Tag Archives: spiritualism

The Spirits and “The Servant Problem:” 1892

The age-old Servant Question.

The age-old Servant Question.


The following account has been handed to us by a correspondent. The details are trivial enough in themselves, but by no means unworthy of consideration as indicating watchful care on the part of those who acted as guardians of the family.

The narrative is given as it was sent. It is evidently written with a strong sense of the protective guardianship of unseen friends, and will interest many of our readers, and perhaps set some “Cui bono?” critics thinking:

A short time since I lost my cook, and knowing the difficulty of obtaining servants immediately before Christmas I decided not to try as I had a temporary helper, so excellent in every way that I deemed it wiser to wait till after Christmas. This woman, whom we will designate Mrs. B., was a quiet, seemingly respectable, married woman, who came to my bedroom every morning for orders and executed them in the most satisfactory manner. I must here mention that I was confined to my room with a sprained ankle, and so my daughters had to give all extra small orders and look after the general comfort.

A week passed, and so pleased was I that I had B.‘s husband to dinner on Sunday, and wrote to a country friend desiring her not to trouble about me as I was settled, feeling half inclined to continue with Mrs. B. until we should leave this house. On the Monday she came as usual to my room. I asked her how she felt, as she looked peculiarly heavy, and I imagined she had a headache, but she said she was quite well and we had a few pleasant words, in which she thanked me for my kindness to her husband. On Tuesday the same distinguished politeness marked our proceedings.

An hour afterwards, up came my elder daughter to say that her own father, my first husband, had seized her hand and told her. “That B. is a beast, don’t let her worry your mother.” I laughed at the idea and bade her tell him he must be mistaken. At twelve o’clock both my daughters went out for their daily constitutional, but in less than five minutes my younger child (who is a very strong psychic) rushed up to me, saying that neither she nor her sister found it easy to walk, but her legs actually refused to move, and her hand was seized and she wrote on her dress, “Go back! Go back!” They came back, got pencil and paper, and again the same spirit wrote, “Don’t leave your mother, that beast B. will go and abuse her and upset her.”

Now, to my shame be it recorded, I was quite cross, and said “Really, this is too ridiculous. A quiet, orderly woman like that: I am afraid, my dear, you are getting fanatical.”

However, as they had already arranged that one should go out one half-hour, and the other the next, so that one remained with me. I made no further demur. Now comes the sequel. Within half an hour my elder daughter returned.

This woman B. picked a quarrel with her over nothing, and rushed up to me. My housemaid rushed after her, begging her not to come to me. But my daughter having been forewarned ran so fast as to get in front of her and then dared her to go to my room. The woman seemed quite beside herself, but my daughter’s decision quelled her. Our unseen friends then made rather sarcastic remarks upon my incredulity, and begged me to pay her and send her off, assuring me she was a drunkard and a desperate woman.

They said, “She drinks rum, and has a bottle now in her pocket,” so I followed their advice, and she went; and now comes the test of their perfect veracity. I said to my house maid. “Did you know she drank?” “No, ma’am: but on Sunday her husband brought her a bottle of something, I couldn’t make it out; it was not whisky nor brandy; it was darker, and had such an odd smell. She offered me some, and it did smell so nasty!” I think this amply proves the rum’s identity, and I presume I need make no comment on the value of our dear spirit friends’ warning, for all helped, though my first husband was the first to speak. This is not a dreamy experience, and is the more astonishing to us as we are not used to such phenomena, but rather have spiritual teachings. N.S.

Light, 13 February 1892

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This instructive anecdote appeared in the Spiritualist journal Light. Many Spiritualists were tee-total. They might call up spirits, but they did not drink them.

“Mr Stead” was journalist and psychic researcher, William Thomas Stead , who died when the Titanic sank, but, undeterred by death, continued to deliver séance communications.

The Drunken Servant was a figure of fun to the comic papers and the terror of mistresses everywhere.  It was bad enough when the intoxicated servant was a man, but a female inebriate was not to be borne. Of course, being the sole domestic (saving the house-maid) over Christmas in a household with an incapacitated mistress might have driven the woman to drink.  Mrs Daffodil does not speak from personal experience, one understands. Mrs Daffodil, although she has had her share of trying lady employers, has found that one needs a clear head to either deal with or dispose of overly-demanding mistresses.

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 Missing Ruby: 1900

Our narrator is psychic researcher and Spiritualist Emily Katherine Bates.

Clairvoyance can be extraordinarily accurate even in detail, as another story connected with Mrs. Chester and which came under my personal knowledge, will show.

I went to see some friends in London a few years ago on my return from abroad and was at once hailed by the following incident which had just happened to them. A friend of theirs (whom I did not know until later in the afternoon) had lost a very large and valuable ruby set in a ring with small diamonds surrounding it. The stone had been given to this lady’s grandfather by an Indian Rajah in the old Company’s days, and was quite an heirloom for its historical associations in addition to its great intrinsic value.

The lady lived near Elm Park Gardens and on a very wet and muddy morning had been into several shops in that neighborhood on her way from morning service close by. She had taken off her gloves in church and had not replaced them, was holding up her skirts out of the rain and mud and carrying several small parcels as she stood at her own front door and rang the bell. As a matter of fact she and her mother were expecting a lady and gentleman to lunch, who will figure in the story later on. As she stood waiting at the door, muffled up in a waterproof and holding her dripping umbrella, she chanced to glance at her bare hand and to her horror saw that the enormous ruby had disappeared, leaving the diamond setting intact. She turned back instantly, after depositing her parcels with the maid, and retraced her steps to the two or three shops visited, but all in vain! She was forced to return home and to conceal her trouble and annoyance as best she could whilst entertaining her guests. The moment she could leave the house, she went round to my friends in Evelyn Gardens and told them of her sad loss and asked if one of them would consult a clairvoyant for her. Her reason for not going herself to a clairvoyant was that she considered all such things wrong and therefore evidently preferred that her friends should take any moral risks that might attach to the possible recovery of her property. I think I had given Mrs. Chester’s address to these ladies. Anyway they promised Miss X. (the owner of the ruby) that they would see what could be done in the matter. The stone was lost on a Thursday morning and on Friday they visited Mrs. Chester, having settled beforehand to bargain with her that she should not be paid unless the lost article was recovered through her. She agreed to these terms and took up the crystal. Nothing had been said about a ring, brooch, or any other piece of jewelry but merely the statement made that they came to consult her about some “lost property.”

“You need not tell me anything more,” she said quickly; ” I can see what it is in the crystal. It is a stonea stone out of a ring.” Then she turned round and said, ” But you have not lost it, either of you; the person who lost it ought to have come about it herself. It is giving me a very poor chance.” However this may have been, she seemed very quickly to get into Miss X.’s atmosphere and began describing a peculiar dining-room table with carved corners; and this my friend at once recognized as the dining room table belonging to Mrs. X. Then she said, “The stone has been picked up by an honest man but he does not know what to do with it. He is a workman and has a white cap and working clothes. At first he thought it was a bit of red glass because it is so large, but he has taken it home. I see his home and a narrow mantel-shelf there—he has put the stone in a little pill-box and placed it on the mantel-shelf. You must advertise the stone at once, so that he may read the advertisements and bring it back. Put the advertisements in shop-windows near to the place where it was lost—no use advertising in papers—he won’t get a chance of reading.”

Then Mrs. Chester went on to describe a scene and people acting in the scene, all utterly unknown to my friends. “I see a church and there is a wedding going on. It is either a widower or a widow who is being married, because there is a little child at the wedding and she belongs to either the bride or the bridegroom. Now they are coming down the church and I can see their faces as they pass.”

She then described both of the principal actors in the scene, neither of whom could be recognized by my friends. This, they confessed, disappointed them greatly, for on first hearing of the church and the wedding they were trying to work in some possible romance for their elderly friend who might some day meet a suitable widower!

As a curious fact, I may here mention that the wedding took place on the following Tuesday, but Miss X. was only present as a spectator. It is still more interesting to note that the bride and bridegroom were the two people who had lunched with Mrs. X. on the day the stone was lost and that the lady was a widow, with one little girl who was present at the ceremony. Either the lady or gentleman was a relation of Miss X. and the scene of their wedding must have been read from her psychic atmosphere four days before it took place.

Finally Mrs. Chester returned to the question of the stone and made the very definite statement that it would be found and probably within five days. “I can see a big 5,” she said, so if it is not five days, it must indicate weeks or months but five days is more probable because I see so distinctly the scene when it is returned. There is an old lady sitting at that table I described and she has white hair and a white cap. There is a maidservant in the room and also a working man. He has brought the pill-box I saw on the mantel-shelf. There is a lot of white wool and the stone in the middle. Some one has brought down the ring and he won’t give up the stone until he sees if it fits or not.”

This was all that passed and my friends went away, promising to have the advertisement printed at once and put in the shop-windows according to Mrs. Chester’s instructions; also to return and give her the fee, should the stone be found within any reasonable time. On the following Tuesday morning, before lunch time Miss X. returned home to find the dining-room door open and the exact scene going on which had been so accurately foretold by Mrs. Chester.

Her mother, the working man, and the maid were all present, the latter having been sent up-stairs to fetch the empty ring which Miss X. had taken off her finger five days before.

The man had picked up the stone just outside the church door in all the rain and mud, and supposed at first that it was a valueless bit of glass. He took it home and washed it and then put it in the pill-box as described, being struck by the beautiful coloring and determined to look out for any advertisements in the neighborhood of the church where he had found the stone. He had declined to give it up without seeing the ring for himself, and this bit of identification was actually going on when Miss X. walked through the open door of the dining-room! The man received his five pounds with great delight and the X.’s were equally pleased to get back their precious heirloom. One last coincidence, to make the story quite complete.

Just as my friend had finished giving me all these details, the butler threw open the door and announced—Miss X.! So I made her acquaintance on the spot, and she not only showed me the magic ring, but allowed me to put it on my finger; endorsing every word of the story to which I had just been listening. 

Do the Dead Depart, Katharine Bates, 1908

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must say that it was most shabby of Miss X. to burden her kind friends with the “moral risk” of consulting a clairvoyante. It is tantamount to sending one’s batman out under fire to bring in the tea-tray. But at least there was a happy ending. If this were a Guy de Maupassant story, the ruby would be discovered to be merely coloured glass by the workman, who had tried to scratch his initials on glass with it, the original having been sold by the lady’s bankrupt Grandfather to support his mistress.

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.


Old Lisbeth: 1887

old woman bent double 

Mr. T., a high judicial dignity, now pensioned off, had in his service a faithful creature, “old Lisbeth,” handed over to him by his parents, to whom he had promised to keep her for life. Lisbeth had saved money during her life-long service in the family, and this seemed to have aroused the cupidity of some relatives, who finally induced her to leave her kind master, and live with them. She parted from him in tears, and Mr. T. was also deeply moved, having tried his utmost to dissuade her. Years elapsed. He had moved to a distant town, but on her birthdays and also at Christmas he had invariably written to the old woman, and sent her some money, without, however, getting a single acknowledgment. Still, he never doubted that she was otherwise than well and happy, as he had strictly enjoined on her to appeal to him in case of need. But Mr. T. narrates: “One cold, dark November night in 1887, at about 4 A. m., I was suddenly and violently awakened, and made to sit up in bed. A nameless terror seized on me. In full possession of all my mental faculties, and with my eyes wide open, I felt spellbound and paralyzed by a strange influence, and by a will apparently more powerful than my own. Involuntarily was made to look in a certain direction, and then with terrible reality a vision was presented to me. I saw a deep river faintly illuminated by a yellowish-grey light, and floating on it, with head and body distinctly visible, and the long grey hair tossed by the stream, the well-known form of old Lisbeth. She stared at me reproachfully with eyes fixed and expressive of despair, intensified to frenzy, from which I was unable to avert my own. They held me spellbound, and a conversation without words, but distinctly striking my ear, took place between us.

“‘Master,’ she said, ‘master, why did you leave me so entirely forlorn? You were my only hope and consolation: your fault it is that I must die so miserably.’

“‘Lisbeth,’ I replied, ‘you had money, and in every letter I wrote to you I sent you some. Why did yon not write or return to me? Your faithful services to me, your devotion to my parents I never forgot.’

“‘O master,’ said the form, ‘now I know you did not forsake me; but my relatives intercepted your letters, and kept the money. They flattered me, until I had given them nearly all I had, and the rest they forced from me by threats. They would not let me write or come to you, and when I had nothing more to give them they beat me, starved me, and made me sleep, half-naked, in a cow’s pen on a little straw. Only last evening my own sister’s child said unto me, “Make sure you die soon. Yon are not fit for anything else. Tomorrow you most leave this house.” To-night I could not sleep, and knew not what to do. I thought of you, but then I said: ‘He will have nothing more to do with me,’ and I heard a voice saying: “Nobody will help you; make an end to your misery.” I ran to the river and jumped in. Master, you are good.’ With these words a happy smile lit up the old face. The eyes lost their terrible expression, and assumed one soft and peaceful. The whole vision became gradually more distant, faded, and was gone. Further sleep that night was impossible. Mr. T. determined to write at once to the clergyman of the parish in which Lisbeth lived, but urgent business that day prevented him, and he was already beginning to smile at himself for allowing a “vivid waking dream” to agitate him so much. When reading his paper on the following morning, he found in it an account of old Lisbeth’s suicide by drowning, at the time he had the vision, and under circumstances and from causes exactly identical with those revealed to him at that time, an incredible story, or at best but a marvellous coincidence, says the ignorant skeptic. Marvellous, indeed, says I, but one of those marvels of God’s spiritual universe, of which but an infinitesimal fraction probably is revealed to us in our earth-life. The spirit of a drowning woman in the very act of departing from the body, rushes to the person then uppermost in her thoughts, and impresses on that person not Only these thoughts, but even her own picture, and that of her surroundings.

Religio-Philosophical Journal 4 January 1890

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This is a sad tale. Yet it is curious that Mr T., who had the legal training and had been so good a friend to “old Lisbeth,” did not think of bringing her vile relatives to justice. There were many cases in the popular press where the families of persons of even a slight fortune were convicted of neglect, torture, and extortion to the accompaniment of stern remarks from the bench. Still, it should serve as a warning to all domestics who might be thinking of leaving a place where they are well-suited in search of betterment, which too often turns out to be illusory.  That plausible widowed gentleman in search of a companion to his young daughter invariably turns out to be an arch-seducer in disguise; relatives pretending to be solicitous of the welfare of their aged sibling end by openly wishing her dead.

Mrs Daffodil has been prudent with her money in the course of her career, but has also been fortunate enough not to have any remaining relatives whose cupidity might be aroused by her little nest-egg. As far as she knows, she is the last of the Daffodils.

For another servant’s ghost, please see “Ann Frost’s Ghost.”

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 of Bonnie Prince Charlie: c. 1910

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, William Mosman about 1700

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, William Mosman about 1700

Lady Cromartie asked me to join a shooting party she and Major Blunt were giving, to meet Prince Arthur of Connaught.

I arrived one evening in wild winter weather. There had been a heavy snowstorm, and the sky looked as if there was considerably more to come. I found all the other guests had already arrived, and we were a very merry party. It was Prince Arthur’s first “shoot” in the far North, and his first experience of what Scotland could provide in the way of autumn weather, and he was glad to avail himself of a thick woolen sweater of mine, which I was proud to present to him. He was perfectly charming to us all, and there was, owing to his simplicity, no sense of stiffness introduced into our party. That evening, after dinner, he was strolling round the room, looking at the pictures, and he paused opposite a framed letter, written by Prince Charles Edward during the ’45 to the Lord Cromartie of that time, who was his earnest supporter.

Why!” exclaimed Prince Arthur, “that letter is written by ‘The Pretender,’ isn’t it?”

There was no answer. A thrill of horror ran through the breasts of the ardent Jacobites present. Dead silence reigned.

Then I could stand it no longer. “Please, sir,” I said, “we all call him Prince Charles Edward Stuart.”

Prince Arthur turned round laughingly. “I beg his pardon and all of yours,” he exclaimed in the most charming manner, and the hearts of all the outraged Jacobites warmed to him at once.

I was just about to creep into bed, very late that night, and very tired after my long, cold journey in a desperately sluggish train, when Lady Cromartie peeped in at my door. Her wonderful dark eyes were ablaze, and I knew at once she had something psychic to tell me. Her eyes looked like nothing else in the world but her eyes, when she is on the track of a ghost, or one of her “other side” experiences.

“I have just seen Prince Charles Edward,” she announced.

I took her firmly by the arm. Prince Charles Edward means a very great deal to me, and I don’t let anything pass me by that concerns his beloved memory.

“Tell me quick. Where did you see him?” I asked.

“I was just going to get into bed when I saw him standing looking at me, at the far end of the room. He was smiling, and as I stared back at him he slowly crossed the floor, his smiling face always turned to me, and vanished through the wall,” was Lady Cromartie’s answer.

Then I told her of a certain feeling I had experienced earlier in the evening. At the moment when our Jacobite hearts were stung to deep, though fleeting resentment, we had formed a thought form, powerful enough to reach the spirit of Bonny Prince Charlie on “the other side.” Our spirits had called on him, and he had heard and responded. Why not? If we believe in the immortality of the soul, the soul of Prince Charles Edward surely lives. Where? On the Astral plane, where the souls of all must go to divest themselves of the lower passions of earth, and the veil between the Physical plane and the Astral plane is wearing very thin in these days.

For many of us there are rents through which we are permitted to see the old friends who are not lost but gone before, and who await us in a sphere where we in turn will await the coming of those who follow after. Indeed, the time does not now seem to be so far distant when so-called death will be pushed one stage further back, and the transference of the soul from earth to the Astral plane will no longer be treated as severance. What then will be termed the severance we now call death? It will be the passing of the cleansed soul from the Astral plane to the Heaven world, for a period of blissful rest before the life urge compels the reincarnating ego to take on once more the veil of flesh, in a transient human world.

I doubt if it is possible for an English person to comprehend what it means to be a Jacobite. One is born a Jacobite or one is not. I was born a Jacobite, and I never lose my passionate love and regret for the sufferings and sorrows of Prince Charles Edward. No female figure in the past attracts me so much as does Flora MacDonald. Had I lived during the ’45 I would have worn the white cockade, and parted with my last “shift” for the love of Bonny Prince Charlie. All very ridiculous, many may say, but there it is. That is what it means to be born a Jacobite.

My grandfather was an ardent Jacobite, and consorted largely with old Jacobite families. The Sobieski Stuarts often made their home with him. Grand looking men of striking physique and good looks. Robert Chambers used to tell a story of the ghost Piper of Fingask; the property of a fine old Jacobite, Sir Peter Murray Threipland:

“One night, whilst my grandfather was visiting Sir Peter, they were sitting at supper in the old dining hall. The two old sisters of Sir Peter, Eliza and Jessie, were present. Suddenly the faint strain of the pipes was heard in the distance, surely no uncommon sound in Scotland, where every Laird has his own piper to play round the dining-table, yet a sudden silence fell upon the little party of four. All ears were listening intently, and straining eyes were blank to all but the evidence of hearing. The noise grew louder, the piper seemed to be mounting the stone staircase, yet his brogues made no sound as he ascended.

“Sir Peter dropped his head down into his arms folded upon the table. He sought to hide the fear in his old eyes. The women sat as if chiseled out of granite, gray to the lips. The piper of Fingask had come for one of them. Which? Now the piper of death was drawing very near, the skirl of his pipes had nearly reached the door. In another moment, with a full blast of triumph that beat about their ears as it surged into the hall, he had passed, and had begun his ascent to the ramparts. The skirl was dying away into a wail. Miss Eliza spoke: ‘He’s come for you, Jessie.’ There was no response. The piper of Fingask was playing a ‘Last Lament’ now, as he swung round the ramparts.

“True enough, he had come for Miss Jessie, and very shortly after she obeyed the call.”

To this day there are men and women who never forget to offer up their passionate regret for Prince Charles before they sleep. I know of one old Scottish house where his memory is an ever-present, everliving thing. The shadowy old room is consecrated to him. On the walls hang portraits of him, and trophies of the ’15 and the ’45 stand round in glass cases. On one table lies a worn, white cockade, yellow with age, and a lock of fair hair clasped by a band of blackened pearls. In a tall slender glass there is always, in summer time, a single white rose.

Above is the portrait of the idol of the present house, who gave in the past of their all in life and treasure, for the cause they hold so sacred, so dear. I cannot look upon that gay, careless, handsome face without the tears rising to my eyes. His eyes smile into mine. Involuntarily I bend before him. What was the power in you, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, that drew from countless women and men that wild unswerving devotion? Which made light of terrible hardships, which followed you faithfully through glen and corrie? What is that power which you still exert over those to whom your name is but a memory, but who still, when they think on you or look upon your pictured face, cry silently in their hearts for the lost House of Stuart?” Oh! waes me for Prince Charlie!”

One must be Scotch to understand that the Union did nothing to unite England and Scotland. To the Scottish plowman the Englishman is still a foreigner, whom he dislikes. Scotch and English servants do not work well in the same house. To us, Mary Queen of Scots lived “only the other day.” When the House of Stuart passed from us our history ended.

Our old houses are full of ghosts, the atmosphere is saturated with the tragic history of the past, the very skies seem to brood in melancholy over the soil, where so many wild bloody scenes were enacted. To the Psychic, Scotland is a land not yet emerged from the dour savagery of the past.

Ghosts I Have Seen: And Other Psychic Experiences, Violet Tweedale, 1917

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This is the day after the anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, which dashed Jacobite hopes and forced Prince Charles Edward Stuart to flee with a price on his head until Flora McDonald helped him escape to France.

There was an odd and chilling premonition of the Jacobite defeat the night before Culloden. King George, with two courtiers, was standing on the battlements of Windsor castle. They saw a cloud “resembling a thistle, upside down, with the dim, shadowy figure of a Scothman, with targe and claymore, falling backwards.”

The Folk-lore Journal, Vol. 6, 1888

Putting on a Relentlessly Informative hat, here is some biographical detail about Lady Cromartie.

This lady has several claims to distinction. She is a countess in her own right, one of the largest women landowners in the three kingdoms, and is well known in the literary world as a writer of romance, articles on Highland life, and stories of historical interest. Lady Cromartie is a daughter of the second Earl of Cromartie, and on his death, in 1893, succeeded to the vast ; estates of the Mackenzies. In 1895, the title, which had been in abeyance, was called out in her favour by the late Queen Victoria. Her ladyship, who was born in 1878, and whose only sister is that many-sided and unconventional woman. Lady Constance Stewart-Richardson, began composing poetic stories when she was still a girl, and “The End of the Song”— a volume published by her a few years ago — enjoyed much popularity among lovers of Highland lore. Like so many modern women, Lady Cromartie is deeply interested in psychic matters, and her one-act drama, “The Finding of the Sword,” which was produced at the Playhouse in 1907, has a strong psychic interest. In 1899, the Countess married Major Edward Blunt (now Blunt-Mackenzie), and has three children.

Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, Volume VII, ND

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 Haunted Cloth: 1923


A piece of embroidered yellow Chinese silk, c. 1770s http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O69511/bedspread-unknown/

A piece of embroidered yellow Chinese silk, c. 1770s http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O69511/bedspread-unknown/


By E.B. Gibbes

The following account of a strange episode that occurred in connection with Mrs. Dowden (Travers Smith) and myself, may perhaps be of interest to your readers. I went to her house one evening in October, 1923, and by way of testing what influence had come with me, she took some foolscap paper and a pencil. Then closing her eyes she prepared herself for writing. I placed two or three fingers lightly on the back of her right hand. Immediately a curious communication was received in a sprawly writing. It ran as follows: “Why have you kept me waiting. I have been waiting a long time to speak to you. You have my cloth, you must give it back to me. It should have been wrapped round my body.” The allusion conveyed nothing to me at the time. We paused when the end of the page was reached to read the writing. Mrs. Dowden said she had a piece of cloth that had once been wrapped round a mummy. She produced this and placed it on the paper. Resting her hand on it a moment, she asked aloud if this were the cloth alluded to. Immediately her hand wrote, “No, no, that is not my cloth. It is another cloth. You have no right to it. You must make a big fire and burn it. It is mine, it should be ashes as I am and you will soon be.” (This individual seemed a cheery companion. It subsequently transpired that the communication came from a member of the fair sex.) We read the page and resumed the conversation. I remarked that if this piece of cloth was not hers we did not know to what she referred. At once the hand wrote violently, “No, it is not hers; it is YOURS.” “Oh, mine,” I replied; “I can’t think of what you are alluding to. Tell us where you come from.” “CHINA” I repeated that I did not know anything about a piece of cloth, and asked her what it was like. She then described some material with a yellow gold background, which was much embroidered ad almost covered with work. We stopped and read this second page and commenced a third. She wrote, “You must give it back.” I replied that I could not do so as it was not in my possession. She continued to state that it was, and that I must make a fire and burn it, so that she and it would be united. Here the telephone bell rang and we did not resume this experiment.

That evening on returning to my flat, into which I had recently moved, I recollected that I had a long piece of old Chinese embroidery answering the description in the script. I had had it about twenty years, and did not recollect whether I had brought I myself form the East, or whether it had been given to me. A few days previously I had taken it out of its box and tried its effect on the piano. However, the colours did not harmonize in the room, and I put it away without another thought.

Mrs. Dowden came to my flat a few nights later. I decided I would get Johannes [One of Mrs Dowden’s spirit guides, who had an odd name for a Jewish neo-platonist who lived several centuries before Jesus.] to tell me something, if possible, about this material. I placed it on my Ouija board and Johannes wrote as follows: “This came from a country far over the sea, not a very hot place, rather high in the mountains, and I see people there making it. It is a long, long time before they finish it. Then I see it sold in an open place. It is sold to a very ugly woman, so ugly that she frightens people. She hold this up and examines it, and after a time she carries it away. It has passed out of her hands into the hands of another woman. She had left a very strong impression on it. She is a very evil person I am afraid, full of nasty habits, and she gives it to a younger woman who is not so disagreeable, but very much given to complaining and objecting to everything that meets her on her way through life. This thing has been used at a funeral as a decoration; it was not round the dead body, but has been over a coffin. The other woman had it for a long time. She was quite different, often ill; she too has passed on here and I think she is near us now. I feel her coming; here she is.” Mrs. Dowden then felt a different control. Her hand was pushed violently about the Ouija board and the following communication was written at lightning speed.

“I want my cloth, it is my mother’s cloth. I want it; you must not have it. I used to put it round me; it should have been on my body.” “Why do you bother about it now?” I asked. “It is an heirloom. It ought to have been on my coffin.” I explained that now it was in good hands, that I would take great care of it, and tried to console her by remarking that it would eventually become dust. I told her that, as far as I was concerned, I had come by it honestly, that it had been bought and paid for and not stolen, and suggested she thought of something else. Mrs. Dowden’s hand wrote in reply: “I know I have a lot to learn, but it is my cloth and you must burn it.” I remarked that it seemed very silly to make so much fuss about a piece of material of its kind and assured her I would take good care of it. She replied: “You are a Christian, you do not understand. I will go, but I will watch. This is the substance of the old dame’s remarks. She has not been heard of since.

Now to what can we attribute this communication? Is it an example of subconscious invention? Or was the old lady’s soul really stirred into its memories by the production of her cloth? Did her spirit really speak to us?

Had the first allusion to the old embroidery been made at my own place with the material on or near the table one might have attributed this to the invention, perhaps, of our subconscious minds. As it was, however, it came seemingly from nowhere at Mrs. Dowden’s own house where there was no connection whatsoever, she never having seen or heard of this cloth; and when I took it out I had never given a thought as to its hidden memories.

Occult Review October 1925

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A curious episode, indeed, where an ancient Chinese lady writes and speaks perfect English. Of course the Spiritualist explanation is that the English-speaking medium is the conduit and naturally she would translate the spirit’s remarks into her native tongue. Since Miss Gibbes had only seen the fabric a few days before, it seems a bit disingenuous to rule out the influence of the subconscious mind.

Mrs. Dowden is Hester Dowden/Hester Travers Smith, an Irish Spiritualist medium who claimed communications from Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare and other literary notables.

E.B. Gibbes was member of the Society for Psychical Research and a friend and mentor to medium Geraldine Cummins. She took Miss Cummins into her Chelsea home for the better part of several years and encouraged the medium’s automatic writings.

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.

“Call me ‘Eddy:'” A Seance with the Duke of Clarence: 1895

The tomb of the Duke of Clarence

The tomb of the Duke of Clarence

Today is the anniversary of the death of Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Let us commemorate the occasion with a curious story of “Prince Eddy’s” posthumous return by Florence Marryat:

The cabinet séances I am writing of were quite private and held amongst friends, so that the forms that appeared were mostly known to the sitters. The first that appeared in whom I took any interest was that of the Duke of Clarence. Not being on the royal visiting list, I had no personal acquaintance with him during his lifetime, and was puzzled at first to think why he should have singled me out to pay the compliment of a visit to. But I had, in common with the rest of the nation, been deeply grieved at the announcement of his death, and, as will be seen hereafter, he seems to have been aware of it. For some time before he appeared, we heard him remonstrating inside the cabinet, and saying: “Leave me alone; do leave me alone! Can’t you see that I’m ill—let me rest!” He evidently believed himself to be still lying in his bed at Sandringham. We did not know who was talking after this fashion, but as soon as the Duke appeared, I recognised him from his photographs. I exclaimed: “Why! it is the Duke of Clarence,” and he replied: “No, not that ! Call me ‘Eddy.”’ I then remembered a story I had heard to the effect that, some few months before his death, he had been to visit a clairvoyant, who told him, amongst other things, that “Marriage for him spelt Death.” “So the clairvoyant was right, my poor boy,” I said, “and marriage for you did spell Death.” He drew himself up, retreated a few steps, and exclaimed in a clear voice, so as to be heard by everybody: “No! Miss Marryat, not Death—Life! Tell everybody it spelt Life—Life!”

This was the first time of the Duke’s appearing, but after that he came whenever we sat. Sometimes he was remarkably like himself—at others he was not. He generally asked me if he looked as he used to do. One day I told him he would be just like, according to my opinion, if his complexion was a little fairer. He retired to the cabinet, but returned a minute later with a much fairer complexion, but also a much shorter face. I laughed and said: “Oh! go away! You are not a bit like yourself now!” at which he smiled too, and disappeared altogether. Lady G , who had known the Prince well during his lifetime, was much interested on hearing I had seen him, and called on me for the express purpose of asking how he looked and what he had said. “Was he just like himself?” was one of the questions she put to me. I hesitated. “Well, not always,” I replied, “and I noticed one thing about him which seemed very unlike. You know how particular he was about his hair. It was always so neatly arranged with the curl over his forehead. Well, the curl is gone. His hair seems ruffled over his forehead, as if someone had ruffled it with his fingers on purpose.” “You have given me the best possible proof of his identity,” said Lady G; and she then went on to tell me that she had been at Sandringham at the time of the Duke’s lamented death, and the lock of hair he used to wear had been cut off as a memento, and the remaining hair ruffled over his forehead just as I described his wearing it. If Lady G ’s account was true (and I have no reason to doubt her word), it was a pretty good proof I had given her, considering I had never seen the Duke of Clarence except in his published likeness. Of course I talked to him on the many occasions on which I saw him on various subjects, but equally, of course, it is hardly possible for me to repeat our conversation here. When I asked him why he came so perseveringly to a humble individual like myself, who has never had anything to do with royalty in her life, he said: “Because you wept for me.” “But half the nation wept for you,” I replied. “Yes, perhaps so, but you—you are not one who weeps for everybody,’” which is quite true. Once, when I accompanied another Duke to Mr Husk’s, and Prince Eddy appeared, he at once addressed the new-comer by his title, and so betrayed the incognito which he had wished to preserve, and of which Mr Husk had not the least suspicion.

On another occasion I was invited to join a séance with Mr Husk given by several young men in town. I accepted, believing them to be sincere seekers after the truth instead of a set of scoffers, who merely assembled to make fun out of all they might see or hear. Amongst them, however, was a gentleman who, I was told, was or had been a clergyman or tutor at Sandringham, and acquainted with the Duke of Clarence. At any rate, as soon as we had sat down, the Duke appeared, and went straight up to this gentleman and spoke to him. My sailor son was ashore about this time, and I told him of the foregoing interviews. He asked me why I did not let those who were most deeply interested in the Duke’s reappearance know of what I had seen. I laughed, and said, “No, thank you, my boy! I don’t want to bring a storm of royal hailstones about my ears.” And, in fact, many people are quite affronted if you tell them you have seen their dead. They seem to think it a great impertinence on your part to have experienced what they have not done, and forget that such things are beyond your own control. I did not therefore act on my son’s suggestion, and the subject was not again raised between us. The next time I visited Mr Husk, however, and Prince Eddy appeared, he stood just outside the cabinet, and beckoned me to go to him. On my approach, he whispered: “Don’t tell my people yet, Miss Marryat.” I did not remember at first to what he was alluding, but when I did, I answered: “Oh, you are talking of what my son said to me. Well, if you overheard him, you must have also heard me say that I had no intention of bringing a storm of royal hailstones about my unfortunate ears.” “It’s not that,” he said, “but they are not ready for this phase of Spiritualism yet. You say yourself that I am not always recognisable. Sometimes I am like myself and sometimes not, and if they were to see me when I am not, it would set them against it altogether. The time will come, but it is not yet.” I have never sat with Mr Husk without this spirit appearing to me, and if, on the news reaching high quarters, I am condemned to be led forth to “hinstant hexecution,” I shall say so with my last breath. With him has often come, but not always, the Prince Imperial— another beautiful young treasured life cut lamentably short. Now, with regard to this apparition, I would like to mention what I call proof of identity. I knew this Prince no more than I did the other, and could only recognise him from his photograph.

Any distinguished-looking young man with an olive complexion and dark eyes and slight figure might have passed for the Prince Imperial with a stranger; but it was the pure Parisian accent with which he addressed me that convinced me of his identity. We were all men and women of education, as I have said before, but I will venture to affirm there was not one of us that could speak French as the spirit of the Prince Imperial spoke it to me. There is no mistaking a pure Parisian accent. It is something that very few Englishmen acquire even though they may live in Paris, and on the lips of this spirit it was undeniable. I have not seen him so often as I have the Duke of Clarence, but for the first few times they always came together or immediately succeeding each other, and the Prince Imperial invariably spoke with the same accent.

The Spirit World, Florence Marryat, 1895

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Cecil Husk, an opera singer turned medium, was exposed in 1891 by a sitter who removed his luminous gauze “spirit mask.” It is curious how multiple exposures did not dampen séance-goers’ enthusiasm for their pet mediums. A previous account of a spiritual visitatant written by Florence Marryat also featured a disgraced medium.

The Prince Imperial was the son of Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie, living in exile in England. The Prince was a brilliant student at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and received his commission in 1875. He chafed at staff work and longed to see military action. The Duke of Cambridge helped the Prince transfer to South Africa where he took part in the “Anglo-Zulu War,” and where he met a soldier’s end pierced by Zulu spears.

Much has been whispered and written about the deficiencies, dissipations, and alleged murderous propensities of the Duke of Clarence. He was deeply loved by his own family and, a very short time after becoming engaged to Princess Mary of Teck, was said to have died in 1892 of the influenza. Mrs Daffodil caught one of the footmen reading a rather sensational book that claimed that his death was only simulated to remove an unfit heir from the succession and that he actually lived a long and quiet life as an artist, often visited by his beloved mother. The book was illustrated with photographs purporting to show the “late” Prince with Queen Alexandra, long after his “death.”

The Prince’s deathbed was attended by his parents, his fiancée and her parents, Prince George, two of his sisters, three nurses, three physicians, and the Prince of Wales’s chaplain, which, if we accept the premise that the Prince did not die in 1892, suggests either a very wide conspiracy of silence or a deathbed scene invented to appeal to the sentimental public.

As to Mrs Marryat’s curious visitations and the late Duke’s insistent on secrecy, one suspects that lady was duped by an unscrupulous medium who did not wish to find himself in the awkward position of putting on a command performance for the Royal Family.  Or “Prince Eddy” was an one of those imposter spirits, who (we are told) so frequently intrudes in the séance room to make mischief. Mrs Daffodil suggests that the former explanation is the more likely.

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.

For more on the death and mourning for the Duke of Clarence, see The Victorian Book of the Dead’s Facebook page.


Marriages made on the Other Side: 1868 and 1902

"Miss June"

“Miss June”

Two tales of marriages made, if not in heaven, then somewhere on the Other Side.

A Strange Dream and a Wedding

One of the happiest men that ever journeyed a hundred miles from Michigan took the Toledo express on Saturday at Fremont, bound for Toledo and his home in Michigan. He told a strange story of which the following is the substance:

Some weeks since, while at home in Michigan, he retired to rest after a hard day’s work, and falling asleep dreamed a dream. He appeared to have taken a long journey from “home,” where he had been located for ten years, and had scarcely lost sight of, and where he had lived “a happy old bach,” and never thought of matrimony.

In that dream a vision appeared unto him. He arrived at a place in Ohio which was called Fremont. It appeared that soon after his arrival in that place, he formed the acquaintance of a young lady, and that, after a sort but happy courtship, he married her and returned to his home in Michigan, where he became wealthy, lived happily, and raised a numerous family of children, and in time trotted his grandchildren upon his knee. He then awoke; it was broad daylight, and his mother was at his door calling him down to breakfast.

At the breakfast table he related his dream to the old lady, and she was deeply impressed with it. He told her it was his intention to at once seek out the beautiful creature of whom he had creamed, and the old lady, believing there was a special providence in it, and being also a firm believer in dreams, advised him by all means to go and find her if he could, and if he couldn’t find her to bring back an Ohio girl any way, “for you know,” said she, “the Ohio girls are right smart.” So John packed up his little wardrobe, and took the first train out for Ohio, and lost no time in reaching Fremont.

When he arrived at the place he was surprised to discover that the sign at the depot, containing the name of the place—was an exact duplicate of the one he had seen in his dream and that the depot buildings and the general appearance of the city corresponded exactly with his vision. He put up at the Kepler House and began his search. For two or three days he was unsuccessful, but finally, just before he was on the point of returning home he came face to face with a maiden at the post office.

“’Tis she,” said he, all to himself, and then he walked up manfully and told her his story; his dream, and of his place in Michigan, and frankly asked her to share his lot with him.

She said something about its being sudden; she would rather wait a few days before giving an answer; but he was determined to have there and then, and she finally said she was all his own. He accompanied her to her home, and that evening he told her fond parents all about it. And they pronounced it good. The day following they were married and at once commenced their journey Michiganward.

The man was a fine looking fellow, and so happy that he could scarcely contain himself. He protested roundly that it was the woman he saw in his dram that he had met and married, ad that all, from first to last, had been exactly as he pictured in his dream. The lady was a pleasing appearing, comely looking lady, a few years younger than the man, and seemed to be brim full of fun and to enjoy the novelty of the thing fully as much as her husband. Take them all in all, they were well matched and were doubtless made for each other. He said only one thing was lacking to make his happiness complete, and that was the fulfillment of the latter part of his dream. [Cleveland Leader.]

Belmont Chronicle [St. Clairsville, OH] 14 May 1868: p. 4





That marriages are made in Heaven is firmly believed by John Wilgus, a prominent merchant and farmer living at Proctorville, a little town in the Ohio valley, below Parkersburg, W. Va., and that belief is shared by his new wife. Both are spiritualists and they were married after an acquaintance of less than a week, because they were told to do so by visitors from the spirit world. R. Wilgus lost his wife several weeks ago and about the same time Mrs. Lizzie Griffin lost her husband.

Before his death Griffin told his wife that he would communicate with her after his death and tell her his wishes. Through a medium he has been doing so. About two weeks ago the message came through a medium from the departed Griffin to his widow that he wanted her to marry John Wilgus. Mrs. Griffin was not aware of the existence of any John Wilgus, but made up her mind that she would follow her husband’s advice if she ever met a man of the name of Wilgus.

About the same time that Mrs. Griffin’s advice came from her departed husband, word came through another medium to Wilgus that his wife wanted him to marry Mrs. Lizzie Griffin. He did not know Mrs. Griffin or even know of her existence, but he started out to find her in accordance with the wishes of his deceased wife. They met. John told his story and she told hers. Both were impressed with the messages from the dead. In spite of the fact that they had never met before, they became engaged at their first meeting and were married within three weeks.

Each, says the New York World, is impressed with the belief that the marriage was ordained on high and that perfect happiness must be the result of their following the spiritual guidance of those who had gone before them.

Washington [DC] Bee 13 December 1902: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One can become somewhat cynical after reading too many Spiritualist journals. When spirits arranged marriages, they were usually between a wealthy, elderly gentleman and an attractive young “spirit bride,” who appeared out of the medium’s cabinet robed in virginal white and faded away after no more than a pressure of the hand and a chaste kiss for consummation. The spirit’s trousseau and expenses incidental to the wedding were, of course, heavy, but easily extracted from the besotted groom.

Another story of a girl who wedded a ghost may be found here. The story also appears in The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past by Chris Woodyard.

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–all of June has been devoted to wedding fads and finery.

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 Ring Brought From the Grave: c. 1880s

Today Mrs Daffodil brings you a tale from the séance room narrated, rather oddly, in the third-person by medium Maud Lord Drake.


On one occasion a man came for the express purpose of mischief. He said it was all a fraud. Maud met him and looked steadily into his face for a moment. The others all knew something was coming. Finally, with a quick, gasping noise, she jumped forward, reached for his hands, and gave him a sign known only to Masons, and in a strong, clear, masculine voice told him everything he had said on the road; what he had told the boys, and repeated verbatim his jeers and contempt for the subject. She ended by saying, “Now, John Bronson, if you wish to conform to the rules of this meeting you can come in, and welcome, but, if not, you cannot attend.” The Captain admitted that his doubts had been utterly vanquished and that he would be only too glad to attend and learn more facts.

Thus was arranged one of the most surprising materializing seances that the medium had held, up to that date. During the seance this same penitent and contrite skeptic was called to the cabinet by the spirit of a young lady. When he approached she eagerly reached forth her hand and took his, saying—”My brother.” He recognized her face, and in his excitement almost screamed to her to give her name. She spoke distinctly, “Ella.”

“My God! my God! It’s my sister,” said the thoroughly convinced skeptic. He almost fainted, and was led back to his seat by his smiling and thoroughly triumphant companions, to whom he had only a few hours before ridiculed spirit return.

The influences were not yet through with him. His sister who had been buried only a short time, came again with messages for those in her far away home in the East. A thought of further identification struck him, and he said, “Ella, what did I give you when I came home on a furlough?”

“A ring set with ruby and pearls,” she replied.

“Yes, yes,” he replied, “where was it left when you were buried?”

“On my finger” said she, putting the hand out and plainly showing the ring to all present. He recognized it at once. He then asked for the wedding ring that had also been buried with her.

She had married a comrade of his company, and when she died, was buried at Keokuk, Iowa. This ring, he said, was left with her wedding ring upon her hand.

She seemed a little puzzled, disappeared for a few seconds, came back, recalled him, and reaching out her hand,’ put the ring he had given her upon his hand and said, “Keep it, but show it to Charley.” Charley was the name of her husband, and Charley’s name had not been called by any of the party.

There are many people to-day in Keokuk, Iowa, who will remember this young Captain Bronson. He attended to show others of his company who had been present several times their folly. On the way to the séance he had scoffed and sneered at his companions for believing anything so utterly ridiculous.

After this strange experience, the Captain, still in possession of his sister’s ring, declared he would not rest until his sister’s coffin was opened that he might know this was no delusion. He, with several of those present, went to the grave, where, with the sexton, they opened the coffin and examined the hand that had worn the ring. When the coffin was opened, he said, “Boys, look first and tell me.” The hands wore no gloves, and strange, but true, the ring was gone! The dead, white hand, they said, bore the impress of the missing ring. The indentation was there. The ring was taken from the soldier brother and slipped upon the finger for the second time.

Psychic Light, the Continuity of Law and Life, Mrs. Maud Eugenia Barrock Lord Drake,1904

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The much-married medium, Maud Lord-Drake [1852-1924] was a star of the séance circuit for over 65 years. She was said to have twice given readings for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.  A young Maud was christened “Daughter of the Orient” by the spirits who compared her favourably to the medium at the Temple of Delphi 4,000 years ago. We know this because Mrs Drake tells us in her 600-page autobiography called Psychic Light. The book is packed with thrilling psychic incidents, including her much-publicised disappearance:  drugged and hauled onto a ship bound for Glasgow by enemies who told the stewardess that she was mildly insane and had been prescribed a sea voyage for her health. The book also offers tales of astonishing predictions, full-body materialisations, music played by levitating guitars, and Mrs Drake’s discreetly elided anecdotes about her consistently execrable taste in men.

The ring incident reminds Mrs Daffodil of a story from the confessions of a former professional medium. He told of an elderly lady who had been attending Spiritualist circles. One day she lost a valuable diamond ring. When she went to the medium, she was told that she would find it frozen in an ice cube in her freezer, where it had been placed by the spirits. To her amazement, she found the ring exactly where the medium had said it would be. After that she was as wax in the hands of the unscrupulous Spiritualist. What she did not realize was that a friend of the medium had come to her house on some pretext and had surreptitiously purloined the ring and placed it in the freezer to be “discovered.”

Mrs Daffodil does not like to cast aspersions, but the sceptical Captain’s sister had only been buried for “a short time.”  Time enough, perhaps, for someone to exhume her body and remove rings of sentimental value that might be of some use at a future séance.

For a previous post on a “cursed” royal ring, see here.  And a post on a deadly diamond, here.

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.


Psychic Experiences of an American Sculptress: 1860s

Harriet Hosmer, American Sculptor [1830-1907]

Harriet Hosmer, American Sculptor [1830-1907]

The narrator is the American sculptress Harriet Hosmer:

“When I was living in Rome I had for several years a maid named Rosa, to whom I became much attached. She was faithful and competent, and I was greatly distressed when she became ill with consumption and had to leave me. I used to call frequently to see her when I took my customary exercise on horseback, and on one occasion she expressed a desire for a certain kind of wine. I told her I would bring it to her the next morning. This was toward evening, and she appeared no worse than for some days; indeed, I thought her much brighter, and left her with the expectation of calling to see her many times.

During the rest of the afternoon I was busy in my studio, and do not remember that Rosa was in my thoughts after I parted from her. I retired to bed in good health and in a quiet frame of mind. I always sleep with my doors locked, and in my bedroom in Rome there were two doors; the key to one my maid kept, and the other was turned on the inside. A tall screen stood around my bed. I awoke early the morning after my visit to Rosa and heard the clock in the library next, distinctly strike five, and just then I was conscious of some presence in the room, back of the screen. I asked if any one was there, when Rosa appeared in front of the screen and said, ‘Adesso sono contento, adesso sono felice.’ (Now I am content, now I am happy).

For the moment it did not seem strange, I felt as though everything was as it had been. She had been in the habit of coming into my room early in the morning. In a flash she was gone. I sprang out of bed. There was no Rosa there. I moved the curtain, thinking that she might have playfully hidden behind its folds. The same feeling induced me to look into the closet. The sight of her had come so suddenly, that in the first moment of surprise and bewilderment I did not reflect that the door was locked. When I became convinced that there was no one in the room but myself, I recollected that fact, and then I thought I must have seen a vision.

At breakfast I mentioned the apparition to my French landlady, and she ridiculed the idea as being anything more than the fantasy of an excited brain. To me it was a distinct fact, and is to this day a distinct vision. Instead of going to see Rosa after breakfast, I sent to enquire, for I felt a strong premonition that she was dead. The messenger returned saying Rosa had died at five o’clock. When I told Mr. Gladstone of this experience he was interested until I came to the apparition talking. He said he firmly believed in a magnetic current, action of one mind upon another, or whatever you choose to call it, but could not believe ghosts had yet the power of speech. However, to me this occurrence is as much of a reality as any experience of my life.

Then, too, I have had many strange flashes of inner vision in seeing articles that were lost. I have never been able to produce them by reasoning or strong desire. They have come literally in a flash. I had three such visions during different visits to Lady A., once at her country seat in Scotland and the others at her London house. Lady A. wears a curious gold ring designed by her husband. When taken from the finger it can be straightened into a key. All of her valuables, from jewel cases, to her writing room, where many important papers are kept, are fitted with locks for this key. She has one duplicate of this, made of steel that she sometimes left with her daughter or me, when going away.

One morning she came into my room much distressed, saying she could not find her ring key, and asked me to come into her room and help in the search that was being made for it by the housekeeper and assistants. She was positive she had put the ring in a cabinet by the side of her bed upon retiring the night before. When I went into the room I saw the ring key, in my mind’s eye, plainly on the table in her daughter’s apartment. I told her it was needless to search further there, that she had left it in her daughter’s room. Lady A. protested that she was certain she had taken it off after retiring. But the ring was found just where I saw it.

On another occasion Lady A. could not find a despatch box containing valuable papers. She enlisted my services in hunting for it in her writing room. She described the box. She had scarcely finished the description when a vision of it flashed across my brain. I said, ‘It is useless to search here, the box is at Drummond’s bank, in one of your large boxes.’

Lady A. said her secretary had made a careful inspection of every box at the bank, and it was not there. I saw that box distinctly, and I went to the bank. When I reached there the Messrs. Drummond seemed to think it was quite unnecessary to go through the boxes again. I asked the clerk to bring out his ledger containing the list of boxes. I felt that I could locate the right one without examining all. When I ran my hand down the list (there were seven) it stopped at five. Number five was brought from the vault into the private room of the bankers and there opened in the presence of the three brothers.

The box proved to have women’s belongings in it, rare laces chiefly. The bankers smiled incredulously and said, ‘You are not likely to find the despatch box among those things.’ All the while I saw that lacquered box. After taking out all the carefully packed articles I was rewarded by finding the lost box at the very bottom: ‘Despatch Box’ across the front in gilt letters. I said to Messrs. Drummond, ‘ I will not take the box home, my friend must come and see for herself that my vision was accurate.’ So it was left in the private room of the bank while I drove home. When I told Lady A. the circumstance she turned pale and said she believed I was a witch, as the servants thought, because I had such powers of finding lost articles. We drove back and got the treasure.

How and why these visions come, is, as yet, an unknown science, but I firmly believe it will be made clear some time, perhaps at no distant day.”

Harriet Hosmer: Letters and Memories, Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, edited by Cornelia Carr, 1912

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Harriet Hosmer [1830-1907] was an American sculptress and inventor. She went to Italy at age 22 and lived there for many years, becoming friends with notables such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Thackeray, the sculptor Thorvaldsen, George Eliot, George Sand, and the Brownings. She was also associated with a group of women artists in Rome, who were ridiculed by Henry James for their masculine proclivities. One fears that James was spiteful because he was jealous. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote euphemistically of Miss Hosmer and her friends: “there’s a house of what I call emancipated women…very clever and very strange…” Sculptor William Wetmore Story (creator of the “Angel of Grief”) wrote to a friend that Hosmer and her friends formed  “a Harem (Scarem) of emancipated females.”

Hosmer created a large body of work, much of which seems to have been lost or destroyed.  Naturally an “emancipated female” working as a sculptor was the target of prejudice. A rumour was  circulated that her monumental Zenobia in Chains was actually created by one of her Italian workmen because obviously ladies couldn’t sculpt anything that large or that well. Hosmer sued the London Queen, who had printed the story, and won her case. See this link for the entire fascinating story and photos of Miss Hosmer in her studio.

Miss Hosmer was, it is said, devoted to patroness of the arts Louisa, Lady Ashburton, the “Lady A.” of the passages above, for over 25 years. Her letters are at Harvard, but many of them were destroyed or mutilated, with indiscreet, erotic, or overly-candid passages scissored out by her friend Cornelia Carr, who edited the letters for publication.

Mrs Lydia Maria Child [1802-1880] was a novelist and worker for the rights of the American Indian and women.  She was also an Abolitionist and a Spiritualist. She and Harriet Hosmer were friends and correspondents. Miss Hosmer gave her permission to paraphrase the story of the ghostly Rosa’s visit in a piece entitled “Spirits” for the Atlantic Monthly.

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 Unwilling Ghost of Jane Seymour Summoned by Mrs Russell-Davies: 1897

Jane Seymour, portrait by Hans Holbein, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Jane Seymour, portrait by Hans Holbein, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


Mrs. Russell Davies received the story of Jane Seymour in the same way from the ghost’s own lips, but there is a difference. In both cases the ghosts were invoked by Mrs. Davies, but, in the case of Jane Seymour, the apparition came unwillingly, of compulsion. Mrs. Davies had previously seen her on the evening in which I accompanied her to the palace. She saw the apparition seated before a fire in the fireplace in a large bare room, having a heavy tapestry. She heard in the distance the sound of many feet, and above all the loud, coarse laugh of a man. Then everything faded, but Mrs. Davis knew that she had seen the ghost of Jane Seymour, and was naturaliy much interested. The sequel is told in the following story :—

In spite of the feeling of repugnance which Jane Seymour inspired in me, I determined to follow up the experience as far as I could. On my return home I was excited, and could not sleep. The recollection of what I had witnessed tilled my mind, and the question how I could communicate with these spirits engrossed me. At last the idea of invoking the spirit of Jane Seymour occurred to me. Such things had been done, and were constantly being done in the present day.

In the stillness of the night I called her name through the silence. I waited and listened, but no sound broke the stillness. I exerted all the will-force at my command, but no sign or sound was given. It was now nearly 3 A.M. No sleep came to me. I was hopelessly wide awake. All at once my hea t began to beat heavily, a sure sign, known to me by long experience as indicating that my spiritual powers were being used. There was a rush of icy cold air through the room, and then, close to my side, I saw again the form of the woman I had so lately beheld at Hampton Court Palace.

“Who are you? Why do you call me? Wh:it have you to do with me?”

These words seemed to be breathed, not spoken. That is the only way in which I can describe the manner of communication. A voice disturbs the atmosphere by its vibrations. But no sounds could be detected in any way, and yet I heard distinctly every word that was said. This puts me in mind of the voices which Samuel heard calling him aloud, but which were unheard by others near him.

I replied aloud, “I have nothing to do with you, but I wish most earnestly to hold communication with yourself and others. Others besides myself wish to know the meaning of the strange sounds which have been heard at Hampton Court, and whether so-called ghosts have been seen there. Will you answer my questions? I called you because I wished to leam and to know.”

“I am here,” she replied, “because you called me, not of my own will, but against it. The spirits who brought me here are those in whose power I am, and must continue to be, until such time as by my own efforts I shall have repaired the wrongs I did to them when on earth. Oh, how long will this be? When will it end?”

“Are you the Queen, Jane Seymour?”

“I am Jane Seymour, but no Queen. I was the wife of Henry, King of England, but Queen in name only. He had only one, and she was Queen Catherine. Anne was no more queen than I was, and none knew this better than herself. It was this fact which influenced me so far, that when Henry turned his attention to me I saw no reason to reject his advances. That he was unprincipled, licentious, and cruel was well known to me and to all who ever came in contact with him, but I never dreamed that he would execute Anne in order to make me his wife; at least, not until it was too late, and I was committed to him.”

“Yes, but there was no compulsion used. You need not have gone so far as you did.”

“You do not understand. You must have lived in those times and in my surroundings to comprehend fully the position of things. Have you never realised that the unhappy women of history have all been more or less the unwilling victims to the ambitions of others? I am here to confess my sins. I was ambitious. My kith and kin were also ambitious. I had seen what Henry had done for the Boleyns. Why should he not do the same by me and mine? Anne and I had been educated under almost the same conditions. Both went early to France. Both very early in life were thrown into surroundings such as you in your conditions cannot even imagine. Debauchery of every kind was openly carried on around us. Religion was a greater farce in those days than now. Neither Anne nor I had any real religion in us, no matter what cither of us may have professed. Who was there to care for our morals, our health, or anything else which is or should be sacred to youth? Our parents had done all they considered could be required of them. We were at the court of a great Queen, and we were being educated for court life. We found all we were sent there to find. I had no compunction then about Anne’s happiness. I hated her and her family. Her father, a treacherous and scheming old man, was the first to find out Henry’s attentions to me. He it was who prompted Anne to spy upon us.”

Here I interrupted. “I have read that Anne found the thing out through a jewel you were wearing.”

“No, the jewel only confirmed her suspicions. Her father had bribed my attendant to tell him whence came the new and valuable ornaments I wore. The wench took his bribe and satisfied him that they came from his royal son-in-law. Anne snatched at my neck without asking me one word about my brooch, and as she broke it off she tore her fingers with the pin. From that day we were open enemies, and I did not trouble to conceal my malice any more. I cared not what became of her. Day after day I repeated to Henry gossip which I knew to be untrue, and now I know that he knew as well as I that these tales of mine were hideous lies. Anne was as faithful a wife to Henry as the purest wife in the world could be. I saw her day by day worn with grief, anxiety, and illness, and if I ever prayed at all in those evil days of mine I prayed that both she and her child might die. And at last the day came when a dead son was bom to her. I saw Henry’s fury and disappointment. If Anne had not been well watched and protected by her own people, he would have poisoned her. He was capable of any villainy. She recovered, and I watched the net closing round her, and one day Henry told me she was to die, and that her death would be my triumph. We pretended to cool towards each other. I went frequently from court. But my family was busily preparing for my marriage. At last the fatal day came round. I was at my father’s house, Wolf Hall—a good name, was it not? Even my callous heart was touched, and in imagination I saw the tragedy being enacted.”

At this point of the story I seemed to feel the sickening horror of the whole crime. I can hardly describe my feeling. I felt as though every drop of blood in my body rushed into my head and face, and would burst out at my eyes and ears. Then I broke out into a violent perspiration, grew cold as ice, and sat and shivered.

Jane Seymour sat by my side with her hands held over her face in an attitude of abject fear. I asked myself whether it was wrong to recall this woman to earth. Presently she uncovered her face, and I heard her voice again.

“Were you right in calling me? you ask. How am I to answer? I certainly did not come here of my own will or by my own desire. I do not know you, but I was compelled to come. I heard a voice, loud, distinct, and imperative, and I was forced by an unknown power to obey. You are a woman, and can judge from a woman’s standpoint. Is my punishment what it should be? Is it too heavy or too light? Will Anne Boleyn’s blood-stain ever be washed off my unhappy soul? Not Anne’s blood alone, but that of those martyred gentlemen who shared her cruel fate is there to haunt me. There is a sea of blood through which it is my fate to wade before I can once more clasp to my bosom the child for whose life I gave my own. It is in the undying hope of regaining my son that I wander perpetually through Hampton Court in the spirit. He was born there, and is there still, but between us there rolls a sea of blood. My child, my child, can I never atone?”

The voice here rose in a loud, wailing cry. I threw myself back on my pillow. I could endure it no longer. “Go,” I said, “go, and never return. Surely such suffering as this is punishment enough.”

When I opened my eyes again the dawn had appeared, but the recollection of my ghostly visitant remained vividly in my mind, and will remain there for many a long day. Borderland: A Quarterly Review and Index, Volume 4,  edited by William Thomas Stead, 1897

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Last week Mrs Daffodil gave Mrs Russell-Davies’ account of her meeting with the late Catherine Howard. It is interesting that while Catherine is viewed by history as a wanton and Jane Seymour as a meek and modest young woman, the stories elicited (or imagined) by the clairvoyant are quite the reverse. Jane Seymour’s son was, of course, the short-lived King Edward VI. Once again the story is briefly introduced by Mr Stead, the editor of Borderland.

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.