Friday, July 30, 2010

Ghosts and Cryptids

Just recently, for what reason I'm not sure, I've been thinking about ghostly animals and spectral cryptids, and re-read Elliott O’Donnell’s 1913 classic book, Animal Ghosts, which includes a number of accounts relative to spectral animals of a distinctly wild nature.

And for those who may be interested in such things, I thought I'd bring a few choice items from O'Donnell's book to your attention.

For example, one of the chapters in the book dealt with spectral monkeys seen in the British Isles, and included the following account from O'Donnell that focused upon a ghostly baboon and a paranormal cat encountered near the English town of Basingstoke, Hampshire.

In O'Donnell's own words: “A sister of a well-known author tells me there used to be a house called ‘The Swallows,’ standing in two acres of land, close to a village near Basingstoke. In 1840 a Mr. Bishop of Tring bought the house, which had long stood empty, and we went to live there in 1841. After being there a fortnight two servants gave notice to leave, stating that the place was haunted by a large cat and a big baboon, which they constantly saw stealing down the staircases and passages.

“They also testified to hearing sounds of somebody being strangled, proceeding from an empty attic near where they slept, and of the screams and groans of a number of people being horribly tortured in the cellars just underneath the dairy. On going to see what was the cause of the disturbances, nothing was ever visible. By and by other members of the household began to be harassed by similar manifestations. The news spread through the village, and crowds of people came to the house with lights and sticks, to see if they could witness anything.

“One night, at about twelve o'clock, when several of the watchers were stationed on guard in the empty courtyard, they all saw the forms of a huge cat and a baboon rise from the closed grating of the large cellar under the old dairy, rush past them, and disappear in a dark angle of the walls. The same figures were repeatedly seen afterwards by many other persons. Early in December 1841, Mr. Bishop, hearing fearful screams, accompanied by deep and hoarse jabberings, apparently coming from the top of the house, rushed upstairs, whereupon all was instantly silent, and he could discover nothing.

“After that, Mr. Bishop set to work to get rid of the house, and was fortunate enough to find as a purchaser a retired colonel, who was soon, however, scared out of it. This was in 1842; it was soon after pulled down. The ground was used for the erection of cottages; but the hauntings being transferred to them, they were speedily vacated, and no one ever daring to inhabit them, they were eventually demolished, the site on which they stood being converted into allotments.

“There were many theories as to the history of 'The Swallows'; one being that a highwayman, known as Steeplechase Jock, the son of a Scottish chieftain, had once plied his trade there and murdered many people, whose bodies were supposed to be buried somewhere on or near the premises. He was said to have had a terrible though decidedly unorthodox ending - falling into a vat of boiling tar, a raving madman. But what were the phantasms of the ape and cat? Were they the earth-bound spirits of the highwayman and his horse, or simply the spirits of two animals? Though either theory is possible, I am inclined to favor the former.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A cheetah and a baboon figure prominently in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But since that story wasn't published in the Strand Magazine until 1892 it cannot have anything to do with the haunting of "The Swallows".

By which I mean that we can't explain it by saying that someone with a vivid imagination may have read the tale and produced a couple of the way people used to see a figure reminiscent of the radio and pulp fiction character of "The Shadow" haunting the New York Apartment where Walter Gibson, who created the character, had once lived.

But it is certainly possible that Conan Doyle, who was very involved with paranormal investigations ("clap if you believe in fairies") had HEARD the story and that is what suggested the odd pets of Dr. Roylott (the villain in the piece).

I know this, though: I wish they hadn't torn it all down----I'd love to spend a fortnight or so in the place : )