Tag Archives: paranormal

Mr Justice Powell Meets a Ghost: c. 1710

Some Ghosts and Spectres owe their Existence to a timorous or distempered Imagination, in the Midst of a dark and gloomy Interval; others take their Rise from the reciprocal Pleasure of deluding, and of being deluded: And for the rest, we must impute them to the early Errors of Infancy, and a motley Mixture of the low and vulgar Education Mothers and Grandmothers, Aunts and Nurses, begin the Cheat, and from little Horrors and hideous Stories of Bugbears, Mormoes [bogey-men] and Fairies, Raw-head and Bloody Bones, Walking Lights, Will-a Whisps and Hobgoblins, they train us up by Degrees to the Belief of a more substantial Ghost, and Apparition. Thus instructed, or thus imposed upon we begin to listen to the old legendary and traditional Accounts of local Ghosts, which, like the Genii of the Ancients, have been reported, Time immemorial, to haunt certain particular Family-Seats, and Cities, famous for their Antiquity and Decays. Of this Sort are the Apparitions that are Natives and Denizons of Verulam, Silchester, Reculver, and Rochester; the Daemon of Tedworth [also known as the Phantom Drummer], the Black Dog of Winchester, and the Barr Guest [Black Dog entity] of York. From hence we proceed to many other Extravagancies of the same Kind, and give some Share of Credit to the out-lying Night-Walkers and suburbian Ghosts, rais’d by petty Printers, and Half-Penny Pamphleteers.

The Apparition of Madam Veal, [controversially said to be by Daniel Defoe] because it recommends the Original Author, Mons. Drelincourt, and his elaborate Discourse upon Death, to all Readers, must therefore be of singular Use to the Translator as well as the Editor: And there are many others, of which no Account can be given but from Trick and Design, to promote some Temporal Interest; as, to bring a hard-mouth’d Malefactor to Confession; to oblige an unrelenting Parent to be reconcil’d to a Son or Daughter; or to sink the Rents of a House: And some Houses are said to be haunted just as some old Women are said to be Witches, only because they are squallid and uncouth, dilapidated and out of Repair.

But when he come to read of the Ghost of Sir George Villers, of the Piper of Hammell, the Daemon of Moscow, or of the famous German Colonel, mention’d by the Sieur Ponti, and see the great Names of Clarendon, Boyle, &c. affixed to these Accounts, we begin to find Reasons for our Credulity, ’til at last we are convinc’d by a whole Conclave of Ghosts, met together in the Works of a [Joseph] Glanvill [author of Saducismus Triumphatus] or a Moreton [another of Defoe’s pen names.]

Various Methods are proposed by the Learned for the Laying of Ghosts. Artificial ones are easily quieted, if we only take them for real and substantial Beings, and proceed accordingly. Thus, when a Fryar, personating an Apparition , haunted the Apartment of the late Emperor Joseph; the present King Augustus, then at the Imperial Court, slung him out of the window, and laid him upon the Pavement so effectually, that he never rose or appear’d again.

I shall conclude with a memorable Conference between the late Dr. Fowler, Bishop of Gloucester, and the late Mr. Justice Powell; the former a zealous Defender of Ghosts, and the latter somewhat sceptical about them. They had had several Altercations upon the Subject; and once when the Bishop made a Visit to the Justice, the latter contracting the Muscles of his Face into an Air of more then usual Severity, assur’d the Bishop that since their last Disputation, besides his Lordship’s strong Reasons, he had met with no less Proof than ocular Demonstration to convince him of the real Existence of Ghosts. How ! (says the Bishop) ocular Demonstration? Well! I have preach’d, I have printed upon the Subject; but nothing will convince you Scepticks but ocular Demonstration. I am glad, Mr. Justice, you are become a Convert: But pray, Sir, How went this Affair? I beseech you, let me know the whole Story. My Lord , (answers the Justice) as I lay one Night in my Bed, and had gone thro’ the better Half of my first Sleep, it being about Twelve, on a sudden I was wak’d by a very strange and uncommon Noise, and beard something coming up Stairs, and stalking directly towards my Room. I had the Courage to rouze myself upon my Pillow, and to draw the Curtain just as I heard my Chamber Door Open, and saw a faint glimmering Light enter my Chamber. Of a blue Colour, no doubt , (says the Bishop). Of a pale Blue (answers the Justice). But give me your Favour, my good Lord! the Light was followed by a tall, meagre, and stern Personage, who seem’d to be of the Age of seventy, in a long dangling Rug Gown, bound round his Loins with a broad Leathern Girdle: His Beard was thick and grizly; he had a large Fur Cap on his Head, and a long Staff in his Hand; his Face was full of Wrinkles, and seem’d to be of a dark and sable Hue. I was struck with the Appearance of so surprising a Figure, and felt some Shocks which I had never before been acquainted with. Soon after the Spectre had entered my Room, with a hasty, but somewhat a stately Pace, it drew near my Bed, and star’d me full in the Face. And did you not speak to it? (interrupted the Bishop, with a good deal of Emotion). With Submission, my Lord (says the Justice) and please to indulge me only in a few Words more. But Mr. Justice! Mr. Justice! (replies the Bishop still more hastily) you should have spoken to it: There was Money bid, or Murder committed; and give me Leave to observe, that Murder is a Matter cognizable by Law, and this came regularly into Judgment before you. Well, my Lord, you will have your Way; but in short I did speak to it. And what answer, Mr. Justice, I pray you, What Answer did it make you? My Lord, the Answer was, not without a Thump with the Staff, and a Shake of the Lanthorn, That he was a Watchman of the Night, and came to give me Notice, that he had found the Street Door open; and that unless I rose and shut it, I might chance to be robb’d before Break of Day .

The Moment these Words were out of the good Judge’s Mouth, the Bishop vanish’d with much more Haste than did the suppos’d Ghost, and in as great a Surprize at the Justice’s Scepticism, at the Justice was in at the Bishop’s Credulity.

The Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, VA] 21 March 1751

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Let Mrs Daffodil don, not the black cap, but her Relentlessly Informative hat to mention that the two characters mentioned above are Dr Edward Fowler, Bishop of Gloucester and Mr Justice John Powell, also of Gloucester. As one of his biographers says, “His judicial character, both for learning and fairness, stood high. He was humane, as is shown by his remark on a charge of witchcraft in the case of Jane Wenham, who was alleged to be able to fly: ‘There is no law against flying;’”  He obtained a royal pardon for the convicted “witch” and made sure that she was safely relocated. “Swift, who met him at Lord Oxford’s, writes of him to Stella, 5 July 1711, as ‘an old fellow with grey hairs, who was the merriest old gentleman I ever saw, spoke pleasing things, and chuckled till he cried again.’” His joke at the expense of the credulous Bishop was entirely in character.

A Jealous Ghost: 1894

Floral offerings for a dead mother.

Floral offerings for Mama

DRIVEN: From Home By a Spirit. The Ghost of a First Wife Returns To Haunt Her Successor.

The locality in which this motherly ghost appears is what is known as Baltimore No. 2, a settlement of Irish and Welsh miners, who work in the Baltimore vein [Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.] The houses are red company structures, and in one of them lives Cornelius Boyle, a young man who is quite prominent in politics, having often been chosen as delegate from his ward to Democratic conventions.

Mr. Boyle’s wife died about two months ago, leaving four small children. Two weeks ago he married again. Mrs. Boyle No. 2 spent a very happy week with her husband while on their wedding tour. But since their return she has led a most unhappy existence. She has been haunted, she says, by the first Mrs. Boyle, who during the last week visited her almost every day. After these visits Mrs. Boyle has remained unconscious for several hours.

I went to the place to-day and found Mrs. Boyle in the house of a neighbor, the visit she received from the spirit of the first Mrs. Boyle last Saturday having caused such a serious shock to her nerves that she says she will never enter the house again. Her husband, an intelligent young man, 28 years old, was with her and two children were playing about the room.


Mrs. Boyle is very young for a wife, being hardly 17 years old. She is a pretty girl. She was Miss Sarah Cullings before she was married two weeks ago, and lived in Ashley, near here. She met her husband last St. Patrick’s Day, and not quite a month afterward they were married in Phillipsburg, N.J., by Rev. Father Burke. The week following they spent in New York and last week arrived at Boyle’s home in Baltimore No. 2.

“I was washing some clothes in the kitchen Monday afternoon when I experienced a most singular feeling, as though somebody were in the room with me. I looked around but could see nobody. Then I went into the parlor, but no one was there. When I returned to the kitchen all the chairs and tables were upset and my washing spilled on the floor. I set them right again. Immediately they were thrown down. At that instant there swept by me a figure of no particular shape, except the head, and that I saw distinctly. The face was a woman’s and had such a peculiar look about it that I cannot forget it. It was gone in an instant and I fainted. The children called in the neighbors, and after some time I was revived. When my husband returned home I told him the story. He called it a joke and said I had imagined it all. I tried to think no more about it.

“The next day,” continued Mrs. Boyle, “I was alone in the kitchen making some bread when I again felt the dreadful sensation of the peculiar presence. It gradually grew in shape, until the head was fully visible. Then I could see the face. It was the same as on the day previous. Then it gradually faded away, and again I fainted from fright.

“Fearing to be alone the next day, I sent for my sister. That night I again told my husband about the ghostly visitor. My nerves were unstrung and I was very much excited. Mr. Boyle got some books to quiet me, and we began looking them over. Among the books was a photograph album. He was turning over the leaves and explaining who the persons were. Finally he turned a page, and there before me was


I had seen. So suddenly was the face presented before me that I shrieked with horror. My husband sprang to his feet, and asked me what was the matter. All I could do was to point to the album, which had fallen to the floor, and say, “That face, that face,” “What about it,” cried my husband. “It is the same as the ghost’s I saw.” He was very much horrified at this, and exclaimed, “It is the fact of my first wife.” Then he believed what I had said regarding the apparition, for he knew I have never seen her nor any photograph of her, until he showed me the one in the album.

“On Thursday my sister and I were in the kitchen, cutting carpet rags. Among the old clothing was a jacket of “Jamesey’s,” who is my husband’s oldest boy. I took it out of the bag to give to Annie, my sister. I leaned over to hand it to her. As I did so it was pulled from my hands and thrown on the floor. At the same instant I felt the presence of the ghost, although I could see nothing. My sister then picked the jacket from the floor. As she did so the jacket was torn from her hands, and the ghost stood before us, the eyes glazing as though in anger. My sister shrieked with terror and fell into my arms. I managed to retain consciousness and the apparition vanished. Both Annie and I then went outside and would not go in until my husband returned home. Then Annie went out to Ashley. She was afraid to stay with me.

The next day was Friday and my husband remained at home all day. In the evening he went down to the store and I began undressing ‘Jamesey,’ who is older than the others and had been allowed to stay up. He was very naughty and I had to scold him. Then I put him to bed, and returned to the sitting room.

“As I entered the room, the


I was becoming less afraid of it, and, although greatly frightened, I managed to say: “what do you want?” The ghost pointed one of its hands at me, and, although I could not see the mouth move, it spoke and said: “Treat my children well,” three times, and very slowly.

When my husband returned a few minutes later I was in a fainting fit. We agreed to leave the house as soon as we could find another. I did not want to stay another day, but my husband persuaded me to stay in order to pack up some of the goods.

“Yesterday afternoon ‘Jamesey’ was a naughty boy again. I caught his arm and began to shake him. Immediately the ghost appeared. It seemed to come from behind the kitchen stove. One hand caught the boy and pulled him from me, while with the other hand she struck me on the head.

“It was all over in a few seconds, and as the ghost disappeared I snatched up the boy and ran out of the house. I went to Mrs. McLaughlin’s across the street. “You look ill, Mrs. Boyle,” she said. “What is the matter? Why, your head is all covered with ashes.” I put my hand on my head and there was ashes there. They must have come from the ghost’s hands.”

The boy “Jamesey” was then called. He is a bright little fellow, about 5 years of age. He was asked what had happened yesterday afternoon. “Me was bad boy,” he said. “She shake me,” pointing to Mrs. Boyle. “Then my mamma—not my new mamma, my old one—come out from behind stove and pull me away. I haven’t seen my old mamma for a long time.”

Mr. Boyle said he did not believe in ghosts, but he believes what his wife says, and will not allow her to go into the house again. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 3 May1894: p. 10

 Things quickly took a more sinister turn.


Mrs. Boyle Declares That the Jealous Spirit is That of Her Husband’s First Wife.


Wilkesbarre, Pa., May 11, 1894. Mrs. Cornelius Boyle, wife of a well-known young miner of this city, was visited about two weeks ago by a supernatural being, whom she said was Boyle’s first wife.

As told in the Herald at the time, Mrs. Boyle the second was married about two months after the first wife’s death, and the ghost, according to her, had appeared to warn her to take good care of the four children.

The appearance of the ghost so affected Mrs. Boyle that her husband took another house. In this new place they lived happily until Tuesday, when Mrs. Boyle had another visit from the ghost. This time she said that it threatened her with horrible tortures if the children were not properly cared for.

Matters reached a climax yesterday morning when a bed on the second floor was found to be on fire. An alarm was run, the Fire Department responded, and the flames were extinguished, but scarcely had the firemen left when the same bed was again discovered on fire.

The firemen returned and extinguished the blaze a second time. Later in the day the house was found to be on fire again, and the Fire Department was called out a third time.


An oil can and some kerosene were found on the floor and bed clothing.

When the firemen arrived Mrs. Boyle put the blame on the ghost and said she could give no explanation as to the origin of the fire.

The house was found to be again on fire this morning. When the firemen reached the house it was found locked and full of smoke. The blaze was located in a bed on the second floor.

“Sam” Bartleson, foreman of No. 8 Hose Company, upon smashing a window and entering the house found a little child lying unconscious in the blazing bed. The child was little Johnnie Boyle, the four-year-old son of Boyle by his first wife.


The little fellow was carried across the street to the house of Thomas Manley. His burns were dressed and he is expected to recover. The flames were soon extinguished.

Mrs. Boyle was out when the blaze was discovered, but was found in one of the neighbor’s houses. She blamed this fire also on the ghost, who, she says, is jealous of her and wants to drive her from her children and husband.

Mrs. Boyle is under police surveillance and the house is watched.

Mrs. Boyle is about eighteen years old, bright appearing and pretty. New York Herald 12 May 1894: p. 11 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The author of The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past adds this to the story:  “Alas, I have not found the end to this story of what seems to be a very wicked stepmother. One does feel a certain sympathy for a 17-year-old bride married after a mere month’s courtship and thrust into the role of mother to four very young children. I cannot discover what happened to the first Mrs. Boyle.”

This story is found in The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past, which can be ordered through your local bookstore/library or online at Amazon and other retailers and in a Kindle edition. 

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.