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A Wireless Message

Scary Books: Present At A Hanging

In the summer of 1896 Mr. William Holt, a wealthy manufacturer of

Chicago, was living temporarily in a little town of central New

York, the name of which the writer's memory has not retained. Mr.

Holt had had "trouble with his wife," from whom he had parted a year

before. Whether the trouble was anything more serious than

"incompatibility of temper," he is probably the only living person

that knows: he is not addict
d to the vice of confidences. Yet he

has related the incident herein set down to at least one person

without exacting a pledge of secrecy. He is now living in Europe.

One evening he had left the house of a brother whom he was visiting,

for a stroll in the country. It may be assumed--whatever the value

of the assumption in connection with what is said to have occurred--

that his mind was occupied with reflections on his domestic

infelicities and the distressing changes that they had wrought in

his life.

Whatever may have been his thoughts, they so possessed him that he

observed neither the lapse of time nor whither his feet were

carrying him; he knew only that he had passed far beyond the town

limits and was traversing a lonely region by a road that bore no

resemblance to the one by which he had left the village. In brief,

he was "lost."

Realizing his mischance, he smiled; central New York is not a region

of perils, nor does one long remain lost in it. He turned about and

went back the way that he had come. Before he had gone far he

observed that the landscape was growing more distinct--was

brightening. Everything was suffused with a soft, red glow in which

he saw his shadow projected in the road before him. "The moon is

rising," he said to himself. Then he remembered that it was about

the time of the new moon, and if that tricksy orb was in one of its

stages of visibility it had set long before. He stopped and faced

about, seeking the source of the rapidly broadening light. As he

did so, his shadow turned and lay along the road in front of him as

before. The light still came from behind him. That was surprising;

he could not understand. Again he turned, and again, facing

successively to every point of the horizon. Always the shadow was

before--always the light behind, "a still and awful red."

Holt was astonished--"dumfounded" is the word that he used in

telling it--yet seems to have retained a certain intelligent

curiosity. To test the intensity of the light whose nature and

cause he could not determine, he took out his watch to see if he

could make out the figures on the dial. They were plainly visible,

and the hands indicated the hour of eleven o'clock and twenty-five

minutes. At that moment the mysterious illumination suddenly flared

to an intense, an almost blinding splendor, flushing the entire sky,

extinguishing the stars and throwing the monstrous shadow of himself

athwart the landscape. In that unearthly illumination he saw near

him, but apparently in the air at a considerable elevation, the

figure of his wife, clad in her night-clothing and holding to her

breast the figure of his child. Her eyes were fixed upon his with

an expression which he afterward professed himself unable to name or

describe, further than that it was "not of this life."

The flare was momentary, followed by black darkness, in which,

however, the apparition still showed white and motionless; then by

insensible degrees it faded and vanished, like a bright image on the

retina after the closing of the eyes. A peculiarity of the

apparition, hardly noted at the time, but afterward recalled, was

that it showed only the upper half of the woman's figure: nothing

was seen below the waist.

The sudden darkness was comparative, not absolute, for gradually all

objects of his environment became again visible.

In the dawn of the morning Holt found himself entering the village

at a point opposite to that at which he had left it. He soon

arrived at the house of his brother, who hardly knew him. He was

wild-eyed, haggard, and gray as a rat. Almost incoherently, he

related his night's experience.

"Go to bed, my poor fellow," said his brother, "and--wait. We shall

hear more of this."

An hour later came the predestined telegram. Holt's dwelling in one

of the suburbs of Chicago had been destroyed by fire. Her escape

cut off by the flames, his wife had appeared at an upper window, her

child in her arms. There she had stood, motionless, apparently

dazed. Just as the firemen had arrived with a ladder, the floor had

given way, and she was seen no more.

The moment of this culminating horror was eleven o'clock and twenty-

five minutes, standard time.