Things That Go Bump in the Night
Have you ever seen something late at night that you couldn't quite explain? A shape or figure, there one minute and gone the next? Has something ever waked you up from a sound sleep, by sitting on your bed or touching you? Cold spots? Doors opening or shutting for no apparent reason? Items disappearing and then reappearing somewhere else? Ever get that creepy feeling when the hairs on the back of your neck and on your arms prickle for no apparent reason?
If you have ever had a close encounter of the spectral kind, share it with us for Halloween!
I've always been open to the possibility of spirits caught between their earthly life and whatever is out there for eternity. I've always wanted to see something, just once. My husband spent years pooh-poohing the possibility of ghosts. "There's no such thing." So guess who sees a ghost about 6 years ago? Yep, Mr. I-Don't-Believe-in-Spooks himself.
Since I don't have a personal story of my own, I'll try to relate his, as best as I can remember:
He works for a local bakery doing their deliveries. At the time, a large part of their clientele were hotels and B&B's that put out Continental breakfasts for their guests. This meant he was sometimes out on the road with his truck by 3:30 or so, in order to get their baked goods delivered prior to the breakfast hour.
This particular morning, he was at a local hotel in downtown Charleston. I think the building itself is new (not sure about that) but it is in an old section of town. He pulled into the back alley that is the delivery entrance and proceeded to start unloading their order. He noticed a young woman, with long dark hair. She was wearing a dark colored dress that reached to her ankles. He walked past her and said, "Morning". She made no response; just stared straight ahead. It was odd enough that she was out there at that time of the morning, about 5 or so, but what was really weird was, she was barefoot. It was December and fairly cold out there. He said he walked right past her a couple of times and she never moved, said anything or even acknowledged his presence. There's quite a few bars downtown and he figured she was just one of the late night revelers and probably drunk.
When he walked around to the back of the truck the third time, she was gone. Just like that. He looked all around the truck, in the truck, under the truck and then down the alley to the street, and looked both ways. She was no where to be seen.
He went inside with his last load and started talking to one of the kitchen workers. He told them he'd just had the weirdest thing happen and told them about the girl.
"Oh, you've just seen the ghost."
"What?....No, uh-uh...there's no such thing. She was as solid as you and me. I was within a couple of feet of her. That was no ghost."
"Oh, yeah, that's the ghost. We see her every December."
Well, he didn't say anything to me about it for a good couple of weeks. Then, one afternoon after work, we had stopped off to have a drink with some friends before going home. During the course of the conversation, he spilled the story. He had talked some more with night shift of the hotel over the next week or so, and most of the workers told him they had seen the girl numerous times but only in December. She'd been seen both inside the hotel and outside. No one seemed to know who she was or what her story was supposed to be.
He still delivers to that hotel. I don't think he's ever seen her again. But it's almost December. You never know.....
Updated: 1:53 AM GMT on October 27, 2006
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Thus the evening wore away with the Cruncher family, until Young Jerry was ordered to bed, and his mother, laid under similar injunctions, obeyed them. Mr. Cruncher beguiled the earlier watches of the night with solitary pipes, and did not start upon his excursion until nearly one o'clock. Towards that small and ghostly hour, he rose up from his chair, took a key out of his pocket, opened a locked cupboard, and brought forth a sack, a crowbar of convenient size, a rope and chain, and other fishing tackle of that nature. Disposing these articles about him in skilful manner, he bestowed a parting defiance on Mrs. Cruncher, extinguished the light, and went out.
Young Jerry, who had only made a feint of undressing when he went to bed, was not long after his father. Under cover of the darkness he followed out of the room, followed down the stairs, followed down the court, followed out into the streets. He was in no uneasiness concerning his getting into the house again, for it was full of lodgers, and the door stood ajar all night.
Impelled by a laudable ambition to study the art and mystery of his father's honest calling, Young Jerry, keeping as close to house fronts, walls, and doorways, as his eyes were close to one another, held his honoured parent in view. The honoured parent steering Northward, had not gone far, when he was joined by another disciple of Izaak Walton, and the two trudged on together.
Within half an hour from the first starting, they were beyond the winking lamps, and the more than winking watchmen, and were out upon a lonely road. Another fisherman was picked up here- and that so silently, that if Young Jerry had been superstitious, he might have supposed the second follower of the gentle craft to have, all of a sudden, split himself into two.
The three went on, and Young Jerry went on, until the three stopped under a bank overhanging the road. Upon the top of the bank was a low brick wall, surmounted by an iron railing. In the shadow of bank and wall the three turned out of the road, and up a blind lane, of which the wall- there, risen to some eight or ten feet high- formed one side. Crouching down in a corner, peeping up the lane, the next object that Young Jerry saw, was the form of his honoured parent, pretty well defined against a watery and clouded moon, nimbly scaling an iron gate. He was soon over, and then the second fisherman got over, and then the third. They all dropped softly on the ground within the gate, and lay there a little- listening perhaps. Then, they moved away on their hands and knees.
It was now Young Jerry's turn to approach the gate: which he did, holding his breath. Crouching down again in a corner there, and looking in, he made out the three fishermen creeping through some rank grass! and all the gravestones in the churchyard- it was a large churchyard that they were in- looking on like ghosts in white, while the church tower itself looked on like the ghost of a monstrous giant. They did not creep far, before they stopped and stood upright. And then they began to fish.
They fished with a spade, at first. Presently the honoured parent appeared to be adjusting some instrument like a great corkscrew. Whatever tools they worked with, they worked hard, until the awful striking of the church clock so terrified Young Jerry, that he made off, with his hair as stiff as his father's.
But, his long-cherished desire to know more about these matters, not only stopped him in his running away, but lured him back again. They were still fishing perseveringly, when he peeped in at the gate for the second time; but, now they seemed to have got a bite. There was a screwing and complaining sound down below, and their bent figures were strained, as if by a weight. By slow degrees the weight broke away the earth upon it, and came to the surface. Young Jerry very well knew what it would be; but, when he saw it, and saw his honoured parent about to wrench it open, he was so frightened, being new to the sight, that he made off again, and never stopped until he had run a mile or more.
He would not have stopped then, for anything less necessary than breath, it being a spectral sort of race that he ran, and one highly desirable to get to the end of. He had a strong idea that the coffin he had seen was running after him; and, pictured as hopping on behind him, bolt upright, upon its narrow end, always on the point of overtaking him and hopping on at his side- perhaps taking his arm- it was a pursuer to shun. It was an inconsistent and ubiquitous fiend too, for, while it was making the whole night behind him dreadful, he darted out into the roadway to avoid dark alleys, fearful of its coming hopping out of them like a dropsical boy's-Kite without tail and wings. It hid in doorways too, rubbing its horrible shoulders against doors, and drawing them up to its ears, as if it were laughing. It got into shadows on the road, and lay cunningly on its back to trip him up. All this time it was incessantly hopping on behind and gaining on him, so that when the boy got to his own door he had reason for being half dead. And even then it would not leave him, but followed him upstairs with a bump on every stair, scrambled into bed with him, and bumped down, dead and heavy, on his breast when he fell asleep.
From his oppressed slumber, Young Jerry in his closet was awakened after daybreak and before sunrise, by the presence of his father in the family room. Something had gone wrong with him; at least, so Young Jerry inferred, from the circumstance of his holding Mrs. Cruncher by the ears, and knocking the back of her head against the head-board of the bed.
"I told you I would," said Mr. Cruncher, "and I did."
"Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!" his wife implored.
"You oppose yourself to the profit of the business," said Jerry, "and me and my partners suffer. You was to honour and obey; why the devil don't you?"
"I try to be a good wife, Jerry," the poor woman protested, with tears.
"Is it being a good wife to oppose your husband's business? Is it honouring your husband to dishonour his business? Is it obeying your husband to disobey him on the vital subject of his business?"
"You hadn't taken to the dreadful business then, Jerry."
"It's enough for you," retorted Mr. Cruncher, "to be the wife of a honest tradesman, and not to occupy your female mind with calculations when he took to his trade or when he didn't. A honouring and obeying wife would let his trade alone altogether. Call yourself a religious woman? If you're a religious woman, give me a irreligious one! You have no more nat'ral sense of duty than the bed of this here Thames river has of a pile, and similarly it must be knocked into you."
The altercation was conducted in a low tone of voice, and terminated in the honest tradesman's kicking off his clay-soiled boots, and lying down at his length on the floor. After taking a timid peep at him lying on his back, with his rusty hands under his head for a pillow, his son lay down too, and fell asleep again.
There was no fish for breakfast, and not much of anything else. Mr. Cruncher was out of spirits, and out of temper, and kept an iron pot-lid by him as a projectile for the correction of Mrs. Cruncher. in case he should observe any symptoms of her saying Grace. He was brushed and washed at the usual hour, and set off with his son to pursue his ostensible calling.
Young Jerry, walking with the stool under his arm at his father's side along sunny and crowded Fleet-street, was a very different Young Jerry from him of the previous night, running home through darkness and solitude from his grim pursuer. His cunning was fresh with the day, and his qualms were gone with the night- in which particulars it is not improbable that he had compeers in Fleet-street and the City of London, that fine morning.
"Father," said Young Jerry, as they walked along: taking care to keep at arm's length and to have the stool well between them: "what's a Resurrection-Man?"
Mr. Cruncher came to a stop on the pavement before he answered, "How should I know?"
"I thought you knowed everything, father," said the artless boy.
"Hem! Well," returned Mr. Cruncher, going on again, and lifting of his hat to give his spikes free play, "he's a tradesman."
"What's his goods, father?" asked the brisk Young Jerry.
"His goods," said Mr. Cruncher, after turning it over in his mind, "is a branch of Scientific goods."
"Persons' bodies, ain't it, father?" asked the lively boy.
"I believe it is something of that sort," said Mr. Cruncher.
"Oh, father, I should so like to be a Resurrection-Man when I'm quite growed up!"
Mr. Cruncher was soothed, but shook his head in a dubious and moral way. "It depends upon how you develop your talents. Be careful to develop your talents, and never to say no more than you can help to nobody, and there's no telling at the present time what you may not come to be fit for." As Young Jerry, thus encouraged, went on a few yards in advance, to plant the stool in the shadow of the Bar, Mr. Cruncher added to himself: "Jerry, you honest tradesman, there's hopes wot that boy will yet be a blessing to you, and a recompense to you for his mother!"
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book the Second, Chapter 14, The Honest Tradesman
The 18th century was characterized as the age of body snatchers or resurrection men. Eminent physicians would pay for bodies, with no questions asked, in order to have human cadavers for clandestine anatomy classes. After 1832, and the passing of the Anatomy Act, doctors were permitted to use donated or unclaimed bodies - paupers who died in the workhouse or executed criminals. The supply did not meet the demand, thus the rise of the resurrectionists. Some of these were like Dicken's Jerry Cruncher, who worked as a runner for Tellson's bank during the day, and "went fishing" at night, though A Tale of Two Cities was set prior to 1832, I believe.
Burke and Hare, two Irish immigrants living in Edinburgh, went from selling a lodger's body (the deceased had owed Burke rent money), to murdering their fellow lodgers in order to sell their bodies. It was this case that led to the passing of the Anatomy Act of 1832. After their conviction and execution, Burke's body was turned over for dissection.
Burke's death mask
Wealthy people would have watchhouses erected in their cemeteries and place mort-safes over the graves, until the deceased's remains were no longer of use to the anatomists.
Watch Tower at Duddingston Kirk, Scotland
In Iowa, in 1870, the body of Mary D. Herrick was "resurrected". It was the uproar over this incident that resulted in laws being passed in that state to allow the Medical Department to obtained deceased prisoner's bodies for dissection.
I know I have some more stuff in books here at the house; I just can't find what I want right at the moment. Will post that later on.
Note: The Anatomy Act of 1832 was passed in England. On this side of the pond, it seems that individual states passed their own laws regarding the uses of cadavers by medical schools. Will try to look a little closer at that.
Teaching Surgery and Breaking the Law
From Grave Robbing to Gifting: Cadaver Supply in the U.S.
Waking the Dead: How to Steal a Dead Body
Waking the Dead: The Battle of Glasnevin Graveyard
Waking the Dead: The Surgeon's Warning
Updated: 8:24 PM GMT on October 22, 2006
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Rest In Peace - The Cemetery Blog
Earlier this year, I did a blog on epitaphs. I found out that I was not the only one here on WU that loves to wander around old cemeteries. Since Halloween is around the corner, I figured this would be as good a time as any to do another blog on cemeteries.
Charleston has long been known as The Holy City, because of the number of churches on the downtown peninsula. All of these churches have cemeteries on the grounds. I have spent many an afternoon prowling around, reading the headstones and wondering about the people who are buried there.
I'm finding it a bit difficult to locate pictures of the graveyards themselves, so for the time being, I'm just going to list the churches and some information about them. They all have graves surrounding the buildings. Some of the links may have photos, so do go look. I will keep looking and post any pictures that I can find. Please feel free to post any pictures you have (or can find) of churches/cemeteries that you like to visit.
Circular Congregational Church, Meeting St.
St. Philip's Episcopal Church
The French Huguenot Church, Queen St.
Unitarian Church, Archdale St.
The Second Independent or Congregational Church of Charleston, S.C., was organized in 1772. Completed in 1787, this church was remodeled in the mid-19th century using plans inspired by the Chapel of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey. The Gothic fan-tracery ceiling was added during that renovation. An entrance to the church grounds is at 161½-163 King Street and leads to a secluded, overgrown Victorian-style graveyard that invites contemplation. The walkway is known as the Gateway walk and leads from the St. Philip's graveyard, through the Congregational graveyard, across Meeting Street past the Gibbes Art Gallery, and from King Street it traverses a cobblestone, shaded walk to exit through the Unitarian graveyard and St. John's graveyard to Archdale St.
Part of the Unitarian graveyard.
First Scots Presbyterian Church, Meeting St.
The congregation was organized in 1731 by 12 Scottish families who withdrew from the Independent Congregational Church and formed the "Scots Kirk." The first building was a frame one and stood in the southeast corner of the present Churchyard. It was enlarged in 1763 and twice during the period, 1783-1808. The frame building was replaced by the present building in 1814. The massive stuccoed brick building has twin towers rising above a columned portico. The design was perhaps inspired by Benjamin H. Latrobe's Baltimore Cathedral, built a few years earlier. The church is the fifth oldest house of worship in the city. The seal of the Church of Scotland is in the window over the main entrance. Tablets on the walls include one to Lady Anne Murray, painted on wood. Silver and pewter tokens were formerly used for admission to communion. The churchyard contains more than 50 stones dating before 1800. The pattern of the wrought iron fence is almost identical with one at St. Paul's, Radcliffeborough, built about the same time.
(I will post the rest in individual comments, as I'm a bit leery of continuing to modify my header. Knowing me, I'd probably lose the whole thing somehow!)
I finally found pictures from some of the Charleston graveyards downtown:
Grave Addiction/Charleston, SC
Select the church/graveyard you want to view. There will be a box on the left, with a listing of different shots in that are available. Click on each one to view.
Updated: 1:21 AM GMT on October 15, 2006
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