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The Double Mistake Or College Ghost

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

Mr. Samuel Foote, the celebrated comedian, played the following trick

upon Doctor Gower, who was then provost of his college, a man of

considerable learning, but rather of a grave pedantic turn of mind.

The church belonging to the college fronted the side of a lane, where

cattle were sometimes turned out to graze during the night; and from the

steeple hung the bell-rope, very low in the middle of the outside porch.
Foote saw in this an object likely to produce some fun, and immediately

set about to accomplish his purpose. He accordingly, one night, slily

tied a wisp of hay to the rope, as a bait for the cows in their

peregrination to the grazing ground. The scheme succeeded to his wish.

One of the cows soon after, smelling the hay as she passed by the

church-door, instantly seized on it, and, by tugging at the rope, made

the bell ring, to the astonishment of the sexton and the whole parish.

This happened several nights successively; and the incident gave rise to

various reports--such as, not only that the church was haunted by evil

spirits, but that several spectres were seen walking about the

church-yard, in all those hideous and frightful shapes, which fear,

ignorance, and fancy, usually suggest on such occasions.

An event of this kind, however, was to be explored, for the honour of

philosophy, as well as for the quiet of the parish. Accordingly, the

Doctor and the sexton agreed to sit up one night, and, on the first

alarm, to run out, and drag the culprit to condign punishment. Their

plan being arranged, they waited with the utmost impatience for the

appointed signal: at last, the bell began to sound its usual alarm, and

they both sallied out in the dark, determined on making a discovery.

The sexton was the first in the attack: he seized the cow by the tail,

and cried out it was a gentleman commoner, as he had him by the tail of

his gown; while the Doctor, who had caught the cow by the horns at the

same time, immediately replied, "No, no, you blockhead, 'tis the

postman; and here I have hold of the rascal by his blowing-horn." Lights

however were immediately brought, when the character of the real

offender was discovered, and the laugh of the whole town was turned upon

the Doctor.