"...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, April 17, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

Mysterious knockings and rappings are a common feature in ghost stories. This real-life mystery was reported in the "Huddersfield Chronicle," January 25, 1868:
Since the middle of last October a very singular system of persecution has been going on in Kensington, which has hitherto baffled all attempts to discover the author, or the means by which the annoyance complained of is effected.

Some years ago it would have been put down to a ghost or perhaps to his Satanic Majesty himself, but since the spiritualistic bubble of the Brothers Davenport has burst, there is nothing left but to puzzle on till the trick, clever as it may be, is found out. Unfortunately, in the present case, the trick, though clever, is becoming cruel and heartless.

In a small house, about twenty yards from the main road, live an old lady, 84 years of age, and her daughter, with one servant. They have lived in the same house for nearly twenty years without any annoyance; but for the last few months they are being constantly startled by a sharp, loud knocking on the panel of the street-door. Upon opening the door, however quickly, no sign of anyone is to be discovered. No sooner are the ladies quietly settled again than rap-rap-rap! comes upon the door. And this is repeated at irregular intervals through the evening.

For some time it was attributed to some young imps of school-boys, who are always ready for mischief, and but little notice was taken of it; but the continuance of what was only annoying became at last a serious nuisance. The most nimble efforts were made without success to "catch" the offenders, but until a few nights ago the attacks were so arranged as never to take place in the presence of male visitors; consequently the ladies received much pity, but little sympathy, from their friends.

After a time they became nervous, and at last really frightened. On Thursday evening a gentleman, the son of the old lady, called, and found them quite ill from nervous excitement, and was comforting them as well as he could, when a quick rap rap-rap! at the front door made him jump up. In two seconds he was at the door, rushed out, looking in every direction without discovering a sound or a trace of any human being in any of the adjacent roads. Then, for the first time, he was able to understand from what his mother and sister had suffered, and set to work to examine the approaches to the door inside and out, and to solve the mystery, if possible.

No sooner had he gone back to the little dining-room and placed a chair in the open doorway with a big stick handy to "trounce" the perpetrator the next time, and begun to discuss what it was, than rap-rap-rap! sent him flying out into the street to the astonishment of a passing cabman, who must have thought a madman had just escaped his keeper. This happened four or five times more; in fact, it only ceased about a quarter to eleven.

He went round to the police-station and had an officer put on special duty opposite the house for the next day, and spent the following morning in calling upon the neighbours and carefully examining the gardens and walls which abutted upon the haunted house. Not a mark of any sort was to be found, and he was quite convinced that by no imaginable device could the door have been reached from any point but right in front of the street. There is no cellar or drain under the house. The more carefully the examination was continued the greater the mystery appeared. In the evening he took a friend down with him, and two more of his friends looked in later. The ladies were found in a painful state of nervous fright, as the nuisance had already being going on, and the maid servant was crying. Altogether it was a scene of misery.

In the course of conversation the following facts came out. It began on a Friday, the 18th of October, and has never missed a Friday since then. It has never been heard on Sunday, seldom on Saturday. Never before the gas lamps are lit, never after eleven. Just as all were talking at once, rap-rap-rap! In an instant all four gentlemen were in the front garden; the policeman was quietly standing opposite the door; the lady in the house opposite watching the door from her portico, and another gentleman from the leads. All declared that not a living creature had been near the house for at least a quarter of an hour.

The whole thing seems inexplicable, and has created quite a sensation in the neighbourhood. The cruel part of the trick is the effect produced upon the venerable lady, whose age makes a change of residence a serious difficulty, and whose nerves are likely to give way altogether if some means are not discovered to put a stop to the annoyance. The police are doing their best to discover the plot, but hitherto without success.
The mystery received a fair bit of attention in the newspapers, inspiring a raft of well-meaning, if not terribly helpful suggestions from the public. The "London Standard," January 24:

Sir, Having this morning been much amused by the account given in your paper of the "Haunted House" at Kensington, might I be allowed to suggest that a very careful watch should be kept on all within the house, and that the maid servant should have at least one holiday in the evening, and it might be interesting to observe whether or not the noise occurred on these occasions. Apologising for taking up your valuable time, I am
Holloway, Jan. 23.


Sir, I have just read the account in your paper of the rapping nuisance at a house in Kensington, and out of compassion for the old lady I will mention that some friends of mine a few years ago suffered from a similar annoyance, and after adopting all sort of schemes to rid themselves of the rapper they changed all their servants, and then experienced immediate relief.
Your obedient servant, C.N.
Jan. 23.


Sir, In your journal of this day's date I find an account, ''under the above heading," of the cruel and heartless persecution of an old lady and her daughter, at Kensington, by means of repeated knocking at the door after dark. I beg, through your journal, to suggest that if the parties interested, and the police, were to direct their attention to the maid of the house, instead of the outside, I think the author of the annoyance would be discovered. It seems to me likely that the trick is performed by means of dark-coloured string tied to the knocker, and pulled up and down through one of the upper windows, or from the roof. If there is no knocker, then, perhaps, by means of a stone tied to the end of said string, and pulled up at once, so as to be out of sight when the door is opened. I am, Sir,
7, Francis-terrace, Victoria Park, N.E.,
Jan. 23.


Sir, After reading your description of the supposed trick at Kensington, I am rather inclined to think that the raps are caused by natural means. A pipe with water in will convey sound a long distance; how far it might be used as a means of telegraphing is yet to be tried. As the raps occur never before gas-light, and never after eleven, might not the noise be caused through the pipes by the manipulation at a gas-works, if near to one? If the noise is caused by trickery, a large pea-shooter would cause shots to make a series of raps.

Wishing the opportunity of visiting the haunted house while the raps occur,and hoping these hints may be found to be useful, I beg to subscribe myself,
W. H. M.
Jan. 23.


'Sir, You conclude your notice of the haunted house at Kensington this morning by saying the police have the matter in hand, They may be clever in arresting and unearthing Fenian plots, but I much doubt their ability to unravel matters connected with the spiritual world. Is not this a case more suited to the talents of the gentleman (I forget his name) who did so much good to society at large some time since by elucidating and exposing tho Davenport tricks, and who showed himself such an adept in getting out of looked boxes, coffins, etc., that the spiritualists at once rushed to claim him as their own. but were mortified to find he disclaimed spiritual assistance in his extraordinary performances. I am, Sir, yours obediently,
The Farmers' Club, the Salisbury Hotel, Salisbury-square, Fleet-street, E.C., Jan. 23.


Sir, I have just read in your paper an account of two ladies living at Kensington being much alarmed by mysterious knocking which defy detection as to the way in which they are produced. Some time since a gentleman of the name of Addison proved himself a veritable Jonathan Wild by the manner in which ho discovered and brought to light all the tricks and deceptions of the Davenport Brothers and other so-called mediums.

I am sure if Mr. Addison were appealed to he would at once come forward to the rescue of these ladies, and solve the mystery. Yours, etc.
A. F.


Sir, I have read the account in to-day's impression of your paper headed as above. The days have gone for giving credit to supernatural agencies for such proceedings as those described which resemble in some measure the exploits of the Cock-lane ghost. If I were to search for the agent of the noise I should look in the house for it is probably caused by a mischievous servant, whose hour for going to bed is eleven o'clock. I am, etc.,

The story disappeared from the newspapers after this, so I have no idea if the source of the knocks was ever found.

1 comment:

  1. Despite the blame that fell repeatedly on the maid, W.H.M. had a logical explanation with regard to water- and gas-pipes. Whether that would have help solve the problem can't be said.


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