Those who marry ghosts

Those who marry ghosts

“And it’s a ghost story you want, is it?” asked the railway guard, having spent the past quarter of an hour or so conversing with the gentleman in the waiting room.

“Well,” he continued when he received an affirmative answer, “did you ever hear of anybody marrying a ghost? I know a young woman who married a ghost and is living with him.”

The young gentleman moved his shoulders ever so slightly. “Please go ahead with your story,” he said, brushing aside a steel-grey curl that had slipped over one eye.

“Then I will,” said the guard. “Though it is as sad and unfortunate as it is unnatural.”
The guard walked towards the young man but instead of seating himself on the bench beside him he chose to rest upon a pile of luggage nearby.

“The woman in question was young Mary Carpenter,” spoke the guard. “Twenty years ago, she was living in a nearby village — in fact, the very place you are travelling to. The girl was betrothed to Tom Allen, a young man who lived not far from Mary, and their wedding had been planned for the June of that year. Sadly, only a week before the wedding, the young gentleman was killed in a terrible accident whilst working on the London to Brighton line. He had a hard job shunting those engines, and the one that took him nearly split him into two — awful business it was.”

“Well, as you would imagine, Mary was devastated; but, oddly, only days into her mourning her grief appeared to subside, and was replaced by a strange newfound happiness.”

“She told her parents that she had met and conversed with Tom’s spirit and they had planned for the wedding to take place on his grave. Her parents attempted to understand their daughter’s predicament but soon they were out of their minds with worry and had to call for a doctor to assist. To their surprise, however, the physician said that the girl was entirely without fever or delusion and confirmed that her mind was perfectly intact. The doctor was called upon several times but on each visit his diagnosis was consistent and his medical skills were not called into question.”

“The parents were entirely at odds with the whole affair but with the sanity of their daughter confirmed, and wishing her to be happy, they allowed her to go ahead and make preparations for her wedding to the ghost.”

“She rented a house and furnished it and went to the minister to engage his services to pronounce the ceremony. The reverend did not take kindly to the wedding of a pretty girl to an apparition and told her it was sinful to do so. She insisted and finally seeing how heartbroken the girl was the minister and her parents agreed to allow the marriage.”

“She is now married and lives in a cottage for two, and an apparently empty chair sits on the opposite side of the table from her as she eats her meals. She eats and talks to the imaginary husband on the opposite side of the table and seems to be happy as the bride of a ghost.”

“Mr. Carpenter, her father, is a well to do man of these parts and as he has the money to afford it he continues to furnish his daughter the means of keeping house with her husband’s ghost as long as she finds comfort for her broken heart in such an existence.”

“I have nothing more to add except to say that I have seen little of the woman since; but each time she has appeared in public those who have seen her say she presents herself in perfect health and is exquisitely neat and dainty.”

“But, no doubt sir, you consider this to be nonsense.”

The young man smiled and, on hearing his train arrive, rose and stepped out onto the platform. As the train moved out, however, the young man turned to remove his overcoat, and a shower of rice fell out; the guard stood behind him, a startled look on his face, and struggled to recall the chap’s name.

A bride buried alive

A bride buried alive

In cemeteries that have been disturbed, and the remains of the dead exhumed, there have been found in coffins, nailed solidly and screwed tightly together, bodies of skeletons that were turned over on their sides or faces, occasionally with the knees drawn up, the joints distended, the hands clenched firm, the arms thrust up against the coffin’s narrow sides, the fingers wrapped and twisted in the hairs of the head, the eyes glaring, the teeth ground together, the head doubled under, and many indubitable proofs that the final death struggle did not take place before burial, but that after the coffin lid had been laid away in the shades of the tomb, or dropped into the deep, solid earth, then and there a fierce, agonising, desperately lonely, and hopeless battle for life was waged into exhaustion!

buried alive

A witness to such a tale was Harold Gulliver, chief gravedigger at an old Victorian cemetery in Bath, England in the early twentieth century.

“The work was at times very dangerous. You never know when you are going to be buried yourself,” he said. “There is often a collapse, and everything comes down on you, timber and all.”

“Sometimes,” continued the grave digger, “there are re-openings, and on these occasions gas would come at you like a fog, so that you may often lose your breath.”

On the day in question he had three graves to dig.

“It had been unusually wet of late and I noticed that in one corner of the cemetery much of the earth had been undermined by the water. The stones in this corner had recently been disturbed to enable the ground to be diverted to streets and building lots, something we weren’t too happy about.”

“I scraped away at the earth with my boots and noticed that I had exposed the corner of a coffin lid. ”

“The coffin needed to be reinterred, of course, so I got several of the men to help me.”

The men gathered and pressed closer to the open grave.

“I gave some loud directions to them. In a very few minutes the coffin was fully up but as we pulled it out of the earth the lid came away. Then I heard a low cry from one of the men.”

Mr Gulliver went on to say that when the lid of the coffin was removed the face and figure of a young bride was revealed, dressed in wedding garments of fine white satin, with a bridal veil, and ring of a costly style and distinction, and all the evidence of affluence, refinement and station of life. The remains were supposedly to have been buried about twenty-five years previously. The coffin plate was no longer present, and, in the really indecent haste of the heartless contractors and brutish labourers, who had worked previously in the area and ruthlessly tore and tossed the relics up, there was not the faintest clue to the identity.

But upon examination it was discovered that the body of the skeleton was twisted and displaced (as no shock of the exhumation could have effected ) and the garments grasped tightly as in a vice in the clenched finger bones, showing undoubtedly that a terrific struggle had taken place in the last narrow house and home of the once-beautiful, early-loved and lost bride. Even the long raven tresses, which were as fine and perfect as ever, were bit fast in the fleshless teeth as though with the last despairing, smothered cry and grasp of death.

“It was a terrible shock,” said Mr Gulliver. “To think of the poor girl suffering like that — and, undoubtedly, on her wedding day, too.”

It was soon after the reburial of the coffin, in another corner of the cemetery, when passers-by began reporting seeing a figure hovering by the graveside.

“One night while I was having my tea,” said Mr Gulliver, “I heard a clatter of horses’ hoofs on the hard road. A few minutes later a man came knocking on my door in a terrible fright. He said that he had seen the ghost and it frightened his horse. He galloped away but it was following in his direction. I wanted him to come back and show it to me, but he would not venture so I did not bother going. I thought he had seen a cow in the cemetery as they often broke in to eat the long grass.”

“Next day there was much talk going on among a few of the men of ghosts and suchlike. Others laughed at them and told them that it was only imagination. They bet some money that no one was game enough to go to the cemetery after dark and visit the grave.”

One chap took the bet. Mr Gulliver was not witness to the exploits that evening but, the next day, he was given the following details:—

“Take me with you, take me with you” — this cry in a high-pitched unearthly voice startled the chap who went visiting the grave in the evening.

“Who is there?” he asked nervously.

There was no reply, nor was anybody to be seen.

Then the voice came again. “Take me with you.” Again there was nobody to be seen.

Then, from out the corner of his eye, he saw something sitting up. He turned to see a woman upright in her grave — the one freshly dug — her face decayed, her fingers twisting the hairs of her head, and she beckoned to him and spoke in a weak voice, “I did not deserve to die. Take me with you.”

The man began to hurry away, pursued by the voice, and finally broke into a terror-stricken run, arriving almost exhausted at the cemetery gates. He had been so overcome that since the incident he had not returned to work, and was reported as being “attacked by fits”.

Black cloud over the bride

haunted bride

Wales is a land of bards, storytellers and preachers; the seclusiveness of the country and the exclusiveness of the language have perhaps tended more than anything else to bring about that peculiar Welsh poetic temperament that prompts their universally known annual gatherings and gives rise to those theological musings and raptures so characteristic of the people.

It is also a land of ghosts.

What is it about the green hills and valleys of Wales that attracts apparitions? Is it the ancient mountains shrouded in mists and rain which evoke a land where time has been stilled? Or is it the dark secrets and stories which remain to tell over the fires at night time?

No matter the whys and wherefores of this trove of richness, the ghost tales of Wales retain a lively existence on the lips of the forebears of these original storytellers and one could spend a lifetime wrapped spellbound in their telling.

Here is but one of them… Continue reading

The Spectral Bride

The Spectral Bride

South Mimms, a small village in Hertfordshire, England, located near the busy junction of the M25 motorway, was once surrounded by uninterrupted countryside and better known for its picturesque views over Ridge-Hill than the service station that currently resides there.

In the late 19th century, however, the village gained something of a reputation, and it wasn’t long before newspaper reporters descended and reported on a tiny community that had become widely known as ‘The village that marriage had forgotten’.

The articles spoke of how romance had seldom come to the village, and reasoned as to why wedding bells had long been silent. Villagers were interviewed and spoke of a lack of eligible brides-to-be but behind closed doors gossip was rife, and folk spoke of something quite different:— that of a curse that had been placed upon the village.

The source of the haunting was a female ghost known as ‘The Spectral Bride’, who had died after the shattering of her love romance, and would appear whenever a wedding took place in the tiny church. Whether she came to those who were seeking the happiness she was herself denied, or whether she came to bless them, nobody knew but they were sure that there was a connection between the ghost and the lack of marriages.

Its strangest manifestation was seen by one of the parishioners, Miss Long. In broad daylight she saw the female spectre, hovering just a few inches above the altar; averting her gaze from the terrifying apparition, she was then drawn to the figure of a priest kneeling in the stalls of the parish church, which dates from 1350. Two days later the village received news of the death at Bournemouth of the Rev. William Woods, who had been the parish vicar 30 years before. Miss Long, who had never seen the late vicar, described the phantom figure in the church which tallied exactly with that of Mr Woods.

Rev Hay, vicar at the time, said that he could feel the presence of the spirit morning and night as he walked up the pathway to St. Giles’s Church, and he believed this to be an ill omen:— the news of portending disaster. “Many of the parishioners state that they have seen ‘a bluish-white glow ‘over the tombstones in the churchyard,” said the reverend, “and over it is the spirit of the lady of the vicarage who has been observed kneeling at the altar when some dire thing was going to happen.”

“Until recently, South Mimms was known as the parish where young men and women seldom married,” continued Reverend Hay. “It is mentioned in the Doomsday Book and has a strange history of tragic happenings.”

The reverend went on to discuss the parish records which had a gruesome tale to tell of accidents, one entry stating that a highwayman was buried there on August 2nd, 1689. South Mimms suffered severely from the plague in 1665, and near its boundary Warwick’s Army fought King Edward in the Battle of Barnet. It was also a favourite hiding place of the invincible Dick Turpin from his pursuers, and not far away is an ancient inn called the Black Horse, where the notorious robber was in the habit of resting between his plunderous exploits. There is an entry in the parish register of the birth of Richard Turpin in 1703.

The parish church, dedicated to St. Giles, is situated almost in the centre of the village. At the west end it has an embattled tower with a small staircase turret built during the reign of King Stephen. The main fabric consists of a nave and chancel, separated from a north aisle, erected at a later period, by octagonal pillars and six obtuse arches. These are mostly of the Tudor period, and what remains of the stained glass windows belong to the fifteenth century. Such is the church with the haunted vicarage.

The Rev. Allen Hay had a great deal to say about the ghost. Continue reading

Wedding superstitions and curses

wedding superstitions and curses

August is the height of wedding season. The month appears to be exceptionally auspicious for marriage — something evidenced by the beautiful blazing sunshine and the hundreds of bridal parties taking place across the country. But is it the most favourable time to get married? And, what are the long-held beliefs attached to the preparations for this ceremony?

Detailed below is advice for the newly betrothed, taken from articles of the late 19th century. Following this comes a little ghost story that warns of wearing a certain piece of apparel when marrying for a second time.

Whilst there are fair women and brave men in this world there will continue to be weddings; and, as long as weddings are the fashion there will still be many persons on hand to suggest to a young bride just what she should do to avoid bad luck, and also what she must not do for the same reason.

Those who are ordinarily sensible about most things let all their superstitious notions creep into their ideas regarding the preparations for a wedding, and these whims are made the subject of discussion at as early a stage of the proceedings as when the young lady is considering what she prefers for an engagement ring.

She is told to refrain from choosing opals, as no one ever was known to have any happiness who owned one of them. In spite of this, however, dealers say that there is always a demand for rings set with this beautiful stone. Pearls, the superstitious say, are even worse, but eventually the little circle is purchased and the time for the wedding is discussed.

Then further complications arise as certain days are unfavourable and some months are to be shunned. May is said to be an especially unlucky month — why, no one can tell, but many a rhyme could be quoted to show that this notion has prevailed for many centuries.

August is also looked upon as a disastrous time in which to wed, and those who marry in Lent will “live to repent,” according to very old authority. Winter seems to be the favourite season for the wedding bells to chime in America. In Scotland the last day of the year is regarded with great favour, and should December 31st fall on Friday so much the better, as that is the favourite day of the week for weddings. Sunday weddings are common in England, and in the early history of America many couples were made one on that day, but recently such a thing is seldom heard of.

In Scandinavia, Thursday marriages are forbidden by the church, it being called the pagan’s day. After much consideration the day is decided upon, and brave indeed is the girl who will consent to change it, for that is sure to bring ill-luck which all the rice and old shoes in the country could not drive away. The time arrives, and with it much advice in regard to the colour which she shall wear and the manner of arraying herself. Probably no girl in her teens is ignorant of the rhyme which urges young brides to be careful to wear “something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue,” in order that she may live “happy ever after,” as the story books say.

Misfortune is sure to follow the bride who has a speck of green in her costume. She must never array herself in all her pretty robes until dressing for the ceremony. She must never read the marriage service quite through and she must not stand before the mirror one second after she is ready, no matter how pleasing the reflection of the happy face and graceful gown. The one who speaks first on entering the church will rule the house, so the wise once say, and in throwing the numerous articles of footwear after the departing couple, any of the guests may run after them, and the one who succeeds in picking one up first will be married next.

On her return from her wedding journey the bride must be careful not to step on the threshold of her home, but must be lifted across by her husband. If all these rules are followed carefully, and great care is taken before becoming engaged that the object of her admiration has a name which begins with another letter than her own, there does not seem to be any reason why everything should not prosper with a bride.

And woe betide a bride who chooses to wear a veil when her husband marries for a second time…

Continue reading