"...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, June 13, 2018

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

This account of what would now be called a "poltergeist event" appeared in the "Hampshire Telegraph" for May 5, 1800:
A most extraordinary circumstance happened in this Town [Portsmouth] on Sunday and Monday last. It is a topic which engages the attention of the gay, and the serious, the sceptic and the believer, the speculative philosopher, and the superstitious fanatic; in a word, persons of every description are impressed with the singularity of the event, as surpassing, in its causes and effects, every power of reason to investigate, or experience to reconcile with the general tenor of Nature's vicissitudes.

On Sunday morning, between nine and ten o'clock, Mr. Rood, an opulent Wine-merchant in the High-street, was alarmed with the sudden ringing of the bell, hung for the particular purpose of calling up his servant. No cause whatever, could be perceived of the bell ringing. In a little time after, the other bells in the house joined in the concert, and continued at intervals, of a quarter of an hour during the whole day. And, although persons were placed at the handles of each bell, to watch the cause of their ringing, they still continued their clamour without any perceptible agency whatever. At night one of the Maid-servants was so alarmed that she fell into a fit, in which she continued several hours. Late at night, Mr. Rood and his family went to bed, and passed the night without any further disturbance. About nine o'clock on Monday morning, the bells re-commenced their ringing, but with much greater violence and clamour than on the preceding day. Mr. Rood being now in the greatest consternation at not being able to ascertain the cause of this surprising circumstance, called in several neighours as witnesses of what was occurring. They had no sooner arrived than every endeavour was tried, to see whether the bells were rung by any trick of clandestine confederacy, and also to prevent their ringing. For this purpose, the wires were taken from the bells and their clappers were muffled after every examination had been made, in vain, to discover whether they were rung by any deceptive means. Among the most active visitors on this occasion was Mr. Luscombe, the keeper of the town prison. He muffled the principal bell and took away its handle and wire. But he had no sooner left the room with Mr. Rood and the rest of the neighbours, than the bell resumed its ringing more violently than ever. So great was its motion that it beat in such a forcible manner against the ceiling as to injure it materially, and it afterwards broke from its fastening and fell to the ground; but what is still more remarkable is, that the part which was driven several inches into the wall for suspending the bell, was found drawn out at least half a foot, which, to have effected by any human means, would have required more strength than any inhabitant of the place is said to possess without the aid of a mechanical power of most considerable energy.

At this time one of the servants was strongly suspected of being the cause of this supernatural event, in consequence of its appearing that, in two places in which she had lived before, occurrences equally unaccountable, and still more alarming, had happened, so as to occasion her being sent home from both places to her parents. The two places to which we allude, are Mr. Binstead's, Shoe-maker in Lombard-street; and Mr. Peake, builder in the Dock-Yard. At the former place, the most tremendous noises were heard whenever she was alone. Sometimes they represented the crashing of falling ruins, and at others the agitations of buildings being wrenched by the most powerful engines from their foundations. She frequently appeared as if combating with Spectres or Demons, and fell into the arms of her mistress in the greatest state of terrific agitation and horrid dismay.--Having stated the above circumstances, we avoid any comment. We, however, think it but justice to state, that the Girl, although now discharged from her third place, is remarkable for being most pre-possessing in her manners and person, and attentive to her duties as a servant.
[Other cases of Fortean bells can be found here and here.]

Addendum: The incident was well-known enough to inspire a comic song!

"Hampshire Telegraph," May 19, 1800

1 comment:

  1. I find interesting any story that has such phrases as 'opulent wine-merchant' and 'clandestine confederacy'...


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