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Half-past One O'clock






In October, 1893, I was staying at a town which we shall call
Rapingham. One night I and some kinsfolk dined with another old
friend of all of us, a Dr. Ferrier. In the course of dinner he asked
a propos de bottes:--

"Have you heard of the ghost in Blake Street?" a sunny, pleasant
street of respectable but uninteresting antiquity in Rapingham.

We had none of us heard of the ghost, and begged the doctor to
enlighten our ignorance. His story ran thus--I have it in his own
writing as far as its essence goes:--

"The house," he said, "belongs to my friends, the Applebys, who let
it, as they live elsewhere. A quiet couple took it and lived in it
for five years, when the husband died, and the widow went away. They
made no complaint while tenants. The house stood empty for some time,
and all I know personally about the matter is that I, my wife, and the
children were in the dining-room one Sunday when we heard unusual
noises in the drawing-room overhead. We went through the rooms but
could find no cause or explanation of the disturbance, and thought no
more about it.

"About six or seven years ago I let the house to a Mr. Buckley, who is
still the tenant. He was unmarried, and his family consisted of his
mother and sisters. They preceded him to put the place in order, and
before his arrival came to me in some irritation complaining that I
had let them _a haunted house_! They insisted that there were strange
noises, as if heavy weights were being dragged about, or heavy
footsteps pacing in the rooms and on the stairs. I said that I knew
nothing about the matter. The stairs are of stone, water is only
carried up to the first floor, there is an unused system of hot air
pipes. {177a} Something went wrong with the water-main in the area
once, but the noises lasted after it was mended.

"I think Mr. Buckley when he arrived never heard anything unusual.
But one evening as he walked upstairs carrying an ink-bottle, he found
his hand full of some liquid. Thinking that he had spilt the ink, he
went to a window where he found his hand full of water, to account for
which there was no stain on the ceiling, or anything else that he
could discover. On another occasion one of the young ladies was
kneeling by a trunk in an attic, alone, when water was switched over
her face, as if from a wet brush. {177b} There was a small pool of
water on the floor, and the wall beyond her was sprinkled.

"Time went on, and the disturbances were very rare: in fact ceased
for two years till the present week, when Mrs. Claughton, a widow
accompanied by two of her children, came to stay with the Buckleys.
{177c} She had heard of the disturbances and the theory of hauntings--
I don't know if these things interested her or not.

"Early on Monday, 9th October, Mrs. Claughton came to consult me. Her
story was this: About a quarter past one on Sunday night, or Monday
morning, she was in bed with one of her children, the other sleeping
in the room. She was awakened by footsteps on the stair, and supposed
that a servant was coming to call her to Miss Buckley, who was ill.
The steps stopped at the door, then the noise was repeated. Mrs.
Claughton lit her bedroom candle, opened the door and listened. There
was no one there. The clock on the landing pointed to twenty minutes
past one. Mrs. Claughton went back to bed, read a book, fell asleep,
and woke to find the candle still lit, but low in the socket. She
heard a sigh, and saw a lady, unknown to her, her head swathed in a
soft white shawl, her expression gentle and refined, her features much
emaciated.

"The Appearance said, 'Follow me,' and Mrs. Claughton, taking the
bedroom candle, rose and followed out on to the landing, and so into
the adjacent drawing-room. She cannot remember opening the door,
which the housemaid had locked outside, and she owns that this passage
is dreamlike in her memory. Seeing that her candle was flickering
out, she substituted for it a pink one taken from a chiffonier. The
figure walked nearly to the window, turned three-quarters round, said
'To-morrow!' and was no more seen. Mrs. Claughton went back to her
room, where her eldest child asked:--

"'Who is the lady in white?'

"'Only me, mother, go to sleep,' she thinks she answered. After lying
awake for two hours, with gas burning, she fell asleep. The pink
candle from the drawing-room chiffonier was in her candlestick in the
morning.

"After hearing the lady's narrative I told her to try change of air,
which she declined as cowardly. So, as she would stay on at Mr.
Buckley's, I suggested that an electric alarm communicating with Miss
Buckley's room should be rigged up, and this was done."

Here the doctor paused, and as the events had happened within the
week, we felt that we were at last on the track of a recent ghost.

"Next morning, about one, the Buckleys were aroused by a tremendous
peal of the alarm; Mrs. Claughton they found in a faint. Next morning
{179} she consulted me as to the whereabouts of a certain place, let
me call it 'Meresby'. I suggested the use of a postal directory; we
found Meresby, a place extremely unknown to fame, in an agricultural
district about five hours from London in the opposite direction from
Rapingham. To this place Mrs. Claughton said she must go, in the
interest and by the order of certain ghosts, whom she saw on Monday
night, and whose injunctions she had taken down in a note-book. She
has left Rapingham for London, and there," said the doctor, "my story
ends for the present."

We expected it to end for good and all, but in the course of the week
came a communication to the doctor in writing from Mrs. Claughton's
governess. This lady, on Mrs. Claughton's arrival at her London house
(Friday, 13th October), passed a night perturbed by sounds of weeping,
"loud moans," and "a very odd noise overhead, like some electric
battery gone wrong," in fact, much like the "warning" of a jack
running down, which Old Jeffrey used to give at the Wesley's house in
Epworth. There were also heavy footsteps and thuds, as of moving
weighty bodies. So far the governess.

This curious communication I read at Rapingham on Saturday, 14th
October, or Sunday, 15th October. On Monday I went to town. In the
course of the week I received a letter from my kinsman in Rapingham,
saying that Mrs. Claughton had written to Dr. Ferrier, telling him
that she had gone to Meresby on Saturday; had accomplished the bidding
of the ghosts, and had lodged with one Joseph Wright, the parish
clerk. Her duty had been to examine the Meresby parish registers, and
to compare certain entries with information given by the ghosts and
written by her in her note-book. If the entries in the parish
register tallied with her notes, she was to pass the time between one
o'clock and half-past one, alone, in Meresby Church, and receive a
communication from the spectres. All this she said that she had done,
and in evidence of her journey enclosed her half ticket to Meresby,
which a dream had warned her would not be taken on her arrival. She
also sent a white rose from a grave to Dr. Ferrier, a gentleman in no
sympathy with the Jacobite cause, which, indeed, has no connection
whatever with the matter in hand.

On hearing of this letter from Mrs. Claughton, I confess that, not
knowing the lady, I remained purely sceptical. The railway company,
however, vouched for the ticket. The rector of Meresby, being
appealed to, knew nothing of the matter. He therefore sent for his
curate and parish clerk.

"Did a lady pass part of Sunday night in the church?"

The clerk and the curate admitted that this unusual event _had_
occurred. A lady had arrived from London on Saturday evening; had
lodged with Wright, the parish clerk; had asked for the parish
registers; had compared them with her note-book after morning service
on Sunday, and had begged leave to pass part of the night in the
church. The curate in vain tried to dissuade her, and finally,
washing his hands of it, had left her to Wright the clerk. To him she
described a Mr. George Howard, deceased (one of the ghosts). He
recognised the description, and he accompanied her to the church on a
dark night, starting at one o'clock. She stayed alone, without a
light, in the locked-up church from 1.20 to 1.45, when he let her out.

There now remained no doubt that Mrs. Claughton had really gone to
Meresby, a long and disagreeable journey, and had been locked up in
the church alone at a witching hour.

Beyond this point we have only the statements of Mrs. Claughton, made
to Lord Bute, Mr. Myers and others, and published by the Society for
Psychical Research. She says that after arranging the alarm bell on
Monday night (October 9-10) she fell asleep reading in her dressing-
gown, lying outside her bed. She wakened, and found the lady of the
white shawl bending over her. Mrs. Claughton said: "Am I dreaming,
or is it true?" The figure gave, as testimony to character, a piece
of information. Next Mrs. Claughton saw a male ghost, "tall, dark,
healthy, sixty years old," who named himself as George Howard, buried
in Meresby churchyard, Meresby being a place of which Mrs. Claughton,
like most people, now heard for the first time. He gave the dates of
his marriage and death, which are correct, and have been seen by Mr.
Myers in Mrs. Claughton's note-book. He bade her verify these dates
at Meresby, and wait at 1.15 in the morning at the grave of Richard
Harte (a person, like all of them, unknown to Mrs. Claughton) at the
south-west corner of the south aisle in Meresby Church. This Mr.
Harte died on 15th May, 1745, and missed many events of interest by
doing so. Mr. Howard also named and described Joseph Wright, of
Meresby, as a man who would help her, and he gave minute local
information. Next came a phantom of a man whose name Mrs. Claughton
is not free to give; {182} he seemed to be in great trouble, at first
covering his face with his hands, but later removing them. These
three spectres were to meet Mrs. Claughton in Meresby Church and give
her information of importance on a matter concerning, apparently, the
third and only unhappy appearance. After these promises and
injunctions the phantoms left, and Mrs. Claughton went to the door to
look at the clock. Feeling faint, she rang the alarum, when her
friends came and found her in a swoon on the floor. The hour was
1.20.

What Mrs. Claughton's children were doing all this time, and whether
they were in the room or not, does not appear.

On Thursday Mrs. Claughton went to town, and her governess was
perturbed, as we have seen.

On Friday night Mrs. Claughton _dreamed_ a number of things connected
with her journey; a page of the notes made from this dream was shown
to Mr. Myers. Thus her half ticket was not to be taken, she was to
find a Mr. Francis, concerned in the private affairs of the ghosts,
which needed rectifying, and so forth. These premonitions, with
others, were all fulfilled. Mrs. Claughton, in the church at night,
continued her conversation with the ghosts whose acquaintance she had
made at Rapingham. She obtained, it seems, all the information
needful to settling the mysterious matters which disturbed the male
ghost who hid his face, and on Monday morning she visited the daughter
of Mr. Howard in her country house in a park, "recognised the strong
likeness to her father, and carried out all things desired by the dead
to the full, as had been requested. . . . The wishes expressed to her
were perfectly rational, reasonable and of natural importance."

The clerk, Wright, attests the accuracy of Mrs. Claughton's
description of Mr. Howard, whom he knew, and the correspondence of her
dates with those in the parish register and on the graves, which he
found for her at her request. Mr. Myers, "from a very partial
knowledge" of what the Meresby ghosts' business was, thinks the
reasons for not revealing this matter "entirely sufficient". The
ghosts' messages to survivors "effected the intended results," says
Mrs. Claughton.



Of this story the only conceivable natural explanation is that Mrs.
Claughton, to serve her private ends, paid secret preliminary visits
to Meresby, "got up" there a number of minute facts, chose a haunted
house at the other end of England as a first scene in her little
drama, and made the rest of the troublesome journeys, not to mention
the uncomfortable visit to a dark church at midnight, and did all this
from a hysterical love of notoriety. This desirable boon she would
probably never have obtained, even as far as it is consistent with a
pseudonym, if I had not chanced to dine with Dr. Ferrier while the
adventure was only beginning. As there seemed to be a chance of
taking a ghost "on the half volley," I at once communicated the first
part of the tale to the Psychical Society (using pseudonyms, as here,
throughout), and two years later Mrs. Claughton consented to tell the
Society as much as she thinks it fair to reveal.

This, it will be confessed, is a round-about way of obtaining fame,
and an ordinary person in Mrs. Claughton's position would have gone to
the Psychical Society at once, as Mark Twain meant to do when he saw
the ghost which turned out to be a very ordinary person.

There I leave these ghosts, my mind being in a just balance of
agnosticism. If ghosts at all, they were ghosts with a purpose. The
species is now very rare.

The purpose of the ghost in the following instance was trivial, but
was successfully accomplished. In place of asking people to do what
it wanted, the ghost did the thing itself. Now the modern theory of
ghosts, namely, that they are delusions of the senses of the seers,
caused somehow by the mental action of dead or distant people, does
not seem to apply in this case. The ghost produced an effect on a
material object.





Next: "put Out The Light!"

Previous: The Beresford Ghost



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