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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Trickery from without, by "the cunning men," is an explanation which, at least, provides a motive, but how the thing could be managed from without remains a mystery. Sam Wesley, the friend of Pope, and Atterbury, and Lord Oxford, not unjustly said: "Wit, I fancy, might find many interpretations, but wisdom none". {220}

As the Wesley tale is a very typical instance of a very large class, our study of it may exempt us from printing the well-known parallel case of "The Drummer of Tedworth". Briefly, the house of Mr. Mompesson, near Ludgarshal, in Wilts, was disturbed in the usual way, for at least two years, from April, 1661, to April, 1663, or later. The noises, and copious phenomena of moving objects apparently untouched, were attributed to the unholy powers of a wandering drummer, deprived by Mr. Mompesson of his drum. A grand jury presented the drummer for trial, on a charge of witchcraft, but the petty jury would not convict, there being a want of evidence to prove threats, malum minatum, by the drummer. In 1662 the Rev. Joseph Glanvil, F.R.S., visited the house, and, in the bedroom of Mr. Mompesson's little girls, the chief sufferers, heard and saw much the same phenomena as the elder Wesley describes in his own nursery. The "little modest girls" were aged about seven and eight. Charles II. sent some gentlemen to the house for one night, when nothing occurred, the disturbances being intermittent. Glanvil published his narrative at the time, and Mr. Pepys found it "not very convincing". Glanvil, in consequence of his book, was so vexed by correspondents "that I have been haunted almost as bad as Mr. Mompesson's house". A report that imposture had been discovered, and confessed by Mr. Mompesson, was set afloat, by John Webster, in a well-known work, and may still be found in modern books. Glanvil denied it till he was "quite tired," and Mompesson gave a formal denial in a letter dated Tedworth, 8th November, 1672. He also, with many others, swore to the facts on oath, in court, at the drummer's trial. {221}

In the Tedworth case, as at Epworth, and in the curious Cideville case of 1851, a quarrel with "cunning men" preceded the disturbances. In Lord St. Vincent's case, which follows, nothing of the kind is reported. As an almost universal rule children, especially girls of about twelve, are centres of the trouble; in the St. Vincent story, the children alone were exempt from annoyance.


Sir Walter Scott, writing about the disturbances in the house occupied by Mrs. Ricketts, sister of the great admiral, Lord St. Vincent, asks: "Who has seen Lord St. Vincent's letters?" He adds that the gallant admiral, after all, was a sailor, and implies that "what the sailor said" (if he said anything) "is not evidence".

The fact of unaccountable disturbances which finally drove Mrs. Ricketts out of Hinton Ampner, is absolutely indisputable, though the cause of the annoyances may remain as mysterious as ever. The contemporary correspondence (including that of Lord St. Vincent, then Captain Jervis) exists, and has been edited by Mrs. Henley Jervis, grand-daughter of Mrs. Ricketts. {222}

There is only the very vaguest evidence for hauntings at Lady Hillsborough's old house of Hinton Ampner, near Alresford, before Mr. Ricketts took it in January, 1765. He and his wife were then disturbed by footsteps, and sounds of doors opening and shutting. They put new locks on the doors lest the villagers had procured keys, but this proved of no avail. The servants talked of seeing appearances of a gentleman in drab and of a lady in silk, which Mrs. Ricketts disregarded. Her husband went to Jamaica in the autumn of 1769, and in 1771 she was so disturbed that her brother, Captain Jervis, a witness of the phenomena, insisted on her leaving the house in August. He and Mrs. Ricketts then wrote to Mr. Ricketts about the affair. In July, 1772, Mrs. Ricketts wrote a long and solemn description of her sufferings, to be given to her children.