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Scary Books: The Haunters & The Haunted
: Mrs CROWE'S "Night Side of Nature"

Sir James, my mother, with myself and my brother Charles, went abroad

towards the end of the year 1786. After trying several different places,

we determined to settle at Lille, where we had letters of introduction

to several of the best French families. There Sir James left us, and

after passing a few days in an uncomfortable lodging, we engaged a nice

large family house, which we liked much, and which we obtained at a very
r /> low rent, even for that part of the world.

About three weeks after we were established there, I walked one day with

my mother to the bankers, for the purpose of delivering our letter of

credit from Sir Robert Herries and drawing some money, which being paid

in heavy five-frank pieces, we found we could not carry, and therefore

requested the banker to send, saying, "We live in the Place du Lion

d'Or." Whereupon he looked surprised, and observed that he knew of no

house there fit for us, "except, indeed," he added, "the one that has

been long uninhabited on account of the _revenant_ that walks about it."

He said this quite seriously, and in a natural tone of voice; in spite

of which we laughed, and were quite entertained at the idea of a ghost;

but, at the same time, we begged him not to mention the thing to our

servants, lest they should take any fancies into their heads; and my

mother and I resolved to say nothing about the matter to anyone. "I

suppose it is the ghost," said my mother, laughing, "that wakes us so

often by walking over our heads." We had, in fact, been awakened several

nights by a heavy foot, which we supposed to be that of one of the

men-servants, of whom we had three English and four French. The English

ones, men and women, every one of them, returned ultimately to England

with us.

A night or two afterwards, being again awakened by the step, my mother

asked Creswell: "Who slept in the room above us?" "No one, my lady," she

replied, "it is a large empty garret."

About a week or ten days after this, Creswell came to my mother, one

morning, and told her that all the French servants talked of going away,

because there was a _revenant_ in the house; adding, that there seemed

to be a strange story attached to the place, which was said, together

with some other property, to have belonged to a young man, whose

guardian, who was also his uncle, had treated him cruelly, and confined

him in an iron cage; and as he had subsequently disappeared, it was

conjectured he had been murdered. This uncle, after inheriting the

property, had suddenly quitted the house, and sold it to the father of

the man of whom we had hired it. Since that period, though it had been

several times let, nobody had ever stayed in it above a week or two;

and, for a considerable time past, it had had no tenant at all.

"And do you really believe all this nonsense, Creswell?" said my mother.

"Well, I don't know, my lady," answered she, "but there is the iron cage

in the garret over your bedroom, where you may see it, if you please."

Of course we rose to go, and just at that moment an old officer, with

his Croix de St Louis, called on us, we invited him to accompany us, and

we ascended together. We found, as Creswell had said, a large empty

garret, with bare brick walls, and in the further corner of it stood an

iron cage, such as wild beasts are kept in, only higher; it was about

four feet square, and eight in height, and there was an iron ring in the

wall at the back, to which was attached an old rusty chain, with a

collar fixed to the end of it! I confess it made my blood creep, when I

thought of the possibility of any human being having inhabited it! And

our old friend expressed as much horror as ourselves, assuring us that

it must certainly have been constructed for some such dreadful purpose.

As, however, we were no believer in ghosts, we all agreed that the

noises must proceed from somebody who had an interest in keeping the

house empty; and since it was very disagreeable to imagine that there

were secret means of entering it by night, we resolved, as soon as

possible, to look out for another residence, and, in the meantime, to

say nothing about the matter to anybody. About ten days after this

determination, my mother, observing one morning that Creswell, when she

came to dress her, looked exceedingly pale and ill, inquired if anything

was the matter with her? "Indeed, my lady," answered she, "we have been

frightened to death; and neither I nor Mrs Marsh can sleep again in the

room we are now in."

"Well," returned my mother, "you shall both come and sleep in the little

spare room next us; but what has alarmed you?"

"Someone, my lady, went through our room in the night; we both saw the

figure, but we covered our heads with the bed-clothes, and lay in a

dreadful fright till morning."

On hearing this, I could not help laughing, upon which Creswell burst

into tears; and seeing how nervous she was, we comforted her by saying

we had heard of a good house, and that we should very soon abandon our

present habitation.

A few nights afterwards, my mother requested me and Charles to go into

her bedroom, and fetch her frame, that she might prepare her work for

the next day. It was after supper; and we were ascending the stairs by

the light of a lamp which was always kept burning, when we saw going up

before us, a tall, thin figure, with hair flowing down his back, and

wearing a loose powdering gown. We both at once concluded it was my

sister Hannah, and called out: "It won't do, Hannah! you cannot frighten

us!" Upon which the figure turned into a recess in the wall; but as

there was nobody there when we passed, we concluded that Hannah had

contrived, somehow or other, to slip away and make her escape by the

back stairs. On telling this to my mother, however, she said, "It is

very odd, for Hannah went to bed with a headache before you came in from

your walk"; and sure enough, on going to her room, there we found her

fast asleep; and Alice, who was at work there, assured us that she had

been so for more than an hour. On mentioning this circumstance to

Creswell, she turned quite pale, and exclaimed that that was precisely

the figure she and Marsh had seen in their bedroom.

About this time my brother Harry came to spend a few days with us, and

we gave him a room up another pair of stairs, at the opposite end of the

house. A morning or two after his arrival, when he came down to

breakfast, he asked my mother, angrily, whether she thought he went to

bed drunk and could not put out his own candle, that she sent those

French rascals to watch him. My mother assured him that she had never

thought of doing such a thing; but he persisted in the accusation,

adding, "last night I jumped up and opened the door, and by the light of

the moon, through the skylight, I saw the fellow in his loose gown at

the bottom of the stairs. If I had not been in my shirt, I would have

gone after him, and made him remember coming to watch me."

We were now preparing to quit the house, having secured another,

belonging to a gentleman who was going to spend some time in Italy; but

a few days before our removal, it happened that a Mr and Mrs Atkyns,

some English friends of ours, called, to whom we mentioned these strange

circumstances, observing how extremely unpleasant it was to live in a

house that somebody found means of getting into, though how they

contrived it we could not discover, nor what their motive could be,

except it was to frighten us; observing that nobody could sleep in the

room Marsh and Creswell had been obliged to give up. Upon this, Mrs

Atkyns laughed heartily, and said that she should like, of all things,

to sleep there, if my mother would allow her, adding that, with her

little terrier, she should not be afraid of any ghost that ever

appeared. As my mother had, of course, no objection to this fancy of

hers, Mrs Atkyns requested her husband to ride home with the groom, in

order that the latter might bring her night-things before the gates of

the town were shut, as they were then residing a little way in the

country. Mr Atkyns smiled, and said she was very bold; but he made no

difficulties, and sent the things, and his wife retired with her dog to

her room when we retired to ours, apparently without the least


When she came down in the morning we were immediately struck at seeing

her look very ill; and, on inquiring if she, too, had been frightened,

she said she had been awakened in the night by something moving in her

room, and that, by the light of the night lamp, she saw most distinctly

a figure, and that the dog, which was very spirited and flew at

everything, never stirred, although she endeavoured to make him. We saw

clearly that she had been very much alarmed; and when Mr Atkyns came and

endeavoured to dissipate the feeling by persuading her that she might

have dreamt it, she got quite angry. We could not help thinking that she

had actually seen something; and my mother said, after she was gone,

that though she could not bring herself to believe it was really a

ghost, still she earnestly hoped that she might get out of the house

without seeing this figure which frightened people so much.

We were now within three days of the one fixed for our removal; I had

been taking a long ride, and being tired, had fallen asleep the moment I

lay down, but in the middle of the night I was suddenly awakened--I

cannot tell by what, for the step over our heads we had become so used

to that it no longer disturbed us. Well, I awoke; I had been lying with

my face towards my mother, who was asleep beside me, and, as one usually

does on awaking, I turned to the other side, where, the weather being

warm, the curtain of the bed was undrawn, as it was also at the foot,

and I saw standing by a chest of drawers, which were betwixt me and the

window, a thin, tall figure, in a loose powdering gown, one arm resting

on the drawers, and the face turned towards me. I saw it quite

distinctly by the night-light, which burnt clearly; it was a long, thin,

pale, young face, with oh! such a melancholy expression as can never be

effaced from my memory! I was, certainly, very much frightened; but my

great horror was lest my mother should awake and see the figure. I

turned my head gently towards her, and heard her breathing high in a

sound sleep. Just then the clock on the stairs struck four. I daresay it

was nearly an hour before I ventured to look again; and when I did take

courage to turn my eyes towards the drawers there was nothing, yet I had

not heard the slightest sound, though I had been listening with the

greatest intensity.

As you may suppose, I never closed my eyes again; and glad I was when

Creswell knocked at the door, as she did every morning, for we always

locked it, and it was my business to get out of bed and let her in. But

on this occasion, instead of doing so, I called out, "Come in, the door

is not fastened"; upon which she answered that it was, and I was obliged

to get out of bed and admit her as usual.

When I told my mother what had happened she was very grateful to me for

not waking her, and commended me much for my resolution; but as she was

always my first object, that was not to be wondered at. She, however,

resolved not to risk another night in the house, and we got out of it

that very day, after instituting, with the aid of the servants, a

thorough search, with a view to ascertain whether there was any possible

means of getting into the rooms except by the usual modes of ingress;

but our search was vain; none could be discovered.

Considering the number of people that were in the house, the

fearlessness of the family, and their disinclination to believe in what

is called the _supernatural_, together with the great interest the owner

of this large and handsome house must have had in discovering the trick,

if there had been one, I think it is difficult to find any other

explanation of this strange story than that the sad and disappointed

spirit of this poor injured, and probably murdered boy, had never been

disengaged from its earthly relations, to which regret for its

frustrated hopes and violated rights still held it attached.