and in this house still.' The woman spoke with so dreary a calmness,
that really it was a sort of awe that prevented my conversing with her
further. I paid for my week, and too happy were my wife and I to get off
"You excite my curiosity," said I; "nothing I should like better than to
sleep in a haunted house. Pray give me the address of the one which you
left so ignominiously."
My friend gave me the address; and when we parted, I walked straight
towards the house thus indicated.
It is situated on the North side of Oxford Street (in a dull but
respectable thoroughfare). I found the house shut up - no bill at the
window, and no response to my knock. As I was turning away, a beer-boy,
collecting pewter pots at the neighboring areas, said to me, "Do you
want any one at that house, sir?"
"Yes, I heard it was to be let."
"Let! - why, the woman who kept it is dead - has been dead these three
weeks, and no one can be found to stay there, though Mr. J - - offered
ever so much. He offered mother, who chars for him, ВЈ1 a week just to
open and shut the windows, and she would not."
"Would not! - and why?"
"The house is haunted: and the old woman who kept it was found dead in
her bed, with her eyes wide open. They say the devil strangled her."
"Pooh! - you speak of Mr. J - - . Is he the owner of the house?"
"Where does he live?"
"In G - - Street, No. - ."
"What is he? - in any business?"
"No, sir - nothing particular; a single gentleman."
I gave the pot-boy the gratuity earned by his liberal information, and
proceeded to Mr. J - - , in G - - Street, which was close by the street
that boasted the haunted house. I was lucky enough to find Mr. J - - at
home - an elderly man, with intelligent countenance and prepossessing
I communicated my name and my business frankly. I said I heard the house
was considered to be haunted - that I had a strong desire to examine a
house with so equivocal a reputation - that I should be greatly obliged
if he would allow me to hire it, though only for a night. I was willing
to pay for that privilege whatever he might be inclined to ask. "Sir,"
said Mr. J - - , with great courtesy, "the house is at your service, for
as short or as long a time as you please. Rent is out of the
question - the obligation will be on my side should you be able to
discover the cause of the strange phenomena which at present deprive it
of all value. I cannot let it, for I cannot even get a servant to keep
it in order or answer the door. Unluckily the house is haunted, if I may
use that expression, not only by night, but by day; though at night the
disturbances are of a more unpleasant and sometimes of a more alarming
character. The poor old woman who died in it three weeks ago was a
pauper whom I took out of a workhouse, for in her childhood she had been
known to some of my family, and had once been in such good circumstances
that she had rented that house of my uncle. She was a woman of superior
education and strong mind, and was the only person I could ever induce
to remain in the house. Indeed, since her death, which was sudden, and
the coroner's inquest, which gave it a notoriety in the neighborhood,
I have so despaired of finding any person to take charge of the house,
much more a tenant, that I would willingly let it rent-free for a year
to any one who would pay its rates and taxes."
"How long is it since the house acquired this sinister character?"
"That I can scarcely tell you, but very many years since. The old woman
I spoke of said it was haunted when she rented it between thirty and
forty years ago. The fact is, that my life has been spent in the East
Indies, and in the civil service of the Company. I returned to England
last year, on inheriting the fortune of an uncle, among whose
possessions was the house in question. I found it shut up and
uninhabited. I was told that it was haunted, that no one would inhabit
it. I smiled at what seemed to me so idle a story. I spent some money in
repairing it - added to its old-fashioned furniture a few modern
articles - advertised it, and obtained a lodger for a year. He was a
colonel retired on half-pay. He came in with his family, a son and a
daughter, and four or five servants: they all left the house the next
day; and, although each of them declared that he had seen something
different from that which had scared the others, a something still was
equally terrible to all. I really could not in conscience sue, nor even
blame, the colonel for breach of agreement. Then I put in the old woman
I have spoken of, and she was empowered to let the house in apartments.
I never had one lodger who stayed more than three days. I do not tell
you their stories - to no two lodgers have there been exactly the same
phenomena repeated. It is better that you should judge for yourself,
than enter the house with an imagination influenced by previous
narratives; only be prepared to see and to hear something or other, and
take whatever precautions you yourself please."
"Have you never had a curiosity yourself to pass a night in that house?"
"Yes. I passed not a night, but three hours in broad daylight alone in
that house. My curiosity is not satisfied but it is quenched. I have no
desire to renew the experiment. You cannot complain, you see, sir, that
I am not sufficiently candid; and unless your interest be exceedingly
eager and your nerves unusually strong, I honestly add, that I advise
you not to pass a night in that house."
"My interest _is_ exceedingly keen," said I, "and though only a coward
will boast of his nerves in situations wholly unfamiliar to him, yet my
nerves have been seasoned in such variety of danger that I have the
right to rely on them - even in a haunted house."
Mr. J - - said very little more; he took the keys of the house out of
his bureau, gave them to me - and, thanking him cordially for his
frankness, and his urbane concession to my wish, I carried off my prize.
Impatient for the experiment, as soon as I reached home, I summoned my
confidential servant - a young man of gay spirits, fearless temper, and
as free from superstitious prejudices as any one I could think of.
"F - - ," said I, "you remember in Germany how disappointed we were at
not finding a ghost in that old castle, which was said to be haunted by
a headless apparition? Well, I have heard of a house in London which,
I have reason to hope, is decidedly haunted. I mean to sleep there
to-night. From what I hear, there is no doubt that something will allow
itself to be seen or to be heard - something, perhaps, excessively
horrible. Do you think if I take you with me, I may rely on your
presence of mind, whatever may happen?"
"Oh, sir! pray trust me," answered F - - , grinning with delight.
"Very well; then here are the keys of the house - this is the address. Go
now - select for me any bedroom you please; and since the house has not
been inhabited for weeks, make up a good fire - air the bed well - see, of
course, that there are candles as well as fuel. Take with you my
revolver and my dagger - so much for my weapons - arm yourself equally
well; and if we are not a match for a dozen ghosts, we shall be but a
sorry couple of Englishmen."
I was engaged for the rest of the day on business so urgent that I had
not leisure to think much on the nocturnal adventure to which I had
plighted my honor. I dined alone, and very late, and while dining, read,
as is my habit. I selected one of the volumes of Macaulay's Essays.
I thought to myself that I would take the book with me; there was so
much of the healthfulness in the style, and practical life in the
subjects, that it would serve as an antidote against the influence of
Accordingly, about half-past nine, I put the book into my pocket, and
strolled leisurely towards the haunted house. I took with me a favorite
dog - an exceedingly sharp, bold and vigilant bull-terrier - a dog fond of
prowling about strange ghostly corners and passages at night in search
of rats - a dog of dogs for a ghost.
It was a summer night, but chilly, the sky somewhat gloomy and overcast.
Still there was a moon - faint and sickly, but still a moon - and if the
clouds permitted, after midnight it would be brighter.
I reached the house, knocked, and my servant opened with a cheerful
"All right, sir, and very comfortable."
"Oh!" said I, rather disappointed; "have you not seen nor heard anything
"Well, sir, I must own I have heard something queer."
"What? - what?"
"The sound of feet pattering behind me; and once or twice small noises
like whispers close at my ear - nothing more."
"You are not at all frightened?"
"I! not a bit of it, sir," and the man's bold look reassured me on one
point - viz., that happen what might, he would not desert me.
We were in the hall, the street-door closed, and my attention was now
drawn to my dog. He had at first run in eagerly enough, but had sneaked
back to the door, and was scratching and whining to get out. After
patting him on the head, and encouraging him gently, the dog seemed to
reconcile himself to the situation, and followed me and F - - through
the house, but keeping close at my heels instead of hurrying
inquisitively in advance, which was his usual and normal habit in all
strange places. We first visited the subterranean apartments, the
kitchen and other offices, and especially the cellars, in which last
there were two or three bottles of wine still left in a bin, covered
with cobwebs, and evidently, by their appearance, undisturbed for many
years. It was clear that the ghosts were not wine-bibbers. For the rest
we discovered nothing of interest. There was a gloomy little backyard
with very high walls. The stones of this yard were very damp; and what
with the damp, and what with the dust and smoke-grime on the pavement,
our feet left a slight impression where we passed.
And now appeared the first strange phenomenon witnessed by myself in
this strange abode. I saw, just before me, the print of a foot suddenly
form itself, as it were. I stopped, caught hold of my servant, and
pointed to it. In advance of that footprint as suddenly dropped another.
We both saw it. I advanced quickly to the place; the footprint kept
advancing before me, a small footprint - the foot of a child; the
impression was too faint thoroughly to distinguish the shape, but it
seemed to us both that it was the print of a naked foot. This phenomenon
ceased when we arrived at the opposite wall, nor did it repeat itself on
returning. We remounted the stairs, and entered the rooms on the ground
floor, a dining-parlor, a small back parlor, and a still smaller third
room that had been probably appropriated to a footman - all still as
death. We then visited the drawing-rooms, which seemed fresh and new. In
the front room I seated myself in an armchair. F - - placed on the table
the candlestick with which he had lighted us. I told him to shut the
door. As he turned to do so, a chair opposite to me moved from the wall
quickly and noiselessly, and dropped itself about a yard from my own
chair, immediately fronting it.
"Why, this is better than the turning tables," said I, with a
half-laugh; and as I laughed, my dog put back his head and howled.
F - - , coming back, had not observed the movement of the chair. He
employed himself now in stilling the dog. I continued to gaze on the
chair, and fancied I saw on it a pale blue misty outline of a human
figure, but an outline so indistinct that I could only distrust my own
vision. The dog now was quiet.
"Put back that chair opposite me," said I to F - - ; "put it back to the
F - - obeyed. "Was that you, sir?" said he, turning abruptly.
"I! - what?"
"Why, something struck me. I felt it sharply on the shoulder - just
"No," said I. "But we have jugglers present, and though we may not
discover their tricks, we shall catch _them_ before they frighten _us_."
We did not stay long in the drawing-rooms - in fact, they felt so damp
and so chilly that I was glad to get to the fire upstairs. We locked the
doors of the drawing-rooms - a precaution which, I should observe, we had
taken with all the rooms we had searched below. The bedroom my servant
had selected for me was the best on the floor - a large one, with two
windows fronting the street. The four-posted bed, which took up no
inconsiderable space, was opposite to the fire, which burnt clear and
bright; a door in the wall to the left, between the bed and the window,
communicated with the room which my servant appropriated to himself.
This last was a small room with a sofa-bed, and had no communication
with the landing-place - no other door but that which conducted to the
bedroom I was to occupy. On either side of my fireplace was a cupboard,
without locks, flush with the wall and covered with the same dull-brown
paper. We examined these cupboards - only hooks to suspend female
dresses - nothing else; we sounded the walls - evidently solid - the outer
walls of the building. Having finished the survey of these apartments,
warmed myself a few moments, and lighted my cigar, I then, still
accompanied by F - - , went forth to complete my reconnoiter. In the
landing-place there was another door; it was closed firmly. "Sir," said
my servant, in surprise, "I unlocked this door with all the others when
I first came; it cannot have got locked from the inside, for - - "
Before he had finished his sentence, the door, which neither of us then
was touching, opened quietly of itself. We looked at each other a single
instant. The same thought seized both - some human agency might be
detected here. I rushed in first, my servant followed. A small blank
dreary room without furniture - few empty boxes and hampers in a
corner - a small window - the shutters closed - not even a fireplace - no
other door than that by which we had entered - no carpet on the floor,
and the floor seemed very old, uneven, worm-eaten, mended here and
there, as was shown by the whiter patches on the wood; but no living
being, and no visible place in which a living being could have hidden.
As we stood gazing round, the door by which we had entered closed as
quietly as it had before opened: we were imprisoned.
For the first time I felt a creep of undefinable horror. Not so my
servant. "Why, they don't think to trap us, sir; I could break the
trumpery door with a kick of my foot."
"Try first if it will open to your hand," said I, shaking off the vague
apprehension that had seized me, "while I unclose the shutters and see
what is without."
I unbarred the shutters - the window looked on the little back yard I
have before described; there was no ledge without - nothing to break the
sheer descent of the wall. No man getting out of that window would have
found any footing till he had fallen on the stones below.
F - - , meanwhile, was vainly attempting to open the door. He now turned
round to me and asked my permission to use force. And I should here
state, in justice to the servant, that, far from evincing any
superstitious terrors, his nerve, composure, and even gayety amidst
circumstances so extraordinary, compelled my admiration, and made me
congratulate myself on having secured a companion in every way fitted to
the occasion. I willingly gave him the permission he required. But
though he was a remarkably strong man, his force was as idle as his
milder efforts; the door did not even shake to his stoutest kick.
Breathless and panting, he desisted. I then tried the door myself,
equally in vain. As I ceased from the effort, again that creep of horror
came over me; but this time it was more cold and stubborn. I felt as if
some strange and ghastly exhalation were rising up from the chinks of
that rugged floor, and filling the atmosphere with a venomous influence
hostile to human life. The door now very slowly and quietly opened as
of its own accord. We precipitated ourselves into the landing-place. We
both saw a large pale light - as large as the human figure but shapeless
and unsubstantial - move before us, and ascend the stairs that led from
the landing into the attics. I followed the light, and my servant
followed me. It entered, to the right of the landing, a small garret, of
which the door stood open. I entered in the same instant. The light then
collapsed into a small globule, exceedingly brilliant and vivid; rested
a moment on a bed in the corner, quivered, and vanished.
We approached the bed and examined it - a half-tester, such as is
commonly found in attics devoted to servants. On the drawers that stood
near it we perceived an old faded silk kerchief, with the needle still
left in a rent half repaired. The kerchief was covered with dust;
probably it had belonged to the old woman who had last died in that
house, and this might have been her sleeping room. I had sufficient
curiosity to open the drawers: there were a few odds and ends of female
dress, and two letters tied round with a narrow ribbon of faded yellow.
I took the liberty to possess myself of the letters. We found nothing
else in the room worth noticing - nor did the light reappear; but we
distinctly heard, as we turned to go, a pattering footfall on the
floor - just before us. We went through the other attics (in all four),
the footfall still preceding us. Nothing to be seen - nothing but the
footfall heard. I had the letters in my hand: just as I was descending
the stairs I distinctly felt my wrist seized, and a faint soft effort
made to draw the letters from my clasp. I only held them the more
tightly, and the effort ceased.
We regained the bedchamber appropriated to myself, and I then remarked
that my dog had not followed us when we had left it. He was thrusting
himself close to the fire, and trembling. I was impatient to examine the
letters; and while I read them, my servant opened a little box in which
he had deposited the weapons I had ordered him to bring; took them out,
placed them on a table close at my bed-head, and then occupied himself
in soothing the dog, who, however, seemed to heed him very little.
The letters were short - they were dated; the dates exactly thirty-five
years ago. They were evidently from a lover to his mistress, or a
husband to some young wife. Not only the terms of expression, but a
distinct reference to a former voyage, indicated the writer to have been
a seafarer. The spelling and handwriting were those of a man imperfectly
educated, but still the language itself was forcible. In the expressions
of endearment there was a kind of rough wild love; but here and there
were dark and unintelligible hints at some secret not of love - some
secret that seemed of crime. "We ought to love each other," was one of
the sentences I remember, "for how every one else would execrate us if
all was known." Again: "Don't let any one be in the same room with you
at night - you talk in your sleep." And again: "What's done can't be
undone; and I tell you there's nothing against us unless the dead could
come to life." Here there was underlined in a better handwriting (a
female's), "They do!" At the end of the letter latest in date the same
female hand had written these words: "Lost at sea the 4th of June, the
same day as - - ."
I put down the letters, and began to muse over their contents.
Fearing, however, that the train of thought into which I fell might
unsteady my nerves, I fully determined to keep my mind in a fit state to
cope with whatever of marvelous the advancing night might bring forth.
I roused myself - laid the letters on the table - stirred up the fire,
which was still bright and cheering - and opened my volume of Macaulay.
I read quietly enough till about half-past eleven. I then threw myself
dressed upon the bed, and told my servant he might retire to his own
room, but must keep himself awake. I bade him leave open the door between
the two rooms. Thus alone, I kept two candles burning on the table by my
bed-head. I placed my watch beside the weapons, and calmly resumed my
Macaulay. Opposite to me the fire burned clear; and on the hearthrug,
seemingly asleep, lay the dog. In about twenty minutes I felt an
exceedingly cold air pass by my cheek, like a sudden draught. I fancied
the door to my right, communicating with the landing-place, must have
got open; but no - it was closed. I then turned my glance to my left, and
saw the flame of the candles violently swayed as by a wind. At the same
moment the watch beside the revolver softly slid from the table - softly,
softly - no visible hand - it was gone. I sprang up, seizing the revolver
with the one hand, the dagger with other: I was not willing that my
weapons should share the fate of the watch. Thus armed, I looked round
the floor - no sign of the watch. Three slow, loud, distinct knocks were
now heard at the bed-head; my servant called out, "Is that you, sir?"
"No; be on your guard."
The dog now roused himself and sat on his haunches, his ears moving
quickly backwards and forwards. He kept his eyes fixed on me with a look
so strange that he concentered all my attention on himself. Slowly he
rose up, all his hair bristling, and stood perfectly rigid, and with the
same wild stare. I had no time, however, to examine the dog. Presently
my servant emerged from his room; and if ever I saw horror in the human
face, it was then. I should not have recognized him had we met in the
street, so altered was every lineament. He passed by me quickly, saying
in a whisper that seemed scarcely to come from his lips, "Run - run! it
is after me!" He gained the door to the landing, pulled it open, and
rushed forth. I followed him into the landing involuntarily, calling him
to stop; but, without heeding me, he bounded down the stairs, clinging
to the balusters, and taking several steps at a time. I heard, where I
stood, the street-door open - heard it again clap to. I was left alone in
the haunted house.
It was but for a moment that I remained undecided whether or not to
follow my servant; pride and curiosity alike forbade so dastardly a
flight. I re-entered my room, closing the door after me, and proceeded
cautiously into the interior chamber. I encountered nothing to justify
my servant's terror. I again carefully examined the walls, to see if
there were any concealed door. I could find no trace of one - not even a
seam in the dull-brown paper with which the room was hung. How, then,
had the THING, whatever it was, which had so scared him, obtained
ingress except through my own chamber?
I returned to my room, shut and locked the door that opened upon the
interior one, and stood on the hearth, expectant and prepared. I now
perceived that the dog had slunk into an angle of the wall, and was
pressing himself close against it, as if literally striving to force his
way into it. I approached the animal and spoke to it; the poor brute was
evidently beside itself with terror. It showed all its teeth, the slaver
dropping from its jaws, and would certainly have bitten me if I had
touched it. It did not seem to recognize me. Whoever has seen at the
Zoological Gardens a rabbit fascinated by a serpent, cowering in a
corner, may form some idea of the anguish which the dog exhibited.
Finding all efforts to soothe the animal in vain, and fearing that his
bite might be as venomous in that state as in the madness of
hydrophobia, I left him alone, placed my weapons on the table beside the
fire, seated myself, and recommenced my Macaulay.
Perhaps, in order not to appear seeking credit for a courage, or rather
a coolness, which the reader may conceive I exaggerate, I may be
pardoned if I pause to indulge in one or two egotistical remarks.
As I hold presence of mind, or what is called courage, to be precisely
proportioned to familiarity with the circumstances that lead to it, so I
should say that I had been long sufficiently familiar with all
experiments that appertain to the Marvelous. I had witnessed many very
extraordinary phenomena in various parts of the world - phenomena that
would be either totally disbelieved if I stated them, or ascribed to
supernatural agencies. Now, my theory is that the Supernatural is the
Impossible, and that what is called supernatural is only a something in
the laws of nature of which we have been hitherto ignorant. Therefore,
if a ghost rise before me, I have not the right to say, "So, then, the
supernatural is possible," but rather, "So, then, the apparition of a
ghost is, contrary to received opinion, within the laws of
nature - _i.e._, not supernatural."
Now, in all that I had hitherto witnessed, and indeed in all the wonders
which the amateurs of mystery in our age record as facts, a material