Creepy History 48. It’s that time of year again! October will again be a “creepy” month on Windows into History, so let’s kick things off with an account of a ghostly visitor in 1704, retold many times over the years. The following quote is from Sir Bernard Burke’s Family Romance, or Episodes in the Domestic Annals of the Aristocracy (1854), in which Burke attempts to tell the story free from embellishments, as told to him by a descendent of the ghost-seer.
At a very early age, Lord Tyrone and Lady Beresford had been on terms of intimate friendship, such as can only exist in extreme youth, and with a romantic spirit, not at all surprising at their age, entered into a mutual compact that whichever of the two died first, should, if the thing were possible, appear to the other. Years rolled on, the lady had married and become a widow, and had probably forgotten her youthful promise, when she was suddenly reminded of it in a manner that was impressive if not awful. It was on the 19th of August, 1704, for tradition has preserved the day with wonderful exactness. Lady Beresford went to bed in full health, as it seemed, without any one remarking, or herself being conscious of, the slightest depression of spirits, or change in her usual habits. After a time she awoke from her first sleep, and to her infinite surprise saw Lord Tyrone standing by her bed-side. While she yet continued to gaze in disturbed wonder, the figure informed her that she saw the ghost of Lord Tyrone, that he was then in bliss, and had only come, in fulfilment of the promise made in their youthful days. To convince her that it was no dream, he wrote his name in her pocket-book, twisted the curtains through a great ring in the ceiling, left the print of his hand upon a wardrobe, and finally laying his finger upon her wrist made an indelible mark, in further testimony of his nocturnal visit. He then foretold that she would marry again, be exceedingly unfortunate in her marriage, and die at the birth of a child, in her forty-second year. Sleep soon again came over her, but, upon awaking in the morning, the events of the night burst at once upon her memory. They could not have been, as she at first imagined, the shadows of a dream; there were the curtains twisted through the ring in the ceiling; there was the print of a hand upon the wardrobe; there was the singular mark upon her wrist, and so indelible that she was fain ever afterwards to hide it with a band of black velvet. If, after such proofs, any doubt could still have remained, it was removed at breakfast by the arrival of a letter announcing Lord Tyrone’s death.
There is a lot more to the story than that, and for a full discussion of the ghostly visitor and the subsequent life of Lady Beresford, I recommend reading the fourth chapter of Apparitions: a Narrative of Facts, by Bourchier Wrey Savile, published in 1874, which can be viewed on archive.org.
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