Sure to delight all lovers of a good scare, this selection contains all the finest ghost stories from this 185-year-old publication. With countless reports of apparitions and premonitions of all kinds, extraordinary instances of second sight, and visitations from spirits predicting fortunes, deaths, and dreadful disasters, it will chill all but the sturdiest of hearts.
Read an Excerpt
Tales from the Terrific Register: The Book of Ghosts
By Cate Ludlow
The History PressCopyright © 2014 Cate Ludlow
All rights reserved.
The Book of Ghosts
Apparition Of The Duchess Of Mazarine, Mistress to Charles II, To Mad. De Beauclair, Mistress To James II
It is well known to most people acquainted with the English history, that the celebrated Duchess of Mazarine was mistress to King Charles II. Mr Waller particularly takes notice of her, as one of the favourites of that monarch.
Madame de Beauclair was a lady equally admired and beloved by his brother and successor, James II. Between these two ladies there was an uncommon friendship, such as is rarely found in persons bred up in courts; particularly those of the same sex, and in the same situation.
But the similarity of their circumstances might contribute a good deal towards it, they having both lost their royal lovers; the one by death, the other by abdication. They were both women of excellent understandings; had enjoyed all that the world could give them; and were arrived at an age in which they might be supposed to despise all its pompts and vanities. We shall, without any further introduction, give the whole of the revelation, in the author's own words; who declared himself to be an eye-witness of the truth of it.
After the burning of Whitehall, these two ladies were allotted very handsome apartments in the Stable-yard, St James; but, the face of public affairs being then wholly changed, and a new set of courtiers, as well as rules of behaviour, coming into vogue, they conversed almost only with each other.
About this time it was that reason first began to oppose itself to faith, or, at least, to set up against it by some, who had an ambition to be thought more penetrating than their neighbours. The doctrine soon spread, and was too much talked of not to be frequently a subject of conversation for these two ladies; and, though I cannot say that either of them were thoroughly convinced by it, yet the specious arguments made use of by persons of high reputation for learning, had such an effect on both, as to raise great doubts in them concerning the immateriality of the soul, and the certainty of its existence after death.
In one of the serious consultations they had together on this head, it was agreed between them that on which ever of them the lot should fall to be first called from this world, she should return, if there was a possibility of doing so, and give the other an account of in what manner she was disposed of. This promise it seems was often repeated, and the duchess happening to fall sick, and her life despaired of by all about her, Madame de Beauclair reminded her of what she expected from her; to which Her Grace replied, she might depend upon her performance. These words passed between them, not above an hour before the dissolution of that great lady, and were spoken before several persons who were in the room, but at that time they were far from comprehending the meaning of what they had said.
Some years after the duchess's decease, happening, in a visit I made to Madame de Beauclair, to fall on the topic of futurity, she expressed her disbelief of it with a great deal of warmth, which a little surprised me, as being of quite a contrary way of thinking myself, and had always, by the religion she professed, supposed her highly so. I took the liberty of offering some arguments, which I imagined would have been convincing to prove the reasonableness of depending on a life to come: to which she answered, that not all the whole world could say should ever persuade her to that opinion; and then related to me the contract made between her and her departed friend, the Duchess of Mazarine.
It was in vain I urged the strong probability there was that that souls in another world might not be permitted to perform the engagements they had entered into in this; especially when they were of a nature repugnant to the Divine Will. But nothing I could say made the least impression; and I found, to my great concern, that she was become as great an advocate for the new doctrine of non-existence after death as any of those who first proposed it; on which, from that time forward, I avoided all discourse with her on that head.
It was not, however, many months after we had this conversation, that I happened to be at the house of a person of condition, whom, since the death of the Duchess of Mazarine, Madame de Beauclair had the greatest intimacy with of any of her acquaintance. We were just sat down to cards about nine o'clock in the evening, as near as I can remember, when a servant came hastily into the room, and acquainted the lady I was with that Madame de Beauclair had sent to entreat she would come that moment to her; adding, that if she ever desired to see her more in this world, she must not delay her visit.
So odd a message might very well surprise the person to whom it was delivered; and, not knowing what to think of it, she asked who had brought it? And being told it was Madame de Beauclair's groom of the chamber, ordered he should come in, and demanded of him, if his lady were well, or if he knew of any thing extraordinary that had happened to her which should occasion this hasty summons. To which he answered, that he was entirely incapable of telling her the meaning; only as to his lady's health, he never saw nor heard her ladyship complain of the least indisposition.
'Well then,' said the lady, (a little out of humour,) 'I desire you'll make my excuse, as I have really a great cold, and am fearful the night air may increase it, but to-morrow I will not fail to wait on her very early in the morning.'
The man being gone we were beginning to form several conjectures on this message of Madame de Beauclair; but, before we had time to agree on what might be the most feasible occasion, he returned again, and with him Mrs Ward, her woman, both seemingly very much confused and out of breath.
'O madam,' cried she, 'my lady expresses an infinite concern that you should refuse this request, which she says will be her last. She says that she is convinced of her not being in a condition to receive your visit to-morrow; but, as a token of her friendship, bequeaths you this little casket, containing her watch, necklace, and some jewels, which she desires you will wear in remembrance of her.'
These words were accompanied with the delivery of the legacy she mentioned, and that, as well as Mrs Ward's words, threw us both into a consternation we were not able to express. The lady would fain have entered into some discourse with Mrs Ward concerning the affair; but she evaded it by saying, she had only left an undermaid with Madame de Beauclair, and must return immediately; on which the lady cried all at once, 'I will go with you; there must be something very uncommon certainly in this.' I offered to attend her, being, as well I might, desirous of getting some light into what at present appeared so mysterious.
In fine, we went that instant; but, as no mention was made of me, nor Madame de Beauclair might not probably be informed I was with the lady when her servant came, good manners and decency obliged me to wait in a lower apartment, unless she gave leave for my admittance. She was however no sooner informed that I was there, than she desired I would come up. I did so, and found her sitting in an easy chair near her bed-side; and, in my eyes, as well as all present, seemed in as perfect health as ever she had been. On our inquiring if she felt any inward disorder which should give room for the melancholy apprehensions her message testified, she replied in the negative; 'Yet,' says she, with a little sigh, 'you will very soon, very soon, behold me pass from this world into that eternity, which I doubted but am now assured of.'
A clergyman of her own persuasion, whom she had sent for, that moment coming in we all quitted the room, to leave him at liberty to exercise his function.
It exceeded not half an hour before we were called in again, and she appeared, after having disburdened her conscience, to be more cheerful than before; her eyes, which were as piercing as possible, sparkled with uncommon vivacity; and she told us, she would die with the more satisfaction, as she enjoyed in her last moments the presence of two persons the most agreeable to her in this world, and in the next would be sure of enjoying the society of one, who, in life, had been dearest to her.
We were both beginning to dissuade her from giving way to thoughts which there seemed not the least probability of being verified, when she put a stop to what we were about to urge, by saying, 'Talk no more of that; my time is short, and I would not have the small space allowed me to be with you wasted in vain delusion; know, (continued she,) that I have seen my dear Duchess of Mazarine. I perceived not how she entered, but, turning my eyes towards yonder corner of the room, I saw her stand in the same form and habit she was accustomed to appear in when living: fain would I have spoken, but had not the power of utterance; she took a little circuit round the chamber, seeming rather to swim than walk, then stopped by the side of that Indian chest, and, looking on me with her usual sweetness, 'Beauclair,' said she, 'between the hours of twelve and one this night you will be with me.' The surprise I was in at first being a little abated, I began to ask some questions concerning that future world I was so soon to visit; but, on the opening of my lips for that purpose, she vanished from my sight I know not how.'
The clock was now very near striking twelve; and, as she discovered not the least symptoms of any ailment, we again aimed to remove all apprehensions of a dissolution; but we had scarcely began to speak, when on a sudden her countenance changed, and she cried out, 'Oh! I am sick at heart!' Mrs Ward, who all this while had stood leaning on her chair, applied some drops, but to no effect; she grew still worse; and in about half an hour expired, it being exactly the time the apparition had foretold.
* * *
The Marine Spectre
When Mr Walker was setting out on his second trip in the Boscawen private ship of war, in 1745, a report made by the French officers, when the ship was taken, that a gunner's wife had been murdered on board, began now to be looked upon by the men as ominous of the misfortunes which would attend the cruise. One of the seamen, remarkable for his sobriety and good character, one night alarmed the ship, by declaring that he had seen a strange appearance of a woman, who informed him, among other particulars, that the ship would be lost. The story spread among the crew, and laid such hold of the imagination, as would have been attended with the most serious consequences, had not Mr Walker contrived a device for turning it all to ridicule, and with great presence of mind related the following anecdote to the assembled ship's crew.
In June, 1734, Mr Walker lying at anchor at Cadiz, in his ship, the Elizabeth, a gentleman of Ireland, whose name was Burnet, was then on board, going to take his passage over to Ireland. The gentleman was a particular acquaintance of Mr Walker, and he was extremely fond of him, being a man of good sense, and very lively in conversation. The night before the affair we speak of happened, the subject turned upon apparitions of deceased friends, in which this person seemed much to believe, and told many strange stories as authorities for them, besides giving some metaphysical arguments, chiefly that the natural fear we had of them proved the soul's confession of them. But Mr Walker, who was entirely of another way of thinking, treated all his arguments with ridicule. Mr Burnet, who was bred a physician, was curious to try how far fancy might be wrought on in an unbeliever, and resolved to prove the power of this natural fear over the senses: a strange way, you will say, to convince the mind by attacking the imagination; or, if it was curiosity to see the operations of fear work on fancy, it was too nice an experiment to anatomize a friend's mind for information only. Or perhaps the humour of the thought was the greatest motive; for he was a man of a gay temper, and frolicsome.
About noon, as they were standing, with more of the ship's company, upon the deck, near the forecastle, looking at some of the governor's guard boats masking fast to a buoy of a ship in bay, in order to watch the money, that it might not be carried out of the country, Mr Burnet proposed, as a plan for a wager, he being a remarkable swimmer, to leap off the gunnel of the ship, and dive all the way quite under water, from the ship to the boats at a distance, and so rise up upon them, to startle the people at watch in them. A wager being laid, he undressed, jumped off, and dived entirely out of sight. Every body crowded forwards, keeping their eyes at the distance where he was expected to come up; but he never rising to their expectation, and the time running past their hopes of ever seeing him more, it was justly concluded he was drowned, and everybody was in the greatest pain and concern; especially those, who by laying the wager, thought themselves in some measure accessory to his death. But he, by skilful diving, having turned the other way behind the ship, and being also very active, got up by the quarter ladder in at the cabin window, whilst everybody was busy and in confusion, at the forward part of the ship; then concealing himself the remaining part of the day in a closet in a state room, wrapped himself up in a linen night-gown of Mr Walker's. Evening coming on, the whole ship's company being very melancholy at the accident, Mr Walker retired with a friend or two to his cabin, where, in their conversation, they often lamented the sad accident and loss of their friend and dear companion, speaking of every merit that he had when living, which is the unenvied praise generally given by our friends, when they can receive nothing else from us.
The supposed dead man remained quite still, and heard more good things said to his memory, than perhaps he would else have ever in his life time heard spoken to his face. As soon as it was night, Mr Walker's company left him; and he being low in spirits went to bed, where lying still pensive on the late loss of his companion and friend, and the moon shining direct through the windows, he perceived the folding doors of the closet to open; and, looking steadfast towards them, saw something which could not fail startling him as he imagined it a representation of a human figure: but recalling his better senses, he was fain to persuade himself, it was only the workings of his disturbed fancy, and away turned his eyes. However they soon again returned in search of the object; and seeing it now plainly advance upon him, in a slow and constant step, he recognised the image of his departed friend. He has not been ashamed to own he felt terrors which shook him to his inmost soul. The mate, who lay in the steerage at the back of the cabin, divided only by a bulk-head, was not yet abed; and hearing Mr Walker challenge with a loud and alarmed voice, 'What are you?', ran to him with a candle, and meeting Mr Burnet, in a linen gown, down drops the mate, without so much as an ejaculation. Mr Burnet, now beginning himself to be afraid, runs for a bottle of smelling spirits he knew lay in the window, and applied them to the nose and temples of the swooning mate. Mr Walker, seeing the ghost so very alert and good-natured, began to recover his own apprehension, when Mr Burnet cried out to him, 'Sir, I must ask your pardon; I fear I have carried the jest too far. I swam around and came in the cabin window; I meant, sir, to prove to you the natural awe the bravest must be under at such appearances, and I have, I hope, convinced you in yourself.' 'Sir', says Mr Walker, glad of being awakened from a terrible dream, and belief of his friend's death, 'you have given me a living instance; there needs no proof; but pray take care you do not bring death amongst us in real earnest.' He then lent his aid in the recovery of the poor mate, who, as he retrieved his senses, still relapsed at the sight of Mr Burnet; so that Mr Walker was obliged to make him entirely disappear, and go call others for assistance; which look up some considerable time in doing, every body, as Mr Burnet advanced to them, being more or less surprised: but they were all called to by him, and told the manner of the cheat, and then they were by degrees convinced of his reality; though every one was before thoroughly satisfied of his death.
I being persuaded that this story carries a lesson in it, which speaks for itself, shall conclude it by mentioning this circumstance, that the poor mate never rightly recovered the use of his senses from that hour. Nature had received too great a shock, by which reason was flung from her seat, and could never regain it afterwards; a constant stupidity hung around him, and he could never be brought to look direct at Mr Burnet afterwards, though he was as brave a man as ever went, in all his senses, to face death by day-light.'
Excerpted from Tales from the Terrific Register: The Book of Ghosts by Cate Ludlow. Copyright © 2014 Cate Ludlow. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.