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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

"One evening, towards the end of the eighteenth century, John Kelly, a Dean of the College (extremely unpopular on account of his supposed harsh treatment of some of the undergraduates), was about to commence his supper, when he heard a low whine, and looking down, saw a large yellow dog cross the floor in front of him, and disappear immediately under the full-length portrait that hung over the antique chimney-piece. Something prompting him, he glanced at the picture. The eyes that looked into his blinked.

"'It must be the result of an overtaxed brain,' he said to himself. 'Those rascally undergraduates have got on my nerves.'

"He shut his eyes; and re-opening them, stared hard at the portrait. It was not a delusion. The eyes that gazed back at him were alive--alive with the spirit of mockery; they smiled, laughed, jeered; and, as they did so, the knowledge of his surroundings was brought forcibly home to him. The room in which he was seated was situated at the end of a long, cheerless, stone passage in the western wing of the College. Away from all the other rooms of the building, it was absolutely isolated; and had long borne the reputation of being haunted by a dog, which was said to appear only before some catastrophe. The Dean had hitherto committed the story to the category of fables. But now,--now, as he sat all alone in that big silent room, lit only with the reddish rays of a fast-setting August sun, and stared into the gleaming eyes before him--he was obliged to admit the extreme probability of spookdom. Never before had the College seemed so quiet. Not a sound--not even the creaking of a board or the far-away laugh of a student, common enough noises on most nights--fell on his ears. The hush was omnipotent, depressing, unnerving; he could only associate it with the supernatural. Though he was too fascinated to remove his gaze from the thing before him, he could feel the room fill with shadows, and feel them steal through the half-open windows, and, uniting with those already in the corners, glide noiselessly and surreptitiously towards him. He felt, too, that he was under the surveillance of countless invisible visages, all scanning him curiously, and delighted beyond measure at the sight of his terror.

"The moments passed in a breathless state of tension. He stared at the eyes, and the eyes stared back at him. Once he endeavoured to rise, but a dead weight seemed to fall on his shoulders and hold him back; and twice, when he tried to speak--to make some sound, no matter what, to break the appalling silence--his throat closed as if under the pressure of cruel, relentless fingers.

"But the _Ultima Thule_ of his emotions had yet to come. There was a slight stir behind the canvas, a thud, a hollow groan that echoed and re-echoed throughout the room like the muffled clap of distant thunder, and the eyes suddenly underwent a metamorphosis--they grew glazed and glassy like the eyes of a dead person. A cold shudder ran through the Dean, his hair stood on end, his blood turned to ice. Again he essayed to move, to summon help; again he failed. The strain on his nerves proved more than he could bear. A sudden sensation of nausea surged through him; his eyes swam; his brain reeled; there was a loud buzzing in his ears; he knew no more. Some moments later one of the College servants arrived at the door with a bundle of letters, and on receiving no reply to his raps, entered.

"'Good heavens! What's the matter?' he cried, gazing at the figure of the Dean, lolling head downward on the table. 'Merciful Prudence, the gentleman is dead! No, he ain't--some of the young gents will be sorry enough for that--he's fainted.'

"The good fellow poured out some water in a tumbler, and was proceeding to sprinkle the Dean's face with it, when, a noise attracting his attention, he peered round at the picture. It was bulging from the wall; it was falling! And, Good God, what was that that was falling with it--that huge black object? A coffin? No, not a coffin, but a corpse! The servant ran to the door shrieking, and, in less than a minute, passage and room were filled to overflowing with a scared crowd of enquiring officials and undergraduates.

"'What has happened? What's the matter with the Dean? Has he had a fit, or what? And the picture? And--Anderson? Anderson lying on the floor! Hurt? No, not hurt, dead! Murdered!'