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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


We shall slightly abridge her statement, in which she mentions that when she left Hinton she had not one of the servants who came thither in her family, which "evinces the impossibility of a confederacy". Her new, like her former servants, were satisfactory; Camis, her new coachman, was of a yeoman house of 400 years' standing. It will be observed that Mrs. Ricketts was a good deal annoyed even _before_ 2nd April, 1771, the day when she dates the beginning of the worst disturbances. She believed that the agency was human--a robber or a practical joker--and but slowly and reluctantly became convinced that the "exploded" notion of an abnormal force might be correct. We learn that while Captain Jervis was not informed of the sounds he never heard them, and whereas Mrs. Ricketts heard violent noises after he went to bed on the night of his vigil, he heard nothing. "Several instances occurred where very loud noises were heard by one or two persons, when those equally near and in the same direction were not sensible of the least impression." {223}

With this preface, Mrs. Ricketts may be allowed to tell her own tale.

"Sometime after Mr. Ricketts left me (autumn, 1769) I--then lying in the bedroom over the kitchen--heard frequently the noise of some one walking in the room within, and the rustling as of silk clothes against the door that opened into my room, sometimes so loud, and of such continuance as to break my rest. Instant search being often made, we never could discover any appearance of human or brute being. Repeatedly disturbed in the same manner, I made it my constant practice to search the room and closets within, and to secure the only door on the inside. . . . Yet this precaution did not preclude the disturbance, which continued with little interruption."

Nobody, in short, could enter this room, except by passing through that of Mrs. Ricketts, the door of which "was always made fast by a drawn bolt". Yet somebody kept rustling and walking in the inner room, which somebody could never be found when sought for.

In summer, 1770, Mrs. Ricketts heard someone walk to the foot of her bed in her own room, "the footsteps as distinct as ever I heard, myself perfectly awake and collected". Nobody could be discovered in the chamber. Mrs. Ricketts boldly clung to her room, and was only now and then disturbed by "sounds of harmony," and heavy thumps, down stairs. After this, and early in 1771, she was "frequently sensible of a hollow murmuring that seemed to possess the whole house: it was independent of wind, being equally heard on the calmest nights, and it was a sound I had never been accustomed to hear".

On 27th February, 1771, a maid was alarmed by "groans and fluttering round her bed": she was "the sister of an eminent grocer in Alresford". On 2nd April, Mrs. Ricketts heard people walking in the lobby, hunted for burglars, traced the sounds to a room whence their was no outlet, and found nobody. This kind of thing went on till Mrs. Ricketts despaired of any natural explanation. After mid-summer, 1771, the trouble increased, in broad daylight, and a shrill female voice, answered by two male voices was added to the afflictions. Captain Jervis came on a visit, but was told of nothing, and never heard anything. After he went to Portsmouth, "the most deep, loud tremendous noise seemed to rush and fall with infinite velocity and force on the lobby floor adjoining my room," accompanied by a shrill and dreadful shriek, seeming to proceed from under the spot where the rushing noise fell, and repeated three or four times.