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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Mrs. Ricketts' "resolution remained firm," but her health was impaired; she tried changing her room, without results. The disturbances pursued her. Her brother now returned. She told him nothing, and he heard nothing, but next day she unbosomed herself. Captain Jervis therefore sat up with Captain Luttrell and his own man. He was rewarded by noises which he in vain tried to pursue. "I should do great injustice to my sister" (he writes to Mr. Ricketts on 9th August, 1771), "if I did not acknowledge to have heard what I could not, after the most diligent search and serious reflection, any way account for." Captain Jervis during a whole week slept by day, and watched, armed, by night. Even by day he was disturbed by a sound as of immense weights falling from the ceiling to the floor of his room. He finally obliged his sister to leave the house.

What occurred after Mrs. Ricketts abandoned Hinton is not very distinct. Apparently Captain Jervis's second stay of a week, when he did hear the noises, was from 1st August to 8th August. From a statement by Mrs. Ricketts it appears that, when her brother joined his ship, the Alarm (9th August), she retired to Dame Camis's house, that of her coachman's mother. Thence she went, and made another attempt to live at Hinton, but was "soon after assailed by a noise I never before heard, very near me, and the terror I felt not to be described". She therefore went to the Newbolts, and thence to the old Palace at Winton; later, on Mr. Ricketts' return, to the Parsonage, and then to Longwood (to the _old_ house there) near Alresford.

Meanwhile, on 18th September, Lady Hillsborough's agent lay with armed men at Hinton, and, making no discovery, offered 50 pounds (increased by Mr. Ricketts to 100 pounds) for the apprehension of the persons who caused the noises. The reward was never claimed. On 8th March, 1772, Camis wrote: "I am very sorry that we cannot find out the reason of the noise"; at other dates he mentions sporadic noises heard by his mother and another woman, including "the murmur". A year after Mrs. Ricketts left a family named Lawrence took the house, and, according to old Lucy Camis, in 1818, Mr. Lawrence very properly threatened to dismiss any servant who spoke of the disturbances. The result of this sensible course was that the Lawrences left suddenly, at the end of the year--and the house was pulled down. Some old political papers of the Great Rebellion, and a monkey's skull, not exhibited to any anatomist, are said to have been discovered under the floor of the lobby, or of one of the rooms. Mrs. Ricketts adds sadly, "The unbelief of Chancellor Hoadley went nearest my heart," as he had previously a high opinion of her veracity. The Bishop of St. Asaph was incredulous, "on the ground that such means were unworthy of the Deity to employ".

Probably a modern bishop would say that there were no noises at all, that every one who heard the sounds was under the influence of "suggestion," caused first in Mrs. Ricketts' own mind by vague tales of a gentleman in drab seen by the servants.

The contagion, to be sure, also reached two distinguished captains in the navy, but not till one of them was told about disturbances which had not previously disturbed him. If this explanation be true, it casts an unusual light on the human imagination. Physical science has lately invented a new theory. Disturbances of this kind are perhaps "seismic,"--caused by earthquakes! (See Professor Milne, in The Times, 21st June, 1897.)

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