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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


This is a pretty tame case of haunting, as was conjectured, by an unhappy revenant, the returned spirit of the second Mrs. S. Here it may be remarked that apparitions in haunted houses are very seldom recognised as those of dead persons, and, when recognised, the recognition is usually dubious. Thus, in February, 1897, Lieutenant Carr Glyn, of the Grenadiers, while reading in the outer room of the Queen's Library in Windsor, saw a lady in black in a kind of mantilla of black lace pass from the inner room into a corner where she was lost to view. He supposed that she had gone out by a door there, and asked an attendant later who she was. There was no door round the corner, and, in the opinion of some, the lady was Queen Elizabeth! She has a traditional habit, it seems, of haunting the Library. But surely, of all people, in dress and aspect Queen Elizabeth is most easily recognised. The seer did not recognise her, and she was probably a mere casual hallucination. In old houses such traditions are common, but vague. In this connection Glamis is usually mentioned. Every one has heard of the Secret Chamber, with its mystery, and the story was known to Scott, who introduces it in The Betrothed. But we know when the Secret Chamber was built (under the Restoration), who built it, what he paid the masons, and where it is: under the Charter Room. {201} These cold facts rather take the "weird" effect off the Glamis legend.

The usual process is, given an old house, first a noise, then a hallucination, actual or pretended, then a myth to account for the hallucination. There is a castle on the border which has at least seven or eight distinct ghosts. One is the famous Radiant Boy. He has been evicted by turning his tapestried chamber into the smoking- room. For many years not one ghost has been seen except the lady with the candle, viewed by myself, but, being ignorant of the story, I thought she was one of the maids. Perhaps she was, but she went into an empty set of rooms, and did not come out again. Footsteps are apt to approach the doors of these rooms in mirk midnight, the door handle turns, and that is all.

So much for supposed hauntings by spirits of the dead.

At the opposite pole are hauntings by agencies whom nobody supposes to be ghosts of inmates of the house. The following is an extreme example, as the haunter proceeded to arson. This is not so very unusual, and, if managed by an impostor, shows insane malevolence. {202}


On 16th November, 1870, Mr. Shchapoff, a Russian squire, the narrator, came home from a visit to a country town, Iletski, and found his family in some disarray. There lived with him his mother and his wife's mother, ladies of about sixty-nine, his wife, aged twenty, and his baby daughter. The ladies had been a good deal disturbed. On the night of the 14th, the baby was fractious, and the cook, Maria, danced and played the harmonica to divert her. The baby fell asleep, the wife and Mr. Shchapoff's miller's lady were engaged in conversation, when a shadow crossed the blind on the outside. They were about to go out and see who was passing, when they heard a double shuffle being executed with energy in the loft overhead. They thought Maria, the cook, was making a night of it, but found her asleep in the kitchen. The dancing went on but nobody could be found in the loft. Then raps began on the window panes, and so the miller and gardener patrolled outside. Nobody!