The Alleged Haunting of B—— House online

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[Transcriber's Note: The Author uses lines of spaced periods to mark
the passing of time, this has been preserved in this edition.]



[Illustration: ATTICS]

[Illustration: SECOND FLOOR]

[Illustration: GROUND FLOOR L. Lift. A. Iron gate in Area.]

[Illustration: BASEMENT]








"I visited B - - representing that Society [S.P.R.], ... and
decided that there was no such evidence as could justify us in
giving the results of the inquiry a place in our
_Proceedings_." - _The Times_, June 10, 1897.

_Hon. Sec. of the Society for Psychical Research_.

_Compare pages 189 et seq._

* * * * *


It was in 1892 that Lord Bute first heard of the matter. It was not,
as stated by _The Times_ correspondent in that journal for June 8,
1897, in or from London, but at Falkland, in Fifeshire, and in the
following manner: -

There is no public chapel at Falkland, and the private chapel in the
house is attended by a variety of priests, who usually come only from
Saturday to Monday. Lord Bute's diary for the second week in August
1892 contains the following entries: -

"_Saturday, August 6th._ - Father H - - , S.J., came.

"_Sunday, August 7th._ - In afternoon with Father H - - and John [Lord
Dumfries] to Palace, and then with him to the Gruoch's Den. He gives
us a long account of the psychical disturbances at B - - ; noises
between his bed and the ceiling, like continuous explosion of petards,
so that he could not hear himself speak, &c. &c.

"[Mr. Huggins afterwards recommended the use of a phonograph for these
noises, in order to ascertain absolutely whether they are objective or
subjective, and I wrote so to S - - of B - - .]

"_Monday, August 8th._ - Father H - - went away.

"_Tuesday, August 9th._ - Mr. Huggins [now Sir William Huggins],
outgoing President of the British Association, and Mrs. Huggins came.

"_Saturday, August 13th._ - Father H - - came.

"_Sunday, August 14th._ - In afternoon with the children, &c., to the
Palace, leaving Mr. Huggins as much as possible alone with Father
H - - (both being with us), in order to interrogate him about the
psychical noises he heard recently at B - - , when there, to give a
Retreat to some nuns.

"_Monday, August 15th._ - Father H - - went away after luncheon."

Lord Bute recalls that Father H - - told him that he had been at B - -
for the purpose of giving a Retreat [a series of sermons and
meditations] to some nuns, who were charitably allowed by Mr. S - - to
take a sort of holiday, at a house called B - - Cottage, which had
been originally built and occupied by the late Major S - - , when he
first took up his residence at B - - , which at the time was let.

Father H - - told Lord Bute that in consequence of the disturbance his
room had been several times changed, and he expressed surprise that
the sounds did not appear to be heard by anybody except himself. He
also said that he had spoken of the matter to Mr. S - - , who expressed
an idea that the disturbances might be caused by his uncle, the late
Major S - - , who was trying to attract attention in order that prayers
might be offered for the repose of his soul. The sounds occurred
during full daylight, and in a clear open space between his bed and
the ceiling. He did not know to what to compare them, but as he said
they were explosive in sound, Lord Bute suggested that they might be
compared to the sounds made by petards, which are commonly used in
Italy for firing _feux de joie_. Father H - - answered, "Yes perhaps,
if they were continuous enough." He said that the sound which alarmed
him more than any other was as of a large animal throwing itself
violently against the bottom of his door, outside. A third noise which
he had heard was of ordinary raps, of the kind called "spirit-raps."
He mentioned a fourth sound, the nature of which Lord Bute does not
remember with the same certainty as the others, but believes it was a
shriek or scream. Such a sound is described by other witnesses during
the subsequent occupation of the house by the H - - family. The fact
that the sounds appear to have been inaudible to every one except
Father H - - is a strong argument in favour of their subjective, or
hallucinatory, character. It will be found that this was very often
the case with the peculiar sounds recorded at B - - , and even when
they were heard by several persons at the same time, there does not
appear to be any ground for refusing to recognise them as collective

Lord Bute's diary and recollections have been here quoted, not as
differing from, but only as being antecedent to, the following
account, which has been furnished by Father H - - himself: -

"I went to B - - on Thursday, July 14th, 1892, and I left it on
Saturday, July 23rd. So I slept at B - - for nine nights, or rather
one night, because I was disturbed by very queer and extraordinary
noises every night except the last, which I spent in Mr. S - - 's
dressing-room. At first I occupied the room to the extreme right of
the landing [No. 8],[A] then my things were removed to another room
[No. 3] (it seems to me at this distance of time that _this_ room
faced the principal staircase, or was a little to the left of it). In
both these rooms I heard the loud and inexplicable noises every night,
but on two or three nights, in addition to these, another noise
affrighted me - a sound of somebody or something falling against the
door outside. It seemed, at the time, as if a calf or big dog would
make such a noise. Why those particular animals came into my head I
cannot tell. But in attempting to describe these indescribable
phenomena, I notice now I always do say it was like a calf or big dog
falling against the door. Why did I not hear the noises on the ninth
night? Were there none where I was? These are questions the answers to
which are not apparent. It may be there _were_ noises, but I slept too
soundly to hear them. One of the oddest things in my case, in
connection with the house, is that it appeared to me somehow that (1)
Somebody was relieved by my departure; (2) that nothing could induce
me to pass another night there, at all events alone, and in other
respects I do not think I am a coward."

For the benefit of those who are not aware of the fact, it may be as
well to state that the class of people known as spiritualists, hold
that when raps are heard, it is the best thing for the hearer to say
aloud, "If you are intelligent, will you please to rap three times?"
and if this is done, to ask the intelligence to rap three times for
_yes_, once for _no_, and twice for _doubtful_. It is obvious that
considerable conversation can be carried on by such a code, and where
it is inadequate, as, for instance, in obtaining proper names, it is
usual to propose to repeat the alphabet slowly, asking the
intelligence to rap once when the proper letter is reached. This
simple method was entirely unknown to Father H - - . He had done
nothing but throw holy water about his rooms, and repeat the prayer
_Visita quæsumus_, which invokes the Divine protection of a house and
its inhabitants against all the snares of the Enemy, and which,
therefore, in no way concerned any person or thing which is not
associated with the powers of darkness. It was natural that no result
should be produced.

Sir W. Huggins told Lord Bute, as the result of his examination of
Father H - - , that he felt absolutely certain that what the latter had
experienced was not the outcome of morbid hallucination, but that it
was possible that the sounds themselves might be hallucinatory or
subjective. To ascertain whether this were so, or whether they had any
physical cause, he suggested the use of a phonograph, as this would at
least show whether the sounds were accompanied by atmospheric waves.
Lord Bute happened to know Mr. S - - slightly, having met him
accidentally while travelling abroad. He accordingly wrote to him, and
communicated Sir William Huggins's suggestion. Mr. S - - , after a
delay of some days, refused absolutely to allow any scientific
investigation to be made, a refusal remarkably coincident with the
recent refusal of his son, the present proprietor, to allow any
similar investigation with seismographical instruments. It would seem
a legitimate conclusion that neither father nor son doubted that the
sounds are of a psychical character. As regards the present
proprietor, such a conclusion renders it obvious that we must
understand in some peculiar sense the letter published in _The Times_,
dated June 10, 1897, in which he says, "As to the stories contained in
the article [_i.e._ of the anonymous _Times_ correspondent], they are
without foundation." These words must, however, be, in any case,
accepted in a special sense, considering the part taken by members of
his own family, as well as by tenants and agents, in attesting the
stories in question.

Lord Bute states that Father H - - did not, upon the occasion of his
visit to Falkland, say anything as to having seen the brown wooden
crucifix (see pp. 132, 142, 154), but after this apparition had been
seen by two other persons separately, Lord Bute wrote to Father H - -
to inquire whether he could remember anything of the sort. His reply
was as follows: -

"When you mention the brown wooden crucifix, you awaken a new memory
in me. I now seem to live some of those hours over again, and I
recollect that between waking and sleeping there appeared before my
eyes - somewhere on the wall - a crucifix, some eighteen inches, I
should say, long, and, _I think_, of _brown_ wood.

"My own crucifix is of black metal, and just the length of this page
(seven inches); and though I usually have it with me in my bag, I
cannot for certain say that it was in my bag at B - - ."

The following further communication from Father H - - carries the
record further back: -

"In August 1893 it was that I met, quite by accident, a person who
knew something about B - - House and its strange noises.

"Though, on my leaving his house, Mr. S - - begged me not 'to give the
house a bad name,' I did not understand by this that, as a point of
honour, I should refrain from ever mentioning the subject. I respected
his request to the extent of not alluding indiscriminately to the
noises that disturbed my nights there. But I did speak to several
people about them, and they had so impatiently and incredulously heard
my statements, that I at last refused to repeat them, even when
pressingly requested to do so. It was, therefore, quite a surprise to
find myself talking about B - - House, or rather, listening with rapt
attention to another talking about the place.

"Miss Y - - , I think her name was, kept house for a priest at - - . One
evening, while on a visit there, I found her knitting as I passed the
kitchen door, and bidding her the time of day, I discovered from a
remark she made that she had in former days filled more important
posts. She soon settled down when she found me an attentive listener
to a somewhat detailed account of by no means a short life.

"'Had she been in Scotland?' 'Yes, sir; and in a very beautiful part
of Scotland, in P - - shire.' 'Indeed!' In short she told me that she
had been, twelve years ago, governess in the S - - family at B - -
House. (I need not say that I was now intensely interested.) 'Why did
she leave?' 'Well, sir, so many people complained of queer noises in
the house, that I got alarmed and left.' I asked her had she seen
anything? She said No, and the noises were only heard in certain
rooms, and the servants inhabited quite a different part of the house.
When I closely questioned her she located the queer noises precisely
in the two rooms I had successively occupied. She did not learn from
me that I had ever been there. Pressed for a concrete case of fright
and abrupt leavetaking (I _think_), she told me two military officers
had 'left next morning.'

"In conclusion, as against all the above, my own, and this good
woman's account, I must set it down that, before I left the house, two
young ladies, relatives of the family, occupied the rooms in
question, and certainly, to my surprise, did not seem at breakfast as
if they had spent an unquiet night."

Inquiry shows that Miss Y - - 's residence at B - - must have been
about the years 1878-80.

The earliest witnesses in chronological sequence would be the S - -
family themselves; but though much information has been contributed by
them to various persons interested in B - - House during the tenancy
both of Mr. H - - and Colonel Taylor, the present Editors are
unwilling to make use of it without permission.

A statement in _The Times_ article, of the character of which the
reader can here judge for himself, elicited the following letter from
Mrs. S - - , which is to be found in the issue of that journal for June
18, 1897: -

"May I ask of your courtesy to insert this in the next issue of your
paper. Seeing myself dragged into publicity in _The Times_ of June 8,
as 'having made admissions under pressure of cross-examination,' I beg
to state that I as well as the rest of my family had not the remotest
idea that our home was let to other than ordinary tenants. In my
intercourse with them I spoke as one lady to another, never imagining
that my private conversations were going to be used for purposes
carefully concealed from me - a deceit which I deeply resent."

It will be observed that Mrs. S - - here leaves no doubt as to the
nature of the information with which she was so good as to favour Miss
Freer, but, notwithstanding this fact, and the language which Mrs.
S - - has considered it right to use - or, at least, to sign - with
regard to Miss Freer, Miss Freer prefers to continue to treat Mrs.
S - - 's statements as confidential, and blanks will accordingly be
found in the Journal under the dates on which such conversations
occurred. Miss Freer extends the same regard for a privacy, which the
S - - family have themselves violated, to communications made by other
members. There have, however, been several witnesses unconnected with
them, some of whom are referred to in the Journal. Not only the
villagers and persons in the immediate neighbourhood, but many
accidentally met with in visits to show-places and in excursions for
twenty miles round B - - , were ready to pour out traditions and
experiences which are not here quoted, as, though often suggestive,
not always evidential.

The Rev. P. H - - , already referred to, quotes a witness who testifies
to processions of monks or nuns having been seen by Mr. S - - from a
window, and of a married couple who, "relating the events of the
night, declared they could not hear each other's voices for the noise
overhead between them and the ceiling," which was especially
interesting to him, as corroborative of his own experience.

A former servant at B - - has voluntarily related, at great length,
the story of the alleged hauntings, which shows that they have
occurred at intervals during the past twenty years. He is of opinion
that as the earlier hauntings were ascribed to the late Major S - - ,
so their revival may be referred to the late proprietor; but his
reasons, as well as his narrative, are of a nature which might cause
annoyance to the S - - family, and are therefore withheld.

Dr. Menzies, a correspondent of _The Times_, June 10th, who speaks of
himself as an old friend of Major S - - , refers to a still earlier
haunting - a tradition current at the time of the Major's succession in

* * * * *

In August 1896, B - - House, with the shooting attached, was let by
Captain S - - , the present proprietor, for a year to a wealthy family
of Spanish origin. Their experience was of such a nature that they
abandoned the house at the end of seven weeks, thus forfeiting the
greater part of their rent, which had been paid in advance. The
evidence of Mr. H - - himself, of his butler, and of several guests,
will be found in due chronological sequence.

* * * * *

When Colonel Taylor, one of the fundamental members of the London
Spiritualist Alliance, a distinguished member of the S.P.R., whose
name is associated both in this country and in America with the
investigation of haunted houses, offered to take a lease of B - -
House, after the lease had been resigned by Mr. H - - , the proprietor
made no objection whatever. Indeed, the only allusion made to the
haunting was the expression of a hope on the part of Captain S - - 's
agents in Edinburgh, that Colonel Taylor would not make it a subject
of complaint, as had been done by Mr. H - - , in reply to which they
were informed that Colonel Taylor was thoroughly well aware of what
had happened during Mr. H - - 's tenancy, and would undertake to make
no complaint on the subject. Captain S - - having thus thrown the
house into the open market, and let it to the well-known expert, with
no reference whatever to the subject of haunting, except that it
should not be made a ground of complaint, it is obvious that he
deprived himself of any right to complain as to observations upon the
subject of local hallucination, any more than of observation upon the
habits of squirrels or other local features. Nor had he any more right
to complain upon this ground, as vendor of the lease, than any other
vendor of articles exposed for public sale, such as a hatter, who
after selling a hat to Lord Salisbury, might complain that he had been
induced to provide headgear for a Conservative. At the same time, both
Colonel Taylor and his friends were well aware, from a vexatious
experience, that phenomena of the kind found at B - - are very often
associated with private matters, which the members of a family
concerned might object to see published, just as they might object to
the publication of the results of an examination of some object - say,
old medicine-bottles - found in the house let by them to a strange

Acting upon this knowledge, it has been the general rule of the
Society for Psychical Research to publish the cases investigated by it
under avowedly false names, as private cases are published in medical
and other scientific journals. Out of a courteous anxiety that nothing
should occur which could in any way annoy any member of the S - -
family, no one was admitted to the house for the purpose of observing
the phenomena, except on the definite understanding that they were to
regard everything as confidential, and it was always intended that any
publication on the subject was to be made with all names and
geographical indications avowedly fictitious.

As certain points of Gaelic orthography were found to be involved, it
was decided to mention the house as standing in a bi-lingual district
upon the borders of Wales, and Lord Bute arranged with Sir William
Lewis to have these linguistic points represented by Welsh instead of

The affairs of the inquiry, and of any phenomena which might occur,
were thus protected, it was believed, by a confidence even more
absolute than that usually observed in such affairs of a household as
to which honour dictates that a guest should be silent.

The appreciation with which the S - - family responded to this
courteous and careful consideration for their possible feelings, was
made manifest to the world by the tone which they adopted when,
immediately on the appearance of the anonymous article in _The Times_,
they rushed into the newspapers, and published everything concerning
themselves, their family property, predecessors, and tenants, with all
the proper names at full length. After that outburst it has, of
course, been rendered impossible to keep the identity of the place and
people any longer secret.

Out of deference to other members of the family who did not take part
in this, the matter in the present volume remains in as private a form
as the newspaper correspondence now leaves possible.

The names given in full are those mostly very indirectly concerned;
other names, including that of the house, are given under the real
initials, with the exception of a few of the less prominent, when the
real initials would create confusion; and in these latter cases they
are taken from letters of the alphabet not already used, and are
placed in inverted commas; _e.g._ the real initial of a Mr. S - - is
changed, in order to avoid confusion with the name of the S - - family
themselves, the proprietors of B - - .

The contents of the book are, except in one respect, arranged upon the
simple chronological system. They commence with a short sketch of the
history of the S - - family, based in its earlier part upon Douglas's
"Baronage of Scotland"; and all information which the writers possess
as to the phenomena which have occurred since the death of Major S - -
in 1876, except that supplied by the S - - family, is set forth in

The family of S - - date from the earlier part of the middle of the
fifteenth century, and were settled upon the river T - - within that
century, while they have possessed B - - at least since the earlier
half of the century following.

A stone, carved with their arms, belonging to the old mansion-house,
is built into the wall, and dated 1579. The present house is modern,
and does not even occupy the site of the older one.

The particular proprietor whose arms are so represented, Patrick
S - - , married Elizabeth B - - , who survived him and married a second
time. James S - - , his son, in 1586, married Mary C - - , and after her
death, in 1597, Elizabeth R - - .

Robert S - - , his son by his first marriage, married Margaret C - - .
John S - - , son of Robert, was killed by the Cromwellians, leaving no
issue, and was succeeded by his brother, Patrick S - - , who married
Elizabeth L - - .

It is not obvious when they adopted the principles of the Reformation,
but it is to be remarked that this Patrick stood high in the favour of
James II. (and VII.).

Charles S - - , son of the foregoing, married Anne D - - , and was
succeeded by his third son, another Charles, who married Grizell
M - - , and died in 1764.

Robert S - - , his son, married Isabel H - - . Charles S - - , his eldest
son, died unmarried in 1783.

H - - S - - , second son of R - - S - - , married Louisa M - - , died in
1834, and had issue - Robert, two other sons, and six daughters.

Robert S - - , born January 1806, in 1825 entered the military service
of the East India Company, from which he retired with the rank of
Major in 1850, _i.e._ sixteen years after succeeding to the property.
He died in April 1876. His two brothers both died unmarried, and of
his six sisters, three married, and a fourth, Isabella, entered a
nunnery. She there professed under the name of "Frances Helen" in
1850, the year of her brother's return from India, and died February
23, 1880, aged sixty-six.

Major S - - , by his will dated June 8, 1853, bequeathed B - - to the
representatives of his married sister Mary, and on his death was
accordingly succeeded by her second (but eldest surviving) son, John,
who on succeeding assumed the name of S - - .

Major S - - was a Protestant, but this John was a Roman Catholic, like
his aunt Isabella. His eldest brother died without issue in 1867, but
he had a younger brother, married, with issue, and two sisters, Louisa
and Mary, whom Major S - - , by a codicil of December 14, 1868,
carefully excluded from all benefit under his will.

The register of the parish of L - - , in which B - - House is situated,
mentions under the date July 14, 1873, the death of Sarah N - - ,
housekeeper of B - - House (single), aged twenty-seven years, daughter
of John N - - , farmer, and Helen R - - . (In Scottish legal documents
married women are described by their maiden name.) It is said that her
last illness was very short, lasting only three days. Mrs. S - - had
the great charity to attend her on her deathbed. It is mentioned in
the register, that the official intimation of Sarah N - - 's death was
given, not by her parents nor by Major S - - , but by her uncle, Neil
N - - .

Major S - - seems to have been somewhat eccentric, and was very fond
of dogs, of which he kept a considerable number. He had very strong

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