Tag Archives: Victorian ghost stories

The Lawyer and the Ghost: 19th-century

secret drawer

A secret drawer in the desk. popularwoodworking.com

THE CASE OF MRS. ROGER BLACK.

A Mr. Roger Black, a plain man, living in Kentucky, had just paid for a small house, which he had hitherto rented, and, returning home, told his wife, showed her the receipt for the sum—two thousand dollars—though more regular papers were to be made out next day, and, as far as she knew, he then went at once to his stable, where, some hours later, he was found dead, having been kicked in the head by a horse.

When the first horror was over, and Mr. Black’s funeral had taken place, the widow naturally looked for the receipt, but could not find it. Having incautiously mentioned this fact, the person who had sold the property denied having received any money from Mr. Black, and insinuated that Mrs. Black uttered a falsehood when she declared that her husband had done more than talk about buying the place. In proof of this, he showed a document, only half completed, and declared that Black had said: “let it wait until I think it over “—and that, for his part, he had been very willing to wait.

The widow naturally fought for her rights, but had no case.

She had no witnesses, and the lawyer who had the interests of the other side in charge brought witnesses to prove that Mrs. Black was the victim of hallucinations—thought that her mother’s spirit sat at her bedside when she was ill, and had held spiritual circles at her house. Believing in an alleged medium, who was afterward exposed, and in warnings of Mr. Black’s death, in the shape of raps on her head-board.

People who could not believe Mrs. Black capable of trying to defraud anyone, readily leaned to the idea that she was the victim of delusion, and the poor woman, who could not prove the truth of her statement to anyone, was also aggrieved by being supposed insane.

The night before the decision took place, she gave up all hope and went early to bed, taking her two little ones with her.

She could not sleep, but lay there weeping, wondering how she could feed her children, from whom their hard-earned home was to be wrested. There was a public clock not far away, and she heard it strike, nine— ten—eleven—at last twelve—then, weary with her sorrowful vigil, her eyes closed.

She lay in a deep and heavy slumber, when she was aroused by heavy blows upon her outer door. As she was alone in the little house, she felt alarmed, and, pushing up the window, leaned out and asked who was there.

To her surprise, the voice of the lawyer who was working against her replied:

“It is I—come down, Mrs. Black; I must speak to you.”

Accordingly, she dressed and went to the door. In the cold, gray dawn, they stood there together, and she saw that something moved him strongly.

“Mrs. Black,” he said, at last, ” to-night, as I lay in bed, I thought that your late husband came into my room, and stood looking at me. I do not believe in such things as apparitions, you know; but I could not fancy it a delusion when he spoke—’you are helping that man to rob my wife,’ he said; ‘I did pay him the money. We were to have a lawyer make out papers next day. I showed wife the receipt and then put it in my mother’s old bureau, up garret, where I keep other papers, in the secret drawer—get it.’

“Then,” said the lawyer, “a light by which I saw him, faded—I got up and came to you.” The widow shook her head—” I am afraid you have been having hallucinations now,” she said; “poor Roger never would have put the receipt there. To be sure, there is a secret drawer—I will go and see—come up.”

She led the way up to the garret, in the corner of which stood a broken, old bureau. There was a so-called secret drawer between two manifest ones. She touched the spring—a number of yellow papers lay there and some Daguerreotypes. Amongst them was a large, white envelope.

“That is it!” Mrs. Black cried, drew it forth, opened it, and—behold! the receipt.

“Mrs. Black, you have but to bring that receipt to court to-morrow,” the lawyer said, slowly; “my client is a rascal.

“If I may ask you a favor—it is this—that you will keep the secret of my vision, it would greatly injure me to have it known. But I do not think that you are anxious for revenge?”

Mrs. Black held out her hand to him.

“You have done me a good turn by coming here,” she said, “and I promise.”

“I wonder my poor husband went to you—I should have thought he’d come to me instead—but you acted right, and I’ll never tell.”

She never did, while the lawyer lived. After he died, she no longer felt bound by the promise she had made him.

I do not vouch for this story. It was told me as a true one; but it resembles very closely a tale in an English periodical many years old. However, it is an illustration of my idea that lawyers are employed by spirits who have legal affairs to settle before they can forget the troubles of this world. 

The Freed Spirit, Mary Kyle Dallas, 1894: pp 183-186

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There is a popular idea that the legal profession is composed exclusively of vultures, sharks, and other unpleasant creatures, preying on the unfortunate. It is refreshing to find a lawyer happy to do a good turn, even if it is at the urging of a spectre. One does wonder why the ghost came to the lawyer, but perhaps he thought the lawyer’s disinterested position would offset the unpleasantness over Mrs Black’s unorthodox supernatural views.

We have previously read of a similar case where a lawyer witnesses a ghost’s return in the story of The Will and the Ghost. But if, as Miss Dallas suggests, spirits employ lawyers, where are the bills sent? Are said bills for “chill-able” hours? Or do such lawyers work “pro-boo-no”? [Mrs Daffodil must apologise. That person over at Haunted Ohio, so reprehensively fond of puns, must have crept into Mrs Daffodil’s rooms in a shocking invasion of privacy and added those last two sentences, as the manuscript sat in the type-writer.]

 

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.

 

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The Phantom Huntsman: 1890s?

Sargent, John Singer; Lord Ribblesdale; The National Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/lord-ribblesdale-114725. Shown in hunting costume. He was Master of the Buckhounds from 1892-95.

The Phantom Huntsman

When I was about nine years of age, I went to live with my grandfather on a farm near the little town of Yarm, on the banks of the river Tees. One day he happened to be short-handed. He had an order for a ton of potatoes to be delivered in Yarm on that day. He loaded the cart and sent me off to deliver them in the afternoon. It was a November afternoon, therefore, it turned dark early.

I delivered the potatoes and set off home later than I expected, in the dark. I knew the old horse knew every inch of the road, and, being a lonely road and practically deserted, I gave the horse his head and laid down in the bottom of the cart on the empty sacks. I got along all right until I landed at a part of the road which led between two plantations, one at each side. I still had about two miles to go, as we lived four miles from the town, when I was startled to hear what I thought was the rustle of a saddle and the tread of a horse on the frosty road. Being lonely and nervous, I jumped up to see what was coming, delighted to think I was going to have company.

To my utter surprise, I saw a horseman riding alongside me on a beautiful bay horse. He was dressed in a red coat, white riding breeches, huntsman’s hat, and everything complete. I grabbed my reins to pull off and make way for him, but he kept to the grass at the side of the road.

I said, “Good evening, sir.”

He didn’t speak, but only lifted his whip to his cap in response. I was delighted, as I loved to see the huntsmen and the hounds, although I was surprised to see this one. I knew perfectly well that there was no meet in the immediate district on that day, or my grandfather would certainly have attended it, as he never missed a run when possible to get there.

I said to the gentleman, “Where did the hounds meet to-day, sir?”

He only looked down on me and smiled. I had then got as far as the gate leading into the fields off the main road to the farm. I got out and opened the gate and let my horse and cart pass through, then still held the gate for the huntsman to pass, as he was standing waiting.

Instead of coming through the gate, to my great surprise, he suddenly vanished.

I was terribly afraid as I could not make out where he had gone or how he had gone. I let the gate go and jumped into the cart, and made the old horse go as fast as he could for home. Although I had no idea of ghosts then, I landed home scared to death. I rushed into the house and scared my grandfather and grandmother as well. When I got pulled round I related to them what had happened.

Then my grandfather said he wouldn’t have let me go if he had thought about it. He said there had been a follower of the hunt killed in those woods two or three seasons before and that he had haunted the woods during the hunting season ever since. My grandfather himself had been present on the very day the accident happened and he said my description of the gentleman tallied exactly with the one who was killed. He had no doubt I had seen and even spoken to the ghost that others had seen riding at night about those woods. He mentioned the incident at the next hunt meet and it was generally accepted that I had seen the ghost.

Curiously enough, my grandfather had the misfortune to be killed himself with a horse and lorry sometime after my experience. Whether it had any bearing upon the after trouble that befell me I can’t say, but this goes to prove that there are ghosts. As the saying goes, seeing is believing.

True Ghost Stories Told by “Daily News” Readers, S. Louis Giraud, 1927: p. 77-78

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What a vanished world is reflected in the young man’s eagerness to “make way” for the gentleman, the aristocratic ghost’s touching of its cap with its whip, the ghost waiting, with the expectation that the boy would open the gate for him and his horse. Even in death, the social distinctions were maintained by the phantom huntsman and his witness.

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.

 

Piloted by a Spirit: 1870s

PILOTED BY A SPIRIT.

By A. Y.

I checked my horse, and after one long, straining look around owned to myself that I was lost. I had suspected the fact some time since, but had stubbornly fought down the suspicion, though my horse evidently realized it. With patient endurance he plodded along, resignation plainly expressed in the droop of his tail and ears. In place of the ranch, the hearty welcome, pleasant words, bed, supper and fire I had expected to reach by sunset, there was nothing to be seen before, behind or on either hand, but the dead level of the plain. There were paths in plenty; in fact, the trouble was there were too many—all narrow and winding, for whose meandering there seemed not the slightest excuse, except the general tendency to crookedness most things, animate and inanimate, alike possess. But it would have taken the instinct of a bloodhound or a trailing Indian to have said which paths had been made by horses’ feet or those of cattle.

Now that the sun was gone, I found my knowledge of the point of the compass gone with it. As I sat perplexed and worried the gloom of twilight gathered fast, and the chill of coming rain smote me through and through while in the distance there was the roll of thunder.

It was now quite dark, and very dark at that, though at short intervals close to the horizon a faint gleam of lightning showed too distant to cast brightness on my path and only sufficient to intensify the blackness about me.

All at once I saw a man walking about fifteen feet in front of me. Yes, I know I said it was intensely dark, but all the same I repeat it. I saw a man walking in front of me, and, furthermore, I could see that he was a large man, dressed in rough, but well-fitting clothes; that he wore a heavy red beard, and that he looked back at me from time to time with an expression of keen anxiety on his otherwise relaxed features.

“Halloo!” I cried, but as he did not halt I concluded he did not hear me. As a second hail produced no result I spurred my weary horse up to overtake the stranger. But, though the gray responded with alacrity most commendable under the circumstances I soon found that this strange pedestrian did not intend to let me catch up with him. Not that he hurried himself. He seemed without any exertion to keep a good fifteen feet between us.

Then I began to wonder how, with the intense darkness shutting me in as four black walls, I was yet able to see my strange companion so clearly, to take in the details of his dress, and even the expression of his face, and that at a distance more than twice my horse’s length, when I could hardly see his head before me. I am not given to superstitious fancies, and my only feeling was of curiosity.

We went on in silence for nearly half an hour, when as suddenly as he had appeared he was gone. I looked around for him, half afraid from his instant and complete disappearance, that I had been dreaming, when I perceived that I was close to a small, low building of some sort. I reined in and shouted several times, but not the slightest response could I hear, and at last I rode boldly up and tapped on the wall with the butt of my riding whip. Then as this elicited no sign of life, I concluded that I had stumbled on some deserted house or that it was the abode of my eccentric friend; so dismounting and tying the gray, I resolved to spend the rest of the night under a roof or to find some good reason for continuing my journey.

I felt my way along the wall till I reached a door, and trying this and finding that it yielded to me I stepped inside, striking a match as I did so. Fortunately, I carried my matches in an air tight case, and as it was dry the one I struck gave me a light at once. I found myself in a large room close to a fireplace over which a rude shelf was placed, and on this mantel I saw an oil lamp to which I applied my match.

On the hearth was heaped a quantity of ashes, and over these crouched a child, a little girl of 5 or 6. At the end of the room, which was plainly and scantily furnished, lay a man across a bed, and as I raised the lamp I saw that he was the same I had been following, but there was something in his attitude and face that struck me as peculiar, and I was about to go forward and look at him when the child who had at first seemed dazed at the light fairly threw herself upon me.

“Have you anything for Nelly to eat?” she said, and then, “Oh, Nelly so hungry!”

I ran my hand into my pocket and drew forth what had been a paper bag of chocolate candy, but now was a pulpy unappetizing mass. I must confess to a childish fondness for sweets, which I usually carry in some form about me. I handed the remains of my day’s supply to the child, and then walked over to the bed.

Yes, it was the same man, red beard, rough clothes, but setting off the magnificent frame to perfection; the same man, but dead, long dead.

I took his hand only to find it stiff and cold while his face had the dull gray aspect never seen in the newly dead. As I stood gazing down on him a little hand touched mine.

“Nelly so hungry!” said the child.

“Have you eaten all the candy?” I asked her.

“Yes, yes! But me hungry, for me had no dinner, no brekkus, no supper, and papa won’t get up.

The house, which consisted of the large room, a smaller kitchen and a shed, where I found a quantity of hay and fodder, seemed quite bare of food but by dint of searching in the hay I discovered a nest, which Nelly informed me was there, and in it two fresh eggs. These I boiled for her. When she had finished I soothed her to sleep on a bed I made for her before the fire. Then after I had put my horse in the shed room and fed him I performed as well as I could a service for the dead.

When day dawned I was able to discern at some distance from the house a line of telegraph poles, and taking the child with me I followed these to the nearest. town where I notified the authorities of the death.

The dead man’s name was Frederick Barnstaple. He was an Englishman, so I found, a recent arrival in those parts. His daughter was restored to her family across the water, and is now a pretty girl of 17. I have never told this story, but am ready to take an affidavit to its truth.

It all happened about thirty miles from Dallas.

Religio-Philosophical Journal 7 February 1891: p. 585

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Where, one wonders, was the child’s mother? Many of the Englishmen who came to America’s west were bachelor younger sons, looking to find a fortune or consumptives, seeking health.  Neither class of émigré brought little girls with them. A mystery.

But certainly no more of a mystery than the narrator’s ghostly guide, who was so mysteriously visible in the darkness of the prairie. How (again, one wonders) was the spirit of the dead man able to find and influence his child’s rescuer on that vast plain? Do spirits have some sort of heat-seeking apparatus or extremely acute hearing? Do they scent the living from miles away, as a blow-fly scents the dead? A mystery….

 

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 Man in the Dog-Cart: 1890s

My next tale has always seemed to me one of the most interesting psychic experiences that I have ever heard related.

Some few years ago, a young officer, whom we will call Lestrange, went to stay at a country house in the Midlands. It may be said that he was a good type of the average British subaltern, whose tastes, far from  inclining towards abstract study or metaphysical speculation, lay chiefly in the direction of polo, hunting, and sport generally. In fact, the last person in the world one would have said likely to “see a ghost.”

One afternoon during his visit, Lestrange borrowed a dog-cart from his friend, and set out to drive to the neighbouring town. About half-way there he saw walking along the road in front of him a very poor and ragged-looking man, who, as he passed him, looked so ill and miserable that Lestrange, being a kind-hearted person, took pity on him and, pulling up, called out, “Look here, if you are going to C—-, get up behind me and I will give you a lift.” The man said nothing but proceeded to climb up on the cart, and as he did so, Lestrange noticed that he wore a rather peculiar handkerchief round his neck, of bright red, spotted with green. He took his seat and Lestrange drove on and reaching C—- stopped at the door of the principal hotel. When the ostler came forward to take the horse, Lestrange, without looking round, said to him: “Just give that man on the back seat a good hot meal and I’ll pay. He looks as if he wanted it, poor chap.” The ostler looked puzzled and said: “Yes, sir; but what man do you mean?”

Lestrange turned his head and saw that the back seat was empty, which rather astonished him and he exclaimed: “Well! I hope he didn’t fall off. But I never heard him get down. At all events, if he turns up here, feed him. He is a ragged, miserable-looking fellow, and you will know him by the handkerchief he had round his neck, bright red and green.” As these last words were uttered a waiter who had been standing in the doorway and heard the conversation came forward and said to Lestrange, “Would you mind stepping inside for a moment, sir?”

Lestrange followed him, noticing that he looked very grave, and the waiter stopped at a closed door, behind the bar, saying: “I heard you describe that tramp you met, sir, and I want you to see what is in here.” He then led the way into a small bedroom, and there, lying on the bed, was the corpse of a man, ragged and poor, wearing round his neck a red handkerchief spotted with green.

Lestrange made a startled exclamation. “Why, that is the very man I took up on the road just now. How did he get here?”

He was then told that the body he saw had been found by the roadside at four o’clock the preceding afternoon, and that it had been taken to the hotel to await the inquest. Comparisons showed that Lestrange had picked up his tramp at the spot where the body had been discovered on the previous day; and the hour, four o’clock, was also found to tally exactly.

Now was this, as the ancients would have told us, the umbra of the poor tramp, loth to quit entirely a world of which it knew at least the worst ills, to “fly to others that it knew not of”? Or was it rather what Mr. C. W. Leadbeater has described in his book, “The Other Side of Death,” as a thought-form, caused by the thoughts of the dead man returning with honor to the scene of his lonely and miserable end, and thereby producing psychic vibrations strong enough to construct an actual representation of his physical body, visible to any “sensitive” who happened that way? We must leave our readers to decide for themselves what theory will best fit as an explanation of this strange and true story.

Stranger Than Fiction, Mary L. Lewes, 1911: p. 96-98

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr. C.W. Leadbeater was a Spiritualist and influential member of the Theosophical Society. He wrote extensively on esoteric subjects such as the astral plane, clairvoyance, and reincarnation. Mrs Daffodil sees no reason to drag “psychic vibrations” or “thought-forms” into a perfectly good English ghost story.

 

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 Ghost’s Whispered Story: 1870s

Niagara Falls, 1890

Was It a Dream?

A GHOST’S WHISPERED STORY.

They told me that the house was haunted. Nothing had been seen in the shape of an apparition by those who resided there; there was no terrific disturbance, no bright and mysterious light, but there was a general belief that the house was haunted. The ghost was a well-behaved ghost, and modest. On inquiring of one who had slept there, I learned that he had heard nothing except a confused murmur, a sound of low, indistinct speech, as of some one trying to speak while suffering under aphony. It was a laborious whisper, of which a word now and then was audible. I asked him what were the words, and he told me that two he remembered—”falls” and “boat”—but no others. The only thing remarkable about that was that others who had slept there had heard the same words. That gave me, I was quite sure, a key to the matter, and I smiled. I concluded the purchase of the house that very day. It was cheap enough. Nobody would live in it, and it was rotting through disuse. The owner, who needed ready cash, was glad to get rid of his profitless property. The house itself was a comfortable mansion, that cost 10,000 dollars to build, and the ground, rather more than three acre, had been handsomely laid out in trees and shrubbery, though now overgrown with brambles. The architect assured me that 1800 would put the house and grounds in order, and add modern conveniences. So I bought it for 2000 down, and had the necessary repairs made, their cost overrunning the estimate nearly 200 dollars. So that for 4000 dollars I obtained a handsome and convenient dwelling on the banks of a noble river, with the tiny demesne sloping to the south-west, having picturesque views on either hand, and in a good neighbourhood. The night before my family were to remove to it I took up my lodging in the house alone, having had a pallet laid down in the library.

I suppose the stories I had heard, though I had laughed at them, made their impression on my mind. Such things always do, in spite of reason. A vague feeling of easiness fills us m the presence of mystery even though our curiosity or our pride gets the better of our terror, and we probe the thing to the bottom, or try to. That may account for my restlessness, for I was restless and wakeful. I had been busy all day, in arranging furniture, and in directing the men at work on the grounds, in the latter case handling the spade and mattock myself quite often, and was thoroughly tired. Yet 1 could not sleep. It was 10 o’clock when I turned down the light so that it gave only a faint glimmer, and lay down. Eleven o’clock came, and 12, and I still tossed on my couch with open eyes. When the echo of the last stroke of the bell of the church in the neighbouring town of B__ died away, I felt there was some thing or some one in the room. I sprang up, turned the light on full, and grasped the loaded revolver which lay on the library table. There was no one there certainlv that I could see, and the door was locked, I and I laughed at my alarm. The next moment, as I threw myself in the great arm chair, I felt there was some one close to me. Just then there was a low and labored whisper at my right ear. The words distinct, though faintly uttered:

“Let me tell you my story,”

I sprang up and looked around. Nothing there. It appeared to be imagination, and yet I felt terror. Was I awake? I was, undoubtedly. The whisper came again:

“You must listen.”

I felt that to be true. The thin, icy, forced whisper held me by a spell. I could not have moved had flames burst out around me. Body and mind seemed stricken with palsy, I could hear, but nothing more. Then the whisper returned, and I can remember all that followed, word for word, and can write it out, again and again without varying a word or a letter.

“It was three miles above the cataract. As I stood upon, the river bank I could see, even at that point, with what swiftness the Niagara was hurrying toward the fatal plunge. There was a skiff tied to a root on the bank, and as it afforded me a seat, I stepped in and sat down in the stern sheets. There I played with my hands in the stream and listened to the distant incessant roar of the boiling waters. As I sat there I thought of my young wife hundreds of miles away, whom I had left a few days before to attend to some business in Canada, and whom I was to rejoin the next day, having taken this point on my way homeward. I sat there with my eyes half closed, and then, throwing myself backward, was lulled to sleep by the monotonous noise. How long I slept I do not know, but a piercing shriek, rising above the dull roar of the falls, awakened me. I looked round. The boat had broken loose, and I was far out in the stream, all drifting rapidly toward the falls. I sprang up to seize the oars and pull to shore. There were no oars in the boat.

“I glanced toward the shore. It seemed the bank was lined with men, women, and, children, who may have called to me, but I could hear nothing. My first impulse was to leap overboard, but then I could not swim.

“A man on the bank threw a lasso. I waited the coming of the loop, and reached my hand towards it, but it fell short. It was drawn in, and the man, running swiftly to a point further down, tried again. He apparently cast it with greater force, but it fell further off than before. I was being drawn nearer to the centre of the horse-shoe. “And now there came the lethargy of despair. I sat there without hope and without fear. My doom was inevitable. The motion of the boat grew faster and faster; the distant banks whirled past me, and then my spirit rose in a kind of ecstasy. I gave a sharp glance around me and laughed. As the boat struck the edge of the abyss and rose for the final plunge I caught sight of a dense mist; I heard above the roar the rush of a thousand wings; I felt as though I had been struck with a numbing blow, and breath and consciousness left me together.

“It seemed to be a dream, for when I recovered I found I was here in my own house. Yonder sat my wife, clad in black, her head buried in her hands. Yes! it seemed a dream, for though I tried to speak to her, my lips made no sounds and I heard nothing. I touched her, but she did not heed it. I looked around the room, bewildered.

“It was this library. There on a long table, which did not belong here, lay some- thing like a human form, covered by a sheet. What was it doing here? Whose body lay here? A new and more unspeakable terror seized me. I would like to have cried out. I could not. I was dumb.

“My wife arose and went to the table. ‘Now,’ I said to myself, ‘I shall know all.’ She raised the cover from her head, and, stooping down, kissed the face of the corpse. Could it be that my father-in-law, Colonel Barnesleigh, had died while I was away! I did not walk, but I was moved by some unseen power until I stood by my wife and over the dead body and looked down. I knew it all then. I recognised the cold, lifeless face. It was my own….”

Then the whisper ceased, and I fell in a deep sleep in the chair. It was daylight when I awoke. I looked around. Had I dreamed it all? On the table was the fragment of a newspaper. Picking it up, my glance caught the name of a former owner of the house, and I read as follows:

Melancholy Casualty.—A terrible event occurred on Friday last, Robert Grant of this village, on his return from Toronto, where he had been on business, stopped at Niagara. He took a walk above the falls after breakfast. He must have got in a boat and lost or broken the oars— though it is said no oars were in the boat at all. He was seen afloat by a large crowd of people just above the fall. Every attempt was made to rescue him, but unsuccessfully, and he was carried to death. His body was recovered on Sunday, and is now on its way here. He leaves a widow.

I had certainly seen never seen that paragraph before. I am quite sure of that. From that time out there had been no noises in the house, except such as could be easily explained, and the whispered voice never came again. Yet, if it were no dream, or no imaginary whisper, why should me ghost have told his story to me, and why should he tell it at all?

Thomas Dunn English.

Auckland [NZ] Star, 22 March 1879: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One does not expect impeccable logic in a ghost story, but to be perfectly frank, Mrs Daffodil has several objections to this sensational tale. One is that the narrator could easily have read or sub-consciously absorbed the contents of the newspaper fragment so conveniently situated on the table, thus generating a vivid and ghostly dream. Second, what sort of imbecile gets into a boat above the great Niagara cataract and, without noticing if the boat is securely moored or if there are oars, falls asleep, knowing that he cannot swim?

Perhaps this is only what might have been expected from Mr English, who was the author “Ben Bolt,” one of the hoariest chestnuts of the drawing-room recitation oeuvre and of such works as Walter Woolfe, or the Doom of the Drinker, a Temperance novel. (Mrs Daffodil shudders even to hint at the existence of such a literary genre.) The author also quarreled with Mr Edgar Allan Poe, who said that English was “a man without the commonest school education busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind in topics of literature”.

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 Captain’s Vision: 1830s

Mary's ghost a pathetic ballad BL

The Captain’s Vision.

I t was on a miserable cold day in February that the good bark Emerald, in which I was second mate, weighed her anchor from the mud opposite Gravesend, and commenced her voyage for the Mauritius. I had sailed with the captain (Wharton) to the West Indies on a former voyage, and had been asked by him to take the second mate’s place this trip, although I was only twenty-one years old at the time. I thought it was a good berth, and accepted it, although I disliked the man.

He was a good sailor, there was no denying, but a bit of a bully, and, I always suspected, drank a good deal when quiet in his cabin. He had been married just before our voyage, and his honeymoon was rather curtailed by our departure. I saw his wife several times before we left England, for she was staying at Gravesend; and also came on board while we were lying in the docks. She was a pretty young girl, and seemed to be too quiet and good for the skipper, who, I thought, did not treat her as he ought to have done.

She told me that she was going to take a cottage at Gosport while her husband was away, and asked me, if I had time, to write her a few words to say how the ship got on, in case we met any of the homeward bound, or stopped at any port. I believe when she shook hands with me, and said, “good-by, sir; a happy voyage to you,” I felt much inclined to do her any service, and pitied her lonely situation more than her husband did. She told me that her only relation was an aged aunt. Well, we floundered across the Bay of Biscay, and ran down the trades, and in twenty-seven days from leaving England with a freezing north wind, we were baking under the line with 95 degrees in the shade shown on our thermometer. The skipper had shoved a couple of our men in irons for very slight offences during our run, and seemed to be a greater brute than ever. He was one of those fellows who acted like an angel on shore, so pleasant and kind, but when he got afloat in the blue water, he wasn’t an angel exactly, at least not the right sort of an angel.

We jogged on, however, till we passed round the Cape; we gave it a wide berth, and kept well off the bank, to avoid the current that runs from the east all down that coast for seventy miles distant. We were about off Cape L’Agulhas, when the northwest wind that we had carried with us from near South America, turned round and blew right in our teeth; we had plenty of wind in our jib then, it blew great guns, and we were under close-reefed topsails for a week.

One night I was on the watch, and finding it was blowing harder than ever, and the ship was making very bad weather of it, I thought I would go down and ask the skipper’s leave to lay to. I dived down the hatchway, and knocked twice at the captain’s door before I received an answer; at last I heard his “come in.” I opened the door and was about to report the gale increased, but was stopped by the appearance of the captain.

He was as white as a sheet, and his eyes were staring like a maniac’s. Before I could speak a word, he said, “Have you seen her?” I did not know what he meant, but said, “Beg pardon, sir, the ship is making very bad weather of it.”

He cursed the weather and repeated, “Did you see my wife as she came in?”

I said, “See your wife? No!

He stared at me for an instant and then dropped on his couch and said, “God have mercy on me!”

It was the first time that I had ever heard him use that sacred name, although the evil one’s was often enough in his mouth. I then asked him about the ship, when he told me to go and do what I thought best. I went up and took all the canvass off, with the exception of the mizzen trysail. I got the peak lowered down to the deck, and showed but a pocket-handkerchief sort of a sail; this kept her head to the wind. I had a guy made fast to the boom, which kept it firm, and lashed the helm; we then rode like a duck on the water. I turned in as usual after being relieved, and said nothing to anyone about what I had heard.

In the morning the captain sent for me, told me not to speak about what he said last night, but that he had been told that his days were numbered. He pointed to the log-book, in which he had put down that he had seen his wife come into the cabin, and that she spoke to him, and told him something about himself. He then requested me to sign his statement, in the book, and ordered me not to say a word to any one of the men as long as he lived. I told him not to think anything about it, as such things were only imaginations, and were caused by the stomach being a little out of order. I did not think it at the time, although I thought it would quiet him by telling him so. We lay to all that day; the captain came on deck once, but spoke to no one. In the afternoon I went down to ask him about getting a little sail on again; I found him reading his Bible, a thing I had never heard of his doing before.

He put it down and came on deck; ordered me to get up the foretopsail; I went forward to see about it, and the skipper walked to the poop; the helm was still lashed, and no one there but him.

“I was giving the men orders to go aloft, when I heard a crack astern and felt a jar through the whole ship. I turned round and found the pitching had caused the heavy boom of the try-sail to break the guy that fastened it, and it was swinging from side to side with every lurch of the ship. I ran aft with all the men, and with great, difficulty made it fast again; it took us some time to settle, and I then went down to tell the captain. His cabin was just as I left it before, and no one in it; came out and asked for him on deck, but no one had seen him there. The men said that he was on the poop when the guy gave way; there was a general call throughout the ship, but the captain was not found. The first mate and I went on the poop, and looked well round. On the bulwarks near the stern there was a slight dent, and close beside it a streak of blood; there was no doubt that the boom in its first swing had knocked the skipper clean overboard, and the chances were had smashed some of his limbs too.

We never saw him more. The first mate took the command, and I told him about the captain’s vision; he laughed at me, and told me I was a fool to believe in such rubbish, and recommended me not to talk about it. I quietly tore the leaf out of the log-book, and have got it now. I will show it to you. (Saying this he went down to his cabin and brought me up the sheet of paper, which I read and found it as he had described.)

We went on to the Mauritius, loaded and returned to England. I had no opportunity of fulfilling my promise of writing-to the captain’s wife; so immediately I could leave the ship, I started for Gosport to tell her about his loss. I found her house from the address she had given me, and walked once or twice up and down to consider all I should say to her. It was any way a difficult thing and one I did not much like doing, having to relate the death of her husband; and, besides, women are inclined to think there is always some neglect in others if an accident happens to those they love.

At last I plucked up courage and knocked at the door. A decent-looking servant came, and upon my asking if Mrs. Wharton was at home, she replied: “Mrs. Wharton don’t live here, Mrs. Somebody or other lives here, and she ain’t at home.” I asked if she could tell me where to find Mrs. Wharton—and was informed by the maid that she was a stranger, and knew nothing; but the baker over the way, she thought could tell me. I went over and asked the baker’s wife, and she informed me that Mrs. Wharton had been dead nearly five months, and her aunt had moved away. I was thunderstruck at this intelligence, and immediately inquired the date of her death. She looked over a day-book in the drawer, and told me. I put it down in my memorandum book, and when I got back to the ship I found the date the same as that noted on the leaf of the log-book as the one the captain had seen her off the Cape. Now, I never was superstitious before this, nor am I alarmed now at the idea of seeing ghosts; but still there is a queer sort of a feeling comes over me when I think of that night.

The Spiritual Age 22 May 1858

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well really, that is not the ending we have a right to expect. Not quite playing the game… The young man should have found the pretty young widow alive and well and, after a decent interval, he should have married her and made her happy. These authors who kill off perfectly innocent characters and deny their readers a satisfactory denouement are little better than Bolsheviks in Mrs Daffodil’s view.

Still, it is the narrator’s own story, told as a true one, and, to be fair, it has the consistency and symmetry one demands from a ghost story. Yet, while one was perfectly content to see the bullying Captain Wharton knocked over-board; one somehow feels that his young wife, whose honeymoon was cut as short as her life, deserved better.

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 Who Had to Catch His Train: 1850s

Three Young Cricketers, George Elgar Hicks, Southampton City Art Museum. http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/three-young-cricketers-17667

Three Young Cricketers, George Elgar Hicks, Southampton City Art Museum. http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/three-young-cricketers-17667

A STRANGE APPARITION.

We are indebted to the Paris correspondent of the Nation for the following narrative:—

“My friend, Colonel Sir William D__, an officer in the British army, having seen much service in various parts of the world, has been for some time past residing in Paris with his family, consisting of his wife, two sons, and a highly accomplished and charming daughter. From Sir William and his daughter I have the following story, which I give—changing only the names and initials of the parties—exactly as they told it to me a few evenings ago:—

“‘The eldest son, when pursuing his studies, a very few years since, at the Military College of Sandhurst, near London, was on intimate terms with another of the cadets, whom we will call Hartly. Young Hartly was a general favourite in the college, a promising, active young fellow, fond of the sports usually played by young men in England, and especially addicted to cricket. On Saturday afternoon, young Hartly having been absent for some time from the college on a visit to his parents in London, the pupils all turned out for a game of cricket. It was a fine sunny afternoon; the cricket-ground was full of animation, and the game was going on merrily. Presently, to the surprise and satisfaction of all the pupils, young Hartly was seen to enter the ground, dressed as usual and looking in all respects exactly like his usual self. He went up to the ushers and shook hands with them, and with a number of the pupils. All present appear to have seen him perfectly, and to have felt pleased at seeing him come back. Presently he threw himself on the ground, took a cigar from his pocket, lighted it, and began to smoke, watching the game, meanwhile, with his usual interest, and every now and then commenting upon its progress, criticising this stroke, applauding that, and seeming as intent on the game as any of the players. At length he suddenly drew out his watch, and started to his feet, exclaiming, “I am wanted in London at four o’clock, and I must be off at once, for I have but just time to catch the train,” and rushed from the ground in the direction of the railway station. Much surprised at so sudden a departure, several of the pupils took out their watches and discussed his chances of being in London by four o’clock, as it then wanted but a few minutes of that hour.

“‘Next day brought to the astonished inmates of the college the news of young Hartly’s death, which had occurred the preceding day at his father’s house, exactly at four o’clock. He had fallen ill during his visit home, and, as was afterwards ascertained, had not once left his bed from the time of his falling ill. It was also ascertained that during the whole of that last day, through which he lay in a sort of quiet stupor, his mother had never left his bedside. “We’ve seen a real apparition for once in our lives!” was the shuddering admission of the cadets when the news of Hartly’s decease reached them. But the awkwardness of such an admission, and the impossibility of classifying or explaining so inconvenient a fact as the visible and tangible presence of their comrade on the cricket-ground while he was really dying in his bed in London, were too obvious not to produce a certain reaction; and so it came to pass that, in course of time, the cadets gave up the idea of having “seen an apparition,” and settled down on the more convenient hypothesis of an “hallucination.” A few of the number, however, of whom young D__ is one persist firmly in their first belief in regard to this remarkable incident, and stoutly declare that they did see, touch, and hear the perfect image of their friend, though utterly unable to explain the nature of such an appearance.'”

The Spiritual Magazine 1868

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A puzzling and chilling anecdote, indeed! Mrs Daffodil, who is not a “fan” of cricket, suggests that the young departed gentleman mistook the grounds for Eternity, due to the interminable nature of the sport. 

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.