Timeless Tuesday – January 2015

Tuesday January 27, 2015


I had absolutely NO idea when I picked this week’s article that there would be so much out there on this woman.  Newspapers around the states seemed to love to write about this woman’s charletonous activities.  She has been described using many phrases, but my favorite next to “Spook Priestess” is “The Worlds Worst Woman, and how cool is it that I found a mugshot of her from one of her many arrests.  If this has piqued your interest, a new book called Empress of Swindle: The Life of Ann Odelia Diss Debar was published just last month.

spook priestess mug shot

Chicago Daily Tribune edition 9/12/1891


She Relates a Strange Story of Alleged Adventures


Charges Against Archbishop Feehan and Father Kelly


When Consciousness Returned She Was in a Strange City



Cincinnati, O., Sept. 11 – Special – Vera P. Ava, who disappeared from the Church of the Holy Family in Chicago, was taken into custody by the police officials tonite. She tells a remarkable story, in which she makes some startling charges. She said emphatically that she was a Roman Catholic, and that her mission in Chicago was to start four homes for homeless, degraded children. Then dropping the story of her charitable mission she boldly charged the Roman Catholic clergymen of Chicago with attempting to make way with her. Her proposal to establish the homes, she declared was violently opposed by Archbishop Feehan, who ordered her to a nunnery. She refused to go and then, she claims, he ordered her to appear before a council at the Jesuit College Church on Twelfth street last Wednesday. She went in her carriage. Mrs. Bolton of No. 438 West Monroe street was with her, she says, and Tom Dougherty was the driver of the carriage. Tom and Mrs. Bolton in the carriage waited outside.

Continuing she said that Archbishop Feehan and Father Edwin Kelly were present. They presented her a paper to sign, which she refused to do, saying that as a prospective American citizen she meant to use her money as she pleased. Thereupon Father Kelly arose and said this had gone far enough, and at that moment two men came in at a side-door and threw a cloth over her face. After that she knew nothing more until she felt as if she was on a lake. She thinks that was last night and that she had been overdosed with chloroform and water was applied as a restorative.

The next Miss Ava remembers, she says, was about 4 o’clock  this afternoon, when she was taken from the depot in a carriage to a certain place in this city, though she did not then know what city it was.  Here she stopped with her story and went to praising the kindness she received at the House of Detention in being allowed to remain in the office and not in the cell.

 Says She Escaped

When asked, “Were you turned loose on the street?” she replied spiritedly:

“No, sir, indeed. I escaped, and tomorrow I will show Chief Dietsch what house they took me to.” And here her narrative ended.

She said further, however, that previous to Wednesday she had received an anonymous letter threatening that she would be treated as Dr. Cronin had been. This she took to the Chief in Chicago, but he was not in and she did not leave it.  She was asked by telephone later if she was Ann Odelia Debar of New York, and she said: “No, sir; that is a gross mistake.” She is a fleshy woman, has fair skin, and short curly blonde hair that comes down on her forehead to her eyes.

It was nearly 9 o’clock tonite when a woman, from the sidewalk at Ninth and Elm streets, this city, hailed a cabman, got in his cab, and ordered him to drive to the St. Nicholas. She wore a black woolen dress, was in her stocking feet, and was without a hat. From her waist to above her shoulders her body was bare. She said her name was Vera and that she was from London England, and Chicago. The St. Nicholas, the Burnett, and the Gibson House all refused to receive her. In the cab at the Gibson the detective force took her case in hand, and removed her at once to the House of Detention. Examination there revealed the fact that she had no a cent of money and not a scrap of paper on her person, and that all her effects were her black dress and her stockings.

New York, Sept 11 – Special – Inspector Byrnes received a dispatch tonite from the Chicago Chief of Police asking for a description of Mme. Diss Debar. A complete description of the woman was sent on to Chicago from the records at police headquarters. Inspector Byrnes said that he had not heard anything about the “medium’s” whereabouts since she disappeared.


Miss Ava’s Identity Becomes a Subject of Dispute

Concerning Miss Vera P. Ava, who went into the Jesuit Church, ostensibly to pray, last Wednesday evening and has not been seen in her accustomed haunts since, there was more speculation yesterday as to who she was than as to where she was. A great many people came to the conclusion that the missing one was no other than the notorious Editha Lolita Ann Odelia Saloman Diss Debar, Baroness of Rosenthal and Countess of Landfeldt, spiritualist, escaped nun, burlesque artist, etc. The police settled down to this theory yesterday morning after an interview with Mrs. Bingham, a New York correspondent who called at police headquarters and said that the description of Miss Ava answered the appearance of Ann Odelia to the dot, blonde wig and all, and that her actions were those of a woman who created the huge scandal in New York in 1888 and followed it up with another one in Italy in 1890.

That the police and many other persons have accepted the theory that Diss Debar and Ava are one and the same person does not make it so, however. Ava and Diss Debar are both fleshy people, but the New York woman had the best of it in flesh by at least eighty pounds avoirdupois, according to all accounts.  She was of dark complexion. Wigs and cosmetics might have changed that in everything save the eyes. Diss Debar’s eyes were black, from all obtainable descriptions, and she was an older woman that those who knew the missing Ava say the latter appeared to be. Still there are many things in common between the Eastern spiritualist and the Chicago philanthropist besides their obesity.

 Nothing Learned by the Police

The Chicago police were unable to find any trace of Miss Ava yesterday.  They relied on reports given them, however, which go to show that Miss Ava did not leave the city on the night she disappeared at the Jesuit Church.  The first of these reports came from the Cottage Grove Avenue Police Station. Prof. Wakem, a professor at the Chicago Medical College attached to Mercy Hospital, informed Lieut. Ritchie that a woman answering the description of Miss Ava and an unknown woman called at the college Thursday morning and said they wanted to hear Prof. Pratt lecture. They were told that the lecturer was announced for the Chicago Homeopathic College, and went away. They did not appear at the latter c college. W. Saucies, the driver of cab No. 235, is the other man who thought he had seen Miss Ava Thursday. He said a woman answering her description engaged him to haul her from the Illinois Central depot to the North Side, where she dismissed him in the vicinity of Archbishop Feehan’s residence, towards which she started. The Archbishop said yesterday that Miss Ava had not called on him Thursday, but that she had visited him the day before, when she unfolded a great scheme for more of reformation in the slums.  She asked for no assistance and never referred to any business she had with the Catholic Church.

At her home, No. 348 West Monroe street, no tidings had been received of Miss Ava by the Mingays, who are still installed there. Mrs. H.W. Bolton, who accompanied her to the Jesuit church, had heard nothing of her, but she had been converted to the theory that her quandom friend was no other than the notorious Diss Debar. Mrs. Bolton recollected yesterday that Miss Ava had given some evidences of being a spiritualist.

“I called on her one day,” she said, “and she told me that while she was sleeping a cold, clammy hand had been drawn over her face, awakening her, and that she heard three raps on a table. At another time she pretended to me that a priest was visiting her and was in the back parlor. I heard two voices there, but Diss Debar was a ventriloquist and I Did not see anybody leave the house.”

Says Miss Ava Drank Whisky

When Mrs. Bolton and her daughter were shown newspaper pictures of Ann O’Delia in which she appeared a heavy brunette, she covered over the dark tresses and insisted that the features were those of Miss Ava.  Mrs. Bolton was also sure that Miss Ava used whisky. She detected it on her breath. Ann O’Delia was addicted to the use of Kentucky whisky. She born in Kentucky, and at one time all her troubles were attributed to the fact that she had changed from the Kentucky tipple to champagne.

Mrs. Bingham, the New York correspondent, and Maj. Bundy, editor of the Religio-Philosophical Journal, are among those who are firmly convinced that Diss Debar and Miss Ava are the same. Mrs. Bingham said: “I knew Diss Debar well in New York. She disappeared from there last April, after leaving a note at Taylor’s Hotel, Jersey City, that she was going to commit suicide.  She has not been seen there since. Her effects were sold at Taylor’s a few weeks ago to pay her hotel bill. In one of her trunks was found a nun’s garment, such as Miss Ava wore, and several rings. The conduct of the woman here is of the kind in which Diss Debar would engage.”

“It would take a great deal to convince me that Miss Ava was any other than Diss Debar,” said Maj. Bundy. “I followed the latter’s career so closely that I understand her fully. All of Miss Ava’s acts have been similar to those of Diss Debar.”

The strangest thing in connection with Miss Ava’s career in Chicago is the fact that all the persons who made her acquaintance are entirely ignorant of her history, and that no one ever learned the source from which she received the large supplies of money which she had at times.

A West Side minister called on the police yesterday to tell them that Miss Ava had refused to accept money to help her in the work of charity she was carrying on, and so far no one has turned up to show that she solicited any contributions, save Mr. Barnes, a boarding-house keeper on Monroe street. He tells a story that Miss Ava collected $40 for a distressed woman, but refused to turn the money over to her, saying that she would expend it herself for the woman’s benefit. Only one tradesman has turned up to mourn her departure. She purchased $12 worth of shoes from G.C. Pierce, No. 325 West Madison street, and is still owing for them. When she obtained the goods she was accompanied by Mrs. Bolton.  “I would like to see her now,” said Mrs. Bolton last evening, “and I’d find out who she is. I believe now that she expected never to come back when she left me in that carriage. She almost made me take an oath that if would find her if she did not return to me from the church.”


Supt. McClaughry Requests Miss Ava’s Release – What Mrs. Bolton Says

At 11:30 o’clock Sergt. Cudmore in charge of Chicago Central Police Station, received the following telegram from the Chief of the Cincinnati police force:

“R.W. McClaughry: WE have Miss Vera P. Ava, residing No. 348 Monroe street; has no baggage. Answer what to do with her.  Philip Dietsch

Sergt. Cudmore at once wired back the following:  “Philip Dietsch: Release Miss Vera P. Ava. We do not want her. R.W. McClaughry.

“The only effect of this Cincinnati telegram,” said Sergt. Cudmore last night, “is to satisfy our curiosity as to Miss Vera’s whereabouts. We have no charge against her and hence cannot order her arrest.”

When informed of the arrest in Cincinnati, Mrs. H.W. Bolton, who accompanied Miss Ava to the Church of the Holy Family, described the missing woman as follows:

“Under her left eye, to the left almost as far as the cheek bone, is a scar as large and about the shape of a three-cent piece. It is quite noticeable and looks as though it had been gouged out. The skin is not discolored, but the scar is a deep one. On the right cheek, and just below the line of the mouth, is a mole, in which is a considerable growth of hair. Her eyes are blue, with lashes light. Her hair is false. I know this because she displace her wig when removing her bonnet, at one time when we were together. She said that her weight was 202 pounds, but I think she weighed more. She wears a No. 5 shoe, but can wear a smaller one. She did not button the one on the left foot, as she was suffering from a sprained ankle. Her hands were large and stocky, the fingers heavy, and all of the same size. The hands were masculine and coarse looking. I saw a picture of Mme. Diss Debar and think Miss Ava could rig herself to look like her. If the woman is found I should like to have her held until I see her. If she is honest she will make no objection, and if not I have enough facts in my possession to warrant holding her, although I will not prosecute.”



Tuesday January 20, 2015


I find it funny that the thing that interested me most about this week’s article was something I read in doing follow up research about the Antigonish Fire Spook, and I will now refer to my abilities using C.I.N. MacLeod’s term “celtic feeling”. I am all for debunking, but Dr. Prince only seemed to address certain things; he did not explain the matches falling from the ceiling or the things that happened to Mr. Hubbell. I have no problem believing that a young teenage girl faked what was going on, but more substantial explanations of ALL goings on is needed in my opinion.

Fort Wayne Sentinel edition 04/05/1922


Live Ghosts

(by Frederic J Haskin)

NEW YORK CITY, March 29 – Are ghosts a nervous disease? Is it a kind of hysteria which causes young persons to torment their families with fire-raising, sleight-of-hand performances and surreptitious rapping and knocking, thus contriving to make it appear that a house is haunted.

In the recent Antigonish case, investigated by Dr. Walter F. Prince, of the New York Psychical Research society, the ghost turned out to be a subnormal girl, foster-daughter of the terrified McDonalds, given – according to Dr. Prince – to peculiar dream states. It seems possible, therefore, that other historic ghosts may be accounted for by similarly afflicted individuals.

The idea is not new. Long before Antigonish leaped into the limelight as the home of spiteful spooks, a British man of letters advanced the suggestion that a neurologist was the proper person to be set on the trail of an irritating ghost.

“In tracing the history of haunted houses,” says this gentleman, “I have been struck with the fact that in many instances the ghostly activities invariably center around a certain member of the family – usually a young woman. In these instances, the ghost’s atrocities are always the same. There is mysterious knocking at sudden intervals; household articles are moved or flung about, and fires break forth in unexpected places. I am convinced, however, that these wild disturbances are not always deliberately planned. There is a certain spontaneity about them which leads me to conclude that they are often involuntary like the peculiarities of chorea – in short, that they are symptoms of a nervous disease. At any rate, it is noticeable that they always cease when a certain member of the family is absent from the house.”

Another Nova Scotia Ghost

A celebrated instance of this kind is the great Amherst mystery, in which the ghost manifestations, which spread terror throughout Nova Scotia some 40 odd years ago, all centered around a young woman named Esther Cox. Like the Antigonish spook, the Amherst ghost or ghosts attracted widespread attention; made a convincing impression upon the credulous and finally a lot of money for an actor, Walter Hubbell, who had the sagacity to put them into popular book form.

The Teed family, which was victimized in this case, consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Teed, their children, Willie aged five years, and George, aged 17 months, as well as the wife’s two sisters Jennie and Esther Cox. They lived in a lonely farmhouse in Amherst under practically the same circumstances as the McDonalds in their farmhouse at Antigonish.

The first alleged supernatural disturbances occurred in the room of the two girls, Jennie and Esther, who slept together. They were just going to sleep one night, when Esther suddenly leaped out of bed, screaming that there was a mouse in the mattress. Upon investigation no mouse was found, but an innocent pasteboard box under the bed jumped into the air and fell over on its side.

After this, the ghost of ghosts started in on their campaign of petty frightfulness. When Ester was in bed, the bed clothes would fly off her and settle into a far corner of the room.  When they were replaced, the pillow under her head flew out and landed in the center of the floor. It also, was replaced, upon which, it again flew out, hitting Mr. Teed in the face. Whereupon, it is reported, Mr. Teed unscientifically left the room, declaring that “he had had enough of it.”

The next night the sound of scratching on the wall was heard for the first time. “All looked in the direction from whence the sound came,” say the reports “when to the family’s great astonishment there could be plainly read these words: “Esther Cox, you are mine to kill”. Everybody present could see the writing, but a moment before nothing was to be seen but the kalsomined wall.”

Now, articles began to be mysteriously moved about the house, sometimes violently and sometimes surreptitiously, according to the mood of the ghost. “All saw a lighted match fall from the ceiling to the bed,” continued the reports, “having come out of the air, which would certainly have set the bed clothing on fire, had not Jennie put it out instantly. During the next few minutes, eight or ten lighted matches fell on the bed and about the room out of the air, but were all extinguished before anything could be set on fire.

Spooks Start Blazes

“The fire-raising continued for several days. The family would smell smoke, and on running up into the bedroom, they would find a bundle of clothes places in the center of the floor blazing. Or they would descent to the cellar, and there find a pile of shavings alight and blazing merrily. They lived in constant danger of having the house burned over their heads.” It is interesting to note in this connection, however, that the ghostly incendiaries usually confided in Esther as soon as they started a fire, although sometimes they coyly withheld its exact location.

“Soon after this,” we are told, “things got so bad that Esther Cox had to leave home, and went to visit a friend. For four weeks there was peace. Then trouble began again. This time, knocks and raps were heard all over the house, and Esther now began to see the spooks.” There were two of them, it seems – Maggie, whose feminine personality was recognized by her timid and ingratiating raps, and Bob, who pounded out his communications with the huge fist, or possibly, it was thought, some kind of stone. Of some of the additional phenomena which occurred about this time, Mr. Hubbell, the actor, who visited the Teed home for the purpose of investigation, gives the following account:

“I had been seated (in the sitting room) about five minutes when to my great astonishment, my umbrella was thrown a distance of 16 feet, passing over my head in its strange flight, and almost at the same instant a large carving knife came whizzing through the air, passing over the head of Esther, who was just them coming out of the pantry with a large dish in both hands, and fell in front of her, near me – having come from behind her out of the pantry. I naturally went to the door and looked in, but no person was there.”

 Spirits Depart with Esther

Things come to such a pass at length that the landlord came and told the Teed family that either Esther would have to go, or they would have to leave the house. Esther was then dispatched to visit other friends. From this second time she left the Teed house, she was never more troubled with ghosts, but a few weeks after this date she was arrested for incendiarism in a barn and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment. Finally, she married, had a family, and that was the end of the Amherst mystery.

As in the Antigonish case, it was Dr. Walter Prince who turned the first brilliant rays of skepticism upon the Amherst spooks. In writing of their spiteful disturbances of Esther’s bedclothes and furniture, he says:

“Mr. and Mrs. Teed one night could see from their bed into Esther’s room by moonlight (how much moonlight, and how much of her room did it light?); they saw a chair slide up from the wall to her bed (would not a string looped around the chair leg have produced the same effect, and does not the direction the chair took suggest the string?); a pillow went out from under her head into the chair (would that effect have been beyond the power of the human hand to produce in the semi-darkness?); a ghost sat down in the chair and rubbed, pinched and scratched Esther under the bedclothes (but this is what Esther said); all the furniture except the bedstead was thrown out into the entry while Esther lay quietly in bed (how much and how large was the furniture? How much of Esther’s form could they see? Is it certain that it was Esther at all whom they saw on the bed, for rolls of clothing and artfully arranged cushions have been known to deceive in a poor light?); then another ghost rocked the bed (is it not probably that Esther was in bed now, at any rate?); at length Esther was brought to sleep in the same room with the others, whereupon the manifestations ceased (because of the better opportunities for observations?), except that once the lid of a trunk gave one parting slam (was the trunk conveniently near Esther’s mattress? Was the interval before the parting slam long enough to allow the Teeds to fall into that state, congenial to the night, wherein eyes watch not?).”

Thus, Dr. Prince’s critical study goes on until there is very little ghostly substance in “Maggie” and “Bob”. In the same coldly scientific way, he calls attention to the fact that the mysterious fires caused by the Antigonish ghost were never more than five feet from the ground – which is the height of the McDonald’s adopted daughter.  Clearly, the Englishman was right. It has taken a neurologist – for Dr. Prince specializes in nervous disorders, such as dual personalities, etc. – to trail these ghosts to their secret sources.


Tuesday January 13, 2015


din 04011906 crop1Well now,  I can hardly blame the subject of this week’s article for falling into this scam now can I? Why in the world shouldn’t she believe that she would be “Queen of the Angels” for the low low price of $1,190 (which is over 31k in today’s money)?  Surely that was a bargain? It seems a paltry price for a woman that was willing to spend over $2,000 (again, in today’s money) for her casket!!  I know one thing is for sure, I will no longer call my purple clothes “purple”. Hence forward they are all “heliotrope”.


Daily Industrial News (North Carolina) edition 04/01/1906



The Very Unusual Revelations Made in a Grand Rapids Court of Justice, Where Mrs. Bolman Is Now Seeking to Recover all the Costly Gowns and Jewels She Bought Because the “Spooks” Told Her.

WHAT Mrs. Esther M. Bolman, of Grand Rapids, Mich., describes as “peace offerings to the angels, who were to be waiting at the gates of heaven to crown her queen among them,” have been collected from her to the amount of $1,190, and, it is charged, placed in the custody of Mrs. Margarget Spencer, of the Hotel Majestic, of the same city.


Mrs. Spencer, who was to have been the terrestrial shipping clerk for all the jewels, laces, dresses, silk lingerie and robes purchased by Mrs. Bolman at the behest of the “spooks,” is now defending herself in an earthly court under the very human and sordid charge of larceny, and her former pupil in things thought by her to be preternatural is the prosecuting witness.


Mrs. Bolman charges the “spooks” with looting her of her worldly possessions, but as they could not be reached by subpoena and ordinary process of law, and Mrs. Spencer, their temporary custodian, having failed, so Mrs. Bolman asserts, to restore all of her property, she now faces an earthly tribunal to answer for what the ghosts extorted from Mrs. Bolman.


The ghosts overreached themselves, so Mrs. Bolman can never conclusively prove to herself or her friends that she would really have become “queen of the angels” had she really died on schedule time as carefully arranged for her.


There was a time quite recently when Mrs. Bolman was ready and even eager to die, and she forbade interference with the plans of the “spooks,” who, having served her from worldly goods, had promised to sever her from the earth and all things temporal.


But since a nurse has meddled and interfered with the “spooks” before they bore her from the earth, Mrs. Bolman now asserts that she never really did want to die but that Mrs. Spencer and the ghosts hypnotized her and that she had no voice in the plan, but was forced by an all-compelling influence to do whatever was ordered in the “little heaven” that Mrs. Spencer operated on the fourth floor of the Hotel Majestic, Nos. 13 and 15 West Bridge street, Grand Rapids.


The inventory of the “peace offerings” which Mrs. Spencer was to have shipped into the fatherland of the “spooks,” to be used by Mrs. Bolman when the coronation ceremonies were over, consists of diamond rings, diamond earrings, garnet necklaces, brooches and earrings, ruby rings, emerald and pearl set rings, gold-beaded necklaces, a gold watch and chain and an assortment of valuable jeweled stickpins. This, in all, amounted to $1,190, as there was a wallet containing all of $500 in cash. How the money was to be expended there the ghosts did not explain to Mrs. Bolman.


“Take the jewelry to Mrs. Spencer for safety,” was the ghostly order. “She will keep it for you until you are enthroned in heaven.”


But that was not all. The future “queen of the angels” had to buy her own coronation robes and the gowns she was to wear when presiding over the universe.


Four gowns of the softest and finest silk did Mrs. Bolman purchase in anticipation of her celestial enthronement. One was a deep, beautiful blue, “the blue of the clearest skies,” was the direction from beyond the veil in the “little heaven” on the top floor of the Hotel Majestic. Another was of grey – “n soft, silvery gray, with the sheen of the mists in its texture, a fleeting vapor of the gray of the early dawn.” A heliotrope gown was the third. This was to be her Easter robe. The fourth dress was of pure white silk – “the frosty breath of a Winter storm” – an emblem of the purity of the intended wearer.


It was with this white gown that the diamonds purchased by Mrs. Bolman and delivered into the hands of the “spooks” were to be worn. This white robe was that which Mrs. Bolman was told that she would wear every day when “reigning over the angels.”


Mrs. Bolman has done her part, even going to the very threshold of death, but the “spooks” have failed, owing to the nurse; hence the appeal to a human bar of justices for restitution of her property, rather than a glorious reign in heaven, scepter in hand, clad in her white silk dress and sparkling with diamonds dug from the sands of South African mines.


Said Mrs. Bolman, as he sat in her little back parlor at No. 124 Alpine avenue, Grand Rapids:

“We were to go floating out of that back door together and rise over the city within sight of all of the people, and the angel was to turn to me and hand me the wand of government, and I was to direct the destinies of the universe.”


All of this clad in the heliotrope silk gown – her Easter robe of state.


Mrs. Bolman Trusted the “Spooks”


Mrs. Bomman believed that this would all come to pass. That was a few weeks ago, and for that reason she charges Mrs. Spencer with influencing and controlling her. Until she awaited death in vain at the appointed hour she was an absolute believer in everything she heard in Mrs. Spencer’s “little heaven” on the top floor of the Hotel Majestic.


Mrs. Bolman, who is about fifty-six years of age, is the widow of a city official of Buffalo, N.Y. she removed to Grand Rapids five years ago upon her husband’s death, that she might live near to her sister, Mrs. George Elliott, of No. 114 Alpine avenue. Mrs. Bolman was then, and is today, despite the “spooks,” comfortably situated financially. She bought the Alpine avenue property, and besides this has a sufficient bank account.


Less than two years ago she met Mrs. Margaret Spencer, Mrs. Spencer had some reputation as a conjurer. She readily consented to entertain Mrs. Bolman in the “little heaven.”


There Mrs. Bolman says she heard voices – at first there were three. “One was my husband,” she testified at the trial, “though it didn’t sound like his voice. Another was my son, and another said he ws Frank Ogden.”


This was her interesting introduction into Mrs. Spencer’s “little heaven.” Soon the husband’s voice, Mrs. Bolman says, was heard no more. In its place, a deep, resounding, romantic voice, calling her at first “My dear madam,” and, as acquaintance ripened, “My child,” announced that he was her “guardian angel.” Then the “spook” or the “guardian angel” began to woo Mrs. Bolman’s pocketbook.


“You are my ideal of the purest and loveliest of women. I am going to take you p into heaven. You will reign over all the angels and the universe.”


din04011906crop2“Mrs. Spencer was always present in the “little heaven” with Mrs. Bolman, even while the tender, ghostly courting was in progress. These meetings grew to be very frequent, for it was “kind of enticing,” as Mrs. Bolman afterward confessed.


“My guardian angel came to me the oftenest,” she said. “It was always my guardian angel who told me to buy things and bring them to Mrs. Spencer. I always did it, too. My! Oh, how foolish I was then!”


After the “guardian angel,” “spook,” voice or what not, had told Mrs. Bolman that he was going to take her up into heaven with him, he pressed her to buy more and more jewels and clothing.


Then the “spook” admirer told Mrs. Bolman that she was going to die. She must prepare her celestial trousseau! She had her picture taken with some of her “spook” friends.


“You must not tell any one that you are going to die,” he said. “You must not have any men about your house while you are sick, nor must you do anything that might lead them to cut your body up. The eternal purity must be preserved.”


“Your death is near,” said her unseen wooer, in his deep, thrilling voice a day or so later as Mrs. Bolman sat in “little heaven,” with Mrs. Spencer across the table from her, the room in absolute darkness the while.


“Prepare to meet me. Purchase thee a coffin or burial casket, and order thine attendant to dress thy body in thy Easter robe of state.”


In a flutter of delightful expectancy, Mrs. Bolman promised her voice-angel that she would prepare for her summons.


She was directed by her “guardian angel” to buy five ounces of morphia, which proves how little the “spook” really knew of the laws of the State of Michigan, for Mrs. Bolman was refused that amount of the drug wherever she went.


“Try to get forty grains then,” said the resounding voice, the next day when she told him of her failure to comply with his demand. This she did and was successful.


“Mortgage your property and bring the money here. It will await you when you need it in the future,” was another behest.


Purchased a “Lovely” Coffin


With $80 Mrs. Bolman purchased a coffin, covered with heliotrope colored cloth, of C.L. Chambers.


“It was lovely. It pleased me very much,” she said.


Mrs. Bolman said she was to die at 10:30 the morning after she had purchased her coffin. She summoned Mrs. Celestia Bangle, of Pine street, to nurse her to the end.


Mrs. Bolman then prepared for death and to bid all adieu before assuming sovereign in Heaven.


“My guardian angel told me to write this letter to my sister, Mrs. Elliott,” said Mrs. Bolman.


“My dear sister: I am going to my Heavenly Salvation. There is nobody to blame for this. It is my last request that my body lie just as it is;’ nobody will open it. My last wish, my dear sister, do as I say. I want my body cremated. My sufferings were so great. All through now. I am going to my Everlasting Home.”


The next day she failed to die, as Nurse Bangle called Dr. L.E. Chappell in and he spoiled all the plans of the “spooks.”


Mrs. Bangle stayed with Mrs. Bolman at the physician’s request, and a day or so later, repaired with her convalescing patient to Mrs. Spencer’s “little heaven,” where the ghosts told the nurse that Mrs. Bolman was to surely die.


Straightway to George Elliott, Mrs. Bolman’s brother-in-law, id Nurse Bangle go and then, for the second time, did the “spooks” receive a material backset in their little jest. The nurse and her patient paid Mrs. Spencer one more visit and every article, every dollar, every cent, every garment of her terrestrial trousseau and its accessories did Mrs. Bolman demand from the custodian for the “spooks.”


After some delay and parley, Mrs. Spencer, finding that Mrs. Bolman absolutely refused to occupy the splendid heliotrope gown and coffin or to be wafted over Grand Rapids in the arms of the guardian angel, promised to restore all of the jewels, clothing and the most of the money on deposit which awaited celestial draft, but not before legal prosecution had been instituted by George Elliott in behalf of his sister-in-law.


Tuesday January 6, 2015



Welcome to 2015!!  While it is true that this weeks article kept me hungry the entire time for cookies, it also educated me.  I have always heard of Guy Fawkes but I never really knew a whole lot about him, especially how long ago the events of his life took place. Wouldn’t you love to know if the spooks are still about?  The photo accompanying the article really does not show just how big Ashby St. Ledgers really is.  (and just fyi, its the author of the article that kept misspelling it!


Chicago Tribune edition 04/25/1907
From Ashby St Legers?
DID the ghosts of the gunpowder plotters, the wraith of Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators who died in the effort to blow the house of commons up and end the persecution of Catholics by James L., drive Mrs. Marshal Field Jr. and her family out of their English home?
The Fields have fled from the old manor house that once belonged to Sir Robert Catesby, who led the famous plot, and sought safety from spooks, and the ghosts of the grim old conspirators who, it is said, still gather in the “Gunpowder Room” over the archway and plan how they will blow their king and their parliament to pieces. From all this the Fields have fled, but will not say why. Their neighbors however, declared that the ghosts frightened them away.
ct04281907crop2Mrs. Field and her family have been in England and in order that the boys, Marshall Field III and Henry Field might be educated in the English manner, she leased Ashby St. Leger – one of the most famous country homes in all of the world.
The boys were in Rugby, but later Marshal Field III, the richest boy in the world, disliking Rugby, was transferred to Eton, the first and greatest of the English schools.
To be nearer him than when she remained at the Hotel West in London, the mother decided to take a country home.
The wonderful beauty of old Ashby St. Leger attracted her. The lichen and ivy covered walls, the quaint leaded windows, the half ruined gate house, through which the plotters fled when they learned that Fawkes had failed, the room in which the Jesuit priest bound the five plotters to secrecy by dreadful oaths, the air of mystery and the quaintness of it all perhaps influenced her in her choice.
Ghost Story in Every Stone
Besides, at Ashby St. Leger she could be near her boy – for Eton is but a short distance away and can be reached almost in an hour either by train or auto. So the young widow, wearing deep mourning, became mistress in the wonderful old country house over which Richard Catesby presided when he hatched the diabolical plot which he hoped would end oppression for his people.
The thick walls contain a ghost story for almost every stone, but, at the first, Mrs. Field laughed at the tales of ghostly visitants. She was attracted to the place by the air of mystery and ancientness and perhaps the ghost stories themselves added a tinge of interest to the old place.
She could sit in the window over the garden and look out towards London along the road over which the messenger bore the tidings to the plotters that Fawkes had failed and that they were doomed. Perhaps she could see visions of the grim, tall Jesuit priest, holding aloft a crucifix upon which five determined zealots swore themselves to secrecy and to the carrying out of the great gunpowder plot.
Possibly, by closing her eyes, she could imagine the gaunt, stern eyed, doubleted soldier of fortune, the man who fought in Flanders and in Spain, and who, born a Protestant, turned Catholic and stood ready to die if only he could destroy the lives of his king and the parliament, standing there calmly swearing vengeance.
Field Boys at English School
For these are the stories that hang around Ashby St. Leger. But in them Mrs. Field had but little interest. Her interest was in the education of her oldest son – the richest boy in the world – and his brother, and the health of her little daughter.
Mrs. Field has decided on the training of her children. It is said that it was the great merchant’s wish that they be educated as if they were children without great wealth. It was the plan of Marshal Field to have his grandchildren protected from the blighting influences of millions, and to remove them from the dangers that beset them it was planned that they should be educated in the schools of England, where rich and poor are equal, where a lord is regarded only as one student, and where millions will not prevent a boy from getting his head punched if he fails to “go straight and tote fair.”
First the boys, only little kidlings despite the weight of perhaps $200,000,000 that is upon them, were placed in school at Rugby, but for some reason Marshall Field III did not like Rugby. Besides he had measles and all sorts of troubles.
It is almost an unheard of thing for any boy to be transferred from Rugby to Eton – but it was done for the Field boys, and they went there among new fellows and donned the plug and the ridiculous short coats – and became “men”.
Care Nothing for Their Millions
No more manly little fellows ever entered Eton. They were just common boys, for Marshal Field III is rejoicing over new found health after being sickly all his life, and with their own motor cars and trained chauffeurs they made a hit among the English ladies of their own age.
They took their “bumps” without welching, and put on no airs than if they were sons of some land poor squire or small salaried curate.
“Huh!” said the richest boy in the world when one curious English boy asked him what he was going to do when he received his millions. “I don’t want them. I’d rather not have them.
“Mamma can have them – if she cares for them. But I suppose if grandfather wanted me to take the money I will have to do it. I’m going back to the United States and go to college.”
But, after a time, grip attacked Marshall Field III., and, with that and the measles, Mrs. Field had troubles enough and worries enough without thinking of the grisly old ghosts around Ashby St. Leger. As her boy recovered she laughed at the tales and even pointed out the favorite haunts of the ghosts to her visitors. There were plenty of ghosts there according to the stories of the people in the neighborhood and the servants.
At night, in the great smoke darkened, low beamed kitchens the servants told the story of how, on different nights, the ghosts of the conspirators gather in the “gunpowder room” over the garden entrance just as they did during the years 1605 and 1606.
Sometimes, they vow, the voice of old Sir Robert Catesby, gentleman and churchman, can be heard cursing King James for his persecutions, his heavy levies of taxes and penalties upon Catholics. Sometimes, it is said, the screams of the tortured ones can be heard in the great banqueting hall, and the laughs of soldiers who are striving to force them to reveal the hiding place of the Catesby jewels.
Then, on dark and rainy nights, it is said, the spooks gather in the big room above the entry. There is the ghost of Robert Catesby, stern, unbending, pleading with young Thomas Winter to join him in ridding the country of the king whose heavy hand was upon them. The replies of Winter, horror stricken at the thought, can be heard.
Later Thomas Percy and his brother-in-law, John Wright, join the party, and last comes the gloomy, commanding, fanatical figure of Guy Fawkes.
Servants claim that, on certain dark, moonless nights, they can hear the voice of Father Gerard, the missionary, administering the oath, and the deep, guttural responses of the five men – pledging themselves to blow the government of England to the four winds and arouse all Roman Catholics to action against the oppressors.
Spook Horseman Beat Upon the Gates
On other nights, especially drying the early part of November, when the cold winds blow and the rains beat against the castle walls, they claim that they can hear the sound of horsemen, riding rapidly, come towards Ashby St. Ledger and that the conspirators, flushed with triumph, who have ridden the seventy-eight miles from London, through the rain, beat upon the worn timbers of the gate house.
Again, the servants whisper to each other, a lone rider comes as he came in the midnight of Nov. 5, bearing the tidings that Fawkes has failed.
After that it is torture, screams of agony, preparations for hurried flight.
The screams of the servants who died because their master plotted, the fall of bodies, the clank of chains, the cries of agony resound through the house – and all is silence again.
At first these tales merely amused Mrs. Field, but in time, the servants say, the stories of ghostly visitants got on her nerves.
Whether she saw or heard any of the strange things the servants claim to hear and see is not known, but recently she packed up suddenly and fled with her family to the Isle of Wight – leaving Ashby St. Leger to the caretakers and the ghosts of the plotters.



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