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

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead


_Two Doubles Summon a Priest to Their Deathbeds._

The next narrative should rather have come under the head of premonitions, but as the premonition in this case was accompanied by an apparition, I include it in the present chapter. It is, in its way, even more remarkable than Mr. Talbot's story. It is more recent, it is prophetic, and the apparitions of two living men appeared together to predict the day of their death. The narrative rests on the excellent authority of the Rev. Father Fleming, the hard-working Catholic priest of Slindon, in Sussex. I heard of it from one of his parishioners who is a friend of mine, and on applying to Father Fleming, he was kind enough to write out the following account of his strange experience, for the truth of every word of which he is prepared to vouch. In all the wide range of spectral literature I know no story that is quite like this:--

"I was spending my usual vacation in Dublin in the year 1868, I may add very pleasantly, since I was staying at the house of an old friend of my father's, and whilst there was treated with the attention which is claimed by an honoured guest, and with as much kindness and heartiness as if I were a member of his family. I was perfectly comfortable, perfectly at home. As to my professional engagements, I was free for the whole time of my holiday, and could not in any manner admit a scruple or doubt as to the manner in which my work was done in my absence, for a fully qualified and earnest clergyman was supplying for me. Perhaps this preamble is necessary to show that my mind was at rest, and that nothing in the ordinary course of events would have recalled me so suddenly and abruptly to the scene of my labours at Woolwich. I had about a week of my unexpired leave of absence yet to run when what I am about to relate occurred to me. No comment or explanation is offered. It is simply a narrative.

"I had retired to rest at night, my mind perfectly at rest, and slept, as young men do in robust health, until about four o'clock in the morning. It appeared to me about that hour that I was conscious of a knock at the door. Thinking it to be the man-servant who was accustomed to call me in the morning, I at once said, 'Come in.' To my surprise there appeared at the foot of the bed two figures, one a man of medium height, fair and well fleshed, the other tall, dark, and spare, both dressed as artisans belonging to Woolwich Arsenal. On asking them what they wanted, the shorter man replied, 'My name is C----s. I belong to Woolwich. I died on ---- of ----, and you must attend me.'

"Probably the novelty of the situation and feelings attendant upon it, prevented me from noticing that he had used the past tense. The reply which I received to my question from the other man was like in form, 'My name is M----ll, I belong to Woolwich, I died on ---- of ----, and you must attend me.' I then remarked that the past tense had been used, and cried out, 'Stop! You said "died," and the day you mentioned has not come yet?' at which they both smiled, and added, 'We know this very well; it was done to fix your attention, but'--and they seemed to say very earnestly and in a marked manner--'you must attend us!' at which they disappeared, leaving me awe-stricken, surprised, and thoroughly aroused from sleep. Whether what I narrate was seen during sleep, or when wholly awake, I do not pretend to say. It appeared to me that I was perfectly awake and perfectly conscious. Of this I had no doubt at the time, and I can scarcely summon up a doubt as to what I heard and saw whilst I am telling it. As I had lighted my lamp, I rose, dressed, and seating myself at a table in the room, read and thought, and, I need hardly say, from time to time prayed, and fervently, until day came. When I was called in the morning, I sent a message to the lady of the house to say that I should not go to the University Chapel to say Mass that morning, and should be present at the usual family breakfast at nine.