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Dorothy Durant






A schoolboy named Bligh, who went to Launceston Grammar School, of which
the Rev. John Ruddle was headmaster, from being a lad of bright parts
and no common attainments, became on a sudden moody, dejected, and
melancholy. His friends, seeing the change without being able to find
the cause, attributed it to laziness, an aversion to school, or to some
other motive which he was ashamed to avow. He was led, however, to tell
his brother, after some time, that in a field through which he passed to
and from school, he invariably met the apparition of a woman, whom he
personally knew while living, and who had been dead about eight years.
Ridicule, threats, persuasions, were alike used in vain by the family to
induce him to dismiss these absurd ideas. Finally, Mr Ruddle was sent
for, and to him the boy ingenuously told the time, manner, and frequency
of this appearance. It was in a field called Higher Broomfield. The
apparition, he said, appeared dressed in female attire, met him two or
three times while he passed through the field, glided hastily by him,
but never spoke. He had thus been occasionally met about two months
before he took any particular notice of it; at length the appearance
became more frequent, meeting him both morning and evening, but always
in the same field, yet invariably moving out of the path when it came
close to him. He often spoke, but could never get any reply. To avoid
this unwelcome visitor he forsook the field, and went to school and
returned from it through a lane, in which place, between the quarry pack
and nursery, it always met him. Unable to disbelieve the evidence of his
own senses, or to obtain credit with any of his family, he prevailed
upon Mr Ruddle to accompany him to the place.

"I arose," says this clergyman, "the next morning, and went with him.
The field to which he led me I guessed to be about twenty acres, in an
open country, and about three furlongs from any house. We went into the
field, and had not gone a third part before the spectrum in the shape of
a woman, with all the circumstances he had described the day before, so
far as the suddenness of its appearance and transition would permit me
to discover, passed by.

"I was a little surprised at it, and though I had taken up a firm
resolution to speak to it, I had not the power, nor durst I look back;
yet I took care not to show any fear to my pupil and guide, and
therefore, telling him I was satisfied of the truth of his statement, we
walked to the end of the field and returned--nor did the ghost meet us
that time but once.

"On the 27th July, 1665, I went to the haunted field by myself, and
walked the breadth of it without any encounter. I then returned and took
the other walk, and then the spectre appeared to me, much about the same
place in which I saw it when the young gentleman was with me. It
appeared to move swifter than before, and seemed to be about ten feet
from me on my right hand, insomuch that I had not time to speak to it,
as I had determined with myself beforehand. The evening of this day, the
parents, the son, and myself, being in the chamber where I lay, I
proposed to them our going altogether to the place next morning. We
accordingly met at the stile we had appointed; thence we all four walked
into the field together. We had not gone more than half the field before
the ghost made its appearance. It then came over the stile just before
us, and moved with such rapidity that by the time we had gone six or
seven steps it passed by. I immediately turned my head and ran after it,
with the young man by my side. We saw it pass over the stile at which we
entered, and no farther. I stepped upon the hedge at one place and the
young man at another, but we could discern nothing; whereas I do aver
that the swiftest horse in England could not have conveyed himself out
of sight in that short space of time. Two things I observed in this
day's appearance: first, a spaniel dog, which had followed the company
unregarded, barked and ran away as the spectrum passed by; whence it is
easy to conclude that it was not our fear or fancy which made the
apparition. Secondly, the motion of the spectrum was not _gradatim_ or
by steps, or moving of the feet, but by a kind of gliding, as children
upon ice, or as a boat down a river, which punctually answers the
description the ancients give of the motion of these Lamures. This
ocular evidence clearly convinced, but withal strangely affrighted, the
old gentleman and his wife. They well knew this woman, Dorothy Durant,
in her life-time; were at her burial, and now plainly saw her features
in this apparition.

"The next morning, being Thursday, I went very early by myself, and
walked for about an hour's space in meditation and prayer in the field
next adjoining. Soon after five I stepped over the stile into the
haunted field, and had not gone above thirty or forty paces before the
ghost appeared at the further stile. I spoke to it in some short
sentences with a loud voice; whereupon it approached me, but slowly, and
when I came near it moved not. I spoke again, and it answered in a voice
neither audible nor very intelligible. I was not in the least terrified,
and therefore persisted until it spoke again and gave me satisfaction;
but the work could not be finished at this time. Whereupon the same
evening, an hour after sunset, it met me again near the same place, and
after a few words on each side it quietly vanished, and neither doth
appear now, nor hath appeared since, nor ever will more to any man's
disturbance. The discourse in the morning lasted about a quarter of an
hour.

"These things are true," concludes the Rev. John Ruddle, "and I know
them to be so, with as much certainty as eyes and ears can give me; and
until I can be persuaded that my senses all deceive me about their
proper objects, and by that persuasion deprive me of the strongest
inducement to believe the Christian religion, I must and will assert
that the things contained in this paper are true."





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