspaper story. The site where the Prince fell was not only well-known, but it had been tidied and gravelled over in the manner of an English church-yard. The Empress was distressed by this. She had been hoping to find the site as it was when her son had been cut down. Here is an admirable article describing some of the events of the Empress’s pilgrimage.

While the violets story is inexpressively poignant, Mrs Daffodil has not been able to find it in Sir Evelyn Woods’s several memoirs or in biographies of the Empress herself. And was the Prince’s favourite scent violet, the signature flower of Napoleon Bonaparte, or verbena?

At the start of the Empress’s pilgrimage, her aides had to deal with a odiously intrusive female journalist working for The New York Herald, calling herself “Lady Avonmore,” who claimed to be a dear friend of the Empress and who tried to intercept the Imperial party. One wonders if it was she who created the sensational narrative above for her American readers.

Mrs Daffodil will add one more curious anecdote about the Prince Imperial’s death:

On the day of the surrender of Napoleon III, after the Battle of Sedan, a frightful storm broke over Windsor, and during the tempest a tree which the Emperor had planted in the park, while he and the Empress Eugenie were visiting Queen Victoria in 1855, was struck by lightning. Still half the stricken tree remained standing, but on June 1, 1879, a similar terrific storm broke over and swept the park, and a further lightning stroke completed the destruction of the tree. On this date the Prince Imperial (son and heir of Napoleon III) was killed in action in Zululand.

Noted Prophecies, Predictions, Omens and Legends, The Countess Zalinski, 1917 pp. 97-98

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 Jockey Wore Crape: 1870

THE DREAM HORSE

(By “Old Ballaratian” in Melbourne “Argus”)

There are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ..

The present being the second time the Melbourne Cup has been postponed on account of abnormally heavy rain storms, it is not inappropriate to recall the first occasion, upon which it was “held up” for exactly the same reason and also because it is associated with what is probably the most remarkable incident in the annals of horse racing and which is now a tradition of the Australian Turf.

The story which has been often told in an incomplete mangled way, is worth repeating in correct form. Sometime about the middle of September in the year 1870, a party of eight gentlemen were gathered together one evening after dinner in the private parlour of the well-known Balarat hostel “Craig’s Hotel” then presided over by the late veteran sportsman and popular host, Mr Walter Craig. The conversation turned upon racing and the approaching Melbourne Cup, whereupon Mr Craig related to the company a strange dream, which was afterwards to be looked upon in the light of a startling prophecy. Mr Craig said: “1 dreamt I saw a horse ridden by a jockey wearing my colours, but with crape on his left sleeve, come in first in the Melbourne Cup.”

“Billy” Slack, one of the biggest double event “bookies” of his day, who was one of the party, good-naturedly offered to bet Mr Craig £1000 to eight, drinks that a horse named Croydon would not win the forthcoming A.J.C. Metropolitan and that his dream would not come true. The bet was taken and the drinks were consumed in advance.

One morning shortly afterwards Mr Craig remarked to a member of his family: “Nimblefoot will win the Melbourne Cup, but I shall not live to see it.” And that, very night he died.

Croydon won the “Metro;” Nimblefoot won the Melbourne Cup by a short head and the jockey, young Day, wore a crape band upon his left sleeve, out of respect to the late owner of the winner Nimblefoot.

Great was the regret in Ballarat that poor Walter Craig did not live to see his horse triumph. Of course, as Mr Craig had died in the meantime, all bets were off, but an act that will ever redound to the honor of “Billy” Slack the bookmaker, was that he paid in full the late Walter Craig’s widow £1000.

Grey River Argus 25 November 1916: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-morrow is the day of the American horse-racing contest, The Kentucky Derby, so a supernatural racing story seems to be in order. Mrs Daffodil has written upon another prophetic horse-racing dream in “Dreaming a Derby Winner,”  while that hearse-loving person over at Haunted Ohio has reported on “Hunches and Hearses at the Racetrack.”

 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 Ladies in Black; The Lady in White: 1854-1871

A mourning ensemble and veil from the Metropolitan Museum's "Death Becomes Her" exhibition.

A mourning ensemble and veil from the Metropolitan Museum’s “Death Becomes Her” exhibition.

The Lady in Black.

Owing to the connections which I had, during my youth, with the Court of Bavaria, I was personally acquainted with the actors in the following story and am enabled to give the following details:

King Ludwig I, having abdicated his throne owing to the revolution of 1848, retired to Aschaffenburg with his spouse, the Queen Thérèse, to seek protection from the ravages of cholera, which at that time prevailed at Munich. There he received visits frequently from his son-in-law, the Grand Duke Ludwig II of Hessen, residing in Darmstadt. They used to have tea together, subsequently playing cards, and the General Du Jarrys de la Roche took part in the game.

It was once a stormy night when they met in this manner. The rain was pouring down, rattling at the windows, the thunder was rolling, and lightning illuminated the room. All at once one of the large doors of the apartment opened, a lady dressed in black entered and posted herself behind the chair of the Queen. King Ludwig and both of his guests saw that lady and exchanged looks of surprise; the Grand Duke arose and went to the anteroom, where he asked the officer in charge:

“How could you permit an unknown lady to enter the apartment of their majesties, without having her properly announced?”

“Your Highness will excuse me,” was the answer; “I have been in attendance here for three hours, and no one has passed through the ante-room except their majesties and the General de la Roche.”

The Grand Duke returned to his chair, but the lady in black had disappeared. The Queen Thérèse noticed by his looks that something was taking place, and as she begged to have the matter explained, the Grand Duke told her about the apparition and the answer of the officer. The Queen turned pale and with a trembling voice exclaimed: “This concerns me.”

The cholera at Munich subsided and having been assured that there was no danger, the Court returned to the “Wittelsbach Palace.” In a couple of weeks the Queen Thérèse was dead.

*****************

King Maximilian of Bavaria returned one evening from one of his daily horse-back rides through the royal park and was about to dress for dinner, when a slight indisposition induced him to retire to his rooms.

At about eleven o’clock that night the officer of the bodyguards in charge made his usual round of inspection at the quarters where the princes and princesses resided. As he came near the rooms of the ladies of the Court, where the Countess Fugger and the Baroness Redwitz slept, he saw a lady dressed in black, and with a black veil covering her head, issuing from one of these rooms and walking slowly along the corridor. Thinking that she was returning from a visit to one of these ladies, the Captain called to her, as she was passing by the only staircase which led to the street door, and told her that the way out was there.

The lady in black paid no attention to him, but continued her way through several apartments. She finally descended the stairs slowly, passed by one of the sentinels and disappeared at the entrance of the chapel. The officer, feeling some suspicion, ran quickly down stairs, calling to the sentinel to stop the stranger. The guard swore that he had seen no one. Next morning the King was dead.

*****************

The White Lady, British Library

The White Lady, British Library

A similar case is the one of The Lady in White, who is said to appear in the royal castle of Stockholm whenever a death at the Court is about to take place. The following is an account of such an occurrence given by the Princess Eugénie, a sister of King Oscar:

“During one of the last days of the month of March 1871, and a short time before the death of Queen Louisa, I had been spending the evening with my mother the Queen-widow Josefina. We both were glad that the illness of the Queen had taken a favourable turn, and that the physicians expected a speedy recovery. It was late at night and I was about to retire, when the servant entered, informing us that a big fire had broken out in the vicinity of the castle. My mother desired to look at it, so we went to the great hall, where it could be seen from the windows.

“After a while we returned, and as we passed through a room that was connected with the rooms of the Queen by means of a staircase, I saw a tall lady standing in the middle of the apartment right below the lighted chandelier. She was dressed in white silk, and wore a large collar of lace reaching down upon the shoulders. I felt quite certain that she was one of the ladies of the Court ordered to wait for the return of my mother and to inform her about the condition of the Queen. However, the lady in white looked at both of us without stirring and without showing us any attention. I had never seen that lady before, and I thought at first to ask my mother whether she was acquainted with her; but I did not, because I expected my mother would speak to her and tell me her name. Great was my surprise when my mother did not seem to see the lady while we passed her. Still I never suspected anything uncanny about it; I merely thought that my mother did not wish to notice her because she had not yet been presented. Nevertheless the fact that none of us had seen that lady before seemed strange to me; but as my mother said nothing, I kept silent about it.

“Before we stepped out of the room, I turned around once more and saw the lady still standing at the same place, like a statue of marble. After a few moments she made a few steps in advance, as if she wanted to come nearer. We entered into the next room and I immediately asked my mother ‘Who was she?’

“’She?—What she?’ asked my mother in surprise.

“’She, the lady in a white dress, who stood there without saluting us.’

“My mother stopped and asked in a voice trembling with fear: ‘Did you see a white-dressed lady in the room that leads to the apartments of the Queen?’

“’Most certainly I did,’ was my answer. ‘She stood just below the chandelier. Did you not notice her? I will open the door again to see whether she is still there.’

“My mother caught my hand. ‘Don’t tell anybody at present of what you have seen,’ she said. ‘You have perhaps seen the “Lady in White,” and that means the Queen’s death.’

“I went to bed, but I could not sleep for a long time. I prayed for Queen Louisa and for the King, who was perhaps soon to experience such a loss. Next morning the physicians sent word that the Queen was worse, and in three days she died.”

This account was given by the Princess to Pastor Wadstrom and was published in his “Memoirs.” The explanation in regard to such cases is that an “elemental” or thought image had been formed for the purpose of giving warnings of approaching death. Further particulars about the nature of such appearances may be found in my book on The Life and Writings of Theophrastus Paracelsus. (Kegan Paul and Co.).

Frantz Hartmann, M.D.

The Occult Review July 1907: pp 14-17

The Women in Black are well-known as omens of death around the world. (That sub-fusc person over at Haunted Ohio has devoted entire chapters to them in The Face in the Window and The Ghost Wore Black.)

The Woman in White was also a harbinger of doom to the Hohenzollerns. She was believed to be a wronged ancestress who would appear to announce an impending royal death. Since so many of the royal houses of Europe intermarried in inexplicably intricate ways, perhaps the White Lady travelled from kingdom to kingdom as needed.

Dr Hartmann was a medical doctor as well as occultist, Theosophist, and “geomancer.” One wonders how much we can trust the reminiscences of a man who was an associate of Madame Blavatsky and who wrote such titles as In The Pronaos Of The Temple Of Wisdom Containing The History Of The True And The False Rosicrucians and The Principles of Astrological Geomancy, The Art of Divining by Punctuation According to Cornelius Agrippa and Others.

Mrs Daffodil is not aware that Cornelius Agrippa ever wrote a style manual or a grammar, but no doubt occultists know a great many things which are as a sealed book to the uninitiated.

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 Funeral Coach: 1855

 

Eugene Atget, Funeral Carriage, First Class, 1910

Eugene Atget, Funeral Carriage, First Class, 1910

THE FUNERAL COACH.

“1855, March 28.—The following story was told me by Lady S., who heard it from Mr. M., a gentleman of considerable note, and one not at all given to romancing:—

“Mr. M., a well-known lawyer, went to stay with Mr.T., in the county of ___. In the course of their first evening together, Mr. M. learned that, among his host’s neighbours, was an old friend of his own, for whom he had great regard; but of whom he had lost sight since college days. The next morning Mr. M asked the gentleman of the house if he would forgive him if he walked over to see his old friend; adding a request that if he were asked to dinner, he might be allowed to accept the invitation.

“On being assured that he might do whatever was most agreeable to himself, he went to make his call—not on foot, as he had proposed, but in his friend’s dog-cart. As he anticipated, the gentleman he went to see insisted on his staying to dinner. He consented, and sent the groom back with the dog-cart, with a message to his master to say that, as it would be a fine moonlight night, he should prefer walking home. After having passed a very agreeable day with the old fellow-collegian, he bade him good-bye; and, fortified with a couple of cigars, sallied forth on his return. On his way he had to pass through the pleasant town of ___, and on coming to the church in the main street, he leaned against the iron railings of the churchyard while he struck a match and lighted his second cigar. At that moment the church clock began to strike. As he had left his watch behind him, and did not feel certain whether it were ten o’clock or eleven, he stayed to count, and to his amazement found it twelve. He was about to hurry on, and make up for lost time, when his curiosity was pricked, and the stillness of the night broken, by the sound of carriage wheels on the road, moving at a snail’s pace, and coming up the side street directly facing the spot where he was standing. The carriage proved to be a mourning-coach, which, on turning at right angles out of the street in which Mr. M. first saw it, pulled up at the door of a large red brick house. Not being used to see mourning-coaches out at such an unusual hour, and wondering to see this one returning at such a funereal pace, he thought he would stay and observe what happened. The instant the coach drew up at the house, the carriage door opened, then the street door, and then a tall man, deadly pale, in a suit of sables, descended the carriage steps, and walked into the house. The coach drove on, and Mr. M. resumed his walk. On reaching his quarters, he found the whole household in bed, with the exception of the servant, who had received orders to stay up for him.

“The next morning, at breakfast, after he had given the host and hostess an account of his doings on the previous day, he turned to the husband and asked him the name of the person who lived in the large red brick house directly opposite the churchyard. ‘Who lives in it?’ ‘Mr. P., the lawyer!’ ‘Do you know him?’ ‘Yes; but not at all intimately. We usually exchange visits of ceremony about once a year, I think.’

“Mr. M.: ‘Does any one live with him? Is he married?’ “Answer: ‘No. Two maiden sisters live with him. He is a bachelor, and likely to remain one; for, poor fellow, he is a sad invalid. If I am not mistaken, he is abroad at this moment, on account of his health.’

“Mr. M. then mentioned his motive for asking these questions. When he had told of his adventure, he proposed that, after lunch, they should drive to and call on the ladies, and see if, by their help, they could not unravel the mystery. Full of their object, they paid their visit, and after the usual interchange of commonplace platitudes, the sisters were asked if they had heard lately of their brother. They said, ‘No; not for weeks: and felt rather uneasy in consequence.’

Mr. M. surprised at not seeing them in mourning, asked them if they had not lately sustained a great loss. ‘No,’ they replied: ‘why do you ask such a question?’ ‘Oh,’ said Mr. M. ‘because of the mourning-coach I saw, with some gentleman of this family in it, returning from a funeral so late last night.’ ‘I think, Sir,’ said one of the ladies, ‘ you must have mistaken this house for some other.’ He shook his head confidently. At their request, he then told them what had happened. They said it was impossible that their street door could have been opened at that hour, for that every servant, as well as themselves, were in bed. The more the subject was canvassed, the farther they seemed from arriving at any satisfactory conclusion. The ladies, rather nettled at the obstinacy of his assertions, examined the servants, individually and collectively, but with no better result. Mr. M. and his host eventually withdrew. On their drive home, Mr. M.’s friend quizzed him, and reminded him that when he saw the apparition he had dined, and dined late, and had sat long over his friend’s old port. But Mr. M., though he submitted to the badinage good-humouredly, remained ‘of the same opinion still.’

“A week after, when Mr. M. was in his chambers in London, his friend from the country burst in upon him, and said, ‘I know you are much engaged, but I could not resist running in to tell you that the two ladies we called on last week, three or four days after our visit received a letter, telling them that their brother, “a tall, pale man,” had died at Malta, at twelve o’clock on the very night you saw the mourning-coach and the person in it at their door.'”

The Spiritual Magazine 1 October 1871

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While Mrs Daffodil finds that the ghostly tale delivers a delightful frisson (and plans to tell it at the next All Hallow’s festivities, where it will frighten the Tweenie out of her wits…) , she is pursing her lips dubiously over the many breaches of etiquette found in this narrative. Mr. M. deserves reproach for entering a stranger’s house and posing such a delicate question, despite paving the way with conventional platitudes. His host is equally in the wrong for introducing him to the household simply in order to gratify a morbid curiosity.

The dead man is also to be censured. He might have panicked the household by his unexpected appearance, so late at night. At the very least he should have sent a telegram notifying his sisters of his arrival.  One might also point out that the tall, pale gentleman properly belonged in a hearse, not in a funeral carriage, which is reserved for conveying legitimate mourners to and from the funeral and churchyard. Mrs Daffodil will reserve judgement on the dead man’s attire. It is a nice point of etiquette as to whether the corpse himself should don “sables” for his own demise.

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 other stories of death-omens and tokens of death, see The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past and The Victorian Book of the Dead, both by Chris Woodyard of http://www.hauntedohiobooks.com.  Her blog also contains rather too many stories of death and the grim and grewsome for those of a sensitive disposition. Mrs Daffodil has had to forbid the Tweenie the site.

 

“After twenty years I have seen her”: A ghost story for Mother’s Day: 1885

dark mother 1912

MY OWN STORY.

In the month of September, 1885, my mother was living and, seemingly, in good health, and likely to live for many years longer.

We had for three summers occupied a house at Mianus, a little Connecticut village, not far from CosCob station, and were staying later than usual.

I had been out for a walk one pleasant afternoon, and had come home to find my mother reading in the dining-room. My sisters went up-stairs, but I sat down upon a lounge in the room, and, feeling curiously lazy, stretched my feet out, shut my eyes and instantly fell asleep. I have never known myself to sleep so soundly in the day-time, and it was unusual for me to take that sort of nap. When I awoke it was still a warm, bright twilight.

I lifted myself on my elbow and looked about the room and noted several things. Particularly that while I slept, the new servant had been setting the tea-table without awakening me by the necessary clatter.

As I thought of this, the girl brought in two plates of bread, and I noticed that she had arranged the slices in a very pretty way, the edges overlapping and turned inward, and I saw that everything she had placed on the table was arranged with geometrical precision, and said to myself “she is neat,” and felt the usual satisfaction in thinking this of a newly hired domestic.

I tell you this that you may know I was wide awake, for afterward I found that all was just as I saw it then.

Meanwhile, I noticed that my mother sat in a small carpet-chair, quite unemployed, which was unusual for her, for she generally had a book in her hand, if she were not otherwise busy. “Somehow,” I thought to myself, as the girl left the room, “mother does not look as she usually does.” I had never perceived that there was any resemblance between my mother and grandmother, except the color of their eyes, but now my mother’s features seemed the counterpart of grandma’s. The sudden and perfect likeness startled me; and again, my mother never wore a cap: her hair, still black, though mixed with gray, was worn as she had worn it for long years. Now it was smoothed back beneath a little lace cap, with white satin ribbons, and she had on her shoulders a silk shawl of a soft cream color. I had never known mother to wear such a shawl.

In face, pose of the figure and every item of the dress, she had suddenly become the very counterpart of grandmother—and what was she looking at so wistfully?

I followed the direction of the dark eyes, and saw, at the other end of the long table, my mother, her head bent over the last page of a book which she was intent on finishing before the light faded. Utterly absorbed in it, she noticed nothing else; it was her way when a book pleased her.

The difference in the two faces was more marked than I had thought it.

“It was Grandmother” —I said, under my breath-— Grandmother.”

I looked back again at the little carpet-chair, but it was empty. I arose and went out into a place we called the grove; there I walked up and down, saying to myself: “after twenty years I have seen her again, after twenty years I have seen her.” I had no doubt whatever about it, it was as if one I knew to be alive had come and gone in that strange way. I had been no more excited than I should have been in meeting a living friend so dear as she had been, after so long an absence.

Whatever it was, it was no dream. I said to myself over and over again, “After twenty years I have seen her again,” and the impression made upon my mind was that wherever she dwelt her thoughts were with us still, her tenderness yet ours. The look she had fixed upon my mother was a very earnest one, and I remembered that old belief—the superstition of the peasant everywhere—that when the spirit of a mother is seen looking at a son or daughter, it is because death is close at hand.

I tried to drive the thought away, but it remained with me, although, at the time, my mother was in excellent health and spirits and showed few signs of age, and there was no special reason for anxiety.

I never told my mother of this happening, nor my other relatives, until afterward.

In November, my mother was suddenly taken ill and died after a few weeks’ illness, and, in my sorrow, I confess that the memory of my vision has sometimes comforted me, for though others may believe it an hallucination, I have never been able to consider it one, and it is sweet to think that those two are together, and that mother-love is eternal.

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

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mary Kyle Dallas was a prolific poet, playwright, journalist, and author–she once estimated that she had written 8,000 stories.  She had a keen interest in the paranormal; the stories in The Freed Spirit truly Grip the reader. While some of her novels such as Grantford Grange, or The Gipsy Mother and Eunice Earl, or The Fatal Compact were works designed principally to put bread on the table–her father and husband both died while she was quite young, leaving her as the household breadwinner for an extensive family–she also wrote the amusing best-selling book, The Grinder Papers: Being the Adventures of Miss Charity Grinder, Wherein are detailed her numerous hair-breadth escapes and wonderful adventures while on a visit to New York from the country.

Previous posts on mothers and motherhood:  a ghostly mother returns to see her dying son safely across the great divide; baby books holding stories dear to the motherly heart,  a jealous mother’s spirit threatens her children’s stepmother, and an assortment of snippets on babies and motherhood.

For Mother’s Day, that automatic writer over at Haunted Ohio has written about a strange mother and daughter duo–or perhaps trio–in the story of Pearl Curran, her adopted daughter, Patience Worth Curran, and the spirit of a Puritan woman “Patience Worth,” who dictated novels and poetry to Pearl and arranged for the child’s adoption. 

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.

 

“End His Days in Blood:” An Omen at the Birth of Charles I: 1600

Dunfermline Palace, the birthplace of the future King Charles I of England. An engraving by William Miller.

Dunfermline Palace, the birthplace of King Charles I of England. An engraving by William Miller.

A grim and supernatural tale for the anniversary on this day of the birth of King Charles I of England.

No spot appears more entirely calculated for monastic seclusion than Dunfermline. Formerly the walls of the abbey and palace covered a vast extent of that ground, which is now a great part of the town. The deep sequestered woods in which the palace rests, are full of solemn beauty. The high embowering trees almost overshadow the mouldering walls, and give a pensive gloom in unison with the character of the ruin, while the trees clad in their variegated autumnal robes, are rich in all the glow of luxuriant beauty.

The south aspect of the palace is now merely a ruinous and solitary wall, containing two rows of mutilated windows. One of the higher ones belonged to the apartment which Charles the First inhabited. A singular tradition is related, which shews the dark superstition of those times.

When the royal infant was first taken from his mother’s chamber, and placed in his cradle, in the adjoining room, the window suddenly burst open, with a tremendous noise, and a crimson sheet floating in, envelopped the cradle, and shrowded the babe as far as the throat. His Majesty, on being informed of the cause of the noise, prophesied that the child would end his days in blood. On learning that the sheet or mantle reached to the throat, he said that he would lose his head.

Letters from the North highlands, during the summer 1816, Elizabeth Isabella Spence, 1816

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It seems inevitable that, long after the fact, strange stories of omens and portents should be told of tragic Kings and Queens. Mrs Daffodil has previously told of a fortune-teller who predicted the death of Queen Marie Antoinette.  And that royalist person over at the Haunted Ohio blog has told of predictions of the death of the Sun King. There were many ominous tales foreshadowing King Charles’s martyrdom on the scaffold.

There was also this perhaps apocryphal story from an 1840 biography of Cromwell:

There was a rumour prevalent in Huntingdon, that Oliver Cromwell and Charles I., when children nearly of the same age, met at Hinchinbrooke House, the seat of sir Oliver Cromwell, the uncle and godfather of the former. “The youths had not been long together,” says [the Rev. Mark Noble, author of Memoirs of the Protectoral House of Cromwell], “before Charles and Oliver disagreed; and as the former was then as weakly as the latter was strong, it was no wonder that the royal visitant was worsted; and Oliver, even at this age, so little regarded dignities that he made the royal blood flow in copious streams from the prince’s nose. This,” adds the same author, “was looked upon as a bad presage for that king, when the civil wars commenced.”

[The account of this pugilistic encounter between Charles and Cromwell is, to say the least of it, by no means improbable. It is well known that Sir Oliver, a true and loyal knight, sumptuously entertained King James on more than one occasion; and the young prince, being twice, at least, of the party, such a falling out is not unlikely to have occurred.] The Life of Oliver Cromwell, George Robert Gleig, 1840

Noble’s Memoirs is said to be “full of errors.” An embellishment of this tale says that the lads fell out when Cromwell refused to yield in some matter, Charles struck him, and young Cromwell vigorously defended himself.  In a case of hammering home the moral, it is said that King James declared that “the blow was to be forgiven, as it was given in defense of a right, and his son must learn to know that right was greater than kings.”

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 Blood-stained Cap: 1850s

A lady's nightcap. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art Brooklyn Costume Collection.

A lady’s nightcap. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection.

A sad and chilling story of a strange death-omen.

The following letter was sent to me by Mr. T. J. A., whom I had asked to make personal inquiry into the story he had told me:—

“My Dear Sir, November 17.

The incident I mentioned to you the other evening occurred at Wivenhoe, near Colchester, in the cottage of a poor widow, who added to a very small annuity by letting two rooms, whilst her sons earned their subsistence by fishing. At the time of which I write, the widow’s rooms were inhabited by Captain and Mrs. B., a family connection of mine, and from whom I heard the tale. One morning the two young fishermen went out, telling their mother they should not be home all night as the tide would not serve them. Their mother gave them their provisions accordingly, telling them if they did get home, to knock very gently at the window, so as not to disturb the sick lady (meaning Mrs. B.) At night she went to bed as usual and as the weather was calm, felt no uneasiness about her sons. She slept till about three o’clock when she was roused by the usual signal at her window; jumping out of bed and quietly throwing open the sash, she looked into the darkness and saw the form of her eldest child. “Be still,” she said, “I will light the candle and let you in.” On opening the door she found no one there, nor could she obtain any answer to her calls though often repeated, and thinking she had been dreaming, she re-entered her room to return to bed. But again she heard the knocking at the window and a second time she put her head out the window and called her sons by name. No answer was given and feeling something drop on her forehead, which she supposed to be rain, she, almost angry at what she called a trick, put out the light and got into bed. Though not alarmed she could not sleep and at day break rose to dress herself. The first thing she saw was a slight stain of blood upon her fingers, and on going to the little glass hanging on the wall, she was frightened at seeing blood upon her temple, and on the border of her night cap. There was no scratch in either temple or finger, no clue to guide her as to the cause of the blood stain. In a moment the truth flashed upon her mind, and she felt sure her sons were dead. She went to the kitchen and there, sitting in a state of desolation, Captain B. found her, when, wondering at her non-appearance, he went to enquire about his wife’s breakfast. The tale was told, and the blood stains, displayed upon the night cap. Captain B. was startled, for he had heard (or fancied he had heard) the knocking, but he endeavoured to persuade the poor woman she had hit her head against the window. No, she was sure she had not, and what she had supposed to be rain was, in reality blood. She bade Captain B. examine the window, and to satisfy her he did so, but he could discover no projecting nail or anything by which his landlady could have hurt either head or finger, but on the small sill, he saw drops of blood similar to those on the night cap. Nothing could be otherwise than conjecture, and taking the afflicted woman to his wife, Captain B. set out to obtain tidings of the young men, but it was late in the day ere their suspense was ended and then the widow’s presentiment was confirmed. Her son’s boat had been swamped and both had perished. The body of one, the younger, was soon found and on his temple was a deep wound as if he had been struck by the mast of the boat as it turned over. The body of the other was never brought to shore.

Thus ends the tale of the Wivenhoe widow. I have seen her many times, but I never heard her mention the subject, for she never quite recovered her senses.

To my sister, who married Captain B’s son, she has frequently told her tale, and shown her the cap with the blood stains on it.”

The British Spiritual Telegraph, vol. 3-4, 1859, p. 57  

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Spiritualist literature of the period was full of stories of death-omens or “tokens of death,” as they were often known.  This post tells of some of the more usual portents. Mrs Daffodil, who is well-acquainted with post-mortem blood-stains and has a professional interest in knowing when people are going to die, finds that blood is an atypical omen of death. The belief that three drops of blood from the nose foretells death is found in Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Some say that the number of drops indicates the days to pass before the death. The anecdote at the end of this post tells of a blood-omen in connection with King Charles I.

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.