The Book of Dreams and Ghosts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 292 pages of information about The Book of Dreams and Ghosts.

The usual annoyances are apparitions (rare), flying about of objects (not very common), noises of every kind (extremely frequent), groans, screams, footsteps and fire-raising.  Imposture has either been proved or made very probable in ten out of eleven cases of volatile objects between 1883 and 1895. {188c} Moreover, it is certain that the noises of haunted houses are not equally audible by all persons present, even when the sounds are at their loudest.  Thus Lord St. Vincent, the great admiral, heard nothing during his stay at the house of his sister, Mrs. Ricketts, while that lady endured terrible things.  After his departure she was obliged to recall him.  He arrived, and slept peacefully.  Next day his sister told him about the disturbances, after which he heard them as much as his neighbours, and was as unsuccessful in discovering their cause. {189}

Of course this looks as if these noises were unreal, children of the imagination.  Noises being the staple of haunted houses, a few words may be devoted to them.  They are usually the frou-frou or rustling sweep of a gown, footsteps, raps, thumps, groans, a sound as if all the heavy furniture was being knocked about, crashing of crockery and jingling of money.  Of course, as to footsteps, people may be walking about, and most of the other noises are either easily imitated, or easily produced by rats, water pipes, cracks in furniture (which the Aztecs thought ominous of death), and other natural causes.  The explanation is rather more difficult when the steps pace a gallery, passing and repassing among curious inquirers, or in this instance.


A lady very well known to myself, and in literary society, lived as a girl with an antiquarian father in an old house dear to an antiquary.  It was haunted, among other things, by footsteps.  The old oak staircase had two creaking steps, numbers seventeen and eighteen from the top.  The girl would sit on the stair, stretching out her arms, and count the steps as they passed her, one, two, three, and so on to seventeen and eighteen, which always creaked. {190} In this case rats and similar causes were excluded, though we may allow for “expectant attention”.  But this does not generally work.  When people sit up on purpose to look out for the ghost, he rarely comes; in the case of the “Lady in Black,” which we give later, when purposely waited for, she was never seen at all.

Discounting imposture, which is sometimes found, and sometimes merely fabled (as in the Tedworth story), there remains one curious circumstance.  Specially ghostly noises are attributed to the living but absent.


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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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