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The Apparition Investigated

Scary Books: Apparitions; Or, The Mystery Of Ghosts, Hobgoblins, And Haunted Houses

In a village in one of the midland counties of Scotland, lived a widow,

distinguished among her neighbours for decency of manners, integrity,

and respect for religion. She affirmed that, for several nights

together, she had heard a supernatural voice exclaiming aloud, Murder!

Murder! This was immediately reported through the neighbourhood: all

were alarmed, and looked around them with solicitude for the detection

of th
murder which they supposed to have been committed; and it was

not long till a discovery seemed actually to be made. It was reported,

that a gentleman, who had relations at no great distance, and had been

residing in the West Indies, had lately arrived with a considerable

fortune; that he had lodged at an inn about three miles off; and that he

had afterwards been seen entering a house in the village where the widow

lived, from which he had never returned. It was next affirmed, that a

tradesman, passing the church-yard about twelve at midnight, had seen

four men carry a dead corpse into that cemetery.

These three facts being joined together, seemed perfectly to agree, and

to confirm one another; and all believed some horrible murder had been

committed. The relations of the gentleman thought they were called upon

to make inquiry into the truth of these allegations: they accordingly

came first to the church-yard, where, in company with the sexton, they

examined all the graves with great care, in order to discover whether

any of them had lately been dug, or had the appearance of containing

more than one coffin. But this search was to no purpose, for no

alteration had been made upon the graves. It was next reported, that the

murdered man had been buried in a plantation about a mile distant from

the village. As the alarm was now very general, a number of the

inhabitants proposed, of their own accord, to explore it. They

accordingly spread themselves over the wood, and searched it with care;

but no grave, or new-dug earth, was found.

The matter did not rest here. The person who was said to have seen four

men carry a dead corpse into the church-yard at midnight, was summoned

to appear before a meeting of the justices of the peace. Upon

examination, he denied any knowledge of the affair; but referred the

court to another person, from whom he had received his information. This

person was examined, and the result was the same as the former. In

short, one person had heard it from another, who had received it from a

third, who had heard it from a fourth; but it had received a little

embellishment from every person who repeated it: it turned out to be the

same with Smollett's story of the three black crows, which somebody was

said to have vomited.

Upon inquiry at the inn, where it was said the West-India gentleman had

lodged, no such gentleman had been seen there; and it was found

afterwards, he had never left the West Indies.

Still, however, the veracity of the widow was not disputed; and some

dark and secret transaction was suspected. But the whole affair was at

length explained, by discovering that she was somewhat deranged by

melancholy; and the cries which she at first imagined she had heard,

were afterwards imitated by some roguish person, who was highly amused

with spreading terror among the credulous.