Whilst I weave crazy tales of spectres for the sheer joy of it, my husband sits sceptically by.
And this, when he has been haunted on a toilet long ago, and remembers it well; and when he swears he saw our little Cornish cat in our South-of-England garden the very day she was killed by a car hundreds of miles away in a Northern town.
No, he shakes his head wryly. It is all poppycock, he says with an air of finality.
How satisfying if something happened which was so blatant, so real that it demanded attention.
Such a thing happened to a lady once, without her ever having to see a thing or be distressed in any way; for her spectre haunted her husband. Who also happened to be a vicar.
The Vicar was the clergyman for the amiably-named Publow, a little village not far from Bath, which sits on the banks of the River Chew.
His wife was a good sort. My story begins while she was still a schoolgirl. One day she was in conversation with a chum and they fell to talking of ghosts. And, as girls will, they worked out a way of finding out whether or not ghosts were true.
The first one to die would come back and visit the other from beyond the grave. If that were not conclusive proof, what else could be?
So many years passed, and the schoolgirl grew up to become the clergyman’s consort, and life in Publow was good. She had lost touch with her childhood friend. But one day in 1874, she received news of her death.
Which made the vicar’s wife exceedingly nervous.
So the pair resolved to sleep with the fire burning and a candle flame brightly illuminating the room.
Three nights later, the Vicar himself had an experience he would never forget.
He woke in the night, and the fire was still on, and the candle burning. And sitting on the edge of the bed on his wife’s side, though his wife slept soundly, was a woman.
Being a vicar he was not one to shy away from apparitions. He stared intently, and the ghost stared back. “At once I sat up in the bed, and gazed so intently that even now I can recall her firm and features,” he recalled later, to psychical researchers.
“I remember I was much struck, as I looked intently at her, with the careful arrangement of her coiffure, every single hair being most carefully brushed down.”
Who would look away first? A staunch English vicar or a determined spectral English rose?
The ghost, of course. She faded away, and the vicar waited until his wife awoke some hours later and told her the whole thing.The Vicar jumped out of bed to check whether any of his wife’s clothes might have combined with a trick of the light: but no. There was nothing in his line of vision except a blank wall.
What made me chuckle with the vicar’s complete lack of self-doubt. Had his wife seen this he might have blamed it in yesterday evening’s oysters. But he relates in his account: “Hallucination on my part I rejected as out of the question, and I doubted not that I had really seen an apparition.”
When he spoke to his wife he described the woman, and his account coincided in every point with her memory of her friend. And before the Vicar could mention the woman’s hair, his wife confided:”We girls used to tease her at school for devoting so much time to the arrangement of her hair.”
Clever ghost. To find a way of leaving her friend at her ease, whilst appearing to a most self-assured advocate who, by his own account, could not possibly be wrong.