The Haunted And The Haunters Or The House And The Brain

A friend of mine, who is a man of letters and a philosopher, said

to me one day, as if between jest and earnest, "Fancy! since we

last met I have discovered a haunted house in the midst of London."

"Really haunted,--and by what?--ghosts?"

"Well, I can't answer that question; all I know is this: six weeks

ago my wife and I were in search of a furnished apartment. Passing

a quiet street, we s
w on the window of one of the houses a bill,

'Apartments, Furnished.' The situation suited us; we entered the

house, liked the rooms, engaged them by the week,--and left them

the third day. No power on earth could have reconciled my wife to

stay longer; and I don't wonder at it."

"What did you see?"

"Excuse me; I have no desire to be ridiculed as a superstitious

dreamer,--nor, on the other hand, could I ask you to accept on my

affirmation what you would hold to be incredible without the

evidence of your own senses. Let me only say this, it was not so

much what we saw or heard (in which you might fairly suppose that

we were the dupes of our own excited fancy, or the victims of

imposture in others) that drove us away, as it was an indefinable

terror which seized both of us whenever we passed by the door of a

certain unfurnished room, in which we neither saw nor heard

anything. And the strangest marvel of all was, that for once in my

life I agreed with my wife, silly woman though she be,--and

allowed, after the third night, that it was impossible to stay a

fourth in that house. Accordingly, on the fourth morning I

summoned the woman who kept the house and attended on us, and told

her that the rooms did not quite suit us, and we would not stay out

our week. She said dryly, 'I know why; you have stayed longer than

any other lodger. Few ever stayed a second night; none before you

a third. But I take it they have been very kind to you.'

"'They,--who?' I asked, affecting to smile.

"'Why, they who haunt the house, whoever they are. I don't mind

them. I remember them many years ago, when I lived in this house,

not as a servant; but I know they will be the death of me some day.

I don't care,--I'm old, and must die soon anyhow; and then I shall

be with them, 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 so cheaply."

"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 toward 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, one

pound 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


"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 potboy 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 manners.

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 anyone 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 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


"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 prejudice as anyone 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 healthfulness in the style, and

practical life in the subjects, that it would serve as an antidote

against the influences of superstitious fancy.

Accordingly, about half-past nine, I put the book into my pocket,

and strolled leisurely toward 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.

I reached the house, knocked, and my servant opened with a cheerful


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 burned 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; a few

empty boxes and hampers in a corner; a small window; the shutters

closed; not even a fireplace; no other door but 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 indefinable horror. Not so my

servant. "Why, they don't think to trap us, sir; I could break

that 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 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 everyone else would execrate us if all was known." Again:

"Don't let anyone 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

hearth rug, 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 the 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 backward and forward. 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 though my own


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


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,--that is,

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 living agency is always required. On the Continent you

will find still magicians who assert that they can raise spirits.

Assume for the moment that they assert truly, still the living

material form of the magician is present; and he is the material

agency by which, from some constitutional peculiarities, certain

strange phenomena are represented to your natural senses.

Accept, again, as truthful, the tales of spirit manifestation in

America,--musical or other sounds; writings on paper, produced by

no discernible hand; articles of furniture moved without apparent

human agency; or the actual sight and touch of hands, to which no

bodies seem to belong,--still there must be found the MEDIUM, or

living being, with constitutional peculiarities capable of

obtaining these signs. In fine, in all such marvels, supposing

even that there is no imposture, there must be a human being like

ourselves by whom, or through whom, the effects presented to human

beings are produced. It is so with the now familiar phenomena of

mesmerism or electro-biology; the mind of the person operated on is

affected through a material living agent. Nor, supposing it true

that a mesmerized patient can respond to the will or passes of a

mesmerizer a hundred miles distant, is the response less occasioned

by a material being; it may be through a material fluid--call it

Electric, call it Odic, call it what you will--which has the power

of traversing space and passing obstacles, that the material effect

is communicated from one to the other. Hence, all that I had

hitherto witnessed, or expected to witness, in this strange house,

I believed to be occasioned through some agency or medium as mortal

as myself; and this idea necessarily prevented the awe with which

those who regard as supernatural things that are not within the

ordinary operations of Nature, might have been impressed by the

adventures of that memorable night.

As, then, it was my conjecture that all that was presented, or

would be presented to my senses, must originate in some human being

gifted by constitution with the power so to present them, and

having some motive so to do, I felt an interest in my theory which,

in its way, was rather philosophical than superstitious. And I can

sincerely say that I was in as tranquil a temper for observation as

any practical experimentalist could be in awaiting the effects of

some rare, though perhaps perilous, chemical combination. Of

course, the more I kept my mind detached from fancy, the more the

temper fitted for observation would be obtained; and I therefore

riveted eye and thought on the strong daylight sense in the page of

my Macaulay.

I now became aware that something interposed between the page and

the light,--the page was overshadowed. I looked up, and I saw what

I shall find it very difficult, perhaps impossible, to describe.

It was a Darkness shaping itself forth from the air in very

undefined outline. I cannot say it was of a human form, and yet it

had more resemblance to a human form, or rather shadow, than to

anything else. As it stood, wholly apart and distinct from the air

and the light around it, its dimensions seemed gigantic, the summit

nearly touching the ceiling. While I gazed, a feeling of intense

cold seized me. An iceberg before me could not more have chilled

me; nor could the cold of an iceberg have been more purely

physical. I feel convinced that it was not the cold caused by

fear. As I continued to gaze, I thought--but this I cannot say

with precision--that I distinguished two eyes looking down on me

from the height. One moment I fancied that I distinguished them

clearly, the next they seemed gone; but still two rays of a pale-

blue light frequently shot through the darkness, as from the height

on which I half believed, half doubted, that I had encountered the


I strove to speak,--my voice utterly failed me; I could only think

to myself, "Is this fear? It is NOT fear!" I strove to rise,--in

vain; I felt as if weighed down by an irresistible force. Indeed,

my impression was that of an immense and overwhelming Power opposed

to my volition,--that sense of utter inadequacy to cope with a

force beyond man's, which one may feel PHYSICALLY in a storm at

sea, in a conflagration, or when confronting some terrible wild

beast, or rather, perhaps, the shark of the ocean, I felt MORALLY.

Opposed to my will was another will, as far superior to its

strength as storm, fire, and shark are superior in material force

to the force of man.

And now, as this impression grew on me,--now came, at last, horror,

horror to a degree that no words can convey. Still I retained

pride, if not courage; and in my own mind I said, "This is horror;

but it is not fear; unless I fear I cannot be harmed; my reason

rejects this thing; it is an illusion,--I do not fear." With a

violent effort I succeeded at last in stretching out my hand toward

the weapon on the table; as I did so, on the arm and shoulder I

received a strange shock, and my arm fell to my side powerless.

And now, to add to my horror, the light began slowly to wane from

the candles,--they were not, as it were, extinguished, but their

flame seemed very gradually withdrawn; it was the same with the

fire,--the light was extracted from the fuel; in a few minutes the

room was in utter darkness. The dread that came over me, to be

thus in the dark with that dark Thing, whose power was so intensely

felt, brought a reaction of nerve. In fact, terror had reached

that climax, that either my senses must have deserted me, or I must

have burst through the spell. I did burst through it. I found

voice, though the voice was a shriek. I remember that I broke

forth with words like these, "I do not fear, my soul does not

fear"; and at the same time I found strength to rise. Still in

that profound gloom I rushed to one of the windows; tore aside the

curtain; flung open the shutters; my first thought was--LIGHT. And

when I saw the moon high, clear, and calm, I felt a joy that almost

compensated for the previous terror. There was the moon, there was

also the light from the gas lamps in the deserted slumberous

street. I turned to look back into the room; the moon penetrated

its shadow very palely and partially--but still there was light.

The dark Thing, whatever it might be, was gone,--except that I

could yet see a dim shadow, which seemed the shadow of that shade,

against the opposite wall.

My eye now rested on the table, and from under the table (which was

without cloth or cover,--an old mahogany round table) there rose a

hand, visible as far as the wrist. It was a hand, seemingly, as

much of flesh and blood as my own, but the hand of an aged person,

lean, wrinkled, small too,--a woman's hand. That hand very softly

closed on the two letters that lay on the table; hand and letters

both vanished. There then came the same three loud, measured

knocks I had heard at the bed head before this extraordinary drama

had commenced.

As those sounds slowly ceased, I felt the whole room vibrate

sensibly; and at the far end there rose, as from the floor, sparks

or globules like bubbles of light, many colored,--green, yellow,

fire-red, azure. Up and down, to and fro, hither, thither as tiny

Will-o'-the-Wisps, the sparks moved, slow or swift, each at its own

caprice. A chair (as in the drawing-room below) was now advanced

from the wall without apparent agency, and placed at the opposite

side of the table. Suddenly, as forth from the chair, there grew a

shape,--a woman's shape. It was distinct as a shape of life,--

ghastly as a shape of death. The face was that of youth, with a

strange, mournful beauty; the throat and shoulders were bare, the

rest of the form in a loose robe of cloudy white. It began

sleeking its long, yellow hair, which fell over its shoulders; its

eyes were not turned toward me, but to the door; it seemed

listening, watching, waiting. The shadow of the shade in the

background grew darker; and again I thought I beheld the eyes

gleaming out from the summit of the shadow,--eyes fixed upon that


As if from the door, though it did not open, there grew out another

shape, equally distinct, equally ghastly,--a man's shape, a young

man's. It was in the dress of the last century, or rather in a

likeness of such dress (for both the male shape and the female,

though defined, were evidently unsubstantial, impalpable,--

simulacra, phantasms); and there was something incongruous,

grotesque, yet fearful, in the contrast between the elaborate

finery, the courtly precision of that old-fashioned garb, with its

ruffles and lace and buckles, and the corpselike aspect and

ghostlike stillness of the flitting wearer. Just as the male shape

approached the female, the dark Shadow started from the wall, all

three for a moment wrapped in darkness. When the pale light

returned, the two phantoms were as if in the grasp of the Shadow

that towered between them; and there was a blood stain on the

breast of the female; and the phantom male was leaning on its

phantom sword, and blood seemed trickling fast from the ruffles

from the lace; and the darkness of the intermediate Shadow

swallowed them up,--they were gone. And again the bubbles of light

shot, and sailed, and undulated, growing thicker and thicker and

more wildly confused in their movements.

The closet door to the right of the fireplace now opened, and from

the aperture there came the form of an aged woman. In her hand she

held letters,--the very letters over which I had seen THE Hand

close; and behind her I heard a footstep. She turned round as if

to listen, and then she opened the letters and seemed to read; and

over her shoulder I saw a livid face, the face as of a man long

drowned,--bloated, bleached, seaweed tangled in its dripping hair;

and at her feet lay a form as of a corpse; and beside the corpse

there cowered a child, a miserable, squalid child, with famine in

its cheeks and fear in its eyes. And as I looked in the old

woman's face, the wrinkles and lines vanished, and it became a face

of youth,--hard-eyed, stony, but still youth; and the Shadow darted

forth, and darkened over these phantoms as it had darkened over the


Nothing now was left but the Shadow, and on that my eyes were

intently fixed, till again eyes grew out of the Shadow,--malignant,

serpent eyes. And the bubbles of light again rose and fell, and in

their disordered, irregular, turbulent maze, mingled with the wan

moonlight. And now from these globules themselves, as from the

shell of an egg, monstrous things burst out; the air grew filled

with them: larvae so bloodless and so hideous that I can in no way

describe them except to remind the reader of the swarming life

which the solar microscope brings before his eyes in a drop of

water,--things transparent, supple, agile, chasing each other,

devouring each other; forms like naught ever beheld by the naked

eye. As the shapes were without symmetry, so their movements were

without order. In their very vagrancies there was no sport; they

came round me and round, thicker and faster and swifter, swarming

over my head, crawling over my right arm, which was outstretched in

involuntary command against all evil beings. Sometimes I felt

myself touched, but not by them; invisible hands touched me. Once

I felt the clutch as of cold, soft fingers at my throat. I was

still equally conscious that if I gave way to fear I should be in

bodily peril; and I concentered all my faculties in the single

focus of resisting stubborn will. And I turned my sight from the

Shadow; above all, from those strange serpent eyes,--eyes that had

now become distinctly visible. For there, though in naught else

around me, I was aware that there was a WILL, and will of intense,

creative, working evil, which might crush down my own.

The pale atmosphere in the room began now to redden as if in the

air of some near conflagration. The larvae grew lurid as things

that live in fire. Again the room vibrated; again were heard the

three measured knocks; and again all things were swallowed up in

the darkness of the dark Shadow, as if out of that darkness all had

come, into that darkness all returned.

As the gloom receded, the Shadow was wholly gone. Slowly, as it

had been withdrawn, the flame grew again into the candles on the

table, again into the fuel in the grate. The whole room came once

more calmly, healthfully into sight.

The two doors were still closed, the door communicating with the

servant's room still locked. In the corner of the wall, into which

he had so convulsively niched himself, lay the dog. I called to

him,--no movement; I approached,--the animal was dead: his eyes

protruded; his tongue out of his mouth; the froth gathered round

his jaws. I took him in my arms; I brought him to the fire. I

felt acute grief for the loss of my poor favorite,--acute self-

reproach; I accused myself of his death; I imagined he had died of

fright. But what was my surprise on finding that his neck was

actually broken. Had this been done in the dark? Must it not have

been by a hand human as mine; must there not have been a human

agency all the while in that room? Good cause to suspect it. I

cannot tell. I cannot do more than state the fact fairly; the

reader may draw his own inference.

Another surprising circumstance,--my watch was restored to the

table from which it had been so mysteriously withdrawn; but it had

stopped at the very moment it was so withdrawn, nor, despite all

the skill of the watchmaker, has it ever gone since,--that is, it

will go in a strange, erratic way for a few hours, and then come to

a dead stop; it is worthless.

Nothing more chanced for the rest of the night. Nor, indeed, had I

long to wait before the dawn broke. Not till it was broad daylight

did I quit the haunted house. Before I did so, I revisited the

little blind room in which my servant and myself had been for a

time imprisoned. I had a strong impression--for which I could not

account--that from that room had originated the mechanism of the

phenomena, if I may use the term, which had been experienced in my

chamber. And though I entered it now in the clear day, with the

sun peering through the filmy window, I still felt, as I stood on

its floors, the creep of the horror which I had first there

experienced the night before, and which had been so aggravated by

what had passed in my own chamber. I could not, indeed, bear to

stay more than half a minute within those walls. I descended the

stairs, and again I heard the footfall before me; and when I opened

the street door, I thought I could distinguish a very low laugh. I

gained my own home, expecting to find my runaway servant there; but

he had not presented himself, nor did I hear more of him for three

days, when I received a letter from him, dated from Liverpool to

this effect:--

"HONORED SIR,--I humbly entreat your pardon, though I can scarcely

hope that you will think that I deserve it, unless--which Heaven

forbid!--you saw what I did. I feel that it will be years before I

can recover myself; and as to being fit for service, it is out of

the question. I am therefore going to my brother-in-law at

Melbourne. The ship sails to-morrow. Perhaps the long voyage may

set me up. I do nothing now but start and tremble, and fancy it is

behind me. I humbly beg you, honored sir, to order my clothes, and

whatever wages are due to me, to be sent to my mother's, at

Walworth,--John knows her address."

The letter ended with additional apologies, somewhat incoherent,

and explanatory details as to effects that had been under the

writer's charge.

This flight may perhaps warrant a suspicion that the man wished to

go to Australia, and had been somehow or other fraudulently mixed

up with the events of the night. I say nothing in refutation of

that conjecture; rather, I suggest it as one that would seem to

many persons the most probable solution of improbable occurrences.

My belief in my own theory remained unshaken. I returned in the

evening to the house, to bring away in a hack cab the things I had

left there, with my poor dog's body. In this task I was not

disturbed, nor did any incident worth note befall me, except that

still, on ascending and descending the stairs, I heard the same

footfall in advance. On leaving the house, I went to Mr. J----'s.

He was at home. I returned him the keys, told him that my

curiosity was sufficiently gratified, and was about to relate

quickly what had passed, when he stopped me, and said, though with

much politeness, that he had no longer any interest in a mystery

which none had ever solved.

I determined at least to tell him of the two letters I had read, as

well as of the extraordinary manner in which they had disappeared;

and I then inquired if he thought they had been addressed to the

woman who had died in the house, and if there were anything in her

early history which could possibly confirm the dark suspicions to

which the letters gave rise. Mr. J---- seemed startled, and, after

musing a few moments, answered, "I am but little acquainted with

the woman's earlier history, except as I before told you, that her

family were known to mine. But you revive some vague reminiscences

to her prejudice. I will make inquiries, and inform you of their

result. Still, even if we could admit the popular superstition

that a person who had been either the perpetrator or the victim of

dark crimes in life could revisit, as a restless spirit, the scene

in which those crimes had been committed, I should observe that the

house was infested by strange sights and sounds before the old

woman died--you smile--what would you say?"

"I would say this, that I am convinced, if we could get to the

bottom of these mysteries, we should find a living human agency."

"What! you believe it is all an imposture? For what object?"

"Not an imposture in the ordinary sense of the word. If suddenly I

were to sink into a deep sleep, from which you could not awake me,

but in that sleep could answer questions with an accuracy which I

could not pretend to when awake,--tell you what money you had in

your pocket, nay, describe your very thoughts,--it is not

necessarily an imposture, any more than it is necessarily

supernatural. I should be, unconsciously to myself, under a

mesmeric influence, conveyed to me from a distance by a human being

who had acquired power over me by previous rapport."

"But if a mesmerizer could so affect another living being, can you

suppose that a mesmerizer could also affect inanimate objects: move

chairs,--open and shut doors?"

"Or impress our senses with the belief in such effects,--we never

having been en rapport with the person acting on us? No. What is

commonly called mesmerism could not do this; but there may be a

power akin to mesmerism, and superior to it,--the power that in the

old days was called Magic. That such a power may extend to all

inanimate objects of matter, I do not say; but if so, it would not

be against Nature,--it would be only a rare power in Nature which

might be given to constitutions with certain peculiarities, and

cultivated by practice to an extraordinary degree. That such a

power might extend over the dead,--that is, over certain thoughts

and memories that the dead may still retain,--and compel, not that

which ought properly to be called the SOUL, and which is far beyond

human reach, but rather a phantom of what has been most earth-

stained on earth, to make itself apparent to our senses, is a very

ancient though obsolete theory upon which I will hazard no opinion.

But I do not conceive the power would be supernatural. Let me

illustrate what I mean from an experiment which Paracelsus

describes as not difficult, and which the author of the

'Curiosities of Literature' cites as credible: A flower perishes;

you burn it. Whatever were the elements of that flower while it

lived are gone, dispersed, you know not whither; you can never

discover nor re-collect them. But you can, by chemistry, out of

the burned dust of that flower, raise a spectrum of the flower,

just as it seemed in life. It may be the same with the human

being. The soul has as much escaped you as the essence or elements

of the flower. Still you may make a spectrum of it. And this

phantom, though in the popular superstition it is held to be the

soul of the departed, must not be confounded with the true soul; it

is but the eidolon of the dead form. Hence, like the best-attested

stories of ghosts or spirits, the thing that most strikes us is the

absence of what we hold to be soul,--that is, of superior

emancipated intelligence. These apparitions come for little or no

object,--they seldom speak when they do come; if they speak, they

utter no ideas above those of an ordinary person on earth.

American spirit seers have published volumes of communications, in

prose and verse, which they assert to be given in the names of the

most illustrious dead: Shakespeare, Bacon,--Heaven knows whom.

Those communications, taking the best, are certainly not a whit of

higher order than would be communications from living persons of

fair talent and education; they are wondrously inferior to what

Bacon, Shakespeare, and Plato said and wrote when on earth. Nor,

what is more noticeable, do they ever contain an idea that was not

on the earth before. Wonderful, therefore, as such phenomena may

be (granting them to be truthful), I see much that philosophy may

question, nothing that it is incumbent on philosophy to deny,--

namely, nothing supernatural. They are but ideas conveyed somehow

or other (we have not yet discovered the means) from one mortal

brain to another. Whether, in so doing, tables walk of their own

accord, or fiendlike shapes appear in a magic circle, or bodiless

hands rise and remove material objects, or a Thing of Darkness,

such as presented itself to me, freeze our blood,--still am I

persuaded that these are but agencies conveyed, as by electric

wires, to my own brain from the brain of another. In some

constitutions there is a natural chemistry, and those constitutions

may produce chemic wonders,--in others a natural fluid, call it

electricity, and these may produce electric wonders. But the

wonders differ from Normal Science in this,--they are alike

objectless, purposeless, puerile, frivolous. They lead on to no

grand results; and therefore the world does not heed, and true

sages have not cultivated them. But sure I am, that of all I saw

or heard, a man, human as myself, was the remote originator; and I

believe unconsciously to himself as to the exact effects produced,

for this reason: no two persons, you say, have ever told you that

they experienced exactly the same thing. Well, observe, no two

persons ever experience exactly the same dream. If this were an

ordinary imposture, the machinery would be arranged for results

that would but little vary; if it were a supernatural agency

permitted by the Almighty, it would surely be for some definite

end. These phenomena belong to neither class; my persuasion is,

that they originate in some brain now far distant; that that brain

had no distinct volition in anything that occurred; that what does

occur reflects but its devious, motley, ever-shifting, half-formed

thoughts; in short, that it has been but the dreams of such a brain

put into action and invested with a semisubstance. That this brain

is of immense power, that it can set matter into movement, that it

is malignant and destructive, I believe; some material force must

have killed my dog; the same force might, for aught I know, have

sufficed to kill myself, had I been as subjugated by terror as the

dog,--had my intellect or my spirit given me no countervailing

resistance in my will."

"It killed your dog,--that is fearful! Indeed it is strange that

no animal can be induced to stay in that house; not even a cat.

Rats and mice are never found in it."

"The instincts of the brute creation detect influences deadly to

their existence. Man's reason has a sense less subtle, because it

has a resisting power more supreme. But enough; do you comprehend

my theory?"

"Yes, though imperfectly,--and I accept any crotchet (pardon the

word), however odd, rather than embrace at once the notion of

ghosts and hobgoblins we imbibed in our nurseries. Still, to my

unfortunate house, the evil is the same. What on earth can I do

with the house?"

"I will tell you what I would do. I am convinced from my own

internal feelings that the small, unfurnished room at right angles

to the door of the bedroom which I occupied, forms a starting point

or receptacle for the influences which haunt the house; and I

strongly advise you to have the walls opened, the floor removed,--

nay, the whole room pulled down. I observe that it is detached

from the body of the house, built over the small backyard, and

could be removed without injury to the rest of the building."

"And you think, if I did that--"

"You would cut off the telegraph wires. Try it. I am so persuaded

that I am right, that I will pay half the expense if you will allow

me to direct the operations."

"Nay, I am well able to afford the cost; for the rest allow me to

write to you."

About ten days after I received a letter from Mr. J---- telling me

that he had visited the house since I had seen him; that he had

found the two letters I had described, replaced in the drawer from

which I had taken them; that he had read them with misgivings like

my own; that he had instituted a cautious inquiry about the woman

to whom I rightly conjectured they had been written. It seemed

that thirty-six years ago (a year before the date of the letters)

she had married, against the wish of her relations, an American of

very suspicions character; in fact, he was generally believed to

have been a pirate. She herself was the daughter of very

respectable tradespeople, and had served in the capacity of a

nursery governess before her marriage. She had a brother, a

widower, who was considered wealthy, and who had one child of about

six years old. A month after the marriage the body of this brother

was found in the Thames, near London Bridge; there seemed some

marks of violence about his throat, but they were not deemed

sufficient to warrant the inquest in any other verdict that that of

"found drowned."

The American and his wife took charge of the little boy, the

deceased brother having by his will left his sister the guardian of

his only child,--and in event of the child's death the sister

inherited. The child died about six months afterwards,--it was

supposed to have been neglected and ill-treated. The neighbors

deposed to have heard it shriek at night. The surgeon who had

examined it after death said that it was emaciated as if from want

of nourishment, and the body was covered with livid bruises. It

seemed that one winter night the child had sought to escape; crept

out into the back yard; tried to scale the wall; fallen back

exhausted; and been found at morning on the stones in a dying

state. But though there was some evidence of cruelty, there was

none of murder; and the aunt and her husband had sought to palliate

cruelty by alleging the exceeding stubbornness and perversity of

the child, who was declared to be half-witted. Be that as it may,

at the orphan's death the aunt inherited her brother's fortune.

Before the first wedded year was out, the American quitted England

abruptly, and never returned to it. He obtained a cruising vessel,

which was lost in the Atlantic two years afterwards. The widow was

left in affluence, but reverses of various kinds had befallen her:

a bank broke; an investment failed; she went into a small business

and became insolvent; then she entered into service, sinking lower

and lower, from housekeeper down to maid-of-all-work,--never long

retaining a place, though nothing decided against her character was

ever alleged. She was considered sober, honest, and peculiarly

quiet in her ways; still nothing prospered with her. And so she

had dropped into the workhouse, from which Mr. J---- had taken her,

to be placed in charge of the very house which she had rented as

mistress in the first year of her wedded life.

Mr. J---- added that he had passed an hour alone in the unfurnished

room which I had urged him to destroy, and that his impressions of

dread while there were so great, though he had neither heard nor

seen anything, that he was eager to have the walls bared and the

floors removed as I had suggested. He had engaged persons for the

work, and would commence any day I would name.

The day was accordingly fixed. I repaired to the haunted house,--

we went into the blind, dreary room, took up the skirting, and then

the floors. Under the rafters, covered with rubbish, was found a

trapdoor, quite large enough to admit a man. It was closely nailed

down, with clamps and rivets of iron. On removing these we

descended into a room below, the existence of which had never been

suspected. In this room there had been a window and a flue, but

they had been bricked over, evidently for many years. By the help

of candles we examined this place; it still retained some moldering

furniture,--three chairs, an oak settle, a table,--all of the

fashion of about eighty years ago. There was a chest of drawers

against the wall, in which we found, half rotted away, old-

fashioned articles of a man's dress, such as might have been worn

eighty or a hundred years ago by a gentleman of some rank; costly

steel buckles and buttons, like those yet worn in court dresses, a

handsome court sword; in a waistcoat which had once been rich with

gold lace, but which was now blackened and foul with damp, we found

five guineas, a few silver coins, and an ivory ticket, probably for

some place of entertainment long since passed away. But our main

discovery was in a kind of iron safe fixed to the wall, the lock of

which it cost us much trouble to get picked.

In this safe were three shelves and two small drawers. Ranged on

the shelves were several small bottles of crystal, hermetically

stopped. They contained colorless, volatile essences, of the

nature of which I shall only say that they were not poisons,--

phosphor and ammonia entered into some of them. There were also

some very curious glass tubes, and a small pointed rod of iron,

with a large lump of rock crystal, and another of amber,--also a

loadstone of great power.

In one of the drawers we found a miniature portrait set in gold,

and retaining the freshness of its colors most remarkably,

considering the length of time it had probably been there. The

portrait was that of a man who might be somewhat advanced in middle

life, perhaps forty-seven or forty-eight. It was a remarkable

face,--a most impressive face. If you could fancy some mighty

serpent transformed into man, preserving in the human lineaments

the old serpent type, you would have a better idea of that

countenance than long descriptions can convey: the width and

flatness of frontal; the tapering elegance of contour disguising

the strength of the deadly jaw; the long, large, terrible eye,

glittering and green as the emerald,--and withal a certain ruthless

calm, as if from the consciousness of an immense power.

Mechanically I turned round the miniature to examine the back of

it, and on the back was engraved a pentacle; in the middle of the

pentacle a ladder, and the third step of the ladder was formed by

the date 1765. Examining still more minutely, I detected a spring;

this, on being pressed, opened the back of the miniature as a lid.

Within-side the lid were engraved, "Marianna to thee. Be faithful

in life and in death to ----." Here follows a name that I will not

mention, but it was not unfamiliar to me. I had heard it spoken of

by old men in my childhood as the name borne by a dazzling

charlatan who had made a great sensation in London for a year or

so, and had fled the country on the charge of a double murder

within his own house,--that of his mistress and his rival. I said

nothing of this to Mr. J----, to whom reluctantly I resigned the


We had found no difficulty in opening the first drawer within the

iron safe; we found great difficulty in opening the second: it was

not locked, but it resisted all efforts, till we inserted in the

chinks the edge of a chisel. When we had thus drawn it forth, we

found a very singular apparatus in the nicest order. Upon a small,

thin book, or rather tablet, was placed a saucer of crystal; this

saucer was filled with a clear liquid,--on that liquid floated a

kind of compass, with a needle shifting rapidly round; but instead

of the usual points of a compass were seven strange characters, not

very unlike those used by astrologers to denote the planets. A

peculiar but not strong nor displeasing odor came from this drawer,

which was lined with a wood that we afterwards discovered to be

hazel. Whatever the cause of this odor, it produced a material

effect on the nerves. We all felt it, even the two workmen who

were in the room,--a creeping, tingling sensation from the tips of

the fingers to the roots of the hair. Impatient to examine the

tablet, I removed the saucer. As I did so the needle of the

compass went round and round with exceeding swiftness, and I felt a

shock that ran through my whole frame, so that I dropped the saucer

on the floor. The liquid was spilled; the saucer was broken; the

compass rolled to the end of the room, and at that instant the

walls shook to and fro, as if a giant had swayed and rocked them.

The two workmen were so frightened that they ran up the ladder by

which we had descended from the trapdoor; but seeing that nothing

more happened, they were easily induced to return.

Meanwhile I had opened the tablet: it was bound in plain red

leather, with a silver clasp; it contained but one sheet of thick

vellum, and on that sheet were inscribed, within a double pentacle,

words in old monkish Latin, which are literally to be translated

thus: "On all that it can reach within these walls, sentient or

inanimate, living or dead, as moves the needle, so works my will!

Accursed be the house, and restless be the dwellers therein."

We found no more. Mr. J---- burned the tablet and its anathema.

He razed to the foundations the part of the building containing the

secret room with the chamber over it. He had then the courage to

inhabit the house himself for a month, and a quieter, better-

conditioned house could not be found in all London. Subsequently

he let it to advantage, and his tenant has made no complaints.

A drowning man clutching at a straw--such is Dr. Fenwick, hero of

Bulwer-Lytton's "Strange Story" when he determines to lend himself

to alleged "magic" in the hope of saving his suffering wife from

the physical dangers which have succeeded her mental disease. The

proposition has been made to him by Margrave, a wanderer in many

countries, who has followed the Fenwicks from England to Australia.

Margrave declares that he needs an accomplice to secure an "elixir

of life" which his own failing strength demands. His mysterious

mesmeric or hypnotic influence over Mrs. Fenwick had in former days

been marked; and on the basis of this undeniable fact, he has

endeavored to show that his own welfare and Mrs. Fenwick's are, in

some occult fashion, knit together, and that only by aiding him in

some extraordinary experiment can the physician snatch his beloved

Lilian from her impending doom.

As the first chapter opens, Fenwick is learning his wife's

condition from his friend, Dr. Faber.