The Hair of a Ghost

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.

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18 thoughts on “The Hair of a Ghost

  1. I have goose bumps, Kate. I love this story. I’ve never had anything close to an encounter that seemed real, but Jay has. He’s reluctant to talk about it much, but it involved his mother after she passed, and all I know is “something” happened because he has a hard time talking about it By all that is most evident in my character I should be so much more in line with total skepticism…but there is just this little niggle that begs, “suppose.” I am certain of one thing only…I will NOT make this kind of pact with anyone. I love your ghost stories, Kate. Love them!

    1. No, she did rather set herself up with that pact, didn’t she, Debra? 😀 I shan’t be doing anything of the kind either! The ghost stories remain the most entertaining to tell by far!

  2. I certainly entertain the possibility of ghostly specters . . . hair-raising for us, whilst they enjoy having every spectral hair carefully coiffed. 😀

    1. I know. They do have an unfair advantage, don’t they, Nancy? They know when they are going to appear to use, and can get themselves just-so. Whilst we wake with bed-hair and bloodshot eyes. No fair.

  3. Really most fascinating. As normally happens, one finds oneself seeking all manner of ‘ordinary’ explanations, from oysters to half-dreaming to whatever. Then, as often happens too, one adopts one which – if one really thinks about it – is actually even more fantastical than that such spirits exist and can appear.
    I have yet to find any ‘natural’ explanation for my very unfanciful grandfather having come down to breakfast one morning, white and shaken, to announce that a favourite young nephew had come to stand by his bed and smile goodbye – a day or so before the news of his accidental death reached them.

  4. I was always skeptical about whether people’s being stayed for any time after their body died. Then I had to research a topic connected with the first and second world war – and the various armed Forces’ journals which used to be issued in hardback were absolutely filled with experiences reported by absolutely solid no-nonsense people. Like your husband’s experience with the cat, or the vicar’s with the ghost. At the time, people told relatives and friends, who weeks later when the official report reached the same relatives were able to confirm what had happened. Sounds sad, but it reassured the family that the loved person wasn’t lost forever.

  5. I do believe in ghosts. My Mom firmly believed in them and passed that on to me. Yet, I don’t think I have ever seen one … despite my best efforts. (An excursion to a place that was said to be haunted.)

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