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Ghosts I have Met and Some Others

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Author Topic: Ghosts I have Met and Some Others  (Read 3228 times)
Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2009, 01:30:13 am »

There was another ghost that I recall to prove my point, who was of
very great use to me in the summer immediately following the spring
of which I have just told you. You will possibly remember how that
the summer of 1895 had rather more than its fair share of heat, and
that the lovely New Jersey town in which I have the happiness to
dwell appeared to be the headquarters of the temperature. The
thermometers of the nation really seemed to take orders from
Beachdale, and properly enough, for our town is a born leader in
respect to heat. Having no property to sell, I candidly admit that
Beachdale is not of an arctic nature in summer, except socially,
perhaps. Socially, it is the coolest town in the State; but we are
at this moment not discussing cordiality, fraternal love, or the
question raised by the Declaration of Independence as to whether all
men are born equal. The warmth we have in hand is what the old lady
called "Fahrenheat," and, from a thermometric point of view,
Beachdale, if I may be a trifle slangy, as I sometimes am, has heat
to burn. There are mitigations of this heat, it is true, but they
generally come along in winter.
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #16 on: November 03, 2009, 01:30:42 am »

I must claim, in behalf of my town, that never in all my experience
have I known a summer so hot that it was not, sooner or later--by
January, anyhow--followed by a cool spell. But in the summer of 1895
even the real-estate agents confessed that the cold wave announced
by the weather bureau at Washington summered elsewhere--in the
tropics, perhaps, but not at Beachdale. One hardly dared take a bath
in the morning for fear of being scalded by the fluid that flowed
from the cold-water faucet--our reservoir is entirely unprotected by
shade-trees, and in summer a favorite spot for young Waltons who
like to catch bass already boiled--my neighbors and myself lived on
cracked ice, ice-cream, and destructive cold drinks. I do not myself
mind hot weather in the daytime, but hot nights are killing. I can't
sleep. I toss about for hours, and then, for the sake of variety, I
flop, but sleep cometh not. My debts double, and my income seems to
sizzle away under the influence of a hot, sleepless night; and it
was just here that a certain awful thing saved me from the insanity
which is a certain result of parboiled insomnia.
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #17 on: November 03, 2009, 01:31:00 am »

It was about the 16th of July, which, as I remember reading in an
extra edition of the _Evening Bun_, got out to mention the fact, was
the hottest 16th of July known in thirty-eight years. I had retired
at half-past seven, after dining lightly upon a cold salmon and a
gallon of iced tea--not because I was tired, but because I wanted to
get down to first principles at once, and remove my clothing, and
sort of spread myself over all the territory I could, which is a
thing you can't do in a library, or even in a white-and-gold parlor.
If man were constructed like a machine, as he really ought to be, to
be strictly comfortable--a machine that could be taken apart like an
eight-day clock--I should have taken myself apart, putting one
section of myself on the roof, another part in the spare room,
hanging a third on the clothes-line in the yard, and so on, leaving
my head in the ice-box; but unfortunately we have to keep ourselves
together in this life, hence I did the only thing one can do, and
retired, and incidentally spread myself over some freshly baked
bedclothing. There was some relief from the heat, but not much. I
had been roasting, and while my sensations were somewhat like those
which I imagine come to a planked shad when he first finds himself
spread out over the plank, there was a mitigation. My temperature
fell off from 167 to about 163, which is not quite enough to make a
man absolutely content. Suddenly, however, I began to shiver. There
was no breeze, but I began to shiver.
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #18 on: November 03, 2009, 01:31:23 am »

"It is getting cooler," I thought, as the chill came on, and I rose
and looked at the thermometer. It still registered the highest
possible point, and the mercury was rebelliously trying to break
through the top of the glass tube and take a stroll on the roof.

"That's queer," I said to myself. "It's as hot as ever, and yet I'm
shivering. I wonder if my goose is cooked? I've certainly got a
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #19 on: November 03, 2009, 01:31:39 am »

I jumped back into bed and pulled the sheet up over me; but still I
shivered. Then I pulled the blanket up, but the chill continued. I
couldn't seem to get warm again. Then came the counterpane, and
finally I had to put on my bath-robe--a fuzzy woollen affair, which
in midwinter I had sometimes found too warm for comfort. Even then I
was not sufficiently bundled up, so I called for an extra blanket,
two afghans, and the hot-water bag.
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2009, 01:31:52 am »

Everybody in the house thought I had gone mad, and I wondered myself
if perhaps I hadn't, when all of a sudden I perceived, off in the
corner, the Awful Thing, and perceiving it, I knew all.

I was being haunted, and the physical repugnance of which I have
spoken was on. The cold shiver, the invariable accompaniment of the
ghostly visitant, had come, and I assure you I never was so glad of
anything in my life. It has always been said of me by my critics
that I am raw; I was afraid that after that night they would say I
was half baked, and I would far rather be the one than the other;
and it was the Awful Thing that saved me. Realizing this, I spoke to
it gratefully.
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2009, 01:32:08 am »

"You are a heaven-born gift on a night like this," said I, rising up
and walking to its side.

"I am glad to be of service to you," the Awful Thing replied,
smiling at me so yellowly that I almost wished the author of the
_Blue-Button of Cowardice_ could have seen it.

"It's very good of you," I put in.

"Not at all," replied the Thing; "you are the only man I know who
doesn't think it necessary to prevaricate about ghosts every time he
gets an order for a Christmas story. There have been more lies told
about us than about any other class of things in existence, and we
are getting a trifle tired of it. We may have lost our corporeal
existence, but some of our sensitiveness still remains."
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2009, 01:32:23 am »

"Well," said I, rising and lighting the gas-logs--for I was on the
very verge of congealment--"I am sure I am pleased if you like my

"Oh, as for that, I don't think much of them," said the Awful Thing,
with a purple display of candor which amused me, although I cannot
say that I relished it; "but you never lie about us. You are not at
all interesting, but you are truthful, and we spooks hate libellers.
Just because one happens to be a thing is no reason why writers
should libel it, and that's why I have always respected you. We
regard you as a sort of spook Boswell. You may be dull and stupid,
but you tell the truth, and when I saw you in imminent danger of
becoming a mere grease spot, owing to the fearful heat, I decided to
help you through. That's why I'm here. Go to sleep now. I'll stay
here and keep you shivering until daylight anyhow. I'd stay longer,
but we are always laid at sunrise."

"Like an egg," I said, sleepily.
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2009, 01:32:51 am »

"Tutt!" said the ghost. "Go to sleep, If you talk I'll have to go."

And so I dropped off to sleep as softly and as sweetly as a tired
child. In the morning I awoke refreshed. The rest of my family were
prostrated, but I was fresh. The Awful Thing was gone, and the room
was warming up again; and if it had not been for the tinkling ice in
my water-pitcher, I should have suspected it was all a dream. And so
throughout the whole sizzling summer the friendly spectre stood by
me and kept me cool, and I haven't a doubt that it was because of
his good offices in keeping me shivering on those fearful August
nights that I survived the season, and came to my work in the autumn
as fit as a fiddle--so fit, indeed, that I have not written a poem
since that has not struck me as being the very best of its kind, and
if I can find a publisher who will take the risk of putting those
poems out, I shall unequivocally and without hesitation acknowledge,
as I do here, my debt of gratitude to my friends in the spirit
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2009, 01:33:18 am »

Manifestations of this nature, then, are harmful, as I have already
observed, only when the person who is haunted yields to his physical
impulses. Fought stubbornly inch by inch with the will, they can be
subdued, and often they are a boon. I think I have proved both these
points. It took me a long time to discover the facts, however, and
my discovery came about in this way. It may perhaps interest you to
know how I made it. I encountered at the English home of a wealthy
friend at one time a "presence" of an insulting turn of mind. It was
at my friend Jarley's little baronial hall, which he had rented from
the Earl of Brokedale the year Mrs. Jarley was presented at court.
The Countess of Brokedale's social influence went with the château
for a slightly increased rental, which was why the Jarleys took it.
I was invited to spend a month with them, not so much because Jarley
is fond of me as because Mrs. Jarley had a sort of an idea that, as
a writer, I might say something about their newly acquired glory in
some American Sunday newspaper; and Jarley laughingly assigned to me
the "haunted chamber," without at least one of which no baronial
hall in the old country is considered worthy of the name.

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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #25 on: November 03, 2009, 01:33:35 am »

"It will interest you more than any other," Jarley said; "and if it
has a ghost, I imagine you will be able to subdue him."

I gladly accepted the hospitality of my friend, and was delighted at
his consideration in giving me the haunted chamber, where I might
pursue my investigations into the subject of phantoms undisturbed.
Deserting London, then, for a time, I ran down to Brokedale Hall,
and took up my abode there with a half-dozen other guests. Jarley,
as usual since his sudden "gold-fall," as Wilkins called it, did
everything with a lavish hand. I believe a man could have got
diamonds on toast if he had chosen to ask for them. However, this is
apart from my story.

I had occupied the haunted chamber about two weeks before anything
of importance occurred, and then it came--and a more unpleasant,
ill-mannered spook never floated in the ether. He materialized about
3 A.M. and was unpleasantly sulphurous to one's perceptions. He sat
upon the divan in my room, holding his knees in his hands, leering
and scowling upon me as though I were the intruder, and not he.
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #26 on: November 03, 2009, 01:33:49 am »

"Who are you?" I asked, excitedly, as in the dying light of the log
fire he loomed grimly up before me.

"None of your business," he replied, insolently, showing his teeth
as he spoke. "On the other hand, who are you? This is my room, and
not yours, and it is I who have the right to question. If you have
any business here, well and good. If not, you will oblige me by
removing yourself, for your presence is offensive to me."

"I am a guest in the house," I answered, restraining my impulse to
throw the inkstand at him for his impudence. "And this room has been
set apart for my use by my host."
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #27 on: November 03, 2009, 01:34:03 am »

"One of the servant's guests, I presume?" he said, insultingly, his
lividly lavender-like lip upcurling into a haughty sneer, which was
maddening to a self-respecting worm like myself.

I rose up from my bed, and picked up the poker to bat him over the
head, but again I restrained myself. It will not do to quarrel, I
thought. I will be courteous if he is not, thus giving a dead
Englishman a lesson which wouldn't hurt some of the living.

"No," I said, my voice tremulous with wrath--"no; I am the guest of
my friend Mr. Jarley, an American, who--"
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #28 on: November 03, 2009, 01:34:29 am »

"Same thing," observed the intruder, with a yellow sneer. "Race of
low-class animals, those Americans--only fit for gentlemen's
stables, you know."

This was too much. A ghost may insult me with impunity, but when he
tackles my people he must look out for himself. I sprang forward
with an ejaculation of wrath, and with all my strength struck at him
with the poker, which I still held in my hand. If he had been
anything but a ghost, he would have been split vertically from top
to toe; but as it was, the poker passed harmlessly through his misty
make-up, and rent a great gash two feet long in Jarley's divan. The
yellow sneer faded from his lips, and a maddening blue smile took
its place.

"Humph!" he observed, nonchalantly. "What a useless ebullition, and
what a vulgar display of temper! Really you are the most humorous
insect I have yet encountered. From what part of the States do you
come? I am truly interested to know in what kind of soil exotics of
your peculiar kind are cultivated. Are you part of the fauna or the
flora of your tropical States--or what?"
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #29 on: November 03, 2009, 01:36:15 am »

And then I realized the truth. There is no physical method of
combating a ghost which can result in his discomfiture, so I
resolved to try the intellectual. It was a mind-to-mind contest, and
he was easy prey after I got going. I joined him in his blue smile,
and began to talk about the English aristocracy; for I doubted not,
from the spectre's manner, that he was or had been one of that
class. He had about him that haughty lack of manners which bespoke
the aristocrat. I waxed very eloquent when, as I say, I got my mind
really going. I spoke of kings and queens and their uses in no
uncertain phrases, of divine right, of dukes, earls, marquises--of
all the pompous establishments of British royalty and nobility--with
that contemptuously humorous tolerance of a necessary and somewhat
amusing evil which we find in American comic papers. We had a battle
royal for about one hour, and I must confess he was a foeman worthy
of any man's steel, so long as I was reasonable in my arguments; but
when I finally observed that it wouldn't be ten years before Barnum
and Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth had the whole lot engaged for
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