“Where are the dead—those who have loved us and whom we have loved; and those to whom we may have done some irreparable injury? Are they gone from us for ever, or do they return? Are they still amongst us, possessed of that undefined, mysterious, and awful existence which the ancient world attributed to the ghosts of the departed? Are there among the dead those whose love can still protect our weakness? Are there those whose troubled and unquiet spirits are permitted to disturb our peace and avenge their wrongs? Between this world, and that other which escapes our senses, we can neither explain the connecting link, nor admit an impassable barrier. This, however, is certain, whether it be a dream or a fact that the dead still haunt our earthly life, we are all, even the least impressionable, conscious at times of an apprehension of things invisible, and of an undefined fear lest, out of the darkness which surrounds us, powers lurking at our side may suddenly reveal themselves, and we be left helpless in their hands, exposed to all the unknown possibilities of the unseen world. Again, what is that subtle influence of which we are conscious at certain times, and in certain places, which has the power of exciting these apprehensions? and what is it that lies beneath all those beliefs and practices in connection with the dead and their present relation to us, which are confined to no particular time or place, but in varying forms are as widely spread as the human race itself?” Lord Halifax – Colonel P.’s Ghost Story
According to Wikipedia, Charles Lindley Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax, was a British Anglo-Catholic ecumenist who served as president of the English Church Union from 1868 to 1919 and from 1927 to 1934. In 1886, he was a former part of the Northern Regiment of West Riding Yeomanry Cavalry and became a Deputy Lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire, also one of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and a member of the Houses of Laymen for York.
And, he collected ghost stories. His book, “Lord Halifax’s Ghost Book” is now in the public domain in Canada and available at Fadedpage.com.
In the foreword of the published collection of his stories, his son, Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, wrote this about his father: “As long as I can remember, my father’s Ghost Book was one of the most distinctive associations of Hickleton. He kept it always with great care himself, from time to time making additions to it in his own hand-writing, and bringing it out on special occasions such as Christmas to read some of the particular favourites aloud before we all went to bed. Many is the time that after such an evening we children would hurry upstairs, feeling that the distance between the Library and our nurseries, dimly lit by oil lamps and full of shadows, was a danger area where we would not willingly go alone, and where it was unsafe to dawdle.
Such treatment of young nerves, even in those days, would not have been everybody’s prescription; and I well recollect my mother protesting—though I believe almost invariably to no effect—against ‘the children being frightened too much’. My father, however, used to justify the method as calculated to stimulate the imagination, and the victims themselves, fascinated and spell-bound by a sense of delicious terror, never failed to ask for more.
I have often wondered what really underlay the attraction that Ghost stories and the like held for my father, leading them to fill so not inconsiderable a place in the background of all our life with him as children. They appealed strongly to his natural sense of mystery and romance, which so largely dictated his scale of values in the appraisement of persons and things. Apart from the moralities, few charges in his eyes were more damaging to persons than that they should be judged devoid of imagination, and the actual framework of everyday life had value according as it corresponded to something more profound than itself, to be felt rather than seen, and to be apprehended only by some faculty more subtle than that of reason.
And I cannot doubt that the true secret of the appeal made to his thought by the mysterious, or so-called uncanny, was the glimpse that such narratives or events might seem to afford of the hidden realities of the unseen world. The story which he wrote himself and which appears at the end of this book under the title of ‘Colonel P.’s Ghost Story’, begins as follows: ‘Where are the dead—those who have loved us and whom we have loved; and those to whom we may have done some irreparable injury? Are they gone from us for ever, or do they return? Are they still amongst us, possessed of that undefined, mysterious, and awful existence which the ancient world attributed to the ghosts of the departed?… Between this world and that other which escapes our senses, we can neither explain the connecting link, nor admit an impassable barrier.
Thus mystery, romance, adventure, other-worldliness, all played their part; and since these stories are thought worthy of presentation to a wider public, I hope that they may be the means of making known another aspect of the many-sided personality of their collector, and reproduce for their readers some of the interest that they held for him.”
And now, of course, one of his ghost stories:
The Grey Man of Wrotham
This story is prefaced by the following letter to Lord Halifax, dated April 29th, 1883. The signature of his correspondent has been cut away.
‘Knowing your fondness for an authenticated ghost story, I send you the enclosed. It was told to the Bishop at Hyères by a Mrs. Brooke, wife of Major Alured de Vere Brooke, Royal Engineers. When we received it we thought that could any corroboration be obtained it would be as well, and so the evidence of the nurse (C. E. Page) was got and we have it. Should you wish for it, it is at your service.’
In the autumn of the year 1879, when my husband was Captain and Adjutant of the Royal Engineers at Chatham, we were invited to spend a couple of nights with some friends at Wrotham, an old place of historic interest about eight miles from Maidstone. We drove over in our own carriage, and the weather being cold and wintry were glad of the warm bear rugs and robes which we had bought in Canada a few years previously.
We arrived at Wrotham House only just in time to dress for dinner and were immediately shown to our rooms. These were at the extreme end of a long passage up a short flight of stairs in a distant wing of the old house. The bedroom, which was large, was not connected with the dressing-room, which was a few paces down the passage. The fire appeared to have been lighted only a few seconds before and the room struck so cold that I begged my husband to fetch up the robes we had left in the carriage, as I thought we should need them at night. This he did.
After dinner we went to a Penny Reading at which we had been invited to sing and act, and on returning, as a number of people had come in to supper, dancing was proposed, with the result that it was nearly two o’clock before we retired to bed.
Neither on that night nor on the next one, when we again danced until a late hour, did we get any rest. In spite of the fire and of our furs we were horribly cold and my husband even went so far as to declare that he would never sleep in the room again. We attributed this intense cold to damp mattresses and to the fact that probably the room had not been used for some time. Neither of us thought that it was due to any supernatural cause.
In the following spring Captain Brooke and I, with our little girl, aged five, were invited to Wrotham for a week. My husband was unable to leave his duties, but urged me to accept the invitation for myself and for the child who had been ill and would, we thought, benefit by the change.
Accordingly we went there, taking the nurse with us, but remembering my previous experience I wrote beforehand to ask that our rooms might be thoroughly warm and the mattresses aired. We arrived at Wrotham on a Saturday, intending to stay till the following Saturday. Finding that the rooms allotted to us were the same as those which I had occupied with Captain Brooke, I arranged that the nurse should sleep in the dressing-room and the child with me.
That evening I sat up very late talking to Lady M. and her daughter. I remember that as we passed through the hall on our way to bed, a large old-fashioned clock on the stairs struck one o’clock and I remarked that it was Sunday morning.
The instant I reached my room I was struck by the vault-like coldness of it and anxiously approached my child to see if she felt it. She appeared to be perfectly warm and was sleeping soundly, but for more than an hour after I had lain down beside her I shivered and shook with cold.
At eight o’clock on Sunday morning the nurse came in with a white face, red eyes and frightened looks. When I exclaimed at her appearance she told me she had had a very bad night. Up till one o’clock someone had been playing practical jokes in the passage, ‘opening her door, laughing outside and then going away and coming back.’
‘Why did you not lock your door?’ I asked.
‘I did, twice,’ was her reply, ‘but soon afterwards it was opened again.’
I quite thought she had been dreaming and rallied her about what she had eaten for supper. She went to her breakfast, from which she returned, looking excited.
‘Oh, ma’am,’ she said, ‘is it not too bad? These rooms are haunted and the doors can never be kept shut before one o’clock.’
It appeared that the servants had excited her suspicions by questions as to what sort of a night she had had and had then told her she need not be afraid another night as she had only to leave her door open and nothing would happen. I told her that it was very unpleasant, if no more than that, and that I would make enquiries. On the way back from morning church I questioned Lady M. about the house, asking which was the most ancient part and so on, and whether there was a haunted room. A look of intelligence flashed from my hostess to her daughter and back again. The latter then said, ‘Yes, there is a haunted room, but we will not tell you which it is, as you might imagine things.’
‘I think I know already,’ I replied, ‘and my nurse was frightened by the ghost last night.’
They would vouchsafe no further information on the subject, but offered to let their under-housemaid sleep with the nurse if she were feeling anxious. This I agreed to, and when we were going to bed I told the girl to leave the door of the room open and to go to sleep without thinking of any foolishness, as of course ghosts did not exist.
I undressed and sat down by the fire to analyse my own feelings. I must insist that I was not in the least nervous or uneasy, only rather curious as to what might happen. I made up the fire, locked the door, and took the further precaution of putting a chair under the handle. At first I thought of sitting up to watch, but, being tired, I at last went to bed and to sleep.
I awoke after what had seemed a short time and heard the clock strike twelve. Although I tried to sleep again I found myself getting colder and colder every moment and sleep was impossible. I could only lie and wait.
Soon I heard steps coming along the passage and up the stairs, and as they slowly approached my door I felt more and more alarmed. I scolded myself. I even prayed fervently.
Then I heard a slight fumbling, as it were, with the handle of the door, which was thrown open quite noiselessly. A pale light, distinct from the firelight, streamed in, and then the figure of a man, clothed in a grey suit trimmed with silver and wearing a cocked hat, walked in and stood by the side of the bed furthest from me, with his face turned away from the window. I lay in mortal terror watching him, but he turned, still with his back to me, went out of the door uttering a horrid little laugh, and walked some paces down the passage, returning again and again.
After that I think I fainted, for it was nearly two o’clock when I became fully conscious again. I did not get up and, still believing that I had had a fearful dream, tried to go to sleep. When the maid opened my door in the morning and pushed aside the chair, my belief in the supernatural was not so strong.
On the Monday evening I asked the nurse, who, by the by, had not been disturbed the previous night, to come and sleep on the sofa in my room. I did not tell her what I had seen or thought I had seen and had still enough courage to be anxious to discover whether the events of the night would be repeated. Again, on this third night, I awoke to hear the clock strike twelve. I called in a whisper to the nurse and found that she was also awake, and presently we both of us began to have the cold sensation. Presently the nurse said, ‘I hear steps, ma’am. Do you?’
‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘I will get up and meet it, whatever it is.’
In fact, I did try to get up more than once, but in vain. It was as though I was bound to the bed, and this time all my courage left me. Once again the door opened noiselessly and the grey figure made his entry and uttered his diabolical little laugh. The nurse saw and heard all this as plainly as I had done and also declared that she could not have moved or spoken while it lasted.
Next day I told the ladies in the house what had happened, adding that since my nerves could not stand a further trial we must return home. In vain they assured me that my visitor would not trouble me again, that he ‘only appeared three times and always to strangers, and never did any harm’, and much more to that effect. I refused to repeat the experiment, and by leaving my hostess’s roof there and then I forfeited her friendship.
I believe the family has suffered from these visitations for seventy-five years and that the ghost is supposed to be that of a man who murdered his brother in the room in which I slept and threw his body out of the window. I am told that there is in existence a portrait of one of these brothers, dressed as I have described him.
M. A. de V. B.
Copy of a Letter from the Nurse who slept with Mrs. Brooke and her child on the occasion when the ghost was seen.
My Dear Madam,
Thank you so much for your very kind letter. I was so glad to hear that my Miss M. is better and that you think she will soon be her dear bright self again. I have often thought of you and wished I was with you to help nurse her, dear child. I sometimes say she is too good and sweet to live, but pray God to spare her to us.
Madam, you ask me to tell you as simply as possible what happened that night at Lady M.’s. I never like to think of it, but this is what I remember. You asked me to sleep in the room with you and Miss M., and at twelve o’clock we both woke and heard the hour strike and both said how cold it was, and then we heard the steps in the passage and you said, ‘I will get up and see what it is,’ but you did not, and then the door which you had shut and locked was opened and a man dressed in grey came in and stood looking out of the window and there was a bright light and I was so cold and my night-dress was quite wet; and then he went away and came back twice again and there was a wicked laugh at the door and the steps going away and I think you said, ‘Thank God it’s all over,’ and we both cried, and you lit the candle and there was the door wide open and you said, ‘We will pack up and go home to-morrow, I can’t stop here without the Captain.’ I think that was all.
Your affectionate dutiful servant,
Okay, just one more, a shorter one, found on the Facebook page of Paladin Paranormal:
The Mysterious Train Passenger
Lord Halifax wrote a book about ghosts in the 1930’s. In this collection, he included a story that happened to a friend of his. This man, Colonel Ewart was a stuffy sort who did not believe in ghosts. Heading to London he arrived late to the Carlisle station hoping to find an empty compartment. The colonel did not like sharing his space with strangers. The train was crowded but he was in luck for he spotted one compartment that was still empty.
Making himself comfortable, he slipped off his boots and coat. He settled in to read the Times, but with the trains soft motion and the warmth in the compartment, he found himself dozing off. Later, when he awoke, he found a woman sitting opposite from him, she wore a veil and was dressed in black. Embarrassed, he apologized for his untidy appearance but his travel companion did not respond. She sat as if holding a baby, rocking and humming a lullaby to her empty arms.
Suddenly, there was a screech of wheels and the train came to an abrupt halt. Colonel Ewart was thrown violently forward and then back. Within moments he was knocked unconscious by a falling suitcase. Slowly, he awoke rubbing his bruised head. He left the compartment to check on the condition of the train. Things were chaotic in the forward carriages but fortunately, it appeared no one was hurt.
Remembering the mysterious woman he headed back to his own compartment to check on her. But he found no one inside. Concerned he tracked down a train conductor to give the woman’s description. This rail man to his surprise laughed and stated, “So it happened again.” Spotting the Colonel’s ire the man calmly explained his reaction. He told Ewart she was a well-known ghost passenger and he should not concern himself.
It seems this woman and her husband, newly married, had departed on this train from the Carlisle station. They were headed to their honeymoon destination when the husband leaned too far out of the compartment window and was decapitated by a wire. His head fell into his young bride’s lap. When the train arrived in London, she was found later still sitting in the compartment. It appeared she had lost her mind, for she was cradling her husband’s head in her arms like it was a baby.
She never regained her senses, and she was placed in an institution where she sat for hours rocking back and forth. When she died, her ghost started to appear in one particular compartment on the line that ran to London. “I was surprised to see you picked that compartment sir. Everyone knows it is haunted.”