Tag Archives: ghost story

A Haunted Apple Tree: 1800s

A HAUNTED APPLE TREE

Murder Committed Under It and Now Its Fruit is Streaked Blood Red.

“It is probable that the town of Douglass, Mass., alone belongs the reputation of having a haunted apple tree,” writes Samuel S. Kingdon, in the Ladies’ Home Journal. “The tradition of the town is that a foul murder was committed in the orchard many years ago, and that since then it has been haunted by the spirit of the victim. As the story goes, a peddler, whose custom it was to sell goods from house to house from a pack, laid down to rest at midday under a tree in the orchard, and before the day was ended he was found with a cruel gash in the neck, from which his life blood had ebbed away. Suspicion rested on the owner of the orchard and he was said to have been constantly followed by the spirit of the victim. In an attempt to escape from its dreaded presence he moved away. Then the apparition became a terror to all who had occasion to pass over the road at night. So potent was its influence—standing, as it had a habit of doing, under the apple tree, with one hand at its throat and the other extended as though seeking aid, and uttering shrill cries that could be heard half a mile away—that the location of the highway was changed, and it is now a long distance from the orchard. The old trees still bear fruit, and the apples from the one beneath which the peddler was killed are said to be streaked with red, resembling blood, the streaks extending from skin to core.”

Our Horticultural Visitor: A Quarterly Journal Devoted to the Individual Interests of the Practical Horticulturists Everywhere, August 1900

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, good gracious. We all look forward to the spring blossoming of the apple trees, but one does not expect to find one’s pippin Exhibit A in a murder trial.

It is curious how often peddlers are murdered and then haunt the spot of their demise. Given their peripatetic nature, one would expect them to gather up their spectral packs and continue their rounds, but no—they must needs annoy the people in the neighbourhood of their death, such as the Fox Sisters, who called up the rapping spirit of a murdered peddler buried in the cellar. The sisters launched Spiritualism on the strength of this phantom peddler. Some say (and the sisters both confessed and recanted) that they made the rappings by popping their toe joints. Still, when the cellar of the Fox homestead was dug out many years later, a skeleton and a tin peddler’s box were found concealed in the walls…

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 Confidential Secretary: 1880s

lady-bess-male-impersonator

The following story is narrated by the son of an Irish politician whom we will call by the name of O’Brien. The events narrated followed on his return from abroad consequent on his father’s death. In recounting the circumstances of his return to his native land he put on record the following striking occurrences:

My father’s death recalled me from abroad. His letters and MSS. were sealed up, and it was my duty upon my arrival in Ireland to wade through the enormous pile of correspondence. He was a man with literary tastes, he was a strong Home Ruler, a Parnellite, and although he had never made the public a participant in his labours, he left a testamentary instruction for the publication of his essays, etc., on this great political problem.

Now I myself, as one of Her Majesty’s civil servants, was strongly for the Union, and was afraid that I could not do justice to the intentions of the testator.

I had been away from home more than ten years, and I found that my father had been assisted in his work by a young fellow, Louis Sullivan, who seemed to be his only companion, my mother having died when I was quite young. Of course, I was only too glad to retain the services of the young man. I requested him to call, and we soon came to an arrangement satisfactory to both of us. Louis Sullivan. who was about twenty years of age, was slim and fragile, his face was very handsome, of true Irish type, with dark hair and blue eyes. He was well versed in my father’s literary work, and absolved me entirely from any responsibility. I left him fully in charge of all matters referring to Home Rule, and took the sifting and investigating of letters and other papers upon myself.

During some months we were daily together, and I often observed that my young companion looked at me with an expression of fondness which touched me in an inexplicable manner. I came across some letters which showed me that Louis was more than a mere acquaintance to me. My father had years ago formed an intimacy with a woman residing on his estate, who had nursed him through a severe illness, and a child was born as the result of this attachment. The name of the woman was Sullivan, and she was dead. I thought it more than coincidence that Louis Sullivan should have been with my father ever since then, and I could understand why my father should have provided for his young companion by a substantial annuity. He was his own child, though I soon became convinced that Louis was not acquainted with this fact. Nevertheless, I felt that blood spoke loudly, for I saw that Louis loved me, and such a state of things can only be due to a strong sympathy, which, no doubt, is based upon blood relationship.

In a conversation with him one day, I gathered that he was under the impression that his father had died before he was born. I could not undeceive him and let him know that he was an illegitimate child. At last our tasks were finished, and as I was leaving Ireland, a separation became necessary. The night before my departure I asked Louis to dine with me.

It was a sad occasion; little was said, and it was evident we both felt keenly the approaching parting from each other. At last Louis broke the silence, and taking my hand in his, he asked my forgiveness for making a confession. I saw now that I was mistaken, and that he knew our relationship, and I told him that his confession was not needed, that I knew all, and embracing him, kissed him, and called him brother. The result of my action was a great surprise. Louis burst into a fit of the most violent weeping. I told him how I had found out the secret, and entreated him to come with me, and be my brother before the world. I could not understand his subsequent behavior, but he refused point-blank. This was the last I saw of him…

  • • • • •

I was in ___, where I intended to spend some weeks. It was just eight days since I had left Ireland. I was ascending the staircase of the Hotel___in ___. It was the evening twilight. Suddenly I saw standing before me the shape of a woman dressed in white. I stared at her; she bore the face of Louis Sullivan. Too astonished to speak, I stood looking at her in amazement, when she vanished.

  • • • • •

Subsequently I learned the truth. The being who recently had been my companion, and whom I had discovered to be so near a relation, was indeed no brother, but a sister. Why my father had made her wear men’s clothes I never exactly understood, unless it was the fear that the presence of a young girl at his house would have given occasion to gossip. She is now dead. She died the very evening she appeared to me at the hotel in ___. With her own hands she made an end to her life. The letter she left behind her told all: she loved me, and was just on the point on that evening before my departure of confessing her feelings when, misunderstanding her purpose, I told her she was my brother. Her relationship to me had not been known to her, but she found now that she was my sister—she could not bear the situation and she died.

That I should have seen her in the shape of a woman, when her sex was entirely unsuspected, seemed to me the most inexplicable feature of the occurrence.”

The Occult Review November 1912, p. 270-1

 Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Females disguising themselves as males is a well-worn plot device—Shakespeare was particularly fond of it—but rarely has it been deployed to such tragic effect.  

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.

 

 

A Mysterious Visitant: 1897

1907-big-snake-fairy-tale

The following remarkable occurrence, an absolute fact, is related by a lady visiting friends in Hartford, as it was told her by her cousin in Meerut, North-Western India. It took place in the house of the narrator. Of its absolute accuracy there can be no question. The two sisters in India are connected with families of repute and with officers in the British Army in India. We give the story as the lady here related it. She is a devout member of the Episcopal Church, and is incapable of misrepresenting in the slightest particular.

Her cousin, in whose house the occurrence took place, was seated at a lighted table engaged in reading, when, thinking it about time to retire, and happening to lift her eyes from her book, she was astonished to see seated in a chair before her, and between herself and the door to the bathroom, a man, a stranger to her, who calmly regarded her. It was too great a surprise for her to speak and demand who was thus intruding upon her privacy, and what was wanted. She remained for a moment in silent astonishment.

Then it gradually dawned upon her that the figure was probably not that of a person of real flesh and blood, but a visitor from the unseen world of life. She remembered having once, as a child, seen a similar figure, under circumstances which seemed to preclude the idea that it was any person still in the body, and, in later years, in revolving those circumstances, she had remembered how the apparition had after a little while faded away into invisibility. Concluding that this new visitor also was not a person of flesh and blood, she sat silently gazing at the silent object, while the intruder, whoever or whatever he was, sat also in silence steadily regarding her. Just how long this state of things lasted, the lady did not accurately know, but it was probably not very long, when the mysterious stranger began to vanish into a thinner and thinner personal presence, until in a moment or two he had vanished quite away.

It was the lady’s hour for her evening bath, but she thought she would first let out her two pet dogs from their confinement in another room. They came, barking furiously, and running directly toward the bathroom. There through the open door the lady was horrified to see on the floor a monstrous cobra— the snake whose bite is certain and speedy death. Springing forward to save her dogs, she quickly shut the door, but not so instantaneously as to prevent her seeing the reptile turning and escaping down through a hole in the floor, where the drain pipes of bath-tub and wash-bowl went, a hole which had been carelessly left larger than was necessary.

If she had gone directly to the bathroom, as she would have done but for the intervention of her mysterious visitant, her life would undoubtedly have been sacrificed in the act.— From the ‘Hartford Times.’

Light 20 March 1897: p. 135

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A salutary lesson to all of us about the importance of finishing those little jobs of plumbing about the house. When this piece was read at tea in the servants’ hall, Mr Pinch, the Hall plumber, much moved, declared that he would give notice if any dashed reptile could make its way into the Hall through an unfilled gap in his plumbing.  Of course cobras are scarce in Kent, but it is the thought that counts and we applauded his diligence.

One does wonder who the stranger was—perhaps a previous tenant of the house, found, swollen, and blackened in his bath one evening and come to save the lady from a similar terrible fate? Mrs Daffodil also marvels at the sang-froid of the lady, who sat gazing at the ghostly intruder as he began to vanish.

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 Dart of Death: c. 1880s

dart of death

Lady Waterford said, ‘Now I must tell you the story. Somers came to Highcliffe this year. I like having Somers for a cousin, he is always so kind and pleasant, and tells me so many things that are interesting. I felt it particularly this year, for he was suffering so much from a piece of the railroad that had got into his eye and he was in great pain, but he was just as pleasant as ever. “Oh, love has sore eyes,” he said, but he would talk. The next day he insisted on going off to Lymington to see Lord Warwick, who was there, and who had been ill; and it was an immense drive, and when he came back, he did not come down, and Pattinson said, “Lord Somers is come back, but he is suffering so much pain from his eyes that he will not be able to have any dinner.” So I went up to sit with him. He was suffering great pain, and I wanted him not to talk, but he said, “Oh, no; I have got a story quite on my mind, and I really must tell you.” And he said that when he got to Lymington, he found Lord Warwick ill in bed, and he said, “I am so glad to see you, for I want to tell you such an odd thing that has happened to me. Last night I was in bed and the room was quite dark (this old-fashioned room of the inn at Lymington which you now see). Suddenly at the foot of the bed there appeared a great light, and in the midst of the light the figure of Death just as it is seen in the Dance of Death and other old pictures – a ghastly skeleton with a scythe and a dart: and Death balanced the dart, and it flew past me, just above my shoulder, close to my head, and it seemed to go into the wall; and then the light went out and the figure vanished. I was as wide awake then as I am now, for I pinched myself hard to see, and I lay awake for a long time, but a last I fell asleep. When my servant came to call me in the morning, he had a very scared expression of face, and he said, ‘A dreadful thing has happened in the night, and the whole household of the inn is in the greatest confusion and grief, for the landlady’s daughter, who slept in the next room, and the head of whose bed is against the wall against which your head now rests, has been found dead in her bed.’

The Story of My Life, Augustus Hare

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Hare, in a footnote, says that he heard the story again from Lord Warwick himself. This was George Guy Greville, 4th Earl of Warwick [1818-1893]. Somers was Charles, 3rd Earl of Somers [1819-1883]. He was married to a sister of the well-known photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron.

Mrs Daffodil’s readers might be interested to know that the illustration is entitled “Death in the Woolpack.”  Anthrax, also known as “Woolsorters’ Disease,” was a dire occupational hazard of that profession. See this fine article on “Le Maladie de Bradford,” for more on the subject.

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 Dart of Death anecdote is found in Chris Woodyard’s, The Victorian Book of the Dead.

The Ensign Sees a Horror: c. 1860

The voice of the tempter.

The voice of the tempter.

A regiment was passing through Derbyshire on its way to fresh quarters in the North. The Colonel, as they stayed for the night in one of the country towns, was invited to dine at a country-house in the neighbourhood, and to bring any one he liked with him. Consequently he took with him a young ensign for whom he had taken a great fancy. They arrived, and it was a large party, but the lady of the house did not appear till just as they were going in to dinner, and, when she appeared, was so strangely distraite and preoccupied that she scarcely attended to anything that was said to her.

At dinner, the Colonel observed that his young companion scarcely ever took his eyes off the lady of the house, staring at her in a way that seemed at once rude and unaccountable. It made him observe the lady herself, and he saw that she scarcely seemed to attend to anything said by her neighbours on either side of her, but rather seemed, in a manner quite unaccountable, to be listening to some one or something behind her.

As soon as dinner was over, the young ensign came to the Colonel and said, ‘Oh, do take me away: I entreat you to take me away from this place.’

The Colonel said, ‘Indeed your conduct is so very extraordinary and unpleasant, that I quite agree with you that the best thing we can do is to go away;’ and he made the excuse of his young friend being ill, and ordered their carriage.

When they had driven some distance the Colonel asked the ensign for an explanation of his conduct. He said that he could not help it: during the whole of the dinner he had seen a terrible black shadowy figure standing behind the chair of the lady of the house, and it had seemed to whisper to her, and she to listen to it. He had scarcely told this, when a man on horseback rode rapidly past the carriage, and the Colonel, recognising one of the servants of the house they had just left, called out to know if anything was the matter. ‘Oh, don’t stop me, sir,’ he shouted; ‘I am going for the doctor: my lady has just cut her throat.’

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Another ghastly tale from the pen of Mr Augustus Hare, author and raconteur, whom we previously met recounting a gentleman’s extreme coolness in the face of danger.

Mrs Daffodil knows of a family whose members claim a gift similar to that of the ensign’s: the ability to know when people are about to die. One of them told of seeing a skull face superimposed over the face of an apparently healthy young man, only to be informed that he was dying of cancer. In fact, he died a few months later. Such Second Sight is a most dubious “gift.”

A Lady Typist’s Ghost: 1901

typist

Photograph courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

DAYLIGHT GHOST OF A TYPE WRITER

“It is a mistaken notion that ghosts only appear at night and in the darkness,” remarked a solemn looking young man to his neighbor at dinner. “I have seen one in broad daylight in Wall Street.”

“How absurd,” laughed the pretty girl to whom he was talking.

“Fact, I assure you,” continued the serious youth. “I have seen her several times and I am sure she is a ghost. How do I know? Oh, by her general appearance. Once I saw through her—and, besides that she seems to sort of float instead of walk. But the thing that really convinced me she is a spirit is that I am sure I am the only person that sees her. The last time she appeared to me was a month ago. Did I tell you she was a typewriter? That is, I imagined she must have been one when living. She carries a roll of papers and is almost as pretty as you are. Well, as I was saying, no one seems to notice her. A newsboy ran right up against her, or rather, as it seemed to me, through her, and he never swerved, and a horrid old stock broker I know, who always stares at a pretty woman, passed her by without a glance. She is evidently haunting me alone, but why I cannot imagine. I feel cold shivers run down my back whenever I meet her and am sure I am singled out for some purpose. What would you do about it?”

“Are you really serious?” queried his companion.

“I really am,” returned the man with apparent conviction. “I am haunted by the daylight ghost of a pretty typewriter and I feel that I have a mission to give peace to her troubled soul.”

“Is Mr. X. a little queer?” asked the girl of her hostess after the women had returned to the drawing room. And she related the foregoing conversation. “Was he trying to quiz me, or did he, like the Ancient Mariner, feel impelled to tell his tale to some particular person and therefore single me out?’

A week or two later, says the writer, who tells the tale, she again met Mr. X. This time it was at a ball. “How about your ghost,” she asked him flippantly.

“I have found out all about her!” he explained solemnly. “Come with me into supper and I will tell you all her history. “You know,” he began, after he had supplied her and himself with chicken croquettes and salad, and taken his seat at the little table, “that I told you that I thought I was haunted by that girl for a purpose, and so I was. The day after I talked with you about her I saw her again, and I thought I would follow her. Try as I might I could not overtake her; she was always about ten feet in front of me. Sometimes the crowd would separate us, but I would soon see her again flitting ahead, always at the same distance. She continued for a couple of blocks in Wall Street and then turned into Pearl Street, stopped before an open stairway next to a small cigar shop, and, turning toward me, beckoned slightly but unmistakably, then glided up the stairs, I following.

“At the top was an open door leading into an empty office, where near an open window was a desk upon which stood a typewriter. Once more the girl turned toward me, pointed to the desk, and then, to my horror, sprang out on the narrow window ledges and apparently plunged into space. I rushed to the window and looked down. In the street below the people were walking to and fro as usual, and, to my great relief, there was no evidence of the tragedy I had feared, for although I told you I thought she was a ghost I did not actually believe it until that moment. Going downstairs I entered the cigar shop, and buying some cigarettes, I engaged the proprietor in conversation, in the course of which he told me that five years before a tragic event occurred in the building. A young girl committed suicide by jumping from the window of the room above. There had been some money lost in the office where she had been employed as typewriter, she had been suspected and her self-inflicted death confirmed her employers in the belief of her dishonesty. As he talked I began to discover the reason why I had been haunted. I am of what is generally known as a receptive nature—that is, I have been told so by my friends that experiment with magnetism and the so-called spiritual manifestations. My theory is that I was chosen on that account to prove her innocence to the world for I went to her employers, told them the whole story and insisted, despite the skepticism, upon a thorough examination of the dead girl’s desk. Back of one of the drawers was an empty enclosed space formed by the construction of the desk; the back board of the drawer had been slightly shoved down, and through this aperture the missing money had undoubtedly fallen, for it was found at the bottom of the empty boxlike space. Of course, she in her spiritualized condition became aware of this fact, and, as was but natural sought a medium to whom she could discover it.”

“Did Mr. X. make that all up, do you think,” said the society girl afterward, “or does he believe it himself?”

The San Francisco [CA] Call 10 March 1901: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In this case, apparently Heaven did not protect the Working Girl. Mrs Daffodil thinks it a great pity that the young woman did not run off with the money and become a demi-mondaine instead of hurling herself out the window in a fit of chagrin over obtuse and evil-minded employers who probably could not be bothered to suck a peppermint before they tried to kiss her. Type-writers (they were not called typists until about 1880; the word originally meant a typesetter) occupied a somewhat ambiguous position in the mostly masculine workplace. As working women they were exposed to the rough-and-tumble business world and might be subject to harassment, exploitation, and the coarse-minded assumption that they were no better than they should be. The pretty typist caught in a clinch with the boss was a cliché of stage, screen, and comic stereopticon.

Mrs Daffodil cannot help thinking that the solemn Mr X missed his vocation as a writer of fiction. One wonders if he ever clicked with the sceptical society girl. And, if, on the eve of this Labour Day Weekend, if you would like to join in a chorus or two of the burlesque song, “Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl,” Mrs Daffodil will not stand in your way. She will be busy supervising the packing of the picnic hampers.