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Dorothy Durant

Scary Books: The Haunters & The Haunted

A schoolboy named Bligh, who went to Launceston Grammar School, of which

the Rev. John Ruddle was headmaster, from being a lad of bright parts

and no common attainments, became on a sudden moody, dejected, and

melancholy. His friends, seeing the change without being able to find

the cause, attributed it to laziness, an aversion to school, or to some

other motive which he was ashamed to avow. He was led, however, to tell

his brother, after some time, that in a field through which he passed to

and from school, he invariably met the apparition of a woman, whom he

personally knew while living, and who had been dead about eight years.

Ridicule, threats, persuasions, were alike used in vain by the family to

induce him to dismiss these absurd ideas. Finally, Mr Ruddle was sent

for, and to him the boy ingenuously told the time, manner, and frequency

of this appearance. It was in a field called Higher Broomfield. The

apparition, he said, appeared dressed in female attire, met him two or

three times while he passed through the field, glided hastily by him,

but never spoke. He had thus been occasionally met about two months

before he took any particular notice of it; at length the appearance

became more frequent, meeting him both morning and evening, but always

in the same field, yet invariably moving out of the path when it came

close to him. He often spoke, but could never get any reply. To avoid

this unwelcome visitor he forsook the field, and went to school and

returned from it through a lane, in which place, between the quarry pack

and nursery, it always met him. Unable to disbelieve the evidence of his

own senses, or to obtain credit with any of his family, he prevailed

upon Mr Ruddle to accompany him to the place.

"I arose," says this clergyman, "the next morning, and went with him.

The field to which he led me I guessed to be about twenty acres, in an

open country, and about three furlongs from any house. We went into the

field, and had not gone a third part before the spectrum in the shape of

a woman, with all the circumstances he had described the day before, so

far as the suddenness of its appearance and transition would permit me

to discover, passed by.

"I was a little surprised at it, and though I had taken up a firm

resolution to speak to it, I had not the power, nor durst I look back;

yet I took care not to show any fear to my pupil and guide, and

therefore, telling him I was satisfied of the truth of his statement, we

walked to the end of the field and returned--nor did the ghost meet us

that time but once.

"On the 27th July, 1665, I went to the haunted field by myself, and

walked the breadth of it without any encounter. I then returned and took

the other walk, and then the spectre appeared to me, much about the same

place in which I saw it when the young gentleman was with me. It

appeared to move swifter than before, and seemed to be about ten feet

from me on my right hand, insomuch that I had not time to speak to it,

as I had determined with myself beforehand. The evening of this day, the

parents, the son, and myself, being in the chamber where I lay, I

proposed to them our going altogether to the place next morning. We

accordingly met at the stile we had appointed; thence we all four walked

into the field together. We had not gone more than half the field before

the ghost made its appearance. It then came over the stile just before

us, and moved with such rapidity that by the time we had gone six or

seven steps it passed by. I immediately turned my head and ran after it,

with the young man by my side. We saw it pass over the stile at which we

entered, and no farther. I stepped upon the hedge at one place and the

young man at another, but we could discern nothing; whereas I do aver

that the swiftest horse in England could not have conveyed himself out

of sight in that short space of time. Two things I observed in this

day's appearance: first, a spaniel dog, which had followed the company

unregarded, barked and ran away as the spectrum passed by; whence it is

easy to conclude that it was not our fear or fancy which made the

apparition. Secondly, the motion of the spectrum was not _gradatim_ or

by steps, or moving of the feet, but by a kind of gliding, as children

upon ice, or as a boat down a river, which punctually answers the

description the ancients give of the motion of these Lamures. This

ocular evidence clearly convinced, but withal strangely affrighted, the

old gentleman and his wife. They well knew this woman, Dorothy Durant,

in her life-time; were at her burial, and now plainly saw her features

in this apparition.

"The next morning, being Thursday, I went very early by myself, and

walked for about an hour's space in meditation and prayer in the field

next adjoining. Soon after five I stepped over the stile into the

haunted field, and had not gone above thirty or forty paces before the

ghost appeared at the further stile. I spoke to it in some short

sentences with a loud voice; whereupon it approached me, but slowly, and

when I came near it moved not. I spoke again, and it answered in a voice

neither audible nor very intelligible. I was not in the least terrified,

and therefore persisted until it spoke again and gave me satisfaction;

but the work could not be finished at this time. Whereupon the same

evening, an hour after sunset, it met me again near the same place, and

after a few words on each side it quietly vanished, and neither doth

appear now, nor hath appeared since, nor ever will more to any man's

disturbance. The discourse in the morning lasted about a quarter of an


"These things are true," concludes the Rev. John Ruddle, "and I know

them to be so, with as much certainty as eyes and ears can give me; and

until I can be persuaded that my senses all deceive me about their

proper objects, and by that persuasion deprive me of the strongest

inducement to believe the Christian religion, I must and will assert

that the things contained in this paper are true."