Tag Archives: omen of death

The Spectre Maiden: 1880

ghostly woman appears to man The Last Tenant Farjeon

THE SPECTRE MAIDEN.

“The ancient and now ruinous castle belonging to the M‘—s, of —, is situated on a rocky promontory jutting out from the sea coast of one of our Western Islands. Near to this memorial of another and ruder age, stands the modem mansion inhabited by the descendants of this once powerful clan. The M‘—s are distinguished for their free-hearted hospitality, and numerous entertainments are given for the amusement of the guests who annually crowd to ___House. Should the night prove fine these always ended in a ramble in the romantic ruins of the adjoining castle. I chanced to be present at one of these balls, and, in accordance with this time-honoured custom, I and my partner in the dance, the second son, a fine young naval officer, led the way to the ancient halls of the M‘—s.

It was now early dawn, and surrounding objects were distinctly visible in the clear morning light. Imagining myself and partner to have been the first to leave the ball-room, I was surprised and horrified to see a girl whom I took to be the gay and adventurous Maria —-, like myself, a guest at ___, looking in at me through what appeared to be an inaccessible window. ‘Do look at that foolish creature, Maria—; she will be killed if she does not take care,’ and I ran towards her, pulling young M‘—with me.

As I came near to her, I saw she was not Maria—, but a young girl dressed entirely in white, with long fair hair falling over her shoulders, and having on her right arm a broad silver bracelet of peculiar design. She looked at me fixedly for a moment and then disappeared. ‘Good gracious!’ I cried, ‘she has fallen over the rocks.’ And I ran to the window and looked out, but no traces of her were visible: indeed no human being could have scaled the steep precipitous crags on that side the castle.

“I looked at my companion in amazement; he was very pale and silent. On our way back to the house we met Maria — just leaving it. She had never been near the ruins.

“‘Who could it have been?’ I said to M‘—. He made reply—‘Don’t mention what you have seen to any of my family. I will tell you who I think it was; but first let me ask you, Did you observe the bracelet on the girl’s arm?’ ‘Yes;’ I particularly noticed it, and I described it to him.

He became yet paler, and said, ‘You have seen the evil genius of our house. Her history is this: One of my ancestors, and the heir of the M‘—s, fell deeply in love with a beautiful young girl of humble birth. They became engaged, and were about to be married, when the girl suddenly disappeared, and was never again heard of. It was supposed she had been murdered by command of his relations, who were furious at the thought of the connection he was about to form. From time immemorial, there had been preserved in our family two silver bracelets, such as you describe, with which our chiefs betrothed their brides. One of these peculiar bands had shortly before disappeared, and it was believed the infatuated youth had bestowed it on the maid whom he had destined for his wife. Ever since we M‘—s have always been warned of approaching death by a fair-haired girl, with this bracelet on her arm.’

“I am very sorry to have to tell you that my poor young partner on that occasion died not long after we had seen the spectre maiden.”

The Psychological Review August 1882 pp. 127-129

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is a bit unkind to describe the murdered young woman as an “evil genius,” for it was certainly not her ambition to become a token of death for a clan so disdainful of her antecedents.

The wronged woman as death omen is a time-honoured tradition in some of the noblest families in Europe; the Hohenzollerns had their “Lady in White,”while the courts of Bavaria and Sweden were similarly haunted.

It is a curious detail–that banshee’s bracelet–banshees, those harbingers of death, usually found washing the shirts of those about to perish, wailing outside windows, or combing their long, flowing red or grey hair, are not known for jewellery of any sort. Perhaps they would be less vindictive if presented with some pretty trinkets.

 

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 anecdote

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 Cry of the Banshee: 1887

the tempest rodin banshee

The Cry of the Banshee

There is now living in Bristol a Mrs. Linahan, an old Irish woman, who has not seen her own country for forty years. She is old, poor, bed ridden and suffering, but patient and cheerful beyond belief. Her strongest feeling is love for Ireland ,and she likes talking to me because I am Irish. Many a time, sitting in her little, close room, above the noisy street, she has told me about banshees and phookas and fairies, especially the first. She declares solemnly she once heard the cry, or caoin of a banshee.

“It was when I was a little young child,” she told me, “And knew nothing at all of banshees or of death. One day mother sent me to see after my grandmother, the length of three miles from our house. All  the road was deep in snow, and I went my lone – and didn’t know the grandmother was dead, and my aunt gone to the village for help. So I got to the house, and I see her lying so still and quiet I thought she was sleepin’. When I called her and she wouldn’t stir or speak, I thought I’d put snow on her face to wake her. I just stepped outside to get a handful, and came in, leaving the door open, and then I heard a far away cry, so faint and yet so fearsome that I shook like a leaf in the wind. It got nearer and nearer, and then I heard a sound like clapping or wringing of hands, as they do in keening at a funeral. Twice it came and then I slid down to the ground and crept under the bed where my grandmother lay, and there I heard it for the third time crying, “Ochone, Ochone,” at the very door. Then it suddenly stopped; I couldn’t tell where it went, and I dared not lift up my head till the woman came in the house. One of them took me up and said: “It was the banshee the child heard, for the woman that lies there was one of the real old Irish families – she was an O’Grady and that was the raison of it.’” English Magazine

Aberdeen [SD] Daily News 18 May 1887: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Clapping and keening were a feature of Irish funerals; professional keeners called bean chaointe would cry of the merits of the deceased and the broken hearts of those left behind.

The “raison of it” was that banshees were said to be attached only to the oldest, noblest Irish families, usually meaning those prefaced by “O'” or “Mac.”

In some cases, families have been apprised of an approaching death by some strange spectre, either male or female, a remarkable instance of which occurs in the MS. memoirs of Lady Fanshaw, and is to this effect: “Her husband, Sir Richard, and she, chanced, during their abode in Ireland, to visit a friend, who resided in his ancient baronial castle surrounded with a moat. At midnight she was awakened by a ghastly and supernatural scream, and, looking out of bed, beheld by the moonlight a female face and part of the form hovering at the window. The face was that of a young and rather handsome woman, but pale; and the hair, which was reddish, was loose and dishevelled. This apparition continued to exhibit itself for some time, and then vanished with two shrieks, similar to that which had at first excited Lady Fanshaw’s attention. In the morning, with infinite terror, she communicated to her host what had happened, and found him prepared not only to credit, but to account for, what had happened.

“A near relation of mine,” said he, “expired last night in the castle. Before such an event happens in this family and castle, the female spectre whom you have seen is always visible. She is believed to be the spirit of a woman of inferior rank, whom one of my ancestors degraded himself by marrying, and whom afterwards, to expiate the dishonour done his family, he caused to be drowned in the castle moat.”

This, of course, was no other than the Banshee, which in times past has been the source of so much terror in Ireland.

However, sometimes  embarrassing errors occurred.

Amongst the innumerable stories told of its appearance may be mentioned one related by Mrs. Lefanu, the niece of Sheridan, in the memoirs of her grandmother, Mrs. Frances Sheridan. From this account we gather that Miss Elizabeth Sheridan was a firm believer in the Banshee, and firmly maintained that the one attached to the Sheridan family was distinctly heard lamenting beneath the windows of the family residence before the news arrived from France of Mrs. Frances Sheridan’s death at Blois. She adds that a niece of Miss Sheridan’s made her very angry by observing that as Mrs. Frances Sheridan was by birth a Chamberlaine, a family of English extraction, she had no right to the guardianship of an Irish fairy, and that therefore the Banshee must have made a mistake.

Strange Pages from Family Papers, T.F. Thistelton-Dyer, 1895

Mrs Daffodil and that person over at Haunted Ohio are both fascinated by tales of banshees. It is always useful to know one’s death omens. For other stories of banshees, both knocking and shrieking, please see A Banshee in IndianaThe Banshee of the O’Dowds, The Banshee Sang of Death, and A Banshee at Sea 

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 Open Grave: 1890s

german gravestone with skull

Whilst, some years ago, I was on a visit in Berkshire, and spent some days with my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Lonsdale, the former told me a remarkable occurrence which had happened a few years previously.

Mr. Lonsdale’s brother, an army officer, had returned from India after a long absence, being invalided, and was expected in the evening at The Hall which was only about half a mile distant from the railway station.

The train was due to arrive at 9.15, and Mr. Lonsdale, accompanied by his wife. walked slowly down to meet and greet the arrival, the carriage being sent to bring the party back.

On the way from The Hall to the station they had to pass the old church, which was surrounded by the village burial ground. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and they could not help observing a new-made open grave. As they had not heard of any death in the neighbourhood, they were surprised, the more so as the grave seemed next to their family plot.

The train arrived, but without the expected guest. They drove back to their house, concluding he had missed the train or bad been delayed on his way from Portsmouth to London. Next morning a telegram announced the death of the officer, who had been landed very ill and had died the previous evening, at 9.15, at Portsmouth.

The strange thing was that there did not exist any open grave as seen by Mr. and Mrs. Lonsdale at the very moment the death took place.

Three days afterwards the body was buried at the spot where the relatives had in vision seen the open grave.

The Occult Review, November 1912

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  In Japan it is said that summer is the best time for ghost stories, since they give the reader a chill. Mrs Daffodil hopes that this simple supernatural tale will offer at least a mild frisson.

Phantom graves are something of a rarity in the ghost story canon, although there is a good deal of folklore about phantom funerals and phantom coffin-making.  There are also a few stories of phantom tombstones–equally as prophetic as the story above.