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Supposed Supernatural Appearance






Some few years since, before ghosts and spectres were commonly
introduced among us by means of the pantomimes and novels of the day, a
gentleman of a philosophical turn of mind, who was hardy enough to deny
the existence of any thing supernatural, happened to pay a visit at an
old house in Gloucestershire, whose unfortunate owner had just become a
bankrupt, with a view to offer such assistance and consolation as he
could bestow: when, in one rainy dull evening in the month of March, the
family being seated by the kitchen fire-side, the conversation turned on
supernatural appearances. The philosopher was endeavouring to convince
his auditors of the folly and absurdity of such opinions, with rather an
unbecoming levity, when the wife left the party and went up stairs; but
had hardly quitted the kitchen three minutes, before a dreadful noise
was heard, mingled with horrid screams. The poor maid changed
countenance, and her red hair stood erect, in every direction; the
husband trembled in his chair; and the philosopher began to look
serious. At last, the husband rose from his seat, and ascended the
stairs in search of his wife, when a second dreadful scream was heard:
the maid mustered resolution to follow her master, and a third scream
ensued. The philosopher, who was not quite at ease, now thought it high
time for him to set out in search of a cause: when, arriving at the
landing-place, he found the maid in a fit; the master lying flat, with
his face upon the floor, which was stained with blood; and, on advancing
a little farther, the mistress in nearly the same condition. To the
latter the philosopher paid immediate attention; and, finding she had
only swooned away, brought her in his arms down stairs, and placed her
on the floor of the kitchen. The pump was at hand, and he had the
presence of mind to run to it to get some water in a glass; but what was
his astonishment, when he found that he pumped only copious streams of
blood! which extraordinary appearance, joined to the other
circumstances, made the unbeliever tremble in every limb: a sudden
perspiration overspread the surface of his skin; and the supernatural
possessed his imagination in all its true colours of dread and horror.
Again and again he repeated his efforts; and, again and again, threw
away the loathsome contents of the glass.

Had the story stopped here, what would not superstition have made of it?
But the philosopher, who was still pumping, now found the water grew
paler; and, at last, pure water filled the vessel. Overjoyed at this
observation, he threw the limpid stream in the face of the mistress,
whose recovery was assisted by the appearance of her husband and Betty.

The mystery, when explained, turned out to be simply this--The good
housewife, when she knew that a docket had been struck against her
husband, had taken care to conceal some of her choice cherry brandy,
from the rapacious gripe of the messenger to the Commissioners of
Bankrupts, on some shelves in a closet up stairs, which also contained,
agreeably to the ancient architecture of the building, the trunk of the
pump below; and, in trying to move the jars, to get at a drop for the
party at the kitchen fire, the shelf gave way with a tremendous crash;
the jars were broken into an hundred pieces; the rich juice descended in
torrents down the trunk of the pump, and filled, with its ruby current,
the sucker beneath; and this was the self-same fluid which the
philosopher, in his fright, had so madly thrown away. The wife had
swooned at the accident; the husband, in his haste, had fallen on his
nose, which ran with blood; and the maid's legs, in her hurry, coming in
contact with her fallen master's ribs, she, like "vaulting ambition,"
overleaped herself, and fell on the other side.

Often has this story been told, by one who knew the philosopher, with
great effect, till the last act, or denouement; when disappointment
was mostly visible in the looks of his auditors, at finding there was
actually nothing supernatural in the affair, and no ghost.





Next: The Apparition Investigated

Previous: The Lunatic Apparition



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