Tuesday March 31, 2015
This week’s article from 1894 goes in the “one of my favorites” file. Not only does it teach us that whistling denotes a coward, it has participants attempting to shoot spooks with guns AND copious amounts of rye and malt!!
Lebanon Daily News edition 03/28/1894
OLD TIME RECOLLECTIONS
How a Graveyard Spook Frightened the Natives
SPOOKS WITH FLESH AND BLOOD
That Were Run Down by a Large Crowd of People – A Place Where Body Snatchers Reveled – Exciting Incidents Recorded by One Who Was There at the Time
In olden times, the Graveyard “Spooks” were the most dreaded of any others. People avoided a graveyard at night with a determination that was astonishing, and would go squares out of their nearest roads just not to pass the dreaded place. “Whistling, when passing a graveyard,” became a common expression, and the person who undertook the feat of “whistling” in the vicinity of a graveyard was set down as the greatest coward in the community, because all inferred that he whistled from fear and to keep his courage up. Many fearful stories were told of spooks, witches and devils seen in graveyards, but they were never verified by reputable people, although there was still a lingering belief that the stories were true, because all believed, more or less, in “Spooks”.
There were quite a number of graveyards in and around town in those days – notably Salem’s at Eighth and Willow; the Catholic, Eighth, between Cumberland and Willow; the Reformed, on Tenth and Walnut, and more particularly, “Potters’ Field” was especially dreaded, because only such persons as suicides and paupers were buried there. It was regarded as a lair – perhaps free, field for “body-snatchers,” and, it is probably, that no bodies remained there any length of time after interment.
On one occasion, the body of a suicide, who had friends, was interred there, and it was determined, by his friends, to watch and prevent the stealing of the body. A dozen or more, of “Dutch courage,” hid in an old stable on the opposite side of the railroad, (then called Scull street,) prepared with shotguns, to give a warm reception to the night prowlers. They were also provided with a sufficient quantity of rye and elixir of malt, so as not to be frightened at every puff of wind that whistled through the neighboring trees. They enjoyed themselves until near morning, but nothing transpired to break the dull monotony of the night – so they went to sleep, one after the other, on the soft bay and straw. About 3 o’clock, however, the alarm was given that the body snatchers were about. A scramble was made for the guns, and an immediate fusillade was diverted over Potters’ field – then the brave watchers ran for their lives in opposing directions – some even deserting their guns in the barn. Until daylight came the excitement was intense, and, at dawn all the early risers of town, principally butchers, and the solitary town watchman, gathered at Ninth street and the railroad, prepared to proceed to the Potter’s field and gather up the dead and dying bodysnatchers, who had been shot by the armed watchers.
They marched down Scull street with a vast amount of trepidation in their breasts. When half way down, between Ninth street and Potter’s field, the leader of the party suggested that it might be well to have the coroner on the ground; that he would go and fetch him. Another insisted that the Chief Burgess should also be present, and he volunteered to him. Others allowed that guards should be placed around the neighborhood – that they would be the guards. By the time these preliminaries were arranged the sun had risen pretty high, and then by broad day light Potter’s field was finally invested by a crowd of men, women and children, comprising half of the town.
The reached Potter’s field – but, lo and behold, no dead or wounded people were lying about – and worse, or better still, the grave of the suicide had not been touched, nor were there any indications that any person had been around during the night. There was a full amount of swearing and explanations on the part of the brave watchers; but, it nevertheless happened, that the body was safely carried away within a week, by witchcraft – but by whom was suspected but never definitely known by the public.
The above is no “Spook” story, however. What I want to get at is an actual “Spook” that recreated in the graveyard of Salem’s church, Eighth and Willow streets, sixty years ago.
THE GRAVEYARD SPOOK
There were not as many buildings on Willow street, between Eighth and Ninth, sixty years ago as there are now. Hence, it was a good place for the boys of the town to recreate there, playing ball, hunting-horn, hide and seek, and what not. One fine autumn evening, the moon shining at its full, scores of boys were playing on the street and hiding in alleys, when, suddenly, the alarm was raised that a “spook” was sitting on a grave in the middle of the graveyard. Of course the neighborhood was suddenly cleared of boys. An investigation of the matter elicited from a number of the boys that while hiding in Doe alley, they peeped through the fence and saw a woman in white sitting on a grave in the middle of the graveyard. Without much ado or further investigation they struck for home followed by the crowd. The excitement was intense, and the exaggerations of every imaginable kind. Some men hearing the excitement, determined on investigation. They carefully approached the graveyard, and soon made the discovery that the place was devoid of apparitions of any kind. The boys insisted, however that they had seen “something,” but they were laughed out of their fears, and told that their report was a parcel of “lies.” They knew better, but in a day or two forgot all about the “spook”.
In about a week, by the light of the waning moon the scare of the week before was repeated. This time those who had seen the “spook” would not be laughed out of it, but insisted that they had plainly seen, whatever it was, dressed in white from head to foot, sitting on a grave. They did not this time immediately take to their heels, but with hairs standing on end and hearts beating they watched to see what was to be seen. The object in white appeared to be without a head, and was shifting around from one grave to another when not sitting. Suddenly, like a flash, it disappeared, apparently into the ground. This was too much, and, with a howl, they took to their heels for dear life. Their report of a repetition of the antics of the “spook” convinced older beads that there must be some truth in the story of the boys and a watch was secretly organized. The Emoich property adjoining was well garrisons, so were other properties around the graveyard. Nothing transpired for about two weeks, when one dark night the alarm of “spook” was again given by the playing boys. The guard quickly closed in on the graveyard. The spook felt itself in danger of capture. Without divesting itself of its white clothes it made a break for the fence opposite Gates’ blacksmith shop, only there to find itself confronted by a score of men and boys. It jumped the fence, scattering the crowd right and left. It ran to “Cassidy’s corner,” followed by a hooting and yelling crowd.
It kept on down Ninth street to the old Lebanon Bank watchbox, where the crowd coming to too close quarters and too demonstrative, it turned, made for the yelling mob, scattering all right and left. Then it turned, picked up the skirts of its white dress, ran to the alley and up the alley with the fleetness of a deer – the crowd in brave pursuit, just before it reached Eighth street, opposite the old jail, it ‘ROSE INTO THE AIR AND DISAPPEARED” – as many were willing to make affidavit. The truth was, the “spook” jumped the fence and disappeared in that way.
It was then ascertained that a family named Spayd, living in the building at Eighth and Cumberland, had a negro wench in service, who took her mistress’ white dress, made a bundle of it, went to the graveyard, then covered herself with it and moved around on the graves. When the spook racket had been performed, she divested herself of the dress again, and, being black and dressed in black, seemed to have disappeared. Why she did it she wouldn’t tell, except she wanted a “little fun” As may be imagined the excitement was great, a regular “nine days wonder” in those primitive, superstition days. Some of my old friends, if they will task their memories, will remember the above incidents and the excitement they produced.
Tuesday March 24, 2015
I really really liked a phrase used in this week’s article where it was stated that the reason for the divorce was “by reason of the wireless direction from Spiritland”. That sounds so modern! I’d like for you to keep in mind the following information when you read about Ms. Walska
Ganna Walska was married six times:
Russian baron, Arcadie d’Eingorn, a Russian officer killed early in World War I. They married in 1904 but the marriage was dissolved two years later. The baron died of TB in 1915.
Dr. Joseph Fraenkel, a New York endocrinologist. They were married in 1916, and he died in April 1920.
Multimillionaire sportsman and carpet tycoon Alexander Smith Cochran. They married in September 1920, and they divorced in 1922. He died in 1929.
Industrialist Harold Fowler McCormick. They married August 11, 1922 at the City Hall in Passy in Paris. They divorced in 1931. He died in 1941.
English inventor of a death ray, Harry Grindell Matthews. They married in 1938 and he died in 1941.
Theos Bernard, her sixth and last husband. He was a scholar of yoga and Tibetan Buddhism and book-author. They married in 1942 and they divorced 1946. He died in 1947.
Fort Wayne Gazette edition 11/06/1921
The Ghost Who Changed His Mind
“Marry Mr. Cochran!” the Spirit of Mme. Walska’s Late Husband Commanded, and She Did; But Now, She Declares, the Phantom is Urging a Divorce
The ghost of Dr. Joseph Frankel changed its mind, and the spirit-led marital voyage of Alexander Smith Cochran, richest American bachelor before his marriage to the beautiful Ganna Walska, is about to end on the rocks by reason of the wireless direction from Spiritland, countermanding the original order upon which the romance was founded.
Mme. Walska – or Mrs. Cochran – is now in Paris, discussing the means of getting a divorce, while her mature husband, unable to comprehend the situation, stands ready to spend a fortune to retain the remarkable woman who would put him aside at the behest of the ghost of her former husband.
Walska is a ravishing Polish beauty, famed as an opera singer. Her first husband, Baron d’Eingorne, was killed on the field of battle. She then married Dr. Joseph Frankel, of New York, who died April 24, 1920.
Dr. Frankel was a noted psychologist. His life study dealt with the mind and its peculiar power and ramifications. During the short period of their married life the artistic woman undoubtedly absorbed much of the mystic side of what was a very material thing to the doctor. Her childhood had been passed in a land where the mysterious has the fullest sway, and the ancient traditions of the land are filled with remarkable instances of the occult and the supernatural.
So hers was an impressionable mind upon which the experiments of the doctor-husband in the alchemy of the brain must needs have made a marked imprint. She learned many of the basic elements of the science, and there was small surprise when, after a period of mourning had passed, she emerged from the spirit conversation with the ghost of the doctor, carrying the message that she must marry Alexander Smith Cochran.
One must recall that elemental psychology lays down the principle that mind is the sum total of immediate experience that mind is the sum total of immediate experience. It takes account only in the science, of what has happened up to the date of the accounting, and the ghost of the great psychologist found that time that Mr. Cochran had the elements required for successful matrimony.
The Richest Bachelor Succumbs
The marriage took place. Cochran had been considered the one bachelor in all of America proof against the shafts of Cupid. Do designing mama had ever penetrated his innermost soul with the same accuracy as that developed by the ghost matchmaker.
But there is a branch of psychology utterly distinct from that which deals with the mind. It is known as behavioristic psychology, and it takes its reasoning from the shades of conduct of the subject, and likens animal life to the falling of a ball, which may be in one position now, and present a different speed, position and aspect at another time.
And the ghost of the second husband, taking the later view of the marriage after watching the degree of happiness developed by the union, has now come to the front with an absolute change of mind concerning the advisability of the whole affair, and has, according to Mme. Walska-Cochran, directed her to remedy the condition by procuring a divorce.
Science Explains the Ghost
Scientifically, the change of view on the part of the eminent ghost is to be classed under the head of perception, which is made up of groups of images and sensations, and in studying the question, the eminent men of mystic lore call attention to one of the elementary principles of the science as a possible explanation of the weird reason behind the present attempt of the beautiful woman to leave her millionaire spouse.
“Perceptions that are often repeated,” say the authorities, “tend to decay and become skeletons of their original form.”
Did Walska’s sensations and images as conveyed to her by the ghost in the days when the marriage was advised become so often repeated that they followed the well-known line of psychological science?
Did the dream images of the perfect marriage become only a series of mere skeletons by reason of frequent repetition?
It is the logical course of such things, and there are two strong explanations of the present attitude of the beauty of Poland toward her adoring husband:
First – That the transmitted image or idea that prompted the marriage underwent change by being constantly repeated.
Second – That the ghost took stock of the behavioristic factor subsequent to the match and reached the conclusion that the first advice was bad, leading to the correction of the spirit direction by means of a second dream.
Walska insists that she has frequently “talked” with the late Dr. Frankel. Her “talks” come in the form of seeing realistic images in dreams, and of hearing words that might be followed as a stenographer follows the dictation of a business man. In fact, the sense of the second form of communication is illustrated by her with that very simile.
The words that came to her from the departed husband are described as “echoes” of words – the very sort of an echo that the stenographer registers when her flying pencil puts on paper the sound of what started from the lips of the boss as a spoken word.
One has only to try the experiment to get the meaning of the singer. Write rapidly from dictations, and try to recall what you have registered – a series of words, or the echoes of words.
So much for the science of the strange case. For pure fact one has the sudden recent appearance of the stage beauty at Paris. She was in conference at one of the leading Paris hotels with a lawyer, and the object of the conference was admittedly the means of procuring a divorce. By some coincidence, she was at the French capital at the same time that Harold F. McCormick, Chicago millionaire and chief backer of the Chicago Opera company, made his advent. They were together upon a number of occasions while the divorce was being discussed.
The preparations for the divorce fight went ahead at an astonishing pace. There is as yet the greatest secrecy as to the place at which the suit is to be filed, and the grounds upon which it will be sought. Dudley Field Malone, a leading lawyer of New York, who came to the front during the administration of President Wilson as a light that was fated to shine in politics until a difference over the suffrage question estranged the former President and his lieutenant, was summoned to Paris.
He went over the ground with Walska and hastened back to New York with the plans for her court campaign in formative stage.
By marriage, under the American law, the singer is a citizen of New York. She still has the prior claim to residence in Paris, with the ownership of a home in the French capital to stand behind the claim. In New York but one ground exists for divorce, and an act of infidelity must be shown in that state to make divorce possible.
In France there are several grounds, the simple one of incompatibility being favored in many notable cases.
It is pointed out that in countries where the Napoleonic law is operative, the rights of persons having any sort of claim to citizenship are carefully guarded, especially where property is at stake, and the gossips inclined to the Paris field of probable action as offering the easiest and best way for Walska.
Cochran’s preparations for a contest have been just as rapidly pursued as have the plans of his wife. He has retained Samuel Untermyer, who happened to be taking a vacation in Europe, to represent him, and has fully acquainted him with the facts upon which the fight must be waged.
Persons close to Cochran insist that it is chiefly a question of property interest that absorbs the attention of the millionaire and his counsel. Literally, millions are a stake in the proceedings, and the proprietor of the millions seeks to guard them from a possible cloud resulting from the judgement of a French court.
All Paris knows that Chochran and his wife have not lived together since last spring, when Cochran left his home in the rue de Lubeck, which is one of the most elegantly appointed homes in all of the French capital, and went to Scotland for a tour. When he departed it was reported that they had reached the end of their marital journey.
Walska had been engaged for the Chicago Opera, but she left the company on the eve of the announcement that she would have a leading role, and it became known that she had closed her engagement after a violent quarrel with the beautiful and temperamental Mary Garden, who had come to the management of the company in the dual role of singer and director – all under the patronage of McCormick as chief financial sponsor.
And it was to McCormick, in far Paris, that the singer has now admitted that she is “tied for life to a living ghost.”
This ghost found a most peculiar mark in Alexander Smith Chochran when he was selected as the husband of the pretty woman. Cochran was graduated from Yale in 1896. He had reached the age of 45 with the proud boast that he could thank his lucky stars that he was still a bachelor.
The vast carpet manufacturing business at Yonkers had fallen to him by inheritance and his wealth was counted at more than $100,000,000. He was known as a modest and retiring man, with none of the apparent vices and habits of the rich set. What surplus energy he possessed was working off in sport, in which field he was one of the best known patrons and to which he was a devotee of no mean ability.
His fortune was always at the command of the amateur sportsman, and he could mount a pony in his own proper person and play well that most exacting of all exciting games – pony polo.
Tuesday March 17, 2015
“The decline and fall of the spook” has a great ring to it, doesn’t it? I think it would have been a fantastic silent movie “Confusional Insanity” will be the title of my autobiography. This week’s article is just full of fantastic catch phrases.
Chicago Tribune edition 01/22/1905
What Has Become of the Ghosts
GHOSTS are no longer fashionable. The spook of our fathers is out of date. No longer is the “ghastly, shivery thing in white” allowed to entre into our best circles. The ghost as a popular institution in the world of affairs is a back number.
Where a few years ago spiritual apparitions of all kinds were seen and noted extensively among all classes and manners of people, the rich and the poor, the ignorant and the learned, now nearly all doors are closed to them, and it is only with the Society of Psychical Research that they are received with open arms. Here, because it is a matter of faith with the psychists to believe in and enthuse over the supernatural, ghosts, or “spiritual apparitions,” are still seen. But even here ghosts are not allowed to go with the name which once brought thrills and tremors to one’s ears, but are recorded as real, although immaterial, actualities. So it can be safely said that ghosts, the old, reliable brand of ghosts, are completely out of style.
The decline and fall of the spook has not been what might be termed rapid. For long years, in fact, since the writings and signs of men reach back, the apparition has had a place in the world, and yet not of the world. There is the writing on the wall, of centuries ago, and the spiritualists of the day might have all the wall writing they cared for; Caesar came to speak to Brutus on the eve of Philippi; and it is at the present writing possible to secure an interview with the departed for the low sum of $1. But these are not ghosts, these affairs of a modern day. They are simply manifestations, and it is seldom now one hears of a ghost or meets with any one who is strongly interested in them. And once the person who had not seen at least one good, decent sized ghost was decidedly de trop.
Belief in Occult Growing
The decrease in the number of ghosts seen and recorded does not mean there has been any decrease in the number of people who are ready, and even anxious, to believe they see a ghost when the occasion offers, said Dr. J. G. Kiernan, in speaking of the decreasing number of ghost stories. “On the contrary, there may be said to be an actual increase in the number of persons who are willing to give credence to the supernatural and occult. Where a few years ago any one who thought they saw what they were pleased to term a ghost went forthwith and labeled it as such, now these things are all made regular matters of record and observation by the Society of Psychical Research. This society is a large one. Its branches may be found in every English speaking country in the world, and here in our United States there are approximately 2,000,000 people who belong to it or who believe in its teachings. The tendency of the day to systematize everything is shown by the manner in which even the ghosts are being systematized into sects.
“The psychists are constantly adding to their number. That is possibly the reason why so few ghost stories are told nowadays. Instead of relating his or her spiritual experiences, the person who has seen an ‘apparition’ now goes to a psychical meeting and there relates and discusses ‘experiences’. The reason for an increase in the number of persons with these beliefs may be laid originally to the natural inclination of many towards the occult, the supernatural. The belief in ghosts is only a survival of the ancient savage belief that every thing possessed a soul. This belief was firmly rooted in primitive man and apparently there are many persons who are still primitive in this respect.
Hysterical Easily Deluded by Sensory Hypnotism
With this belief firmly implanted, and with the young person’s education from the beginning tending to instruct only in facts, without logic it is not strange the belief in the spiritual is so prevalent. However, it will be generally found that the person who is so inclined is of the extremely nervous, hysterical type. To this class of person sensory hypnotism converting the subjective impression of that which seems to exist into a seeming perception of that which is, is easy.
“Ghost as the term is generally used, are invariably the result directly of the fallacy of the perception. Few persons are gifted with the proper faculties of perception and observation. They cannot see things which are to be seen and can see many things which seem to, but do not exist.
“with this equipment of fallacious perception and with a real desire and anxiety to have a spiritual ‘experience’ it is quite possible for the psychists to see what they want to see, to make the impossible visible, to themselves at least, and so go through life firmly convinced they have seen apparitions. They might be said to force themselves to see ghosts. The percentage of people who have a yearning for that which they cannot understand is surprisingly large.
Supernatural Explanation Only a Theory
“Then of course there is the ghost which is of this earth, generally some young fool with a sheet over his or her head, which is sometimes seen, scaring some one nearly to death. Of this class there are ghosts without number. So many of them have been caught and exposed by the people whom they sought to deceive it would seem the sensible, material view of all such apparitions should be accepted even by the most hysterical. The material hypotheses is obvious in all these cases. Any satisfactory explanation must be such as to eliminate all possible of any other hypothesis. The haunted house is one form which these ‘material’ apparitions take, and nine out of ten haunted houses are found to be haunted because of thieves or other depredators, and the cause of the other one is generally some on with a penchant for scaring others.
“There was, not many years ago, a haunted house in this city. The owner was away, and in his absence the house was empty. Soon after his departure the residence the residence began to bear all the earmarks of the regulation haunted house. Strange, uncanny lights were seen at the windows, moaning noises were heard frequently, and even ghostly figures were said to appear. The reputation of the house grew to be such that no one could be found to occupy it, and it fell into the disuse common to all houses that own to a ‘haunt’. No one cared to investigate the causes until the owner returned. Then it was found that the house was just as it had been left, except that the lead pipe and other plumbing fixtures had been removed. It was quite simple to connect the ‘spirits’ with their disappearance.
Belief in Supernatural Makes Easy Victim
“The most typical instance of the ghost whose mission on earth was to frighten that ever came under by observation occurred several years ago. A young countryman came to Chicago to work who was full of a fear of the hereafter, and who had a profound belief in all things supernatural. His belief took the form of active fear and constant expectation of the extraordinary happening. In addition to this, he heard much of the dangers of the city, and to protect himself carried a large revolver. Under these circumstances it was extremely easy to play the conventional ghost trick on him.
“Several of the young people with whom he lived conspired to give him a treat of the spiritual. They carefully removed the cartridges from his revolver while he slept at night and loaded the weapon with blank cartridges. Once of the young men, attired in a sheet and other ghostly paraphernalia, then went to the sleeper’s bed. The young man was awakened with the aid of some ghostly music and upon opening his eyes was treated to the sight of a terrible specter standing at the foot of his bed, waving his arms in the most orthodox ghost manner.
“terror stricken, he reached for his revolver and fired, once, twice, and three times, right through the figure before him, and the figure never evidenced that it noticed. Rising in his bed, the man hurried his weapon straight at his tormentor. A long, bony hand reached out from the folds of the sheet, caught the revolver, and waved it threateningly above its head. That was too much for the young man. He fainted, and for three months was the victim of confusional insanity, such as often appears under similar circumstances, but in the end he made a good recovery.
“And so, through the long list of famous specters of all ages. They all have been, or might have been, explained from the material standpoint. As Wilkes of London said, When the extraordinary occurs the only satisfactory hypothesis is the one which precludes all possibility of any other hypotheses.”
Visual Apparitions Well Authenticated
But in spite of the array of common sense Dr. Kiernan brings to show the fallacy of all ghost belief there are many people far above the average in thought and logic who have a decided leaning toward the spiritual. Mr. Andrew Lang, the English writer, in a resume of his book, “Hours with Ghosts,” says: I have been asked the question time and again by people whose position entitles them to be answered, “Do You believe in ghosts?’ To this I will say the popular definitions of the term ‘ghost’ are so numerous that to reply in a general manner would be unsatisfactory. But, assuming that ‘ghost’ is taken to mean a visual apparition, then it must be said that the evidences of sensory delusions resulting in well defined hallucinations are too numerous and too well attested to be ignored. If these apparitions are caused by a physical effect produced by the minds of the dead then they are distinctly supernatural.
“This hypothesis is firmly supported by the frequency with which these occurrences take place in rooms and houses where deaths have occurred, especially tragic deaths, prompting the assumption that the sensory delusions result from the ambiguity of the stimuli.” Mr. Lang says in a sort of defense explanation of 400 pages of “experiences”:
“These experiences cover a space of several hundred years and range from the wonderful to the ridiculous, the inexplicable to the simple tricks of a fool. Ben Johnson once upon a time went to investigate a ghost which had made a part of England famous. He found it to be a young girl who was venting her hysterical disposition in appearing nightly in a sheet. Lord Brougham while on a visit to Sweden saw an apparition which was never satisfactorily explained. Later Lord Lytton had dreams that resulted in the appearance of ghostly figures.
Mark Twain’s Visitor a Mystery
“Of comparatively recent days Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling have been among the notables to have spiritual experiences. No one could with any degree of success accuse the humorous Mark with having any suspicion of being a delver into occultism, and yet Mark saw a real ghost. Said ghost was seen one afternoon boldly walking up the front steps of Twain’s residence. He entered according to mark, as if he were accustomed to entering there. Twain followed as swiftly as he could. At the doorway his reliable butler met him.
“ ‘Where is he?’ queried Mark breathlessly.
“ ‘Who, Sir?’ asked the astonished butler.
“ ‘The thing that just entered.’
“ ‘There has nobody entered here this afternoon, sir,’ replied the faithful servitor. A search of the house was made, but no traces of any one or anything were found. Twain has never solved the ‘mystery’ to his satisfaction to this day.
Kipling Fooled by Sensory Hypnotism
“Kipling, when he made India his home, had been writing other people’s ghost stories with great success. ‘The Phantom Rickshaw’ and ‘The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes’ had come from his pen, but never had Kipling had a real ghost experience himself until he ran across his ‘Own True Ghost Story.’ His experiences in this instance substantiate materially the hypothesis of sensory hypnotism in regard to matters spiritual.
“Mr. Kipling was spending a night in an old disused building with only the old caretaker for company. It happened that the caretaker was gifted with powers of story telling, so Mr. Kipling heard how the building wherein he stopped had once been an officers’ club, and how the officers had died there of fever. At night he woke up and began to hear things. He heard billiard balls clicking and rolling in the room, heard laughs and tinkle of glasses, horses neighing in the compound and the jangle of spurs as ghostly booted feet trod across the floor. It was a most satisfactory experience, but in the end it was spoiled, as were all good ghost stories, by the discovery that the old caretaker’s tale of the officers’ club was only a fantastic piece of imagery, that the building had never in its existence housed a company of officers. The billiard balls were a couple of scurrying mice, the tinkling glass a rattling window pane. It was really too bad.”
Expectation Conjures a Ghost
India seems to be prolific in ghosts, haunts, and apparitions of many kinds. A case which long was believed to be wonderful in its authenticity and which was hailed with delight by the Psychical society was that of two young English officers of a native cavalry regiment. The two were seated at a table one night and suddenly by their sides appeared the figure of a man. Gradually the figure became more visible and finally they made it out to be the brother of one of them, an officer who was stationed with his regiment at Gibraltar.
“It’s Don,” said the living brother. “I’ll bet a horse he’s dead.”
“He had a blooming fine hat, whoever he was,” commented the other officer when the apparition had disappeared. “If he’s dead I wish I had asked him for it’ he’ll not need it any more.”
With the next mail there came a letter announcing the death of the brother and the hour of the death corresponded with the one of the apparition’s appearance. This was a “sending” if there ever was sending on earth. As proof of the appearance of spirits it was held to be incontestable. Investigation, however revealed the fact that the death of the brother had long been expected to occur and that the two young officers had sat down that evening to drown their prospective sorrows in drink.
Expecting a report of his demise every minute, they were able to easily hypnotize their faculties of perception into a condition which made that which out to appear actually appear to them. This would have been possible without the aid of drinking, but one of the great aids for seeing ghosts is that which is commonly termed “a package.”
Tuesday March 10, 2015
Although I was sorry to see that most of these locations included the standard lady in white, this week’s article makes me wish I could just get myself to San Francisco so I could try to identify some of these houses, especially the windmill. A random thought did occur to me….. We hear all the time that animals are “attuned” to the paranormal, it doesn’t seem that it works that way with spiders. At least not San Franciscan spiders.
San Francisco Chronicle edition 04/01/1900
HAUNTED HOUSES OF SAN FRANCISCO
IN ALL San Francisco you could probably not find a single grown person who would admit a belief in ghosts. Credence in such things is all set down to a good imagination or a bad digestion. Most people scoff and sniff “coincidence” when murder follows suicide or calamity in certain houses. “People must die somewhere,” they say with uplifted shoulders.
But for grown people and children there is a persistent fascination about the house reputed to be “haunted”. It clings like an odor, it cannot be scrubbed away or banished by whitewash. Who has not driven along a country road at the edge of evening, and, passing a deserted house, caught the gleam of the gray sky through the sightless windows? There should be cedars around such a house and cypresses, and leaning, moss-covered tombstones across the way. First of all, a haunted house should be worn and scarred and battered. Many tenants should have left it hastily with reasons unassigned; it should have had a tragedy back in its misty beginning; it should be large and remote from the street and lonely. The imagination of a Poe or a Hawthorne could not make anything mysterious of a dish-faced plat. Imagine a “haunted flat.” You cannot – it is beyond belief.
But in spite of the oft-repeated denials of faith in ghosts, there are a few people of imagination who do not thrill under the spell of Poe’s black cat or the mystic “House of Usher.” I never heard of a person who could go upstairs in the dark or sleep in a room without a light after reading of Poe’s Cyclopian feline. There is something in the thought of transparent flitting white figures, of doors that swing and close untouched by hands, that thrills while it fascinates.
San Francisco is not without its “ghost” houses – dwellings of mystery. Here are the tales told of a few of them – houses you pass every day on your way to the office, some of them curtained by spiders and some not curtained at all – the haunted houses of a city without a past.
Far out on one of the fashionable thoroughfares, a little back from the street, with a row of trees and bushes in front, guarding it from the curious gaze of passers-by, there stands a house that for many years was unoccupied, save by an old colored woman, a company of mice, who ran riot through the rafters, and a lot of spiders, who spun their webs with no fear of demolishing broom or dust rag.
The colored woman did not sleep in the house, but stayed there only during the day, in order to show it to a possible tenant, for for many months door and windows had been placarded with “To Let” signs. While many people inspected the house, no person ever returned to take a second look. It was an elephant on the hands of the real estate firm who had it in charge.
At length a grewsome experience had in connection with the house by the wife of a prominent attorney while on a house-hunting expedition, furnished a possible reason why the house had so long remained untenanted. The rest of the story is best told in her own words, and although she is not willing that her name be published, she says she would take solemn oath as to the accuracy of her statement.
“As I entered the gate,” she says, “the house, because of its quaintness and charming location, impressed me as being so desirable that I resolved then and there to have it, unless, upon examining the interior, I should encounter something hopelessly objectionable. I rang the front door bell, to which there was no response. Another ring and again no answer. Evidently the caretaker was not at her post. So I concluded to walk around the place, thinking I might find some unbarred door by which I might gain admittance.
“Glancing at one of the side windows I saw standing there, staring straight at me, the buxom figure of a woman with her sleeves rolled to the elbow. I called to her that I had rung several times and asked her to come down and open the door. Still she stared, but made no move and seemed to be in no way impressed by my anxiety to get in. Then I raised my voice and shouted to her, thinking she had not heard me. But it was no use, she was evidently deaf and dumb. I knew that she saw me and thought she might have guessed my errand. Thinking it strange that such an incompetent should be left in charge of a house to rent I turned away, but some strange influence drew me back. I retraced my steps, and once more stood beneath the window. There she stood. I called again – still no answer. Then I said, “There is no woman – ‘tis merely an optical illusion’ and moved from point to point. Always she stood there; always the same attitude! My flesh began to creep, a chill ran down my spine and I no longer felt a desire to ‘get in’.
“I was getting out of the place as fast as I could, when I encountered an old colored woman coming up the path.
We went in and I at once proceeded to every door in that house that opened to the outside and found them all locked inside and the keys in the doors. When straight upstairs I went to the room in accordance with numerous alleged in the window of which the woman had appeared. There was no woman there, of course, and nobody in the house, and the woman in charge told me no one had been there that day.
“Who washes the windows?” I inquired, remembering the turned-up sleeves. “Nobody mostly,” she answered. “I dust ‘em off once in a while.”
As I walked rapidly up the street, just once I turned and looked back at the window. There stood my woman. I have since learned that the apparition was frequently seen by the neighbors, and I know that thatparticular window was afterward boarded closely over.”
The Chris Buckley castle on Stockton street is also said to be haunted, and, if the testimony of those who have lived in the house is to be accepted, there is a fair ground for the belief. A lady in flowing white robes and streaming brown hair is said to have been seen flitting through the halls and passages. The form is supposed to be the disembodied spirit of a Mrs. Peck, a former, and, indeed the original owner, of the house. The house, which, in the beginning, was a humble little cottage, was purchased years ago by a Mrs. McDonald, who was under the influence of certain spiritualists. They persuaded her that the spirits wished her to make of the cottage a more pretentious dwelling, and she at once commenced alterations. The spiritualists were in league with the builders, and, “messages” from spirit land, the house was enlarged and added to until it became the “castle” that it is to-day. Mrs. McDonald afterward married a Mr. Peck, and the house became the haunt of spiritualists from far and near. Séances were held nightly, and marvelous demonstrations were claimed. Mrs. Peck finally died in the house, and it is said that her astral body haunts the place.
There are stories of supernatural sights and sounds connected with the house, of folding doors sliding mysteriously open and beds being lifted with their occupants in the dead of the night. However true these yarns may be, certain it is that a strange fatality see4ms to attend all those who live there. Both of Mrs. Peck’s husbands were possessed of fortunes. Both were lost during a residence in that house. Chris Buckley brought the property, and it was while occupying it that his dethronement took place. A private family rented the house of him, and before they had been very long occupants a death occurred in the family.
Another house owning the doubtful treasure of a “white lady,” who places the floor with restless steps, is a large boarding-house on Pine street. It was once a private residence occupied by a wealthy family. They were devout Catholics; the house contained a chapel that had been blessed, and when the children were ready for their first communion the family made a pilgrimage to Rome, that they might receive it at the hands of the Pope. The house was one of the most luxuriously furnished in San Francisco, and contained a small fortune in relics and curios collected from all over the world. Death and misfortune finally broke up the family, and the house was locked up and deserted.
Said for many years to be haunted, no one was found with sufficient temerity to occupy the house until one day a woman moved in. She brought a few boarders with her, and it was they who first came into actual contact with the “ghost.” A lady, ascending the stairs one evening, saw a figure clad in white glide swiftly through the passage. Mistaking it for her daughter in her night robe, she called to it and instantly the figure vanished where it stood. Another night two girls, who occupied the room where the most valuable treasures had been stored, were wakened in the night, and both saw enter the door, which was slightly ajar, the spectral figure of a woman. Approaching the bed, it laid an ice-cold hand on that of one of the girls. What followed the girl is unable to testify, as she remembers nothing further and thinks she must have fainted at this point.
The Pixley house, over which hangs the gloom of impending demolition, is thought by many of the residents in the neighborhood to be haunted. Situated as it is in the center of a densely wooded tract of land, it is not difficult to imagine all sorts of shapes lurking in the grim shadows of the trees. A second girl that was employed by Mrs. Pixley and who now has a situation in the neighborhood came in one evening pale and breathless and declared that Mrs. Pixley had appeared to her just outside the old homestead. She described the apparition as walking with a slight limp, assisted by a cane, as did Mrs. Pixley in the flesh. A laundress employed in the family also attests to having seen the same specter on another occasion.
In the house itself there were frequent uncanny noises that caused a creepy, ________ feeling in those who heard them. One day a screen that stood between the folding doors moved slowly and solemnly back, while those who saw it looked up, half expecting to see some ghostly shape glide in. But nothing materialized. That Mrs. Pixley’s spirit should hover over the place would scarcely seem strange to those who knew her, knowing how dearly she loved the old home. The place is soon to be torn down, in accordance with a clause in her will, and then the ghosts, if ghosts there be, may wander undisturbed.
A block or two further out on Union street, on the crest of the hill next to the last one where the cars slip down to the Presidio, there stands a house which looks as though it might have been a comfortable home. But now it is covered with dust and cobwebs, and although for twelve long years it has borne “for sale” signs it has not had a tenant in all that time. It is whispered that this house is haunted also, perhaps because of the fact that it has so long remained unoccupied, and because Judge Bennett, to whom the house belonged, and his wife died in it, a young man went insane therein, and another youth met with an untoward fate while living there. The house was then on Filbert street, whence it was moved to its present location.
In the lot adjoining that on which the house stands is a gaunt, forlorn-looking windmill that is also said to be the haunt of spirits, principally that of a woman said to have been murdered there by her husband long years ago.
Of course no one believes that there is anything back of ghost stories but a bad digestion or a good imagination, but who not all clay has not has “experiences?” I remember my first I was a little girl sitting on the porch as we do in the long Northern twilight after a hot day. It had grown too dark to read when a calf, our own, ran bellowing by the house and turned the corner and ran around the block and back by the front of the house. When it had gone by a third time the Scotch lady who lived alone next door with her servants came over the lawn in the dusk. Her face was white and her hand trembling, and she sat down with us as the calf ran by a fourth time, still bellowing. “Four times,” she said. “Before four months have passed there will be a death in the block.” We were four families in the block and we all knew the prophecy. It was just six weeks from that night that death occurred in the family on the street back, but in the block. Mere coincidence, of course.
“The brute beasts know when the death angel is near and are afraid, and it always s cares me when I hear a sensible beast howling and acting as if it was being followed by something,” the old lady said.
There are houses which stand, year after year, vacant. Families who move into them move out again in a hurry and no one will live in them, although the rent may be low, even nothing, and many a purse light.
On page street there is a house with a strange line of coincidences. Years ago a little girl had an eye put out in that house, through an accident with the scissors. In the next family to move in there was a little girl of 9. This child took scarlet fever and became blind. Moving into the house the little girl ran about the house, her busy fingers in every corner. In some unaccountable way the child’s eye became infected and a discharge was set up. The child was at once taken to an oculist and in short time had lost the sight in the eye. The other eye became affected and soon she was in darkness and will be as long as she lives. Again the house was vacant, and it began to have a bad reputation. It was finally let to a young couple with an only child, a baby girl of 5. On a Christmas night the little girl was dressed to attend a Christmas party and ran to her father to show him her pretty dress. Her foot caught on a rug and she fell against the sharp corner of a chair and gouged her eye so badly it had to be removed.
Another family moved into the house and they still are living in it. A little daughter in the family broke her book strap. She brought an awl from her brother’s tool box and was punching a hole in the strap, pointing the awl toward her. It slipped and went into her eye so deeply as to destroy it and she, too, is blind in the house – the fifth little girl to lose an eye there.
On Nob Hill more than one of the palaces has the name of being haunted, but the owners are not Anglomaniacs and do not follow the fashion set in the three kingdoms, where e very place of any pretensions has its banshee and flitting forms which walk at night. Out here it affects the value of the real estate adversely, so ghostly visits are not encouraged. One house there is which has stood vacant for years. Now it is a boarding-house, and perhaps the stern realities of boarding-house life may be too much for the ghost, who, it is whispered, drives nails on the nights which fall in the dark of the moon. It was built by one of the “rocket and stick” forty-niners, who made a great fortune, but before he had completed more than a magnificent stable for his horses the rocket fortune was only a black stick which had burned out the poor man’s nerve. He sold a portion of the Nob Hill ground, where his palace was to have kept the stable company, and built a house less pretentious than the one intended. Broken and mourning for the lost wealth, the man haunted the builders to see that they did not cheat him in the building. Tenant after tenant left the house, and there is a tale that the builder comes back and hammers at night, driving nails which leave no mark, because they are not.
No so very far away is another house, big and silent – a most inviting solitude for a wandering ghost to seek, remembering the days when he walked in the sun, with a shadow to show for him. A well-known society girl who was a guest in the house one night will never try to sleep there again. “Indeed I’ll not,” she said to an awe-filled group of listeners. “I know I was frightened out of ten years of my life that night I did stay here, and so was Terry, my poor maid. She can’t bear to go in the street in front of the house in broad daylight anymore. I had been to a cotillion. We were still living in the country, and I was glad when aunt asked me to stay all night with her. I came home late, tired, as you can guess, and was asleep before you could county twenty. Terry slept in a dressing-room off mine, with the door open between, and she had locked the doors into the hall. The house is so big and lonesome, locked doors make you feel more comfortable, and there was only my aunt in the house besides the servants. Suddenly I woke up out of a sound sleep and there was a step in the hall. Now, there is a thick carpet in that hall, and I remembered that as I lay there, cold as a fish, listening to that step coming slowly down the hall. It was a step like an old man walking on a bare floor with his slippers flopping up and down. It went up and down the hall and into the room next to mine, and out again and down the hall. I whispered to Terry and she came in, as white as any ghost, and lighted all the gas and then sat on my bed, and we waited for it to get light. We rather startled folks by appearing early in the morning, and we did not even stop for breakfast. You see, Terry and I had important business outside. Whenever I go to the house I make some excuse to go and try that door where that step went and it is always locked.”
There is a house on Lombard street, whose windows, curtained by the spiders’ weaving of years, look over the bay. One room only is occupied and that by the wizened old woman with piercing black eyes and ragged black hair. She wears a rusty black dress and a widow’s bonnet with its veil of mourning when she flits out at the door to buy her few necessities and lock the door, which has no bell for visitors to ring at and which she will not open to any knocker. What does she do all the long hours of the day and the lonely hours of the night? The neighbors tell of groans at night and cries of pain in a voice not of the woman. They tell of the terrible death of her husband who died nineteen years ago by self-administered poison, shrieking in his agony with his wife at his bedside to close the tormented eyes. Servants would not stay, and the woman lives alone and the neighbors go by the house at night on the other side of the street.
Out on the road to San Mateo is a house to rent cheap. I hunted up its former tenant and this is a tale she tells: “The rent was cheap, and cheap rent was what I was looking for. There were my son and his wife and baby, and my daughter and I. We had heard about the house having a bad name, but not till after we had moved in, and we were a good sight more afraid of a landlord who is shy his rent than we were of ghosts.
“One night my son was away late to lodge and his wife sat up to wait for him. I was sleeping quiet as a lamb, when she came and shook my shoulder and says: ‘Mother, do stop crying; you make me nervous.’
“I’m not crying at all,’ says I.
“ ‘Yes, you are; you have been crying in your sleep for half an hour, and I could not stand it any longer.’
“I went to sleep again and nobody mentioned the crying again. The house had been a good deal out of repair, but my son is handy with his hammer, and he soon had the place in fine shape and a garden made, and we were wondering where the ghost was. No one could want a decenter, quieter place to live in.
“One morning my son’s wife says to me: What makes you cry so at night? You scared me again last night.’ ‘I didn’t cry,’ I said. ‘I don’t cry at all and I don’t know what you mean.’
“Then my son spoke up and says: ‘Mother, I heard you, too.’
“I thought to myself, ‘Am I going crazy?’ That night I didn’t sleep in my own room. I didn’t tell them, but after they were asleep I gathered up my things and went into a big room at the front of the house which we hadn’t furnished yet. There were only a bed and a box I used for a table. I went right to sleep, and all at once I woke up, and there was someone in the room rocking and crying. There was no rocking chair in the room. It was a woman’s voice, and sometimes she cried low and sometimes she cried loud. Well, I lay there and knew by my queer feeling that that was the ghost. I was too scared to move, and I thought if I lay still it would not know I was there. It just kept right on rocking and crying. It seemed to me to be years it rocked there, but it could not have been long. When it was daylight I got back to my room and didn’t tell anyone I had been out of it. My son asked about my crying again in my sleep, and if I had not better go see a doctor. I said maybe I had, and there wasn’t anything said for two or three days, and then he said one morning that he guessed he and his wife would move and keep house alone. He would not say why at first, but finally he said it was because I kept them awake crying. “ ‘Taint me,’ I said.
“But it must be,” they both said. Then I told them about the night I had slept upstairs. “My son,” he said, “you’re crazy.” He said he’d sleep up there that night, and his wife begged him not to. I knew it didn’t hurt me, so I didn’t see why it should him. He said it was all nonsense, that I had dyspepsia and that made me cry in my sleep, but about 2 o’clock he changed his mind. He came down stairs like the ghost of himself and we sat the rest of the night in the kitchen waiting for it to be morning so we could move. A woman who had lived near for a long time told me that a young couple from back East built the house, and he had money in the mines. He would go up there, thought he didn’t know much about mining. He got into a rough set and pretty soon he stopped sending his wife money and then she heard that he was living with another woman. She hadn’t much spunk and instead of going up and making things hot for him she sat and cried and wouldn’t eat – perhaps she didn’t have nothing to eat. Pretty soon she died and nobody can live in the house now for her crying.
Another old house, whose owner’s death liberated the customary widow and orphans from the shade they have lived in, stood vacant and nobody would buy or rent it. At last it was taken into the church and bought by a good father to be lived in by those whose holy lives will banish the ghost who is said to have walked there. It is said that a shade formerly wandered over the house, opening and closing doors, which did not swing to the eye, but only to the ear.
The old house of mystery on Octavia with its patched curtains, its tumbledown stables and its “To Let’ signs on the lawn, is said to have its ghost as well as its mysteries which make it apart from its kind. No comfortable ghost would choose it as a home, and the shape which wails there at night is said to be that of a little child, which patters up the staircase with little bare feet, wailing in childish woe. Was there such a child called up by the witch woman whose pall of fate has fallen over the old house and darkened the light of every member of that household?
Tuesday March 3, 2015
Oh! This week’s article is one of my favorite kinds of stories!!! People thinking they can shoot spooks!! And THIS time there is loss of body parts.
Washington Post edition 8/4/1915
MAINE TOWN HAS GHOST
Fisherman Say Apparition Comes Out of Old Grave
MEN STAY HOME NIGHTS NOW
First Party of Anglers to See Spirit Keep Secret for Fear of Being Ridiculed, but Tell About It When Another Group of Sports See the Same Thing
Special to the Washington Post.
Elliottsville, Me., July 31 – This little town has a ghost mystery which, up to the present time, remains unsolved. In the meantime the half dozen families which live here are all wrought up, and few, indeed, are the women who allow their menfolk to leave home after midnight, much less to venture out themselves after the shades of night have fallen. There is a feeling that the ghost walks every night.
The strange apparition was first seen along the middle of June by a party of Dexter fishermen who came to try their luck on Wilson stream, and made camp below the falls, a short distance from the Douglass farm. This party of fishermen were headed by Freeman Sands, of Dexter, whose truthfulness cannot be doubted.
Apparition from Old Graveyard
Reaching their camping ground late in the evening the party pitched a tent and made things comfortable for the night. Several went to the falls and caught trout for supper, and after partaking of their evening meal they lounged about on fir boughs in front of the tent smoking their pipes. There was apparently little doing about the camp save the buzz of hungry black flies. Occasionally a famished mosquito descended upon the fishermen.
Suddenly from out of the gloom and apparently coming from the old graveyard upon the hill in the bunch of birches appeared an apparition in white which stalked slowly down the embankment toward the camp. Mr. Sands saw the ghost first and startled his companions by his exclamation of surprise.
Watching the Ghost Walk
Though admittedly a trifle nervous the Dexter men watched the ghost which passed within two rods of the camp, and reaching the bank of the stream disappeared from sight. Naturally there was little sleep that night in the tent, the campers putting in their time discussing the apparition. An inspection the following morning disclosed no trace of the ghost.
Reaching home the following day, the Dexter fishermen kept their story to themselves for fear of being joked by their friends. Later a party of fishermen from Dover had practically the same experience, and the story leaked out, and hearing of the Dover men’s experience and fright, the Dexter anglers came across with their yarn of seeing the Elliottsville ghost.
Seen On Way From Dance
In the meantime, several citizens of Elliottsville, who were returning from a dance at Willimantic, were startled by seeing the apparition walk from near the old burying ground and disappear in the falls below the bridge.
The story of the ghost reaching Monson, a party of bold young men decided to investigate. Armed to the teeth, they pitched camp. They were determined to “get the ghost.” It is reported that there were six in the party, and after nightfall they posted themselves in vantage sports. Shortly before 9 p.m. it is said, the ghost appeared from its usual haunts.
One Man Climbs a Tree
The story as commonly told is that the ghost walked calmly in the direction of one of the Monson young men, who threw down his gun and made into the wilderness, where he climbed a tree. Four of the party made for the tent while the sixth in attempting to fire his shotgun discharged his weapon in such a manner as to shoot off the little toe of his left foot.
It was late in the evening when they congregated in the tent and took account of stock. They immediately broke camp and returned to their homes, where the young man with the missing toe was given surgical treatment. This story, like others, was hushed up for 10 days but the facts finally leaked out.
Collegians will Hunt Specter
In the meantime “Bill” Sherburne, of Baltimore, former captain of the Colby varsity football team, and who is spending the summer here, is planning a ghost-catching party, the members of which will be “Bill” Cowan, the former Colby football player and baseball catcher; “Shorty” Craig, of Colby fame; “Hod” Newingham, of Greenville an old Colby star pitcher, and Dave Cowan, of this town, a former deputy sheriff.
Invitations to participate in the ghost hunt have also been mailed to “Tom” Smart, of Dexter, a graduate of Colby, but who has been married and whose wife will not let him participate in supernatural pursuits. In the meantime, Manager Sherburne of the ghost party is waiting for an answer to a special invitation mailed to “Jack” Coombs, formerly star pitcher of the Athletics and an oldtime star athlete at Colby.
Sherburne feels sure that his party of Colby men can conquer the ghost, the appearance of which has been the leading topic of conversation in Northern Piscataquis county for several weeks.