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

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead


"'A strange coincidence,' to use a phrase By which such things are settled nowadays."--Byron.

Chapter I. Warnings of Peril and Death.

It is said that every family has a skeleton in its cupboard. It would be equally true to say that every family has a ghost in its records. Sometimes it is a ghost of the living, sometimes of the dead; but there are few who, if they inquire among their relatives, will not find one or more instances of apparitions, which, however small their evidential credentials, are implicitly accepted as genuine by those who witnessed them. In taking the Census of Hallucinations I made inquiry of an old schoolfellow of mine, who, after I came to Wimbledon, was minister of the Congregational Church in that suburb. He subsequently removed to Portsmouth, where I found him with his father one morning, on the occasion of the laying of the foundation-stone of the new Sunday school. On mentioning the subject of the Census of Ghosts, the Rev. Mr. Talbot, senior, mentioned a very remarkable apparition which, unlike most apparitions, appeared in time to save the life of its owner.

_How a Double Saved a Life._

The Rev. Mr. Talbot, the father of my late pastor, gave me the following account of the apparition:--

"My mother had an extraordinary power of foreseeing and also of seeing visions. Of her premonitions and dreams I could give you many instances; but as that is not the point at present, I will give you the narrative of her other faculty, that of seeing spiritual or phantasmal forms which were not visible to others. We were sitting at tea one evening when my mother suddenly exclaimed, 'Dear me, Mrs. Lister is coming up the path, with her handkerchief to her eyes as if crying, on her way to the door. What can have brought her out at this time? There seems to be something the matter with her head. I will go to the door and let her in.' So saying, my mother arose and went to the front door, where she firmly expected to find Mrs. Lister. None of the rest of us had seen Mrs. Lister come up the path, but as our attention might have been occupied in another direction we did not think anything of it. To my mother's astonishment, when she reached the door Mrs. Lister was not visible. She came back into the room much disturbed. 'There is something the matter with Mrs. Lister,' she said. 'I am certain there is. Yoke the horse and we will drive over at once to the Listers' house'--which stood about one mile from our place--'and see what is the matter.'

"My father, knowing from of old that mother had reason for what she said, yoked the horse and drove off with my mother as rapidly as possible to Lister's house. When they arrived there they knocked at the door; there was no answer. Opening the door they found no one downstairs. My mother then went to Mrs. Lister's bedroom and found the unfortunate lady, apparently breathing her last, lying in a pool of blood. Her husband, in a fit of insanity, had severely beaten her and left her for dead, and then went and drowned himself in a pond.

"My father immediately went off for a doctor, who was able to stitch up Mrs. Lister's worst wounds and arrest the bleeding. In the end Mrs. Lister recovered, owing her life entirely to the fortunate circumstance that at the moment of losing consciousness she had apparently been able to project a visual phantasm of herself before the window of our tea-room. She was a friend of my mother's, and no doubt in her dire extremity had longed for her company. This longing in Mrs. Lister, in some way unknown to us, probably produced the appearance which startled my mother and led to her prompt appearance on the scene of the tragedy."