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The Dominican Friar






An Extraordinary Event that happened lately at Aix-la-Chapelle.


As the following story, which is averred to be authentic, and to have
happened very lately, may serve to shew, that the stories of this kind,
with which the public are, from time to time, every now and then
alarmed, are nothing more than artful impostures, it is presumed, it
will be useful as well as entertaining to our readers to give it a
place.

A person who kept a lodging-house near the springs at Aix-la-Chapelle,
having lost his wife, committed the management of his family to his
daughter, a sprightly, well-made, handsome girl, about twenty.

There were, at that time, in the house, two ladies and their
waiting-woman, two Dutch officers, and a Dominican Friar.

It happened, that, as the young woman of the house was asleep one night
in her bed, she was awakened by something that attempted to draw the
clothes off the bed. She was at first frightened; but thinking, upon
recollection, that it might be the house-dog, she called him by his
name. The clothes, however, were still pulled from her; and she still
imagining it was by the dog, took up a brush that lay in her reach, and
attempted to strike him. At that moment she saw a flash of sudden light,
that filled the whole room; upon which she shrieked out; all was again
dark and silent, and the clothes were no longer drawn from her.

In the morning, when she related this story, every one treated it as a
dream; and the girl herself at last took it for granted, that it was no
more than an illusion.

The night following, she was again awakened by something that jogged
her, and she thought she felt a hand in the bed; upon endeavouring to
repress it, another flash of lightning threw her into a fit of terror:
she shut her eyes, and crossed herself. When she ventured to open her
eyes again, the light was vanished; but, in a short time, she felt what
she supposed to be a hand again in the bed: she again endeavoured to
repress it, and, looking towards the foot of the bed, saw a large
luminous cross, on which was written distinctly, as with light, the
words, "Be Silent!" She was now so terrified, that she had not power
to break the injunction, but shrunk down into the bed, and covered
herself over with the clothes.

In this situation she continued a considerable time; but, being again
molested, she ventured once more to peep out, when, to her unspeakable
astonishment, she saw a phantasm stand by the side of her bed, almost as
high as the ceiling: a kind of glory encircled its head, and the whole
was in the form of a crucifix, except that it seemed to have several
hands, one of which again approached the bed.

Supposing the phenomenon to be some celestial vision, she exerted all
her fortitude, and, leaping out of bed, threw herself upon her knees
before it; but she instantly found herself assaulted in a manner which
convinced her she was mistaken: she had not strength to disengage
herself from something that embraced her, and therefore screamed out as
loud as she could, to alarm the house, and bring somebody to her
assistance.

Her shrieks awakened the ladies who lay in an adjacent chamber, and they
sent their woman to see what was the matter. The woman, upon opening the
room, saw a luminous phantasm, which greatly terrified her, and heard,
in a deep threatening tone, the words--"At thy peril be gone!"

The woman instantly screamed out, and withdrew: the ladies rose in the
utmost consternation and terror, but nobody came to their assistance:
the old man, the father of the girl, was asleep in a remote part of the
house; the Friar also rested in a room at the end of a long gallery in
another story; and the two Dutch officers were absent on a visit, at a
neighbouring village.

No other violence, however, was offered to the girl that night. As soon
as the morning dawned, she got up, ran down to her father, and told all
that had happened: the two ladies were not long absent; they did not say
much, but quitted the house. The Friar asked the girl several questions,
and declared that he had heard other instances of the like nature, but
said, the girl would do well to obey the commands of the vision, and
that no harm would come of it. He said, he would remain to see the
issue; and, in the mean time, ordered proper prayers and masses to be
said at a neighbouring convent of his order, to which he most devoutly
joined his own.

The girl was comforted with this spiritual assistance; but,
notwithstanding, took one of the maids to be her bedfellow the next
night. In the dead of the night, the flaming cross was again visible,
but no attempt was made on either of the women. They were, however,
greatly terrified; and the servant said, she would rather leave her
place, than lie in the room again.

The Friar, the next morning, took the merit of the spirit's peaceable
behaviour to himself. The prayers and masses were renewed, and
application was made to the convents at Liege for auxiliary assistance.
The good Friar, in the mean time, was by no means idle at home: he
performed his devotions with great ardour, and towards evening bestowed
a plentiful libation of holy water on the chamber and the bed.

The girl not being able to persuade the servant to sleep with her again
in the haunted room, and being encouraged by the Friar to abide the
issue, having also great confidence herself in the prayers, masses, and
sprinklings, that had been used on the occasion, she ventured once more
to sleep in the same room by herself.

In the night, after hearing some slight noises, she saw the room all in
a blaze, and a great number of luminous crosses, with scraps of writing
here and there very legible, among which the precept to be silent was
most conspicuous.

In the middle of the room she saw something of a human appearance, which
seemed covered only with a linen garment, like a shirt: it appeared to
diffuse a radiance round it; and, at length, by a slow and silent pace,
approached the bed.

When it came up to the bed-side, it drew the curtain more open, and,
lifting up the bed-clothes, was about to come in. The girl, now more
terrified than ever, screamed out with all her power. As every body in
the house was upon the watch, she was heard by them all; but the father
only had courage to go to her assistance, and his bravery was probably
owing to a considerable quantity of reliques, which he had procured from
the convent, and which he brought in his hand.

When he came, however, nothing was to be seen but some of the little
crosses and inscriptions, several of which were now luminous only in
part.

Being himself greatly terrified at these appearances, he ran to the
Friar's apartment, and with some difficulty prevailed upon him to go
with him to the haunted room. The Friar at first excused himself upon
account of the young woman's being there in bed. As soon as he entered,
and saw the crosses, he prostrated himself on the ground, and uttered
many prayers and incantations, to which the honest landlord most
heartily said Amen.

The poor girl, in the mean time, lay in a kind of trance; and her
father, when the prayers were over, ran down stairs for some wine, a
cordial being necessary to recover her: the Friar, at the same time,
ordered him to light and bring with him a consecrated taper; for
hitherto they had no light but that of the vision, which was still
strong enough to discover every thing in the room.

In a short time the old man entered with a taper in his hand; and in a
moment all the luminous appearances vanished. The girl, soon after,
recovered, and gave a very sensible account of all that had happened;
and the landlord and the Friar spent the rest of the night together.

The Friar, however, to shew the power of the daemon, and the holy virtue
of the taper, removed it several times from the chamber, before the day
broke, and the crosses and inscriptions were again visible, and remained
so till the taper was brought back, and then vanished as at first.

When the sun arose, the Friar took his leave to go to matins, and did
not return till noon. In the mean time the two Dutch officers came home,
and soon learnt what had happened, though the landlord took all the
pains he could to conceal it. The reports they heard were confirmed by
the pale and terrified appearance of the girl; their curiosity was
greatly excited, and they asked her innumerable questions. Her answers,
instead of extinguishing, increased it. They assured the landlord, they
would not leave his house, but, on the contrary, would afford him all
the assistance in their power.

As they were young gentlemen of a military profession, and Protestants,
they were at once bold and incredulous. They pretended, however, to
adopt the opinion of the landlord, that the appearances were
supernatural; but it happened that, upon going into the room, they found
the remainder of the taper, on the virtues of which the landlord had so
largely expatiated, and immediately perceived that it was only a common
candle of a large size, which he had brought by mistake in his fright.

This discovery convinced them that there was a fraud, and that
appearances that vanished at the approach of unconsecrated light must be
produced by mere human artifice.

They therefore consulted together, and at length agreed, that the masses
should be continued; that the landlord should not say one word of the
candle, or the suspicions it had produced; that his daughter, the next
night, should sleep in the apartment which had been quitted by the
ladies; and that one of the officers should lie in the girl's bed, while
the other, with the landlord, should wait in the kitchen, to see the
issue.

This plan was accordingly, with great secrecy, carried into execution.

For two hours after the officer had been in bed, all was silent and
quiet, and he began to suspect that the girl had either been fanciful,
or that their secret had transpired: when, all on a sudden, he heard
the latch of the door gently raised; and, perceiving something approach
the bed and attempt to take up the clothes, he resisted with sufficient
strength to frustrate the attempt, and immediately the room appeared to
be all in a flame; he saw many crosses, and inscriptions enjoining
silence and a passive acquiescence in whatever should happen; he saw
also, in the middle of the room, something of a human appearance, very
tall, and very luminous. The officer was at first struck with terror,
and the vision made a second approach to the bed-side; but the
gentleman, recovering his fortitude with the first moment of reflection,
dexterously threw a slip knot, which he had fastened to one of the
bed-posts, over the phantom's neck: he instantly drew it close, which
brought him to the ground, and then threw himself upon him. The fall and
the struggle made so much noise, that the other officer and the landlord
ran up with lights and weapons; and the goblin was found to be no other
than the good Friar, who, having conceived something more than a
spiritual affection for his landlord's pretty daughter, had played this
infernal farce, to gratify his passion.

Being now secured and detected, beyond hope of subterfuge or escape, he
made a full confession of his guilt, and begged earnestly for mercy.

It appeared that this fellow, who was near six feet high, had made
himself appear still taller, by putting upon his head a kind of tiara
of embossed paper, and had also thrust a stick through the sleeves of
his habit, which formed the appearance of a cross, and still left his
hands at liberty; and that he had rendered himself and his apparatus
visible in the dark by phosphorus.

The landlord contented himself with giving his reverence a hearty
drubbing, and then turning him out of doors, with a strict injunction to
quit the territory of Liege for ever, upon pain of being much more
severely treated.

When it is considered, that it is but a few years ago, that a poor
woman, within twenty miles of London, lost her life upon supposition
that she was a witch; and that it is not many years since the Cock-lane
ghost found advocates, even in the heart of London itself, among those
who, before, were never accounted fools; it cannot but be useful to put
down on record every imposition of this kind.





Next: The Superstitious Couple

Previous: An Essay On Ghosts And Apparitions



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