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The Deathbed






Miss C., a lady of excellent sense, religious but not bigoted, lived
before her marriage in the house of her uncle D., a celebrated
physician, and member of the Institute. Her mother at this time was
seriously ill in the country. One night the girl dreamed that she saw
her mother, pale and dying, and especially grieved at the absence of
two of her children: one a cure in Spain, the other--herself--in
Paris. Next she heard her own Christian name called, "Charlotte!"
and, in her dream, saw the people about her mother bring in her own
little niece and god-child Charlotte from the next room. The patient
intimated by a sign that she did not want _this_ Charlotte, but her
daughter in Paris. She displayed the deepest regret; her countenance
changed, she fell back, and died.

Next day the melancholy of Mademoiselle C. attracted the attention of
her uncle. She told him her dream; he pressed her to his heart, and
admitted that her mother was dead.

Some months later Mademoiselle C., when her uncle was absent, arranged
his papers, which he did not like any one to touch. Among these was a
letter containing the story of her mother's death, with all the
details of her own dream, which D. had kept concealed lest they should
impress her too painfully.

Boismont is staggered by this circumstance, and inclined to account
for it by "still unknown relations in the moral and physical world".
"Mental telegraphy," of course, would explain all, and even chance
coincidence is perfectly conceivable.

The most commonly known of dreams prior to, or simultaneous with an
historical occurrence represented in the vision, is Mr. Williams's
dream of the murder of Mr. Perceval in the lobby of the House of
Commons, May 11, 1812. Mr. Williams, of Scorrier House, near Redruth,
in Cornwall, lived till 1841. He was interested in mines, and a man
of substance. Unluckily the versions of his dream are full of
discrepancies. It was first published, apparently, in The Times
during the "silly season" of 1828 (August 28). According to The
Times, whose account is very minute, Mr. Williams dreamed of the
murder thrice before 2 a.m. on the night of May 11. He told Mrs.
Williams, and was so disturbed that he rose and dressed at two in the
morning. He went to Falmouth next day (May 12), and told the tale to
every one he knew. On the evening of the 13th he told it to Mr. and
Mrs. Tucker (his married daughter) of Tremanton Castle. Mr. Williams
only knew that the _chancellor_ was shot; Mr. Tucker said it must be
the Chancellor of the Exchequer. From the description he recognised
Mr. Perceval, with whom he was at enmity. Mr. Williams had never been
inside the House of Commons. As they talked, Mr. William's son
galloped up from Truro with news of the murder, got from a traveller
by coach. Six weeks later, Mr. Williams went to town, and in the
House of Commons walked up to and recognised the scene of the various
incidents in the murder.

So far The Times, in 1828. But two forms of a version of 1832 exist,
one in a note to Mr. Walpole's Life of Perceval (1874), "an attested
statement, drawn up and signed by Mr. Williams in the presence of the
Rev. Thomas Fisher and Mr. Charles Prideaux Brune". Mr. Brune gave it
to Mr. Walpole. With only verbal differences this variant corresponds
to another signed by Mr. Williams and given by him to his grandson,
who gave it to Mr. Perceval's great-niece, by whom it was lent to the
Society for Psychical Research.

These accounts differ toto coelo from that in The Times of 1828. The
dream is _not_ of May 11, but "about" May 2 or 3. Mr. Williams is
_not_ a stranger to the House of Commons; it is "a place well known to
me". He is _not_ ignorant of the name of the victim, but "understood
that it was Mr. Perceval". He thinks of going to town to give
warning. We hear nothing of Mr. Tucker. Mr. Williams does _not_
verify his dream in the House, but from a drawing. A Mr. C. R. Fox,
son of one to whom the dream was told _before_ the event, was then a
boy of fourteen, and sixty-one years later was sure that he himself
heard of Mr. Williams's dream _before_ the news of the murder arrived.
After sixty years, however, the memory cannot be relied upon.

One very curious circumstance in connection with the assassination of
Mr. Perceval has never been noticed. A rumour or report of the deed
reached Bude Kirk, a village near Annan, on the night of Sunday, May
10, a day before the crime was committed! This was stated in the
Dumfries and Galloway Courier, and copied in The Times of May 25. On
May 28, the Perth Courier quotes the Dumfries paper, and adds that
"the Rev. Mr. Yorstoun, minister of Hoddam (ob. 1833), has visited
Bude Kirk and has obtained the most satisfactory proof of the rumour
having existed" on May 10, but the rumour cannot be traced to its
source. Mr. Yorstoun authorises the mention of his name. The Times
of June 2 says that "the report is without foundation". If Williams
talked everywhere of his dream, on May 3, some garbled shape of it may
conceivably have floated to Bude Kirk by May 10, and originated the
rumour. Whoever started it would keep quiet when the real news
arrived for fear of being implicated in a conspiracy as accessory
before the fact. No trace of Mr. Williams's dream occurs in the
contemporary London papers.

The best version of the dream to follow is probably that signed by Mr.
Williams himself in 1832. {39a}

It may, of course, be argued by people who accept Mr. Williams's dream
as a revelation of the future that it reached his mind from the
_purpose_ conceived in Bellingham's mind, by way of "mental
telegraphy". {39b}





Next: Dream Of Mr Perceval's Murder

Previous: Queen Mary's Jewels



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