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 GHOSTS  page 2

                                                                     

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Ghosts page 1

   

 

There is NO Death by Florence Marryat

CHAPTER I - FAMILY GHOSTS

 

It has been strongly impressed upon me for some years past to write an account of the wonderful experiences I have passed through in my investigation of the science of Spiritualism. In doing so I intend to confine myself to recording facts. I will describe the scenes I have witnessed with my own eyes, and repeat the words I have heard with my own ears, leaving the deduction to be drawn from them wholly to my readers. I have no ambition to start a theory nor to promulgate a doctrine; above all things I have no desire to provoke an argument. I have had more than enough of arguments, philosophical, scientific, religious, and purely aggressive, to last a lifetime; and were I called upon for my definition of the rest promised to the weary, I should reply-a place where every man may hold his own opinion, and no one is permitted to dispute it.

But though I am about to record a great many incidents that are so marvellous as to be almost incredible, I do not expect to be disbelieved, except by such as are capable of deception themselves. They-conscious of their own infirmity-invariably believe that other people must be telling lies. Byron wrote, He is a fool who denies that which he cannot disprove; and though Carlyle gives us the comforting assurance that the population of Great Britain consists chiefly of fools, I pin my faith upon receiving credence from the few who are not so.

Why should I be disbelieved? When the late Lady Brassey published the Cruise of the Sunbeam, and Sir Samuel and

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Lady Baker related their experiences in Central Africa, and Livingstone wrote his account of the wonders he met with whilst engaged in the investigation of the source of the Nile, and Henry Stanley followed up the story and added thereto, did they anticipate the public turning up its nose at their narrations, and declaring it did not believe a word they had written? Yet their readers had to accept the fact they offered for credence, on their authority alone. Very few of them had even heard of the places described before; scarcely one in a thousand could, either from personal experience or acquired knowledge, attest the truth of the description. What was there-for the benefit of the general public-to prove that the Sunbeam had sailed round the world, or that Sir Samuel Baker had met with the rare beasts, birds, and flowers he wrote of, or that Livingstone and Stanley met and spoke with those curious, unknown tribes that never saw white men till they set eyes on them? Yet had any one of those writers affirmed that in his wanderings he had encountered a gold field of undoubted excellence, thousands of fortune-seekers would have left their native land on his word alone, and rushed to secure some of the glittering treasure.

Why? Because the authors of those books were persons well known in society, who had a reputation for veracity to maintain, and who would have been quickly found out had they dared to deceive. I claim the same grounds for obtaining belief I have a well- known name and a public reputation, a tolerable brain, and two sharp eyes. What I have witnessed, others, with equal assiduity and perseverance, may witness for themselves. it would demand a voyage round the world to see all that the owners of the Sunbeam saw. It would demand time and trouble and money to see what I have seen, and to some people, perhaps, it would not be worth the outlay. But if I have journeyed into the Debateable Land (which so few really believe in, and most are terribly afraid of), and come forward now to tell what I have seen there,

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the world has no more right to disbelieve me than it had to disbelieve Lady Brassey. Because the general public has not penetrated Central Africa is no reason that Livingstone did not do so; because the general public has not seen (and does not care to see) what I have seen, is no argument against the truth of what I write. To those who do believe in the possibility of communion with disembodied 'spirits, my story will be interesting perhaps, on account of its dealing throughout in a remarkable degree with the vexed question of identity and recognition. To the materialistic portion of creation who may credit me with not being a bigger fool than the remainder of the thirty-eight millions of Great Britain, it may prove a new source of speculation and research. And for those of my fellow-creatures who possess no curiosity, nor imagination, nor desire to prove for themselves what they cannot accept on the testimony of others, I never had, and never shall have, anything in common. They are the sort of people who ask you with a pleasing smile if Irving wrote The Charge of the Light Brigade, and say they like Byron's Sardanapalus very well, but it is not so funny as Our Boys.

Now, before going to work in right earnest, I do not think it is generally known that my father, the late Captain Marryat, was not only a believer in ghosts, but himself a ghost-seer. I am delighted to be able to record this fact as an introduction to my own experiences. Perhaps the ease with which such manifestations have come to me is a gift which I inherit from him, anyway I am glad he shared the belief and the power of spiritual sight with me. If there were no other reason to make me bold to repeat what I have witnessed, the circumstance would give me courage. My father was not like his intimate friends, Charles Dickens, Lord Lytton, and many other men of genius, highly strung, nervous, and imaginative. I do not believe my father had any nerves, and I think he had very little imagination. Almost all his works are founded on his personal experiences.

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His forte lay in a humorous description of what he had seen. He possessed a marvellous power of putting his recollections into graphic and forcible language, and the very reason that his books are almost as popular to-day as when they were written, is because they are true histories of their time. There is scarcely a fine of fiction in them. His body was as powerful and muscular as his brain. His courage was indomitable-his moral courage as well as his physical (as many people remember to their cost to this day), and his hardness of belief on many subjects is no secret. What I am about to relate therefore did not happen to some excitable, nervous, sickly sentimentalist, and I repeat that I am proud to have inherited his constitutional tendencies, and quite willing to stand judgment after him.

I have heard that my father had a number of stories to relate of supernatural (as they are usually termed) incidents that had occurred to him, but I will content myself with relating such as were proved to be (at the least) very remarkable coincidences. In my work, The Life and Letters of Captain Marryat, I relate an anecdote of him that was entered in his private log, and found amongst his papers. He had a younger brother, Samuel, to whom he was very much attached, and who died unexpectedly in England whilst my father, in command of H.M.S. Larne, was engaged in the first Burmese war. His men broke out with scurvy and he was ordered to take his vessel over to Pulu Pinang for a few weeks in order to get the sailors fresh fruit and vegetables. As my father was lying in his berth one night, anchored off the island, with the brilliant tropical moonlight making everything as bright as day, he saw the door of his cabin open, and his brother Samuel entered and walked quietly up to his side. He looked just the same as when they had parted, and uttered in a perfectly distinct voice, Fred! I have come to tell you that I am dead. When the figure entered the cabin my father jumped up in his berth, thinking it was some one

10

His forte lay in a humorous description of what he had seen. He possessed a marvellous power of putting his recollections into graphic and forcible language, and the very reason that his books are almost as popular to-day as when they were written, is because they are true histories of their time. There is scarcely a fine of fiction in them. His body was as powerful and muscular as his brain. His courage was indomitable-his moral courage as well as his physical (as many people remember to their cost to this day), and his hardness of belief on many subjects is no secret. What I am about to relate therefore did not happen to some excitable, nervous, sickly sentimentalist, and I repeat that I am proud to have inherited his constitutional tendencies, and quite willing to stand judgment after him.

I have heard that my father had a number of stories to relate of supernatural (as they are usually termed) incidents that had occurred to him, but I will content myself with relating such as were proved to be (at the least) very remarkable coincidences. In my work, The Life and Letters of Captain Marryat, I relate an anecdote of him that was entered in his private log, and found amongst his papers. He had a younger brother, Samuel, to whom he was very much attached, and who died unexpectedly in England whilst my father, in command of H.M.S. Larne, was engaged in the first Burmese war. His men broke out with scurvy and he was ordered to take his vessel over to Pulu Pinang for a few weeks in order to get the sailors fresh fruit and vegetables. As my father was lying in his berth one night, anchored off the island, with the brilliant tropical moonlight making everything as bright as day, he saw the door of his cabin open, and his brother Samuel entered and walked quietly up to his side. He looked just the same as when they had parted, and uttered in a perfectly distinct voice, Fred! I have come to tell you that I am dead. When the figure entered the cabin my father jumped up in his berth, thinking it was some one

11

coming to rob him, and when he saw who it was and heard it speak, he leaped out of bed with the intention of detaining it, but it was gone. So vivid was the impression made upon him by the apparition that he drew out his log at once and wrote down all particulars concerning it, with the hour and day of its appearance. On reaching England after the war was over, the first dispatches put into his hand were to announce the death of his brother, who had passed away at the very hour when he had seen him in the cabin.

But the story that interests me most is one of an incident which occurred to my father during my lifetime, and which we have always called The Brown Lady of Rainham.. I am aware that this narrative has reached the public through other sources, and I have made it the foundation of a Christmas story myself But it is too well authenticated to be omitted here. The last fifteen years of my father's life were passed on his own estate of Langham, in Norfolk, and amongst his county friends were Sir Charles and Lady Townshend of Rainham. Hall. At the time I speak of, the title and property had lately changed hands, and the new baronet had re- papered, painted, and furnished the Hall throughout, and come down with his wife and a large party of friends to take possession. But to their annoyance, soon after their arrival, rumours arose that the house was haunted, and their guests began, one and all (like those in the parable), to make excuses to go home again. Sir Charles and Lady Townshend might have sung, Friend after friend departs, with due effect, but it would have had none on the general exodus that took place from Rainham And it was all on account of a Brown Lady, whose portrait hung in one of the bedrooms, and in which she ''as represented as wearing a brown satin dress with yellow trimmings, and a ruff around her throat-a very harmless, innocent-looking young woman. But they all declared they had seen her walking about the house-some in the corridor, some in their bedrooms, others in the lower premises, and

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neither guests nor servants would remain in the Hall. The baronet was naturally very much annoyed about it, and confided his trouble to my father, and my father was indignant at the trick he believed had been played upon him. There was a great deal of smuggling and poaching in Norfolk at that period, as he knew well, being a magistrate of the county, and he felt sure that some of these depredators were trying to frighten the Townshends away from the Hall again. The last baronet had been a solitary sort of being, and lead a retired life, and my father imagined some of the tenantry had their own reasons for not liking the introduction of revelries and high jinks at Rainham. So he asked his friends to let him stay with them and sleep in the haunted chamber, and he felt sure he could rid them of the nuisance. They accepted his offer, and he took possession of the room in which the portrait of the apparition hung, and in which she had been often seen, and slept each night with a loaded revolver under his pillow. For two days, however, he saw nothing, and the third was to be the limit of his stay. On the third night, however, two young men (nephews of the baronet) knocked at his door as he was undressing to go to bed, and asked him to step over to their room (which was at the other end of the corridor), and give them his opinion on a new gun just arrived from London. My father was in his shirt and trousers, but as the hour was late, and everybody had retired to rest except themselves, he prepared to accompany them as he was. As they were leaving the room, he caught up his revolver, in case we meet the Brown Lady, he said, laughing. When the inspection of the gun was over, the young men in the same spirit declared they would accompany my father back again, in case you meet the Brown Lady, they repeated, laughing also. The three gentlemen therefore returned in company.

The corridor was long and dark, for the lights had been extinguished, but as they reached the middle of it, they saw the glimmer of a lamp coming towards them from the other

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end. One of the ladies going to visit the nurseries, whispered the young Townshends to my father Now the bedroom doors in that corridor faced each other, and each room had a double door with a space between, as is the case in many old-fashioned country houses. My father (as I have said) was in a shirt and trousers only, and his native modesty made him feel uncomfortable, so he slipped within one of the outer doors (his friends following his example), in order to conceal himself until the lady should have passed by. I have heard him describe how he watched her approaching nearer and nearer, through the chink of the door, until, as she was close enough for him to distinguish the colours and style of her costume, he recognized the figure as the facsimile of the portrait of The Brown Lady. He had his finger on the trigger of his revolver, and was about to demand it to stop and give the reason for its presence there, when the figure halted of its own accord before the door behind which he stood, and holding the lighted lamp she carried to her features, grinned in a malicious and diabolical manner at him. This act so infuriated my father, who was anything but lamb-like in disposition, that he sprang into the corridor with a bound, and discharged the revolver right in her face. The figure instantly disappeared-the figure at which for the space of several minutes three men had been looking together-and the bullet passed through the outer door of the room on the opposite side of the corridor, and lodged in the panel of the inner one. My father never attempted again to interfere with The Brown Lady of Rainham, and I have heard that she haunts the premises to this day. That she did so at that time, however, there is no shadow of doubt.

Before the question of Spiritualism, however, arose in modern times, I had had my own little private experiences on the subject. From an early age I was accustomed to see, and to be very much alarmed at seeing, certain forms that appeared to me at night. One in particular, I remember, was

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that of a very short or deformed old woman, who was very constant to me. She used to stand on tiptoe to look at me as I lay in bed, and however dark the room might be, I could always see every article in it, as if illuminated, whilst she remained there.

I was in the habit of communicating these visions to my mother and sisters (my father had passed from us by that time), and always got well ridiculed for my pains. Another of Flo's optical illusions, they would cry, until I really came to think that the appearances I saw were due to some defect in my eye-sight. I have heard my first husband say, that when he married me he thought he should never rest for an entire night in his bed, so often did I wake him with the description of some man or woman I had seen in the room. I recall these figures distinctly. They were always dressed in white, from which circumstance I imagined that they were natives who had stolen in to rob us, until, from repeated observation, I discovered they only formed part of another and more enlarged series of my optical illusions. All this time I was very much afraid of seeing what I termed ghosts. No love of occult science led me to investigate the cause of my alarm. I only wished never to see the illusions again, and was too frightened to remain by myself lest they should appear to me.

When I had been married for about two years, the headquarters of my husband's regiment, the 12th Madras Native Infantry, was ordered to Rangoon, whilst the left wing, commanded by a Major Cooper, was sent to assist in the bombardment of Canton. Major Cooper had only been married a short time, and by rights his wife had no claim to sail with- the head-quarters for Burmah, but as she had no friends in Madras, and was moreover expecting her confinement, our colonel permitted her to do so, and she accompanied us to Rangoon, settling herself in a house not far from our own. One morning, early in July, I was startled by receiving a hurried scrawl from her, containing only these words,

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Come! come! come! I set off at once, thinking she had been taken ill, but on my arrival I found Mrs. Cooper sitting up in bed with only her usual servants about her. 'What is the matter'' I exclaimed. Mark is dead, she answered me; he sat in that chair (pointing to one by the bedside) cc all last night. I noticed every detail of his face and figure. He was in undress, and he never raised his eyes, but sat with the peak of his forage cap pulled down over his face. But I could see the back of his head and his hair, and I know it was he. I spoke to him but he did not answer me, and I am sure he is dead.

Naturally, I imagined this vision to have been dictated solely by fear and the state of her health. I laughed at her for a simpleton, and told her it was nothing but fancy, and reminded her that by the last accounts received from the seat of war, Major Cooper was perfectly well and anticipating a speedy reunion with her. Laugh as I would, however, I could not laugh her out of her belief, and seeing how lowspirited she was, I offered to pass the night with her. It was a very nice night indeed. As soon as ever we had retired to 'Jed, although a lamp burned in the room, Mrs. Cooper declared that her husband was sitting in the same chair as the night before, and accused me of deception when I declared that I saw nothing at all. I sat up in bed and strained my eyes, but I could discern nothing but an empty arm-chair, and told her so. She persisted that Major Cooper sat there, and described his personal appearance and actions. I got out of bed and sat in the chair, when she cried out, Don't, don't! You are sitting right on On! It was evident that the apparition was as real to her as if it had been flesh and blood. I jumped up again fast enough, not feeling very comfortable myself, and lay by her side for the remainder of the night, listening to her asserverations that Major Cooper was either dying or dead. She would not part with me, and on the third night I had to endure the same ordeal as on the second. After the third night the apparition ceased to appear to her, and I was permitted to

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return home. But before I did so, Mrs. Cooper showed me her pocket-book, in which she had written down against the 8th, 9th, and 10th of July this sentence: Mark sat by my bedside all night.

The time passed on, and no bad news arrived from China, but the mails had been intercepted and postal communication suspended. Occasionally, however, we received letters by a sailing vessel. At last came September, and on the third of that month Mrs. Cooper's baby was born and died. She was naturally in great distress about it, and I was doubly horrified when I was called from her bedside to receive the news of her husband's death, which had taken place from a sudden attack of fever at Macao. We did not intend to let Mrs. Cooper hear of this until she was convalescent, but as soon as I re-entered her room, she broached the subject.

Are there any letters from China? she asked. (Now this question was remarkable in itself, because the mails having been cut off, there was no particular date when letters might be expected to arrive from the seat of war.) Fearing she would insist upon hearing the news, I temporized and answered her, We have received none. But there is a letter for me,', she continued; a letter with the intelligence of Mark's death. It is useless denying it. I know he is dead. He died on the 10th of July. And on reference to the official memorandum, this was found to be true. Major Cooper had been taken ill on the first day he had appeared to his wife, and died on the third. And this incident was the more remarkable, because they were neither of them young nor sentimental people, neither had they lived long enough together to form any very strong sympathy or accord between them. But as I have related it, so it occurred.

 

 

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