Tag Archives: Woman in White

The Kiss of Death: 1887

skeleton lovers Posada.JPG
On this, the last day of Dia de Muertos, Mrs Daffodil has received permission to borrow a post appropriate to the holiday from that death-obsessed person over at Haunted Ohio. She writes: 
 

As we have all painted our faces like La Calavera Catrina and are munching sugar skulls to honor our Dear Departed on this Day of the Dead, let us settle down among the marigolds for a ghost story. On previous holidays, we have met a faithful dead nun and a skeletal bishop with his evil raven companion. Today we go to a churchyard in San Juan where a seductive entity sought its prey.

THE KISS OF DEATH

STRANGE SUPERSTITION OF MONTEREY MEXICANS

A Spectre That Appears in Beautiful Guise to Lure Men and Women to Death.

The Santa Cruz ghost, which is engrossing the attention of the citizens of that famous watering-place by its midnight revelries, recalls a legend of San Juan, in the adjoining county, told the writer many years ago by a narrator no less credible than a good old Spanish priest, with whom the writer happened to be staying on a few days’ visit.

One morning after breakfast he expressed a wish to stroll into the ancient graveyard attached to the old adobe church of that quaint little Mexican town. The old padre, with the kindness and courtesy characteristic of the simple missionary fathers, at once acceded and accompanied the writer, relating as we walked among the graves the brief history of some who lay quietly beneath. “Here,” he observed, with a quiet smile as he pointed to a grave in the middle of the cemetery, “here is a grave which the simple old Mexican families around here look upon with unusual interest, if not with actual awe.”

“A murder?”

“No, no! Something much stranger. I have tried to combat the idea, and while I would be addressing the people they would say, “Si Si, Padre.” They would assent to all I said, but the belief remained and does remain indelible.

“A spirit,” he began, “is said to have appeared to everyone buried in that grave, and to warn the family whenever any of them is about to pass away.

“Its appearance, which is generally made in the following manner, is believed to be uniformly fatal, being an omen of death to those who are so unhappy as to meet with it.

“When a funeral takes place the spirit is said to watch the person who remains last in the graveyard, over whom it possesses a fascinating influence.

“If the person be a young man the spirit takes the shape of a fascinating female, inspires him with a charmed passion, and exacts a promise that he will meet her at the graveyard a month from that day. This promise is sealed with a kiss, that communicates a deadly taint to him who complies.

“The spirit then disappears. No sooner does the person from whom it received the promise and the kiss pass the boundary of the churchyard than he remembers the history of the specter. He sinks into despair and insanity and dies. If, on the contrary, the specter appears to a female, it assumes the form of a young man of exceeding elegance and beauty.” The padre showed me the grave of a young person about 18 years of age, who was said four months before to have fallen a victim to it. “Ten months ago,” the father said, “a man gave the promise and the fatal kiss, and consequently looked upon himself as lost. He took a fever and died and was buried on the day appointed for the meeting, which was exactly a month after the fatal interview.

“Incredible as it may appear, the friends of these two persons solemnly declared to me that the particulars of the interview were repeatedly detailed by the two persons without the slightest variation.

“There are several cases of the same kind mentioned, but the two cases alluded to are the only ones that came within my personal knowledge.

“It appears, however, that the spectre does not confine its operations to the graveyard only. There have been instances mentioned of its appearance at weddings and social parties, where it never failed to secure its victims by dancing them into pleuritic fevers.”

On being questions as to what he might think of such possible occurrences, the good father simply smiled and shook his head.

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 21 October 1887: p. 1

The Santa Cruz ghost mentioned was a Woman in White, like the classic Hispanic ghost, La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, said to weep for her children whom she killed when their father refused to marry her. Over time La Llorona has morphed into a kind of banshee, warning of imminent death, or a vampire spirit, luring young men to their doom. Here the churchyard specter is both incubus and succubus, an equal-opportunity, shape-shifting seducer. The victim’s oblivion until he or she steps out of the graveyard is an especially fiendish touch. There is an interesting echo of the Dance of  Death in that “dancing into pleuritic fevers” and a hint of the European belief that the last person buried in a graveyard is forced to be its guardian until the next corpse comes along.  Let this be a warning to all of us to never be the last one out of the graveyard….

 

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.

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The Summer Ghost: 1899

 

GHOST GIRL WALKS THE OCEAN.

Atlantic City has a New Attraction for Visitors.

Atlantic City, N. J., July 18. Atlantic City’s newest sensation is a ghost–the weird apparition of a young woman who nightly walks on the ocean. She has created much excitement, particularly among the superstitious skippers of the inlet. She has been seen on several occasions by at least four persons. And whether she be ghost or strange phenomenon no one is able to determine. She was first seen Friday night, or rather about 1 o’clock on Saturday morning. William Mahlin, of Baltimore, who is here for a few days, was standing on the end of Young’s pier, alone, and he vouches for the following story:

He says he saw the pale and unmistakable form of a young woman, attired in white and with long flowing hair. She was walking rapidly across the ocean in the vicinity of the bell buoy. Mahlin shuddered. His teeth chattered. But with eager eyes he watched her lithe form as she strode along, moving neither to right nor left. Then she mysteriously disappeared. Mahlin’s blood ran cold. He could hardly move. Finally he went to his hotel. He said nothing about his vision, but he could not dispel from his vision the picture of the strange girl.

He determined, however, that on the following night he would revisit the end of the pier. This he did. The minutes were like hours to him and cold perspiration gathered on Mahlin’s body. At the very hour of 1 o’clock, he says, the apparition again appeared as if from the sea itself and started across the ocean. Again she disappeared. Mahlin was greatly frightened, but more convinced than on the previous night. He had neither been drinking nor dreaming. Nor did he believe in ghosts. Yet twice had he seen the strange specter. He told a friend, Barte Hampson, of his midnight watch. The friend only laughed and tried to persuade Mahlin that he had been the victim of a weird nightmare. Mahlin, however, insisted that he had seen something walking on the water.

The result was that a “ghost party,” including four people, was formed. They went out on the steel pier last evening. Miss Mae Russell and Miss Ethel Brown were in the party and the story of their watch is best told by Miss Russell.

“For several hours,” she said, “we sat together in a pavilion telling ghost stories and as the hour when the ghost would walk drew near we had the cold shivers, and even I felt uncomfortable once or twice, A 1 o’clock all was silent save for the splashing of the waves and the doleful tolling of the bell buoy as it rocked on the swells. Not one in the party said a word. Suddenly, out from a wave, it seemed, came the fair apparition. In the distance it appeared to be a girl scarcely 20 years old. She was dressed in white. Her hair was long and flowing. Her step was firm and quick and as she strode on the perfectly calm water I heard strange noises. The specter paced straight oceanward, and then the sea swallowed her up.”

Miss Russell is a plucky little girl. She doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she is sure she saw something mighty like one. The Norcatur [KS] Register 8 September 1899: p. 2

This earlier article gave some different details.

Ghost of Departed Bather Will Not Down in Spite of Scoffs and Scientists.

AFFIDAVITS WITH THIS

Atlantic City, July 12. Interest in the fair apparition which for several nights past has been seen on the ocean near the bell buoy has been intensified. A party of ten, led by Miss Mae Russell, went out on the pier last night, and each vows that he or she saw the mysterious female. She emerged from the sea not long after midnight. Again she walked quickly across the water and then disappeared. And although none of the party is the least superstitious, they are all convinced that they saw something as Miss Russell describes it, “mighty like a ghost.”
The “weird lady of the sea” is reported to have been seen by quite a number of visitors how happened to be on the board walk between midnight and 1o’clock this morning. One of the night policemen also declares that he saw it and the whole town is excited. Strange to say no yachting parties to investigate the alleged woman ghost have been formed, but “ghost” parties on the pier are increasing in popularity At several leading hotels men and women are organizing parties which will go out this evening. There is an inclination to defy the fair siren, but no one has offered an excuse for her existence.

MAY BE ONLY A FISH.

It was suggested by persons who do not relish the idea of ghosts that the “apparition” is only phosphorescent glow. A scientist who is here and whose attention was called to the ghost stories declares that the spectre may be a ghost fish, which he describes as phosphorescent, and which is often found swimming just below the water’s surface, emitting at night a pale glow. This theory does not account, however, for the remarkable coincidence that the “apparition” has appeared in the same locality so many nights in succession.

The fact remains that the apparition is reported to have been seen by a large number of people, some of whom have volunteered to make affidavit to the fact. Miss Russell, the Baltimore society belle, who saw the ghost, is most enthusiastic. She is not he girl to believe in ghosts, and she laughs at the idea. But still she insists that she saw “something.”

WHOSE GHOST IS IT?

Should the “lady of the sea”—this midnight fairy—prove to be a real ghost there is no end of speculation concerning whose ghost she may be. Superstitious person who pin their faith to spirits have already advanced several stories. They recall the sad drowning not many years ago of a beautiful girl near the place where the apparition is seen. She was a Miss Wilson, of New York, who came here to spend the summer. She was engaged to be married, and one Sunday her fiancé came to visit her. They went in bathing, and had a merry time in the breakers. Then Miss Wilson waded out into the ocean. She went beyond her depth, and a strong undertow carried her to death. As she went down she cried out in despair to her lover, but he could not rescue her. The girl’s body was never recovered.

Another death under similar circumstances is also brought to mind. It occurred about eight years ago, though over a mile further down the beach. This young lady waded beyond her depth, and was carried outward and drowned. Every effort to recover her body was made, but with ill success. It was hoped that it would be washed ashore, but even this hope was never fulfilled. And so there are other pathetic cases with which a ghost with all propriety might be associated.

The Times [Philadelphia] 13 July 1899: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Despite a conciliatory note from the paper, which wrote, that the gentleman had “no desire to challenge the veracity of those who declared that they had seen an apparition,” one Professor James H. Stinson decided to step in and spoil the fun with a scientific “explanation.”

ATLANTIC CITY’S GHOST IS LAID

Science Finds an Explanation of the Weird Lady’s Coming and Going.

SUNDAY CROWDS GATHER

Special Telegram to The Times.

The ghost of the ocean has disappeared—presumably frightened by the curious folk who defied the spirit. Several “ghost” parties were on the pier last evening, but only a pale yellowish glow was visible. Professor James H. Stinson, of the Chicago University, was in one of the parties. With no desire to challenge the veracity of those who declared that they had seen an apparition, Professor Stinson offers to The Times a unique theory of her conception.

He says that the “ghost” was nothing more than a concentration of phosphorescence, which was subject to the ocean tides. He says that Wiliam Mahlin, who first noticed it on Saturday night, was influenced by the thought of ghosts, which induced the conception of the apparition. The longer he watched it, the learned professor declares, the clearer was the impression upon the man’s mind. It was a triumph of mind over matter, and had he continued to keep a close watch on the spiritual lady it is likely that he would have been persuaded to accept the superstition. Professor Stinson has studied psychology for over thirty years, and he believes that all superstitions are created in the manner by which he has explained Mahlin’s impression of ocean phosphorescence.

To account for the same impression which was made upon the minds of others who thought they saw a ghost Professor Stinson submits that the stories which Mahlin told made their minds susceptible to visions of ghosts and it was easy for them to go out on the pier and after watching the phosphorescence imagine that they saw it moving and that it assumed the form of a woman.

This theory is an unkind blow at the residents of the spirit world. But the reported apparition has created a new fad among the visitors—“ghost parties.” They are becoming very popular.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 14 July 1899: p. 9

Ah, the old “power of suggestion” gambit; the good Professor would have made an excellent trial lawyer, casting aspersions on eye-witnesses, who, Mrs Daffodil believes, may have been just as interested in the delicious shivers which obtain when ghost-hunters of both sexes converge at some pleasure spot in the dark, as they were in psychical investigations.  Mrs Daffodil frankly does not put much stock in ghost fish or in ocean phosphorescence, which would have to put in some pretty heavy lifting to assume the appearance of a woman in white with long, flowing hair. Local businesses no doubt called down the wrath of the Summer Gods on Professor Stinson for trying to ruin a lucrative flood of visitors.

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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