“Imagine, then,” exclaims Mr. Shchapoff, “our horror, when, on our return to the country in March, the unknown force at once set to work again. And now even my wife’s presence was not essential. Thus, one day, I saw with my own eyes a heavy sofa jump off all four legs (three or four times in fact), and this when my aged mother was lying on it.” The same thing occurred to Nancy Wesley’s bed, on which she was sitting while playing cards in 1717. The picture of a lady of seventy, sitting tight to a bucking sofa, appeals to the brave.
Then the fire-raising began. A blue spark flew out of a wash-stand, into Mrs. Shchapoff’s bedroom. Luckily she was absent, and her mother, rushing forward with a water-jug, extinguished a flaming cotton dress. Bright red globular meteors now danced in the veranda. Mr. Portnoff next takes up the tale as follows, Mr. Shchapoff having been absent from home on the occasion described.
“I was sitting playing the guitar. The miller got up to leave, and was followed by Mrs. Shchapoff. Hardly had she shut the door, when I heard, as though from far off, a deep drawn wail. The voice seemed familiar to me. Overcome with an unaccountable horror I rushed to the door, and there in the passage I saw a literal pillar of fire, in the middle of which, draped in flame, stood Mrs. Shchapoff. . . . I rushed to put it out with my hands, but I found it burned them badly, as if they were sticking to burning pitch. A sort of cracking noise came from beneath the floor, which also shook and vibrated violently.” Mr. Portnoff and the miller “carried off the unconscious victim”.
Mr. Shchapoff also saw a small pink hand, like a child’s, spring from the floor, and play with Mrs. Shchapoff’s coverlet, in bed. These things were too much; the Shchapoffs fled to a cottage, and took a new country house. They had no more disturbances. Mrs. Shchapoff died in child-bed, in 1878, “a healthy, religious, quiet, affectionate woman”.
The Shchapoff Story of a Peculiar Type. “Demoniacal Possession.” Story of Wellington Mill briefly analysed. Authorities for the Story. Letters. A Journal. The Wesley Ghost. Given Critically and Why. Note on similar Stories, such as the Drummer of Tedworth. Sir Waller Scott’s Scepticism about Nautical Evidence. Lord St. Vincent. Scott asks Where are his Letters on a Ghostly Disturbance. The Letters are now Published. Lord St. Vincent’s Ghost Story. Reflections.
Cases like that of Mrs. Shchapoff really belong to a peculiar species of haunted houses. Our ancestors, like the modern Chinese, attributed them to diabolical possession, not to an ordinary ghost of a dead person. Examples are very numerous, and have all the same “symptoms,” as Coleridge would have said, he attributing them to a contagious nervous malady of observation in the spectators. Among the most