Tag Archives: Victorian ghosts

The Maid with Red Hair: 1899

 

In the spring of 1899, being then a member of a certain Psychical Research Society, and hearing that a ghost had been seen at No — Southgate Street, Bristol, I set off to interview the ladies who were reported to have seen it. I found them (the Misses Rudd) at home, and on their very graciously consenting to relate to me their psychical experiences, I sat and listened to the following story (told as nearly as possible in the eldest lady’s own words) : ” It is now,” she began, ” some ten years since we were the tenants of the house you mention, but I recollect what I saw there as vividly as if it were yesterday.

“The house, I must tell you, is very small (only eight or so rooms), dingy, and in a chronic state of dilapidation ; it stands in the middle of a terrace with no front garden to speak of, save a few yards of moss-covered tiles, slate-coloured and broken, whilst its back windows overlooked a dreary expanse of deep and silent water. Nothing more dismal could be imagined.

“Still, when we took it, the idea of it being haunted never for one instant entered our minds, and our first intimation that such was the case came upon us like a thunderbolt.

“We only kept one maid, Jane (a girl with dark hair and pleasant manners), my sisters and I doing all the cooking and helping with the light work. The morning on which incident No. 1 happened, knowing Jane to be upstairs occupied in dusting the rooms, and my sisters being out, my mother asked me to go into the kitchen and see if the stove was all right as ‘there was a smell of burning.’

“Doing as she bid, I hastened to the kitchen, where a strange spectacle met my sight.

“Kneeling in front of the stove, engaged apparently in polishing the fender, was a servant-girl with RED hair; I started back in astonishment. ‘Who could she be?’

Too intent at first to notice my advent, she kept on at her work, giving me time to observe that she was wearing a very dirty dress, and that her rag of a cap was quite askew. Satisfied she was not ‘Jane,’ and wondering whether some one else’s maid had mistaken our kitchen for her own — the houses in the terrace being all alike — I called out, ‘Who are you? what do you want?’ — whereupon, dropping the fire-irons with a clatter, she quickly turned round, displaying an ashen-pale face, the expression on which literally froze me with horror.

“Never! never had I seen such an awful look of hopeless, of desperate, of diabolical abandonment in any one’s eyes as in those of hers when their glance met mine.

“For some seconds we glared at one another without moving, and then, still regarding me with a furtive look from out of the corner of her horrible eyes, she slowly rose from the hearth, and gliding stealthily forward, disappeared in the diminutive scullery opposite.

“Curiosity now overcoming fear, I at once followed. She was nowhere to be seen; nor was there any other mode of exit by which she could have made her departure than a tiny window, some four feet or so from the floor and directly overlooking the deep waters of the pond to which I have already alluded.

“Here, then, was a mystery ! What had I seen? Had I actually encountered a phantasm, or was I but the victim of an exceedingly unpleasant and falsidical hallucination? I preferred to think the former.

“Not wishing to frighten my mother, I intended keeping the incident to myself, writing, however, a complete account of it in my diary for the current year, but, a further incident occurring to my youngest sister within the next few days, I determined to reveal what I had seen and compare notes.”

The eldest Miss Rudd now concluded, and on my expressing a desire to hear more, her youngest sister very obligingly commenced:

“I had been out shopping in the Triangle one morning,” she said, “and having omitted to take the latchkey, I was obliged to ring. Jane answered the summons. There was nothing, of course, unusual in this, as it was her duty to do so, but there was something extremely singular in what appeared at her elbow.

“Standing close beside — I might almost say leaning against her (though Jane was apparently unaware of it) — was a strange, a very strange, servant-girl, with red hair and the most uncanny eyes; she had on a bedraggled print dress and a cap all askew ; but it was her expression that most attracted my attention — it was horrid.

“’Oh Jane!’ I cried, ‘whoever is it with you?’

“Following the direction of my gaze, Jane immediately turned round, and, without a word, FAINTED.

“That is all. The apparition, or whatever you may please to call it, vanished, and the next time I saw it was under different circumstances.”

“Will you be so kind as to relate them?” I inquired.

Miss Rudd proceeded: “Oh! it is nothing very much!” she exclaimed, “only it was very unpleasant at the time — especially as I was all alone.

“You see, mother, being delicate, went to bed early, my sisters were at a concert, and it was Jane’s ‘night out.’

“I never, somehow, fancied the basement of the house; it was so cold and damp, reminding me not a little of a MORGUE or charnel-house; consequently I never stayed there a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, and on this night in question I was in the act of scurrying back to the drawing- room when a gentle tap! tap! at the scullery-window made me defer my departure. Entering the back kitchen, somewhat timidly I admit, I saw a face peering in at me through the tiny window.

“Though the night was dark and there was no artificial lighting at this side of the house, every feature of that face was revealed to me as clearly as if it had been day. The little, untidy cap, all awry, surmounting the shock-head of red hair now half- down and dripping with water, the ghastly white cheeks, the widely open mouth, and the eyes, their pupils abnormally dilated and full of lurid light, were more appallingly horrible than ever.

“I stood and gazed at it, my heart sick with terror, nor do I know what would have happened to me had not the loud rap of the postman acted like magic; the thing vanished, and ‘turning tail,’ I fled upstairs into the presence of my mother. That is all.”

I was profuse in my thanks, and the third Miss Rudd then spoke:

“My bedroom,” she began, “was on the top landing — the window over-looking the water. I slept alone some months after the anecdotes just related, and was awakened one night by feeling some disgusting, wet object lying on my forehead.

“With an ejaculation of alarm I attempted to brush it aside, and opening my eyes, encountered a ghastly white face bending right over me.

“I instantly recognised it, by the description my sisters had given, as the phantasm of the red-headed girl.

“The eyes were terrible! Shifting its slimy hand from my forehead, and brandishing it aloft like some murderous weapon, it was about to clutch my throat, when human nature would stand it no longer — and — I fainted. On recovering, I found both my sisters in the room, and after that I never slept by myself.”

“Did your mother ever see it?” I asked.

“Frequently,” the eldest Miss Rudd replied, “and it was chiefly on her account we relinquished our tenancy — her nervous system was completely prostrated.”

“Other people saw the ghost besides us,” the youngest Miss Rudd interrupted, “for not only did the long succession of maids after Jane all see it, but many of the subsequent tenants ; the house was never let for any length of time.”

“Then, perhaps, it is empty now?” I soliloquised, “in which case I shall most certainly experiment there.”

This proved to be the case; the house was tenantless, and I easily prevailed upon the agent to loan me the key.

But the venture was fruitless. Three of us and a dog undertook it. We sat at the foot of the gloomy staircase; twelve o’clock struck, no ghost appeared, the dog became a nuisance — and — we came away disgusted.

A one-night’s test, however, is no test at all; there is no reason to suppose apparitions are always to be seen by man ; as yet we know absolutely nothing of the powers or conditions regulating their appearances, and it is surely feasible that the unknown controlling elements of one night may have been completely altered, may even have ceased to exist by the next. At all events, that was my opinion. I was by no means daunted at a single failure. But it was impossible to get any one to accompany me.

The sceptic is so boastfully eager by day. “Ghosts,” he sneers, “what are ghosts? Indigestion and imagination! I’ll challenge you to show me the house I wouldn’t sleep in alone! Ghosts indeed! Give me a poker or a shovel and I will scare away the lot of them.” And when you do show him the house he always has a prior engagement, or else the weather is too cold, or he has too much work to do next day, or it isn’t really worth the trouble, or — well! he is sure to have some very plausible excuse; at least, that has been my invariable experience.

There is no greater coward than the sceptic, and so, unable to procure a friend for the occasion, I did without one; neither did I have the key of the house, but — taking French leave — gained admittance through a window.

It was horribly dark and lonely, and although on the former occasion I did not feel the presence of the superphysical, I did so now, the very moment I crossed the threshold. Striking a light, I looked around me: I was in the damp and mouldy den that served as a kitchen; outside I saw the moon reflected on the black and silent water.

A long and sleek cockroach disappeared leisurely in a hole in the skirting as I flashed my light in its direction, and I thought I detected the movement of a rat or some large animal in the cupboard at the foot of the stairs. I forthwith commenced a search — the cupboard was empty. I must have been mistaken. For some minutes I stood in no little perplexity as to my next move. Where should I go? Where ought I to go if my adventure were to prove successful?

I glanced at the narrow, tortuous staircase winding upwards into the grim possibilities of the deserted hall and landings — and — my courage failed.

Here, at least, I was safe! Should the Unknown approach me, I could escape by the same window through which I had entered. I felt I dare not! I really could not go any further. Seized with a sudden panic at nothing more substantial than my own thoughts, I was groping my way backwards to the window when a revulsion of feeling made me pause. If all men were poltroons, how much would humanity ever know of the Occult? We should leave off where we began, and it had ever been my ambition to go — further.

My self-respect returning, I felt in my pocket for pencil, notebook and revolver, and trimming my lamp I mounted the stairs.

A house of such minute dimensions did not take long to explore; what rooms there were, were Lilliputian — mere boxes; the walls from which hung the tattered remnants of the most offensively inartistic papers were too obviously Jerry built; the wainscoting was scarred, the beading broken, not a door fitted, not a window that was not either loose or sashless — the entire house was rotten, paltry, mean; I would not have had it as a gift. But where could I wait to see the ghost? Disgust at my surroundings had, for a time, made me forget my fears ; these now returned reinforced: I thought of Miss Rudd’s comparison with a morgue— and shuddered. The rooms looked ghastly! Selecting the landing at the foot of the upper storey, I sat down, my back against the wall — and — waited.

Confronting me was the staircase leading up and down, equally dark, equally ghostly; on my right was what might once have been the drawing-room, but was now a grim conglomeration of bare boards and moonlight, and on my left was an open window directly overtopping the broad expanse of colourless, motionless water. Twelve o’clock struck, the friendly footsteps of a pedestrian died away in the distance; I was now beyond the pale of assistance, alone and deserted — deserted by all save the slimy, creeping insects below — and the shadows. Yes! the shadows; and as I watched them sporting phantastically at my feet, I glanced into the darkness beyond — and shivered.

All was now intensely suggestive and still, the road alone attractive; and despite my spartonic resolutions I would have given much to be out in the open. The landing was so cramped, so hopeless.

A fresh shadow, the shadow of a leaf that had hitherto escaped my notice, now attracted and appalled me; the scratching of an insect made my heart stand still ; my sight and hearing were painfully acute; a familiar and sickly sensation gradually crept over me, the throbbing of my heart increased, the most inconceivable and desperate terror laid hold of me: the house was no longer empty — the supernatural had come! Something, I knew not, I dare not think what, was below, and I knew it would ascend.

All the ideas I had previously entertained of addressing the ghost and taking notes were entirely annihilated by my fear — fear mingled with a horrible wonder as to what form the apparition would take, and I found myself praying Heaven it might not be that of an elemental.

The THING had now crossed the hall (I knew this somehow instinctively) and was beginning to mount the stairs.

I could not cry out, I could not stir, I could not close my eyes: I could only sit there staring at the staircase in the most awful of dumb, apprehensive agonies. The thing drew nearer, nearer; up, up, UP it came until I could see it at last — see the shock-head of red hair, the white cheeks, the pale, staring eyes, all rendered hideously ghastly by the halo of luminous light that played around it. This was a ghost — an apparition — a bona fide phantasm of the dead ! And without any display of physical power —it overcame me.

Happily for me, the duration of its passage was brief.

It came within a yard of me, the water dripping from its clinging clothes, yet leaving no marks on the flooring. It thrust its face forward; I thought it was going to touch me, and tried to shrink away from it, but could not. Yet it did nothing but stare at me, and its eyes were all the more horrible because they were blank; not diabolical, as Miss Rudd had described them, but simply Blank! — Blank with the glassiness of the Dead.

Gliding past with a slightly swaying motion, it climbed upstairs, the night air blowing through the bedraggled dress in a horribly natural manner; I watched it till it was out of sight with bated breath — for a second or so it stopped irresolutely beside an open window; there was a slight movement as of some one mounting the sill: a mad, hilarious chuckle, a loud splash — and then — silence, after which I went home.

I subsequently discovered that early in the seventies a servant-girl, who was in service at that house, had committed suicide in the manner I have just described, but whether or not she had RED hair I have never been able to ascertain.

P.S. — The Ghost I am informed on very reliable authority, is still (August 1908) to be seen.

Some Haunted Houses of England & Wales, Elliott O’Donnell, 1908

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Red hair was considered to be either the mark of the Devil or a sign of a coarse or depraved person. While one might consider engaging a red-headed scullery maid, a red-headed parlour maid could not have been countenanced.

We have heard supernatural tales from Mr O’Donnell before: The Ghost with One Shoe; The Banshee Sang of Death; The Spectral Hound.  He, Mrs Daffodil has observed, had a wide streak of misogyny, was obsessed with “Elementals” and decay, and—Mrs Daffodil knows that you will be grieved to hear it—often paltered with the truth. Still, we are obliged to him for providing us with the grues on snowy afternoons.

 

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 White Cat: 1844

Photo @warren photographic. You’ll find more of their wonderful pet photographs here: http://www.warrenphotographic.co.uk/26883-white-rabbit-and-white-cat

THE WHITE CAT OF C.

The following story, which appears in Mrs. Crowe’s last book, has just been vouched to us by the lady who furnished the account to Mrs. Crowe, and our readers may rely on its perfect accuracy. It is as well authenticated as the rabbit of the Wesley family, or of any of the more modern and well proved appearances of animals:—

About fifteen years ago, I was staying with some friends in Yorkshire, and our host, Sir G. W., being very much crippled with gout, was in the habit of driving about the neighborhood, on which occasions, I often accompanied him. One fine summer’s evening, we had just entered a lane, when, seeing the hedges full of wild flowers, I asked my friend to let me alight and gather some; I walked on before the carriage till I came to a gate, a common country gate, with a post on each side, and on one of these posts, sat a large white cat, which though seen by the groom as well as myself, was not visible to my friend. I thought he must be joking or else losing his sight, and I approached the cat, intending to carry it to the carriage: as I drew near, she jumped off the post, but to my surprise, as she jumped, she disappeared! No cat in the field,—none in the lane—none in the ditch! I was quite bewildered; and when I got into the carriage, again my friend said, he thought I and James were dreaming. I had a commission to execute as we passed through the town of C., and I alighted for that purpose at the haberdasher’s; and while they were serving me, I mentioned that I had seen a beautiful cat, sitting on a gate in the lane, and asked if they would tell me who it belonged to, adding, it was the largest cat I ever saw. The owners of the shop and two women who were making purchases, suspended their proceedings, looked at each other, and then at me, evidently very much surprised.

“The lady’s seen the White Cat of C.,” cried two or three. “It hasn’t been seen this twenty years.”

The pony getting restless, I hurried out, and got into the carriage, telling my friend that the cat was well known to the people at C., and that it was twenty years old.

In those days, I believe I never thought of ghosts, and least of all should I have thought of the ghost of a cat; but two evenings afterwards, as we were driving down the lane, I again saw the cat, in the same position, and again my companion could not see it; I alighted immediately and went up to it. As I approached, it turned its head and looked full towards me with its mild eyes, and a kindly expression, like that of a loving dog; and then, without moving from the post, it began to fade gradually away, as if it were vapour, till it had quite disappeared.

All this the groom saw; and now there could be no mistake as to what it was. A third time, I saw it in broad daylight, and my curiosity greatly awakened, I resolved to make further enquiries amongst the inhabitants of C., but before I had an opportunity of doing so, I was summoned away by the death of my eldest child, and I have never been in that part since.

The British Spiritual Telegraph, 1859

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “The rabbit of the Wesley family” refers to what psychical researchers might term a “poltergeist” outbreak at Epworth Rectory, home of the Rev. Samuel Wesley, father of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Among other apparitions, Mrs. Wesley saw an animal in the house resembling a badger, while a serving man saw “something like a white rabbit, which came from  behind the oven, with its ears flat upon the neck, and its little scut  standing straight up.” Family letters relating the entire mystifying affair may be found at this site.

Mrs Crowe is Catherine Crowe [1803-76], author of novels and children’s stories, but best remembered for her collection of stories of ghosts and ghost-seers, The Night Side of Nature. The subject seems to have unhinged the lady’s mind, for she was found in the streets of Edinburgh “clothed only in her chastity, a pocket-handkerchief, and a visiting card,” under the delusion that she was invisible. An admirable account of this unfortunate event is found here.

In this muted account, the ghostly white cat seems (although this is not stated explicitly) to be a token of the death of the narrator’s child.  White objects–doves, rabbits, owls, White Lady spectres, arsenical powders–are well-known to peasant and folklorist alike as death omens.

 

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.

“Keep off, you villain!” A Death-bed Struggle: 1870s

The Awakening Conscience, William Holman Hunt, 1853, Tate Gallery

The Awakening Conscience, William Holman Hunt, 1853, Tate Gallery

The facts connected with the death of Sarah Gladstone have been kept quiet, and away from the public, but have excited a very deep interest among the few medical men and others acquainted with them. There appears, however, no object in further secrecy. The unfortunate woman has been dead several weeks, and it is pretty well established that she has left no near relatives whose feelings need be considered in connection with the matter.

Sarah Gladstone belonged to that class of prostitutes called by the police “privateers.” Her home was a small room in a tenement building, which she kept furnished with great neatness and taste. It was never the scene of drunken revels or unruly gatherings, and, in fact, Sarah’s visitors were so few that it was often said she had some private means of her own.

A month or so ago Sarah was taken ill. The fact was first discovered by a young man, a clerk who was in the habit of visiting her. He went to her room late one Saturday night and found Sarah kneeling on the rug before the fire-place, her face buried in her hands, and weeping bitterly.

The young man states that he endeavored to persuade her to tell him what was the trouble, but that she seemed bewildered, and persisted in passionate entreaties that he should leave the room. Her agitation increased, and finally, fearing the sound of her voice would attract attention, he went away.

The following Sunday, feeling courteously interested in the state of the unhappy girl, he again went to her room. He found the door locked, and could gain no response to his knocks. On Monday evening he went to the same place. He knocked, and after waiting some time, she finally admitted him. He states that he found her the picture of misery. Her face was deadly pale, her eyes bloodshot with tears, and her movements indicated extreme weakness. The following is his report of the conversation that took place:

“You are sick, Sarah,” I said. “I will get a doctor, and you will be all right in a few days.”

“It’s of no use, Henry; nothing can save me. I’ve been called, and I must go. My strength is ebbing away fast, and by this day week I shall be dead. Be not sorry,” she continued slowly, as if talking to herself; “my life has been a bitter, bitter struggle, and I want rest. But, oh, God!” she cried, starting to her feet and walking up and down the room, wringing her hands, “why should he be the one to call me? He ruined me; he stole me away from happy Stamford, and made a wretched strumpet of me. He left me all alone with my dead child in the big city, and laughed at my prayers and tears. I heard he was dead long ago—shot himself down South—and I felt God had avenged me. But no, no! he has haunted me when dead as when alive. Curse him! curse him! my evil star. And now he takes my life. Curse him! curse him in hell! forever!”

She hissed those last words through her teeth with terrible emphasis, and sank on the sofa panting and exhausted. I left her for a short time and procured two of my medical friends, and returned to the room.

The remainder of the particulars connected with the girl’s death are gathered from the physicians who attended her. They stated that they found the patient in a state of extreme lassitude on their arrival. She seemed possessed with the idea that her death was approaching, and it was evident that she considered she had a supernatural intimation of the fact. She had been called, she frequently said, and then knew she must go. The physicians could detect no specific ailment, and treated her as they considered best in order to allay nervous and mental excitement, and to support the physical strength. On Monday and Thursday following she seemed better, but on Friday alarming and most singular symptoms were developed.

It appears that on this evening, when the two doctors visited Sarah together, they found the young man, Henry, in the room. As they approached the bed they observed a change had occurred in the patient. Her eyes shone with extraordinary brilliancy, and her cheeks were flushed with a crimson color. Otherwise, however, she appeared calm and self-controlled.

“Tell them, Henry, what I have told you,” she said to the young man.

He hesitated, and finally she continued:

“This poor boy, doctors, won’t believe me when I tell him I shall die to-night at 12 o’clock.”

Henry was weeping, and she said to him:

“Were you fond of me, really?—fond of the wretched girl of the town? Oh, Henry, God will bless you for your kindness and love to me.”

She continued to talk rationally and affectionately to her young friend until about 10 o’clock, when she closed her eyes and appeared to sleep.

The night was one unusually sultry and warm for April, and between 11 and 12 o’clock a thunderstorm broke over the city. Sarah had continued silent for over an hour, and except the whispering conversation of the three men the room had been quiet. A crash of thunder, which shook the building, startled her, and she suddenly sat up in bed. The physicians state that they approached and found her trembling violently.

She caught hold of the arm of Dr. ___, saying: ”You are a good, strong, brave man; can’t you save me? Why should a poor girl like me be persecuted in this way? I have been suffering all my life, and now I am dying at the bidding of this dark, stern man. Oh! save me, doctor! save me, for God himself has given me up.”

As she spoke, she clutched the doctor’s arm with desperation, and a fearful earnestness was expressed in her face. The young man, Henry, at this time, overcome by the scene, left the room. Sarah did not notice his departure, but continued to talk wildly of some coming peril. All at once, when the doctors were endeavoring to compose her and induce her to lie down, she turned her face toward the door and uttered a piercing shriek. In a moment she had become a raving maniac. Her eyes were fixed on the door as if they saw some terrible object there.

“So you’ve come,” she said; “you’ve come, James Lennox, to complete your work. But I’ve got friends now. I am no longer at your control. Oh, how I hate you, you bad, wicked, bloody-minded man! You ruined me body and soul, but now I’m free! Keep off, you villain.”

As she spoke she sprang out of bed and ran behind the physicians, muttering to herself. They put their arms around her and lifted her into the bed again. She resisted like a wild beast, and seemed to think herself struggling with a deadly foe. She heaped imprecations on the head of her haunting persecutor, and defied him, alluding incoherently to scenes in her past life. For more than half an hour she remained in this way, and then suddenly became quiet and seemingly composed. Her eyes closed, and she seemed asleep. Her breathing became regular, but very low and faint; she opened her eyes and smiled sweetly. She muttered: “It is almost morning;” and Sarah Gladstone died as the clock struck twelve.

The Encyclopaedia of Death and Life in the Spirit-world, John Francis, 1894

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil would dismiss this narrative as a first-rate scene from some stage melodrama were it not for the fact that this episode appeared in a number of newspapers between May and July of 1870, published as fact. It may, however, have merely been a lurid tale created by a bored journalist to spice up a dull edition. The notion that the ghost of someone familiar to the dying would “call” them away is well-known in folklore, although the preferred ghost would be a loved one, rather than an evil seducer.

This story contains all the standard elements of the Fallen Woman narrative: a Heartless Cad who engineered her Ruin, a dead child, villainous treatment by the Cad, and, ultimately, sickness and death. Even her neatness and taste could not save the poor girl. Mrs Daffodil would very much like to read a newspaper account of a Strumpet Triumphant some day; it would make a nice change.

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.

 

Week-end Compendium: 23 January 2016

"The Snow Queen"

“The Snow Queen”

Mrs Daffodil  hopes that all of you are warm and safe from the impending snow-storms, or, if house-bound, have sufficient bread, milk, and brandy laid on.

This week’s links for Mrs Daffodil:

Sixteen-button Bouffants: A Chat with the Fashion Gazette Editor: 1888, in which an innocent young girl is given some quixotic fashion advice by a well-meaning male editor.

The Flapper and Her Corset: 1921 offers dire warnings to all flappers who wish to leave off their under-pinnings. An early example of “fat-shaming.”

The sad story of Old Lisbeth and her ghostly visit to a former master who had treated her kindly.

See Mrs Daffodil on Sunday for how to make a sandstorm on stage.

Over at the Haunted Ohio blog we find the following:

“Uncanny Meteors:” Spook Lights in New Zealand, in which a naturalist relates his very close encounter with apparently sentient glowing orbs.

The Ghost of Mary Seneff, who haunted the site of her watery grave, after she was hacked to death and thrown into a local creek.

From the Archives: Enough Rope: The Hangman’s Rope in the Press, a light-hearted look at specifications for hangmen’s ropes and the superstitions surrounding them.

Favourite posts of the week: Cellphones and the Paranormal. And The Awful Greatness of the Cherry Sisters.

A "Snowflake" costume by "Zig," c. 1925. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1222891/costume-design-zig/

A “Snowflake” costume by “Zig,” c. 1925. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1222891/costume-design-zig/

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.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

The Pearl-handled Pistol: A Rail-way Horror: 1870s

 

The ghastly "World Fair" train wreck, 1904. See http://www.eccchistory.org/trainwreck1904.htm

The ghastly “World Fair” train wreck, 1904. See http://www.eccchistory.org/trainwreck1904.htm

A STRANGE STORY

Some years ago I was riding along this road on my return from a trip into Virginia, where I had a business mission. On the way, and in fact just after we left Pittsburg, I fell in with a young fellow who was on his way to the Rocky Mountains—I think Denver was his objective point. He was a young Virginia lawyer who had been educated at the University of Pennsylvania.

  During one of our chats the boy—for he was scarcely more than a boy, being probably 23 years of age—took me into his confidence considerably and showed me a photograph of a beautiful girl of whom he seemed exceedingly proud and told me she was his sweetheart, to whom he was engaged and whom he expected to marry as soon as he could become established in practice.

  Along about five miles back, where you noticed that old mill down by the creek, is a smooth piece of track for nearly two miles and upon reaching that little stretch the engineer usually pulls his throttle open a little wider and lets the train run at a very lively rate. It is a very level piece of track, and there is not much danger in fast running there.

  Suddenly, however, and without any warning, the engine left the rails and the long train of coaches followed. There was no embankment, only a flat piece of country, and so it was not so disastrous as it otherwise would have been. I was so bruised and stunned that I scarcely realized what had occurred. It was after 9 o’clock in the evening and I had scarcely more than extricated myself from the car, which was literally torn to pieces, when the wreck caught on fire. Most of the passengers, however, had been rescued, but a few of them were still in the wreck, and so we started at once to assist the trainmen in doing what we could. I lost sight of my companion as soon as the car went over, but after I got out of the car I wondered where he was.

  Just then the flames shot into the air and we heard a shriek. Rushing to the other side of the car I beheld my young friend underneath a heavy beam—in fact, the lower half of his body was under the debris of the wreck, and he was jammed in so tight that we could not possibly remove him without more assistance. We had nothing to work with, only one ax having been taken out of the cars, and that was broken and of little use. The flames had already reached his feet, and his cries for help were heartrending, I can assure you. There was absolutely nothing we could do to help him—not a thing in which we could get any water and if there had been there was not a drop nearer than a mile, for the creek at that point was at least that far away. I pulled at the debris until I burned my left hand so severely that I have used it but very little since, and, as you see, it is badly scarred.

  We worked trying to save him until the fire drove us back. His appeals were something terrible to hear, and he begged us again and again to shoot him. This, of course, no one would do, although it would have been the thing to put him out of his misery.

  But just then help came to him.

  From the side of the track in the darkness—for it was an inky night—appeared a slender figure in white. It came up without a sound. I stood where I could see her very plainly, for the figure was that of a young woman. Her face was ashen, her features perfect, and I recognized at once in her features the photograph my young friend had shown me on the train. She glided up to where the victim lay. We heard the sharp report of a pistol, and the apparition vanished instantly. I just had time to see the poor fellow before the flames closed over him, and there was a bullet hole in his forehead. He was dead. The flames rushed over him, and I turned away.

  The next day from out of the ruins we took his remains. The skull was badly charred, but in it was a hole like that made by a ball, and inside of the remains of the skull was a small piece of molten lead. I went to the telegraph office only a few miles down the track and telegraphed to the girl, whose name and address he had fortunately given me. An answer came from the girl’s father stating that steps would at once be taken for the proper care of the remains, and that they would be taken back to the Old Dominion.

  From there I went home. Only a short while after that, I was compelled to make another trip to Virginia. While in the state I chanced to pass through the town where the prospective father-in-law of the young man resided, and so I took the liberty of calling at his home, knowing that they would no doubt like to hear about the accident in which the young man met so untimely an end.

  The old gentleman was at home and very glad to see me. I told him all the circumstances of the strange event that had taken place. When I was through he went into another room and brought out a small pistol and said he had no doubt that was the weapon that put Harry as he called him, out of misery. He said that the night before the accident occurred his daughter, the lady to whom my young acquaintance was engaged, was taken suddenly ill, and died before morning. On the table in her room was this small ivory handled pistol which her fiancé had presented to her before he left. It was loaded.

  The morning after the accident one cartridge was found to have been exploded and no one could possibly account for the curious happening, as the pistol had not been touched by any one after the young lady’s death. I had the little lump of lead which I found in the unfortunate young man’s skull and we weighed it and also one of the pistol balls, and after careful examination they were found to be of exactly the same calibre. I am firmly of the belief that the spirit of that young woman came that dark and awful night to the relief of her intended husband.   Philadelphia Times. Marion [OH] Star 6 March 1895: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While the preceding tale has a rather literary tone and wraps up more tidily than most “true” ghost stories, it still Grips. One detail, at least, is utterly realistic: the newspapers were full of stories of horrible train wrecks, the ensuing fires, and trapped, doomed passengers who begged for a merciful death.

This story and others in a similarly blood-curdling vein may be found in The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales From the Past, by Chris Woodyard. You may peruse a table of contents here. If you enjoy historical ghost and horror stories, you might also enjoy Mrs Woodyard’s The Face in the Window and The Headless Horror.

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.

The Ghostly White Cat: 1840s

whitecat

THE WHITE CAT OF C.

The following story, which appears in Mrs. Crowe’s last book, has just been vouched to us by the lady who furnished the account to Mrs. Crowe, and our readers may rely on its perfect accuracy. It is as well authenticated as the rabbit of the Wesley family, or of any of the more modern and well proved appearances of animals:—

About fifteen years ago, I was staying with some friends in Yorkshire, and our host, Sir G. W., being very much crippled with gout, was in the habit of driving about the neighborhood, on which occasions, I often accompanied him. One fine summer’s evening, we had just entered a lane, when, seeing the hedges full of wild flowers, I asked my friend to let me alight and gather some; I walked on before the carriage till I came to a gate, a common country gate, with a post on each side, and on one of these posts, sat a large white cat, which though seen by the groom as well as myself, was not visible to my friend. I thought he must be joking or else losing his sight, and I approached the cat, intending to carry it to the carriage: as I drew near, she jumped off the post, but to my surprise, as she jumped, she disappeared! No cat in the field,—none in the lane—none in the ditch! I was quite bewildered; and when I got into the carriage, again my friend said, he thought I and James were dreaming. I had a commission to execute as we passed through the town of C., and I alighted for that purpose at the haberdasher’s; and while they were serving me, I mentioned that I had seen a beautiful cat, sitting on a gate in the lane, and asked if they would tell me who it belonged to, adding, it was the largest cat I ever saw. The owners of the shop and two women who were making purchases, suspended their proceedings, looked at each other, and then at me, evidently very much surprised.

“The lady’s seen the White Cat of C.,” cried two or three. “It hasn’t been seen this twenty years.”

The pony getting restless, I hurried out, and got into the carriage, telling my friend that the cat was well known to the people at C., and that it was twenty years old.

In those days, I believe I never thought of ghosts, and least of all should I have thought of the ghost of a cat; but two evenings afterwards, as we were driving down the lane, I again saw the cat, in the same position, and again my companion could not see it; I alighted immediately and went up to it. As I approached, it turned its head and looked full towards me with its mild eyes, and a kindly expression, like that of a loving dog; and then, without moving from the post, it began to fade gradually away, as if it were vapour, till it had quite disappeared.

All this the groom saw; and now there could be no mistake as to what it was. A third time, I saw it in broad daylight, and my curiosity greatly awakened, I resolved to make further enquiries amongst the inhabitants of C., but before I had an opportunity of doing so, I was summoned away by the death of my eldest child, and I have never been in that part since.

The British Spiritual Telegraph, 1859

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “The rabbit of the Wesley family” refers to what psychical researchers might term a “poltergeist” outbreak at Epworth Rectory, home of the Rev. Samuel Wesley, father of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Among other apparitions, Mrs. Wesley saw an animal in the house resembling a badger, while a serving man saw “something like a white rabbit, which came from  behind the oven, with its ears flat upon the neck, and its little scut  standing straight up.” Family letters relating the entire mystifying affair may be found at this site.

Mrs Crowe is Catherine Crowe [1803-76], author of novels and children’s stories, but best remembered for her collection of stories of ghosts and ghost-seers, The Night Side of Nature. The subject seems to have unhinged the lady’s mind, for she was found in the streets of Edinburgh “clothed only in her chastity, a pocket-handkerchief, and a visiting card,” under the delusion that she was invisible. An admirable account of this unfortunate event is found here.

In this muted account, the ghostly white cat seems (although this is not stated explicitly) to be a token of the death of the narrator’s child.  White objects–doves, rabbits, owls, White Lady spectres, arsenical powders–are well-known to peasant and folklorist alike as death omens.

 

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.