Monday, June 29, 2009

Treasure!

Sometimes, a ghost brings good news - and not just the kind of good news that Scrooge received from his three ghosts.

There are stories of treasure - silver and, better yet, gold coins being found as a result of a ghost's appearance. There is one such story of a family in England, who received an unexpected guest when remodeling their home. The father of the family, hearing a noise one night, went downstairs to investigate. Through a hole that they had made in a wall, he discovered a man staring at him. When asked who he was, the man gave his name, along with the startling information, "I was murdered in this house more than 400 years ago."

The ghost explained that, in life, he had been a tradesman, and had been murdered for a store of gold coins, which were still hidden in the basement of the house. He promised to return the next night, and vanished.

The following night, true to his word, the ghost appeared and guided the family, along with some friends, to the hidden gold in the basement, after receiving their promise that they would turn the money over to his descendants. The family, though the ghost had allowed them to keep ten gold coins for their trouble, kept only one, and gave the rest to the ghost's descendants.

Looking for some gold?

You don't have to dig for it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Abraham Lincoln and the supernatural

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States, and the first to be assassinated. He lived a deeply sad life - the death of his mother, the death of his first fiancee, Ann Rutledge, a turbulent marriage to Mary Todd, and the deaths of two of his children (another child, Thomas, died in 1871). Lincoln often sat by his son Willie's crypt, crying for hours. Mary Lincoln's method of coping was to immerse herself in seances, much like Sarah Winchester in years to come, attempting to communicate with her deceased sons.

Early in the year 1865, Lincoln spoke of a dream he had had: "About ten days ago I retired very late...I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a deathlike stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs.

"There, the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room. No living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed alone...I was puzzled and alarmed.

"Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face covered, others weeping pitifully.

"'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers. 'The President,' was his answer. 'He was killed by an assassin.'"

The outburst of grief at this news was so loud that Lincoln awoke. On April 14, with the Civil War finally at an end, he was attending a play at Ford's Theatre when he was shot in the back of the head by actor and Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln was carried to a nearby boarding house, where he died at 7:22 a.m., April 15, 1865.

The grief surrounding this first presidential assassination was overwhelming; people wept openly in the streets. Lincoln, who had not been a very popular president, suddenly became a hero and a martyr to millions.

After lying in state in the East Room, as in his dream, Lincoln's body was put on a train to Springfield, Illinois. According to popular legend, on the anniversary of this sad trip, two ghost trains are seen slowly traveling between Washington, D.C. and Illinois. The first train contains a military band (sometimes reported as a band of skeletons) playing a funeral dirge. A second steam engine follows it, pulling a flatbed car with Lincoln's coffin resting on it. They never do arrive in Springfield.

A curious twist of fate involves Lincoln's oldest son, Robert. Late in 1864 or early in 1865, Robert was standing on the platform of a railway station as a train pulled in. Robert was somehow swept off his feet and found himself falling into the gap between the train and the platform; had he fallen, he would have been crushed. A stranger on the platform seized his collar and pulled him to safety.

Robert turned to thank the man, and recognized him: He was Edwin Booth, a very popular actor, whose far-less-successful brother was John Wilkes Booth. Edwin had no idea that he had saved the President's son until Robert sent him a heartfelt letter of gratitude later. After the assassination, Edwin took comfort in the fact that he had been able to save one of the Lincolns.

When Ulysses S. Grant was president, one of the household staff claimed to have seen Willie and talked to him.

Calvin Coolidge's wife Grace Coolidge was the first person to report seeing Abraham Lincoln's ghost. She claimed to have seen him standing at a window in the Oval Office, hands behind his back, looking across the Potomac River.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was President, the country first experienced the Great Depression, and then, World War II. Lincoln's ghost was seen more often at this time.

During the war, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was a guest at the White House. One night, she was awakened by a knock on her door. When she opened the door, she was confronted by the figure of President Lincoln standing in the hallway. The queen fainted; when she came to, she was lying across the threshold, alone - the ghost was gone.

Once, Mary Eben, Eleanor Roosevelt's secretary, found Lincoln's ghost in the northwest bedroom, sitting on the bed. He was pulling on his boots. The secretary screamed and ran, bursting in on Mrs. Roosevelt and shouting, "He's up there, pulling on his boots!"

"Who is?" Mrs. Roosevelt asked.

"Mr. Lincoln!" was the reply.

Other staff members of the FDR administration said they'd seen Lincoln lying on his bed occasionally, in the afternoons.

During the Truman administration, his daughter Margaret, who slept in that area of the White House, often heard knocks on her door late at night. She never found anyone when she investigated. She told her father, who thought the noises must be caused by the floors settling; he then had the White House rebuilt entirely. It was the best decision he could have made - the chief architect told Truman that the building had been in danger of collapsing. Was Lincoln's ghost trying to warn the Trumans of the danger?

No reports of Lincoln's ghost have been made in recent times... but given his haunted life and death, one may occur at any time.

Lincoln's son Robert, the only one who lived to adulthood, sat by his father's bedside and watched him die. In 1881, working for President Garfield's administration, Robert witnessed Charles Guiteau shoot Garfield, who died weeks later. In 1901, Robert was invited to the Pan-American Exposition. It was here that Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley.

Robert became convinced that he was a curse; he was afraid to associate with any other President, due to these deaths. However, he did allow himself to meet with then-President Harding, in 1922, to unveil the Lincoln Memorial.

Harding died in office the following year.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A ghostly dream

In London, towards the end of the 17th century, a murder was solved by a friend of the victim - through a series of dreams.

From An Historical, Physiological, and Psychological Treatise of Spirits, quoted in The Literature and Curiosities of Dreams (1865, v.2, ed.. Frank Seafield), by John Beaumont.

Stockden's Murder

Six dreams, dreamt late Dec. 1695-Jan.1696, by Elizabeth Greenwood.

The opening states: "Mr William Smithies, curate of St Giles's, Cripplegate, an. 1698, published an account of the robbery and murder of John Stockden, victualler in Grub Street, within the said parish, and of the discovery of the murderers by several dreams of Elizabeth, the wife of Thomas Greenwood, a neighbour of the said Stockden; an abstract of which account I give you as follows..."

"Mr. Stockden was robbed and murdered by three men, in his own house, on the 23rd of December, 1695, about midnight. A little after the murder there came a woman into the street, and said she believed one Maynard to be one of the murderers, because she was informed he was full of money, both silver and gold; upon which there was a warrant taken against him, but he could not be found.

"Soon after this, Stockden appeared to Elizabeth Greenwood in a dream, and showed her a house in Thomas Street, near 'The George,' and told her that one of the murderers lived there. She went the next morning, and took one Mary Buggas, an honest woman, who lived near her, to go with her to the place to which her dream directed, and asking for Maynard, was informed that he lodged there, but was gone abroad.

"After that, Stockden appeared again to Mrs. Greenwood, and then representing Maynard's face, with a flat mole on the side of his nose (whom she had never seen), signified to her that a wire-drawer must take him [Maynard], and that he should be carried to Newgate in a coach.

"Upon inquiry, they found that one of that trade who was his great intimate, and who, for a reward of ten pounds, promised him on his taking, undertook it, and effected it. He sent to Maynard to meet him upon extraordinary business at a public house near Hockley in the Hole, where he played with him till a constable came, who apprehended him before a magistrate, who committed him to Newgate, and he was carried thither in a coach.

"Maynard, being in prison, confessed the horrid fact, and discovered his accomplices, who were one Marsh, Bevel, and Mercer, and said that Marsh was the setter on, being a near neighbour to Stockden, who knew he was well furnished with money and plate; and although Marsh was not present at the robbery, yet he met to have a share of the booty. Marsh, knowing or suspecting that Maynard had discovered him, left his habitation.

"Stockden appeared soon after to Mrs. Greenwood, and seemed by his countenance to be displeased. He carried her to a house in Old Street, where she had never been, and showed her a pair of stairs, and told her that one of the men lodged there; and the next morning she took Mary Buggas with her to the house, according to the direction of the dream, where she asked a woman if one Marsh did not live there? To which the woman replied that he often came thither. This Marsh was taken soon in another place.

"After this, Mrs. Greenwood dreamed that Stockden carried her over the bridge, up the Borough, and into a yard, where she saw Bevel, the first criminal (whom she had never seen before), and his wife.

"Upon her relating this dream, it was believed that this was one of the prison yards, and thereupon she went with Mrs. Footman (who was Stockden's kinswoman and his housekeeper, and was gagged in the house when he was murdered) to the Marshalsea, where they inquired for Bevel, and were informed that he was lately brought thither for coining, and that he was taken near the Bankside, according to a dream which Mrs. Greenwood had before of his being there. They desired to see him, and when he came, he said to Mrs. Footman, 'Do you know me?' She replied, 'I do not.' Whereupon he went from them.

"Mrs. Greenwood then told Mrs. Footman that she was sure of his being the man whom she saw in her sleep. They then went into the cellar, where Mrs. Greenwood saw a lusty woman, and privately said to Mrs. Footman, 'That's Bevel's wife whom I saw in my sleep.' They desired that Bevel might come to them, and first put on his periwig, which was not on the time before. The lusty woman said, 'Why should you speak to my husband again, since you said you did not know him?'

"He came a second time, and said, 'Do you know me now?' Mrs. Footman replied, 'No;' but it proceeded from a sudden fear that some mischief might be done to her, who had very narrowly escaped death from him when she was gagged; and as soon as she was out of the cellar, she told Mrs. Greenwood that she then remembered him to be the man. They went soon after to the Clerk of the Peace, and procured his removal to Newgate, where he confessed the fact, and said, 'To the grief of my heart, I killed him.'

"Mrs. Greenwood did not dream anything concerning Mercer, who was a party concerned, but would not consent to the murder of Stockden, and preserved Mrs. Footman's life; nor has there been any discovery of him since, but he is escaped, and the three others were hanged.

"After the murderers were taken, Mrs. Greenwood dreamt that Stockden came to her in the street, and said, 'Elizabeth, I thank thee; the God of Heaven reward thee for what thou hast done!' Since which she has been at quiet from those frights which had so much tormented her, and caused an alteration considerable in her countenance."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gettysburg ghosts

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, in 1863. Ghosts - on the battlefield and in various buildings - have been reported for decades.

Gettysburg College - or as it was then called, Pennsylvania College - is one of the haunted buildings. During the war, there were only three buildings forming the college; there were only about one hundred students at the time. The campus served as a field hospital during and after the battle.

Pennsylvania Hall, built in 1837, is one of the worst haunted of the college buildings. The Confederates seized it during the battle for use as a lookout point and hospital. Robert E. Lee himself used the cupola as a lookout point to watch the battle.

The field hospital, with its wounded and maimed soldiers, may be the most haunted area. There was no anesthesia in those days; antiseptic surgery was still in the future; bullet wounds were often treated by amputation. The area outside the operating rooms was used to put the soldiers who couldn't be saved. They were left there to die.

One night, two administrators were working on the fourth floor. As they left work, they boarded the elevator and pushed the button for the first floor. The elevator moved down, past the first floor, coming to a stop in the basement. The doors opened, and the administrators saw a sight they had never imagined they would see.

1863 had come to vivid, gory life in the basement. The walls were spattered with blood. Wounded soldiers were sprawled on the floor, with doctors attending to them. To add to the eerie effect, the whole scene was silent.

The administrators pushed the elevator button frantically, trying to close the doors and leave the scene. Just before the doors closed, though, one of the orderlies looked up and directly at them, as if he were asking for help.

After this ordeal, whenever either of the administrators had to work at night, they took the stairs.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

William Terriss



Good-looking actor William Terriss (born William Lewin) was a very popular stage figure of Victorian England. He was noted for his portrayals of heroes, which earned him the nickname of "Breezy Bill". He was popular offstage as well, being noted for his generosity, especially towards fellow actors. One night, he arrived at the theatre dripping wet, as his contemporary, Ellen Terry, recalled. He shrugged off the usual jokes ("Is it raining, Terriss?"). It was only later that everyone learned he had dived into the Thames to rescue a child in danger.

Terriss would, eventually, have enormous cause to regret his generosity towards Richard Archer Price. Terriss had helped Price to find work as a struggling young actor, but Price's alcohol problems and mental illness made him difficult to deal with. Eventually, Terriss had Price fired, though he continued to send Price money (through the Actors' Benevolent Fund) and tried to help him to find work elsewhere.

On December 16, 1897, now desperate and out of money, but impossible to work with, Price caught up with Terriss at the door to the Adelphi Theatre, which Terriss was unlocking. Price stabbed Terriss in the back, and as Terriss turned towards him, stabbed him in the side and again in the back. Actress Jessie Millward, Terriss' leading lady and lover, heard the commotion and opened the door from the inside, when Terriss fell against her. His last words were whispered to Millward: "I will come back." He was buried in London's Brompton Cemetery.

Price was caught instantly, telling the police, "I did it for revenge. He had kept me out of employment for ten years, and I had either to die in the street or kill him." Price was found guilty of murder, he was also found to be insane. He died at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum in 1936, frequently writing and acting in his own plays, performed for the amusement of thrill-seekers who enjoyed visiting psychiatric hospitals.

True to his word, Terriss has indeed come back, and stayed. His ghost has been seen at the Adelphi, as well as making frequent appearances at the Covent Garden tube station. (Terriss was murdered ten years before the tube station opened; he used to buy goods from a bakery that stood on that spot, hence his tendency to revisit the area.) In 1955, ticket collector Jack Hayden saw the ghost of Terriss, wearing an opera cloak and gloves, holding a cane, and "with a very, very sad face and sunken cheeks"; the specter was seen walking the platform or climbing the spiral staircase. Once, the ghost entered the former cafeteria through a closed door. He stood, wordless and unmoving, before leaving through the same closed door; the employees were thunderstruck.

In distinct contrast to the kindly nature of Terriss during his lifetime, his ghost is often a frightening one. The spirit made itself known for what may have been the first time in a dressing room at the Adelphi in 1928, when a young actress known only as "June" was trying to sleep before a performance. First, the couch underneath her began to shake. When she investigated, she found nothing. The couch continued to shake, and then she saw a greenish mist. Her arms were clutched tightly by unseen fingers. A sound of two knocks ended the supernatural display.

Later, June found that her dressing room was once used by Jessie Millward. Terriss, during his life, was in the habit of knocking twice on her door with his walking stick as he passed it.

June's arms were bruised for several days.

Several Adelphi employees witnessed Terriss' last appearance at the theatre, in 1950. He tended to appear (as with June's experience) from a green mist, frightening spectators. The last sighting of the ghost in the Covent Garden Station occurred in 1972, but staff members still hear footsteps and whispering in the station.

Monday, June 8, 2009

No. 50, Berkeley Square

In times past, the 18th-century house at No. 50, Berkeley Square, was known as "the most haunted house in London". A certain upstairs room had an evil reputation; it was said that nobody could spend a night in it without dying of fear or going incurably insane.

The ghosts of No. 50 are found throughout the house. The ghost of a young woman has been seen clinging to the outside of a window, screaming for help; evidently, a woman named Adeline fell from that same window in an attempt to escape her uncle, whose intentions were, to say the least, dishonorable.

Another ghost is seen upstairs. She sobs and wrings her hands. This little girl met her death at the hands of a truly sadistic servant, who either tortured or frightened her to death.

The worst ghost is the one that haunts the sinister upstairs room. One rumor has it that a previous tenant kept his insane brother in the room, only feeding him through the door due to his extremely violent nature. The ghost of this brother is said to haunt the room, as well as other areas of the house. Some reports state that the ghost is a sort of shapeless mass; others, that it is the figure of a man with his mouth gaping open. All agree that it is a horrifying sight.

In the 1870s, neighbors reported hearing loud sounds coming from the house - bells ringing, windows opening, furniture being move. When anyone investigated, the house was quiet and peaceful.

At one point in the house's history, a maid was given the haunted room as her bedroom. Not long after everyone had gone to bed, her screams sent the entire household running to her room. She was found lying on the floor, eyes bulging, and died the following day at St. George's Hospital. She could only say that what she had seen was "horrible".

30-year-old Sir Robert Warboys accepted a wager of 100 guineas that he would not be able to spend the night alone in the room. A bell was set up so that he could ring for help, if needed. The rest of the party remained in the drawing room while Sir Robert occupied the haunted room, armed with his pistol. The agreement was that Sir Robert would ring twice if he needed help.

Shortly before 2 o'clock in the morning, a faint ring of the bell was quickly followed by a loud peal. The others ran upstairs to the room, hearing a gunshot ring out. When they entered the room, Sir Robert was lying across the bed, dead, with a terrified expression on his face.

In 1872, Lord Lyttleton slept in the haunted room, with two shotguns for company. He claimed that something leaped at him from the dark, so he fired one of the guns at it. The ghost disappeared.

In the 1880s, the house's reputation still as active as ever, two sailors decided to spend the night in it, after drinking all their money. The house, not surprisingly, was empty at the time. The two of them broke in, and having found the downstairs to be unlivable, went upstairs to find a place to sleep. Of course, they settled on the haunted room.

Later that night, the two men heard the sound of bare feet mounting the stairs. There was something very sinister about the sound. The two of them watched as the footsteps approached the room, then the door opened and a horrifying specter entered. One of the sailors dodged around it and ran. Running pell-mell down the street, he cannoned into a policeman, and dragged him back to the house.

They found the body of the other sailor impaled on the railings in front of the house, underneath the window of the haunted room.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the house was owned by a man who hired an elderly couple to take care of it. They were never allowed to enter the haunted room. Every six months, the man would visit the house, lock the couple in the basement, and spend hours in the room.

No. 50 is now occupied by antiquarian booksellers. Depending on the reports you read, either no strange occurrences have happened, or a cleaning woman saw a brownish mist in one room, while an employee had his glasses snatched off his face and thrown across the room. It is said that in the 1950s, the police gave notice that the top floor of the house, which was "unsound", was not to be used for anything - not even storage. The notice is still in effect.

As an eerie footnote, one of the streets leading to Berkeley Square is Bruton Street - once the residence of the murderous Metyards (see A London Ghost).

Friday, June 5, 2009

A London Ghost

From the Newgate Calender:

SARAH METYARD AND SARAH MORGAN METYARD, HER DAUGHTER

Executed at Tyburn, 19th of July, 1768, for the Cruel Murders of Parish Apprentices

SARAH METYARD was a milliner, and the daughter her assistant, in Bruton Street, Hanover Square, London. In the year 1758 the mother had five apprentice girls bound to her from different parish workhouses, among whom were Anne Naylor and her sister. Anne Naylor, being of a sickly constitution, was not able to do so much work as the other apprentices about the same age, and therefore she became the more immediate object of the fury of the barbarous women, whose repeated acts of cruelty at length occasioned the unhappy girl to abscond. Being brought back, she was confined in an upper apartment, and allowed each day no other sustenance than a small piece of bread and a little water.

Seizing an opportunity of escaping from her confinement, unperceived she got into the street, and ran to a milk-carrier, whom she begged to protect her, saying that if she returned she must certainly perish, through the want of food and severe treatment she daily received. Being soon missed, she was followed by the younger Metyard, who seized her by the neck, forced her into the house, and threw her upon the bed in the room where she had been confined, and she was then seized by the old woman, who held her down while the daughter beat her with the handle of a broom in a most cruel manner.

They afterwards put her into a back room on the second storey, tied a cord round her waist, and her hands behind her, and fastened her to the door in such a manner that it was impossible for her either to sit or lie down. She was compelled to remain in this situation for three successive days; but they permitted her to go to bed at the usual hours at night. Having received no kind of nutriment for three days and two nights, her strength was so exhausted that, being unable to walk upstairs, she crept to the garret, where she lay on her hands and feet.

While she remained tied up on the second floor the other apprentices were ordered to work in an adjoining apartment, that they might be deterred from disobedience by being witnesses to the unhappy girl's sufferings; but they were enjoined, on the penalty of being subjected to equal severity, against affording her any kind of relief.

On the fourth day she faltered in speech, and presently afterwards expired. The other girls, seeing the whole weight of her body supported by the strings which confined her to the door, were greatly alarmed, and called out: "Miss Sally! Miss Sally! Nanny does not move." The daughter then came upstairs, saying: "If she does not move, I will make her move"; and then beat the deceased on the head with the heel of a shoe.

Perceiving no signs of life, she called to her mother, who came upstairs and ordered the strings that confined the deceased to be cut; she then laid the body across her lap and directed one of the apprentices where to find a bottle with some hartshorn drops.

When the child had brought the drops, she and the other girls were ordered to go downstairs; and the mother and daughter, being convinced that the object of their barbarity was dead, conveyed the body into the garret . They related to the other apprentices that Nanny had been in a fit, but was perfectly recovered, adding that she was locked into the garret lest she should again run away; and, in order to give an air of plausibililty to their tale, at noon the daughter carried a plate of meat upstairs, saying it was for Nanny's dinner.

They locked the body of the deceased in a box on the fourth day after the murder, and, having left the garret door open and the street door on the jar, one of the apprentices was told to call Nanny down to dinner, and to tell her that, if she promised to behave well in future, she would be no longer confined. Upon the return of the child, she said Nanny was not above-stairs; and after a great parade of searching every part of the house they reflected upon her as being of an intractable disposition and pretended she had run away.

The sister of the deceased, who was apprenticed to the same inhuman mistress, mentioned to a lodger in the house that she was persuaded her sister was dead; observing that it was not probable she had gone away, since parts of her apparel still remained in the garret. The suspicions of this girl coming to the knowledge of the inhuman wretches, they, with a view of preventing a discovery, cruelly murdered her, and secreted the body.

The body of Anne remained in the box two months, during which time the garret door was kept locked, lest the offensive smell shouild lead to a discovery. The stench became so powerful that they judged it prudent to remove the remains of the unhappy victim of their barbarity; and therefore, on the evening of the 25th of December, they cut the body in pieces, and tied the head and trunk up in one cloth and the limbs in another, excepting one hand, a finger belonging to which had been amputated before death, and that they resolved to burn.

When the apprentices had gone to bed, the old woman put the hand into the fire, saying: "The fire tells no tales." She intended to consume the entire remains of the unfortunate girl by fire but, afraid that the smell would give rise to suspicion, changed that design, and took the bundles to the gully-hole in Chick Lane and endeavoured to throw the parts of the mangled corpse over the wall into the common sewer; but being unable to effect that, she left them among the mud and water that was collected before the grate of the sewer.

Some pieces of the body were discovered about twelve o'clock by the watchman, and he mentioned the circumstance to the constable of the night. The constable applied to one of the overseers of the parish, by whose direction the parts of the body were collected and taken to the watchhouse. On the following day the matter was communicated to Mr Umfreville, the coroner, who examined the pieces found by the watchman; but he supposed them to be parts of a corpse taken from a churchyard for the use of some surgeon, and declined to summon a jury.

Four years elapsed before the discovery of these horrid murders, which at length happened in the following manner. Continual disagreements prevailed between the mother and daughter; and, though the latter had now arrived at the age of maturity, she was often beaten, and otherwise treated with severity. Thus provoked, she sometimes threatened to destroy herself, and at others to give information against her mother as a murderer.

At last information concerning the affair was given to the overseers of Tottenham parish, and mother and daughter were committed to the Gatehouse. At the ensuing Old Bailey sessions they were both sentenced to be executed on the following Monday, and then to be conveyed to Surgeons' Hall for dissection.

The mother, being in a fit when she was put into the cart, lay at her length till she came to the place of execution, when she was raised up, and means were used for her recovery, but without effect, so that she departed this life in a state of insensibility. From the time of leaving Newgate to the moment of her death the daughter wept incessantly.

After hanging the usual time the bodies were conveyed in a hearse to Surgeons' Hall, where they were exposed to the curiosity of the public, and then dissected. (end)

After what was left of Anne Naylor was thrown into the sewer grate, people reported a figure dressed in white moving around the area. The hauntings continued even after the double executions of the hideous Metyard pair, on into the twentieth century, by which time Chick Lane had been renamed West Street. Some of the older buildings were torn down and new buildings constructed on the sites, yet the eerie occurrences remained. Anne Naylor's spirit, still not at rest, is sometimes heard screaming by passengers on the platform at the Farringdon station of the London Underground.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Newgate Prison

If any place should be haunted, a prison is a likely candidate. Newgate, dating to Roman times, was torn down in 1901 to create room for the Central Criminal Court. Newgate was said to be haunted by a Black Dog, of which the first written mention is dated 1596, though it was known in folklore long before that time. An indistinct, yet horrifying, shape was seen to crawl along the wall (also dating to Roman times) that once separated the prison from Amen Court. On the side of the wall where Newgate once stood, a narrow pathway led from the prison to quicklime pits, where the bodies of the executed were buried. Not surprisingly, it was dubbed "Dead Man's Walk".

A Mr. Scott, once Chief Warder of Newgate, had a grim story to tell of a haunting in the prison. He was one of those present at the hanging of Amelia Dyer on June 10, 1896. Mrs. Dyer was a "baby farmer", a woman who offered to take care of children born out of wedlock so that their mothers could escape disgrace. A fee was involved for this "service", and Dyer insisted on full payment up front. She then murdered the babies entrusted to her care; she avoided detection (despite many close calls) for many years before her crimes caught up to her.

As Mrs. Dyer was taken to the scaffold, she looked at Mr. Scott and said in a low voice, "I'll meet you again, sir."

Not long before Newgate was closed permanently, several of the warders gathered to share a bottle of whiskey, celebrating the end of their employment in the prison. The room where they held the little party was next to the Women Felons Yard. A door, with a window in it, led to the yard. Scott became aware that someone was watching him, and the words "Meet you again some day, sir," echoed through his head.

He looked towards the door, and saw Mrs. Dyer's unmistakable face in the window. She looked at Scott for a moment, then left. Scott quickly opened the door, and saw nothing... except a woman's handkerchief, which floated to the ground at his feet.

There were no female prisoners at the prison at that time, and there had been none for several years.

When Scott was photographed outside the execution shed, Mrs. Dyer's face appeared over his shoulder in the print.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

One of the classics.

Dorothy Walpole, in her younger days, was in love with her father's ward, Charles Townshend. Her father wouldn't allow the two to marry, lest people should think that he was after the Townshend fortune. Charles married another woman, and Dorothy eventually started up a relationship with the "infamous" Lord Wharton, who was a real ladies' man.

The story seemed to end happily in 1713, when Dorothy finally married Charles Townshend after the death of his first wife. Thirteen years later, though - and what an unlucky combination of thirteens it was! - Dorothy's death was pronounced on March 29, 1726. The cause was stated as smallpox. Rumor abounded, though, that an empty coffin had been buried, and that Dorothy was still alive, kept captive by her husband after he learned of her earlier affair with Wharton. Other rumors had it that Dorothy died when a push from her husband sent her down the grand staircase, breaking her neck in the fall.

In the early 19th century, King George IV (then Prince Regent) saw the apparition of a pale woman, hair dishevelled, standing by his bed. He promptly left the house, stating that he had seen something he hoped never to see again; soon, all the servants had decamped as well.

A Colonel Loftus then saw Dorothy in 1836, when he was a member of a large house party. One night, he saw a woman in a brown dress in the hallway, but she disappeared before he could speak to her (thinking she was another member of the party whom he hadn't yet met). The following night, Loftus saw her again; this time, he was able to approach her and look her in the face. To his horror, he saw that her eyes had been gouged out. Again, the "brown lady" vanished.

Captain Frederick Marryat, a popular author, had a memorable run-in with the ghost. By that time, tales of the Brown Lady were told and retold, and Marryat was familiar with the story before he stayed at the Hall. One night, two young men knocked on his bedroom door and invited him to come to the room where one of them was sleeping, so Marryat could see the new gun the young man had bought. Marryat agreed, visited the bedroom, and duly admired the weapon. When he returned to his own room, the young men volunteered to accompany him, "In case you meet the Brown Lady."

On the way back to Marryat's room, the three men saw a light approaching them. Thinking that it was a nurse coming from one of the nurseries, and not wanting to frighten her, they hid behind a door. Marryat was standing near the crack between the door and the jamb, and he watched as the light stopped in front of him, and the Brown Lady herself, eyeless, looked at him with a "diabolical" grin on her face.

Also armed, Marryat jumped from behind the door and shot at the apparition, which disappeared. The following day, the bullet was found in the opposite wall. The Brown Lady never again appeared when Marryat was in the house.

In 1926, two young boys saw the Lady. Perhaps her most famous appearance occurred in 1936, when two photographers from Country Life magazine were taking photos of the interior:






Is it real, or is it simply a double exposure? These two men were journalists, well-respected in their field, and not the sort of people who were likely to perpetrate a hoax.

Maybe someone will take another photo of the eyeless Brown Lady.