Sophron. We laid it down, some time ago, as a probability, that there would be some places where we might naturally expect to find appearances of the departed more frequent than in others. In point of fact, we know that the universal voice of mankind has declared that the case is so. That deserted houses, marshy wastes, battle-fields, the places where enormous crimes have been perpetrated, lonely roads, and such-like spots, are haunted, truly or falsely, has always been, and still is believed. To-night we will examine into some examples of this kind.
Eupeithes. You will find as a general rule, that places which once had some connection with man, but are now deserted by him, are rather those which public belief represents as subject to the visitations of spirits, than such as have never been in any way connected with him. Holy Scripture itself, foretelling the destruction of Babylon, cannot give a more vivid picture of desolation than by the words, "their houses shall be full of doleful creatures."
Sophron. Haunted houses have, as we all know, been the most fruitful source of imposition. I do not mean those where, from time to time, the same kind of apparition presents itself, but those which, for weeks or months together, [88/89] are kept in a state of disquiet and alarm by extraordinary noises and disturbances. I do not say that these things never have occurred; but I do say that if many of the freaks--I can call them by no other word--which have been recounted in such, be really the work of supernatural agency, then I can only come to Dr. More's sage conclusion, that "there are as great fools out of the flesh as there are in it." And when we consider the ease of imposition in these matters, by confederates artfully arranged, by ventriloquism skilfully managed, by sleight of hand opportunely practised; and when we know that many of these tricks have been detected, such cases seem to me to be in themselves suspicious in a very high degree. The so-called Stock-well and Cock-lane ghosts were exposed, to the great confusion of their contrivers. The two most celebrated cases that have ever been known, were, I suppose, what was usually called the Demon of Tedworth, and the Epworth ghost. The first occurred just after the Restoration, and occasioned the most bitter controversy as to its reality. I conceive that we are not now in a condition to pronounce a verdict on the matter.
Theodora. What were the facts in general?
Sophron. It appears that from March, 1661, to April, 1663, the house of a Mr. Mompesson, at Tedworth, in Wiltshire, was disturbed in a most extraordinary manner. There was thumping and drumming round the rooms, scratching under the beds, furniture thrown about when persons were in the room, children thrown out of bed, articles of apparel strewn all over the floor, and many apish tricks of the same kind. The house was thronged with visitors, for the thing was known all over England. King Charles II. deputed some gentlemen to inquire into the matter. Glanville himself slept in the house, but nothing ever was discovered which could give the slightest idea of collusion. There were, I confess, several suspicious circumstances: a sword presented at the place where the noise seemed to be, always silenced it; there were no disturbances for three weeks after Mrs. Mompesson's confinement; there were none while the royal Commission were in the house: but they took place while Glanville was there; and what he says on the subject is so sensible, that I will read it to you. "It will, I know, be said [89/90] by some, that my friend and I were under some affright, and so fancied noises and sights that were not. This is the usual evasion. But if it be possible to know how a man is affected when in fear, and when unconcerned, I certainly know for my own part that during the whole time of my being in the room and in the house, I was under no more affrightment than I am while I write this relation. And as I know that I am now awake, and that I see the objects that are before me, I know that I heard and saw the particulars that I have told." Now, certainly, I confess, it is rather hard that an honest and clever man is not to be believed, when he speaks in this manner. We must also remember that Mr. Mompesson, if an impostor, was so for no assignable reason; that he suffered m his name, in his estate, in his family. Unbelievers called him an impostor, believers thought it a judgment for some extraordinary wickedness; he was unable to attend to his business through the concourse of visitors; his rest was broken, his peace of mind disturbed, and he never gained the slightest advantage in an imposition, if imposition it were, so painfully practised through so long a time. The Epworth ghost, absurd and useless as the whole thing seems, I cannot disbelieve. I will read you what Southey says on the subject in his Life of Wesley. "Such things may be supernatural and yet not miraculous; they may not be in the ordinary course of nature, and yet imply no alteration of its laws. And with regard to the good end which they may be supposed to answer, it would be end sufficient if sometimes one of those unhappy persons, who, looking through the dim glass of infidelity, see nothing beyond this life, and the narrow sphere of mortal existence, should, from the well-established truth of one such story, trifling and objectless as it otherwise might appear, be led to a conclusion that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in their philosophy." And that must needs be a most well-authenticated relation which Priestley, if he would not believe, did not profess thoroughly to disbelieve.
Eusebia. How is it so well authenticated?
Sophron. Because the various members of the family, Mr. and Mrs. Wesley, and their daughters, wrote accounts of the apparition, Old Jefferies, as they called it, to Samuel [90/91] Wesley, then in London; he preserved them, and they were printed by John Wesley in the Arminian Magazine. Southey reprinted them in the Appendix to the first volume of his Life of Wesley. To relate all the particulars would be impossible. In brief, they are these. On the first of December, 1716, a groaning, as of a person in great bodily pain, was heard by the servants outside the hall-door, but no one could be found there. Strange knockings occurred then in various parts of the house; the young ladies were first informed of it, then their mother, a woman of remarkably strong intellect; and, as Mr. Wesley never appeared to hear the sounds, they were thought to be a warning of his death. They at last grew so troublesome, that he was informed of them, and in process of time heard them himself. The principal circumstances attending them appear to have been these. The house dog at first was furious, but afterwards shrunk into a corner whenever the sounds were heard. Before any visitation, the wind rose round the house; then a noise was heard which was compared by different auditors to the winding up of a clock, to the planing of deal boards, or to the setting a windmill when the wind changes. Then, the latches of the room into which the spirit seemed to enter were lifted, the windows clattered, and any vessel of brass and iron rang. After this, in various parts of the room a dead hollow knock was heard; and if any person knocked, the sound was imitated. Mr. Wesley's door-knock, rather a complicated one, seemed to puzzle the ghost; but at length it caught that. No one appears to have been terrified at the visitation; the sisters, in particular, would seem to have enjoyed the amusement. The younger children were sensible of its presence when asleep, for they trembled, and were covered with a cold sweat. Mr. Wesley told the spirit to "come to him, that was a man," and not to vex poor children; and for the first time, it then presented itself in the study. The usual time of appearance was a quarter before ten at night; but on Mrs. Wesley's having a horn blown, thinking that the noises might proceed from the rats, it revenged itself by coming in the day. There were; no well authenticated stories of its having been seen; but it once held the door which a member of the family was going to open; and once tried to push Mr. Wesley down. [91/92] A neighbouring clergyman, Mr. Hole, of Hexey, was witness to the proceedings. In the spring its visits became rarer, its knockings were at first heard outside the house, then at a distance, and then ceased. Two other things I must relate; the one, that at the beginning of its visits, it always knocked when Mr. Wesley (a stanch Hanoverian) mentioned King George at family prayer; the other, that Mrs. Wesley desired it not to disturb the house between five and six, the hour she set apart for her own private devotions; and it never did.
Eupeithes. It is very curious that, in the gust of wind which arose before the coming of the supposed spirit, and in the loud knockings heard on pieces of wood which would not have seemed capable of supporting them, this case should so much resemble that at Tedworth, and another famous instance at Sir William York's house, at Lessingham, in Lincolnshire, which happened in 1679.
Sophron. Plutarch tells a curious story of a haunted house at Athens. "It was spacious and commodious; but the prodigious and unaccountable noises, the clanking of chains, and the appearance of an old man, meagre and filthy, with long beard and uncombed hair, and wearing chains on his arms and legs, drove one tenant after another from the place. The proprietors were consequently compelled to offer the house at a rent ruinously disproportionate to its size. The philosopher Athenodorus came to Athens in, search of a house. He was pleased with that in question; but on hearing the terms, felt persuaded that there must be g some unmentioned drawback in the case; and, on inquiry, learnt the truth. He nevertheless engaged the house; and, on the first evening of his occupation, when it became dusk, dismissed his family, bade his slaves bring every necessary for writing, and employed himself in the composition of one of his works. When night drew on, he heard the rattling: of chains, and the noise of steps, first outside, then inside the room; still he went on writing; till at last, on looking; up, he saw the spectre as it had been described to him. It beckoned to him to follow; he motioned to it to wait and continued his task. The apparition clanked its chain over the head of the philosopher. Athenodorus rose, took the light, and prepared to follow. The old man led the way [92/93] slowly, as if loaded with chains, into the centre of the court, and then disappeared. Athenodorus marked the spot with plants and leaves, and retired to rest. On the following day he went to the magistrates, informed them of the circumstance, and requested that the place should be examined. Excavations were made; the mouldering remains of a man, whose legs and arms were chained, were discovered, and publicly buried; and the house was never again haunted. This is the most thorough ghost story that I know in the writings of the ancients."
Eupeithes. No places have ever been more usually supposed to be haunted than mines. This belief prevails in Sweden, in Germany, in Switzerland; and the Kobale, the Trulle, or Gutels, are only different names given to the same class of spirits who are imagined to work there, and to be great imitators of man. Now we cannot wonder that, in those hours of fearful solitude and darkness, the fancy should invent almost any kind of delusion; especially where there are so many unearthly noises--the dripping of water down the shafts, the tunnelling of distant passages, the rumbling of trains from some freshly explored lode--all these things may give rise to imaginations far wilder than any which are recorded on the subject. But I think the story I am going to tell you stands on a different footing. You know that the Whitehaven mines run far out underneath the sea, and are some of the most terrible in England. A man, who had worked all his life in them, and had always borne a high character, was laid on his death-bed, and sent or the clergyman of his parish, to whom he had been previously known. I know not of what kind the disease was; it was one, I am assured, at all events, that did not affect his mind in the least, and that, during the whole of the account which I am going to give you, he was perfectly and most manifestly himself. He related it on the word of a dying man. He assured the priest that it was no uncommon thing, in the mines, for the voices of persons who had long been dead to be heard as in conversation or debate. I do not think he said that apparitions were seen; but he affirmed that they were heard to pass along the passages with a loud kind of rushing noise; that the miners, as far as possible, got out of the way on these occasions; [93/94] that the horses employed in the mines would stand still and tremble, and fall into a cold sweat; and that this was universally known to be a thing that might occur any time. One remarkable instance he gave. The overseer of the mine he had been used to work was, for many years, a Cumberland man; but, being found guilty of some unfair proceedings, he was dismissed by the proprietors from his post, though employed in an inferior situation. The new overseer was a Northumberland man, who had the burr that distinguishes that county very strongly. To this person the degraded overseer bore the strongest hatred, and was heard to say that some day he would be his ruin. He lived, however, in apparent friendship with him; but, one day, they were both destroyed together by the fire-damp. It was believed in the mine that, preferring revenge to life, the ex-overseer had taken his successor, less acquainted than himself with the localities of the mine, into; a place where he knew the fire-damp to exist, and that without a safety-lamp; and had thus contrived his destruction. But ever after that tune, in the place where the two men perished, their voices might be heard high in dispute--the Northumbrian burr being distinctly audible, and so also the well-known pronunciation of the treacherous murderer.
Theodora. It seems a most difficult thing to reconciled such stories with what we know of the state of departed; souls. That they should continue to tenant the places with which they were connected while in the body, appears almost an incredible thing, whether we suppose them in happiness or in misery; or, if possible, then, how wonderfully near does it bring the unseen world to ourselves!
Eusebia. Who can say it is not so near? Who, indeed, can define what they mean by the locality of a spiritual state? There can be no abstract proof that heaven is not, at this moment, in one sense, around us. And if, in the case you mentioned, the murderer and the murdered man were fellow partakers of that eternal state,--which, if the former did as you represent, he could not hope to escape,--think of the full bitterness of hatred that must evermore have reigned between them, of which hatred the labourers in that mine might have been permitted to hear the gross and (so to speak) tangible expressions.
 Eupeithes. I remember being much struck with a prayer in a church at Bragança,--Pelas almas que estão padecendo em algum lugar, por especial castigo de Deos--"For the souls which are suffering in any place, by the especial chastisement of God." Clearly, it referred to troubled spirits, that haunt definite spots.
Theodora. If from this we proceed to those more usual cases of haunted dwellings, where a spirit is said occasionally to appear, but where no perpetual disturbance prevails, we shall find no à priori argument, such as those you just mentioned, to lie against the credibility of such apparitions, except it be their uselessness, and, in some cases, the apparent ludicrousness of their form or manner of visitation.
Sophron. True; yet there is, so to speak, something extremely unreasonable in these kinds of apparitions. They do no good; they do no great harm; they are universally disbelieved by the "enlightened," and thought rather the subject of a good joke than of anything more serious. One most incomprehensible occurrence I heard from the brother of a gentleman who was present when it happened. He was staying with a family who had recently moved into another house. The servants spoke of strange noises and footsteps in it; and I think that it had previously had the reputation of being haunted. The first night he was there, when the party were going up stairs to bed, they found the infant of a few months old laid on the top of the banisters, and fast asleep. It seemed almost impossible that any one could lie there without rolling over; and the strictest search could not discover any possibility of human agency. The same thing occurred three times, and the family then left the House.
Eupeithes. I will tell you a very odd thing, of which I know both place and person (though by name only) where and to whom it occurred. There was a house in the east of England, where one room was reported to be haunted; none of the family slept there, nor did they usually put visitors into it. But a young man, who happened accidentally to be staying there, so earnestly requested to be allowed to occupy it for one night, that at last consent was given. "You will be sure, however, to see the apparition," said the master of the house; "so do not blame me for the alarm it may [95/96] occasion you." "Oh! not I," replied the other; "but, pray, in what form does it appear?" "Nay," said the gentleman, "I will not tell you that, and then you will not be able to fancy it." "Very well," said the visitor; "then I will tell you all about it to-morrow morning." The young man accordingly went to his room; bolted and locked the door; looked under the bed, under the drawers, into the closet; examined the fastenings of the windows; and convinced himself that no fraud could be used in the matter. I know not that he was a disbeliever in such things; but he was one of the most constitutionally fearless men that you cam conceive. He went to bed, and to sleep. In the middle of the night he woke, and looking towards the bottom of his bed, saw a woman in a red cloak, fixing her eyes on him. "Who are you?" he cried, not a whit alarmed. No answer. "What are you?" No answer. "What do you want?" Still no answer. "Well," he said to himself, "this is a fancy: I will go to sleep again." And so he did. Waking some time after, he was astonished to see the same figure, in the same place and position. "If this be a real apparition," said he, "I will make sure that it is so, and that I am thoroughly awake." He got up, went to his wash-hand stand, poured out some water, and washed his face and hands, the appearance still standing as before. Having thus convinced himself that he was really wide awake, he got into bed, turned round, went to sleep, and woke no more till it was broad day. Then, on coming down stairs, he was interrogated as to what he had seen. "I have seen something," he said; "it is for you to say whether it is the same figure that generally appears." On hearing his account, the family assured him that it was.
Sophron. Something of the same kind happened to friend of mine who was on a visit at a house in the village of South Mailing, close to Lewes. This house was connected with sacrilege, and was reported to be haunted. He slept in a room that opened on to a long passage; and about four o'clock in the morning was disturbed by heavy steps coming along this passage. They stopped opposite his door: a hand was laid on the handle, and tried to turn it. "Some blunder," thought my friend: "you shall not come in, any how." He jumped out of bed and locked the door, and the steps [96/97] seemed to go away. This occurred one or two nights, but my friend did not mention it to the family. Some few days afterwards he was removed into a different apartment to make room for another visitor in that which he had previously occupied. On coming down to breakfast the next morning, "Some one was about early," said the newcomer: "they tried to get in at my door, but I was just in time to hinder that." Every one protested that the servants were in another part of the house, and no other member of the family had passed that way. The thing was then observed; and the whole household were convinced that the steps along this passage, which constantly occurred, could not be natural.
Eusebia. Now I will give you an example where the tale of a haunted house received great corroboration from subsequent discoveries. I wrote to a lady who was acquainted with the circumstances; and you shall have her answer in her own words.
"And so you wish to hear the often told story of the 'lady who walked in white;' my acquaintance with her was very slight, being only this:
"The old parochial S. Gregory's Church, in the town of Sudbury, at one end of which the remains now stand, was formerly in possession of lands surrounding it, which were used conventually; in one part a dwelling for friars or monks; and in another, as was said, was a convent of nuns. In my early childhood this estate was held, and the farm-house lived in, by a family of the name of Hurrell; the house was said to have been built on the spot which once formed part of the nunnery; and my earliest remembrance of this spot was the constantly repeated tradition that in the dusk of evening a lady clothed in white walked all round the premises, and then disappeared. The inhabitants and gentry sneered at this tradition, and the half fear of the poor people in the neighbourhood was dying away, and almost gone, when, in the summer of 1816, I paid a hasty visit to the old house at Ballingdon, which had a distant view of these low lying meadows under S. Gregory's Church. In autumn the mists from the Stour, which separates Suffolk and Essex, and flows through these meadows, rose so thickly, and put on so many forms, that I often [97/98] wondered many ladies walking in white were not seen; the tradition, however, still held of one lady.
"In the summer of the above named 1816, Mr. Hurrell had occasion to alter his old house; and one morning at the breakfast-table, I was surprised by the inquiry, 'Would you like to see the lady who walked in white?' 'Yes. Have you seen her?' ' No, but you may see her true picture; for yesterday as the workmen pulled down that old cellar, in the midst of the oak beam, in a little hollow, they found a picture, a miniature of a young female; and proceeding to dig up the foundation of this cellar, just under the spot crossed by the beam and the picture, they found the skeleton of a female, known from the size of the bones, and near the wrist bones a gold bracelet, with an empty socket; it struck some present the picture must belong to this; and, trying it, they found it exactly fitted the empty case.'
"Of course all our breakfast party were anxious to see this; as it was useless to visit the spot, then a mass of brieks and rubbish, we sent to ask permission to have the bracelet for a few moments to look at: the request was at once complied with; but as the marvel had then quickly spread round the neighbourhood, and every one was equally anxious for the sight, the messenger could only allow us a short glance of the bracelet and picture.
"The former was of very, very coarse work in dead kind of gold, more like the work of a blacksmith, or at least clumsy whitesmith, than agreeing with any lady's bracelet I ever saw. The picture was exceedingly coarsely done, the colours faded: the face was that of a young female, the sis much about what ladies are now wearing as large brooches. I have forgotten what material the miniature was drawn upon, only no glass was visible over it, or ever seemed to have been. Some years passed away before I again visited the same spot, and these estates had changed hands. Time and death had been more than ordinarily busy in their work of spoliation amongst my once large circle of relatives there; and I found so many voices speaking to me, which others could not hear; and so many hands beckoning to me which others could not see; and so many well recognized pictures of lost realities, that I quite forgot to inquire about [98/99] the picture of the lady who walked in white, though she too doubtless was once a living reality, probably a melancholy one, but for these reasons, I added nothing to my knowledge of her."
Eupeithes. I came down, one fine spring evening, about the close of the day, to the blue Fjord on which stands the City of Sleswig. A dark wood to the left is believed by the peasants to be haunted by King Abel the fratricide. He was at first buried in Sleswig Cathedral; but such fearful sounds issued from the place of the tomb, that the coffin was taken up, and committed to a less hallowed sepulchre in the wood of Poole. Here, on stormy evenings the sound of a horn, the cries of hounds, and the neighing of steeds will be heard; the King, mounted on a dingy little horse, the dogs, with tongues of fire, will appear, as the phantom-chase sweeps by; and the Sleswigers have the greatest horror of exposing themselves to the spectre.--Another apparition of a similar kind is believed to haunt the wood of Gurre, near Elsinor. Here King Valdemar IV. built a tower for his Tovelil, the Fair Rosamond of Danish History; and so enchanted was he with the spot, that he used to say,--"If GOD will leave me Gurre, I will not envy Him Heaven." He is punished by being compelled to hunt nightly in these woods:--and his dogs and horses also have fiery tongues.
Sophron. In "Bentley's Correspondence," which was published in 1842, by Dr. Chr. Wordsworth, after being prepared for the press by his brother--there is a letter from Caswall the mathematician, which incloses a communication he had received from Mr. Thomas Wilkins, Curate of Warbleton, near Havant, in Hampshire. The letter is dated Dec. 11, 1695, and is, I think, worth reading.
Eusebia. By all means let us have it.
Sophron. Very well. Here it is. "At Warblington ... in the Parsonage House dwelt Thomas Perce the tenant, with his wife and a child, and a man servant Thomas, and a maid servant. About the beginning of August, 1695, on a Monday,"--it must therefore have been August 4,--"about nine or ten at night, all being gone to bed except the maid with the child, the maid, being in the kitchen, and having raked up the fire, took a candle in one hand and the child in the other arm, and turning about, saw one in a black gown [99/100] walking through the room, and thence out of the door into the orchard. Upon this the maid, hasting up stairs, having recovered but two steps, cried out, on which the master and mistress ran down, found the candle in her hand, she grasping the child about its neck with the other arm: she told them the reason of her crying out. She would not that night tarry in the house, but removed to another, belonging to one Henry Salter, Farmer, where she cried out all the night from the terror she was in; and she could not be persuaded to go any more to the house upon any terms.
"On the morrow, i.e. Tuesday,"--Aug. 5--"the tenant's wife came to me, lodging then at Havant, to desire my advice, and have me consult with some friends about it. I told her I thought it was a sham, and that they had a design to abuse Mr. Brereton, the Rector, whose house it was; she desired me to come up. I told her I would come up, and sit up or lie there as she pleased: for then as to all stories of ghosts and apparitions I was an infidel. I went thither; and sat up on Tuesday night with the tenant and his man servant. About twelve or one o'clock I searched all the rooms in the house to see if anybody were hid there to impose upon me: at last we came to a lumber room; there I, smiling, told the tenant that was with me that I would call for the apparition, if there was any, and oblige him to come. The tenant then seemed to be afraid, but I told him I would defend him from harm; and then I repeated Barbara, Celarent, Darii, &c. On this the tenant's countenance changed, so that he was ready to drop down with fear: then I told him I perceived he was afraid, and would prevent its coming, and repeated Baralipton, &c. Then he recovered his spirits pretty well, and we left the room, and went down, into the kitchen, and sat up there the remaining part of the night, and had no manner of disturbance.
"Wednesday night, the tenant and I lay together, and the man by himself, and had no manner of disturbance.
"Thursday night, the tenant and I lay together in one room and the man in another room; and he saw something walk along in a black gown, and place itself against a window, and there stood for some time, and then walked off.
"Friday morning, the man relating this, I asked him why he did not call me, and I told him that I thought it was a [100/101] trick of sham; he told me the reason why he did not call me was, that he was not able to speak or move. Friday night, we lay as before, and Saturday night, and had no disturbance either of the nights.
"Sunday night,--Aug. 10--I lay by myself in one room, (not that where the man saw the apparition,) and the tenant and his man in one bed in another room; and betwixt twelve and two the man heard something walk in their room at their bed's foot, and whistling very well; at last it came to the bed's side, drew the curtain, and looked on them; after some time it moved off. Then the man calling to me, desired me to come; for that there was something in the room went about whistling;--I asked him whether he had any light, or could strike one;--he told me, No. Then I leaped out of bed, and, not staying to put on my clothes, went out of my room and along a gallery to their door, which I found locked or bolted. I desired him to unbolt the door, for that I could not get in; then he got out of bed, and opened the door, which was near, and went immediately to bed again. I went in three or four steps; and, it being a moonshine night, I saw the apparition move from the bed's feet, and clap up against the wall that divided their room and mine. I went and stood directly against it, within my arm's length of it, and asked it in the Name of God what it was that made it come disturbing of us? I stood some time expecting an answer, and receiving none: and thinking it might be some fellow hid in the room to fright me, I put out my arm to feel it, and my hand seemingly went through the body of it, and felt no manner of substance till it came to the wall: then I drew back my hand, and still it was in the same place. Till now I had not the least fear, and even now had very little: then I adjured it to tell me what it was; when I had said these words, it, keeping its back against the wall, moved gently along towards the door: I followed it; and it, going out at the door, turned its back towards me: it went a little along the gallery, and it disappeared where there was no corner for it to turn, and before it came to the end of the gallery, where was the stairs. There I found myself very cold from the feet as high as the middle, though I was not in great fear. I went into the bed between the tenant and his man, [101/102] and they complained of my being exceeding cold. The tenant's man leaned over his master in the bed, and saw me stretch out my arm toward the apparition, and heard me speak the words: the tenant also heard the words. The apparition seemed to have a morning gown of a darkish colour, no hat nor cap, short black hair, a thin meagre visage, of a pale swarthy colour, seemed to be about forty or fifty years old; the eyes half shut, the arms hanging down, the hands visible beneath the sleeve, of a middle stature. I related this description to Mr. John Larner, Rector of Havant, and to Major Batten, of Langstone, in Havant Parish: they both said the description agreed very well to Mr. Pitfield, a former Rector of the place, who has been dead above twenty years. Upon this the tenant and his family left the house, which has remained void ever since.
"The Monday after last Michaelmas Day,"--October 2,--"a man of Chedsar, in Warwickshire, having been at Havant fair, passed by the foresaid Parsonage House about nine or ten at night, and saw a light in most of the rooms in the house, his pathway being close to the house: he, wondering at the light, looked into the kitchen window, and saw only a light: but turning himself to go away, he saw the appearance of a man in a long gown: he made haste away: the apparition followed him over a piece of glebe land of several acres to a lane, which he crossed, and over a little meadow, then over another lane to some pales which belong to Farmer Henry Salter, my landlord,--near a barn in which were some of the farmer's men and some others; this man went into the barn, told them how he was frightened, and followed from the Parsonage House by an apparition, which they might see standing against the pales if they went out: they went out and saw it scratch against the pales and make a hideous noise; it stood there some time and then disappeared. Their description agreed with what I saw. This last account I had from the man himself whom it followed, and also from the farmer's men."--So much for the Curate's story: Caswall tells Bentley that he had seen him, and was informed that he was a man of good character; and ends thus: "Mr. Brereton, the Rector, would have him say nothing of the story, for that he [102/103] can get no tenant, though he has offered the house and grange for £10 a-year less. Mr. Pitfield, the former Incumbent, whom the apparition represented, was a man of very ill report. But I advised the Curate to say nothing himself of this last part of Pitfield, but leave that to the parishioners, who knew him. Those that knew this Pitfield say that he had exactly such a gown, and that he used to whistle."
Sophron. It is a very odd popular belief which asserts lanes and roads and ruins to be sometimes haunted by a spirit which does not assume a human form. Of this the most curious instance is the celebrated Manx Dog:--
"They say that an apparition, called, in their language, the Mauthe Doog, in the shape of a large black spaniel with curled shaggy hair, was used to haunt Peel Castle, and has been frequently seen in every room, but particularly in the guard-chamber, where, as soon as candles were lighted, it came and lay down before the fire, in presence of all the soldiers, who at length, by being so much accustomed to the sight of it, lost great part of the terror they were seized with at its first appearance. They still, however, retained a certain awe, as believing it was an evil spirit which only waited permission to do them hurt, and for that reason forbore swearing and all profane discourse while in its company. But though they endured the shock of such a guest when all together in a body, none cared to be left alone with it. It being the custom, therefore, for one of the soldiers to lock the gates of the castle at a certain hour, and carry the keys to the captain, to whose apartment, as I said before, the way led through a church, they agreed among themselves, that whoever was to succeed the ensuing night his fellow in this errand should accompany him that went first, and by this means no man would be exposed singly to the danger; for I forgot to mention that the Mauthe Doog was always seen to come out from that passage at the close of day, and return to it again as soon as the morning dawned, which made them look on this place as its peculiar residence. One night a fellow being drunk, and by the strength of his liquor rendered more daring than ordinary, laughed at the simplicity of his companions; and though it was not his turn to go with the keys, would needs take that office upon him, to [103/104] testify his courage. All the Soldiers endeavoured to dissuade him, but the more they said, the more resolute he seemed, and swore that he desired nothing more than that the Mauthe Doog would follow him, as it had done the others, for he would try if it were dog or devil. After having talked in a very reprobate manner for some time, he snatched up the keys, and went out of the guard-room. In some time after his departure a great noise was heard, but nobody had the boldness to see what occasioned it, till the adventurer returning, they demanded the knowledge of him; but as loud and noisy as he had been at leaving them, he was now be come sober and silent enough, for he was never heard to speak more; and though all the time he lived, which was three days, he was entreated by all who came near him, I either to speak, or, if he could not do that, to make some signs, by which they might understand what had happened to him, yet nothing intelligible could be got from him, only that by the distortion of his limbs and features, it might be guessed that he died in agonies more than is common in natural death. The Mauthe Doog was, however, never seen after in the castle, nor would anyone attempt to go through that passage, for which reason it was closed up, and another way was made. This accident happened about threescore years since, and I heard it attested by several, but especially by an old soldier, who assured me he had seen it oftener than he had then hairs on his head."
Eusebia. The story that I am about to tell you, I had from the lady herself to whom it happened. She was governess in the family of a gentleman who was travelling Italy; and who determined on spending some time at Sorrento. He took a house very pleasantly situated near the town, and, when it was ready, removed thither. All rooms were on the ground floor; and this lady's was at further end of a long passage, and had also an external door, which opened into a vineyard. The first night she was reading, rather late, in this room, when she heard steps coining through the vineyard, and then some one attempt rather violently, to open the door. She demanded who was there, but could get no answer. The visitor seemed to withdraw, and she supposed that it was some mistake, and troubled herself no more on the matter. The next night, however, [104/105] at the same time, the same occurrence again happened. My friend called the man-servant, and desired him to see who was hidden in the vineyard. The man went; and presently after returned with the report that there was no one, and he did not see how there could have been any one; for fit was impossible to get over the high walls and gates with which it was fenced. A good deal terrified, the young lady on the following day informed the master of the house. He took the matter rather seriously, and said that on the next night he would watch in that room himself. He desired the man-servant to sit up, and they waited together for the appointed time. When the steps were heard, as before, they placed themselves close to the door, which they had previously unlocked; and when the visitor's hand was laid on the outer handle, they threw the door open. To their horror no one was to be seen, and no one was in the vineyard. On the following day the gentleman told his family that they must leave the house. He had obtained it at a cheap rent, because it was said to be haunted; and exactly in the way that I have told you. The explanation given was this. Some years before, an old man had lived there, who reported to have a good deal of money; he usually slept in that room; and one night, robbers having forced their way in, went off with his wealth, and left him for dead. He had, however, just strength enough to crawl to the door, and open it, in order to obtain help; and there he was found dead. Ever since then, that room and that door were said to be so haunted.
Eupeithes. The awful scenery of the Worm's Head, in Glamorganshire, is the cradle of more than one wild legend. A Spanish galleon was wrecked, about two hundred years ago, in Rhosilly Bay. The Lord of the Manor laid claim to he property; but a Mr. Mansell broke into the vessel, carried off much of its spoil, fled with his ill-gotten gains abroad, and there perished miserably. The inhabitants of Gower believe that his ghost haunts the sands by night; he is to be seen in a black coach, drawn by four grey horses. In 1850, when at the Worm's Head, I saw an old man, then residing at Rhosilly, but formerly at Llangenydd, who affirmed most solemnly that he once, when crossing the sands at night, met this spectre chariot.
 Sophron. If from these tales we turn to those where a spirit has appeared to reveal a secret which could not else have been known, we shall have the feelings of mankind far more strongly with us. The story of the Red Barn was credited all over England. I will tell you one of a similar kind related by Dr. More. In the year 1680, at Lumley, a hamlet near Chester-le-street, in the county of Durham, there lived one Walker, a man well-to-do in the world, and a widower. A young relation of his, whose name was Anne Walker, kept his house, to the great scandal of the neighbourhood, and that with but too good cause. A few weeks before this young woman expected to become a mother, Walker placed her with her aunt, one Dame Care, in Chester-le-street, and promised to take care both of her and her future child. One evening in the end of November, this man, in company with Mark Sharp, an acquaintance of his, came to Dame Care's door, and told her that they had made arrangements for removing her niece to a place where she could remain in safety, till her confinement was over. They would not say where it was; but as Walker bore, in most respects, an excellent character, she was allowed to go with him; and he professed to have sent her off with Sharp into Lancashire. Fourteen days after, one Graeme, a fuller, who lived about six miles from Lumley, had been engaged till past midnight in his mill; and on coming down stairs to go home, in the middle of the ground-floor he saw a woman,' with dishevelled hair, covered with blood, and having five large wounds on her head. Graeme, on recovering a little from his first terror, demanded what the spectre wanted: "I," said the apparition, "am the spirit of Anne Walker;" and proceeded accordingly to tell Graeme the particular which I have already related to you. "When I was sent away with Mark Sharp," it proceeded, "he slew me on such a moor," naming one that Graeme knew, "with a collier's pick, threw my body into a coal-pit, and hid the pick under the bank; and his shoes and stockings, which were covered with blood, he left in a stream." The apparition proceeded to tell Graeme that he must give information of this to the nearest justice of the peace; and that, till this was done, he must look to be continually haunted, Graeme went home very sad: he dared not bring such a charge against a man [106/107] so unimpeachable a character as Walker, and yet he as little dared to incur the anger of the spirit that had appeared to him. So, as all weak minds will do, he went on procrastinating, only he took care to leave his mill early, and, while in it, never to be alone. Notwithstanding this caution on his part, one night, just as it began to be dark, the apparition met him again, in a more terrible shape, and with every circumstance of indignation. Yet he did not even then fulfil its injunction; till, on S. Thomas's eve, as he was walking in his garden, just after sunset, it threatened him so effectually, that in the morning he went to a magistrate, and revealed the whole thing. The place was examined; the body and the pickaxe found. A warrant was granted against Walker and Sharp; they were, however, admitted to bail; but in August, 1681, their trial came on before Judge Davenport, at Durham. Meanwhile, the whole circumstances were known over all the north of England; and the greatest interest was excited by the case. Against Sharp the fact was strong, that his shoes and stockings, covered with blood, had been found in the place where the murder had been committed; but against Walker, except the account received from the ghost, there seemed not a shadow of evidence. Nevertheless, the judge summed up strongly against the prisoners; the jury found them guilty; and the judge pronounced sentence on them that night, a thing which was unknown in Durham, either before or after. The prisoners were executed; and both died, professing their innocence to the last. Judge Davenport was much agitated during the trial; and it was believed that the spirit had also appeared to him, as if to supply in his mind the want of legal evidence.
Eupeithes. I should have been very loth to bring in such a verdict on such testimony, even if I had been persuaded of the truth of the narrator. I should have thought, as Hamlet did,
"-----------The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps,
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
(As he is very potent with such spirits,)
Abuses me to damn me."
 And I remember that Lavater tells a story, which would lead to the same conclusion. A friend of his, the magistrate of some German town, was riding through the fields in company with his servant one morning, when they saw a man of high respectability in the neighbourhood engaged in an act of felony. He rode to this gentleman's house as fast as he could, found him in bed, and learnt, on satisfactory evidence, that he had not left his bed all night.
Sophron. A similar instance to that which I last related is to be found in the conviction of William Barwick for murder, on the 16th of September, 1690, at the York Assizes. Aubrey was at the pains to procure authenticated documents, and I will read you some extracts from his account.
"The murder was committed on Palm Monday, the 14th of April, about two of the clock in the afternoon, at which time the said Barwick, having drilled his wife along till he came to a certain close, within sight of Cawood Castle, where he found the conveniency of a pond, he threw her by force into the water; and when she was drowned, and drawn forth again by himself, he concealed the body among the bushes. The nest night, when it grew duskish, fetching a long spade from the rick that stood in the close, he made a hole by the side of the pond, and there slightly buried the woman in her clothes.
"Thinking himself secure, because unseen," he went the same day to his brother-in-law, one Thomas Bufforth, who had married his drowned wife's sister, and told him he had carried his wife to one Richard Harrison's house, Selby, who was his uncle, and would take care of her. But on the Easter-Tuesday following, about two of the clock in the afternoon, the forementioned Lofthouse, having occasion to water a quickset hedge, not far from his house, as was going for the second pailful, an apparition went before him, in the shape of a woman, and soon after, she sat down upon a rising green grass-plat, right over against the pond; He walked by her as he went to the pond; and as he returned with the pail, looking sideways, to see whether she continue in the same place, he found she did, and that she seemed to dandle something in her lap that looked like a white bag, (as he thought,) which he did not observe before. So soon [108/109] as he had emptied his pail, he went into his yard, and stood still, to try whether he could see her again, but she had vanished." The poor woman had been expecting, at the time of her murder, shortly to become a mother.
"In his information, he says that the woman seemed to be habited in a brown-coloured petticoat, waistcoat, and a white hood,--such an one as his wife's sister usually wore; arid that her countenance looked extremely pale and wan, with her teeth [in sight, but no gums appearing; and that her physiognomy was like to that of his wife's sister, who was wife to William Barwick.
"But, notwithstanding the ghastliness of the apparition, it seems it made so little impression on Lofthouse's mind, that he thought no more of it, neither did he speak to any body concerning it, till the same night, as he was at his family duty of prayer, that that apparition returned again to his thoughts, and discomposed his devotions, so that after he had made an end of his prayers, he told the whole story of what he had seen to his wife; who, laying circumstances together, immediately inferred that her sister was either drowned, or otherwise murdered, and desired her husband to look after her the next day, which was the Wednesday in Easter week. Upon this Lofthouse, recollecting what Barwick had told him of his carrying his wife to his uncle, at Selby, repairs to Harrison, before mentioned, but found all that Barwick had said to be false: for that Harrison had neither heard of Barwick or his wife, neither did he know any thing of them; which notable circumstance, together with that other of the apparition, increased his suspicions to that degree that, now concluding his wife's sister was murdered, he went to the Lord Mayor of York, and, having obtained his warrant, got Barwick apprehended; who was no sooner brought before the Lord Mayor, but his own conscience then accusing him, he acknowledged the whole matter, as it has been already related.
"On Wednesday, September 16th, 1690, William Barwick was brought to his trial, before Sir John Powel, at the Assizes, where the prisoner pleaded Not Guilty. But upon evidence of Thomas Lofthouse and his wife, and a third son, that the woman was found buried in her clothes in the close, by the pond side, agreeably to the prisoner's [109/110] confession, and that she had several bruises on her head, occasioned by the blows the murderer had given her to keep her under water, and upon reading the prisoner's confession before the Lord Mayor of York, he was found guilty, and sentenced to death, and afterwards ordered to be hanged in chains."
Now, in this story, an unique circumstance is the apparition of the child,--unborn in this world, but in the other seeming to possess a separate existence. If the pond at which the spectre appeared were not--as I gather it was not--the same by which the murder was committed, here is another instance of what we sometimes see,--the allegorical, or typical manner in which spirits communicate intelligence.
Eupeithes. Lofthouse's silence as to the apparition is remarkable, though it cannot be called suspicious: for had he invented the story, he would, of course, have taken care to relate it directly after the pretended occurrence. He might, possibly, be afraid of ridicule.
Sophron. I have, from undoubted authority, a somewhat similar instance, which happened in the house of a well-known Northumbrian baronet. His mansion stood by the side of a river, where it made a bend, so that a terrace ran between the front of the house and the water, while some of the side windows overlooked the stream. On this terrace, one morning, one of the children was playing, while the family were at breakfast, when he came running in to say that there was a little baby, all by itself, near the gravel walk. The child was laughed at for fancying an impossibility, there being no baby in the house at the time. At last his importunity prevailed on some one to go down with him to the terrace. There was no infant to be seen; but still the boy persisted most solemnly that he had seen one, and pointed to the exact spot where he said that it had appeared. On examining this spot, the earth was observed to have been lately disturbed, and it was proposed to dig up the ground, and see what might be the cause. This was done and the remains of an infant were discovered in the very place. This was no sooner known through the house, that one of the maid-servants threw herself out of an attic window, and was drowned in the river.
Eupeithes. This appearance of a child to a child has [110/111] something singular in it, though I shall be able to match it by and by. An instance of the apparition of a spirit for the righting of the poor is this. It is given by Dr. Fowler, sometime Bishop of Gloucester. Dr. Britton, who was Rector of Pembridge, near Hereford, during the Great Rebellion, had a wife, of distinguished piety. Shortly after her death, she appeared to a young woman who had formerly been a maid of hers, but afterwards married to a respectable yeoman of the parish. Alice (for such was her name) was rocking her infant, when a knock was heard at the door: and on opening it, she saw a figure in all respects resembling that of Mrs. Britton. When she had a little recovered from her surprise,--"Were not my mistress dead, I should say that you were she." "I am the same that was your mistress," replied the apparition; "and I have a business of importance to employ you on." Alice trembled, and requested very earnestly that she would rather go to Dr. Britton, who must be more capable of fulfilling her wishes. The spirit replied that she had already been to him, but that he was asleep, and her power did not extend to awaking him. "In brief," it continued, "you must go forth with me." Alice pleaded the lonely condition in which her infant would be left, none else being in the house. The spectre answered, "The child shall sleep till you come back." There being no help for it, Alice, most sorely against her will, followed her mistress from the house into a large field which lay opposite. "Now," said the apparition," observe how much of this field I walk round." And it walked round a large portion of the meadow. "All this," it continued, "belongs to the poor; it was taken from them by unjust means; and now, without his fault, is the property of my brother. Go you to him from me, and desire him, as he loved me, and as he loved his deceased mother, to surrender it up." Alice said that she could not hope to obtain credence for such a message. "Tell him, then," continued the spectre, "this secret, known only to him and myself:" and it entrusted her with it. After this, the apparition spoke, as Mrs. Britton had been wont to speak, on the duties of her servant, and did not vanish till people were stirring. Alice went home, found her child sleeping, gave it to her neighbour's care, and went up to Dr. Britton's. He knew not what to [111/112] think of the account, but sent her to his brother-in-law. That gentleman laughed heartily at first; but when told of the secret, said that he would give the poor their own, and accordingly did so; and they enjoyed that field when Dr. Fowler wrote.
Eusebia. That very much resembles the story of the Portugal piece, so admirably well told by Sir Walter Scott.
Sophron. And that, again, brings to my mind a remarkable Cornish tale, which I will read you from Hitchins' "History of Cornwall." The scene of the event was a place called Botaden, or Botathen, in the parish of South Petherwin, near Launceston; and the account is given by the Rev. John Ruddle, master of the Grammar School of Launceston, and one of the prebendaries of Exeter, and Vicar of Alternon.
"Young Mr. Bligh, a lad of bright parts, and of no common attainments, became on a sudden pensive, dejected, and melancholy. His friends, observing the change, without being able to discover the cause, attributed his behaviour to laziness, an aversion to school, or to some other motive which they suspected he was ashamed to avow. He was, however, induced to inform his brother, after some time that in a field through which he passed to and from school,"--Launceston school, of which I said that Mr. Ruddle was head master--"he was invariably met by the apparition of a woman, whom he personally knew while living, and who had been dead about eight years." Young Bligh is said have been, at this time, about sixteen. "Ridicule, threat and persuasions were alike used in vain by the family to duce him to dismiss these absurd ideas. Mr. Ruddle was however, sent for, to whom the lad ingenuously communicated the time, manner, and frequency of this appearance. It was in a field called. Higher Broomfield. The apparition, he said, appeared dressed in female attire, met him two or three times while he passed through the field, glided hastily by him, but never spoke. He had thus bee occasionally met about two months before he took any particular notice of it: at length the appearance became more frequent, meeting him both morning and evening, but always in the same field, yet invariably moving out of the path when it came close to him. He often spoke, but [112/113] could never get any reply. To avoid this unwelcome visitor he forsook the field, and went to school and returned from it through a lane, in which place, between the quarry-park and nursery, it always met him. Unable to disbelieve the evidence of his own senses, or to obtain credit with any of his family, he prevailed upon Mr. Ruddle to accompany him to the place.
"'I arose,' says this clergyman, 'next morning, and went with him. The field to which he led me I guessed to be about twenty acres, in an open country, and about three furlongs from any house. We went into the field, and had not gone a third part before the spectrum, in the shape of a woman, which hg had described before (so far as the suddenness of its appearance and transition would permit me to discover,) passed by. I was a little surprised at it: and though I had taken a firm resolution to speak to it, I had not the power; yet I took care not to show any fear to my pupil and guide; and, therefore, telling him that I was satisfied of the truth of his statement, we walked to the end of the field, and returned: nor did the ghost meet us that time but once.
"'On the 27th July, 1665, I went to the haunted field by myself, and walked the breadth of it without any encounter. I then returned, and took the other walk, and then the spectre appeared to me, much about the same place in which I saw it when the young gentleman was with me. It appeared to move swifter than before, and seemed to be about ten feet from me on my right hand, insomuch that I had not time to speak to it, as I had determined with myself aforehand. On the evening of this day, the parents, the son, and myself, being in the chamber where I lay, proposed to them our going to the place next morning. We accordingly met at the stile we had appointed: thence we all four walked into the field together. We had not gone more than half the field before the ghost made its appearance. It then came over the stile just before us, and moved with such rapidity, that by the time we had gone six or seven steps it passed by. I immediately turned my head, and ran after it, with the young man by my side. We saw it pass over the stile by which we entered, and no further. I stepped upon the hedge'"--you must remember that [113/114] in Cornwall a hedge means a stone wall--"'at one place; and the young man at another, but we could discern nothing; whereas I do aver that the swiftest horse in England could not have conveyed himself out of sight in so short a time! Two things I observed in this day's appearance. First, a spaniel dog, which had followed the company unregarded, barked, and ran away as the spectrum passed by; whence it is easy to conclude that it was not our fear or fancy which made the apparition. Secondly, the motion of the spectre was not gradatim, or by steps or moving of the feet, but by a kind of gliding, as children upon ice, or as a boat down a river, which punctually answers the description the ancients give of the motion of these lemures. This ocular evidence clearly convinced, but withal strangely affrighted the old gentleman and his wife. They well knew this woman, Dorothy Durant, in her lifetime, were at her burial, and now plainly saw her features in this apparition.
"'The next morning, being Thursday, I went very early by myself, and walked for about an hour's space in meditation and prayer in the field next adjoining. Soon after five I stepped over the stile into the haunted field, and had not gone above thirty or forty yards when the ghost appeared at the further stile. I spoke to it in some short sentences, in a loud voice, whereupon it approached me but slowly, and when I came near, moved not. I spoke again, and it answered me in a voice neither audible nor very intelligible. I was not in the least terrified, and therefore persisted until it spoke again, and gave me satisfaction: but the work could not be finished at this time. Whereupon, the same evening, an hour after sunset, it met me again at the same place, and after a few words on each side it quietly vanished, and neither doth appear now, nor hath appeared since, nor ever will more to any man's disturbance. The discourse in the morning lasted about a quarter of an hour.
"'These things are true, and I know them to be so, with as much certainty as my eyes and senses can give me; and until I be persuaded that my senses all deceive me about their proper objects, and by that persuasion deprive myself, of the strongest inducement to believe the Christian religion, I must and will assert that the things contained in this paper are true. As for the manner of my [114/115] proceeding, I have no cause to be ashamed of it. I can justify it to men of good principles, discretion, and recondite learning, though in this case I choose to content myself with the assurance of the thing, rather than be at the unprofitable trouble to persuade others to believe it; for I know well with what difficulty relations of so uncommon a nature and practice obtain belief.
"'Through the ignorance of men in this peculiar and mysterious part of philosophy and religion, namely, the communication between spirits and men, not one scholar in ten thousand, though otherwise of excellent learning, knows any thing about it. This ignorance breeds fear and abhorrence of that which otherwise might be of incomparable benefit to mankind. On this strange relation," concludes the county historian, "the editor forbears to make any comment."
Eupeithes. I think that is one of the most remarkable stories which you have related; and the very thing which spoils its interest makes one the more undoubtedly receive its truth.
Eusebia. You refer to Mr. Buddie's silence as to the mission of the spirit.
Eupeithes. Yes: it has the very impress of truth. The whole tale is most naturally related. You see the priest of the seventeenth century, rather disposed to believe in apparitions, but, with sturdy good sense, requiring some more proof of the fact than a boy's word. His minute description of the manner in which the ghost appeared is very interesting; and the fact of its visibility to the dog that was with them, very curious, and not to be overlooked in a discussion of this kind.
Sophron. To my mind the most remarkable part is his assurance that the spirit would appear no more. And one longs to know what business it was that could not be despatched in the morning, and yet was so easily accomplished in the evening. One can think of nothing but some inquiry on the part of the spirit which Mr. Ruddle could not answer without further time. And yet how contrary to all our ideas of an apparition, that it should come to a man for information!
Theodora. You might say, perhaps, that in the [115/116] morning conversation the spirit requested Mr. Ruddle to execute some commission; of the accomplishment of which it received assurance in the evening.
Sophron. That comes to much the same difficulty; for how strange that it could not have satisfied itself!
Eupeithes. And then its confinement to that field is singular. Mr. Ruddle seems to have felt satisfied that it could not cross the stile when he retired into the adjoining field to prepare himself for his interview with it.
Eusebia. It affords another instance of an apparition presenting itself to the most unlikely person at first. The spirit wanted nothing with young Bligh, and only appears to have used him as an instrument for getting at Mr. Ruddle. And yet how remarkable its unwillingness to appear when he first went into the field by himself!
Theodora. And not less so the length of time which elapsed between Dorothy Durant's death and her appearance. Well, it is one of the most striking stories I ever heard.
Sophron. The following account I had from a clergyman who is now dead, whose whole life rendered it utterly impossible that he should have added to or embellished it. He was presented to a living in a midland county, which had been terribly neglected. My friend, in his first pastoral tour through the village, was talking with the good woman of some cottage, when he happened to notice across the fields another cottage, and inquired who lived there. "Very odd people," was the reply. "How odd?" inquired the clergyman. "Why, sir, they are of a different religion from any one else--not Dissenters, nor yet Church-people: we cannot make out what they are." The new Incumbent made his way to the place, and found that its tenants, an old man and woman, were Roman Catholics, having recently become so. He was a good deal surprised at this, knowing that there was no chapel nor Priest of that Church for many miles round; and inquired to what circumstances their conversion was owing. They were exceedingly unwilling to reply; and it was only by great importunity that he extracted from them this story. The old couple had had a son, who entered the army, and, I think, served in India and had returned home only to die.
The night after the funeral, as they were awake in bed, they saw their son stand at their, feet, and look in earnestly upon them. After a few moments the apparition vanished. But it came again at the same time, and in the same place night after night; and the father and mother were at last almost distracted. At length the neighbours advised them "to ask the parson to lay the ghost;" and accordingly they told their distress to him, and asked him to do what he could. He laughed at their folly; and if I remember right, prescribed a bottle of port wine, and furnished them with it. However, the remedy was useless: the apparition returned as before. Some neighbours now told them that there was a "Catholic Priest," chaplain to a nobleman who resided at no very great distance, and recommended them to apply to him. They did so: he came to the cottage--he went through the appointed prayers; and the spectre never appeared again, "And then," concluded the old woman, We saw which Priest had most power over spirits, we could not doubt which was the true Church."
Eupeithes. One more story of a haunted house. I give it in the exact words of the narrator. "A family residing in Kennington, in a large, old-fashioned manor-house, were some few years ago much alarmed by the following circumstances;--Every night, at about twelve o'clock, there was beard in the room where they might be sitting, a strange bustling all down the walls, as if some person were sweeping them with a hair-broom. This continued till it had gone all round the room, when, if in summer time, it ceased at the door, and it seemed as though some person went out thereat: if it was winter, it stopped at the fire-place, and the fire, however good previously, instantly became extinguished, quite dead,--not gradually, but instantaneously. After this had happened for some time, every effort was made to keep the fire burning, but all to no purpose; the sweeping noise gradually went round the chamber, and when it reached the Hearth, its effect upon the fire was always the same,--it put it out immediately.
"Nor was this all; more than once a figure appeared to various members of the family. Its appearance was as of aged man with a sorrowful countenance, and habited in [the dress of a shopkeeper of the last century. He always [117/118] stood by the fire or by the door, and vanished when the rustling ceased at either place. On one occasion he appeared to one of the ladies of the family at her bed-side; this being unusual, terrified her much, and she adjured him in the name of the TRINITY to tell her what was the cause of his visit: he beckoned her to follow him down stairs, which she did, when he disappeared on the ground-floor, but without speaking. Search, was made where he disappeared, but nothing was ever found.
"The tradition in the neighbourhood was, that the house had formerly been inhabited by a miserly retired tradesman, who had died suddenly, after having buried his wealth in some part of the house, and that, previous to his death, he had never revealed where it was hid.
"After some years this family left the house and though many others subsequently endeavoured to live there, they found it impossible, by reason of the strange noises and apparitions. The place was then pulled down.
"Persons are now living (some of the above-mentioned family) who related this account to me, and who always, with strong asseverations, vouched for the entire truth of it."
Sophron. A similar occurrence came under my own knowledge. Two years ago, two brothers were together in Cornwall. They were both men of education, and not ad dieted to what is generally called superstition. The elder was a barrister of some standing; the younger was in holy orders, and had just been licensed to the curacy of the parish where they were living. Both were members of English universities; the elder of Cambridge, the other Oxford. The former was what is generally called a strong-minded man, and a notorious ridiculer of ghost stories; the younger, though not weak, was certainly more credulous than his brother.
The house in which they lived stood by itself, and large and straggling. There was one room in it which not been opened for many years: the person who let the house to the brothers asserted, that in that room a former occupant and owner of the house had died, and, as it supposed, with something fearful on his conscience; for his end was very dreadful. Since his death this room had never [118/119] been opened, and the place, as said the people, was haunted. This relation was, however, laughed at by the brothers, especially by the elder one.
One night the younger brother came to his companion's bed-room, and, knocking in great terror, aroused him, telling him that he heard most awful noises in the house, and more especially on the stairs, and in the shut-up room. He was bid not to be so silly, and to go off to bed again. He did so, but the noise still continued; and more strange still, a large mastiff dog, which slept in his room, and which was generally very watchful and fierce, flying out on the slightest noise, crept under the bed, and manifested signs of the extremest fear; nor could persuasion, nor threats, nor blows, bring him from his hiding-place. Again was the elder brother's room resorted to, and these singular circumstances detailed to him, and he was implored to assist in their investigation. Upon this he arose, and taking a light went to the stairs, where the noise was the loudest. It was now his turn to be terrified too. As he stood on the steps, the most extraordinary sounds passed and repassed him: he could not, he said, be mistaken. Tramp, tramp, tramp, as if some heavy person were going up and down stairs, and so near, that he seemed to himself as if he must be in the way. Every portion of the house was searched, except the locked-up room (and that was bolted and barred so strongly, that it could not possibly opened), but nothing was found to throw any light on this wonder. Tramp, tramp, tramp, up and down it went for hours together. When this was told the persons who had the care of the house, and had let it, they said there was nothing unusual in it; that others had observed the same before, and that it was the ghost of old.
The younger brother soon after was appointed to another curacy, and left this house; nor was he sorry to do so, though I know not if he was ever disturbed again. This story was related by a brother of these two, who vouched for the truth of it, as it was told him by the elder brother.
Sophron. One of the most awful things connected with the appearance of unhappy spirits, is their change of colour. At each successive visitation, in several cases, they have been seen to be perceptibly darker. Who shall venture to account this? In like manner, there are also instances of [119/120] apparitions becoming brighter; as if their progressively good or bad condition were symbolized in a way intelligible to earthly ideas.
Eupeithes. We might expect that spiritual things would be so represented to our eyes. The whole of the supernatural appearances recorded in Holy Scripture are related on that principle. If spirits are to be visible to us, they must, so to speak, be represented as we understand them. This is a sufficient answer to all the objections against the clothes that they always seem to wear.
Theodora. But why should a spirit show himself to us in the dress which happened to be the fashion of the times in which he lived? What connection between them and his present state?
Sophron. We probably see a spirit under that form in which it is used to consider itself. Or, if you say that it can take any shape it pleases, why should it not appear in its own? If its design is to be recognized, that is the surest way. At all events, there are some stories where the garb of the apparition forms one of its most curious features. Such is that of the officer who saw his brother's wraith in the uniform of the Rifle Brigade, he not being aware at the i time that he had changed into that brigade, just before his sudden death.
Eupeithes. Another example is this. A gentleman of property, residing in the West, was threatened with a law-'suit by a claimant to the whole of his estates. The title deeds which ensured them to him could not be found; and s the danger of his ejectment was very imminent. As his solicitor in London was one day writing on the subject, an elderly gentleman, in a remarkably old-fashioned dress, was ushered into the room. After taking a seat: "You are interested," he said, "about the------estates. In a chest,"--which he described,--"in such a room of the Manor House,"--which he also minutely pointed out,--"the title-deeds now missing will be found." And after some few more remarks, he went away. The lawyer hurried down to the house in question, told its owner the information he had received, examined the chest, and found the deeds. The gentleman who was thus rescued from danger, politely requested the solicitor to spend a few days with him. He was excessively anxious to discover [120/121] his unknown benefactor could be; but, no light was for; some time thrown on the subject. At length, as he was showing the family portraits to the lawyer, the latter pointed out one, and said, "Why, that was the gentleman who told me where I should" find the deeds!" "That!" cried the other, "that was my great grandfather! he has been dead these fifty years!" "Nevertheless," returned the solicitor "as I am an honest man, he it was."--And many stories are related of a somewhat similar kind.
Sophron. Divines, who have written on the subject, seem agreed on two points; the first, that no apparition that is black--the second, that none manifesting itself in the shape of a beast--can be good. Bossuet dwells at some length on the former point, in reference to the black spirit that appeared to Zuingle with a perversion of a text of Scripture. And we should scarcely imagine a happy spirit appearing as a dog, a calf, a horse, or a monster; nor in such a way as a severed head, or hand. The Duke of Somerset, you know, the great Church destroyer, was warned of his approaching death on the scaffold by the protrusion of a Bloody Hand from the wall of the corridor along which he and the duchess were walking.
Sophron. And most remarkable is the reported answer of a spirit to the inquiry, whether it could choose its own shape. "No: if I had lived like a beast, I should appear like a beast."
Theodora. The evening has seemed to close quite speedily. We must reserve anything else we have to say on the subject till to-morrow.