Poetry-reading, gymnastics and other unforgivable ghostly behaviour!

unghostly behaviour

And finally, something a little less serious for a Friday!

A code of conduct for ghosts, taken from ‘Yankee Notions’, 1838:

Ghosts have been very badly treated by people in general, and if we do not turn over a new leaf, I am under some apprehensions that the whole army of sprites will discontinue their visits, in resentment of these affronts, so that before long, there will not be a ghost to be seen for love, money, or murder. This catastrophe, I grieve to say, seems to be approaching already, for ghosts are not half so common as they were in the days of my grandmother.

Strict justice, however, compels me to say, that the ghosts themselves are somewhat to blame in the matter, their behaviour at times being a little antic and anomalous. There are faults on both sides ; which hoping I may remedy, I offer the following suggestions for the consideration of both parties, and let ghosts and ghost-seers lay them to heart.

In the first place, a ghost should never wear a night-cap. Some readers may doubt whether the thing has ever been done ; but the fact is unquestionable ; ghosts in night-caps have been seen by too many credible persons to allow of any doubt upon this point.

I protest, however, against any such head-dress for a member of the tartarean regions; it is unghostly, and ought to be abandoned. If a ghost has any sense of propriety, let him appear with a bare sconce; it is much more respectable. Some indulgence may perhaps be claimed for a bald ghost, especially considering the coolness of the night air. My great-grandfather, who was a ghost-seer of some talent, used to recommend a wig; but this, I think, would never be endured: a ghost in a wig! what an unspiritual costume. No, — wigs will never do. A white handkerchief might serve every purpose, provided it were not tied on, for that would look night-cappish again.

Secondly, a ghost should never pull a man by the nose. Here again I may be asked, “Have ghosts ever been addicted to nose-pulling?” I am not certain; but the story goes that they have. I pronounce it wrong in toto; it is undignified and improper. If a ghost wishes to give any person so sensible a token of his presence, let him bestow a sound bang upon his noddle: this would be emphatic and decisive ; there would be no mistake about it. But as to our noses, — hands off! No ghost that has any regard for his character, will clap his digits to your olfactory projection. This suggests another thought. Continue reading

The Ghost Bureau

The ghost bureau

I arrived at 14 Dean’s-Yard in the autumn of 1894 entirely unaware that this part of the city should prove so attractive. My eyes, from every conceivable angle, were rewarded with the delights of such remarkable construction and I make no bones in saying that I did feel at this juncture to be overawed by the finery of it all. The public entrance, framed by such an imposing arch, brought me to a spot where I stood and viewed the scene rather as a small insect would look upon a world of far greater magnitude. It felt peaceful enough and presented as a retired and quiet nook amongst the lofty stone-built mansions.

Despite the surrounding charm, I could not help but feel that Number 14 had an odd feeling to it, almost as if it was in mourning. The generous windows of the most antique pattern, seemed to be scrutinising me with a curious meaning, as if awed by my temerity. I approached the door, which was raised, about three feet from the ground and was reached by several steps of rough stone. I rang the bell, timidly at first, but there was no response save the faint echo of the ringing. Then, emboldened by my initial efforts and by the darkness of the clouds brewing overhead, which seemed rolling on towards the enclosure from all portions of the sky, I rang again, this time more vigorously, so that the loud peels rolled through the empty rooms, and returned to my ear in repeated echoes. My heart beat quickly, for I was sure I heard a step within. It appeared to proceed from an upper chamber, and came slowly, stealthily down the stair.

The steps came along the hallway and, after some time, the door was opened by an elderly grey-haired man. He muttered something under his breath and beckoned me accompany him along the corridor. I was shown into a luxuriously-furnished room, which seemed to be a kind of library to judge at least by the open bookcase, thickly stocked with books. The room was filled with flickering shadows from the fire held within an ornate grate, heaped up carefully towards the middle and the sides blocked in by bricks.

I had been alone for several minutes when the still and contemplative atmosphere was broken by the entrance of a gentleman who, from first appearance, appeared to be my host, followed by a lady in a light-coloured cotton dress. The gentleman was thick set, very active and determined-looking, with dark hair turning now to grey, a thick but evenly-cut moustache, joining his bushy whiskers, the large square heavy chin left bare, with small, restless, passionate eyes beneath. Mr Thomas made his introductions and spoke at length as to the nature of my employment. It was mid-way in the conversation when the lady rose from her seat and left the room.

Mr Thomas maintained the flow of conversation. I must declare that I was entirely untroubled by the more prosaic aspects of this collection of information — nothing could be more clearly worded or directly put than questions regarding age, occupation, rank, and so forth — however, it was not the formal aspects of form-filling which concerned me; rather, it was the nature of the questions that were to be asked. I should point out that there is very little within the realm of the supernatural that would give me nerves. Personally, I do not believe in ghosts, or that it is possible for the dead to return in any form, or to communicate, by any means, with the living. I have been regaled on many a winter’s evening by stories with a ghostly bent but never had I been asked to give such serious thought to things so otherworldly; and, if ever had I been asked to predict a situation where I would have to give such consideration, then I most certainly would not have envisaged that it would be through employment.

My duty was to gather information from as many persons as would grant their commitment to answer a series of questions related to the subject of hallucinations or dreams, and manifestations of the spectral variety. Specifically, these persons had to be of the “sane and healthy” variety though I was quite uncertain how one should diagnose such a candidate with certainty. Fortunately, the undertaking was not delivered so bluntly and indelicately as to alienate me from this eccentric proposal; Mr Thomas made a point of addressing my natural concern, stating that only a few years ago a project of this manner would have been regarded as bordering very closely on the insane but now, in more enlightened times the suggestion had been taken up by scientists and others working in the field of psychical research. And, I must say, despite what I had said earlier regarding my scepticism for such things, the words he chose were altogether rather intriguing: —

“I acknowledge with a certain amount of objectivity,” began Mr Thomas, “that the evidence is far from conclusive, yet the cases that have been recorded thus far do, in my mind, afford some argument for the continuity of psychical life, and the possibility of communication between the dead and the living.”

There was something so strange, and yet so honest, about the man, that I was in a certain his charm of manner, knowledge of the world, and high intelligence qualified him for almost any kind of business. There could be no credit in liking him because, simply, one could not help it. Continue reading

Three notes of death – the story of an evil entity in a Hove townhouse

three notes to death

In the early months of the twentieth century, the people of Hove, a vibrant town in the south of England, spoke of little else than that of a ghost who announced its presence by a particular set of three notes played on a guitar or piano.

The minacious spirit had chosen an ordinary two-floor house in a very ordinary street as its residence. An elderly woman, who formerly occupied the house, said that one evening she was startled to see hovering by the piano in the drawing room the figure of a woman. There was a terrible look on its face, but the apparition vanished before the terror-stricken owner could gather any further detail.

A gentleman highly regarded in Brighton circles, lived in the house with his wife and children for several months. Sturdy and military trained, with a partiality for boxing as a pastime, this gentleman, who was interviewed by local newspaper reporters, was certainly not the kind of man to suffer from nerves.

He reported that he had not seen the ghost, but a very peculiar thing happened in the corner of the drawing room where the figure was said to have appeared. “We had our piano there,” he said, “and over it hung a guitar. One evening, just as I had got into bed, the guitar suddenly played three notes in quick succession.”

“I exclaimed, ‘What on earth is that?’ and my wife and I walked up to the instrument and studied it. It was mounted on the wall as usual, but as we looked at it it gave out the same three notes again, and then a third time.” Continue reading

‘The Haunted Cupboard’ and ‘Return To Tyneham’ now available on Amazon

Darker Times Anthology Volume Four: 4

I’m delighted to announce that two of my tales have been published in the collection Darker Times Anthology Volume Four available now from Amazon as paperback and Kindle ebook.

The stories featured are The Haunted Cupboard and Return to Tyneham.

Two scary books

The ghost pilot of the Australian Flying Corps

the ghost pilot of australia

One of the hobbies of the late Lord Halifax was recording tales of the supernatural told him by friends and acquaintances. As he lived to be 94 years of age, and started collecting in his youth, his variety of stories, as an old man, was very wide.

lord halifax

Viscount Halifax, in writing an introduction to his father’s book, declares: “As long as I can remember, my father’s Ghost Book was one of the most distinctive associations of Hickleton Hall. He kept it always with great care, himself from time to time making additions to it in his own hand-writing, and bringing it out on special occasions, such as Christmas, to read some of the particular favourites before we went to bed. Many is the time after such an evening we children would hurry upstairs, feeling that the distance between the library and our nurseries, dimly lit by oil lamps and full of shadows, was a danger area where we would not willingly go alone, and where it was unsafe to dawdle.”

It is a collection of reported experiences with ghosts, of startling dreams, of vivid premonitions that came true, andother unearthly happenings which had no possible or feasible everyday explanation.

Here is one of them, I will pay you all tomorrow.


I must tell you first how I came to hear the story told. Continue reading

Do animals see ghosts?

Do animals see ghosts?

Can animals see ghosts or spirits where human beings cannot?

Seeing things at night, it appears, is an experience whose thrills not only interest the human nervous system but also agitate the animal.

A great many esteemed psychic researchers have performed experiments in haunted houses with cats and dogs, as well as with other animals, and have often found the animal to have been frightened.

Can dogs see ghosts

One researcher remembers an occasion at a haunted house in St. James’ Road, Brixton:—

“Again and again dogs have refused to accompany me to a room where ghostly phenomena have been alleged to take place. I remember on one occasion at a reputed haunted house in the St. James’s-Road, I had a huge bulldog with me, the last creature in the world one would suspect of having nerves.”

“I arrived at the house about 10 o’clock at night, and was giving it a thorough examination before settling down to my vigil, when Pat (my dog) sprang back from a half-open door on the top of the landing, snarled, whined, and finally flew downstairs, and, as nothing would induce him to return, I had to go on with my investigations alone.”

“Next day I made inquiries of the owner of the house and was informed that it was in the room that frightened Pat a man had once hanged himself, and that it was the latter’s ghost that was supposed to haunt the premises—a fact quite unknown to me at the time of my visit.”

It is widely believed that some animals are very sensitive to the advent of death. Owls and other night-birds will screech dismally outside a house where somebody dies shortly afterwards, and cats have been known to leave a house suddenly on the eve of a death and not come back to it until several days after the burial. Continue reading

Where do ghosts get their clothes?

Where do ghosts get their clothes
Adapted from The Times, Sept 1911

I propose to take the spiritual idea as it is commonly held, even if the difficulties appear to be insurmountable, and to see what are its obligations, what it ought to be if the present ideas of it are in any way correct.

We will begin with the obligations of the spectre or the ghost theory: If anyone says that he has seen a ghost, he means that to has seen an image with a certain amount of solidity of shape and colour both in features and dress, either moving about and speaking, or simply gesticulating in various ways, and then disappearing.

This means that a spirit, which is a replica of a former object, can assume a solidity or can condense itself so as to be capable of exciting vision, and can then re-vaporise and disappear.

If a spirit can do this, it must be capable of again becoming material, and if it is able to move and speak it must be living material, however attenuated its form may be.

Inasmuch as it appears at one time in one guise and at another in a different one — but all as visitations relating to the same recognised individuals — it follows that there must be a spiritual form corresponding to every phase of actual life, and that the selection of a particular presentation must be a result of deliberate change.

Now the change from one form into another means that the spiritual condition must to some amount expend itself in assuming the material shape, the two cannot exist together in the same intensity as when they were separate and disassociated, so that the necessary assumption is that when the ghosts of an individual appears the spirit of the individual is replaced by it.

But if the spectre is clothed, how does this happen?

Clothes, we know, are things of short duration, and in most instances, as in the Hampton Court Ghost Lady, they must have been torn up or have rotted into dust and been scattered years ago!

Have the clothes then a spiritual life (it would seem that the Hylozoists would say so), or does the spirit of the lady possess the power of gathering together the scattered dust of courtly confections and reinhabiting them, or out of the millions of phases of actual life which we have already hinted as one of the necessities of the spiritual hypothesis was one so favourite a habitation that it is especially selected for actual rehabilitation, though the materials for this have long since been destroyed?

Take another instance, that of the revivification of a skeleton which is supposed to reappear with all the accompaniments of movement, and which is stated to be a return of the spirit of the original men.

If it could be proved that when the spectral bones appeared the actual skeleton was not to be found where it was known to lie, and that on the disappearance of the visitation the remains were again in loco quo ante, there might be ground for the belief that a temporary resurrection had occurred, but such an alternation never has been proved.

The Box-Room

The Box-Room, a ghost story set in Fair Oak, Hampshire

A dear friend of mine, named Wilson was several years ago curate-in-charge of St Thomas in the village of Fair Oak, Hampshire and when he invited me to spend my six weeks’ vacation with him I gladly accepted. I found that he occupied a little cottage standing by itself, his only companions being his housekeeper and a rough-haired terrier, Jock. The wind howled and screamed around the house on the evening of my arrival, and the rain came down in torrents. It became so rough that the chimney crashed through the roof on to the bed where we two were sleeping, and we had to make up a bed on the floor of a small box-room, which, my friend laughingly told me, was haunted.

I was not at all displeased at this announcement, for I was hard-headed enough for any ghost and was glad that there was a chance of meeting one of those individuals. During the evening my friend, Wilson, was called away to an old parishioner, who was very ill and was expecting death. I went up the steps leading to the box-room, which only contained a small window high up, and got into the bed surrounded by old biscuit tins and other odds and ends. I was just dozing off when I heard a shuffling and saw the dog at the top of the stairs. It began to moan most dismally. I coaxed him, but he stood quite still. I put my hand out to him and was alarmed to encounter an animal as stiff as wood, with hair standing up like the hair on an angry cat’s tail. His eyes were glaring fixedly at the window, and looking round I saw just under the window the figure of a man dressed in sailor uniform. The shirt was wide open, and over the heart was a terrible gash, the chest and clothes being covered with blood.

It was the most awful moment of my life, and I did not know what to do. As I gazed at him, horror-stricken, he beckoned to me and put his finger into his horrible wound. He beckoned again, and, pulling myself together, I went towards him. I stumbled and knew nothing more until some hours afterwards the housekeeper found me covered in blood from a gash in the cheek. I carry the marks of that to this day.

I had come to stay for six weeks, but when the experience came vividly back to me I decided to pack up and go the same day. When my friend came back I told him of my resolve. At first he laughed, but seeing I was in earnest, he said “You’ve seen something in the box-room.”

I admitted that I had, but did not tell him what.

Shortly afterwards, I received a letter from my friend, saying that the old parishioner he had been called to see had since made a remarkable statement to him.

“Mr. Wilson,” he said. “I felt so wicked the other night that I could not tell you the story that has made my life a burden, and made me so unhappy that I could not even die. Forty years ago I was employed with another man in making excavations for the foundations of the cottage in which you live. We came across the body of a man dressed as a naval seaman, with a deep gash in his chest. Round his neck he wore a beautiful golden crucifix. We buried the body and sold the crucifix dividing the money. But the affair troubled both of us, and we bricked his body up in the walls of your house. My dying wish, sir, is that you will find the body and give it a Christian burial.”

I wrote back at once begging my friend to pull down the wall of the box-room, and telling him I would wager my life that they would find the body under the window.

And so they did. They found the body in a standing position under the window, in the middle of the thick wall, and they buried him with Church ceremony. The old man died just a few minutes after the funeral.

The haunting of Melrose Hall (a ghost story of the American Revolution)

Melrose Hall, a 4th July haunting

Are you superstitious?
Do you believe in ghosts?
Whether you do or not, there are hundreds, yes, thousands, of persons living in the Flatbush district of Brooklyn who do, and who will tell you there is no doubt at all about the existence of The Ghost of Melrose Hall.

Melrose Hall is a residence at Bedford Avenue and Winthorp Street, Flatbush. The particular spirit which it is said to harbour is that of an Indian girl who died there 118 years ago.

At every change in the ownership of the historic home, and on every occasion when there is dancing in the Hall, the ghost stalks forth. She was last seen two years ago, while a ball was in progress. She opened a secret panel which formerly led to a blind staircase in what is now the dining-room, and was the library in former times, and glided out among the dancers.

Some of the guests saw her. Others were sceptical. The alleged apparition caused gossip at the time. Since the last change in ownership, the ghost has not been seen. But one unusual circumstance has been noted:—

On the inside of the heavy front door a copper key hangs in the immense old-fashioned lock. This key is about eight inches long, of well-burnished metal and weighs something like a quarter of a pound. The door is of heavy timber, studded with nails. It is made in two sections, dividing in the middle. Suddenly, in the middle of the forenoon, the key turned in the lock, and both the top and bottom sections of the door swung back creaking. The floor cracked as if someone had stepped over the threshold. No one was to be seen. No one within the house touched the key, and as it hung within the door it could not have been reached from the outside. Continue reading

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the curious case of the moated grange

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the curious case of the moated grange

I have long held a fascination with the life and times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; not, however, his detective writing, nor the subsequent debunking of the many psychic charlatans that courted him, but more his inimitable style in documenting sensational tales of hauntings, and the rather odd relationship he had with women, in particular his mother, Mary Doyle, a preeminent force in Conan Doyle’s life.

In 1927, several newspapers ran articles on a tale that was eventually to become one of the many compiled in his last published work, The Edge of the Unknown. It is a particularly curious tale, and, I must say, one that always tends to send a slight shiver down my spine; though I am at odds to explain why – whether it is the strangeness of the medium’s gender mutation or the ghost’s mother-fixation so curiously reminiscent of Doyle’s own life, I can’t quite say.

The tale is presented below. Read it if you like; and if you do, then I’d love to know your opinion on it…

The Times, 1927

What must be the most amazing document from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle describes how a woman medium changed her personality in an instant to that of a ghostly ostler, a spirit inhabitant of a moated grange in Sussex. The medium was Mrs. Wickland, the wife of Dr. Carl Wickland, a noted psychic investigator.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle prefaces his amazing statement by saying: “I could not out-rival it if I gave free play to my imagination.”

He proceeds:-“We drove to a moated grange in Sussex, and while we stood surveying the lichened walls, a door entering upon the moat opened and a woman looked out, then closed the door. We passed on through a meadow, dismissing the incident, though Mrs. Wickland kept looking back. (Presently she said: ‘There is a strange old man beside us.’ In answer to our questions she said: ‘He is old and his face is sunk forward, and his back hunched. He wears knee breeches, a striped vest, and a short coat. He came out of the door.’)”

Sir Arthur adds:-.”We went home and were seated among the roses on my verandah talking of other things when Mrs. Wickland said suddenly, ‘He is here.’ Then a most amazing thing occurred before our eyes. She changed in an instant into a heavy-faced, sullen old man, with a bent back and loose senile lips. He choked and spluttered but there was no trace of Mrs. Wickland. The doctor massaged the throat of the newcomer who shook off his hand angrily.”

Sir Arthur proceeds to give a full account of the dialogue in which the old man stated how he was an ostler at the grange, and was pushed into the moat by a fellow employee whom he dragged in also.

Dr. Wickland interrupted: “You are dead.” Continue reading