ANDREW GARVEY looks at some haunted articles from the late Victorian period
On the rare occasions when they weren’t revelling in the foul deeds of the more criminal classes or gossiping about royalty, Victorian newspapers took great delight in recounting, usually in a fairly vague manner, the paranormal tales of the day.
Here’s just three of the best from the 1890s, told exactly as they first appeared, but with added commentary and notes in [parenthesis].
Ghostly Visitation in Northumberland, 1892
‘A “GHOSTLY” VISITATION IN NORTHUMBERLAND’ declared the 22nd September 1892 edition of the Derby Daily Telegraph.
“The villagers of Birtley, near Newcastle, have been much excited of late by strange sounds heard in the house of a miner named Wild. The walls and roof have been pierced to ascertain the cause, and the partitions have been smoked, but no discovery has been made.
A man who says he ‘sat up’ with the ghost to a later hour on Tuesday night declares that he heard a cry at intervals, a far away tremulous wailing sound, but saw nothing unusual.
Local spiritualists have expressed a desire to interview the ‘shade’ but Wild has declined this means of communicating with the unseen. All kinds of stories are afloat as to the ghost, and crowds assemble nightly outside the house.”
Ghostly and Ghastly, 1892
On the 23rd December 1892, the Portsmouth Evening News published a great one under the headline ‘GHOSTLY AND GHASTLY’.
“An extraordinary story from the provinces is told by a writer in a woman’s paper, who guarantees its accuracy. [See what I mean about being vague?] Two young girls went to stay in a country house some time during this year.
They were given a room and laughingly told not to be frightened at the ghost , as that particular chamber was believed to be haunted by a woman with a gory face.
At night, just as they got into bed, a woman with her face covered with blood rushed into the room and threw herself across the couch. The girls, frightened out of their lives, pulled the blankets over their heads and in their fear fell asleep. [That well known response to terror – taking a snooze.]
When they awoke some hours afterwards they found a dead woman lying at the foot of the bed. She proved to be a ladies’ maid, who had suddenly broken a blood-vessel while traversing the corridor.
She endeavoured to obtain assistance from the nearest room but not being able to speak, [for some reason] and being the exact impersonation of the ‘ghost’ she died before her identity and condition were discovered.”
The Ghostly Drummers of Blairgowie – A Mysterious Concert
An odd story was recounted in the 18th January 1894 edition of the Dundee Courier headlined ‘THE GHOSTLY DRUMMERS OF BLAIRGOWRIE – A MYSTERIOUS CONCERT’.
“The inhabitants of a section of a certain street in Blairgowrie have been greatly disturbed of late over mysterious sounds heard at nights. The sounds begin every night about eleven o’ clock, with the exception of Saturday, when the mystery opens at midnight.
It is heralded by a few slow raps, the sound resembling a muffled drum. After this prelude, the kettle drum, also muffled, takes up the strain, and keeps up the monotonous music for two or three hours.
At first no notice was taken of the mysterious noise, but its regular repetition has caused a flutter of excitement. What it is is as yet a mystery.
[From there the story waffles on inconsequentially for a few sentences which I’ve cut to save you a little of the tedium.]
A peculiar feature of the case is that the members of each of the five households that have been troubled declare that the noise is immediately below the house in which they dwell.
It is proposed to send up a requisition to Mr. W. T. Stead or the Psychical Research Society, but while the sufferers hesitate which of these authorities to write to the music goes dolefully on.”
[Stead was a famous investigative journalist, spiritualist and psychical researcher who in 1912 became one of the most famous people to die when the Titanic sank. Would it be unkind to point out he never saw that one coming?]