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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

"It's haunted, Mrs. B----. I can put up with mice and beetles, but not with ghosts. I've had a queer sensation, as if water was falling down my spine, ever since I've been here, but never saw anything till last night. I was then in the kitchen getting ready to go to bed. Jane and Emma had already gone up, and I was preparing to follow them, when, all of a sudden, I heard footsteps, quick and heavy, cross the gravel and approach the window.

"'The boss,' says I to myself; 'maybe he's forgot the key and can't get in at the front door.'

"Well, I went to the window and was about to throw it open, when I got an awful shock. Pressed against the glass, looking in at me, was a face--not the boss's face, not the face of anyone living, but a horrid white thing with a drooping mouth and wide-open, glassy eyes, that had no more expression in them than a pig. As sure as I'm standing here, Mrs. B----, it was the face of a corpse--the face of a man that had died no natural death. And by its side, standing on their hind-legs, and staring in at me too were two dogs, both poodles--also no living things, but dead, horribly dead. Well, they stared at me, all three of them, for perhaps a minute, certainly not less, and then vanished. That's why I'm leaving, Mrs. B----. My heart was never overstrong. I always suffered with palpitations, and if I saw those heads again, it would kill me."

After this my wife spoke to me seriously.

"Jack," she said, "are you sure there's nothing in it? I don't think Mary would leave us without a good cause, and the description of what she saw tallies exactly with the figure that frightened Jennie. Jennie assures me she never said a word about it to the servants. They can't both have imagined it."

I did not know what to say. My conscience pricked me. Without a doubt I ought to have told my wife of my own experience in the lane, and have consulted her before taking the house. Supposing she, or any of the children, should die of fright, it would be my fault. I should never forgive myself.

"You've something on your mind! What is it?" my wife demanded.

I hesitated a moment or two and then told her. The next quarter of an hour was one I do not care to recollect, but when it was over, and she had had her say, it was decided I should make enquiries and see if there was any possible way of getting rid of the ghosts. With this end in view, I drove to the town, and after several fruitless efforts was at length introduced to a Mr. Marsden, clerk of one of the banks, who, in reply to my questions, said:

"Well, Mr. B----, it's just this way. I do know something, only--in a small place like this--one has to be so extra careful what one says. Some years ago a Mr. Jeremiah Dance occupied the Crow's Nest. He came here apparently a total stranger, and though often in the town, was only seen in the company of one person--his landlord, Mr. Baldwin, with whom--if local gossip is to be relied on--he appeared to be on terms of the greatest familiarity. Indeed, they were seldom apart, walked about the lanes arm-in-arm, visited each other's houses on alternate evenings, called each other "Teddy" and "Leslie." This state of things continued for nearly three years, and then people suddenly began to comment on the fact that Mr. Dance had gone, or at least was no longer visible. An errand-boy, returning back to town, late one evening, swore to being passed on the way by a trap containing Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Dance, who were speaking in very loud voices--just as if they were having a violent altercation. On reaching that part of the road where the trees are thickest overhead, the lad overtook them, or rather Mr. Baldwin, preparing to mount into the trap. Mr. Dance was nowhere to be seen. And from that day to this nothing has ever been heard of him. As none of his friends or relations came forward to raise enquiries, and all his bills were paid--several of them by Mr. Baldwin--no one took the matter up. Mr. Baldwin pooh-poohed the errand-boy's story, and declared that, on the night in question, he had been alone in an altogether different part of the county, and knew nothing whatever of Mr. Dance's movements, further than that he had recently announced his intention of leaving the Crow's Nest before the expiration of the three years' lease. He had not the remotest idea where he was. He claimed the furniture in payment of the rent due to him."