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Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell


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Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter

We left the premises together. All the way back to the town I thought--should I, or should I not, take the house? Seen as I had seen it, it was a ghoulish-looking place--as weird as a Paris catacomb--but then daylight makes all the difference. Viewed in the sunshine, it would be just like any other house--plain bricks and mortar. I liked the situation; it was just far enough away from a town to enable me to escape all the smoke and traffic, and near enough to make shopping easy. The only obstacles were the shadows--the strange, enigmatical shadows I had seen in the hall and passages, and the figure of the walker. Dare I take a house that knew such visitors? At first I said no, and then yes. Something, I could not tell what, urged me to say yes. I felt that a very grave issue was at stake--that a great wrong connected in some manner with the mysterious figure awaited righting, and that the hand of Fate pointed at me as the one and only person who could do it.

"Are you sure the house isn't haunted?" I demanded, as we slowly rolled away from the iron gate, and I leaned back in my seat to light my pipe.

"Haunted!" Mr. Baldwin scoffed, "why, I thought you didn't believe in ghosts--laughed at them."

"No more I do believe in them," I retorted, "but I have children, and we know how imaginative children are."

"I can't undertake to stop their imaginations."

"No, but you can tell me whether anyone else has imagined anything there. Imagination is sometimes very infectious."

"As far as I know, then, no; leastways, I have not heard tell of it."

"Who was the last tenant?"

"Mr. Jeremiah Dance."

"Why did he leave?"

"How do I know? Got tired of being there, I suppose."

"How long was he there?"

"Nearly three years."

"Where is he now?"

"That's more than I can say. Why do you wish to know?"

"Why!" I repeated. "Because it is more satisfactory to me to hear about the house from someone who has lived in it. Has he left no address?"

"Not that I know of, and it's more than two years since he was here."

"What! The house has been empty all that time?"

"Two years is not very long. Houses--even town houses--are frequently unoccupied for longer than that. I think you'll like it."

I did not speak again till the drive was over, and we drew up outside the landlord's house. I then said, "Let me have an agreement. I've made up my mind to take it. Three years and the option to stay on."

That was just like me. Whatever I did, I did on the spur of the moment, a mode of procedure that often led me into difficulties.

A month later and my wife, children, servants, and I were all ensconced in the Crow's Nest.

That was in the beginning of October. Well, the month passed by, and November was fairly in before anything remarkable happened. It then came about in this fashion.

Jennie, my eldest child, a self-willed and rather bad-tempered girl of about twelve, evading the vigilance of her mother, who had forbidden her to go out as she had a cold, ran to the gate one evening to see if I was anywhere in sight. Though barely five o'clock, the moon was high in the sky, and the shadows of the big trees had already commenced their gambols along the roadside.

Jennie clambered up the gate as children do, and peering over, suddenly espied what she took to be me, striding towards the house, at a swinging pace, and followed by two poodles.

"Poppa," she cried, "how cute of you! Only to think of you bringing home two doggies! Oh, Poppa, naughty Poppa, what will mum say?" and climbing over into the lane at imminent danger to life and limb, she tore frantically towards the figure. To her dismay, however, it was not me, but a stranger with a horribly white face and big glassy eyes which he turned down at her and stared. She was so frightened that she fainted, and some ten minutes later I found her lying out there on the road. From the description she gave me of the man and dogs, I felt quite certain they were the figures I had seen; though I pretended the man was a tramp, and assured her she would never see him again. A week passed, and I was beginning to hope nothing would happen, when one of the servants gave notice to leave.

At first she would not say why she did not like the house, but when pressed made the following statement:--