Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell
This is as nearly as I can recollect Mrs. Hartnoll's story. But as it is a good many years since I heard it, there is just a possibility of some of the details--the smaller ones at all events--having escaped my memory.
When I was grown up, I stayed for a few weeks near Oxenby, and met, at a garden party, a Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, the then occupants of the Manor House.
I asked if they believed in ghosts, and told them I had always heard their house was haunted.
"Well," they said, "we never believed in ghosts till we came to Oxenby, but we have seen and heard such strange things since we have been in the Manor House that we are now prepared to believe anything."
They then went on to tell me that they--and many of their visitors and servants--had seen the phantasms of a very hideous and malignant old man, clad in tight-fitting hosiery of mediŠval days, and a maimed and bleeding big, black cat, that seemed sometimes to drop from the ceiling, and sometimes to be thrown at them. In one of the passages all sorts of queer sounds, such as whinings, meanings, screeches, clangings of pails and rattlings of chains, were heard, whilst something, no one could ever see distinctly, but which they all felt to be indescribably nasty, rushed up the cellar steps and flew past, as if engaged in a desperate chase. Indeed, the disturbances were of so constant and harrowing a nature, that the wing had to be vacated and was eventually locked up.
The Wheelers excavated in different parts of the haunted wing and found, in the cellar, at a depth of some eight or nine feet, the skeletons of three men and two women; whilst in the wainscoting of the passage they discovered the bones of a boy, all of which remains they had properly interred in the churchyard. According to local tradition, handed down through many centuries by word of mouth, the house originally belonged to a knight, who, with his wife, was killed out hunting. He had only one child, a boy of about ten, who became a ward in chancery. The man appointed by the Crown as guardian to this child proved an inhuman monster, and after ill-treating the lad in every conceivable manner, eventually murdered him and tried to substitute a bastard boy of his own in his place. For a time the fraud succeeded, but on its being eventually found out, the murderer and his offspring were both brought to trial and hanged.
During his occupation of the house, many people were seen to enter the premises, but never leave them, and the place got the most sinister reputation. Among other deeds credited to the murderer and his offspring was the mutilation and boiling of a cat--the particular pet of the young heir, who was compelled to witness the whole revolting process. Years later, a subsequent owner of the property had a monument erected in the churchyard to the memory of this poor, abused child, and on the front of the house constructed the device of the cat.
Though it is impossible to determine what amount of truth there may be in this tradition, it certainly seems to accord with the hauntings, and to supply some sort of explanation to them. The ghostly head on the banisters might well be that of the low and brutal guardian, whose spirit would be the exact counterpart of his mind. The figure seen, and noises heard in the passage, point to the re-enaction of some tragedy, possibly the murder of the heir, or the slaughter of his cat, in either of which a bucket might easily have played a grimly significant part. And if human murderers and their victims have phantasms, why should not animals have phantasms too? Why should not the phenomenon of the cat seen by Mrs. Hartnoll and the Wheelers have been the actual phantasm of an earthbound cat?
No amount of reasoning--religious or otherwise--has as yet annihilated the possibility of all forms of earthly life possessing spirits.
LETTER FROM MY WIFE
I heard the foregoing account from my husband when first I met him years ago, and I know it to be true. I have seen the rooms, etc. in the Old Manor House, Oxenby, where the incidents Mrs. Hartnoll mentions took place.
ADA B. O'DONNELL.
_July_ 2, 1913.
To further substantiate my views with regard to a future existence for animals, I reproduce (by permission of the Editor) the following letters and articles that have appeared from time to time in the _Occult Review_:--