"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

What's the one thing better than a Mystery Blood story? A Mystery Blood story that throws ghosts into the mix, of course! The spooky travails of the Walsingham family were recorded in the "Brooklyn Eagle" on December 5, 1891:

The little hamlet of Oakville, lying seven or eight miles east of Statesborough, Ga., on this Savannah river, is much agitated at present over a ghostly sensation which appears to be more substantial than is usual with such excitement, to use a paradoxical expression. About three weeks ago the family of a small farmer named Walsingham began to be annoyed by certain disturbances in their household matters, which they at first attributed to the malice or mischievous propensity of some outsider. These disturbances generally took the form of noises in the house after the family had retired and the light was extinguished. Continual banging of the doors, things overturned, the door bell rang and the annoying of the hound dog, a large and intelligent mastiff. It was the conduct of this animal that first caused the Walsinghams to believe there was something more in these occurrences than appeared on the surface, though they were reluctant to attach any supernatural significance to them, being a family of education, practical persons and avowed skeptics on the subject of spooks, etc.

Don Caesar, the mastiff, would be seen to start suddenly from a nap and run at full tilt as if from some one, or start suddenly back while walking leisurely down a path, as if he again met with some one. But he soon lost his temper and varied these pacific proceedings by snarling at every door, as if he expected an enemy to enter, and often drawing back with a threatening bark and displaying fangs to warn his unseen annoyer from him. One day he was found in the hallway barking furiously and bristling with rage, while his eyes seemed directed to the wall just before him. At last he made a spring forward, with a hoarse yelp of ungovernable fury, only to fall back as if flung down by some powerful and cruel hand. Upon examination it was found that his neck had been broken.

The house cat, on the contrary, seemed rather to enjoy the favor of the ghost, and would often enter a door as if escorting some visitor in whose hand was stroking her back. She would also climb upon a chair rubbing herself and purring as if well pleased at the presence of some one in the seat. She and Don Caesar invariably manifested this eccentric conduct at the same time, as though the mysterious being was visible to both of them. This kept up until no doubt could be entertained that the animals saw something of a supernatural character, which was also making itself very disagreeable to the Walsinghams.

It did not long content itself with petty annoyances, but finally took to rousing the family at all hours of the night by making such a row as to render any rest impossible.

This noise, which consisted of shouts, groans, hideous laughter and a peculiar, most distressing wail, would sometimes proceed apparently from under the house, sometimes from the ceiling and at other times in the very room in which the family was seated. One night Miss Amelia Walsingham, a young daughter, was engaged at her toilet, when she felt a hand laid softly on her shoulder. Thinking it her mother or sister she glanced in the glass before her only to be thunderstruck at seeing the mirror reflect no form but her own, though she could plainly see a man's broad hand lying on her arm.

She brought the family to her by her screams, but when they reached her all signs of the mysterious hand was gone. On another occasion the girl was startled by beholding the knob of her door turn softly, the door open and then close as if someone had entered and shut it behind them. She strained her eyes trying to make out some form or the cause of the phenomenon, but nothing appeared. She vacated the room, however, feeling sure nothing was in it with her. Mr. Walsingham himself saw footsteps form beside his own while walking through the garden after a light rain.

The marks were those of a man's naked feet and fell beside his own as if the person walked at his side. After some minutes the steps left him and led toward the house, where Don Caesar was lying on the front piazza. The dog sprang up, barking furiously, but retreated as the steps approached him.

Matters grew so serious that the Walsinghams became frightened and talked of leaving the house when an event took place that confirmed them in this determination. The family was seated at the supper table with several guests, who were spending the evening, when a loud groan was heard in the room directly overhead. This was however, nothing unusual, and very little notice was taken of it until one of the visitors pointed out a stain of what looked like blood on the white tablecloth, and it was seen that some liquid was slowly dripping on the table from the ceiling overhead. This liquid was so much like fresh shed blood as to horrify those who watched its slow dripping. Mr. Walsingham, with several of his guests, ran hastily upstairs and into the room directly over the one into which the blood was dripping.

A carpet covered the floor and nothing appeared to explain the source of the ghastly rain, but, anxious to satisfy themselves thoroughly, the carpet was immediately ripped up and the boarding found to be perfectly dry and even covered with a thin layer of dust. And all the while the floor was being examined the persons below could swear the blood never ceased to drip. A stain the size of a dinner plate was formed before the drops ceased to fall. This stain was examined next day under the microscope and was pronounced by competent chemists to be human blood.

The Walsinghams left the house the next day and since then the place has been apparently given over to spooks and evil spirits, which make the night hideous with the noise of revel, shouts and furious yells. Hundreds from all over this county and adjacent ones have visited the place, but few have the courage to pass a night in the haunted house. One daring spirit, Horace Gunn of Savannah, however, accepted a wager that he could not spend twenty-four hours in it, and did so, though he declares that there is not enough money in the county to make him pass another night there. He was found the morning after by his friends with whom he made the wager in an insensible condition and was with difficulty brought out of his swoon. He has never recovered from the shock of his terrible experience and is still confined to his bed suffering from nervous prostration.

His story is that shortly after nightfall he endeavored to kindle a fire in one of the rooms and to light the lamp which he had provided himself, but to his surprise and consternation found it impossible to do either. An icy breath which seemed to proceed from some invisible person at his side extinguished each match as he lighted it. At this peculiarly terrifying turn of affairs Mr. Gunn would have left the house and forfeited the amount of his wager, a considerable one, but was restrained by the fear of ridicule and of his story not being believed in. He seated himself in the dark with the calmness he could and awaited developments.

For some time nothing occurred, and the young man was half dozing when, after an hour or two, he was brought to his feet by a sudden yell of pain or rage that seemed to come from under the house. this appeared to be the signal for an outbreak of hideous noises all over the house. The sound of running feet could be heard scurrying up and down the stairs, hastening from one room to another, as if one person fled from the pursuit of a second. This kept up for nearly an hour, but at last ceased altogether, and for some time Mr. Gunn sat in darkness and quiet and had about concluded that the performance was over for the night. At last his attention was attracted by a white spot that gradually appeared on the opposite wall from him.

This spot continued to brighten until it seemed a disk of white fire, when the horrified spectator saw that the light emanated from and surrounded a human head which, without a body or any visible means of support, was moving slowly along the wall at about the height of a man from the floor. This ghastly head appeared to be that of an aged person, though whether male or female it was difficult to determine. The hair was long and gray and matted together with dark clots of blood, which also issued from a deep, jagged wound in one temple. The cheeks were fallen in and the whole face indicated suffering and unspeakable misery. The eyes were wide open and gleamed with an unearthly fire, while the glassy balls seemed to follow the terror stricken Mr. Gunn, who was too thoroughly paralyzed by what he saw to move or cry out. Finally the head disappeared and the room was once more left in darkness, but the young man could hear what seemed to be half a dozen persons moving about him, while the whole house shook as if rocked by some violent earthquake.

The groaning and wailing that broke forth from every direction was something terrific, and an unearthly rattle and banging, as of china and tin pans being flung to the ground floor from the upper story, added to the deafening noise. Gunn at last roused himself sufficiently to attempt to leave the haunted house. Feeling his way along the wall, in order to avoid the beings, whatever they were, that filled the room, the young man had nearly succeeded in reaching the door when he felt himself seized by the ankle and was violently thrown to the floor. He was grasped by icy hands which sought to grip him about the throat. He struggled with his unseen foe, but was soon overpowered and choked into insensibility. When found by his friends his throat was black with the marks of long, thin fingers armed with cruel, curved nails.

The only explanation that can be found for these mysterious manifestations is that about three months ago a number of bones were discovered on the Walsingham place, which some declared even then to be those of a human being. Mr. Walsingham pronounced them, however, to be an animal's, and they were hastily thrown into an adjacent limekiln. It is supposed to be the outraged spirit of the person to whom they had belonged in life that is now creating such consternation.

As is common with these ghostly, ghastly old newspaper tales, it is hard to say how much of this story is true, and how much may be fictional. Oddly, a few modern-day websites and books devoted to "true ghost stories" give this family's name as "Walingham" and set this haunted farm in Oakville, Ohio. Just another lesson in being careful about trusting anything you read.

As I say, for all I know this story could very well be just another one of the colorful hoaxes that are, to the modern-day researcher, such an irritating element of early newspapers.  However, I do have a few words of advice:  If you happen to find some old bones around your house, treat them with the greatest respect.

You never know.

[Note: Many thanks to that indefatigable Fortean researcher Theo Paijmans for bringing this story to my attention.]


  1. True or not, it's a scarier story than most of the 'horror' movies made. That disembodied head and the screaming, banging pandemonium would send me running, all right.

  2. I'd like to add my thanks for your comments upon Bear-Bear's passing. I was lucky to have known him, and to have held him as he drew his last breath. It's funny how much a simple animal can affect a person.

    1. Yes. I still miss cats and dogs I've known--not even necessarily ones I've owned--who passed on 20-30 years ago.


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