Tag Archives: warning ghosts

The Warning Ghost: 1795

18th-century-couple-and-man-with-knife

THE WARNING GHOST.

Its Timely Appearance Prevented a Dastardly Crime.

A German count, who had served with distinction many years in the Prussian army, found himself, after the treaty of Basel [1795], about to leave the service, not only from his own inclination, but also because called to the management of a large estate, fallen to him through his mother’s early death, but according to her will held during his minority by his father, with whom it was to remain in case the son died first without children.

As a child he had but seldom seen his father, and since his mother’s death, never without aversion, and could all the less love the man, ever unfriendly to him and cruel to his mother, when all the glow of his heart was turned to one whom he, with unceasing pain, had seen at last succumb a victim of many years’ suffering.

After passing some merry weeks among his comrades, and half promising not to leave the regiment forever, he departed, accompanied by a thousand good wishes from his friends who reluctantly saw him go, and went straight to an old castle that belonged to him to make with his father, who dwelt there, the necessary arrangements for the impending change. Reluctantly he approached the parental abode, and a presentiment almost persuaded him to turn back, but from conviction of the necessity for one conference he continued his journey.

The father had married again, and with the second wife had other children. The son, whose remembrance of a beloved mother made him feel ill at the bare idea of a stepmother, was made the more unhappy by knowing how, even in his mother’s lifetime, she stood in relations with his father which had caused the dead much grief. However, the few days he intended to stay there once over and the business done, there opened before him the smiling prospect of a life of independence, which he meant to devote to the improvement of his wide estate. Filled with these thoughts, and more cheerful the nearer he came to his property, already recognizing forests on the side and green mountains in the background as his own, he lost by degrees that unpleasant feeling which had till now accompanied him, and wholly abandoned himself to the happiness of standing on the threshold of a new course of existence.

“Indeed he is to be congratulated who turns his mind to the cultivation of the earth, and brings to it art and knowledge. Nature is grateful toward those devoted to her, and only with the shallow brains who embrace her without ardor can she, in rain and drought, and failure of crops, seem to be angry. The true farmer, who knows how to profit by her manifold gifts, she will never destroy.”

Amid such contemplations he arrived at nightfall at the castle, and could not repress a shudder upon entering. His father, to whom he had written announcing his coming, was absent, but was hourly expected. In the meantime the newcomer visited the garden and the adjoining field, because he did not wish to see his step-mother yet. Later, long after dark, they announced to him his father’s return. He went in, and found a chilly reception. After supper they wished each other “goodnight,” and separated. A servant of the house lighted him to his room, where, wearied by the journey and disagreeable fancies excited by the sight of such strange yet near relatives, he soon found uneasy sleep.

About one o’clock he awoke from deep dreams. A little dog which was very dear to him. and had accompanied him on this journey, sprang anxiously to the bed, and with complaining whimper seemed to want to show his master something. He raised himself, and after he had taken the dog on the bed and caressed him without his ceasing to cringe with fear and softly whine, he gave him closer attention, and observed by the moonlight that the dog’s eyes remained always directed toward one corner of the room. He looked there to learn what could frighten the dog, and his blood ran cold and his hair bristled, when he saw a mist-like figure that resembled his dead mother in every line, and, crouching in the corner, seemed sinking with trouble and fear. She looked sadly at him, and then with audible groans toward the door, while she lifted her arms in lamentation and warning. The count was beside himself, and unable to speak to the phantom; his breath seemed to fail him. Outside he heard heavy steps go up and down, then stop close beside his door, as if someone doubted whether to come in or not.

This lasted by turns a long while, and still more perplexed his stupefied senses. It was impossible for him to scream or move a hand. By and by he sought again to collect himself, and as he again looked in the corner the apparition was no more to be seen, but the walking up and down outside, and the doubtful pauses before the door, went on all the plainer. Then he suddenly took courage, sprang up, seized his sword, and tore open the door, with the words:

“What do you want?”

He could see nothing in the dark vestibule, but he heard something fall near him, and some one flying down the stairs. Looking about, he picked up a large knife, which he kept, and went back to his room, where he watched through the rest of the night, with a thousand torturing thoughts. In the morning, when the servant came with breakfast, the count asked him what had been the disturbance in the house that night.

“So it awakened you, too,” answered the old huntsman. “I thought there were thieves, and would have given an alarm; but when I saw it was the gracious master who went about the house, probably because he could not sleep, I stayed quietly in bed and went to sleep again.”

When the huntsman had gone the count drew the knife from its sheath and found his father’s name on it. An icy chill ran over him. He at once ordered horses. The dog had sprung out when the door was first opened, and could not be brought back by caresses or threats. Just as the carriage came he returned to his master. The count traveled away without speaking to any one, and in melancholy turned back to the city. The fearful thought that his father would have murdered him, and the ghost of his mother appeared to waken and to warn, pursued him incessantly with terrible pain. A riddle to his friends, since he could disclose the horrible affair to no one, his dark meditations not to be dispersed, he had to be given in charge of a skilled physician, who could not learn from him the cause of his sullen behavior.

He died in deep melancholy a few months later, after hearing of his father’s sudden death and his mismanagement of the property. Among his papers this story was found, written down with the same particulars as told here. — Translated for the Argonaut from the German of Barnhagen von Ense.

The Argonaut 13 February 1915

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This tale illustrates perfectly what Mrs Daffodil always says, viz., that the Germans really have no talent for ghost stories. If this had been a good, wholesome English ghost story, the young count would not have died at the end, but would have struggled in the dark with his nefarious father and cut his throat. Upon turning up the light, he would discover that not only was his father dead, but the “ghost” was his mother, held captive while her death was simulated and the count’s inheritance falsely reported to lure him within reach of his dastardly parent. The story ends as the count tenderly enfolds his mother while blood from the unpleasant incident soaks into the floor, leaving a stain which can never be eradicated.

And that, Herr Barnhagen von Ense* (where do they get these names?) if you will be guided by Mrs Daffodil, is how a proper ghost story ends.

Mrs Daffodil will pass over in silence the florid paragraph about ardour, knowledge, and the gratitude of Mother Nature. She would like to see Herr von Ense spout that sort of rubbish to any sturdy yeoman farmer after his crops have been destroyed by a hail-storm.

*Mrs Daffodil is informed that the correct spelling of the author’s name is Karl August Varnhagen von Ense. The Argonaut did not scruple about “borrowing” foreign authors’ work and Mrs Daffodil suspects that they were often late with royalty cheques.

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.