Tag Archives: justice of the peace

The Spectre Wedding: 1820s

the oracle 1919 ghosts


Mr. Martin Dupont was a Justice of the Peace in the little town of Marlburg. He had been elected to the office at the close of the war of 1812, and had acted in his present capacity for nearly nine years. Men of Mr. Dupont’s type were very common in those days, and even now one does not have to search far to find one of these self-complacent, pompous gentlemen, who delight in winning admiration from their associates, who always have at their tongue’s end a great many stories in which they played the leading part, but who are, nevertheless, very superstitious, so much so, indeed, that a glimpse of the moon over the left shoulder, or a howling dog, has power to make them melancholy for a week.

Having failed to secure for himself as large a share of this world’s goods as he had wished, Mr. Dupont was fully resolved that his two children, Henry and Margaret, should not be lacking in wealth. As for his son, he very wisely concluded that a good education, added to his natural abilities, would secure for him a place in the world: and already Henry was showing the wisdom of the plan, and by his rapid advancement in business was more than fulfilling his father’s expectations. It had always been Mr. Dupont’s desire that his daughter should marry some rich man, but Margaret had fallen in love, very foolishly, according to her father’s idea, with the principal of the Marlburg High School.

Charles Foster had several times pleaded his suit in vain before Mr. Dupont. There was no fault in the young man, Mr. Dupont rather grudgingly admitted, except that all he had to depend upon was his salary, but still no man should presume to become his son-in-law who had not money enough to support his daughter in better style than that in which she was then living, He liked the school teacher very well as a friend, but as a son-in-law that was quite another matter.

Nevertheless Charles and Margaret did not despair of their cause, although Mr. Dupont was seemingly immovable. The thought of an elopement was banished by them both as being dishonorable, and as no other plan seemed practicable, they very wisely resolved to wait until some kind fate should come to their aid. This, then, was the condition of affairs when our story begins.

Mr. Dupont’s duties as Justice of the Peace did not confine his law practice to Marlburg, but very frequently he was called away to attend various lawsuits in neighboring towns and hamlets, and it so happened that at this particular time he was engaged in a case of some considerable importance in an adjoining town. On account of the nearness of the place, it was Mr. Dupont’s custom to drive his own horse back and forth and to spend his nights at home.

One night, on account of an unusual press of business, he was obliged to remain beyond his ordinary time of leaving, and after the work was completed he yielded to the urgent invitation of his client to chat for a few moments. As they puffed away at the choice Havanas, they began to tell each other of curious exciting adventures and wonderful experiences. Time slipped away so rapidly that it was after 10 o’clock before Mr. Dupont suddenly remembered that a seven-mile drive lay between him and his home. Hastily bidding his friend good-by, he started for the hotel stable to get his horse.

The weather had changed while the two gentlemen had been chatting, and now the ominous stillness and the cloudy sky admonished Mr. Dupont that, if he wished to get home before the rain began to fall, he must hasten. Hastily throwing a quarter to the sleepy hostler, he sprang into his buggy and set out on his homeward way.

The road home was a lonely one; houses were few and far between, and a few miles out of Marlburg some lonely woods lined the road on either side, and adjoining the woods was a graveyard. As Mr. Dupont drove on into the darkness he began to become nervous, the weird stories that he had just been hearing kept flashing through his mind, a great many wrong deeds of his life came before him, magnified by the darkness and solitude, and among other things he began to wonder if he was doing just right in refusing his consent to his daughter’s marriage. In this frame of mind he approached the woods; involuntarily he tried to quicken his horse’s pace, but the darkness and the low murmurings of thunder seemed to have affected the horse too, and the sagacious brute tried constantly to slacken his pace. How lonely it seemed there, no houses, no living being–nothing but the dead in the graveyard beyond. Suddenly the, horse stopped and snorted. Mr. Dupont saw two white figures suddenly dart into the road; one stood beside his horse, and the other beckoned him to descend from his wagon. His hair rose, and his tongue seemed glued to his mouth. The silence was terrible. If those white beings would only speak; but no sound came from them. At last in desperation he stammered out:

“Who are you, and what do you mean by stopping me here in this way” “We are spirits of the departed dead,” a sepulchral voice replied, “and we have need of your services; descend from your vehicle, do as we bid you, and on the word of a ghost you shall not be harmed.”

The terrified lawyer descended and stood by the speaker’s side, while the other ghost tied his horse to a tree and joined them.

“Yield yourself entirely to us and you shall be safe,” said the spokesman. “You must needs walk far and must allow us to blindfold your eyes, in order that you may not discover before your time the way to the land of the shades. No more words must be spoken. Obey.”

Mr. Dupont was so terrified that he could not speak, and in silence allowed a cloth to be bound over his eyes; then, escorted by his ghostly companions he began to walk. It seemed to him that he would never be allowed to stop; seconds seemed ages; every attempt of his to speak was checked by impatient groans of his guides. At last, after walking half around the earth, as it seemed to him, he realized that he was being piloted up some steps and by the feeling of warmth he knew that he had left the open air.

“The Justice of Peace may be seated,” said the ghost who had done all the talking. Mr. Dupont sat down and the cloth was quickly removed from his eyes, revealing to his astonished gaze the interior of a room dimly lighted by wax candles. Every side was hung with black curtains, and on four black-covered stools facing him sat four white-robed spectres, while beside him stood another dressed like his companions. Before he had time to more than wonder at his strange surroundings, the spokesman began:

“Mr. Dupont, we have a solemn duty for you to perform. You are a Justice of the Peace in the world of the living, and a man dear to us on account of your noble life; therefore are you here. We have in these abodes of the dead two young shades recently come from the other world. Each of those died of a broken heart because a stern parent forbade them to marry What do you think sir, of such a parent as that?” Mr. Dupont wiggled about uneasily in his chair, and at last said: “I think, good shade, it was very wrong of him.”

“We knew you would,” resumed the ghost, “because you are a kind man. and one who loves his children. Now do we understand you to say that if the poor girl had been your child it would never have happened?” “Surely it never would,” replied the frightened Mr. Dumont.

“We have not misjudged you, then,” replied the shade, while the other four ghosts nodded approvingly. “We have summoned you in order that you may unite them in wedlock, so that in this world at least they may be happy. Such a marriage as this is not common among us, so we brought you here, a good justice of the peace, rather than a minister, who might have been shocked at these proceedings. You can marry them just as well as a clergyman. Now, sir, will you oblige us by marrying these two shades? If you will consent, you may depart at once to your home. Will you?”

Marry the two shades? Of course he would: anything to get away from this terrible spot. And so, without the precaution of stipulating his fee, he stammered out:

“Oh, yes, surely, anything you wish.”

No sooner had he given his consent than one of the black curtains was drawn aside and two other beings in white entered and stood before him. The other shades rose, and Mr. Dupont, not wishing to be the only one to keep his seat, rose too. The good justice had never married shades; he did not know quite how to proceed. They looked exactly alike; he did not know which was the bride and which the groom. He wished he were well out of it, and the only way to gain his wish was to proceed quickly with the ceremony, and so he began at once. In some way he managed get through, although he could not have told afterward how it was done. He turned to the bride when he said: “Do you take this woman to be your wedded wife?” and to the groom when he should have addressed the bride; but at length, much to his relief, the “I do” was said by each, and the Justice finished with the “I pronounce you man and wife.”

But all was not yet over. No sooner had the words left his lips, than one of the beings before him threw aside its ghostly robe, and there, in a beautiful wedding gown, stood his daughter, Margaret. Mr. Dupont started to speak, but he only gasped, for around him stood the other ghosts; they too had thrown aside their robes and stood revealed. Could he believe his eyes? Yes, there was no mistake, he had married his daughter to Charles Foster, in the presence of his wife, his son, and three family friends; and the Justice knew enough of law to realize that the ceremony was binding. The black curtains, too, were torn down, and there they all stood in his own parlor.

There was no help for it, consequently Mr. Dupont submitted, and someway all his friends thought that he was very glad that the joke was played upon him; at any rate, in later days, as he trotted his grandchildren on his knees he never tired of telling over and over again into their wondering ears the tale of the spectre wedding. Amherst Literary Monthly.

The Garden City [KS] Telegram 15 October 1892: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mr Dupont must have been heavily under the influence of those weird stories not to have noticed the earthly actions of the “ghosts” such as taking care to tie up his horse and the nonsensical explanation for the blindfold. Did he not recall that in Heaven there is no marriage nor giving in marriage? Were there no earthly boots visible beneath those robes? And, even draped in black and lit by candles, why did the quaking gentleman not recognise his own parlour?

Such is the power of imagination. Mrs Daffodil and that ghastly person over at Haunted Ohio have written about persons who were convinced that they were marrying an actual spirit. See A Wealthy Widow Weds a Ghost, Girl Weds a Ghost, and Too Much Prudence–Spirit Weddings.

Justices of the Peace seemed to be ready targets for ghostly clients. Mrs Daffodil has written before about a haunted JP, who married a genuine ghostly couple.

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.

“You May Now Kiss the Ghost:” A Haunted Justice of the Peace: 1887

Day of the Dead Bride and Groom

Day of the Dead Bride and Groom


Two People Return from the Spirit World and Are Properly Married by a Justice of the Peace.

New York correspondence Cincinnati Enquirer: How remarkably the evidences of the existence of a spiritual sphere about us accumulate! Still they come, these spectral messengers, to teach us that there are more truths under the sun than science takes cognizance of. Here is another:

The village of Farmingdale, Queen’s County, Long Island, is a suburb of the rapidly growing city of Brooklyn. Its people are of the most conservative nature, mostly descendants from old Puritan fathers, who came here before the Revolution and Presbyterians almost to a man. All are very much excited at present over the occurrence of a remarkable spiritual manifestation that came to light without the presence in their midst of a medium. Three days ago the Enquirer correspondent received a letter from his aunt who lives in the village mentioned, requesting him to come down and hear the remarkable story. On arriving in Farmingdale the following is the story which he heard, and which is authenticated by the persons before whose eyes the strange event occurred:

John J. Powel, Esq., is civil magistrate for the village, or rather he is Justice of the Peace. He is a member in high standing of the church, and every way reliable. He is married and has several grown children. He lives in a large, old-fashioned house, surrounded by tall spruce and elm trees, with a high stone wall around the lawn. Last week, one night, he had retired to bed and got into a doze. Mrs. Powel was sleeping soundly. There was no light in the room, but the moon, half way up the sky, was sending a broad beam of ghostly light into the east window. Everything was as still as a country town usually is, but a slight moaning wind that tossed about the leafy spruce tree boughs. Suddenly Mr. Powel


From his doze. He had heard a door open. What could it be that had made the noise? He thought of thieves and quickly arose, and was pulling on his clothing when he heard a light tread of feet to his door. He stopped breathing in his anxiety for he thought he was about to be robbed. On came the tread to his door, which was quickly thrown wide open, and in an instant almost was closed again. Did any one enter? Mr. Powel asked himself, for he could see no one; but the doubt was soon settled in the affirmative. Something, at least, did enter, for he still heard the light tread of footsteps on the carpet approaching him, but could see nothing. Did his eyes belie him, or did he see two feet, without body, approaching? His hair, he says, bristled up and his spine  verily crept—a nameless horror seized him. Ghosts, thought he; is it possible that there are such things? Suddenly the tread passed into the broad moonbeam from the window. Now was the marvel revealed! The greenish moonlight lit up the outlines of two persons—shadows that were perfectly transparent, and seemed to reveal a ghostly gleam only on their outlines. A man and a woman—both young, both handsome—and as their spectral forms became more strongly materialized on passing out of the moonlight, Mr. Powel though he could recognize both their faces. Soon he was sure of it, and in a moment more they both confronted him, no longer looking like ghosts, however, and no one seeing them then would have believed that they were not entirely human; in fact, dwellers upon earth. In spite of what he had already seen, Mr. Powel began to think he was being played a trick upon, but on looking again, after rubbing his eyes, he saw that they could not be human, as both, to his certain knowledge, had been dead nearly a year. This only increased his horror, but he gathered strength to speak to them, which somehow he remembered was the proper thing to do on such an occasion.

“What—do—you want?” stammered he.


Was the answer, which the more greatly horrified the Squire.

“Married!” he echoed.

“Yes, married, and quickly, in the most binding form known to the law. We haven’t any time to lose, either.”

“But you must have at least one witness.” Said the squire, hoping he had found a good idea.

“Well, then, take Mrs. Powel,” said the would-be ghostly bridegroom; not waiting of the Squire to do so, he approached the bed and shook Mrs. Powel’s arm quite sharply. She at once awoke and on seeing such a strange sight, gave a piercing shriek. “Be still,” said the ghost. “You will not be hurt; you are needed for a few minutes.” By this time she had awakened and was looking at her husband. He returned her gaze as he says “without flinching,” and simply said, “My dear, those people want to be married, and you are needed as a witness.”

“What! Katie Baylis and John Van Sise here, and want to be married? La! I thought they had died more than a year ago!” Well, however, they are here now, and I’m going to hitch them as soon as I can dead or alive,” said the Squire growing desperate. “Shall I light the lamp?” “No, no!” said the ghosts, “for you can not see us if you do; but proceed at once with the marriage.” Squire Powel told the ghosts to join hands and stand before him. Then he proceeded with the usual formula until it came to “Until death do us part,” which was left out as unnecessary. Then the groom produced a blank marriage certificate, which all present signed, and which the bride put into her bosom.

“Is that all there is to it?” said the groom.

“Yes,” answered the Squire. “except the magistrate usually kisses the bride,” added he, forgetting the ghostly character of the contracting parties, and remembering, perhaps, occasions in which he had availed himself of this privilege. “Then the bride must be kissed,” said the groom. “This at once brought the Squire to his senses and made his hair raise again.


He echoed. The bride stepped forward at this, evidently thinking it an invitation. She brought her face to his, and with a desperate endeavor he gave her a proper kiss. As his lips met hers, he says, a terrible coldness seemed poured into him. He felt as though he was dying, but almost at once recovered himself. “Is there anything else?” asked the groom. “Nothing,” answered the Squire faintly. “And now I suppose you would both like to know what this is for. There is no reason why you should not. You already know the story of our guilty intercourse while we were alive on earth, and that it resulted in our deaths. We are now in the spirit world, which is far more like the earth than is usually supposed, only we have greater privileges and powers, but the man who does not marry while on earth cannot marry in the spirit form, and must live apart from  all the married, who inhabit a higher sphere and will in the end inherit greater powers than the unmarried, but I can’t explain this, as it is not to be revealed. However, when we died, we left a son, born to shame, and without our marriage, which you have solemnized, to be a bastard forever. As we are now, for the time being, in material form, we are able to contract marriage by the laws of mortals, and this marriage will be recorded as perfectly lawful by the Almighty.”

By the time he had finished this long speech he had perceptibly grown less material, and in a few minutes both bride and groom had faded away.

Such is the story which Mrs. Powel told on the next day, and her husband confirmed it in every particular.

The story of the lives of John Van Sise and Katie Baylis is quite romantic. John Van Sise was the son of a poor farmer in the neighborhood. Katie was the daughter of a well-to-do country gentleman, a retired merchant. They fell in love. Their parents were dead against their marriage, and it was the old story that followed. Love was too strong for parents or any other bonds. They met constantly. At last Katie gave birth to an illegitimate child, still alive. She died in child-birth. John died soon after of what was called by the neighbors hasty consumption, but his friends knew it was of a broken heart.

How strange Fate works!

Daily Inter Ocean [Chicago, IL] 28 December 1887: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The ghostly groom expresses some unusual theories about the post-mortem world, probably derived from the Theosophists or Spiritualists, although Matthew 22:30 tells us “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” The situation raises an interesting legal point: did the marriage of the two ghosts “in material form” legitimise their little son?


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.