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Observations placeholder

The little imbecile woman who died raving mad from ill-treatment by her cruel husband and haunted the house where they once lived



Type of Spiritual Experience


Perception recall, because the perceptions of these two ghosts appear to heave been stored in the house, and with sufficient emotion that they could be recalled fairly easily.

A description of the experience

From Matter to Spirit – The Result of Ten Years Experience in Spirit Manifestation – Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan

I will narrate some circumstances which came under my own observation, in which all the phenomena of ‘haunting' occurred. Every incident of the story was known to me as it took place, and if the sounds and appearances described, with the large amount of confirmation they received from facts afterwards made known to us, can be attributed to imagination in the first place, or coincidence in the second, I do not see how any amount of evidence short of actual sight can determine the cause of any occurrence whatever.

The narrative is given in the words of an eye and ear-witness who was quite unprepared for any such disturbances in the house, as she was ignorant of its former history and character, and never felt a sensation like fear until the last visit, when the sound of a voice was heard from the keyhole of the door. As in former narrations, names are suppressed and initials changed.

'In the summer of 18-we went for a few weeks to xxxx House, in the village of D-. Its damp and dilapidated condition rather repelled me, but for a short time in a dry hot summer this seemed of little importance.

We knew nothing of any former occupant. The house consisted of three stories above the basement: namely, ground floor, containing dining-room, &c ; first floor, drawing-room and three bedrooms; second floor, bedroom to the front over the drawing-room, and three small chambers to the back, the second and third opening from the first; and the third, a very small room, or rather closet, having for window only the glass panes of a door which faced the fireplace, and opened on the landing of a little ladder staircase under a cover, and outside the house. The lower steps of this little flight adjoined the door of the small bedroom below.

The windows of all the bedrooms at the back of the house are sheltered from the road, and, considering that the house is in a village and surrounded by other houses, nothing can be more secluded than the two rooms at the top and the bottom of the staircase.

On the basement is a kitchen having a dark larder, entered by a door on the one side, and scullery on the other. In the scullery is a sink, and on the left of this sink a doorway leading through a dark stone passage to a deep well, from which pipes were once placed to supply water to the house above.

On the first night of our stay I heard at midnight three loud knocks at the door of my room. A servant had been left in the house by the person from whom I hired it, and I concluded that it was she who wanted to speak to me as all my family were in bed. I called to the person to enter, but no one came in. The knocks were twice repeated and twice answered. At length I got up, opened the door, and found nobody.

The next morning my servant, who had slept in the little back room, begged that she might not be required to occupy it again, as she had not closed her eyes all night. She did not give any reason for her wakefulness or her request, but I concluded that she felt the oppressiveness of the air (the weather was very hot), and complied with her wish. She was a sensible Scotch girl, quite incredulous on the subject of ghosts, and rather priding herself on her superior understanding.

After some time a young woman from the country, who had once lived in the family, came to see us, and, the rest of the house being full, occupied the little back room. Just before midnight I went to all the rooms to see all my family settled, and found that the new comer was in my servant's room, which was very small even for one person. She declared that nothing should induce her to sleep in that ‘dreadful hole;' that as soon as she was laid down she heard a sort of sobbing or sighing close to the head of the bed, near the fireplace, with a strange noise, as if someone were sweeping a broom or duster all round the paper of the room.

My own servant then told me that on the night when she had slept in that room, though she did not hear the sighing, she was conscious of a presence which prevented her resting, as if someone were standing close to her pillow. She also heard the sweeping round the paper.

Both women declared positively that there had been no previous communication between them, and I knew well that both were thoroughly truthful. Indeed, it would have been very foolish in my servant to frighten her visitor heedlessly, for it was very inconvenient to her to have a companion in a bed little larger than a child's crib.

Another person, a well-known sensitive, slept one night in the little back room. She afterwards said that she had not rested at all. She had a sensation through the night as of a tight bandage across her forehead, a cold perspiration, and a feeling of horror, connected with the door opening into the little room.

A young man of 20, a complete unbeliever, afterwards occupied the same room (that adjoining the back room), and described a similar feeling. To get rid of the oppression he rose at daybreak, and went out into the open air.

After this no one slept in the back room.

Two days before we left the house, a young lady, who had lived for three years in a remote part of the country, came, with two other friends, to visit us. The three had found the house with difficulty, and the young lady, who is a remarkable clairvoyante, noticed the small oddly shaped rooms, and the antiquated look of the whole place (for the premises did not consist only of the house, but included a yard, and a wooden bridge across it to stabling on the other side), and expressed a wish to go over the whole.

 I gladly assented.

I told her that I fancied the house was haunted, but no one room was specified. Nothing passed which could induce her to look for ghosts in one part more than in another. My three friends then went through the first floor bedroom to the bottom of the little ladder staircase, and, Miss X  desiring it, they went up.

I, being lame, did not follow them, but went up inside the house to meet them as they entered the little back room. When I reached the door-step I found that they had just got into the room. Miss X was standing looking at the fireplace, which, it must be remembered, was opposite the glass door through which they entered, close to the bed's head. Her friends held each a hand, and spoke to her anxiously, as well they might, for she looked frightfully pale and horror-stricken.

At first she seemed unable to speak, then only said, ‘Take me away.'

We all hurried down stairs, and she told us that while going up the little flight of steps, she had not thought of seeing anything, and when she got to the door, though there was something white by the fireplace, she took it for a towel or some shavings. She was, however, made to look at this, and she then saw the figure of a small woman kneeling, in a white night-dress. She did not see the head. The dress was stained with blood; and there was a pool of blood on the floor.

On the stairs a man passed her, dragging up a small woman against her will.

Miss X seemed in a great hurry to get away.

We left the place two days after this; and in the course of three or four weeks, removed to a new house. A person from D- was recommended to me to fit carpets, &c., whose exceeding deafness was a great draw-back to her in her work, though, as it made conversation impossible, it gave me security that she could not have heard of these disturbances from any of my servants. I had been with her for some hours giving directions, &c., when I thought of asking 'If she knew the house at D-_- ?'

She looked mysterious, and said she didn't know much of it.

'What do you know?'

 'No further than that they say it's haunted.'

'Will you tell me all you have heard about it?'

She then told me that' it belonged, years ago, to Mr. L-, but he went to live in another house. He had a daughter very small in her figure, and gentle, but 'silly like," not crazy.

Mr. T-- married her for her money, for she inherited a good deal from her father, and the house came into her possession. He ill-used his poor little wife terribly, and dragged her about. And he took her to that house and shut her up there. When she died she was out of her mind, but there was some mystery about her death. Some gentlemen and ladies tried to find it out, but nothing was known satisfactory, only they say the house has been troubled at times ever since, and nobody stays long in it.'

'Do you know in what part of the house he kept her?'

'A little back room at the top of the house; but I never was there, myself, so I only speak as I've been told.'

Soon after this time, being in the village, and finding the outer gate open, I went in for the ostensible purpose of asking about the rent, &c., the house being to let. The landlord, who was in the house, told me that all noises could be accounted for by the falling in of a chimney, which had been shaking for some time, I went upstairs with him, and found that the chimney and fireplace of the little back room had sunk so completely that the fireplace was lodged on that of the room below. I told the landlord of the various occurrences that had come to my knowledge, observing that though the falling of brick and mortar might be heard,, it could not produce an apparition as seen by Miss X, nor the feeling of horror described by persons who had no idea of any catastrophe having taken place in the house.

The landlord said that anyone might have it for the rest of his term for a mere trifle, “for he could not dispose of it, and that he should leave it in thorough repair. Soon after this, I found a broker's wife, who was left in charge, standing at the outer gate. She said she was afraid of remaining within the house; for that one day, as she stood at the sink in the scullery, a woman, whose face was bound up like a dead person's, came out of the well-passages, touched her shoulder in passing, and, crossing the scullery, disappeared in a little low closet opposite the sink"

 I enquired about the character of this woman, and found that I was not the only person to whom her story had been told, though the hearers were generally incredulous, and ready to condemn her.

The house stood empty for some time after the repairs, which, however had not been very complete. In the course of a few months some friends, one of whom had the faculty of spirit vision, went with me to pay a visit to it. As no one came to answer the bell we supposed the house was empty, and went to the agent for the key. We then unlocked both garden gate, and house door, and found all the lower rooms shuttered up and empty. The lady, who is a seeress, went up the little ladder followed by her husband, and on reaching the glass door said, ‘There are people inside, they have got a fire here; but the door is locked, so we must go up inside the house.'

The other lady said that ‘of course the people could not hear the bell if they shut themselves up in that room.'

We went upstairs inside, and when we reached the door between the two little rooms, my friend looked strange and dismayed. The room was quite empty. ‘I am sure,' she said, 'I saw them both, the man stood here!' pointing to the place, ‘and left the room as we came to the glass door. The woman sate crouched down there,' pointing to the spot by the fireplace where the figure had been seen by Miss X, and whence the sounds had issued.

She is very small and looks imbecile; she had on a lilac dress. They had quite a bright fire when I saw them from outside.

We stood looking for a minute or two, nothing of course being visible to anyone except this lady, who seemed, after a time, to see the little woman again, for she said, ‘I can’t bear the look of those dull grey eyes.' Then she said that both had gone down stairs, and ran off quickly to follow them, not stopping till she got to the side of the well, from which it must be remembered the broker’s wife had declared the apparition had come. When beside the well, Mrs. - appeared to be under a kind of spiritual impression, and told us that the cruelty practised by the man on the poor woman was beyond description.

'They,' she said, meaning the spirits, ‘say that they need not show me all. I think she was drowned in this well; she was kept upstairs in that little room; one night she got out of bed, fell on the fender, and cut her forehead open. Another time she escaped, and ran down stairs, he pursuing her; then she threw herself into the well; he did not drown her. I do not think she was here more than a fortnight, and he brought her late one night in a little fly; not one of those flies or cabs that are used now, but a little narrow fly, in which the people sit opposite each other. He is an ill-looking man, with shaggy hair, and thick eyebrows, and a low forehead, he is what they call beetle-browed. His complexion is coarse, but not red.'

Soon after this time another party visited the house, getting the keys as before from the agent. The visitors were Mrs. -, the seeress, two sisters, who had more or less of medium power, two ladies of middle age and unquestionable good sense and truthfulness, and myself.

AII went down stairs, as the little room at the top was quite empty, and felt free from any presence. As we all stood round the kitchen table (the only piece of furniture in the house), I mentioned a visit which had been paid to the place since our last, by some other friends, one of whom saw a spirit disappear near a large flag-stone in the larder. As I mentioned this circumstance a great crash was heard, apparently from those stones; I examined the larder immediately and found it quite empty.

The hand of the younger lady was moved to write, 'The stone is spiritually fixed, you cannot move it.’

From it all sorts of noises were heard, differently perceptible however to the different members of the party, one of whom heard nothing at all. To some of us they appeared like footsteps, flutterings, and little tappings. Two or three cloudy forms were said by the two medium ladies to be visible to them, and to pass about in the kitchen and scullery. This time the first seeress saw another woman, with the woman and man. At length a wind, sensible to most of us, and strongly so to myself, arose in the kitchen, which also seemed filled with a kind of cloud or steam. One lady felt herself pulled and pushed more than once, and" she as well as myself had an oppressive pain in the head, like that which is sometimes felt in thundery weather. The turmoil and wind in the kitchen increasing, Mrs. -, the first seeress, thought that we had better leave the house.

We ascended the kitchen stairs, the lady who had been pushed and pulled leaving with some reluctance, for she wanted to see more.

Before leaving the house, we saw that all the windows were safely barred, and the doors of the rooms shut. AII were satisfied that we left the house empty as we found it. I then locked the house door with the key which I had carried the whole time, and all six stood outside the door listening to the confused noise within. These sounds were like the mingling of a thousand discordant voices at a distance, as if from a disturbed noisy crowd. As we listened, the lady who had been pushed before asked why I was pulling her dress - I had not touched her.

Just then the noise seemed to condense into one horrid hissing sound, which uttered an imprecation on our eyes in four words, the first of which was indistinct. Some people thought that the wicked spirit could not utter the holy name which he was trying to profane. I had never felt anything like fear till that moment, but a horror seized me, and I felt as if nothing could induce me to enter that house again.

Mrs. -, the seeress, and her little boy, who had joined us from the outside, both heard it as well as myself. Miss L. heard a hissing. In order to make sure that my ears had not deceived me, I took Mrs aside and begged her to repeat the words she had heard if she did not mind doing so, She told me the three last as I had heard them. The little boy, when asked, said he had heard ‘bad words,’ but we did not wish him to specify more particularly. Neither of the other three ladies heard anything.

Soon after this time I learnt that between thirty and forty years ago, at the time indicated by the date on the family grave, two little flies exactly answering to the description given by the seeress were kept in the village. I found an old lady, the wife of the person who had owned these carriages, and. learned from her that all the books had been destroyed when her husband gave up business. So no further information could be obtained. Guided by my first information from the old deaf woman, I tried to learn more of the character of the man.

One lady, with whom I accidentally met, gave me some particulars, among others, that he was a coarse, ill-looking, beetle-browed, man, who never looked anyone in the face; that his wife was small in person, and deficient in intellect, but that his ill-usage made her worse. From another person who gave information with reluctance, I heard that she died raving mad from ill-treatment, and that an unsuccessful suit had been instituted to get a divorce by some of her family, on the ground of cruelty.

After this time I met with a person who knew the man well, and who spoke of his having appeared since his death in other places in which he had lived on earth. This person said that his conduct to his wife was horrible, but that to all he was a bad, avaricious man. When I asked if he ever swore, she said 'he seldom spoke without an oath, and his tone was always a snarl.' His usual imprecation, one which he had used in speaking to her, was the one I had heard. All this information was given me before I mentioned anything connected with my former enquiries. To this day, I have not ascertained with certainty where or how the poor woman died, for there are conflicting statements on this subject, among those who profess to know', some asserting that her death occurred in the village of D-, and some that she died at a greater distance from London.

The source of the experience

De Morgan, Augustus

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