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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

As in my chapters on cats and dogs, I will preface this chapter on horses with instances of alleged haunted localities.

I take my first case from Mr. W.T. Stead's _Real Ghost Stories_, published in 1891. It is called "A Weird Story from the Indian Hills," and Mr. Stead preludes it thus: The "tale is told by General Barter, C.B., of Careystown, Whitegate, Co. Cork. At the time he witnessed the spectral cavalcade he was living on the hills in India, and when one evening he was returning home he caught sight of a rider and attendants coming towards him. The rest of the story, given in the General's own words, is as follows:--

"At this time the two dogs came, and, crouching at my side, gave low, frightened whimpers. The moon was at the full--a tropical moon--so bright that you could see to read a newspaper by its light, and--I saw the party before me advance as plainly as it were noon day. They were above me some eight or ten feet on the bridle-road, the earth thrown down from which sloped to within a pace or two of my feet. On the party came, until almost in front of me, and now I had better describe them. The rider was in full dinner dress, with white waistcoat, and wearing a tall chimney-pot hat, and he sat a powerful hill pony (dark brown, with mane and tail) in a listless sort of way, the reins hanging loosely from both hands. A Syce led the pony on each side, but their faces I could not see, the one next to me having his back to me and the one farthest off being hidden by the pony's head. Each held the bridle close by the bit, the man next me with his right and the other with his left hand, and the hands were on the thighs of the rider, as if to steady him in his seat. As they approached, I knowing they could not get to any place other than my own, called out in Hindustani, 'Quon hai?' (Who is it?). There was no answer, and on they came until right in front of me, when I said, in English, 'Hullo, what the d----l do you want here?' Instantly the group came to a halt, the rider gathering the bridle reins up in both hands, turned his face, which had hitherto been looking away from me, towards me, and looked down upon me. The group was still as in a tableau, with the bright moon shining upon it, and I at once recognized the rider as Lieutenant B., whom I had formerly known. The face, however, was different from what it used to be; in the place of being clean-shaven, as when I used to know it, it was now surrounded by a fringe (what used to be known as a Newgate fringe), and it was the face of a dead man, the ghastly waxen pallor of it brought out more distinctly in the moonlight by the dark fringe of hair by which it was encircled; the body, too, was much stouter than when I had known it in life.

"I marked this in a moment; and then resolved to lay hold of the thing, whatever it might be. I dashed up the bank, and the earth which had been thrown on the side giving under my feet, I fell forward up the bank on my hands, recovering myself instantly. I gained the road, and stood in the exact spot where the group had been, but which was now vacant, there was not the trace of anything; it was impossible for them to go on, the road stopped at a precipice about twenty yards further on, and it was impossible to turn and go back in a second. All this flashed through my mind, and I then ran along the road for about 100 yards, along which they had come, until I had to stop for want of breath, but there was no trace of anything, and not a sound to be heard. I then returned home, where I found my dogs, who, on all other occasions my most faithful companions, had not come with me along the road.

"Next morning I went up to D., who belonged to the same regiment as B., and gradually induced him to talk of him. I said, 'How very stout he had become lately, and what possessed him to allow his beard to grow with that horrid fringe?' D. replied, 'Yes, he became very bloated before his death. You know he led a very fast life, and while on the sick list he allowed the fringe to grow, in spite of all that we could say to him, and I believe he was buried with it.' I asked him where he got the pony I had seen, describing it minutely. 'Why,' said D., 'how do you know anything about all this? You hadn't seen B. for two or three years, and the pony you never saw. He bought him at Peshawur, and killed him one day riding in his reckless fashion down the hill to Trete.' I then told him what I had seen the night before.