Madame d Esperance - Letter to Light 1904 – The haunted wood which frightened dogs and horses
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
from an article by Mrs. E. d'Espérance, in an October 1904 issue of the Light.
Also quoted in Professor Ernesto Bozzano - The parapsychological manifestations of animals - 130 cases proving animal mediumistic abilities
The community where the events took place is not far from my home, and I myself have witnessed them. After the publication of my case, I had the opportunity to witness a similar event. Here is a brief history:
In 1896, I settled permanently in my current house. I knew the place very well, as I had already visited it several times. I was even informed that it had a reputation as a haunted place. However, I had not learned much about it, especially since I knew almost no one around; secondly, because people did not understand my language and I did not know the language of the country. After that, it is easy to imagine that communications between us would necessarily have to remain limited, at least for some time. What I saw or thought I saw must therefore not be attributed to an effect of the rumours that I could have gathered.
On my daily walks, I used to go to a small wood that I liked very much because of the cool shade in the summer and because we were sheltered from the winds in the winter. A public road crossed it on one side. However, I had frequently observed that horses were afraid in this place. I had always been intrigued by this, not knowing what to attribute the fact to. On other occasions, as I arrived here with my couple of dogs, they stubbornly refused to enter this wood, they abandoned me on their way home, seized as if in a kind of panic. This situation had been repeated several times, so I decided to talk to a friend who was the owner of this place. I learned then that similar incidents had often occurred there from very ancient times; not constantly, but at intervals of time with horses or dogs alike. She also told me that this part of the road that crossed the woods was regarded by the local farmers as a haunted place, following a terrible crime that was allegedly committed there at the beginning of the last century.
A wedding procession had been attacked by a lover repelled by the bride. She had been killed at the same time as the bridegroom and the father. The offender fled, but he was caught two or three miles away by the brother of the deceased bridegroom who killed him. This well-known story is authentic. Near the small wood, but not where the horses are afraid, are three stone crosses that mark the place where the three murders were carried out. Another cross, placed two miles away, marks the point where the offender fell in turn. All this happened a century ago, but the presence of the crosses served to keep the memory of the tragedy alive in the country, which would not explain the behaviour of the horses and dogs.
One day in the fall of 1896, I had gone out with a friend for a walk... We arrived at the little wood we entered from the west side, quietly continuing our way... I was the first to turn around and I saw a dark red calf. Surprised by the unexpected appearance of this animal beside me, I made an exclamation of astonishment, and the animal immediately took shelter in the woods, on the other side of the path. As it entered the thicket, a strange reddish glow appeared from its large eyes: it looked like they were throwing flames. It was sunset time, so I thought that the sun's rays were spiking horizontally in the animal's eyes to explain this fact. The eyes shone almost like the crosses of a window as they are struck directly by the sun's rays.
... When we were near our house, my friend noticed that she had lost the silver apple from her umbrella. She approached one of the gardeners, asking him to send a man to look for the lost object and she provided him with the necessary information by telling him exactly what the path we had followed had been. The gardener replied that before nightfall he would have gone himself and explained that the local farmers were very reluctant to go into the woods, especially in the evening. - And why is that? - my friend asked. The gardener then said that the superstition of these ignorant peasants, already so intolerably stupid and irritating, had recently worsened further as a result of the rumour that the flaming-eyed calf had been seen in the woods, so no one would have dared wander into it. My friend and I exchanged a glance. However, we did not dare to argue with this learned gardener. He went in search of the lost object, and we went home.
Since then, a few other times, at long intervals of time, rumours had spread that the flaming-eyed calf had been seen by someone and the wood was being avoided more and more by the farmers. Although, since then, very few days have passed without me crossing the woods on foot or on horseback, - except for certain periods during which I had to leave home, - and almost always with my two dogs, never again, until a few weeks ago, I had never met the mysterious calf.
It was a suffocating day and I had gone to the woods to find shelter from the sun and the blinding reverberation of the road. I was accompanied by two collies (sheepdogs) and a small terrier. When they reached the edge of the woods, the two collies suddenly squatted on the ground and refused to continue their journey. At the same time, they used all their canine persuasion skills to make me go to some other place. Seeing that I persisted in wanting to move forward, they eventually accompanied me, but with a visible repugnance. However, a few moments later, they seemed to forget and started running back and forth, while I quietly continued on my way picking blackberries. At some point, I saw them arrive in the run to come and hide, trembling and moaning, at my feet. At the same time, the little terrier had jumped on my lap. I couldn't explain the incident to myself, until suddenly I heard a furious trampling behind me that was quickly approaching. Before I could move away, I saw running towards me a herd of deer in horror. In their frantic gallop, they cared so little about me and the dogs that they were about to throw me to the ground. I looked around in horror to discover the cause of this panic and saw a dark red calf, which was entering the scrub. The fallow deer had quickly moved away in another direction of the wood. My dogs, who under ordinary circumstances would have hunted them down, crouched and trembled at my feet, while the little terrier refused to come down from my knees. For several days, this little dog no longer wanted to cross the woods. The two collies, while not refusing to do so, entered it against their will, and visibly showed their mistrust and fear.
The result of all our investigations only further confirmed our impressions, that is, that the dark red calf or, as they say in the country, the flaming-eyed calf, was not a common animal, living, earthbound... But what connection could there be between the fact in question and the tragedy that took place in the wood, this is a problem I do not know of an answer. I have no doubt, however, that the powers of intuition and clairvoyance specific to animals must have made them aware of the existence of something abnormal or supernormal in the wood and that their disgust with phenomena of this nature - repugnance which, in man, is called superstition - was the real cause of their strange behaviour.
If I had been alone in seeing the mysterious animal, it is more than likely that I would not have spoken. But it was seen several times, in different circumstances, by many people in the country.
"Light", October 1904, pp. 511-513.