The School-boy Apparition





A few years since, the inhabitants of Dorking, in Surrey, entertained a

notion, that a ghost walked in a certain place in that neighbourhood;

and that she (for it was an ancient lady, lately dead) was seen hovering

about the mansion-house, which was left uninhabited for some time; that

she would be up and down in the house very often in the day-time, making

a rumbling and a clattering noise; and in the night-time she walked in

the neighbouring fields, with a candle in her hand, and though the wind

blew ever so hard, it would not blow the candle out; that sometimes she

would appear in the open fields, sometimes up in the trees; and, in

particular, there was a little heath near Dorking, called Cotman Dean,

where, it was said, she was frequently seen.



There was a boarding-school of boys in that town, some of whom were

particularly roguish, and contrived all this walking, from the beginning

to the end. First, they got a small rope; and, tying one end of it to an

old chair which stood in an upper room of the house (for they had found

the means to get in and out of the house at pleasure), they brought the

other end of the rope down on the other side of the house, in a private

place, where it could not easily be seen; and by this they pulled the

old chair up, and then let it fall down again: this made a great noise

in the house, and was heard distinctly by many of the neighbours. Then

other boys of the same gang took care to call out the old women in the

next houses, that now they might hear the old lady playing her pranks;

and, accordingly, they would all assemble in the court-yard, where they

could plainly hear the noises, but not one of them would venture to go

up stairs. If any one offered to go a little way up, then all was quiet;

but, as soon as ever they retired, the rumbling would begin again. This

was the day's deception.



In the night, one of these unlucky boys got a dark lanthorn, which was

a thing, at that time, the country-people did not understand; and with

this he walked about the orchard, and two or three closes near the

house, shewing the light in different directions. His comrades would

then call all the old women about them to see it. Then, on a sudden, the

light would seem to go out, as the boy closed up the lanthorn. Then he

would run swiftly across the whole field, and shew his light again on

the other side. Now he would be up in a tree, then in the road, then

upon the middle of the heath; so that the country-people made no more

question, but that the old lady walked with a candle in her hand, and

that they saw the light of it; in a word, it passed for an apparition,

and was generally conceived as such by the neighbourhood, till the

knavery was discovered, the boys punished, and the towns-people laughed

at for their credulity.





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