Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Randalls Round ~ Eleanor Scott

Eleanor Scott (1892~1965) was born Helen Madeline Leys in Middlesex, the daughter of John Kirkwood Leys, barrister and novelist. Her early education was provided solely by her mother, Ellen, who prepared both of her daughters for going on to Oxford. After the Great War, Helen Leys became a teacher, later rising to the position of Principal of an Oxford teacher training college. Her first short story to appear in print was ‘The Room’, which appeared in The Cornhill Magazine in October 1923, credited to H. M. Leys. In 1928, the first work bearing the pen name Eleanor Scott appeared: the controversial novel War Among Ladies, which was published by Ernest Benn. None of Leys' books seem to have done terribly well. Her final novel, Puss in the Corner, which was published in November 1934, received favourable reviews, but faded into obscurity like her previous books. I believe that Leys also used the pseudonym Peter Redcliffe Shore, under which she wrote two mystery novels, both published by Methuen & Co., The Bolt (1929), and The Death Film (1932).

Randalls Round was first published in the autumn of 1929 by Ernest Benn, bound in black cloth with gilt lettering and priced at 7/6. A cheaper edition was published in 1931, as part of 'Benn's 3/6 Library', in red cloth with black lettering. They are both so hard to find that I've never seen a copy of either up for sale. Ash-Tree Press issued a limited edition in 1996, and that's the one I've read (see cover image right). According to the author's foreword, all of the stories in the collection were inspired by dreams: 'It may be that simply because these things were so terrifying I have failed to convey the horror I felt. I do not know. But I hope that some readers will at least experience an agreeable shudder or two in the reading of them.' Well, I received a fair bit more than an agreeable shudder when reading these tales, I can tell you! The stories included in this collection are: ‘Randalls Round’, 'The Twelve Apostles', 'Celui-là', 'The Room', 'The Cure', 'The Tree', 'At Simmel Acres Farm', 'Will Ye No' Come Back Again?', 'The Old Lady'.

All of the tales are good and creepy, and this is one of my favourite collections so I like all of them, but I feel that three of the stories really do stand out. The first is ‘Randalls Round’, in which a fellow called Heyling pays a visit to Randalls, a small village in the Cotswolds. On his first night there, he hears children singing a folk song outside the inn where he is staying, then a little later he hears the same tune being played on a flute as people congregate in the market square. In the centre of the square stands a pole, with the shaggy hide of some animal thrown over it, with a heavy head and short horns. Men begin to dance, then they form a ring facing outwards and begin to move widdershins. It turns out that the dance used to be performed around Randalls Bank, a local tumulus formed by a long barrow, the dance’s origin being almost certainly sacrificial. Heyling tries to get permission to explore the Bank, but the owner will not give it. So he decides to dig there without permission... after dark, on All Hallows’ Eve.

In 'The Twelve Apostles', a wealthy American by the name of Matthews buys Barton Cross Manor. Wanting to know if the house is haunted, he is taken to see Mr Molyneux, local vicar and antiquarian, who tells him the story of Sir Jerome, the private Catholic chaplain of the Squire of the Manor during the early reign of Elizabeth I. Jerome was a chemist, credited with witchcraft and demonology, and following his death in 1562 there were strange happenings on the day that he was buried. Some years later, the manor was sacked, and a treasure seeker was found dead in the passageway close by Jerome’s room. Not put off by the history of the house, Matthews decides to go hunting for that missing treasure... at night, in the dark.

In 'Celui-là', Maddox is staying in Kerouac, on the Breton coast, with the local curate. He is taking his usual evening walk along the beach when he encounters a stange figure who is digging in the sand with its hands. Maddox approaches, but the figure runs away at speed. He investigates and finds a small box, covered with carvings, that contains a piece of parchment. Once back at the curate's house, Maddox reads the Latin contents of the parchment aloud. If you're familiar with the stories of M. R. James (and if you're not, you should be!), this one will call to mind 'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad'.

As I said, I've never seen a copy of the first or second edition for sale, so your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the price of those. The Ash-Tree Press edition sells for around £120 in fine condition (that's about $195 at the moment). There is, however, a new paperback edition by Oleander Press that costs less than ten pounds. I can't vouch for the quality of the paperback, as I've not read it.

I bought this from a reputable ephemera dealer a while back, and it is apparently Eleanor Scott's autograph. I can't find another to compare it to, so I currently have no way of verifying that. The paper's the right age, and it looks like it was removed from some autograph hunter's scrapbook.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Death-Mask ~ Mrs H. D. Everett

(Taken from The Death-Mask and Other Ghosts, published in 1920 by Philip Allan & Co.)

“Yes, that is a portrait of my wife. It is considered to be a good likeness. But of course she was older-looking towards the last.”

Enderby and I were on our way to the smoking-room after dinner, and the picture hung on the staircase. We had been chums at school a quarter of a century ago, and later on at college; but I had spent the last decade out of England. I returned to find my friend a widower of four years’ standing. And a good job too, I thought to myself when I heard of it, for I hd no great liking for the great Gloriana. Probably the sentiment, or want of sentiment, had been mutual: she did not smile on me, but I doubt if she smiled on any of poor Tom Enderby’s bachelor cronies. The picture was certainly like her. She was a fine woman, with aquiline features and a cold eye. The artist had done the features justice - and the eye, which seemed to keep a steely watch on all the comings and goings of the house out of which she had died.

We made only a brief pause before the portrait, and then went on. The smoking-room was an apartment built out at the back of the house by a former owner, and shut off by double doors to serve as a nursery. Mrs Enderby had no family, and she disliked the smell of tobacco. So the big room was made over to Tom’s pipes and cigars; and if Tom’s friends wanted to smoke, they must smoke there or not at all. I remembered the room and the rule, but I was not prepared to find it still existing. I had expected to light my after dinner cigar over the dessert dishes, now that there was no presiding lady to consider.

We were soon installed in a couple of deep-cushioned chairs before a good fire. I thought Enderby breathed more freely when he closed the double doors behind us, shutting off the dull formal house, and the staircase and the picture. But he was not looking well; there hung about him an unmistakable air of depression. Could he be fretting after Gloriana? Perhaps during their married years, he had fallen into the way of depending on a woman to care for him. It is pleasant enough when the woman is the right sort; but I shouldn’t myself have fancied being cared for by the late Mrs Enderby. And, if the fretting was a fact, it would be easy to find a remedy. Evelyn has a couple of pretty sisters, and we would have him over to stay at our place.

“You must run down and see us,” I said presently, pursuing this idea. “I want to introduce you to my wife. Can you come next week?”

His face lit up with real pleasure.

“I should like it of all things,” he said heartily. But a qualification came after. The cloud settled back over him and he sighed. “That is, if I can get away.”

“Why, what is to hinder you?”

“It may not seem much to stay for, but I - I have got in the way of stopping here - to keep things together.” He did not look at me, but leaned over to the fender to knock the ash off his cigar.

“Tell you what, Tom, you are getting hipped living by yourself. Why don’t you sell the house, or let it off just as it is, and try a complete change?”

“I can’t sell it. I’m only the tenant for life. It was my wife’s.”

“Well, I suppose there is nothing to prevent you letting it? Or if you can’t let it, you might shut it up.”

“There is nothing legal to prevent me - !” The emphasis was too fine to attract notice, but I remembered it after.

“Then, my dear fellow, why not? Knock about a bit, and see the world. But, to my thinking, the best thing you could do would be to marry again.”

He shook his head drearily.

“Of course it is a delicate matter to urge upon a widower. But you have paid the utmost ceremonial respect. Four years, you know. The greatest stickler for propriety would deem it ample.”

“It isn’t that. Dick, I - I’ve a great mind to tell you rather a queer story.” He puffed hard at his smoke, and stared into the red coals in the pauses. “But I don’t know what you’d think of it. Or think of me.”

“Try me,” I said. “I’ll give you my opinion after. And you know I’m safe to confide in.”

“I sometimes think I should feel better if I told it. It’s - it’s queer enough to be laughable. But it hasn’t been any laughing matter to me.”

He threw the stump of his cigar into the fire, and turned to me. And then I saw how pale he was, and that a dew of perspiration was breaking out on his white face.

“I was very much of your opinion, Dick: I thought I should be happier if I married again. And I went so far as to get engaged. But the engagement was broken off, and I am going to tell you why.

“My wife was some time ailing before she died, and the doctors were in consultation. But I did not know how serious her complaint was till the last. Then they told me there was no hope, as coma had set in. But it was possible, even probable, that there would be a revival of consciousness before death, and for this I was told to hold myself ready.

“I daresay you will write me down a coward, but I dreaded the revival: I was ready to pray that she might pass away in her sleep. I knew she held exalted views about the marriage tie, and I felt sure if there were any last words she would exact a pledge. I could not at such a moment refuse to promise, and I did not want to be tied. You will recollect that she was my senior. I was about to be left a widower in middle life, and in the natural course of things I had a good many years before me. You see?”

“My dear fellow, I don’t think a promise so extorted ought to bind you. It isn’t fair - !”

 “Wait and hear me. I was sitting here, miserable enough, as you may suppose, when the doctor came to fetch me to her room. Mrs. Enderby was conscious and had asked for me, but he particularly begged me not to agitate her in any way, lest pain should return. She was lying stretched out in the bed looking already like a corpse.

“ ‘Tom,’ she said, ‘they tell me I am dying, and there is something I want you to promise.’

“I groaned in spirit. It was all up with me, I thought. But she went on.

“ ‘When I am dead and in my coffin, I want you to cover my face with your own hands. Promise me this.’

“It was not in the very least what I expected. Of course I promised.

” ‘I want you to cover my face with a particular handkerchief on which I set a value. When the time comes, open the cabinet to the right of the window, and you will find it in the third drawer from the top. You cannot mistake it, for it is the only thing in the drawer.’

”That was every word she said, if you believe me, Dick. She just sighed and shut her eyes as if she was going to sleep, and she never spoke again. Three or four days later they came again to ask me if I wished to take a last look, as the undertaker’s men were about to close the coffin.

”I felt a great reluctance, but it was necessary I should go. She looked as if made of wax, and was colder than ice to touch. I opened the cabinet, and there, just as she said, was a large handkerchief of very fine cambric, lying by itself. It was embroidered with a monogram device in all four corners, and was not of a sort I had ever seen her use. I spread it out and laid it over the dead face; and then what happened was rather curious. It seemed to draw down over the features and cling to them, to nose and mouth and forehead and the shut eyes, till it became a perfect mask. My nerves were shaken, I suppose; I was seized with horror, and flung back the covering sheet, hastily quitting the room. And the coffin was closed that night.

”Well, she was buried, and I put up a monument which the neighbourhood considered handsome. As you see, I was bound by no pledge to abstain from marriage; and, though I knew what would have been her wish, I saw no reason why I should regard it. And, some months after, a family of the name of Ashcroft came to live at The Leasowes, and they had a pretty daughter.

”I took a fancy to Lucy Ashcroft the first time I saw her, and it was soon apparent that she was well inclined to me. She was a gentle, yielding little thing; not the superior style of woman. Not at all like - ”

(I made no comment, but I could well understand that in his new matrimonial venture Tom would prefer a contrast.)

”- But I thought I had a very good chance of happiness with her; and I grew fond of her: very fond of her indeed. Her people were the hospitable sort, and they encouraged me to go to The Leasowes, dropping in when I felt inclined: it did not seem as if they would be likely to put obstacles in our way. Matters progressed, and I made up my mind one evening to walk over there and declare myself. I had been up to town the day before, and came back with a ring in my pocket: rather a fanciful design of double hearts, but I thought Lucy would think it pretty, and would let me put it on her finger. I went up to change into dinner things, making myself as spruce as possible, and coming to the conclusion before the glass that I was not such a bad figure of a man after all, and that there was not much grey in my hair. Ay, Dick, you may smile: it is a good bit greyer now.

”I had taken out a clean handkerchief, and thrown the one carried through the day away crumpled on the floor. I don’t know what made me turn to look at it as it lay there, but, once it caught my eye, I stood staring at it as if spell-bound. The handkerchief was moving - Dick, I swear it - rapidly altering in shape, puffing up here and there as if blown by the wind, spreading and moulding itself into the features of a face. And what face should it be but that death-mask of Gloriana, which I had covered in the coffin eleven months before!

“To say I was horror-stricken conveys little of the feeling that possessed me. I snatched up the rag of cambric and flung it on the fire, and it was nothing but a rag in my hand, and in another moment no more than blackened tinder on the bar of the grate. There was no face below.”

“Of course not,” I said. “It was a mere hallucination. You were cheated by an excited fancy.”

“You may be sure I told myself all that, and more; and I went downstairs and tried to pull myself together with a dram. But I was curiously upset, and, for that night at least, I found it impossible to play the wooer. The recollection of the death-mask was too vivid; it would have come between me and Lucy’s lips.

“The effect wore off, however. In a day or two I was bold again, and as much disposed to smile at my folly as you are at this moment. I proposed, and Lucy accepted me; and I put on the ring. Ashcroft père was graciously pleased to approve of the settlements I offered, and Ashcroft mère promised to regard me as a son. And during the first forty-eight hours of our engagement, there was not a cloud to mar the blue.

”I proposed on a Monday, and on Wednesday I went again to dine and spend the evening with just their family party. Lucy and I found our way afterwards into the back drawing-room, which seemed to be made over to us by tacit understanding. Any way, we had it to ourselves; and as Lucy sat on the settee, busy with her work, I was privileged to sit beside her, close enough to watch the careful stitches she was setting, under which the pattern grew

”She was embroidering a square of fine linen to serve as a tea-cloth, and it was intended for a present to a friend; she was anxious, she told me, to finish it in the next few days, ready for despatch. But I was somewhat impatient of her engrossment in the work; I wanted her to look at me while we talked, and to be permitted to hold her hand. I was making plans for a tour we would take together after Easter; arguing that eight weeks spent in preparation was enough for any reasonable bride. Lucy was easily entreated; she laid aside the linen square on the table at her elbow. I held her fingers captive, but her eyes wandered from my face, as she was still deliciously shy.

”All at once she exclaimed. Her work was moving, there was growing to be a face in it: did I not see?

”I saw indeed. It was the Gloriana death-mask, forming there as it had formed in my handkerchief at home: the marked nose and chin, the severe mouth, the mould of the forehead, almost complete. I snatched it up and dropped it over the back of the couch. ‘It did look like a face,’ I allowed. ‘But never mind it, darling; I want you to attend to me.’ Something of this sort I said, I hardly know what, for my blood was running cold. Lucy pouted; she wanted to dwell on the marvel, and my impatient action had displeased her. I went on talking wildly, being afraid of pauses, but the psychological moment had gone by. I felt I did not carry her with me as before: she hesitated over my persuasions; the forecast of a Sicilian honeymoon had ceased to charm. By-and-bye she suggested that Mrs. Ashcroft would expect us to rejoin the circle in the other room. And perhaps I would pick up her work for her - still with a slight air of offence.

”I walked round the settee to recover the luckless piece of linen; but she turned also, looking over the back, so at the same instant we both saw.

”There again was the Face, rigid and severe; and now the corners of the cloth were tucked under, completing the form of the head. And that was not all. Some white drapery had been improvised and extended beyond it on the floor, presenting the complete figure laid out straight and stiff, ready for the grave. Lucy’s alarm was excusable. She shrieked aloud, shriek upon shriek, and immediately an indignant family of Ashcrofts rushed in through the half-drawn portières which divided the two rooms, demanding the cause of her distress.

”Meanwhile I had fallen upon the puffed-out form, and destroyed it. Lucy’s embroidery composed the head; the figure was ingeniously contrived out of a large Turkish bath-sheet, brought in from one of the bedrooms, no-one knew how or when. I held up the things protesting their innocence, while the family were stabbing me through and through with looks of indignation, and Lucy was sobbing in her mother’s arms. She might have been foolish, she allowed; it did seem ridiculous now she saw what it was. But at the moment it was too dreadful: it looked so like - so like! And here a fresh sob choked her into silence.

”Peace was restored at last, but plainly the Ashcrofts doubted me. The genial father stiffened, and Mrs. Ashcroft administered indirect reproofs. She hated practical jokes, so she informed me; she might be wrong, and no doubt she was old-fashioned, but she had been brought up to consider it in the highest degree ill-bred. And perhaps I had not considered how sensitive Lucy was, and how easily alarmed. She hoped I would take warning for the future, and that nothing of this kind would occur again.

”Practical joking - oh, ye gods! As if it was likely that I, alone with the girl of my heart, would waste the precious hour in building up effigies of sham corpses on the floor! And Lucy ought to have known that the accusation was absurd, as I had never for a moment left her side. She did take my part when more composed; but the mystery remained, beyond explanation of hers or mine.

”As for the future, I could not think of that without a failing heart. If the Power arrayed against us were in truth what my superstition feared, I might as well give up hope at once, for I knew there would be no relenting. I could see the whole absurdity of the thing as well as you do now; but, if you put yourself in my place, Dick, you will be forced to confess that it was tragic too.

”I did not see Lucy the next day, as I was bound to go again to town; but we had planned to meet and ride together on the Friday morning. I was to be at The Leasowes at a certain hour, and you may be sure I was punctual. Her horse had already been brought round, and the groom was leading it up and down. I had hardly dismounted when she came down the steps of the porch; and I noticed at once a new look on her face, a harder set about that red mouth of hers which was so soft and kissable. But she let me put her up on the saddle and settle her foot in the stirrup, and she was the bearer of a gracious message from her mother. I was expected to return to lunch, and Mrs. Ashcroft begged us to be punctual, as a friend who had stayed the night with them, would be leaving immediately after.

” ‘You will be pleased to meet her, I think,’ said Lucy, leaning forward to pat her horse. ‘I find she knows you very well. It is Miss Kingsworthy.’

”Now Miss Kingsworthy was a school-friend of Gloriana’s, who used now and then to visit us here. I was not aware that she and the Ashcrofts were acquainted; but, as I have said, they had only recently come into the neighbourhood as tenants of the Leasowes. I had no opportunity to express pleasure or the reverse, for Lucy was riding on, and putting her horse to a brisk pace. It was some time before she drew rein, and again admitted conversation. We were descending a steep hill, and the groom was following at a discreet distance behind, far enough to be out of earshot.

”Lucy looked very pretty on horseback; but this is by the way. The mannish hat suited her, and so did the habit fitting closely to her shape.

” ‘Tom,’ she said; and again I noticed that new hardness in her face. ‘Tom, Miss Kingsworthy tells me your wife did not wish you to marry again, and she made you promise her that you would not. Miss Kingsworthy was quite astonished to hear that you and I were engaged. Is this true?’

”I was able to tell her it was not: that my wife had never asked, and I had never given her, any such pledge. I allowed she disliked second marriages - in certain cases, and perhaps she had made some remark to that effect to Kingsworthy; it was not unlikely. And then I appealed to her. Surely she would not let a mischief-maker’s tittle-tattle come between her and me?

”I thought her profile looked less obdurate, but she would not let her eyes meet mine as she answered:

” ‘Of course not, if that was all. And I doubt if I would have heeded it, only that it seemed to fit in with - something else. Tom, it was very horrible, what we saw on Wednesday evening. And - and - don’t be angry, but I asked Miss Kingsworthy what your wife was like. I did not tell her why I wanted to know.’

” ‘What has that to do with it?’ I demanded - stoutly enough; but, alas! I was too well aware.

” ‘She told me Mrs. Enderby was handsome, but she had very marked features, and was severe-looking when she did not smile. A high forehead, a Roman nose, and a decided chin. Tom, the face in the cloth was just like that. Did you not see?’

”Of course I protested.

” ‘My darling, what nonsense! I saw it looked a little like a face, but I pulled it to pieces at once because you were frightened. Why, Lucy, I shall have you turning into a spiritualist if you take up these fancies.’

” ‘No,’ she said, ‘I do not want to be anything foolish. I have thought it over, and if it happens only once I have made up my mind to believe it a mistake and to forget. But if it comes again - if it goes on coming - !’ Here she shuddered and turned white. ‘Oh Tom, I could not - I could not!’

”That was the ultimatum. She liked me as much as ever; she even owned to a warmer feeling; but she was not going to marry a haunted man. Well, I suppose I cannot blame her. I might have given the same advice in another fellow’s case, though in my own I felt it hard.

”I am close to the end now, so I shall need to tax you patience very little longer. A single chance remained. Gloriana’s power, whatever its nature and however derived, might have been so spent in the previous efforts that she could effect no more. I clung to this shred of hope, and did my best to play the part of the light-hearted lover, the sort of companion Lucy expected, who would shape himself to her mood; but I was conscious that I played it ill.

”The ride was a lengthy business. Lucy’s horse cast a shoe, and it was impossible to change the saddle on to the groom’s hack or my own mare, as neither of them had been trained to the habit. We were bound to return at a foot-pace, and did not reach The Leasowes until two o’clock. Lunch was over: Mrs. Ashcroft had set out for the station driving Miss Kingsworthy; but some cutlets were keeping hot for us, so we were informed, and could be served immediately.

”We went at once into the dining-room, as Lucy was hungry; and she took off her hat and laid it on a side-table: she said the close fit of it made her head ache. The cutlets had been misrepresented: they were lukewarm; but Lucy made a good meal of them and the fruit-tart which followed, very much at her leisure. Heaven knows I would not have grudged her so much as a mouthful; but that luncheon was an ordeal I cannot readily forget.

”The servant absented himself, having seen us served; and then my troubles began. The tablecloth seemed alive at the corner which was between us; it rose in waves as if puffed up by wind, though the window was fast shut against any wandering airs. I tried to seem unconscious; tried to talk as if no horror of apprehension was filling all my mind, while I was flattening out the bewitched damask with a grasp I hardly dared relax. Lucy rose at last, saying she must change her dress. Occupied with the cloth, it had not occurred to me to look around, or keep watch on what might be going on in another part of the room. The hat on the side-table had been tilted over sideways, and in that position it was made to crown another presentation of the Face. What it was made of this time I cannot say; probably a serviette, as several lay about. The linen material, of whatever sort, was again moulded into the perfect form; but this time the mouth showed humour, and appeared to relax in a grim smile.

Lucy shrieked, and dropped into my arms in a swoon: a real genuine fainting-fit, out of which she was brought round with difficulty, after summoned help of doctors.

”I hung about miserably till her safety was assured, and then went as miserably home. Next morning I received a cutting little note from my mother-in-law elect, in which she returned the ring, and informed me the engagement must be considered at an end.

”Well, Dick, you know now why I do not marry. And what have you to say?”

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Death-Mask and Other Ghosts ~ Mrs H. D. Everett

Mrs Henrietta Dorothy Everett (1851~1923), who wrote under the nom de plume 'Theo Douglas', began her writing career at the age of forty-four. During the next twenty-five years, from 1896 to 1920, twenty-two books appeared bearing the name Theo Douglas, published by seventeen different publishers. Her true identity wasn't revealed until 1910.

The Death-Mask and Other Ghosts was first published in 1920 by Philip Allan & Co., and it is one of Mrs Everett's only books to omit the name ‘Theo Douglas’. It is an extremely rare book, and I've never seen a copy, let alone been given the chance to buy one. Two stories from the book were republished by Philip Allan in 1932: 'The Death-Mask' in Shivers, and 'The Crimson Blind' in Shudders. Both were also included in Philip Allan's Creeps Omnibus in 1935. However, most of Mrs Everett's tales then remained out of print until the complete collection was republished by the Ghost Story Press in 1995 (see the cover image on the right).

In the first story of the collection, 'The Death-Mask', Tom Enderby is asked by his dying wife, Gloriana, to make her a promise: once she is dead, he must cover her face with a particular handkerchief. A few days after her death, just prior to the undertaker's closing her coffin, Enderby carries out his wife's wishes.
'I spread it out and laid it over the dead face; and then what happened was rather curious. It seemed to draw down over the features and cling to them, to nose and mouth and forehead and the shut eyes, till it became a perfect mask. My nerves were shaken, I suppose; I was seized with horror, and flung back the covering sheet, hastily quitting the room. And the coffin was closed that night.'
As poor Enderby soon discovers, Gloriana, a rather severe woman who dominated her household when alive, has found a sinister way to make sure that her husband lives as she expects him to, despite the fact that she is dead and buried.

In 'The Crimson Blind', sixteen-year-old Ronald McEwan goes to stay at the home of his uncle, Reverend Sylvanus Applegarth, in Swanmere. His two cousins, poking fun at his Highland roots and belief in ghosts, take him to visit a neglected house that is said to be haunted. A large flat window on the first floor, overlooking the garden, is completely screened by a wide blind of faded red, and that is where the ghost is said to appear. Intending to play a prank on Ronald, the two cousins persuade him to return there after dark. Aware that he is to be the butt of some joke, Ronald agrees, with the condition that his cousins accompany him. Returning after midnight, all three boys get more than they bargained for.

'Fingers of a Hand' is a lighthearted tale about two unmarried aunts, Sara and Grace, who take their young charges, Dick and Nancy, on a seaside holiday to Cove while their father is in India. The group have been in their seaside lodgings for two weeks when Grace discovers a message scrawled on a piece of sketching paper: 'GO - by itself at the top of the sheet; and the same words repeated twice below, followed by GET OUT AT ONCE.' More messages appear as the days pass, and Grace sets out to discover their true meaning.

In 'A Water Witch', Robert Larcomb's sisters are disappointed when he marries Frederica - a woman of little fortune, 'a delicate little shrinking thing well matched to her fanciful name'. Freda gives birth to a baby boy, who does not survive, and she suffers a severe illness, so convalescence in Roscawen is decided upon. Mary, the narrator of the story, grudgingly agrees to stay with Freda, while Robert goes off to shoot things in Shepstow. In his absence, the two women are subjected to strange drippings, and poor neglected Freda's nerves are unsettled by news of a recently drowned cow, an overly amorous doctor and a local legend about a white woman who was buried at a nearby crossroads (which may sound a mishmash of ingredients, but it all comes together in the story).

Although set predominantly at the beginning of the twentieth century, Mrs Everett's stories are closer in style to those of the great lady writers of the Victorian period, such as Amelia B. Edwards, Mrs J. H. Riddell and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. To my mind, 'The Death Mask' and 'The Crimson Blind' are the best tales of the collection. I'm going to type up 'The Death Mask' and post it here in the next few days.

As I said before, this book is extremely rare. I've never seen one for sale, so I have no idea what the cost of a first edition would be. The Ghost Story Press edition, which added two further stories to the collection - 'The Whispering Wall’ and 'The Pipers of Mallory’, which originally appeared in Novel Magazine, in February 1916 and May 1917 - goes for about a hundred pounds (that's about $160 at the moment) in fine condition, but it's not a terrible common book. There is, however, a Wordsworth paperback, entitled The Crimson Blind and Other Ghost Stories, that includes the same stories as the Ghost Story Press edition, and it is available for only a few pounds.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Dread of the Supernatural

The Spectator ~ 7th of August 1897.

WE wish the Psychical Society would one day attempt an analysis of what, for want of a better word, we must call the dread of the supernatural. Both those who believe and those who disbelieve in the notion that the veil between this world and the other is capable of being lifted agree in one thing. They all recognise the fact that most people feel fear, or something akin to fear, at what they believe to be the occurrence of supernatural phenomena. There is here, therefore, a piece of ground which may be explored without any begging of the question as to whether the fear is caused by real ghosts or by trickery, by rats and water-pipes, or by genuine glimpses of the people of another world. One would like to know whether the fear felt is akin to that experienced when a man is frightened by a runaway horse or a fire or any other imminent risk of life, or whether it is something different in kind. Speaking broadly and without any minute consideration of the facts, one would say that ghost-fright did differ in kind from the fright that comes from active danger. Most people have, we imagine, at some time or other in their lives experienced that eerie, uncanny, creepy feeling which is associated with the possibility of contact with the supernatural. Yet few would declare that it was in any sense connected with the dread of loss of life or limb. The man or woman who wakes up in the middle of the night and hears strange noises - thumps, raps, clangs, and creakings - or sees or feels the touch of unseen hands, is probably very frightened, but the sense of bodily fear is not present. There is no dread of being killed. People in the agony of terror caused by dangerous accidents constantly call out that they are going to be killed, but we doubt if that is ever the case in fright caused by haunted houses. Possibly this difference may be said to be due to the fact that the dread of the supernatural is not nearly so acute as that caused by the imminent risk of death, People, it may be argued, only imagine themselves to be frightened of ghosts as women pretend to be frightened of mice. In neither case is the fright quite genuine. It is only want of self-control, and could be mastered in an instant if the will-power were in proper order. Unfortunately for those who argue thus there is plenty of evidence to show that occasionally the dread of the supernatural produces very serious results. On the whole, we should say that more people had been frightened out of their wits by what they believed to be supernatural phenomena than by accidents involving great risk to life. It is not often that one hears of insanity caused even by the prolonged agony of shipwreck. The fear caused by what is supposed to be a supernatural agency seems, then, to have in it some element not found in ordinary fear. If and when the haunting phenomena cause fear they seem to give a shock of quite special keenness.

Another strange thing about the dread of the supernatural is its greater power of transmission. One may, no doubt, read about hairbreadth escapes with a pleasing thrill of danger, and very sensitive people may find it "trying" to hear how the hero of a mountain climb crawled along a ledge of rotten rock with a two thousand feet drop below and a sheer wall of cliff above, but no one is really terrified by this in the way that sensitive people are terrified by reading or hearing ghost-stories. People susceptible to such impressions not unfrequently find themselves in the position of Sir Walter Scott and Hannah More, who sat up telling ghost-stories till they were both afraid to go to bed. Unquestionably the fear which we call "creepiness" is much more easily kindled at second hand than the good honest dread of having one's skull split. Yet another curious fact about the form of fear we are discussing is its admitted unreasonableness and want of sufficient cause apparent to account for it. If a man is asked why he is afraid of standing in the line of fire when soldiers are shooting, or of doing any other dangerous thing, there is no sort of mystery about his answer. He tells you at once, 'I am afraid of doing this or that because I don't want to be killed.' If you ask him why he is afraid of sleeping in a haunted room, as in many cases he undoubtedly will be, even though perfectly sane and sufficiently brave, he will be unable to tell you. He will probably declare that he does not believe in ghosts, and does not believe, indeed, in any supernatural phenomena being permitted. Yet he will, if he is honest, add that there is no sort of uncertainty about his objection to sleeping in a room believed to be haunted. He may say, of course, that he could force himself on good grounds to submit to being frightened, but he will not deny the fright. If you ask him, further, what are the consequences of which he is afraid, he will, as we have said, be unable to tell you. He will admit that there is no fear of the figure said to haunt the room injuring him in any possible way, and he will laugh at the notion of low voices, or loud explosive raps, or touches from cold fingers doing him bodily damage. In the end, indeed, he will be forced to admit that what he is really afraid of is being frightened. 'Experience tells us that these things, whatever they are, cause a very unpleasant form of terror in the human mind, and experience is backed up by a strong instinctive feeling in most men's minds. I don't know in the least why these things should cause alarm, but as they do I intend to avoid them.' - An adequate explanation, if you will, for avoiding haunted rooms, but clearly a very different reason from that which makes a bad rider avoid getting on the back of a buck-jumper. His dread is fundamentally the dread of physical injury.

There is yet another very curious fact connected with the dread of the supernatural. It often seems as if people were afraid of ghosts in an inverse ratio to their belief in their existence. The convinced spiritualist sees no difficulty in believing that ghosts and haunted houses are true, and feels little fear at the thought of encountering them. The man who disbelieves wholly in ghosts, and sincerely thinks that everything can be explained by the operation of natural laws, will, on the other hand, frankly admit that he is so foolish as not to care about sitting alone at night in a haunted room about which he has heard "some very curious things indeed." Though they are no doubt things which he believes can be explained, he confesses to be unwilling to try his nerves gratuitously. On the other hand, it not unfrequently happens that people who are not disposed to be satisfied with the materialistic explanation of what are called psychical phenomena, and who even lean to a supernatural solution, are by no means easily frightened by hauntings, either visual or audible. A curious example of this well-ascertained fact may be seen in Miss Freer's paper in this month's Nineteenth Century. We have dealt with that paper elsewhere, and only wish to notice on the present occasion one point. Though she personally experienced, or thought she experienced, for we by no means regard the matter as proved, many most strange and weird phenomena - she not only heard but saw - she says with evident sincerity that she cannot understand how any sane person could object to go alone at any hour of the day or night into the so-called haunted portion of the house with which her article deals. How is this to be accounted for? How are we to explain the fact that people who see and hear, or fancy they see and hear, very strange and inexplicable sights and sounds, and who are not prepared to say they are natural and ordinary occurrences, are less disturbed than those who are convinced that there is nothing at all in the talk about supernatural phenomena? Possibly the answer should be something like that which Coleridge gave to the lady who asked him if he believed in ghosts, - "No, Madam. I have seen too many of them." It may be that people who habitually see and hear what they believe to be abnormal sights and sounds are not frightened because they have seen so many of them and so got accustomed to them. This explanation, of course, cuts both ways. The sceptic in matters psychical may fairly say:- 'These things are seen with perfect composure by persons who are subject to illusions because they have been accustomed for years by some accident of vision or temperament to hallucinations. When, however, a normally constitutes man is made subject to an illusion either by being influenced beforehand by thrilling accounts of what he is likely to see, or else by some curious set of accidents and coincidences, it is only natural that he should be much more disturbed in body and mind. He does not possess the tolerance for illusions which belongs to those who habitually experience them. Again, the perfectly healthy organisation abhors and resists illusions, and therefore when it is subject to them by some accident the reaction is very strongly marked.' On the other hand, it may be argued that seers and mediums, crystal-gazers and other "sensitives," have a natural faculty for experiencing psychical phenomena, and their imperviousness to fear may be put down to the fact that they are not subjected to what is, as far as they are concerned, an abnormal strain when they see and hear what Miss Freer tells us she saw and heard. Into the respective merits of these theories we could not attempt to enter even, which we doubt, were it likely that any result could be achieved by following either of them. Abstract speculation upon points of this kind is seldom, if ever, fruitful. There remains, however, the very curious fact of the dread inspired by phenomena believed to be supernatural, and this we hold to be worth investigating. It is certainly not a weakness of which mankind has any reason to be proud, and if it could be proved that men can overcome it by systematically accustoming themselves to it there would be reason for rejoicing. People thus trained would obviously be much better qualified to examine into psychical phenomena than those who are likely to be overcome by accesses of fear.

There is yet another explanation of the mystery surrounding this dread of the supernatural which may be worth considering. It may be that man has been endowed with this almost universal horror of the supernatural because he was not meant to peep behind the veil. It can hardly be doubted that mankind is general would not be doing their true work if they were perpetually engaged in efforts to lift the veil. For what purpose was the veil interposed if not to prevent such prying? But granted that it would be a hindrance to man's development to traffic with the other world, or to learn too much about it first hand, would not man be very likely to have developed a keen instinctive horror of any contact with the unseen world, just as many animals have an instinctive horror of plants that will injure them? Be that as it may, it is at any rate certain that man's fear of the supernatural has prevented him from dealing with the unseen world as he would have dealt with it under other conditions. Had not the fears and the doubts born of fear which gather round what we call the supernatural prevailed to distract, and even to prohibit, his attention, can we doubt that something would have been settled one way or another as to the intellectually irritating and degrading phenomena of haunting, and as to "the mutterings and peepings" of the sensitives who have been at work since the world began? Unquestionably the dread of lifting the veil has enormously hampered investigation. It has tended to put everything on a wrong footing. There would have been very little progress in botany if nine hundred and ninety-nine botanists in every thousand associated the sense of fear and dread with the phenomena of their science. The question that remains over is, of course, the question, - Ought we to take this instinctive dread as a warning, and ought we therefore to turn our heads resolutely away from all investigation? On the whole we think not. It is a warning, but a warning to investigate coolly, wisely, prudently, and sparingly, rather than not to investigate at all. It is quite possible that in the end the modern forms of investigation will prove as futile as the old, and that we shall only arrive at the well-worn conclusion that there is a residuum of the unexplainable below a great deal of ignorance and imposture; but it is also certain that man will continue to insist upon investigating every dark place in his prison-house. That being so, the investigation had better be as thorough and as little prejudiced as possible. Besides, knowledge enters by a hundred unexpected doors. Who knows but that the Psychical Society, while it is looking for ghosts, may not discover some new law of acoustics or of motion, or find some physical explanation for the fact that if a man sees a figure at his bed's head, and knows it to be a man, he is not frightened, while if he really thinks it is not a man but a ghost, he is as likely as not to be terrified out of his wits? Why so many of us should be afraid of things which we know will, under no circumstances, do us bodily harm, and which most of us sincerely believe have no existence whatsoever, is in any case a very curious problem.

Monday, 10 November 2014

A College Mystery ~ A. P. Baker

Arthur Ponsford Baker was born on the 6th of September 1873, at Algoa Bay, Cape Colony. He was educated at Haldon House, Cheltenham, and Bristol, before going up to Christ's College in 1892. A serious accident on the football field in 1895 left him crippled for life, forcing him to leave college. He returned in 1903, and subsequently became a lecturer in history, and a valued 'coach', specialising in Medieval Italian history. He was a frequent contributor to the College Magazine and to the Cambridge Review. He passed away at the terribly young age of forty-five on the 20th of March 1919.* Baker produced only two books, University Olympians: Or Sketches of Academic Dignitaries and A College Mystery, both of which were published shortly before his death.

A College Mystery was first published by W. Heffer & Sons Ltd. in 1919, with illustrations by F. H. Round. The book must have done quite well, as the publisher issued a second edition (which is the edition pictured here), with a doubled print run, in 1923.

In the preface, the author tells us that the story was first read aloud to friends in his rooms in February 1918. And he thanks 'the Provost of Eton [M. R. James] for reading through the manuscript of this little book and for kindly comment'.

Baker's ingenious little book purports to be a true account of the events which resulted in there being a ghost in the Fellows' Garden at Christ's College, based largely on the papers of Simon Goodridge, which had come into his possession. The book is separated into sections, the first of which deals with eye witness accounts of the apparition, 'a tall, heavy, elderly man, dressed in black, with a swallow-tailed coat and high collar and stock,' who walked the garden 'slowly and deliberately, with bent head,' before eventually disappearing. Baker then writes:
'Was the figure they alleged that they saw the ghost of Christopher Round? Does he still take the walk which his record tells us he used to take in his lifetime? Does his uneasy spirit dwell upon his deed as in the days of his life here?
    This puzzle is not for me to solve. Like Simon Goodridge, I leave it to the reader, who must judge for himself.
    Here is the record and the evidence.'
The second section of the book is 'The Record of Christopher Round', an account written by Round himself as he approached his seventieth year, taken from Goodridge's papers. He tells us that he was the son of a rector, and was educated at home before going up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he met Philip Collier, a scholar of St John's College. During the following years, every contest Round entered, Collier beat him by a slight margin, and Round had to make do with being honourably mentioned, which gave rise to considerable ill will on his part. Eventually, Collier left Cambridge and spent some time in Italy, so Round no longer considered him a threat and his feelings of resentment disappeared. But following Round's appointment as a lecturer at Christ's College, where he began his duties 'with great pleasure', he learned that Collier, recently returned from Italy, was to become a fellow lecturer. 'Thus began that rivalry of nearly ten years which spoiled my early life here, and ended in the tragedy which has haunted it ever since.'

Having already had his academic ambitions thwarted at every turn by Collier (though, the competitiveness that Round felt doesn't appear to have been shared by his nemesis), Round was later thwarted in love by the same man. Having fallen in love with Lady Mary Clifford, he discovered that she, like everyone else, preferred his rival. And if that wasn't bad enough, Collier had begun to behave oddly, apparently under the influence of spirits (the alcoholic type, not the supernatural variety), so Lady Mary had been won over by a drunk! Round was so distressed by these developments that his work suffered.
'I tramped the country roads and took my lonely perambulations in the garden, thinking all the while of Collier's victory and horrified at the idea of its coming to a man addicted, as I knew him to be, to secret drunkenness.'
Not wanting to spoil the enjoyment of anyone who hasn't read this book yet, I shan't go into any further detail about the storyline. It can come as no surprise, however, that the constant bitter rivalry between Round and Collier, though entirely one-sided, led to tragedy. The third section of the book is an extract from the Isle of Ely and Cambridgeshire Gazette, and is the record of an inquest. The fourth concerns the deceased's will, and is an extract from the East Anglian Times. The fifth section contains the recollections of Simon Goodridge, friend of Christopher Round and owner of the papers that make up most of this little volume, which is finished off with a brief postscript.

A College Mystery is a work of fiction, but Baker did such a skilful job of putting his book together, adding weight to his story by creating newspaper articles that read as utterly genuine and adding footnotes, that his account of the Fellows' Garden ghost has been accepted by many over the years as true. However, there were no Fellows by the names of Christopher Round and Philip Collier at Christ's during the period in which the story is set.

One of the witnesses at the inquest, James Young Simpson (1811~1870), was certainly a real person, though; he was an Edinburgh obstetrician and an important figure in the history of medicine. Dr Simpson was a strong advocate of the use of ether, but he recognised its disadvantages and sought to discover an alternative anaesthetic. In order to do so, he and his assistants, Dr James Mathews Duncan and Dr Thomas Keith, took to sniffing various chemicals after dinner at his Edinburgh home. On the evening of the 4th of November, 1847, the three men tested chloroform for the first time together. All three ended up lying on the dining room floor unconscious; Duncan snoring loudly beneath a chair and Keith kicking at the legs of the dining table.**

I found Baker's linking of a fictional story with elements of the actual history of medicine to be very interesting indeed. I took a history of medicine module as part of my history BA and developed an interest in the early use of anaesthesia and attitudes towards the use of pain relief, so this really appealed to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this clever little book. It's quite an achievement, to write a detailed story so convincing that it's accepted as truth, and in less than eighty pages too!

A nice copy of the first edition of A College Mystery, without the rare dust jacket, costs around fifty pounds at the moment (about eighty dollars). I've yet to find a fine copy with the jacket, so I've no idea how much one would cost. The second edition seems to go for about the same price.

In 2004 a paperback facsimile edition was published by Back-in-Print Books, which includes an article previously published in Christ's College Magazine in 1998, by Michael Wyatt, entitled 'A College Mystery - A Further Mystery'. It describes events that took place in the late 1920s or early 1930s, when Wyatt's uncle Sam was put up in the rooms that were once occupied, according to Arthur Baker, by Christopher Round. This paperback seems to be harder to find than the first edition. At this moment in time, I cannot find a copy listed for sale at Amazon, Abe, Biblio, ebay, or any of the usual places. And there doesn't seem to be a single ebook version out there.

*   Biographical information thanks to A Cambridge Alumni Database.
** Blessed Days of Anaesthesia: How anaesthetics changed the world, Stephanie J. Snow, OUP 2009.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Can You Explain It? True Stories of the Ghost World

The Harmsworth Magazine, the first issue of which was published in July 1898 and sold for threepence, contained historical fiction, tales set in exotic places, romances and adventure stories, and ghost stories. It was an overnight success; the first issue sold in the region of 800,000 copies. It attracted writers such as O. Henry, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Edith Nesbit, H.G. Wells and P.G. Wodehouse. It was later renamed The Harmsworth London Magazine and then The London Magazine.

William James Wintle, author of Ghost Gleams, who I shall be writing more about very soon, had an article published in The Harmsworth London Magazine in 1903 entitled 'Can You Explain It? True Stories of the Ghost World'. A few weeks back, I came across a couple of bound volumes of the magazine, and it just so happened that one of them was volume ten, which contains Wintle's article, so I thought I would type it up to make it available here.

By W. J. Wintle
The Harmsworth London Magazine, Vol. 10
February to July 1903, pp.355~358

IT is the fashion nowadays to be sceptical of everything that does not exactly fit in with the experiences of practical every-day life. Ghosts are at a discount, and the very existence of an unknown world, peopled by activities as real as our own, is questioned and even laughed at. We venture to say that this attitude of mind is as unscientific as it is unwise.

No thoughtful person would wish to put the clock back and revive the superstitious ignorance which prevailed in centuries long gone by, when everything not clearly understood was at once put down to the supernatural or miraculous. We have travelled far since those days, and the progress of science has taught us that many things hitherto mysterious are capable of rational explanation, and are simply the working out of laws which are now well understood. But we have still more to learn even about natural science, and the recent development of wireless telegraphy, for example, has shown us that it is possible for physical forces to act at a distance and through a medium hitherto supposed insufficient.

It is not unreasonable to apply this principle to the unseen or spirit world, about which we know so little. It may well be that there are forces at work - perhaps after all only different forms of those natural forces with which we are familiar - and that the operation of these forces may produce phenomena at present hard to explain, but which are none the less genuine for all that. With the further advance of knowledge, we shall probably come to understand more about such matters, but at present the attitude of the thoughtful person should be neither one of credulity nor scepticism, but simply one of open-minded enquiry.

The strange happenings described in this present article have, all of them, come within the immediate knowledge of the writer, who is able to vouch for their general accuracy. They have occurred either to himself or to his personal friends, though, for obvious reasons, names and places have, in most cases, been suppressed; indeed, it is only subject to this condition that he is at liberty to describe several incidents which have never been made public before.

It is natural to begin with apparitions of departed persons. Everybody has heard of ghost stories, and it must be frankly confessed that a large percentage of these tales have no better foundation than that of a too vivid imagination, or a lack of sober investigation. There remain, however, an abundance of cases of the appearance of departed persons to the living, which rest upon unquestionable evidence, and which can only be explained away by imputing deliberate lying to persons of known veracity. To this latter category the following examples belong.

It has been known for generations past that that portion of the north wing of Windsor Castle which is occupied by the Royal Library is the occasional scene of the apparition of Queen Elizabeth, who at one time occupied those apartments. Many people connected with the Court have, at one time or another, seen the shade of the famous monarch walking in the evening through the rooms she occupied so long. The apparition usually comes in through the end of the library next to the corridor, passes along in front of the magnificent Elizabethan fireplace, and turns into a kind of alcove which formerly led to a flight of stone steps connecting it with the north terrace. Down these steps the Queen was in the habit of going when she took exercise.

Amongst other persons who, at one time or another, witnessed the apparition was the Empress Frederick; and in the spring of 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, Lieutenant Glyn, of the Grenadiers, was sitting one day in the library turning over a volume of prints, and certainly not thinking about ghosts, when he happened to look up, and distinctly saw the spectral Queen approaching from the other end of the library. She passed near him and then turned the corner into the usual alcove. He at once rose and followed the figure, but it had disappeared.

The fact of this apparition is so well known that the librarian, Mr. Holmes, has frequently spent whole evenings in the library watching for it. But, unfortunately, ghosts do not usually appear when you look for them. It is right to add that a certain amount of difference of opinion exists as to the identification of this mysterious figure with Queen Elizabeth, but the fact of the apparition itself is unquestionable.

One of the Canon's houses within the precincts of Windsor Castle is the occasional scene of visits of an apparition commonly thought to be that of King Charles I. It only appears at long intervals, and is more often heard in the form of footsteps passing by than actually seen. One of its most recent appearances was to the wife of a well-known English bishop, who happened to be staying at Windsor at the time.

All the historic royal palaces have the reputation of being haunted. One of the best-known cases is that of the gallery leading to the royal pew at Hampton Court, along which the ghost of Anne Boleyn has often been heard to pass uttering piteous cries, as she did in her lifetime when she ran to implore mercy from Henry VIII, who was hearing Mass in the chapel, but was forcibly repulsed by the guard.

A more recent instance occurred at another of the royal palaces, where a visitor, walking down the corridor one evening, saw the figure of a very beautiful young lady in evening dress passing  in a faint luminous light through a room where the lights were turned down low. The visitor was in the company of a member of the Royal Family, who, strangely enough, saw nothing of the apparition, although he was aware that one was seen from time to time.

Leaving the royal palaces, we have now to record a curious phenomenon that is sometimes observed in the chapel of a large convent in North London. It happened that a good many years ago one of the nuns broke her vows, and returned to the world, where, after an unhappy career, she died. Soon afterwards the inmates of the convent were startled to see the form of their lost sister, in her religious habit, kneeling in the outer chapel in an attitude of the deepest sorrow and despair.

This apparition is still seen from time to time, and has been witnessed by the sisters, and also by the children of the convent school, who naturally have been greatly alarmed by it. It is quite a common thing for the good sisters, at service time, to have to hurriedly withdraw the children, when the form of the lost nun is seen passing through the outer chapel or kneeling outside the screen.

A somewhat gruesome incident took place quite lately in London, where a number of young people were present. A youth was sitting chatting to a young woman when he saw standing behind her a young sailor whom he had not previously noticed in the room. A few moments later he asked her, "Who was that sailor standing behind you just now?" She was startled, and he proceeded to describe him, whereupon she turned deadly pale and fainted.

The youth subsequently learnt that the figure he had seen was that of a young man whom the girl had jilted, and who had committed suicide in consequence. The girl was for some weeks afterwards in a state of great distress, fearing that she was haunted by the spirit of her rejected lover; but happily, nothing more was seen of the apparition, and she has now quite recovered her usual good spirits.

A London journalist of fairly matter-of-fact and unimaginative disposition, was sitting in the train at a large midland station, when he saw upon the platform an old acquaintance - whom we may call Mr. Hilton - standing somewhat apart on the platform. There was nothing whatever ghostly about his appearance, for he was a portly old gentleman wearing the conventional silk hat and black frock coat, and carrying the sample bag which he used in connection with his business as traveller for a large firm of tea dealers.

The passenger tried to attract his friend's attention, but without success, and the train immediately afterwards moved off. A few days later the journalist was again in that city, and took luncheon with a relative who lived there. During the course of the meal he remarked, "I saw old Hilton last Saturday, on the platform, as I passed through"; to which his cousin replied, "You mean young Hilton, don't you?" "No, it was old Hilton, not his son, that I saw." "I hardly think so," said the cousin. "But I am sure of it," persisted the journalist; whereupon he received the startling reply, "Well, all I can say is that I attended old Hilton's funeral a fortnight ago."

Here was an example of an apparition of a dead person apparently without any purpose or object. Can you explain it?

Many cases are on record of apparitions of living persons being seen. A friend of the writer, now a priest in the north of England, was, at one time, a novice in a Benedictine monastery, and it was his duty to take an hour's watch before the Blessed Sacrament in the abbey church every morning from seven till eight o'clock Sad to say, his devotion used sometimes to flag, and his thoughts wandered. Frequently these vagrant thoughts betook themselves to his youngest sister, to whom he was deeply attached, and he used to fancy that he was with her in her room. So vivid was the impression that he was often able to clearly recollect the conversation which he fancied had taken place between them.

After a time, finding that he had no real vocation for the religious life, he left the monastery and returned to his home. He had not been there long before his sister said to him, "While you were at the monastery, I used often to fancy that you came into my room in your monk's dress, between seven and eight in the morning, before I was up, and that we had some jolly little talks together." He enquired if she could remember any of the conversation, whereupon she repeated to him the very things that he had imagined himself saying to her while kneeling alone in the monastic choir!

Can this be a case of telepathy operating over a distance of more than one hundred miles, or how is it to be accounted for? Certainly it would appear that under some circumstances of intense emotion or ardent affection it is possible for the minds of persons far apart from one another to enter into some kind of communication. If it be true that nervous action is near akin to electric force, then it is possible that the discovery of wireless telegraphy is a step in the direction of explaining such phenomena as the one just related, and that which follows.

A  father, somewhat advanced in years, was deeply attached to his grown-up daughter, who was the sole companion of his declining days. One night, feeling unwell, he left his bedroom and knocked at the door of his daughter's, forgetting for the moment that she was staying for the night with some friends at a distance.

The daughter, who, of course, did not think that her father was likely to be taken ill, was suddenly aroused from sleep by a loud knocking at her bedroom door. She hastily rose and opened it, but found no one there, and, on making enquiry in the morning, could not obtain any explanation. On returning home she found her father ill, and ascertained that the time she was aroused from her slumbers exactly corresponded with the moment that her father had knocked at her bedroom door.

A sound of knocking seems to be one of the commonest of occult manifestations, without taking into consideration the phenomena - whether real or fraudulent - connected with spiritual séances. Various cases have come under the personal observation of the writer, especially at a house in Devonshire where he stayed, and where such occurrences were so common that little notice was taken of them. Still more mysterious manifestations used to occur at the house in question, of which the following may serve as an example.

Our host had a small room on the first-floor which he used as a private office. Sitting at his desk, with the door open, he commanded a full view of the staircase, being able to see downstairs to the hall, and up the next flight to the next floor above. One night, long after the household had retired to rest, he was seated in his office busily engaged in correspondence, when he heard footsteps in the hall below. He was naturally startled, and wondered who could be about. The steps crossed the hall and began to ascend the stairs. As the office door was standing wide open, he did not rise, but simply turned in his chair, and watched to see who was approaching. It should be noted that the gas on the staircase was alight, and that he had an uninterrupted view.

The footsteps came nearer and nearer, until they reached his door, passed it, and then proceeded up the next flight of stairs, and along the corridor overhead, when they ceased. He stared with straining eyes as the footsteps passed, and saw absolutely nothing. No sooner had the steps overhead ceased, than he sprang to his feet and ran upstairs after them. Nothing was to be seen, and he went the round of the whole house, entering each bedroom, and found every person sound asleep. It may be added that our host was not at all a man of vivid imagination, and that until he went to live in the house in question, he was an utter unbeliever in occult manifestations.

Many of the strangest phenomena of this character have been recorded in connection with deaths, the form of the dying person having been seen or his voice heard by friends at a distance, at the moment of his departure from the body. A strange case of this character occurred quite recently in the metropolis.

A priest who was greatly beloved lay dangerously ill, and had been unconscious for many days. A few doors off lived one of his most intimate friends, who was greatly distressed at the grave report of the doctors. One night he retired to rest at the usual time, and slept soundly; but about half-past three in the morning he suddenly started from sleep and sprang up in alarm, impressed with a sense that the priest needed his help. In a state of great perturbation he said the prayers for the dying, and, becoming calmer after awhile, he lay down and slept again. When he rose, some hours later, he learnt that his friend had passed away at the very moment he was so suddenly aroused from sleep.

The priest in question had been a frequent visitor at his friend's house, and had always occupied a certain chair in a corner of the study - a chair which was not very often used by anyone else. Since his death, when all has been quiet in the evening, a shadowy form has been seen several times occupying the chair just as he used to during his lifetime.

A few years ago, two men were sitting in a room in Kilburn, about eleven o'clock one evening. One was a doctor, and the other was a city man, both of them exceptionally level-headed and sober-minded individuals. They were sitting beside the fire chatting about various subjects before retiring to rest, when both simultaneously saw a face look in at the window. His appearance was such that they rushed out of the room in the utmost alarm. The master of the house ran in, and, being a man of action, immediately threw open the window and thrust his head out; but nothing was to be seen. Now the window in question was on the first floor, and looked out over a large garden. There was a sheer drop of about twenty feet from the window to the ground. There was no ladder, stack-pipe, trellis, or other means by which anyone could climb up to the window, nor was anyone found about the premises. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for anyone in the flesh to have looked in; and the appearance of the face, which both saw distinctly, remains a mystery to this day. Can you explain it?

An apparition of a far more shocking character took place some years ago in a country church. A well-known London clergyman, a personal friend of the present writer, and now rector of an important parish in South Africa, was conducting a mission. The mission services, which were largely attended, were held in the evenings, the usual Evensong being said in the afternoons, when few save the clergy were able to attend.

One afternoon the missioner was the only clergyman available for this service, and himself took the keys and opened the church for the purpose. It so happened that the congregation consisted of one person only, the wife of the vicar. The clergyman said the office, and at its close proceeded to the vestry, where he removed his surplice, and then came down the church to lock up. He noticed that the lady was still kneeling in her place, and, after a considerable time, he shook the keys by way of a gentle hint that he was waiting. She then rose and passed out of the church without speaking to him, but he saw that she looked greatly distressed.

On reaching the vicarage she sought an interview with him, and had an extraordinary tale to tell. In the midst of the prayers, she had chanced to look up and had been startled to see the form of a young man leaning against the choir screen immediately behind the clergyman, and watching him intently. The young man was of extraordinary beauty, but his expression was one of the utmost malignity and hatred - quite Mephistophelian, in fact. Greatly alarmed, she covered her face with her hands, but a few moments later looked up again and saw that the apparition was still there. She again closed her eyes, uttering a brief ejaculatory prayer, and on looking up once more, found that the figure had vanished.

It was certain that no one had entered or left the church, for neither the clergyman, who was close by, nor the lady had heard anything, nor was it possible for anyone to have left the church in the moment during which the lady's eyes were closed the second time. The only conclusion the clergyman could come to was that the apparition was a malignant device of the arch enemy of souls.

It is as true now as ever that there are many things, both in this world and in the mysterious spirit world that seems to surround us, which as yet are hardly dreamt of in our philosophy.