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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


A brilliant light in a dark room, an icy wind and a feeling of being "watched" were other discomforts in Mrs. Rokeby's lot. After 1876, only occasional rappings were heard, till Mr. Rokeby being absent one night in 1883, the noises broke out, "banging, thumping, the whole place shaking". The library was the centre of these exercises, and the dog, a fine collie, was shut up in the library. Mrs. Rokeby left her room for her daughter's, while the dog whined in terror, and the noises increased in violence. Next day the dog, when let out, rushed forth with enthusiasm, but crouched with his tail between his legs when invited to re-enter.

This was in 1883. Several years after, Mr. Rokeby was smoking, alone, in the dining-room early in the evening, when the dog began to bristle up his hair, and bark. Mr. Rokeby looked up and saw the woman in grey, with about half her figure passed through the slightly open door. He ran to the door, but she was gone, and the servants were engaged in their usual business. {198a}

Our next ghost offered many opportunities to observers.


A ghost in a haunted house is seldom observed with anything like scientific precision. The spectre in the following narrative could not be photographed, attempts being usually made in a light which required prolonged exposure. Efforts to touch it were failures, nor did it speak. On the other hand, it did lend itself, perhaps unconsciously, to one scientific experiment. The story is unromantic; the names are fictitious. {198b}

Bognor House, an eligible family residence near a large town, was built in 1860, and occupied, till his death in 1876, by Mr. S. He was twice married, and was not of temperate ways. His second wife adopted his habits, left him shortly before his death, and died at Clifton in 1878. The pair used to quarrel about some jewels which Mr. S. concealed in the flooring of a room where the ghost was never seen.

A Mr L. now took the house, but died six months later. Bognor House stood empty for four years, during which there was vague talk of hauntings. In April, 1882, the house was taken by Captain Morton. This was in April; in June Miss Rose Morton, a lady of nineteen studying medicine (and wearing spectacles), saw the first appearance. Miss Morton did not mention her experiences to her family, her mother being an invalid, and her brothers and sisters very young, but she transmitted accounts to a friend, a lady, in a kind of diary letters. These are extant, and are quoted.

Phenomena of this kind usually begin with noises, and go on to apparitions. Miss Morton one night, while preparing to go to bed, heard a noise outside, thought it was her mother, opened the door, saw a tall lady in black holding a handkerchief to her face, and followed the figure till her candle burned out. A widow's white cuff was visible on each wrist, the whole of the face was never seen. In 1882- 84, Miss Morton saw the figure about six times; it was thrice seen, once through the window from outside, by other persons, who took it for a living being. Two boys playing in the garden ran in to ask who was the weeping lady in black.

On 29th January, 1884, Miss Morton spoke to her inmate, as the lady in black stood beside a sofa. "She only gave a slight gasp and moved towards the door. Just by the door I spoke to her again, but she seemed as if she were quite unable to speak." {199} In May and June Miss Morton fastened strings at different heights from the stair railings to the wall, where she attached them with glue, but she twice saw the lady pass through the cords, leaving them untouched. When Miss Morton cornered the figure and tried to touch her, or pounce on her, she dodged, or disappeared. But by a curious contradiction her steps were often heard by several of the family, and when she heard the steps, Miss Morton used to go out and follow the figure. There is really no more to tell. Miss Morton's father never saw the lady, even when she sat on a sofa for half an hour, Miss Morton watching her. Other people saw her in the garden crying, and sent messages to ask what was the matter, and who was the lady in distress. Many members of the family, boys, girls, married ladies, servants and others often saw the lady in black. In 1885 loud noises, bumps and turning of door handles were common, and though the servants were told that the lady was quite harmless, they did not always stay. The whole establishment of servants was gradually changed, but the lady still walked. She appeared more seldom in 1887-1889, and by 1892 even the light footsteps ceased. Two dogs, a retriever and a Skye terrier, showed much alarm. "Twice," says Miss Morton, "I saw the terrier suddenly run up to the mat at the foot of the stairs in the hall, wagging its tail, and moving its back in the way dogs do when they expect to be caressed. It jumped up, fawning as it would do if a person had been standing there, but suddenly slunk away with its tail between its legs, and retreated, trembling, under a sofa." Miss Morton's own emotion, at first, was "a feeling of awe at something unknown, mixed with a strong desire to know more about it". {200}