A Ghost Report from the St. Paul Daily Globe on September 24, 1891

Spectral Edition

A Mississippi farmer is the victim of more than just a ghost out for revenge. This ghost is on a rampage.

Livestock and dogs are being killed, and the farmer himself was attacked in the dark.

His little daughter, though, can see the ghost — and she seems safe from it.

1891-09-24 p12 St. Paul Daily Globe [Minnesota]Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

The Reverend Richard Dodge: Spectral Exorcist of Fearful Repute

Ghostology 101a

Should anyone be looking for a real-life figure upon which to base a fictional occult detective, let me suggest the Reverend Richard Dodge (c. 1653-1746).

It seems that little is known about the actual man, but his reputation as an exorcist of malevolent spirits made him legendary. Literally. He’s become part of Cornish folklore.

The earliest reference to Dodge that I’ve found (so far) is in a work written by Thomas Bond and delightfully titled Topographical and Historical Sketches of the Boroughs of East and West Looe, in the Country of Cornwall; with an Account of the Natural and Artificial Curiosities and Picturesque Scenery of the Neighbourhood (1823). There, we read that Dodge was vicar of Talland — and, “by traditional accounts, a very singular man.” Though rumored to know a few things about the black arts, the parson apparently used this knowledge to expel unsavory spooks. Bond says that many of these spirits “were seen, in all sorts of shapes, flying and running before [Dodge], and he pursuing them, with his whip, in a most daring manner.” Before presenting the tombstone inscription of this whip-wielding, Cornish clerical cowboy who fought the Powers of Darkness, Bond says Dodge “was a worthy man, and much respected; but had his eccentricities.”

Continue reading “The Reverend Richard Dodge: Spectral Exorcist of Fearful Repute”

A Ghost Report from the Los Angeles Herald on April 27, 1905

Spectral EditionDr. Joseph King is calling it quits.

He tried to stay in the haunted house. However, the sudden bangs and the ghostly singing — and the time “when he was aroused by a cold, clammy object being placed on his face” — proved to be too much.

1905-04-27 p1 Los Angeles Herald [California]

Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

 

Joseph Glanvill and the Drummer of Tedworth: Setting a Foundation for Ghost Hunters

Ghostology 101a

Some deem Joseph Glanvill (1636-1680) the very first psychical researcher. It’s tough to settle on such historical firsts, so it might be safer to simply say that Glanvill was a man who believed witches and ghosts were real, and he chronicled accounts about them from this perspective. His own investigation into the Drummer of Tedworth haunting reads surprisingly like ghost hunts that would follow. In fact, his handling of this famous case, which involved poltergeist-like manifestations at the Mompesson house in the early 1660s, stands as a model — a foundation — for ghost hunts from the Cock Lane investigation conducted in the 1760s to several more from the Victorian era, roughly another century after that.

The Drummer of Tedworth is a tale often told as a true ghost story, popular enough to have appeared in everything from Horace Welby’s Signs of Death and Authenticated Apparitions (1825) and a journal titled Legends and Miracles and Other Curious Stories of Human Nature (1837) to the Dublin University Magazine (1848) and Henry Addington Bruce‘s Historic Ghosts and Ghost Hunters (1908). Those are just a few of the sources I consulted to put together my own version of the tale.

Continue reading “Joseph Glanvill and the Drummer of Tedworth: Setting a Foundation for Ghost Hunters”

“This Thing Ought to Be Reported to the Psychic Research Society”: Henry C. Mercer’s Charles Carrington

Unearthing the UnearthlyI was reading Henry C. Mercer’s November Night Tales (1928) because I knew that at least one character appeared in at least two of these spooky stories. I wanted to see if perhaps this Charles Carrington fellow might be an occult detective in some form.

Yes, it turns out that Carrington acts as a ghost-hunter in “The Dolls’ Castle,” though he’s more or less an astonished bystander in “The Blackbirds.” (He doesn’t appear in any of the other stories. Another character named Pryor, a painter, also appears twice. While Pryor faces the strange and even the supernatural, he’s much more a victim than a detective.)

Continue reading ““This Thing Ought to Be Reported to the Psychic Research Society”: Henry C. Mercer’s Charles Carrington”

A Ghost Report from the Charleston Daily News on September 16, 1869

Spectral Edition

A house in Charleston exhibits signs of being haunted: the rattling of chains, locked doors opening noiselessly, and a shuffling of feet.

But there was no history to explain why a ghost might linger there. One brave ghost hunter set forth to determine the truth of the haunting.

Sometimes, things are not as they seem.

1869-09-16 p3 Charleston Daily News [South Carolina]Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

Enough to Unnerve the Most Hardened Investigator of the Unearthly: Henry S. Whitehead’s Gerald Canevin (and Lord Carruth)

Unearthing the UnearthlyA couple of my colleagues in detecting occult detectives suggested I take a look at Henry S. Whitehead’s Gerald Canevin. The character appears in fifteen tales. They’re very well-told stories with a fine balance of setting, character, and creepiness. Though from the U.S., Canevin is mostly found in a Caribbean milieu of Voodoo practices and local folklore, reflecting Whitehead’s own years spent on Santa Cruz. However, without much explanation, the character also springs up in England and in New England.

For the most part, Canevin is not an occult detective per se. Though he does have a strong interest in studying the supernatural, weird things just seem to pop up around him. And he chronicles them. In fact, in “The Projection of Armand Dubois” (1926), “The People of Pan” (1929), and “Passing of a God” (1931), Canevin has no real role other than narrator. I’m tempted to say he’s less an occult detective and more an occult reporter — or even an occult neighbor, since he so often unintentionally finds himself in the company of the haunted.

Continue reading “Enough to Unnerve the Most Hardened Investigator of the Unearthly: Henry S. Whitehead’s Gerald Canevin (and Lord Carruth)”

A 1787 Chapter on Ghosts — and the Fiction that Followed

I stumbled upon a very interesting overview of ghosts that was published in 1787. It appears in the last section of Francis Grose’s A Provincial Glossary with a Collection of Local Proverbs, and Popular Superstitions, which also summarizes folk beliefs about witches, sorcerers, fairies, second-sight, and more. It’s a very useful source for learning what the general take on such subjects were among the English in the late 18th century.

Grose offers several curious, even humorous, bits of ghost lore. For example, being born on Christmas Eve reduces one’s ability to see a spirit, and if a candle burns blue, it means a ghost just might be in the vicinity. (Apparently, the latter idea still carries weight with some 21st-century ghost hunters!) Grose adds, “Dragging chains is not the fashion of English ghosts,” a matter of spectral style that poor Jacob Marley defied.

Continue reading “A 1787 Chapter on Ghosts — and the Fiction that Followed”

A Ghost Report from the Wichita Daily Eagle on January 24, 1896

Spectral EditionOne of the silliest ghost reports I’ve uncovered. A riderless bicycle seems to pursue Peter Cooley.

In fact, the phantom bicycle passed through Cooley’s cow — as “green balls of fire fell from the tips of her horns.”

Sadly, the cow did not survive. But Cooley now believes in ghosts!

1896-01-24 p5 Wichita Daily Eagle [Kansas]

Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

A Ghost Report from the Memphis Daily Appeal on January 18, 1888

Spectral EditionA tenement house in Concord, New Hampshire, is riddled with inexplicable sounds: raps, whistles, groans, rattlings, and more.

More than one team of ghost hunters have spent the night at the house. But no physical cause for the disturbances could be found.

1884-1-18 p1 Memphis Daily Appeal [Tennessee]Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.