In darkness we trust

cornwall haunted house

Having just spent a wonderful week in Cornwall, seeking out its darker corners, I have been inspired to write about this ancient kingdom and its ghosts and legends. Here is the first tale – one of Cornish men and the spectres that haunt them…


Do you believe in ghosts? Or are you one of those fortunate persons who have no fear of the unseen? Or, again, do you belong to the great majority, who keep an open mind, but who like to feel on certain occasions that, after all, just round the corner, in the mysterious darkness, something might happen? …


I believe in ghosts, and not only on Christmas Eve and other occasions much celebrated. For it was on a perfect summer evening, in July, 1911, tranquil and moonlit, that the astounding experience befell me which the editor of the “Weekly Chronicle” has requested me to relate.

I was staying in Cornwall with an old Cambridge friend, who had taken Orders. I had been living a delightful, care-free existence in the open air, bathing and playing tennis, in fact, doing everything but think of ghosts.

Then, one night, at dinner, the conversation turned, as it so often does, to the psychic, and the usual discussion took place. John, my Cambridge friend, had been reading stories by MR James, and was still deeply affected by the impression they had made on him. His brother, Philip, a clever, cool-headed young man, who was spending his long vacation at home, openly scoffed at his foolishness, and a keen argument took place.

Finally, John leaned forward and said: “Well, we have an opportunity of testing all these theories.” Continue reading

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.

The bride who went to Heaven; the groom who went to Hell

The bride who went to heaven; the groom who went to hell
Though there are many ghostly legends, or half-historical traditions, of the antiquated mansions of Lancashire, few are so rich in ghost-lore as Kersal Hall.

A Lancashire version of the Faust legend is the story of Eustace Dauntesey, of Kersal Hall, who was in love with a lady who was about to be married to a rival; on the eve of her marriage, Eustace, being familiar with the Black Art, raised the Devil.

The wedding day was fixed, but the prospect of her marriage was a terrible trouble to Eustace, and threatened to mar the happiness of his life. Having, however, in his youth perfected himself in the black art, he drew a magic circle, at the witching hour of night, and summoned the Evil One to a consultation. The meeting came off, at which the usual bargain was quickly struck, the soul of Eustace being bartered for the coveted body of the beautiful young lady. The compact, it was arranged, should close at her death, but the Evil One was to remain meanwhile by the side of Dauntesey in the form of an elegant “self,” or genteel companion.

In due course the eventful day arrived when Eustace stood before the altar. But the marriage ceremony was no sooner over than, on leaving the sacred edifice, the elements were found to be the reverse of favourable to them. The flowers strewed before their feet stuck to their wet shoes, and soaking rain cast a highly depressing influence on all the bridal surroundings; and, on arriving at the festive hall where the marriage feast was to be held, the ill-fortune of Eustace assumed another shape. Strange to say, his bride began to melt away before his very eyes, and, thoroughly familiar as he was with the laws of magic, here was a new phase of mystery which was completely beyond his comprehension.

In short, poor Eustace was the wretched victim of a complete swindle, for while, on the one hand, something is recorded about “a holy prayer, a sunny beam, and an angel train bearing the fair maiden slowly to a fleecy cloud, in whose bosom she became lost to earth.”

Dauntesey, on the other hand, awakened to consciousness by a touch from his sinister companion, saw a huge yawning gulf at his feet, and felt himself gradually sinking in a direction exactly the opposite of that taken by his bride, who, in the short space of an hour, was lost to him forever.

The bride who went to heaven; the groom who went to hell

Freaky Folk Tales

Freaky Folk Tales – a collection of macabre, supernatural and amusing tales, from the haunting of ancestral homes to the malignancy of inanimate objects.

Freaky Folk TalesIt also features rare illustrations and artwork inspired by the Victorian era.

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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 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

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