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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

"'The white horse! The Englishman has seen the white horse.'

"This I denied, but to no purpose. And that night round the camp fire I took the trouble to make enquiries as to the antecedents of the white horse. And the old Boer, after he had commanded silence, began. He said:

"'The English are not brave, but foolish. We beat them at Majuba, some twenty-five seasons back. There was an Englishman here like you; he had brought a horse with him, against our advice, to be killed with the fly, the same as yours will be in a day or two. And he, like you, would go where he was told not to go; and one day he went into a bush (that very bush you rode through to-night), and he shot seven elephants, and the next day he went in to fetch the ivory, and about night his horse came into camp riderless, and was dead from the fly before the sun went down. The Englishman is in that bush now; anyway, he never came back. And now anybody who ventures into that bush is chased by the white horse. I wouldn't go into that bush for all the ivory in the land. The English are not brave, but foolish; we beat them at Majuba.'

"Here he ran into a torrent of abuse of all Englishmen in general, and in particular. And I took the opportunity of rolling myself up in my blankets for the night, sleeping all the better for my adventure.

"Now, Mr. Stead, I don't believe in ghosts, but I was firmly convinced during that run of mine, and can vouch for the accuracy of it, not having heard a word of the Englishman or his white horse before my headlong return to the camp that night. I shortly hope to be near that bush again, but, like the old Boer, I can say I wouldn't go into that bush again for all the ivory in the land.

"P.S.--A few days after we dropped across a troop of elephants without entering the fatal bush, and managed to bag seven, photographs of which I took, and shall be pleased to send for your inspection, if desired."

There can be very little doubt that the phantom the Afrikander saw was the actual spirit of a dead horse.

Another experience of haunting by the same animal was told me by a Chelsea artist who assured me it was absolutely true. I append it as nearly as possible in his own words.

_Heralds of Death_

"It is many years ago," he began, "since I came into my property, Heatherleigh Hall, near Carlisle, Cumberland. It was left me by my great-uncle, General Wimpole, whom I had never seen, but who had made me his heir in preference to his other nephews, owing to my reputed likeness to an aunt, to whom he was greatly attached. Of course I was much envied, and I dare say a good many unkind things were said about me, but I did not care--Heatherleigh Hall was mine, and I had as much right to it as anyone else. I came there all alone--my two brothers, Dick and Hal, the one a soldier and the other a sailor, were both away on foreign service, whilst Beryl, my one and only sister, was staying with her fiancÚ's family in Bath. Never shall I forget my first impressions. Depict the day--an October afternoon. The air mellow, the leaves yellow, and the sun a golden red. Not a trace of clouds or wind anywhere. Everything serene and still. A broad highway; a wood; a lodge in the midst of the wood; large iron gates; a broad carriage drive, planted on either side with lofty pines and elms, whose gnarled and forked branches threw grotesque and not altogether pleasing shadows on the pale gravel.

"At the end of the avenue, at least a quarter of a mile long, wide expanses of soft, velvety grass, interspersed at regular intervals with plots of flowers--dahlias, michaelmas daisies--no longer in their first bloom--chrysanthemums, etc. Beyond the lawn, the house, and beyond that again, and on either side, big, old-fashioned gardens full of fruit--fruit of all kinds, some, such as grapes and peaches, in monster green-houses, and others--luscious pears, blenheim oranges, golden pippins, etc.--in rich profusion in the open, the whole encompassed by a high and solid brick wall, topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass. The house, which was built, or, rather, faced with split flints, and edged and buttressed with cut grey stone, had a majestic but gloomy appearance. Its front, lofty and handsome, was somewhat castellated in style, two semicircular bows, or half-moons, placed at a suitable distance from each other, rising from the base to the summit of the edifice; these were pierced, at every floor, with rows of stone-mullioned windows, rising to the height of four or five stories. The flat wall between had larger windows, lighting the great hall, gallery, and upper apartments. These windows were abundantly ornamented with stained glass, representing the arms, honours, and alms-deeds of the Wimpole family.