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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


"And how much more terrible did it seem in this little cottage, where all were strict members of church, prayed, sang hymns and read the Bible. Poor Mrs. Teed!"

On Mr. Hubbell's remarking that the cat was not tormented, "she was instantly lifted from the floor to a height of five feet, and then dropped on Esther's back. . . . I never saw any cat more frightened; she ran out into the front yard, where she remained for the balance (rest) of the day." On 27th June "a trumpet was heard in the house all day".

The Rev. R. A. Temple now prayed with Esther, and tried a little amateur exorcism, including the use of slips of paper, inscribed with Habakkuk ii. 3. The ghosts cared no more than Voltaire for ce coquin d'Habacuc.

Things came to such a pass, matches simply raining all round, that Mr. Teed's landlord, a Mr. Bliss, evicted Esther. She went to a Mr. Van Amburgh's, and Mr. Teed's cottage was in peace.

Some weeks later Esther was arrested for incendiarism in a barn, was sentenced to four months' imprisonment, but was soon released in deference to public opinion. She married, had a family; and ceased to be a mystery.

This story is narrated with an amiable simplicity, and is backed, more or less, by extracts from Amherst and other local newspapers. On making inquiries, I found that opinion was divided. Some held that Esther was a mere impostor and fire-raiser; from other sources I obtained curious tales of the eccentric flight of objects in her neighbourhood. It is only certain that Esther's case is identical with Madame Shchapoff's, and experts in hysteria may tell us whether that malady ever takes the form of setting fire to the patient's wardrobe, and to things in general. {239a}

After these modern cases of disturbances, we may look at a few old, or even ancient examples. It will be observed that the symptoms are always of the same type, whatever the date or country. The first is Gaelic, of last century.


It is fully a hundred years ago since there died in Lochaber a man named Donald Ban, sometimes called "the son of Angus," but more frequently known as Donald Ban of the Bocan. This surname was derived from the troubles caused to him by a bocan--a goblin--many of whose doings are preserved in tradition.

Donald drew his origin from the honourable house of Keppoch, and was the last of the hunters of Macvic-Ronald. His home was at Mounessee, and later at Inverlaire in Glenspean, and his wife belonged to the MacGregors of Rannoch. He went out with the Prince, and was present at the battle of Culloden. He fled from the field, and took refuge in a mountain shieling, having two guns with him, but only one of them was loaded. A company of soldiers came upon him there, and although Donald escaped by a back window, taking the empty gun with him by mistake, he was wounded in the leg by a shot from his pursuers. The soldiers took him then, and conveyed him to Inverness, where he was thrown into prison to await his trial. While he was in prison he had a dream; he saw himself sitting and drinking with Alastair MacCholla, and Donald MacRonald Vor. The latter was the man of whom it was said that he had two hearts; he was taken prisoner at Falkirk and executed at Carlisle. Donald was more fortunate than his friend, and was finally set free.