It's not often that you find a cracking good Gothic epistolary novel (complete with family curse!) in the correspondents' section of a 20th century magazine. This first letter appeared in the Welsh publication "Bye-Gones" on February 18, 1903:
THE BRYN-GLAS GHOST.— The “House of Llanlloddian " are Harrisons by surname, but formerly they were Devereuxes and Joneses, the house bearing at all times the proud badge of the Three Nags’ Heads of King Brochwel of Powys. Now at one time a branch of the Devereux family lived at Bryn-glas Hall, three miles north of Llanfair, and the ghost (yspryd) that I am now going to speak about was the bane of existence to this Bryn-glas branch of the family for a considerable time. This ghost made its appearance in the wood and edge-row on the road-side near the house, in the form of a flickering light, and was always in the way when the master of Bryn-glas came home from Pool or Llanfair. It always uttered in a dismal tone the warning and prophetic words “Dial daw, Dial daw” (“Vengeance will come”). It was believed that its mission and the burden of its speech had reference directly to Squire Devereux, who, like other Welsh gentlemen of his day, partook of the good things of this life “not wisely but too well,”--in fact this particular squire never quitted Llanfair town of nights without being more or less in a state of intoxication. This yspryd then had a special mission to perform (so the neighbours imagined), and if only some one would speak to it (they argued), and ask its message it would never more trouble the neighbourhood. Now, it is said, Squire Devereux at last mustered courage to do this piece of business himself, first fortifying himself for the task by sundry potations in the town, and, thus equipped, he went full of courage to the terrible thing, and asked for an explanation. But the apparition was too much for his nerves,and his voice gave way, and all he could say in reply to the dreaded “Dial daw,” was “Pa bryd?” (“When?") in a very hoarse whisper: to which the spirit replied, “Yn amser y gorwyriou y dew” ("In the days of the great grandchildren it will come"). The voice after this was heard no more. It has been maintained that the prediction uttered by the yspryd really did come to pass; and that with the fourth generation died the Devereux family of Bryn-glas. Some of your readers may be able to say whether this was actually the case?A response to this letter was published in the issue for March 24:
Feb. 7, 1903.
THE BRYN-GLAS GHOST (Feb. 18, 1903). —Prior to “R.O.’s” highly interesting contribution I was certainly under the impression that I was the only individual living who had either heard of or known anything about the Bryn-glas ghost. It is really almost incredible, this sudden and unexpected resuscitation of a defunct "yspryd," or rather of its exploits. In this connection I may mention that my father, in the early part of his career, took up his residence at Bryn-glas,jointly, it is assumed, with the Devereuxes, being, I believe, in no way related to them. This was evidently at a period when the manifestations of the supposed ghost were at their height, for by day as well as by night the mansion was being subjected to intermittent storms of missiles, but whence they came or by whom or what sped, remained undiscovered, and apparently undiscoverable. Many’s the night that my father, armed to the teeth and on detection bent, kept vigil in an adjoining orchard, but on these particular nights neither goblin, ghost nor demon incarnate deigned, or, more probably, dared, to put in an appearance or continue the molestations. A certain yokel, whose veracity was regarded as unimpeachable, protested that at midday, in the light of the sun, he had seen the body of a waggon make a complete revolution, the wheels mean while remaining stationary; but to the credit of the less superstitious be it recorded that this part of the business was accepted cum grano ["with a grain of salt."] It may, however, interest the curious to be informed that the exit of the Devereuxes and my father—de mortuis nil nisi bonum—and that of the ghost, appear to have synchronised, or very nearly so, in a remarkable manner, so that the light which was then beginning to beat upon the dark corners of Wales penetrated even the once haunted halls of Bryn-glas.
M. D, Jones.
Borriew Endowed School.
The best part of the story came last--a contribution from a member of the cursed family himself! The April 1 issue of "Bye-Gones" contained the following communication:
YSPRYD BRYN-GLAS (Feb. 18, March 4, 1903).—I have read with extreme interest the paragraphs relative to "Yspryd Bryn-glas.” I have been acquainted with the story of the Yspryd these thirty years, my father having related it to me as long as that age. Indeed, the Yspryd Bryn-glas has had for us a terrible significance, much as we, and I especially, feign to disbelieve in all matters superstitious; but in “R.O.’s ” account of the Yspryd, I hear for the first time of its colloquy with John Devereux. My grandfather, after his marriage with Miss Williams, of Llangyaiew Rectory, lived for some years at Bryn-glas Hall, being at that time a man of considerable means and heir-presumptive to the Garthlwyd Estates, his uncle, Mr. Lloyd, having bred him in this belief, and he having lived at Garthlwyd from childhood. Directly he took up his residence at Bryn-glas, strange phenomena manifested themselves, and the family was very much disturbed in consequence. My grandfather kept watch repeatedly in the full assurance, he being anything but a superstitious man, that the disturbances were caused by persons of malicious or mischievous intent, but ultimately he adopted a different view and became profoundly impressed by something which took place and of which he only had cognisance. I have always understood that the curse "Dial daw" was pronounced on my grandfather and his immediate descendants, that it was said they should be scattered to the four winds and find nameless graves in unknown and far distant lands, and certain it is that with the single exception of my own father not one escaped the ban. The Far West, the battlefields of America, South Africa long years ago, each and all claimed a victim, and some died in absolute want and ignominy at our very doors. Disaster upon disaster speedily followed the pronouncement "Dial daw." Mr. Lloyd was gathered to his fathers and laid to rest midst solemn pomp and sable woe, the tenantry were gathered together, as the custom then was, the will was read, and lo! in the place of the name John Jones appeared that of Frederick Jones, his cousin. Five and twenty years ago, as a boy, I was walking to Welshpool, when an old man overtook me; he stopped and asked me if I belonged to the Garth-lwyd Family. I told him I believed so. He said, "I see the likeness," and then, taking me by the arm--"Young man, I knew your grandfather, there is a curse upon him and all belonging to him."
Oxford, M.W.J.A real-life tale of supernatural horror, lost like buried treasure in an old historical journal. Complete with that wonderfully M.R. Jamesian line about the grandfather being convinced of the ghost's reality by "something which took place and of which he only had cognisance."
Here's to you, Yspryd Bryn-glas. You don't deserve to be forgotten.