Tag Archives: ghost stories

A Ghost’s Whispered Story: 1870s

Niagara Falls, 1890

Was It a Dream?

A GHOST’S WHISPERED STORY.

They told me that the house was haunted. Nothing had been seen in the shape of an apparition by those who resided there; there was no terrific disturbance, no bright and mysterious light, but there was a general belief that the house was haunted. The ghost was a well-behaved ghost, and modest. On inquiring of one who had slept there, I learned that he had heard nothing except a confused murmur, a sound of low, indistinct speech, as of some one trying to speak while suffering under aphony. It was a laborious whisper, of which a word now and then was audible. I asked him what were the words, and he told me that two he remembered—”falls” and “boat”—but no others. The only thing remarkable about that was that others who had slept there had heard the same words. That gave me, I was quite sure, a key to the matter, and I smiled. I concluded the purchase of the house that very day. It was cheap enough. Nobody would live in it, and it was rotting through disuse. The owner, who needed ready cash, was glad to get rid of his profitless property. The house itself was a comfortable mansion, that cost 10,000 dollars to build, and the ground, rather more than three acre, had been handsomely laid out in trees and shrubbery, though now overgrown with brambles. The architect assured me that 1800 would put the house and grounds in order, and add modern conveniences. So I bought it for 2000 down, and had the necessary repairs made, their cost overrunning the estimate nearly 200 dollars. So that for 4000 dollars I obtained a handsome and convenient dwelling on the banks of a noble river, with the tiny demesne sloping to the south-west, having picturesque views on either hand, and in a good neighbourhood. The night before my family were to remove to it I took up my lodging in the house alone, having had a pallet laid down in the library.

I suppose the stories I had heard, though I had laughed at them, made their impression on my mind. Such things always do, in spite of reason. A vague feeling of easiness fills us m the presence of mystery even though our curiosity or our pride gets the better of our terror, and we probe the thing to the bottom, or try to. That may account for my restlessness, for I was restless and wakeful. I had been busy all day, in arranging furniture, and in directing the men at work on the grounds, in the latter case handling the spade and mattock myself quite often, and was thoroughly tired. Yet 1 could not sleep. It was 10 o’clock when I turned down the light so that it gave only a faint glimmer, and lay down. Eleven o’clock came, and 12, and I still tossed on my couch with open eyes. When the echo of the last stroke of the bell of the church in the neighbouring town of B__ died away, I felt there was some thing or some one in the room. I sprang up, turned the light on full, and grasped the loaded revolver which lay on the library table. There was no one there certainlv that I could see, and the door was locked, I and I laughed at my alarm. The next moment, as I threw myself in the great arm chair, I felt there was some one close to me. Just then there was a low and labored whisper at my right ear. The words distinct, though faintly uttered:

“Let me tell you my story,”

I sprang up and looked around. Nothing there. It appeared to be imagination, and yet I felt terror. Was I awake? I was, undoubtedly. The whisper came again:

“You must listen.”

I felt that to be true. The thin, icy, forced whisper held me by a spell. I could not have moved had flames burst out around me. Body and mind seemed stricken with palsy, I could hear, but nothing more. Then the whisper returned, and I can remember all that followed, word for word, and can write it out, again and again without varying a word or a letter.

“It was three miles above the cataract. As I stood upon, the river bank I could see, even at that point, with what swiftness the Niagara was hurrying toward the fatal plunge. There was a skiff tied to a root on the bank, and as it afforded me a seat, I stepped in and sat down in the stern sheets. There I played with my hands in the stream and listened to the distant incessant roar of the boiling waters. As I sat there I thought of my young wife hundreds of miles away, whom I had left a few days before to attend to some business in Canada, and whom I was to rejoin the next day, having taken this point on my way homeward. I sat there with my eyes half closed, and then, throwing myself backward, was lulled to sleep by the monotonous noise. How long I slept I do not know, but a piercing shriek, rising above the dull roar of the falls, awakened me. I looked round. The boat had broken loose, and I was far out in the stream, all drifting rapidly toward the falls. I sprang up to seize the oars and pull to shore. There were no oars in the boat.

“I glanced toward the shore. It seemed the bank was lined with men, women, and, children, who may have called to me, but I could hear nothing. My first impulse was to leap overboard, but then I could not swim.

“A man on the bank threw a lasso. I waited the coming of the loop, and reached my hand towards it, but it fell short. It was drawn in, and the man, running swiftly to a point further down, tried again. He apparently cast it with greater force, but it fell further off than before. I was being drawn nearer to the centre of the horse-shoe. “And now there came the lethargy of despair. I sat there without hope and without fear. My doom was inevitable. The motion of the boat grew faster and faster; the distant banks whirled past me, and then my spirit rose in a kind of ecstasy. I gave a sharp glance around me and laughed. As the boat struck the edge of the abyss and rose for the final plunge I caught sight of a dense mist; I heard above the roar the rush of a thousand wings; I felt as though I had been struck with a numbing blow, and breath and consciousness left me together.

“It seemed to be a dream, for when I recovered I found I was here in my own house. Yonder sat my wife, clad in black, her head buried in her hands. Yes! it seemed a dream, for though I tried to speak to her, my lips made no sounds and I heard nothing. I touched her, but she did not heed it. I looked around the room, bewildered.

“It was this library. There on a long table, which did not belong here, lay some- thing like a human form, covered by a sheet. What was it doing here? Whose body lay here? A new and more unspeakable terror seized me. I would like to have cried out. I could not. I was dumb.

“My wife arose and went to the table. ‘Now,’ I said to myself, ‘I shall know all.’ She raised the cover from her head, and, stooping down, kissed the face of the corpse. Could it be that my father-in-law, Colonel Barnesleigh, had died while I was away! I did not walk, but I was moved by some unseen power until I stood by my wife and over the dead body and looked down. I knew it all then. I recognised the cold, lifeless face. It was my own….”

Then the whisper ceased, and I fell in a deep sleep in the chair. It was daylight when I awoke. I looked around. Had I dreamed it all? On the table was the fragment of a newspaper. Picking it up, my glance caught the name of a former owner of the house, and I read as follows:

Melancholy Casualty.—A terrible event occurred on Friday last, Robert Grant of this village, on his return from Toronto, where he had been on business, stopped at Niagara. He took a walk above the falls after breakfast. He must have got in a boat and lost or broken the oars— though it is said no oars were in the boat at all. He was seen afloat by a large crowd of people just above the fall. Every attempt was made to rescue him, but unsuccessfully, and he was carried to death. His body was recovered on Sunday, and is now on its way here. He leaves a widow.

I had certainly seen never seen that paragraph before. I am quite sure of that. From that time out there had been no noises in the house, except such as could be easily explained, and the whispered voice never came again. Yet, if it were no dream, or no imaginary whisper, why should me ghost have told his story to me, and why should he tell it at all?

Thomas Dunn English.

Auckland [NZ] Star, 22 March 1879: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One does not expect impeccable logic in a ghost story, but to be perfectly frank, Mrs Daffodil has several objections to this sensational tale. One is that the narrator could easily have read or sub-consciously absorbed the contents of the newspaper fragment so conveniently situated on the table, thus generating a vivid and ghostly dream. Second, what sort of imbecile gets into a boat above the great Niagara cataract and, without noticing if the boat is securely moored or if there are oars, falls asleep, knowing that he cannot swim?

Perhaps this is only what might have been expected from Mr English, who was the author “Ben Bolt,” one of the hoariest chestnuts of the drawing-room recitation oeuvre and of such works as Walter Woolfe, or the Doom of the Drinker, a Temperance novel. (Mrs Daffodil shudders even to hint at the existence of such a literary genre.) The author also quarreled with Mr Edgar Allan Poe, who said that English was “a man without the commonest school education busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind in topics of literature”.

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 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 Will and the Ghost: 1876

Death and the Lawyer

Death and the Lawyer

STORY OF A WILL.

I recently asked an old lawyer’s opinion of ghosts. The result was as follows:

“Do I believe in spirits? Well, yes, when they are contained in bottles and come from a well-known firm. But ghosts! Why! Do you think I am a Spiritualist? Nonsense!”

“So you don’t believe in ghosts and spooks? You have never had any remarkable experience?”
“Hold on there! Now that you seem determined that I shall commit myself, and probably having heard that I have a ghost story to tell, I will satisfy you; but let me remark before commencing that the story I am about to tell is God’s truth and as such must be received. Scoff at it but once, and I shall stop in the middle of my story.

“Yes, I do believe in ghosts, or, at least, in some strange natural phenomena that the world has called ghostly for the last eighteen hundred years or more. Now, listen:

“It was in the latter part of 1876 that I undertook a case for a young woman. It was for a divorce.

“She was the daughter of my aged client, Dr. Baxter, a man who could have raised $500,000 in hard cash inside of twenty-four hours.

“The case was somewhat remarkable. Annie Baxter had married a stockbroker, named Thomas Thorne, against her father’s wishes.

“Her husband, she soon discovered, had married her chiefly for what he could get out of her father, who, he hoped, would soon get over his displeasure and forgive his daughter’s disobedience; but the old doctor was stubborn and did not relent. He refused to see Annie and forbade the mention of her name by any of his household.

“Thorne, on finding that he could not get hold of any of the doctor’s money, soon tired of Annie; and Annie, who had been a spoiled and petted child, brought up in the lap of luxury, became miserable and in want. But she stood her sorrows with heroism, and not a complaint escaped her till Thorne began to drink and gamble, at times not returning for weeks to his home, and then under the influence of liquor.

“She was obliged to earn her own living, and when her child was born she had to go to one of our large free hospitals for care and attention. It is doubtful if her father would have let her go had he known her condition, for he still loved his daughter; but she did not let him know, and one day while making his rounds in the maternity ward of the B. Hospital, to which he was a physician, his attention was called to a woman who had fainted. He went to her bedside. It was Annie, his daughter, who, not expecting to see him, had been greatly shocked. She did not know of his connection with the hospital.

“The doctor’s kind heart was softened at once. He was greatly moved. He had her carried in an ambulance to her old home under his roof. He had forgiven her.

“Just about this time Thorne was arrested in a bad house, where he was raising a row, and sent to prison for six weeks. Annie then placed her petition for divorce in my hands, and my connection with the case commenced.

“The divorce was obtained with ease, as Thorne made no answer to the complaint and the case was perfectly clear in our favor.

“Now begins the ghostly part. Dr. Baxter owned a small yacht, in which he was accustomed to make short excursions about New York Bay and Long Island Sound. On the last excursion of any kind he ever made the yacht capsized in a squall, and the doctor was drowned, everyone else being rescued alive.

“After the funeral the doctor’s will was looked for. It was known that he had made a will at the time of Annie’s marriage, leaving all his property to his sister on the condition that Annie could have $600 a year from the estate during her life.

“After father and daughter became reconciled he told me he intended to make a new will and leave his property chiefly to her, but the only will that could be found after his death was the former, and his sister, Mrs. J., refused to waive her rights under the will in the least. By my advice, Annie asked her to make her a proper compromise, but she refused to do anything more than stand by the will.

“Almost a year passed away, when one day I received a note from Annie asking me to call on her at the Gilsey House, where she was staying a few days, on business of the utmost importance. On going there she told me a strange story, so strange that I feared she had lost her mental balance, but I saw she was perfectly earnest about it.

“’A few nights ago,’ said she, ‘while I was sitting with my little boy by the fire in my room, at about 10 o’clock in the evening, there being no other light than that of the fire in the room, I heard a strange noise. Then the door opened—and closed. I looked around, much surprised at receiving such a late visitor, especially as he came without knocking. But my first surprise was lost in the terror and dismay that came over me as I saw enter and approach my chair—who do you think? My father! Or his ghost!

“’As I knew he had been dead over a year, you may imagine my feelings. He came direct towards me, casting his ulster overcoat off on a chair, as he used to do when he came home late.

“ ‘”Annie,” said he, putting his hand on my head and stroking my hair, “I have come to see you righted. You are suffering from a most unnatural fraud and crime. You aunt stole my last will. As I had promised you, I made you my heir—and my only heir—and the will was drawn by my own hand, and executed three months before I died.

“'”Your aunt, in whom I firmly believed, was one of the witnesses. Dr. R., who went to China before my death, and is there still, was another. I am determined to see you have your rights, though I am no longer in the flesh, and be assured that I can see you through.

“'”The lost will is in your aunt’s bureau drawer in her bedroom, on the second floor of our old house. The ebony bureau. You will find the will under the paper on the bottom of the drawer. And this is the way for you to obtain it.

“'”Go to your lawyer and tell him what I have told you. Ask him to go with you to call on your aunt. As usual she will receive you kindly. She will be in the library. Go at about dusk on Wednesday evening, the 10th, and while she is talking to you I will appear and carry out the rest of the plan.”

“’Then the doctor put on his coat again and kissed my baby and myself in the most affectionate manner—quite as though he were alive—and started to go, but before he had reached the door his form melted into air and shadow. He had disappeared.’

“On hearing this strange ghost story I sat still for a few moments and reflected; then I resolved to see it through.

“Accordingly, on Wednesday, at the time indicated I found myself sitting with Annie Thorne in her aunt’s library. Her aunt was very kind and genial, but did not offer to have the gas lighted—perhaps she thought we would stay longer. We talked about having the $600 annuity cashed; such we pretended was the object of our visit. At last the old lady said:

“’We may as well have a light; don’t you think so?’

“’No, I don’t!’ said a solemn and familiar voice, and a dusky form crossed the room and stood before the grate fire; remarkable to say, the firelight shone sheer through his legs. I felt my hair raise. I was greatly frightened.

“As to the old lady, she gave a wild shriek and sank back in her chair. ‘Della,’ said the ghost, for such it surely was, ‘stop your nonsense! Are you not ashamed to treat my child as you have done? Here you have disturbed my rest in my grave by your dishonesty.’

“By this time the ghost had walked out into the middle of the room, where he could be seen pretty well by the firelight. The form and face were perfect. It was Dr. Baxter, beyond doubt.

“’Woman,’ said he, continuing his speech, and now, pointing his long, bony finger at the old lady, ‘had you not gold enough without taking Annie’s birthright? Get up and come with us!’

“So saying, he motioned me to open the door, which I did. Then leading, he made us all follow him upstairs; or, rather, he drew us along by some strange, magnetic force until we reached the door of the chamber occupied by the old lady.

“Here he stopped and, addressing her, said:

“’Della, open that door!’  She obeyed at once. We all entered.

“’Now, get that lost will of mine out of your drawer at once and give it to the lawyer, Mr. C.’

“Strange to say, she went at once to her bureau drawer, and, after raising things about a little, brought out the will and handed it to me.

“’Now, Mr. C.’ said the ghost, ‘make out an affidavit that this will, having been mislaid, has just by chance been found.’

“I did so as best I could in the semi-darkness.

“’Della, sign that paper,’ said the ghost, ‘and to-morrow you will swear before a notary that it is true, or I will go there with you and make you do so later on. That is all for the present,’ said the ghost, and we all returned to the library.

“When we reached there the ghost was gone, no one knew where. The old lady was so much horrified that she fainted, and we left her in the care of her servants. We had recovered the lost will.

“To establish the validity of the will was not difficult, and Mrs. Thorne was soon in possession of her rights.

“Such is my story and I again affirm that it is true. The names are changed to avoid offense to the persons who figured in the story, which is the only change made.

Evansville [IN] Courier and Press 25 December 1889: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does so enjoy a happy ending. Where there is a will, there is a way.  And we are all grateful to the author for sharing this  salutary example of the fundamental errors made by an amateur for whom the kindliest adjective would be “bungling.”  The will should have been destroyed without delay; preferably burnt without a trace and the ashes beaten to pieces with the poker. If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. One really cannot fathom what Mrs J. was thinking to leave the will at the bottom of the drawer—and just beneath the lining paper where a child could have discovered it.  Most discreditable. Mrs J. should carefully reconsider her ambitions for a criminal career.

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.

 

“I believed him to be a spirit.”: 1770s

cowering-from-ghost-ghosts-gloom-a-novel

It had been for some time reported in the neighbourhood that a poor unmarried woman, who was a member of the Methodist Society, and had become serious under their ministry, had seen and conversed with the apparition of a gentleman, who had made a strange discovery to her. Mr. Hampson [a local Methodist preacher] being desirous to ascertain if there was any truth in the story, sent for the woman, and desired her to give him an exact relation of the whole affair from her own mouth, and as near the truth as she possibly could.

She said she was a poor woman, who got her living by spinning hemp and line [linen, perhaps?]; that it was customary for the farmers and gentlemen of that neighbourhood to grow a little hemp or line in a corner of their fields for their own home consumption, and as she had a good hand at spinning the materials, she used to go from house to house to inquire for work; that her method was, where they employed her, during her stay to have meat, and drink, and lodging (if she had occasion to sleep with them), for her work, and what they pleased to give her besides. That, among other places, she happened to call in one day at the Welsh Earl Powis’s country seat, called Redcastle, to inquire for work, as she usually had done before.

The quality were at this time in London, and had left the steward and his wife, with other servants, as usual, to take care of their country residence in their absence. The steward’s wife set her to work, and in the evening told her that she must stay all night with them, as they had more work for her to do next day. When bedtime arrived, two or three of the servants in company, with each alighted candle in her hand, conducted her to her lodging. They led her to a ground room, with a boarded floor, and two sash windows. The room was grandly furnished, and had a genteel bed in one corner of it. They had made her a good fire, and had placed her a chair and a table before it, and a large lighted candle upon the table. They told her that was her bedroom, and she might go to sleep when she pleased; they then wished her a good night, and withdrew altogether, pulling the door quickly after them, so as to hasp the spring-sneck [door-latch] in the brass lock that was upon it. When they were gone, she gazed awhile at the fine furniture, under no small astonishment that they should put such a poor person as her in so grand a room and bed, with all the apparatus of fire, chair, table, and candle. She was also surprised at the circumstance of the servants coming so many together, with each of them a candle; however, after gazing about her some little time, she sat down and took a small Welsh Bible out of her pocket, which she always carried about with her, and in which she usually read a chapter—chiefly in the New Testament—before she said her prayers and went to bed.

While she was reading she heard the room door open, and, turning her head, saw a gentleman enter in a gold-laced hat and waistcoat, and the rest of his dress corresponding therewith. (I think she was very particular in describing the rest of his dress to Mr. Hampson, and he to me at the time, but I have now forgot the other particulars.) He walked down by the sash-window to the corner of the room and then returned. When he came at the first window in his return (the bottom of which was nearly breast-high) he rested his elbow on the bottom of the window, and the side of his face upon the palm of his hand, and stood in that leaning posture for some time, with his side partly towards her. She looked at him earnestly to see if she knew him, but though, from her frequent intercourse with them, she had a personal knowledge of all the present family, he appeared a stranger to her. She supposed afterwards, that he stood in this manner to encourage her to speak; but as she did not, after some little time he walked off, pulling the door after him as the servants had done before.

She began now to be much alarmed, concluding it to be an apparition, and that they had put her there on purpose. This was really the case. The room, it seems, had been disturbed for a long time, so that nobody could sleep peaceably in it, and as she passed for a very serious woman, the servants took it in their heads to put the Methodist and spirit together, to see what they would make of it. Startled at this thought, she rose from her chair, and kneeled down by the bedside to say her prayers. While she was praying he came in again, walked round the room, and came close behind her. She had it on her mind to speak, but when she attempted it she was so very much agitated that she could not utter a word. He walked out of the room again, pulling the door after him as before. She begged that God would strengthen her and not suffer her to be tried beyond what she was able to bear; she recovered her spirits, and thought she felt more confidence and resolution, and determined if he came in again she would speak to him, if possible.

He presently came in again, walked round, and came behind her as before; she turned her head and said, “Pray, sir, who are you, and what do you want?” He put up his finger, and said, “Take up the candle and follow me, and I will tell you.” She got up, took up the candle, and followed him out of the room. He led her through a long boarded passage, till they came to the door of another room, which he opened and went in; it was a small room, or what might be called a large closet. “As the room was small, and I believed him to be a spirit”, she said, “I stopped at the door; he turned and said, ‘Walk in; I will not hurt you.’ So I walked in. He said, ‘Observe what I do’; I said, ‘I will.’ He stooped, and tore up one of the boards of the floor, and there appeared under it a box with an iron handle in the lid. He said, ‘Do you see that box?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ He then stepped to one side of the room, and showed me a crevice in the wall, where, he said, a key was hid that would open it. He said, ‘This box and key must be taken out, and sent to the Earl in London’ (naming the earl and his place of residence in the city). He said, ‘Will you see it done?’ I said, ‘I will do my best to get it done.’ He said, ‘Do, and I will trouble the house no more.’ He then walked out of the room and left me. (He seems to have been a very civil spirit, and to have been very careful to affright her as little as possible.)

I stepped to the room-door, and set up a shout. The steward and his wife, and the other servants, came to me immediately; all clung together, with a number of lights in their hands. It seems they had all been waiting to see the issue of the interview betwixt me and the apparition. They asked me what was the matter? I told them the foregoing circumstances, and showed them the box. The steward durst not meddle with it, but his wife had more courage, and, with the help of the other servants, tugged it out, and found the key. She said by their lifting it appeared to be pretty heavy, but that she did not see it opened, and therefore did not know what it contained:—perhaps money, or writings of consequence to the family, or both.” They took it away with them, and she then went to bed and slept peaceably till the morning.

It appeared afterwards that they sent the box to the Earl in London, with an account of the manner of its discovery, and by whom; and the Earl sent down orders immediately to his steward to inform the poor woman who had been the occasion of the discovery, that if she would come and reside in his family, she should be comfortably provided for the remainder of her days; or, if she did not choose to reside constantly with them, if she would let them know when she wanted assistance, she should be liberally supplied at his Lordship’s expense, as long as she lived. And Mr. Hampson said it was a known fact in the neighbourhood that she had been so supplied from his Lordship’s family from the time the affair was said to have happened, and continued to be so at the time she gave Mr. Hampson this account.

Collections Historical & Archaeological Relating to Montgomeryshire and its Borders, Vol. XVI, 1883 pp. 156-60

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In this season of the telling of ghost stories, it is pleasant to find one with a happy ending. Some writers in the horror genre, who tend to bloody excess, would, of course, have had the lady lured and locked in the secret closet by the ghost,  her desiccated corpse with broken nails, and a look of stark, staring horror on its withered face discovered years later when the “haunted wing” of the castle was torn down. An income for life from his Lordship’s family may seem prosaic when compared with this literary fancy, but Mrs Daffodil cannot doubt that the lady cared more for the security than for becoming a local legend.

The story, which Mr Hampson thought truthful—and if one cannot believe a member of the Methodist clergy, who can one believe?—illustrates a motif common in ghost-lore: that a ghost may not speak until spoken to.

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.

 

Major Ward and the Skeleton: 1852

jolly walking skeleton with dart

Mrs Daffodil once again welcomes that grim and grewsome person from Haunted Ohio to these pages. To be perfectly candid, that person rather pressed for a guest-post, insisting that children gathered around their summer camp-fires were in dire need of a ghost story.   Mrs Daffodil is reluctantly providing the forum, but assumes no liability for nightmares.

MAJOR WARD AND THE SKELETON

Some years ago there stood on the west side of the Findlay road, about two miles south of the Munger post office, in Liberty Township, Wood County, O., a large, old fashioned building known as the Woodbury House. This deserted mansion was located in the heart of what was then called the Black Swamp; there were no other houses near it, and the locality had acquired a weird reputation because of a murder which was supposed to have occurred in the house. The old ruin was last inhabited by a man named John Cleves, somewhere in the forties. Cleves was convicted of another crime and sent to the Ohio Penitentiary. While Cleves lived in the old Woodbury House the sudden and mysterious disappearance of a peddler named Syms caused considerable comment in the neighborhood, and, although Cleves was suspected of murdering the peddler, no proof was ever obtained of the crime. Frequently travelers asserted they had heard mysterious noises while passing by the old mansion, and some of them claimed positively to have seen a human skeleton walking its bony way over the floors of the house. For years after Cleves left the house it was uninhabited, and came to be called “the haunted house of the Black Swamp.” In 1852 Major Ward happened to be passing through the neighborhood on business, and hearing of the haunted house and its sepulchral inmate determined to investigate the matter. Falling in with John Stow, the veteran showman, Ward proposed that the two pass a night in the old Woodbury House. Stow loved an adventure, ad so the expedition was arranged. Major Ward used to tell of his night’s experience in the following thrilling narrative.

Ward and Stow were seated on the floor of the large room in the lower part of the old house as midnight approached. They had built a big fire in an old fireplace in a corner of the room, and were quietly smoking. Suddenly, without any warning, the major says, there appeared before them an animated human skeleton. The two adventurers quickly took their places in opposite corners of the room, and Ward ordered the apparition to halt and explain its mission, at the same time drawing from his pocket a revolver. The skeleton advanced to the center of the room, paused a moment and then continued to advance toward Ward. The latter raised his revolver and fired full at the breast of the ghostly object, and as it continued to approach he fired again.

Stow says that he heard the bones rattle dismally as the shots were fired. But the skeleton continued to advance until within arm’s length of Ward, when it stopped, raised one arm and motioned his attention. Then walking to the fireplace and back to the center of the room the apparition took up a position facing Ward, again raised its arm and to the horror of the two terrified mortals uttered in a deep husky voice these words:

‘Give ear to me and mark well that which I am about to reveal to you.”

In the same sepulchral voice the specter related the story of an infamous crime. It said that while on earth in the flesh he was called James Syms, the peddler. One evening in December, 1842, he put up at the Woodbury House, then kept by Cleves. Some hours after midnight he was roused from sleep by a blow on the head. Staggering to his feet he beheld Cleves with a bludgeon. Syms attempted to stay the arm of his assailant, but the bludgeon again descended upon his left temple and he fell dead on the floor.

As the specter came to this part of his story he turned his left side toward Ward and pointed with a bony finger to a large fracture in his skull.

‘”Upon the infliction of the fatal blow,” said the skeleton, “my transition from the mundane to the celestial sphere was sudden and sublime.”

“Do you mean to tell me, then,” asked Ward, “that you are dead?”

“I do not live in the sense you mean,” replied the ghost, “yet I do exist.”

Continuing the story of the crime, the specter related that the murdered, Cleves, had severed the head from the body, buried the head under the heart in the room they were then in, and cast the body into a well.

Ward, emboldened by the success of his first question, here interrupted the skeleton long enough to remark that he did not see how his head could be buried under the hearth and still on his shoulders at the same time. As he spoke the skull disappeared from the shoulders of the skeleton. The two adventurers gazed upon the headless trunk in horror. All at once a loud voice came from the depths of the earth, crying.

“Take up the bricks of the hearth and disentomb the skull of the murdered Syms!”

Impelled by a mysterious force Major Ward mechanically obeyed the command and in a few minutes had unearthed a skull. Holding the skull in his hands he gazed first at the ghastly object and then at the erect and awful figure of the headless skeleton.

Quick as a flash of light the skull passed from his hands and resumed its place on the specter. Taking up the narrative where it had left off, the apparition said that Cleves had taken the money and personal effects of the murdered man. In his pocketbook were $90 in bills on the bank of St. Clair, Mich. The peddler’s horse and wagon were taken to Indiana and sold. Ward inquired for what object the weird skeleton had related this terrible story.

“That through you the world may learn of my fate, that my remains may be decently interred and my soul relieved of its awful secret. I am the spirit of the murdered Syms, whose soul for years has been seen around this place. Long have I wandered with my dread secret up and down the earth, longing to impart the story of my fate to man. But, although many have seen me, I could not speak until first spoken to by a living man. Your courage has at last brought peace to my soul. Write to my grandnephew, Gilmore Syms, of Columbus, Ga., and acquaint him with all I have told you.”

As the specter paused in his solemn injunctions the sudden influx of cold air into the room indicated that the hour before dawn had arrived.

“The hour approaches,” said the skeleton, “when we must part.”

Taking a step toward the door the specter hesitated for a moment, then turned and with a grateful gesture extended its bony hand to Ward. Ward took the cold, hard hand in his, and as the skeleton pressed his benefactor’s hand cold chills ran over Ward’s body until he shook as with the ague.

Locked in the skeleton’s grasp Ward accompanied it to the door and several yards into the open air, the terror stricken Stow following as if in a trance.

“My hour has come!” muttered the specter. “Ward, farewell.” Then raising the long, bony forefinger of its right hand warningly, the specter fixed on Ward a look which thrilled him to the heart, and said:

“Forget not! Forget not!”

In a minute more the air was suffused with a bright, bluish light, and a noise like distant thunder was heard. As suddenly as it came the light faded, and with it all traces of the ghost of the haunted house of the Black Swamp. Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The Brooklyn [NY] Daily Eagle 21 April 1889: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Who would a peddler be?  Not only do the unfortunates wander the roads in all sorts of weather, carrying heavy packs, and staying at dismal inns with vile food and worse beds, they seem, to judge by the number of ghost stories about them, to have been slaughtered in quantities far out of proportion to their numbers. Mrs Daffodil does not wish to be snobbish, but wonders if the skeleton was entirely candid with Major Ward; in this and in other, longer versions of the tale, the creature spoke less like a peddler and more like a character in a Gothic novel by “Monk” Lewis.

Mrs Daffodil thanks that attenuated person over at Haunted Ohio for this skeletal sketch, but fears that she will have to cover the Tweeny’s ears should the footmen get hold of it.

 

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.

“Do you want to be shaved?” The Barber’s Ghost: 1840s

get your razors ground skeleton

The Barber’s Ghost

A gentleman traveling in one of the Eastern States, some years ago, called at a tavern and requested entertainment for the night. The landlord informed him that it was out of his power to accommodate him, as his house was already full. He persisted, as himself and horse were already exhausted with traveling. After much solicitation, the landlord consented to his stopping, providing that he would sleep in a certain room that had not been occupied for some time in consequence of the belief that it was haunted by the ghost of a barber who was reported to have been murdered in that room some years before.

“Very well,” says the man. “I am not afraid of ghosts.”

After having refreshed himself, he inquired of the landlord how and in what manner the room he was to occupy was haunted.

The landlord replied that shortly after they had retired to rest an unknown voice was heard asking in a trembling and prolonged accent—“Do you want to be shaved?”

“Well,” replied the man, “if he comes he may shave me.”

He then requested to be shown to the apartment, in going to which he was conducted through a large room where were seated a great number of persons at a gambling table. Feeling a curiosity which almost every one possesses, after hearing ghost stories, he carefully searched every corner of the room, but could discover nothing but the usual furniture of a sleeping apartment. He then lay down, and in a few minutes he imagined he heard a voice saying

“D-o-y-o-u w-a-n-t t-o b-e s-h-a-v-e-d?”

He arose from his bed and searched very part of the room, but could discover nothing. He again went to bed, but no sooner had he begun to compose himself to sleep, than the question was repeated. He again rose and went to the window from which quarter the sound appeared to proceed, and stood silent. After a few moments he again heard the sound distinctly, and was convinced that it was from without, he opened the window, when the question was repeated full in his ear, which startled him not a little. Upon a minute examination, however, he observed that the limb of a large oak tree which stood under the window projected so near to the house that every breath of wind, to a lively imagination, made a noise resembling the interrogation—

“D-o-y-o-u w-a-n-t t-o b-e s-h-a-v-e-d?”

Having satisfied himself that the ghost was nothing more nor less than the limb of the tree coming in contact with the house, he again went to bed and attempted to get asleep, but was annoyed by peals of laughter, or volleys of oaths and curses form the room where the gamblers were assembled. Concluding to turn the ghost-story to his own advantage, he took a sheet from the bed, wrapping it around him, took the wash-basin in his hand, and throwing a towel over his shoulder, he went to the room of the gamblers, and throwing the door wide open, stalked in, asking in a tremulous voice:

“D-o-y-o-u w-a-n-t t-o b-e s-h-a-v-e-d?”

Terrified at the sudden appearance of the ghost, the gamblers were thrown into the greatest confusion, and tumbled pell-mell over each other down stairs in their hurried efforts to escape, leaving the last stake—about $1,000—on the table, which his ghostship pocketed and then returned to his room, where he was troubled no more that night with gamblers or mysterious noises.

In the morning he found the utmost excitement and alarm prevailing in the house on account of the appearance of the ghost, and in an answer to the landlord’s inquiry, replied that the ghost had not troubled him, and departed without being suspected, after quietly eating his breakfast.

Urbana [OH] Union 24 Mary 1865: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The nineteenth century was a Golden Era for ghost-impersonators.  Plasterers in white overalls and mischievous sheeted boys on stilts roamed the streets, dodging shot and shell solely for the fun of terrifying the populace. At least the faux-phantom in the story above profited handsomely from his imposture. Here is a less fortunate ghost:

THE BLACK GHOST A DISAPPOINTMENT

A Boy on Stilts, with a Sheet, Was Impersonating the Powers of Darkness

The mysterious figure known as the black ghost, which has for several weeks frightened the resident of upper New-Rochelle by appearing on the highway in the vicinity of the Thomas Paine monument, has at last been identified. The figure has turned out to be a clever impersonation arranged by some of the mischievous boys of the neighborhood. The apparition appeared in the highway for nearly every night for a period of two weeks and caused excitement in the neighborhood. Some persons who met the figure declared that it was eight feet tall, wore a white shroud, and, when approached, belched forth fire and roared like a lion.

A few nights ago the ghost sprang from behind a tree and stopped Mrs. Paulson, who was driving home alone from New-Rochelle, and frightened her nearly into hysterics. Mrs. Paulson has since been suffering from an attack of nervous prostration. Several persons from Manhattan who have country homes in that vicinity saw the figure while driving, and their horses shied and nearly ran away.

The end of the mystery came on Saturday night, when a farmer while on his way home encountered the figure, which sprang from behind a stone wall. The farmer, instead of running away, struck, the object a sharp blow with his whip, which felled it to the roadside, as the figure fell it gave a yell of pain, and then scampered away. The ghost proved to be a boy who lives in the neighborhood. He left his spectral paraphernalia behind, consisting of stilts five feet high, a sheet, and a black mask. New York Tribune 17 November 1902: p. 4

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.