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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


"She then requested to be left that she might lie down and compose herself, and her children quitted the apartment, having desired her attendant to watch her, and if any change came on to summon them to her bedside. In an hour the bell rang, and they hastened to the call, but all was over. The two children having ordered every one to retire, knelt down by the side of the bed, when Lady Riverston unbound the black ribbon and found the wrist exactly as Lady Beresford had described it--every nerve withered, every sinew shrunk.

"Her friend, the Archbishop, had had her buried in the Cathedral of St. Patrick, in Dublin, in the Earl of Cork's tomb, where she now lies."

* * * * *

The writer now professes his disbelief in any spiritual presence, and explains his theory that Lady Beresford's anxiety about Lord Tyrone deluded her by a vivid dream, during which she hurt her wrist.

Of all ghost stories the Tyrone, or Beresford Ghost, has most variants. Following Monsieur Haureau, in the Journal des Savants, I have tracked the tale, the death compact, and the wound inflicted by the ghost on the hand, or wrist, or brow, of the seer, through Henry More, and Melanchthon, and a mediaeval sermon by Eudes de Shirton, to William of Malmesbury, a range of 700 years. Mrs. Grant of Laggan has a rather recent case, and I have heard of another in the last ten years! Calmet has a case in 1625, the spectre leaves

The sable score of fingers four

on a board of wood.

Now for a modern instance of a gang of ghosts with a purpose!

When I narrated the story which follows to an eminent moral philosopher, he remarked, at a given point, "Oh, the ghost _spoke_, did she?" and displayed scepticism. The evidence, however, left him, as it leaves me, at a standstill, not convinced, but agreeably perplexed. The ghosts here are truly old-fashioned.

My story is, and must probably remain, entirely devoid of proof, as far as any kind of ghostly influence is concerned. We find ghosts appearing, and imposing a certain course of action on a living witness, for definite purposes of their own. The course of action prescribed was undeniably pursued, and apparently the purpose of the ghosts was fulfilled, but what that purpose was their agent declines to state, and conjecture is hopelessly baffled.

The documents in the affair have been published by the Society for Psychical Research (Proceedings, vol. xi., p. 547), and are here used for reference. But I think the matter will be more intelligible if I narrate it exactly as it came under my own observation. The names of persons and places are all fictitious, and are the same as those used in the documents published by the S.P.R.


In October, 1893, I was staying at a town which we shall call Rapingham. One night I and some kinsfolk dined with another old friend of all of us, a Dr. Ferrier. In the course of dinner he asked a propos de bottes:--

"Have you heard of the ghost in Blake Street?" a sunny, pleasant street of respectable but uninteresting antiquity in Rapingham.

We had none of us heard of the ghost, and begged the doctor to enlighten our ignorance. His story ran thus--I have it in his own writing as far as its essence goes:--

"The house," he said, "belongs to my friends, the Applebys, who let it, as they live elsewhere. A quiet couple took it and lived in it for five years, when the husband died, and the widow went away. They made no complaint while tenants. The house stood empty for some time, and all I know personally about the matter is that I, my wife, and the children were in the dining-room one Sunday when we heard unusual noises in the drawing-room overhead. We went through the rooms but could find no cause or explanation of the disturbance, and thought no more about it.