Tag Archives: English ghost stories

The Crying Child: 1880s

“ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES ”

By E. M. DUCAT

Mr. and Mrs. Davis are Anglo-Indians, the most hospitable of a proverbially hospitable class. Mr. Davis is also a great sportsman. In India, during one cold weather, they were exceedingly kind to, and entertained for several weeks, a certain Mr. Thompson, who had been, previously, a complete stranger to them, but who had come to their part of the country for big game shooting, and between whom and Mr. Davis a great friendship had sprung up, on account of their mutual sporting proclivities.

On his departure, Mr. Thompson gave a most pressing invitation to his hospitable host and hostess to come, on their return to England, and pay a visit to himself and his wife at their country home in __shire.

Mr. and Mrs. Davis accepted the friendly invitation, and the next time they were home on leave in England they duly paid the visit. They had never before seen Mrs. Thompson, and knew nothing about the family; but Mr. Thompson had told them that his children were grown up, and had left home.

The evening of their arrival, Mrs. Davis went up rather early to dress for dinner. The door between her room and the large room allotted to her husband as a dressing-room was a-jar. She was pottering about her room, arranging her belongings and settling herself comfortably into her new quarters, when she heard a most piteous sobbing and moaning, which seemed to issue from somewhere close by.

She stopped her occupation and listened. Ever persistently the sounds continued, without intermission —emitted evidently by some child in dire distress, who was crying as if its heart were breaking.

Such inconsolable grief was terrible to hear, and Mrs. Davis felt she could not stand it any longer without trying to find out where the child was and what was the matter with it. The noise sounded so close—apparently in the adjoining room— surely no child could be in there, in her husband’s dressing room? Mrs. Davis advanced towards the communicating door to investigate the affair.As she did so, she caught sight of a small figure at the further end of the large room.

It was a little girl of about four years of age, dressed in a brown-holland over-all tied under the arms with a wide, blue ribbon sash. She stood wringing her hands and moaning, and anon bending down and tearing with her wee fingers, and with an air of despairing pertinacity, at one particular spot in the carpet, while tears coursed down her cheeks and sobs convulsed her tiny frame.

For one instant astonishment arrested Mrs. Davis and held her dumb, gazing at the spectacle; the next, she advanced into the dressing-room, exclaiming with concern—“My poor little girl! What is the matter?”

The child took not the slightest notice of the interruption, but continued her strange behaviour and sobbing, as if she had not heard Mrs. Davis speak. Mrs. Davis walked right across the room towards her.

“Tell me, little one, why are you crying?—and what are you trying to do to that carpet ? ”

She was just about to stoop down and touch the child, when, without uttering a word, it turned suddenly away, and burying its face in its hands, ran, still sobbing, out of the room.

Mrs. Davis followed instantly to the door and gazed up and down the passage, looking to see where the child had gone; but not a trace of it was visible in either direction.

It having vanished into thin air and all sounds of sobbing having completely ceased, Mrs. Davis, after standing for a few minutes irresolute in the doorway, turned back and re-entered the room. When her husband came up to dress, she recounted what had taken place, and wondered who the child was, as Mr. Thompson had told them his children were all grown up, and none of them here.

Mr. Davis agreed that it was rather curious, but suggested that probably the little girl was a grandchild, and said, as his wife seemed so concerned about the matter, that he would ask Mr. Thompson who the child was, and tell him it was in distress over something.

Accordingly when they entered the drawing-room—where Mr. and Mrs. Thompson already were—Mr. Davis went up to Mr. Thompson and remarked—“Didn’t you say your children are all grown up? Is that then your grandchild upstairs, who has been crying in our room?”

Mr. Thompson started violently. He turned a countenance towards Mr. Davis the expression of which dumbfounded the latter. Never had he seen any face express such scared agony.

“There is no child in this house,” said Mr. Thompson hurriedly, in a low voice, and speaking as if with difficulty.

“Oh! but pardon me, my dear fellow, there is!” laughed Mr. Davis, “for my wife saw it not an hour ago! It was in our room, sobbing and crying and seemingly in great distress over something or other. Freda is quite concerned about it, and hopes you will find out what is the matter with the child and do——”

*”Hush-sh!” whispered his host in his ear, laying a restraining hand upon his arm, while he cast an apprehensive glance towards his wife, as if dreading lest she should have overheard Mr. Davis’ speech. ” After dinner I will tell you all about that child; in the meantime, pray say nothing more on the matter. I will explain all, afterwards, in private.”

Following Mr. Thompson’s glance, Mr. Davis perceived that Mrs. Thompson had turned ashy white, was trembling like an aspen and clutching at the edge of the table near her, as if to prevent herself from falling in a faint.

Realizing that he had unwittingly made a faux pas, Mr. Davis hastened, with ready tact, to change the conversation, and welcomed the opportune arrival of the butler, announcing the dinner, as putting an end to a more than proverbially trying mauvais quart d’heure.

After dinner, over their wine, Mr. Thompson, on his own initiative, confided to his friend the following explanation of the skeleton in his cupboard that had that day been laid bare to the gaze of his friends.

The child that Mrs. Davis had seen crying in the bedroom was Mr. and Mrs. Thompson’s own child; but it had been dead for years.

Throughout those years it had continued, at intervals, to appear to various people—always sobbing and wringing its hands and moaning in the broken-hearted manner that Mrs. Thompson had described. It took no notice of any one, and although more than once it had been spoken to by different people who had seen it, it had never paid the slightest attention, nor had it ever replied to any one’s interrogations.

The subject was the more intensely painful to Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, for the reason that the child had died under distressing circumstances, believing itself to be in disgrace and still unforgiven.

The facts were, that the little girl one morning was, as usual, playing in her mother’s room while the latter was dressing, and was amusing herself with her mother’s rings, which were lying on the dressing-table. When the nurse came to fetch the child, it, unknown to any one, went away still holding in its hands one of the rings.

As soon as Mrs. Thompson was dressed, she found that this particular ruby ring was missing, and went at once to the nursery to recover it from the child, who, she felt convinced, must have gone off with it. The children, however, had already departed with the nurse for their walk, and there was no sign of the ring anywhere to be seen.

At midday, when the children returned, Mrs. Thompson immediately sent for the baby and questioned her about the ring. The child at once admitted having taken it, but said she could not tell where it was now, because she had lost it.

Very much vexed, for the ring was a valuable and favorite one, Mrs. Thompson asked the child where she had lost it? The little girl replied that she could not remember.

Mrs. Thompson urged her and coaxed her to try and remember where she had lost it; but all the child would reply was that she had “lost it down a hole,” and whether indoors, or out-of-doors, or where, she could not, or would not, say.

From the child’s manner, Mrs. Thompson felt sure she knew, really, perfectly well where the ring was, but that she didn’t wish to have to part with it, and had, for that reason, hidden it away somewhere on purpose, and refused, willfully, to divulge where.

She therefore told the child that she was a very naughty girl to have taken away the ring and to have lost it, and until she could remember and confess where she had lost it, and restore it, she must consider herself in disgrace.

The child, who was a most sensitive little thing, was very much upset on being told this, and went crying out of the room, reiterating her former asseveration that she could not remember where she had lost the ring, but it was “down a hole.”

Two or three days passed and still the child never divulged where she had put the ring, although she seemed to feel very keenly being in disgrace, and was most unhappy and always begging to be forgiven.

As every one was convinced she could very well tell, if she chose, where “the hole” was, in which she had hidden the ring, it was thought advisable to continue to keep her in disgrace, in order that she might the sooner confess, and the valuable ring be recovered.

Not many days later, however, the child fell ill, and rapidly developed a serious fever. In her delirium she did nothing but rave about the subject of the lost ring. She maintained just what she had declared when well, that she had dropped the ring down some hole, but that she could not remember where the hole was. She implored deliriously for forgiveness.

Mrs. and Mr. Thompson, the nurse, the doctor, every one who attended her bedside, assured her over and over again that she was believed and forgiven,—but in vain. The words conveyed no meaning to the poor little delirious brain ; and it was without regaining consciousness, and while still believing herself to be in disgrace, that the child died.

This was the tale that Mr. Thompson related that night to Mr. Davis, as the two men sat over their wine. The unfortunate father was quite overcome with grief, even at recounting the tragedy. At the conclusion, he said to his friend, in a choked voice—“Neither I nor my wife has ever got over the loss of that child, and this periodic reappearance of our poor little dead girl, still wailing for a forgiveness that we were, and are, unable to make it understand was long ago granted, keeps perpetually opening and bleeding a wound that is too deep ever to heal.”

This painful story, Mr. Davis, at his host’s request, repeated that night to his wife, in explanation of the sight she had witnessed. Miss. Davis, naturally, was much moved at the narration— not only that, she was also greatly excited.

“And has the lost ring never been found?” she inquired eagerly.

Her husband replied no, that he believed that, to that day, it had never been recovered.

“Then I am convinced that where the child was scratching at the carpet is where the ring is! ” exclaimed Mrs. Davis. “It was trying to get at something, in or under the carpet at that spot! That would explain perfectly its extraordinary actions! And all its grief seemed to be caused by its inability to accomplish its purpose! You may be sure that is for what the child comes back!—it wants to recover that ring which it believes must be found before it can obtain its parents’ forgiveness. Do let us ask Mr. Thompson to have the carpet taken up and a search made! I can show the precise spot which the child indicated. Surely it is worth a search!”

“My dear Freda,” replied Mr. Davis, you forget. The child has been dead for years. The carpet must have been up a dozen times between then and now.”

“But no search has ever been made beneath it at that spot, you may be sure ! ” said Mrs. Davis. “Do, do ask to have the carpet taken up that we may see what is under it!”

“I really don’t like to broach the subject again,” said Mr. Davis; “I can’t tell you how frightfully cut up poor Thompson is still about this whole business. He says he shall never get over it. I should hate to have to mention again such a terribly painful subject. We had much better say nothing more about it.”

But Mrs. Davis was so insistent, she prevailed.

Mr. Davis repeated to his host his wife’s remarks and request.

Mr. Thompson said he would be most glad to have a search made if Mrs. Davis would point out the spot. He said that as that room had been the children’s day-nursery formerly, it was quite possible that it was in that room that the ring had been lost by the child, and if the desire to recover and restore the missing property was what prevented the child from resting in her grave, willingly would he order the whole house to be pulled down if there were any chance thereby of obtaining the desired result.

Accordingly, after Mrs. Davis had marked the position where the child stood, the carpet was removed. No ring was to be seen; but there was a tiny chink between two of the boards in the floor, just at that spot.

There had been no carpet in the room in the days it was used as a nursery—the child had always said the ring was “down a hole ”—perhaps it had fallen through that chink in the boards? A carpenter was called in and the boards were taken up.

Beneath, on the lathes of the ceiling of the room below, like a drop of ruddy heart’s-blood, gleamed the red ruby of the long-lost ring!

Many are the years that have now elapsed since that eventful day, but never, during the whole of that time, has any living soul in that house again set eyes on a forlorn little figure, weeping and wailing and wringing its hands.

The Occult Review January 1909: pp. 19-24

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A painful story. Mrs Daffodil hopes that none of her readers would be so unfeeling as to keep a child in disgrace over a piece of jewellery, no matter how prized or valuable. Mrs Daffodil does not like to be severe, but she feels strongly that, although Mrs Thompson suffered dreadfully in the loss of her little daughter, the mother must accept some blame in the matter for leaving the rings on her dressing-table. When finding the ring gone, Mrs Thompson’s first thought was not to suspect the servant of having taken the ring, but that her daughter had pilfered it. This obviously was not the first time; sadly, it was the last…

Eva M. Ducat was a writer of pony stories, the Ponies of Bunts series, written with Marjorie Mary Oliver.  Mrs Daffodil regrets that she does not know any more about Miss Ducat or how she came to write this story.

Mrs Daffodil has previously shared another story of a lost ruby ring and how it was found in this post.

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 Ghost with One Shoe: 1910s

Shoes with cut-steel buckles, c. 1914-17 http://collections.lacma.org/node/228104

When one reflects upon the number of people one meets who lead almost entirely animal lives, can one wonder that so many cemeteries and churchyards are haunted! It was once popularly supposed that only the spirits of suicides and murderers were earthbound, but that idea has long been exploded, and it is now recognized by all who have given the subject any earnest reflection at all that the bulk of hauntings when not due to elementals are caused by the earthbound phantoms of the extremely sensual or even the merely intensely material. The spirits of such people would appear to be attached to the material world they loved through the medium of their bodies, articles of clothing, or any personal effects which act as magnets, and to be either loosened from it and transferred to some other sphere. or maybe annihilated altogether–no one knows–the moment such remains and effects are cremated or otherwise equally obliterated.

This being so, these phantoms would divide their visits between the places containing the objects of attraction, haunting most frequently that spot to which they were most strongly magnetized, in the majority of cases the spot containing their bodies or skeletons, usually a churchyard or cemetery. And as it is so often but a step from the grave to the chancel, a reason may thus be supplied for some, at least, of the occult happenings that are commonly reported as taking place in churches. The cessation of hauntings do not, however, always depend on the destruction of articles; on the contrary, they are not infrequently dependent on their careful preservation and return to the rightful owners, when those owners are either alive or, as it more often, perhaps, happens, dead. Here is a case in point: Rathaby Church until quite recently was haunted by an old lady with a poke bonnet and violet petticoat. The Vicar, The Rev. C. Bodkin, was inveigled one day into confessing that he had seen the apparition on at least three occasions. The first occurrence was as follows: Entering alone into the Vestry one August evening, hot and weary, he sat down, and taking off his boots, which, being new, had blistered him badly, he was preparing to put on a pair of somewhat antiquated “elastic sides” which he kept there, when, to his surprise, he saw standing in front of him a little old lady with a big poke bonnet and a violet silk petticoat. As the bonnet covered the upper part of her face, which she kept rather bent down, and the sunlight was fast fading, the Vicar could not distinguish any of her features saving the chin, which was very prominent, but from her clothes he saw that she did not belong to the parish and accordingly concluded she was a stranger. He felt annoyed that she should have entered without knocking, more especially as he was not in the mood to be disturbed. However, trying to appear as courteous as possible, he hurriedly slipped on his old pair of boots, and rising to his feet exclaimed, “What can I do for you, madam?” There was no reply-only a silence which at once impressed him as being singularly emphatic, if not awe-inspiring. He repeated his question, this time, he admits, not quite so politely: whereupon the old lady slightly lifted her gown, and with a naive gesture, pointed at her feet.

The Vicar, who, no doubt, despite his vocation, was human enough to admire a pretty ankle, following with his eyes the direction indicated, perceived with astonishment she only had on one shoe–a remarkably small patent leather one with a large, highly polished silver buckle. On her other foot was a violet stocking, nothing more.

“Good gracious, madam,” he ejaculated, “you will catch your death of cold. Pray be seated here whilst I go and find your shoe. Where do you think you dropped it?”

He took a step towards her as he spoke, with the idea of helping her into a chair, and his hand was actually within reach of her arm, when she suddenly vanished, and there was nothing in front of him but a bare wall. He was then frightened, for he could not persuade himself that what he had seen was merely an hallucination, and without waiting to complete his toilet, he went into the and waited there till the arrival of the sexton.

Ten days later he saw the same phantasm again. The encounter took place this time during the evening service. The congregation were kneeling down and the Vicar was about to begin the collect when some one laughed, a very malicious and highly disrespectful he-he-he! The Vicar, shocked beyond his senses, instantly stopped, and glancing furiously in the direction of the noise, was on the verge of ordering the offender to quit the Church, when his jaw fell. Looking up at him from almost beneath his very nose were a pair of pale, wide open, luminous eyes, full of an expression of malevolent quizzical coyness, that at once sent his thoughts back to certain queens of the demi-mondaines he used to see, surreptitiously parading the streets, in Cambridge, thirty years ago. They made him so hot and cold all over, he was horribly ashamed–ashamed that his, or as a matter of fact any other church, could hold such things. They must be removed with the utmost precipitation–immediately.

He tried to speak–to tell her to go, but found himself spellbound, hopelessly fascinated. His throat was parched, his mouth all tongue, he could not articulate a syllable, and all the while he was striving his utmost to overcome this condition of helplessness, the eyes kept continually leering at him. As for the rest of the face, it was that of an old, a very old, woman with obviously dyed hair arranged coquettishly in tiny yellow curls on either side of a low, straight forehead. She had neat, regular features, a trifle aquiline perhaps; with a chin that although rather too pronounced now–the inevitable effects of old age–might well have been once full of soft dimples, and beautifully rounded. The teeth even, pearly and glittering, struck the Vicar as far too perfect to be anything but false, though on that score he had no grounds for complaint, as he was in the same plight himself, having long since parted with his own molars, a fact which, however much he tried to persuade himself to the contrary, was the common knowledge of every one in the parish. The figure wore a rich cream-coloured cashmere shawl, from between the folds of which he could catch the gleam of silver buttons and mauve silk; and although the rest of her was hidden by the pew, he knew her at once to be the unknown stranger who had vanished so inexplicably. As he -stared she got up, and, leaving the pew, commenced gliding towards him, holding her violet skirt high above her ankles, and pointing significantly at her tiny feet, one of which was encased in a glittering buckle shoe and the other merely in a stocking.

The Vicar’s heart almost ceased to beat, his eyes swam, his knees shook. God help him, in another second she would be in the pulpit!

In the frenzy of despair he burst the paralytic bonds that had so effectually held him, and stooping down picked up a box of matches and threw it at the old lady. She instantly vanished.

Then the reaction set in. Relief brought hysterics, and in a state of utter collapse the worthy Vicar lolled against the ledge of the pulpit and began to laugh and cry alternately. He was promptly escorted home by a half dozen sympathetic, if somewhat—at least so his wife thought–over-zealous ladies, and the congregation, who, it transpired, had seen nothing of the phantom, attributed his behaviour to an unlimited variety of popular ailments.

The third encounter with the ghost occurred about a year after this incident. It was on St. Martin’s Eve, and the Vicar was preparing to leave the church for the cheerier precincts of the vicarage, where a substantial supper was awaiting him, when a current of icy air suddenly blew into his face, and he found himself confronted by the dreaded figure of the old lady. The enveloping gloom, for there was no other light in the church save that proceeding from the candle the Vicar carried, intensified the lurid glow emanating from the phantom and made it stand out with horrible distinctness. Each line, each feature, were magnified with a vividness that is indescribable, the ultima thule of horrordom being attained in the eyes, which, paler and larger even than before, scowled at the Vicar in the most diabolical fashion.

Paralysed with the suddenness of the vision, the Vicar felt all the strength die out of his limbs; his blood congealed, his hair rose on end. Nor were his feelings in any way mollified when the figure stretched out a long and bony forefinger, and shook it angrily at the floor. The Vicar looked down, and be it to his everlasting credit, blushed-he admitted as much to me afterwards–for whilst there was the same gaudy, shameless buckled shoe on the one foot–on the other there was simply nothing, not even half a stocking. And the abandoned phantom laughed a laugh that set every stone and rafter in the great, gaunt building resonating. When the Vicar looked up again the figure had disappeared. This was the climax. Sooner than, run the risk of incurring another such indignity, the Vicar declared his intention of leaving. One of his most ardent devotees heard of the matter, and in mad desperation wrote to me. Candidly, I never refuse ladies. I am an advocate not merely of woman’s suffrage, but of woman’s participation in everything. I daily visit a lady barber’s, and think there ought to be lady soldiers, sailors, Members of Parliament, dentists, coal-heavers, gutter-rakers and sanitary inspectors.

I went to Rathaby, and although my vigils in the church for three consecutive nights were productive of no ghostly result, the atmosphere of the place struck me as so conducive to occult phenomena that I was quite ready to believe that what the Vicar had seen was subjective and not hallucinatory. Consequently I made vigorous inquiries in the neighbourhood, and at length elicited the information that some forty years before an old lady corresponding to the phantom in the violet petticoat had stayed for the summer in a farmhouse about three miles from Rathaby. Rambling about one morning on the lonely hillsides, she had fallen into a disused quarry and broken her neck.

“I remember quite well,” my informant went on to say, “that when I helped raise her body she had on only one shoe–a shining leather thing with a bright buckle. We could not find the other anywhere and concluded it had got wedged into some crevice.

Her relatives–a nephew and niece–were at once sent for, and at their directions, the old lady was buried in the Rathaby Churchyard in the exact clothes she wore at the time of her death.”

This is all the information I was able to extract from this individual. Another person–a septuagenarian ex-blacksmith–afforded me a great sensation. Leading me upstairs into a tiny bedroom not much bigger than a bathing machine, he approached a worm-eaten chest of drawers, opened it cautiously, and beckoning to me in a very mysterious manner, pointed to an object that lay in one comer. It was a small patent leather shoe with a large silver buckle and Louis heels. A more rakish-looking affair I had never set eyes on.

“I found that,” he said in a hoarse whisper, “in the quarry where the old lady broke her neck. It had got wedged into a hole. You may have it for a trifle.”

I gave him five shillings and brought away the giddy article.

My next step was to find the grave of the old lady, in order that the missing shoe, which I suspected was the origin of the haunting, might be returned to the rightful owner. But here an unexpected obstacle presented itself. The Vicar foolishly declared he could not sanction the opening of the coffin without permission of the old lady’s relatives. As this permission could not be for the simple reason that the relatives were not traceable, all further investigations ceased, and I came away highly incensed.

The third night after my return home, between 2 and 3 a.m. there was a violent knocking at my bedroom door and on opening it–very reluctantly, I admit–to see who was there, I perceived a shadow on the moonlit wall opposite-the shadow of an old lady with a poke bonnet. For some seconds I stood and watched it anxiously. Then I fetched the shoe and gently threw it at the spectre. It vanished, but from along the passage, down the narrow winding staircase, and from the hall beyond there came the clearly unmistakable tappings–the sharp resounding tap-tap-tap of a fast, a joyfully fast, receding PAIR of Louis heels.

The front door slammed–a neighbour’s dog howled–a church clock sonorously thundered two—and all was still. From that night, neither in my house nor in Rathaby, has the ghost been seen again.

The Occult Review June 1913: pp 310-314

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Even in death, ladies understand the importance of fine foot-wear. There is an ancient Greek ghost story about a husband haunted by the ghost of his dead wife, who appeared wearing only one sandal. She angrily told him one of her sandals had fallen off and not been burnt on the funeral pyre–hence her barefoot condition. He immediately ordered a lavish new wardrobe, including several pairs of expensive sandals and had the garments burned, which placated his ghostly wife.

This narrative, by the way, comes from Mr Elliott O’Donnell, a popular “ghost-hunter” of the early 20th century. Despite his assurances that he never refuses the ladies, he exhibits a strong misogyny in his work, manifesting here in his unpleasant insinuations about the character of the Louis-heeled ghost. If dyed hair and violet stockings were a crime, Mrs Daffodil knows a number of ladies who would find themselves in the dock.

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 Man in the Dog-Cart: 1890s

My next tale has always seemed to me one of the most interesting psychic experiences that I have ever heard related.

Some few years ago, a young officer, whom we will call Lestrange, went to stay at a country house in the Midlands. It may be said that he was a good type of the average British subaltern, whose tastes, far from  inclining towards abstract study or metaphysical speculation, lay chiefly in the direction of polo, hunting, and sport generally. In fact, the last person in the world one would have said likely to “see a ghost.”

One afternoon during his visit, Lestrange borrowed a dog-cart from his friend, and set out to drive to the neighbouring town. About half-way there he saw walking along the road in front of him a very poor and ragged-looking man, who, as he passed him, looked so ill and miserable that Lestrange, being a kind-hearted person, took pity on him and, pulling up, called out, “Look here, if you are going to C—-, get up behind me and I will give you a lift.” The man said nothing but proceeded to climb up on the cart, and as he did so, Lestrange noticed that he wore a rather peculiar handkerchief round his neck, of bright red, spotted with green. He took his seat and Lestrange drove on and reaching C—- stopped at the door of the principal hotel. When the ostler came forward to take the horse, Lestrange, without looking round, said to him: “Just give that man on the back seat a good hot meal and I’ll pay. He looks as if he wanted it, poor chap.” The ostler looked puzzled and said: “Yes, sir; but what man do you mean?”

Lestrange turned his head and saw that the back seat was empty, which rather astonished him and he exclaimed: “Well! I hope he didn’t fall off. But I never heard him get down. At all events, if he turns up here, feed him. He is a ragged, miserable-looking fellow, and you will know him by the handkerchief he had round his neck, bright red and green.” As these last words were uttered a waiter who had been standing in the doorway and heard the conversation came forward and said to Lestrange, “Would you mind stepping inside for a moment, sir?”

Lestrange followed him, noticing that he looked very grave, and the waiter stopped at a closed door, behind the bar, saying: “I heard you describe that tramp you met, sir, and I want you to see what is in here.” He then led the way into a small bedroom, and there, lying on the bed, was the corpse of a man, ragged and poor, wearing round his neck a red handkerchief spotted with green.

Lestrange made a startled exclamation. “Why, that is the very man I took up on the road just now. How did he get here?”

He was then told that the body he saw had been found by the roadside at four o’clock the preceding afternoon, and that it had been taken to the hotel to await the inquest. Comparisons showed that Lestrange had picked up his tramp at the spot where the body had been discovered on the previous day; and the hour, four o’clock, was also found to tally exactly.

Now was this, as the ancients would have told us, the umbra of the poor tramp, loth to quit entirely a world of which it knew at least the worst ills, to “fly to others that it knew not of”? Or was it rather what Mr. C. W. Leadbeater has described in his book, “The Other Side of Death,” as a thought-form, caused by the thoughts of the dead man returning with honor to the scene of his lonely and miserable end, and thereby producing psychic vibrations strong enough to construct an actual representation of his physical body, visible to any “sensitive” who happened that way? We must leave our readers to decide for themselves what theory will best fit as an explanation of this strange and true story.

Stranger Than Fiction, Mary L. Lewes, 1911: p. 96-98

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr. C.W. Leadbeater was a Spiritualist and influential member of the Theosophical Society. He wrote extensively on esoteric subjects such as the astral plane, clairvoyance, and reincarnation. Mrs Daffodil sees no reason to drag “psychic vibrations” or “thought-forms” into a perfectly good English ghost story.

 

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 Voice in the Fog: 1888

My Irish Friend.

Many of the apparitions that are reported are of phantasms that appear in fulfilment of a promise made to survivors during life. Of this class I [W.T. Stead, journalist and Spiritualist] came, in the course of my census, upon a very remarkable case.

Among my acquaintances is an Irish lady, the widow of an official who held a responsible position in the Dublin Post Office. She is Celt to her backbone, with all the qualities of her race. After her husband’s death she contracted an unfortunate marriage—which really was no marriage legally— with an engineer of remarkable character and no small native talent. He, however, did not add to his other qualities the saving virtues of principle and honesty. Owing to these defects my friend woke up one fine morning to find that her new husband had been married previously, and that his wife was still living.

On making this discovery she left her partner and came to London, where I met her. She is a woman of very strong character, and of some considerable although irregular ability. She has many superstitions, and her dreams were something wonderful to hear. After she had been in London two years her bigamist lover found out where she was, and leaving his home in Italy followed her to London. There was no doubt as to the sincerity of his attachment to the woman whom he had betrayed, and the scenes which took place between them were painful, and at one time threatened to have a very tragic ending.

Fortunately, although she never ceased to cherish a very passionate affection for her lover, she refused to resume her old relations with him, and after many stormy scenes he departed for Italy, loading her with reproaches. Some months after his departure she came to me and told me she was afraid something had happened to him. She had heard him calling her outside her window, and shortly afterwards saw him quite distinctly in her room. She was much upset about it.

I pooh-poohed the story, and put it down to a hallucination caused by the revival of the stormy and painful scenes of the parting. Shortly afterwards she received news from Italy that her late husband, if we may so call him, had died about the same time she heard him calling her by her name under her window in East London.

I only learnt when the above was passing through the press that the unfortunate man, whose phantasm appeared to my friend, died suddenly either by his own hand or by accident. On leaving London he drank on steadily, hardly being sober for a single day. After a prolonged period of intoxication he went out of the house, and was subsequently found dead, either having thrown himself or fallen over a considerable height, at the foot of which he was found dead.

I asked Mrs. G. F.—to write out for me, as carefully as she could remember it after the lapse of two years, exactly what she saw and heard. Here is her report:—

The Promise.

In the end of the summer of 1886 it happened one morning that Irwin and myself were awake at 5.30 a.m., and as we could not go to sleep again, we lay talking of our future possible happiness and present troubles. We were at the time sleeping in Room No. 16, Hotel Washington, overlooking the Bay of Naples. We agreed that nothing would force us to separate in this life—neither poverty nor persecution from his family, nor any other thing on earth. (I believed myself his wife then.) We each agreed that we would die together rather than separate. We spoke a great deal that morning about our views of what was or was not likely to be the condition of souls after death, and whether it was likely that spirits could communicate, by any transmitted feeling or apparition, the fact that they had died to their surviving friends. Finally, we made a solemn promise to each other that whichever of us died first would appear to the other after death if such was permitted.

“Well, after the fact of his being already married came to light, we parted. I left him, and he followed me to London on December ’87. During his stay here I once asked if he had ever thought about our agreement as to as to who should die first appealing to the other; and he said, ‘Oh, Georgie, you do not need to remind me; my spirit is a part of yours, and can never be separated nor dissolved even through all eternity; no, not even though you treat me as you do; even though you became the wife of another you cannot divorce our spirits. And whenever my spirit leaves this earth I will appear to you.’

“Well, in the beginning of August ’88 he left England for Naples; his last words were that I would never again see him; I should see him, but not alive, for he would put an end to his life and heart-break. After that he never wrote to me; still I did not altogether think he would kill himself. On the 22nd or 23rd of the following November (’88), I posted a note to him at Sarno post office. No reply came, and I thought it might be he was not at Sarno, or was sick, or travelling, and so did not call at the post office, and so never dreamed of his being dead.”

Its Fulfilment.

Time went on and nothing occurred till November 27th (or I should say 28th, for it occurred at 12.30, or between 12 and 1 a.m., I forget the exact time). It was just at that period when I used to sit up night after night till 1, 2, and 3 o’clock a.m. at home doing the class books; on this occasion I was sitting close to the fire, with the table beside me, sorting cuttings. Looking up from the papers my eyes chanced to fall on the door, which stood about a foot and a half open, and right inside, but not so far in but that his clothes touched the edge of the door, stood Irwin; he was dressed as I last had seen him—overcoat, tall hat, and his arms were down by his sides in his natural, usual way. He stood in his exact own perfectly upright attitude, and held his head and face up in a sort of dignified way, which he used generally to adopt on all occasions of importance or during a controversy or dispute. He had his face turned towards me, and looked at me with a terribly meaning expression, very pale, and as if pained by being deprived of the power of speech or of local movements.

“I got a shocking fright, for I thought at first sight he was living, and had got in unknown to me to surprise me. I felt my heart jump with fright, and I said, ‘Oh !’ but before I had hardly finished the exclamation, his figure was fading way, and, horrible to relate, it faded in such a way that the flesh seemed to fade out of the clothes, or at all events the hat and coat were longer visible than the whole man. I turned white and cold, felt an awful dread; I was too much afraid to go near enough to shut the door when he had vanished. I was so shaken and confused, and half paralysed, I felt I could not even cry out; it was as if something had a grip on my spirit, I feared to stir, and sat up all night, fearing to take my eyes off the door, not daring to go and shut it. Later on I got an umbrella and walked tremblingly, and pushed the door close without fastening it. I feared to touch it with my hand. I felt such a relief when I saw daylight and heard the landlady moving about.

“Now, though I was frightened, I did not for a moment think he was dead, nor did it enter my mind then about our agreement. I tried to shake off the nervousness, and quite thought it must be something in my sight caused by imagination, and nerves being overdone by sitting up so late for so many nights together. Still, I thought it dreadfully strange, it was so real.”

A Ghost’s Cough.

Well, about three days passed, and then I was startled by hearing his voice outside my window, as plain as a voice could be, calling,’Georgie! Are you there, Georgie?’ I felt certain it was really him come back to England. I could not mistake his voice. I felt quite flurried, and ran out to the hall door, but no one in sight. I went back in, and felt rather upset and disappointed, for I would have been glad if he had come back again, and began to wish he really would turn up. I then thought to myself, ‘Well, that was so queer. Oh, it must be Irwin, and perhaps he is just hiding in some hall door to see if I will go out and let him in, or what I will do. So out I went again. This time I put my hat on, and ran along and peeped into hall doors where he might be hiding, but with no result. Later on that night I could have sworn I heard him cough twice right at the window, as if he did it to attract attention. Out I went again. No result.

“Well, to make a long story short, from that night till about nine weeks after that voice called to me, and coughed, and coughed, sometimes every night for a week, then three nights a week, then miss a night and call on two nights, miss three or four days, and keep calling me the whole night long, on and off, up till 12 midnight or later. One time it would be, ‘Georgie! It’s me! Ah, Georgie!’ Or, ‘Georgie, are you in? Will you speak to Irwin?’ Then a long pause, and at the end of, say, ten minutes, a most strange, unearthly sigh, or a cough—a perfectly intentional, forced cough, other times nothing but, ‘Ah, Georgie!’ On one night there was a dreadful fog. He called me so plain, I got up and said, ‘Oh, really! that man must be here; he must be lodging somewhere near, as sure as life; if he is not outside I must be going mad in my mind or imagination.’ I went and stood outside the hall door steps in the thick black fog. No lights could be seen that night. I called out, ‘Irwin ! Irwin! here, come on. I know you’re there, trying to humbug me, I saw you in town; come on in, and don’t be making a fool of yourself.’

“Well, I declare to you, a voice that seemed within three yards of me, replied out of the fog, ‘It’s only Irwin,’ and a most awful, and great, and supernatural sort of sigh faded away in the distance. I went in, feeling quite unhinged and nervous, and could not sleep. After that night it was chiefly sighs and coughing, and it was kept up until one day, at the end of about nine weeks, my letter was returned marked, ‘Signor O’Neill e morto,’ together with a letter from the Consul to say he had died on November 28th, 1888, the day on which he appeared to me.”

The Question of Dates.

On inquiring as to dates and verification Mrs. F replied :—

“I don’t know the hour of his death, but if you write to Mr. Turner, Vice Consul, Naples, he can get it for you. He appeared to me at the hour I say; of course there is a difference of time between here and Naples. The strange part is that once I was informed of his death by human means (the letter), his spirit seemed to be satisfied, for no voice ever came again after; it was as if he wanted to inform and make me know he had died, and as if he knew I had not been informed by human agency.

“I was so struck with the apparition of November 28th, that I made a note of the date at the time so as to tell him of it when next I wrote. My letter reached Sarno a day or two after he died. There is no possible doubt about the voice being his, for he had a peculiar and uncommon voice, one such as I never heard any exactly like, or like at all in any other person. And in life he used to call me through the window as he passed, so I would know who it was knocked at the door, and open it. When he said, ‘Ah!’ after death, it was so awfully sad and long drawn out, and as if expressing that now all was over and our separation and his being dead was all so very, very pitiful and unutterable; the sigh was so real, so almost solid, and discernible and unmistakable, till at the end it seemed to have such a supernatural, strange, awful dying away sound, a sort of fading, retreating into distance sound, that gave the impression that it was not quite all spirit, but that the spirit had some sort of visible and half-material being or condition. This was especially so the night of the fog, when the voice seemed nearer to me as I stood there, and as if it was able to come or stay nearer to me because there was a fog to hide its materialism. On each of the other occasions it seemed to keep a good deal further off than on that night, and always sounded as if at an elevation of about 10ft. or 11ft., from the ground, except the night of the fog, when it came down on a level with me as well as nearer.

Georgina F___.

Real Ghost Stories, W.T. Stead, 1921: p. 222-30

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  While appreciating this narrative as a splendid and chilling ghost story, Mrs Daffodil cannot help but wonder if a man so singularly lacking in candour and honesty and so enraged by the lady’s rejection of him might not have asked an Italian friend to write ‘Signor O’Neill e morto,’ on her letter and forged an epistle from the Consul on pilfered letterhead.  The very material “Signor O’Neill,” of course, was in England all along, calling, coughing, and sighing piteously under the lady’s window, aided in his gaslighting efforts by the kindly English fog.  If it did not happen that way, Mrs Daffodil suggests that her version would make an admirable plot for a thrilling motion picture.

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 Black-Whiskered Sailor: 1840s

‘A story with much more of the supernatural about it was related to me by Mrs. Hughes the other day which is, I think, one of the best authenticated ghost stories in existence. It was narrated to her by Mrs. Hastings, wife of Captain Hastings, R.N., and ran to the following effect:

‘Captain and Mrs. Hastings were driving into Portsmouth one afternoon, when a Mr. Hamilton who had recently been appointed to a situation in the dockyard there, made a third in their chaise, being on his way to take possession of his post. As the vehicle passed the end of one of the narrow lanes which abound in the town, the latter gentleman, who had for some little time been more grave and silent than usual, broke through the reserve which had drawn a remark from the lady, and gave the following reason for his taciturnity :—

‘”It was,” said he, “the recollection of the lane we have just passed, and of a very singular circumstance which occurred to me at a house in it some eighteen years ago, which occupied my thoughts at the moment, and which, as we are old friends, and I know you will not laugh at me, I will repeat to you.

‘”At the period alluded to, I had arrived in the town for the purpose of joining a ship in which I was about to proceed abroad. On enquiry, I found that the vessel had not come round from the Downs, but was expected every hour. The most unpleasant part of the business was, that two or three King’s ships had just been paid off in the harbour, a county election was going on, and the town was filled with people waiting to occupy berths in an outward-bound fleet which a contrary wind had for some days prevented from sailing. This combination of events, of course, made Portsmouth very full and very disagreeable. After wandering half over the town without success, I at length happened to enquire at a decent-looking public-house situate in the lane alluded to where a very civil, though a very cross-looking, landlady at length made me happy by the intelligence that she would take me in, if I did not mind sleeping in a double-bedded room. I certainly did object to a fellow-lodger, and so I told her; but, as I coupled the objection with an offer to pay handsomely for both beds though I should occupy only one of them, our bargain was settled, and I took possession of my apartment.

‘”Having retired for the night, and having, as I thought, carefully locked the door to keep out intruders, I undressed, jumped beneath the clothes, and fell fast asleep.

‘”I had slept, I suppose, an hour or more, when I was awakened by a noise in the lane below. I was turning round to recompose myself, when I perceived, by the light of the moon which shone brightly into the room, that the bed opposite was occupied by a man, having the appearance of a sailor. He was only partially undressed, having his trousers on, and what appeared to be a Belcher handkerchief tied round his head by way of a nightcap. His position was half sitting, half reclining on the outside of the bed, and he seemed to be fast asleep.

‘”I was, of course, very angry that the landlady should have broken her covenant with me, and at first felt half disposed to desire the intruder to withdraw; but as the man was quiet, and I had no particular wish to spend the rest of the night in an altercation, I thought it wiser to let things alone till the morning, when I determined to give my worthy hostess a good jobation for her want of faith. After watching him for some time, and seeing that my chum maintained the same posture, though he could not be aware that I was awake, I reclosed my eyes, and once more fell asleep.

‘” It was broad daylight when I awoke in the morning, and the sun was shining full in through the window. My slumbering friend apparently had never moved, and I had a fair opportunity of observing his features, which, though of a dark complexion, were not ill-favoured, and were set off by a pair of bushy black whiskers that would have done honour to a rabbi. What surprised me most, however, was that I could now plainly perceive that what I had taken in the moonlight for a red handkerchief on his forehead was in reality a white one, but quite saturated in parts with a crimson fluid, which trickled down his left cheek, and seemed to have run upon the pillow!

‘”At the moment the question occurred to me—how could the stranger have procured admission to the room? as I saw but one door, and that I felt confident I had locked, while I was quite positive my gentleman had not been in the chamber when I retired to bed.

“I got out and walked to the door, which was in the centre of one side of the room, nearly half-way between the two beds; and as I approached it, one of the curtains interposed for a moment so as to conceal my unknown companion from my view. I found the door fastened, with the key in the lock, just as I had left it. Not a little surprised at the circumstance, I now walked across to the farther bed to get an explanation from my comrade, when to my astonishment he was nowhere to be seen! Scarcely an instant before I had observed him stretched in the same position which he had all along maintained; and it was difficult to conceive how he had managed to make his exit so instantaneously, as it were, without my having perceived or heard him. I, in consequence, commenced a close examination of the wainscot near the head of the bed, having first satisfied myself that he was concealed neither under it nor by the curtain. No door nor aperture of any kind was to be discovered.

‘”I was the first person up in the house ; a slipshod being, however, soon made its appearance, and began to place a few cinders, etc., in a grate not much cleaner than its own face and hands. From this individual I endeavoured to extract some information respecting my nocturnal visitor, but in vain; it ‘knowed nothing of no sailors,’ and I was compelled to postpone my enquiries till the appearance of the mistress, who descended in due time.

‘”After greeting her with all the civility I could muster, I proceeded to enquire for my bill, telling her that I certainly should not take breakfast,  ‘nor do anything more for the good of the house,’ after her breach of promise respecting the privacy of my sleeping-room. The good lady met me at once with a Marry come up!’ a faint flush came over her cheek, her little grey eyes twinkled, and her whole countenance gained in animation what it lost in placidity.

“What did I mean? I had bespoke the whole room, and I had had the whole room, and, though she said it, there was not a more comfortable room in all Portsmouth; she might have let the spare bed five times over, and had refused because of my fancy. Did I think to ‘bilk’ her? and called myself a gentleman, she supposed!

‘”I easily stopped the torrent of her eloquence by depositing a guinea (about a fourth more than her whole demand) upon the bar, and was glad to relinquish the offensive for the defensive. It was, therefore, with a most Quaker-like mildness that I rejoined, that certainly I had not to complain of any actual inconvenience from the vicinity of my fellow-lodger, but that, having agreed to pay double for the indulgence of my whim, if such she was pleased to call it, I, of course, expected the conditions to be observed on the other side; but I was now convinced that they had been violated without her privity, and that some of her people had doubtless introduced the man into the room, in ignorance probably of our understanding.

‘”‘What man?’ retorted she, briskly. ‘There was nobody in your room, unless you let him in yourself; had you not the key, and did not I hear you lock the door after you?’

‘”That I admitted to be true. ‘Nevertheless,’ added I, taking up my portmanteau and half turning to depart,’ there certainly was a man—a sailor—in my room last night; though I know no more how he got in or out than I do where he got his broken head or his unconscionable whiskers.’

‘”My foot was on the threshold as I ended, that I might escape the discharge of a reply which I foreboded would not be couched in the politest of terms. But it did not come, and as I threw back a parting glance at my fair foe, I could not help being struck with the very different expression of her features from that which I had anticipated.

‘”I hesitated, and at length a single word, uttered distinctly but lowly, and as if breathlessly spoken, fell upon my ear; it was ‘WHISKERS!!’

‘”‘Ay, whiskers? I replied; ‘I never saw so splendid a pair in my life.’

‘”‘And a broken head! For Heaven’s sake, come back one moment,’ said the lady. ‘Let me entreat you, sir, to tell me, without disguise, who and what you saw in your bedroom last night.’

‘”‘No one, madam,’ was my answer, ‘but the sailor of whose intrusion I before complained, and who, I presume, took refuge there from some drunken fray to sleep off the effects of his liquor, as, though evidently a good deal knocked about, he did not appear to be very sensible of his condition.’

‘”An earnest request to describe his person followed, which I did to the best of my recollection, dwelling particularly on the wounded temple and the remarkable whiskers, which formed, as it were, a perfect fringe to his face.

‘”‘Then, Lord have mercy upon me!’ said the woman, in accents of mingled terror and distress; ‘it’s all true, and the house is ruined for ever!’

‘”So singular a declaration only whetted my already excited curiosity, and the landlady, who now seemed anxious to make a friend of me, soon satisfied my enquiries in a few words.

‘”After obtaining a promise of secrecy, she informed me that, on the third evening previous to my arrival, a party of sailors were drinking in her house, when a quarrel ensued between them and some marines. The dispute at length rose to a great height. The landlady in vain endeavoured to interfere, till at length a heavy blow, struck with the edge of a pewter pot, lighting upon the temple of a stout young fellow of five-and-twenty, one of the most active of the sailors, brought him to the ground senseless and covered with blood. He never spoke again, but, although his friends immediately conveyed him upstairs and placed him on the bed, endeavouring to staunch the blood, and doing all in their power to save him, he breathed his last in a few minutes.

‘”In order to hush up the affair, the woman admitted that she had consented to the body’s being buried in the garden, where it was interred the same night by two of his comrades. The man having been just discharged, it was calculated that no enquiry after him was likely to take place.

‘”‘But then, sir,’ cried the landlady, wringing her hands, ‘it’s all of no use! Foul deeds will rise, and I shall never dare to put anybody into your room again, for there it was he was carried ; they took off his jacket and waistcoat, and tied his wound up with a handkerchief, but they never could stop the bleeding till all was over; and, as sure as you are standing there a living man, he is come back to trouble us, for if he had been sitting to you for his picture, you could not have painted him more accurately than you have done.’

‘”Startling as this hypothesis of the old woman’s was, I could substitute no better; and as the prosecution of the enquiry must have necessarily operated to delay my voyage, without answering, as far as I could see, any good end, I walked quietly down to the Point; and my ship arriving in the course of the afternoon, I went immediately on board, set sail the following morning for the Mediterranean, and have never again set foot in Portsmouth from that hour to this.”

‘Thus ended Mr. Hamilton’s narrative.

‘The next day the whole party set out to reconnoitre the present appearance of the house, but some difficulty was experienced in identifying it, the building having been converted into a greengrocer’s shop about five years before. A dissenting chapel had been built on the site of the garden, but nothing was said by their informant of any skeleton having been found while digging for the foundation, nor did Mr. Hamilton think it advisable to push any enquiries on the subject.’

The life and letters of the Rev. Richard Harris Barham, Richard Harris Barham,1880: pp. 104-113

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Dark doings, indeed, at Portsmouth! Mrs Daffodil wonders whose hand it was that held the fatal pewter pot? Despite her initial vain intervention, the landlady no doubt knew a trick or two about quelling customers’ disputes.

At this time the city was the greatest naval port in the Empire, and, like most seaports, no better than it should be.  It was a town of great bustle and ferment; it was no wonder a lone seaman, even one adorned with a set of splendid whiskers, could disappear without trace. Since traditional apparitions often haunt until they are “properly” buried, Mrs Daffodil wonders why the whiskered seaman did not haunt the back garden or, later, the chapel, instead of the bedchamber. Perhaps he was a Dissenter and was finally able to rest.

Another maritime ghost story: Guts, the Ghostly Sailor-Cat

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 Hired Boy’s Ghost: 1830s

ghostly head at foot of the bed

A PHANTASM OF THE DEAD.

[The following true and interesting account of a ghostly manifestation reaches us from a lady correspondent who says: ‘The person who saw the ghost is closely related to me. He is bedridden now but often speaks of the occurrence. —Ed.  Light.]

I am an old man now, but never while I have my senses shall I forget what happened while I lived, when a boy, with a farmer at Little Steeping, a village about three miles from Spilsby. The house was old and rambling, with latticed windows, so green with age and scratched that one could hardly see through them. My bedroom was over the kitchen and nowhere but the kitchen could I get to from it. I generally went to bed at half-past eight; but one night, when the farmer and his wife had gone to a meeting at the chapel, I sat up longer than usual to prevent the girl from feeling lonely during their absence, and as soon as they returned I hurried off to bed, and after locking and bolting the doors they too retired. Generally I was asleep almost as soon as my head was on the pillow, but this night I was still wide awake after I had been in bed about an hour.

The moon shone full on the window, rendering my little box and the few articles of furniture in the room quite visible. Suddenly I heard footsteps on the causeway and expected to hear a knock at the door. However, to my astonishment, the door, which I knew had been locked and bolted, opened, and someone entered the kitchen. After a few seconds I heard sounds as though the new-comer was washing at the sink; then I heard sounds as of steps going across the kitchen floor, a chair being dragged to the table, and someone partaking of supper. After some minutes the chair was moved to the fireside, followed by noises as if shoes were being kicked off against a fender. Then there was silence, during which I sat up in bed listening and staring, and expecting I knew not what.

In the floor of my bedroom, about a yard from the bed, was a small knot hole, by peeping through which I could see all that was going on below. I crept to the place and was pulling aside the carpet that was over the hole, when suddenly it occurred to me that whoever was in the kitchen he was doing exactly as I had done that night, and all other nights since I had lived there, and somehow the thought made me feel sick and faint. I let the carpet fall over the aperture and crept away to bed again. No sooner had I done so, however, than I again heard movements below, and, to my horror, a creeping, creaking sound on the stairs.

The unknown visitor was coming up to my room. On he came until he was by the side of the bed, and seemed to be tearing off his clothes. That finished, he walked to the window and stood for a few minutes looking out. I could see him quite plainly outlined against the window, and he appeared to be a lad about my own height, only thinner. I was extra strong and big for my age. I felt as if I should choke and could neither move nor cry out, my terror was so great, for, young and inexperienced as I was, I felt he was no being of flesh and blood.

After he had stood a little while he turned and made his way to the bed again, and seemed to jump in and place himself by my side. That was too much for me and I fainted. When I came to I lifted myself on my elbows in the bed, half expecting I should see him by my side, or somewhere in the room, but he had gone without leaving any trace behind him to show that he had ever been; while I, too terrified to go downstairs or to close my eyes in sleep, lay trembling until morning dawned.

At breakfast time I told the farmer and his wife what I had seen and how terrified I had been, but they were a hard, unfeeling pair, and only made game of me, saying that I had either had the nightmare or had seen a white owl fly past the window; but I knew different, and I believe they did also before the day was over, though they never, either then or afterwards, owned that they did.

Just as we were sitting down to dinner a neighbour came rushing in with the intelligence that he had just heard that the lad who had lived at the farm the year before, whose place I then filled, had been delivering coals the day before, and when nearing home late in the evening his horses had bolted, and while endeavouring to stop them he had been knocked down and killed on the spot. I could eat no dinner that day, for besides feeling sorry for the poor boy, I felt that it was his spirit that had so terrified me in the silent night.

I did not tell the farmer all that was in my mind respecting the occurrence, as I did not relish being made game of twice in one day, but I told him that I would not sleep over the kitchen any more. As he did not want me to leave him, it was arranged that either he or the mistress should remain in the kitchen and keep watch. This they did for several nights, and as nothing occurred to disturb either me or them, I soon became my old fearless self, going to bed after a hard day’s work and falling asleep as soon as my head rested on the pillow—but I did not forget, I could not.

Light 14 May 1910: p. 229

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: From conversations with that ghostly expert over at Haunted Ohio Books, Mrs Daffodil gathers that it is not unusual for the spirit of someone newly dead to return to a familiar place, as if they are lost and seeking their bearings before they can “move on.” In this case, it seemed as though the new hired boy was invisible to the ghost, who was merely going about his business as he had formerly done. But why did the unfortunate young man, so recently deceased, not seek his new home? Perhaps sudden death is so disorienting that one clutches at any familiar straw.

Still, if the dead can appear anywhere—and Mrs Daffodil has read accounts of persons in India and other remote localities, appearing to their relations in England, as if to prepare them for the fatal black-bordered letter—why do they not go somewhere pleasanter—the Lake District or the South of France, for example?

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 Ghost in the Lilac Print Gown: 1840s

lavendar and gold 1840s

Our narrator is the name-dropping Mr Augustus Hare:

The society of Mrs. Gaskell the authoress was a great pleasure during this term at Oxford. I made great friends with her, and we kept up a correspondence for some time afterwards. Everybody liked Mrs. Gaskell. I remember that one of the points which struck me most about her at first was not only her kindness, but her extreme courtesy and deference to her own daughters. While she was at Oxford, the subject of ghosts was brought forward for a debate at the Union; she wished to have spoken from the gallery, and if she had, would probably have carried the motion in favour of ghosts at once. Here is one of her personal experiences: —

“Mrs. Gaskell was staying with some cousins at Stratford-on-Avon, who took her over to see Compton Whinyates. [Compton Whynyates] On their return she stayed to tea at Eddington with her cousins — cousins who were Quakers. Compton Whinyates naturally led to the subject of spirits, and Mrs. Gaskell asked the son of the house whether there were any stories of the kind about their neighbourhood; upon which the father, who was a very stiff, stern old man, reproved them for vain and light talking.

“After tea Mrs. Gaskell and her cousins went out to walk about the place with the younger Quaker, when the subject of the supernatural was renewed, and he said that their attention had lately been called to it in a very singular manner. That a woman who was a native of the place had many years ago gone as a lady’s-maid to London, leaving her lover, who was a carter, behind her. While in London, she forgot her carter and married some one else, but after some years her husband died, leaving her a large competence, and she came back to spend the rest of her life in her native village. There she renewed her acquaintance with the carter, to whom, after a fortnight’s renewal of courtship, she was married. After they had been married a few weeks, she said she must go up to London to sell all the property she had there, and come down to settle finally in the country. She wished her husband to go with her, and urgently entreated him to do so; but he, like many countrymen in that part, had a horror of London, fancied it was the seat of all wickedness, and that those who went there never could come back safe: so the woman went alone, but she did not return. Some time after her husband heard that she had been found in the streets of London — dead.

“A few weeks after this the carter husband was observed to have become unaccountably pale, ill, and anxious, and on being asked what was the matter with him, he complained bitterly, and said that it was because his wife would not let him rest at nights. He did not seem to be frightened, but lamented that his case was a very hard one, for that he had to work all day, and, when he wanted rest, his wife came and sat by his bedside, moaning and lamenting and wringing her hands all the night long, so that he could not sleep.

“Mrs. Gaskell naturally expressed a wish to see the man and to hear the story from his own lips. The Quaker said that nothing could be easier, as he lived in a cottage close by; to which she went, together with five other persons. It was like a Cheshire cottage, with a window on each side of the door, and a little enclosure, half-court, half-garden, in front. It was six o’clock in broad summer daylight when they arrived. The door was locked and the Quaker went round to try the back entrance, leaving Mrs. Gaskell and her friends in the enclosure in front. They all, while there, distinctly saw a woman, of hard features, dressed in a common lilac print gown, come up to the latticed window close by them on the inside and look out. They then saw her pass on and appear again at the window on the other side of the door, after which she went away altogether.

“When the Quaker appeared, unsuccessful in opening the back-door, they said, ‘But there is some one who could have let you in, for there is a woman in the house.’ They tried unsuccessfully, however, to make her hear. Then they went to the adjoining cottage, where the people assured them that the man was gone out for the day, and that there could not possibly be any one in the house. ‘Oh,’ said Mrs. Gaskell, ‘but we have seen a woman in the house in a lilac print gown.’ ‘Then,’ they answered, ‘you have seen the ghost: there is no woman in the house; but that is she.’

The Story of My Life, Volume 1, Augustus John Cuthbert Hare

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Gaskell was, of course, Elizabeth Gaskell the novelist and short-story writer, perhaps best-known as author of Cranford, North and South, The Life of Charlotte Bronte, and many chilling fictional ghost stories.

Mr Hare was an exceptionally talented raconteur, particularly of ghost stories. See, for example, the story of a ghost appearing to Count Axel von Fersen or the ensign who saw a horror.

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.