Magick7's Moonlight Stories Index





Apparition Investigated


Joseph Taylor




In a village in one of the midland counties of Scotland, lived a widow, distinguished among her neighbours for decency of manners, integrity, and respect for religion. She affirmed that, for several nights together, she had heard a supernatural voice exclaiming aloud, Murder! Murder! This was immediately reported through the neighbourhood: all were alarmed, and looked around them with solicitude for the detection of the murder which they supposed to have been committed; and it was not long till a discovery seemed actually to be made. It was reported, that a gentleman, who had relations at no great distance, and had been residing in the West Indies, had lately arrived with a considerable fortune; that he had lodged at an inn about three miles off; and that he had afterwards been seen entering a house in the village where the widow lived, from which he had never returned. It was next affirmed, that a tradesman, passing the church-yard about twelve at midnight, had seen four men carry a dead corpse into that cemetery.

These three facts being joined together, seemed perfectly to agree, and to confirm one another; and all believed some horrible murder had been committed. The relations of the gentleman thought they were called upon to make inquiry into the truth of these allegations: they accordingly came first to the church-yard, where, in company with the sexton, they examined all the graves with great care, in order to discover whether any of them had lately been dug, or had the appearance of containing more than one coffin. But this search was to no purpose, for no alteration had been made upon the graves. It was next reported, that the murdered man had been buried in a plantation about a mile distant from the village. As the alarm was now very general, a number of the inhabitants proposed, of their own accord, to explore it. They accordingly spread themselves over the wood, and searched it with care; but no grave, or new-dug earth, was found.

The matter did not rest here. The person who was said to have seen four men carry a dead corpse into the church-yard at midnight, was summoned to appear before a meeting of the justices of the peace. Upon examination, he denied any knowledge of the affair; but referred the court to another person, from whom he had received his information. This person was examined, and the result was the same as the former. In short, one person had heard it from another, who had received it from a third, who had heard it from a fourth; but it had received a little embellishment from every person who repeated it: it turned out to be the same with Smollett's story of the three black crows, which somebody was said to have vomited.

Upon inquiry at the inn, where it was said the West-India gentleman had lodged, no such gentleman had been seen there; and it was found afterwards, he had never left the West Indies.

Still, however, the veracity of the widow was not disputed; and some dark and secret transaction was suspected. But the whole affair was at length explained, by discovering that she was somewhat deranged by melancholy; and the cries which she at first imagined she had heard, were afterwards imitated by some roguish person, who was highly amused with spreading terror among the credulous.