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Ghosts I have Met and Some Others

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« Reply #30 on: November 03, 2009, 01:36:38 am »

the New York circus season, stalking about the Madison Square Garden
arena, with the Prince of Wales at the head beating a tomtom, he
grew iridescent with wrath, and fled madly through the wainscoting
of the room. It was purely a mental victory. All the physical
possibilities of my being would have exhausted themselves futilely
before him; but when I turned upon him the resources of my fancy, my
imagination unrestrained, and held back by no sense of responsibility,
he was as a child in my hands, obstreperous but certain to be subdued.
If it were not for Mrs. Jarley's wrath--which, I admit, she tried to
conceal--over the damage to her divan, I should now look back upon
that visitation as the most agreeable haunting experience of my life; at
any rate, it was at that time that I first learned how to handle ghosts,
and since that time I have been able to overcome them without trouble--
save in one instance, with which I shall close this chapter of my
reminiscences, and which I give only to prove the necessity of
observing strictly one point in dealing with spectres.
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« Reply #31 on: November 03, 2009, 01:36:58 am »

[Illustration: "HE FLED MADLY THROUGH THE WAINSCOTING OF THE ROOM"]

It happened last Christmas, in my own home. I had provided as a
little surprise for my wife a complete new solid silver service
marked with her initials. The tree had been prepared for the
children, and all had retired save myself. I had lingered later than
the others to put the silver service under the tree, where its happy
recipient would find it when she went to the tree with the little
ones the next morning. It made a magnificent display: the two dozen
of each kind of spoon, the forks, the knives, the coffee-pot, water
-urn, and all; the salvers, the vegetable-dishes, olive-forks,
cheese-scoops, and other dazzling attributes of a complete service,
not to go into details, presented a fairly scintillating picture
which would have made me gasp if I had not, at the moment when my
own breath began to catch, heard another gasp in the corner
immediately behind me. Turning about quickly to see whence it came,
I observed a dark figure in the pale light of the moon which
streamed in through the window.

"Who are you?" I cried, starting back, the physical symptoms of a
ghostly presence manifesting themselves as usual.

"I am the ghost of one long gone before," was the reply, in
sepulchral tones.

I breathed a sigh of relief, for I had for a moment feared it was a
burglar.
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« Reply #32 on: November 03, 2009, 01:37:24 am »

"Oh!" I said. "You gave me a start at first. I was afraid you were a
material thing come to rob me." Then turning towards the tree, I
observed, with a wave of the hand, "Fine lay out, eh?"

"Beautiful," he said, hollowly. "Yet not so beautiful as things I've
seen in realms beyond your ken."

And then he set about telling me of the beautiful gold and silver
ware they used in the Elysian Fields, and I must confess Monte
Cristo would have had a hard time, with Sindbad the Sailor to help,
to surpass the picture of royal magnificence the spectre drew. I
stood inthralled until, even as he was talking, the clock struck
three, when he rose up, and moving slowly across the floor, barely
visible, murmured regretfully that he must be off, with which he
faded away down the back stairs. I pulled my nerves, which were
getting rather strained, together again, and went to bed.
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« Reply #33 on: November 03, 2009, 01:37:45 am »

[Illustration: "THEN HE SAT ABOUT TELLING ME OF THE BEAUTIFUL GOLD
AND SILVER WARE THEY USE IN THE ELYSIAN FIELDS."]

_Next morning every bit of that silver-ware was gone_; and, what is
more, three weeks later I found the ghost's picture in the Rogues'
Gallery in New York as that of the cleverest sneak-thief in the
country.

All of which, let me say to you, dear reader, in conclusion, proves
that when you are dealing with ghosts you mustn't give up all your
physical resources until you have definitely ascertained that the
thing by which you are confronted, horrid or otherwise, is a ghost,
and not an all too material rogue with a light step, and a
commodious jute bag for plunder concealed beneath his coat.
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« Reply #34 on: November 03, 2009, 01:38:02 am »

"How to tell a ghost?" you ask.

Well, as an eminent master of fiction frequently observes in his
writings, "that is another story," which I shall hope some day to
tell for your instruction and my own aggrandizement.




THE MYSTERY OF MY GRANDMOTHER'S HAIR SOFA
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« Reply #35 on: November 03, 2009, 01:38:21 am »

It happened last Christmas Eve, and precisely as I am about to set
it forth. It has been said by critics that I am a romancer of the
wildest sort, but that is where my critics are wrong. I grant that
the experiences through which I have passed, some of which have
contributed to the gray matter in my hair, however little they may
have augmented that within my cranium--experiences which I have from
time to time set forth to the best of my poor abilities in the
columns of such periodicals as I have at my mercy--have been of an
order so excessively supernatural as to give my critics a basis for
their aspersions; but they do not know, as I do, that that basis is
as uncertain as the shifting sands of the sea, inasmuch as in the
setting forth of these episodes I have narrated them as faithfully
as the most conscientious realist could wish, and am therefore
myself a true and faithful follower of the realistic school. I
cannot be blamed because these things happen to me. If I sat down in
my study to imagine the strange incidents to which I have in the
past called attention, with no other object in view than to make my
readers unwilling to retire for the night, to destroy the peace of
mind of those who are good enough to purchase my literary wares, or
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« Reply #36 on: November 03, 2009, 01:38:38 am »

to titillate till tense the nerve tissue of the timid who come to
smile and who depart unstrung, then should I deserve the severest
condemnation; but these things I do not do. I have a mission in life
which I hold as sacred as my good friend Mr. Howells holds his. Such
phases of life as I see I put down faithfully, and if the Fates in
their wisdom have chosen to make of me the Balzac of the
Supernatural, the Shakespeare of the Midnight Visitation, while
elevating Mr. Howells to the high office of the Fielding of
Massachusetts and its adjacent States, the Smollett of Boston, and
the Sterne of Altruria, I can only regret that the powers have dealt
more graciously with him than with me, and walk my little way as
gracefully as I know how. The slings and arrows of outrageous
fortune I am prepared to suffer in all meekness of spirit; I accept
them because it seems to me to be nobler in the mind so to do rather
than by opposing to end them. And so to my story. I have prefaced it
at such length for but one reason, and that is that I am aware that
there will be those who will doubt the veracity of my tale, and I am
anxious at the outset to impress upon all the unquestioned fact that
what I am about to tell is the plain, unvarnished truth, and, as I
have already said, it happened last Christmas Eve.
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« Reply #37 on: November 03, 2009, 01:38:50 am »

I regret to have to say so, for it sounds so much like the
description given to other Christmas Eves by writers with a less
conscientious regard for the truth than I possess, but the facts
must be told, and I must therefore state that it was a wild and
stormy night. The winds howled and moaned and made all sorts of
curious noises, soughing through the bare limbs of the trees,
whistling through the chimneys, and, with reckless disregard of my
children's need of rest, slamming doors until my house seemed to be
the centre of a bombardment of no mean order. It is also necessary
to state that the snow, which had been falling all day, had clothed
the lawns and house-tops in a dazzling drapery of white, and, not
content with having done this to the satisfaction of all, was still
falling, and, happily enough, as silently as usual. Were I the "wild
romancer" that I have been called, I might have had the snow fall
with a thunderous roar, but I cannot go to any such length. I love
my fellow-beings, but there is a limit to my philanthropy, and I
shall not have my snow fall noisily just to make a critic happy. I
might do it to save his life, for I should hate to have a man die
for the want of what I could give him with a stroke of my pen, and
without any special effort, but until that emergency arises I shall
not yield a jot in the manner of the falling of my snow.
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« Reply #38 on: November 03, 2009, 01:39:11 am »

Occasionally a belated home-comer would pass my house, the sleigh
-bells strung about the ample proportions of his steed jingling loud
above the roaring of the winds. My family had retired, and I sat
alone in the glow of the blazing log--a very satisfactory gas
affair--on the hearth. The flashing jet flames cast the usual
grotesque shadows about the room, and my mind had thereby been
reduced to that sensitive state which had hitherto betokened the
coming of a visitor from other realms--a fact which I greatly
regretted, for I was in no mood to be haunted. My first impulse,
when I recognized the on-coming of that mental state which is
evidenced by the goosing of one's flesh, if I may be allowed the
expression, was to turn out the fire and go to bed. I have always
found this the easiest method of ridding myself of unwelcome ghosts,
and, conversely, I have observed that others who have been haunted
unpleasantly have suffered in proportion to their failure to take
what has always seemed to me to be the most natural course in the
world--to hide their heads beneath the bed-covering. Brutus, when
Caesar's ghost appeared beside his couch, before the battle of
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« Reply #39 on: November 03, 2009, 01:39:24 am »

Philippi, sat up and stared upon the horrid apparition, and suffered
correspondingly, when it would have been much easier and more
natural to put his head under his pillow, and so shut out the
unpleasant spectacle. That is the course I have invariably pursued,
and it has never failed me. The most luminous ghost man ever saw is
utterly powerless to shine through a comfortably stuffed pillow, or
the usual Christmas-time quota of woollen blankets. But upon this
occasion I preferred to await developments. The real truth is that I
was about written out in the matter of visitations, and needed a
reinforcement of my uncanny vein, which, far from being varicose,
had become sclerotic, so dry had it been pumped by the demands to
which it had been subjected by a clamorous, mystery-loving public. I
had, I may as well confess it, run out of ghosts, and had come down
to the writing of tales full of the horror of suggestion, leaving my
readers unsatisfied through my failure to describe in detail just
what kind of looking thing it was that had so aroused their
apprehension; and one editor had gone so far as to reject my last
ghost-story because I had worked him up to a fearful pitch of
excitement, and left him there without any reasonable way out. I was
face to face with a condition--which, briefly, was that hereafter
that desirable market was closed to the products of my pen unless my
contributions were accompanied by a diagram which should make my
mysteries so plain that a little child could understand how it all
came to pass. Hence it was that, instead of following my own
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« Reply #40 on: November 03, 2009, 01:39:44 am »

convenience and taking refuge in my spectre-proof couch, I stayed
where I was. I had not long to wait. The dial in my fuel-meter
below-stairs had hardly had time to register the consumption of
three thousand feet of gas before the faint sound of a bell reached
my straining ears--which, by-the-way, is an expression I profoundly
hate, but must introduce because the public demands it, and a ghost
-story without straining ears having therefore no chance of
acceptance by a discriminating editor. I started from my chair and
listened intently, but the ringing had stopped, and I settled back
to the delights of a nervous chill, when again the deathly silence
of the night--the wind had quieted in time to allow me the use of
this faithful, overworked phrase--was broken by the tintinnabulation
of the bell. This time I recognized it as the electric bell operated
by a push-button upon the right side of my front door. To rise and
rush to the door was the work of a moment. It always is. In another
instant I had flung it wide. This operation was singularly easy,
considering that it was but a narrow door, and width was the last
thing it could ever be suspected of, however forcible the fling.
However, I did as I have said, and gazed out into the inky blackness
of the night. As I had suspected, there was no one there, and I was
at once convinced that the dreaded moment had come. I was certain
that at the instant of my turning to re-enter my library I should
see something which would make my brain throb madly and my pulses
start. I did not therefore instantly turn, but let the wind blow the
door to with a loud clatter, while I walked quickly into my dining
-room and drained a glass of cooking-sherry to the dregs. I do not
introduce the cooking-sherry here for the purpose of eliciting a
laugh from the reader, but in order to be faithful to life as we
live it. All our other sherry had been used by the queen of the
kitchen for cooking purposes, and this was all we had left for the
table. It is always so in real life, let critics say what they will.
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« Reply #41 on: November 03, 2009, 01:40:06 am »

[Illustration: "THERE WAS NO ONE THERE"]

This done, I returned to the library, and sustained my first shock.
The unexpected had happened. There was still no one there. Surely
this ghost was an original, and I began to be interested.

"Perhaps he is a modest ghost," I thought, "and is a little shy
about manifesting his presence. That, indeed, would be original,
seeing how bold the spectres of commerce usually are, intruding
themselves always upon the privacy of those who are not at all
minded to receive them."

Confident that something would happen, and speedily at that, I sat
down to wait, lighting a cigar for company; for burning gas-logs are
not as sociable as their hissing, spluttering originals, the genuine
logs, in a state of ignition. Several times I started up nervously,
feeling as if there was something standing behind me about to place
a clammy hand upon my shoulder, and as many times did I resume my
attitude of comfort, disappointed. Once I seemed to see a minute
spirit floating in the air before me, but investigation showed that
it was nothing more than the fanciful curling of the clouds of smoke
I had blown from my lips. An hour passed and nothing occurred, save
that my heart from throbbing took to leaping in a fashion which
filled me with concern. A few minutes later, however, I heard a
strange sound at the window, and my leaping heart stood still. The
strain upon my tense nerves was becoming unbearable.
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« Reply #42 on: November 03, 2009, 01:40:20 am »

[Illustration: "I DRAINED A GLASS OF COOKING SHERRY TO THE DREGS"]

"At last!" I whispered to myself, hoarsely, drawing a deep breath,
and pushing with all my force into the soft upholstered back of my
chair. Then I leaned forward and watched the window, momentarily
expecting to see it raised by unseen hands; but it never budged.
Then I watched the glass anxiously, half hoping, half fearing to see
something pass through it; but nothing came, and I began to get
irritable.

I looked at my watch, and saw that it was half-past one o'clock.

"Hang you!" I cried, "whatever you are, why don't you appear, and be
done with it? The idea of keeping a man up until this hour of the
night!"
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« Reply #43 on: November 03, 2009, 01:40:32 am »

Then I listened for a reply; but there was none.

"What do you take me for?" I continued, querulously. "Do you suppose
I have nothing else to do but to wait upon your majesty's pleasure?
Surely, with all the time you've taken to make your début, you must
be something of unusual horror."

Again there was no answer, and I decided that petulance was of no
avail. Some other tack was necessary, and I decided to appeal to his
sympathies--granting that ghosts have sympathies to appeal to, and I
have met some who were so human in this respect that I have found it
hard to believe that they were truly ghosts.

"I say, old chap," I said, as genially as I could, considering the
situation--I was nervous, and the amount of gas consumed by the logs
was beginning to bring up visions of bankruptcy before my eyes--
"hurry up and begin your haunting--there's a good fellow. I'm a
father--please remember that--and this is Christmas Eve. The
children will be up in about three hours, and if you've ever been a
parent yourself you know what that means. I must have some rest, so
come along and show yourself, like the good spectre you are, and let
me go to bed."
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« Reply #44 on: November 03, 2009, 01:41:04 am »

I think myself it was a very moving address, but it helped me not a
jot. The thing must have had a heart of stone, for it never made
answer.

"What?" said I, pretending to think it had spoken and I had not
heard distinctly; but the visitant was not to be caught napping,
even though I had good reason to believe that he had fallen asleep.
He, she, or it, whatever it was, maintained a silence as deep as it
was aggravating. I smoked furiously on to restrain my growing wrath.
Then it occurred to me that the thing might have some pride, and I
resolved to work on that.
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