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REAL GHOST STORIES (Collected and Edited by William T. Stead) online

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead


Such thoughts came to my mind when I asked the Housekeeper whether she had ever seen any of the phantasmal apparitions of her mistress, my hostess, Mrs. M. The housekeeper, a comfortable, buxom Cornish woman, smiled incredulously. No, she had seen nothing, heard nothing, believed nothing. "As to phantasmal bodies, she would prefer to see them first." "Had she ever seen a ghost?" "No, never." "Had ever had any hallucinations?" "No." But one thing had happened, "rather curious" now that she came to think of it. Last year, when living on the coast far down in the west country, she had suddenly seen as in a dream the house in Hindhead where we were now standing. She had never been in Surrey in her life. She had no idea that she would ever go there, nor did she know that it was in Surrey. What she saw was the laundry. She was standing inside it, and remarked to her husband how strange and large it looked. She looked out at the windows and saw the house and the surroundings with strange distinctness. Then the vision faded away, leaving no other impress on the mind than that she had seen an exceptionally large laundry close to a small country-house in a place where she had never been in before.

Six months passed; she and her husband had decided to leave the west country and take a housekeeper and gardener's post elsewhere. They replied to an advertisement, were appointed by my hostess; they transferred themselves to Hindhead, where they arrived in the dead of winter. When they reached their new quarters she saw, to her infinite astonishment, the precise place she had seen six months before. The laundry was unmistakable. There is not such another laundry in the county of Surrey. There it was, sure enough, and there was the house, and there were all the surroundings exactly as she had seen them down on the south-west coast. She did not believe in ghosts or phantasmal bodies or such like things, but one thing she knew beyond all possibility of doubt. She had seen her new home and laundry on the top of Hindhead, when living in the west country six months before she ever set foot in Surrey, or even knew of the existence of Mrs. M. "The moment I saw it I recognised it and told my husband that it was the identical place I had seen when in our old home."

_William Howitt's Vision._

The Housekeeper's story is very simple, and almost too commonplace. But its significance lies in those very characteristics. Here was no consuming passion, no bond of sympathy, nothing whatever material or sentimental to act as the refracting medium by which the Hindhead laundry could have been made visible in South Devon. Yet similar phenomena are of constant occurrence. A very remarkable case in point is that of William Howitt who, when on a voyage out to Australia, saw his brother's house at Melbourne so plainly that he described it on board ship, and recognised it the moment he landed. Here is his own version of this remarkable instance of clairvoyance:--

"Some weeks ago, while yet at sea, I had a dream of being at my brother's at Melbourne, and found his house on a hill at the further end of the town, and next to the open forest. His garden sloped a little down the hill to some brick buildings below; and there were greenhouses on the right hand by the wall, as you look down the hill from the house. As I looked out of the window in my dream, I saw a wood of dusky-foliaged trees having a somewhat segregated appearance in their heads--that is, their heads did not make that dense mass like our trees. 'There,' I said to some one in my dream, 'I see your native forest of eucalyptus!'