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  • Ghost Funeral in Liverpool April 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    This is an unusually well written ghost account from Liverpool. It does not appear to come up in any of Tom Slemen’s work on Liverpool (though Beach waits to be contradicted!). This appeared in the Liverpool Post in 1891. Note that in Ireland (with which Liverpool has strong migrant links) this could almost be a fairy funeral.

    Having been concerned in a most remarkable and altogether inexplicable adventure the other evening, winch happened to me in Thomas-lane, Knotty Ash, I have been induced, at the earnest solicitation of many friends, to communicate the following particulars of the same to the Liverpool public as being of more than ordinary interest… I was proceeding leisurely on foot to Broadgreen when, on passing the church at Knotty Ash, my attention was suddenly arrested by the strange and uncanny appearance of its graveyards. The time would then be shortly after midnight. The whole burying ground seemed alive, and glistening with a thousand small blueish lights, which appeared to creep in and out of the different graves, as if the departed spirits were taking a midnight ramble.

    There’s quite a bit of this in northern English tradition. It would be interesting to know the calendar date.

    I stood petrified, not knowing what to make of it, at the same experiencing a feeling of horror which suddenly took complete possession of me. Just at this moment the moon, which had hitherto been more or less obscured by a moving panorama of passing clouds came, as it would seem, to my assistance, giving me for a very short time the benefit of her companionship. And now appeared the most startling phenomenon of all, a phenomenon which caused my hair to stand on end with fright, a cold numbness of horror paralysing me in every limb, for, advancing up the road directly opposite to me, came a funeral train, the coffin borne along with measured tread, covered with an immense black pall, which fluttered up in the midnight wind. At first I thought I most surely be dreaming, and therefore pinched myself in the arm to ascertain if this were really the case, but no, I certainly was not, for I distinctly felt the nip, and was therefore satisfied as to my wakefulness. ‘What could it all mean?’ I asked myself as the cortege gradually approached me, and I began to distinguish the general outlines of the bearers. These appeared to be elderly men and to have lived in a bygone age. All were dressed in the costume of the latter part of the 18th century, They wore tie wigs, and some had swords, as well as walking-sticks mounted with deaths’ heads. I observed only one really young man among the crowd of followers, walking just behind the coffin. His youth, in comparison with the others, perhaps made me take especial notice of him. He was dressed in what appeared to be black velvet, the whiteness of his ruffles standing out in marked contrast to the sombre nature of his general attire. He carried a sword, had diamond buckles in his shoes, and wore his powdered hair in a queue. The face of this young man was deathly pale, as were also the faces of all the others accompanying him. Instead of the procession advancing to the gate at which I stood, it turned suddenly and entered the burial-ground by the one situated at a few yards distance. As the coffin was borne through this gate all the blue spirit lights seemed to rise from the graves as if to meet the cortege for the purpose of escorting the body to its last resting place; these awful lights added considerably to the ghastliness of the scene as they floated over the coffin and heads of thee mourners. Slowly the procession glided up the pathway, passing the main entrance of the church, and, continuing its way in a straight line, finally disappeared at the back of the edifice. Where this most extraordinary funeral went to or what became of it, I cannot tell; but this much I distinctly aver, that coffin, mourners, and lights even the pale flickering moonlight all disappeared as mysteriously as they came, leaving me standing in the darkness, transfixed with astonishment and fright. Upon, gathering together my somewhat scattered senses, I took to my heels and never stopped running till I found myself safe in my own house. In fact, I scarcely remember how I got home.

    Beach likes the denouement; so much of ghost stories depend on how they are wound down (or up).

    After recovering a little from the shock I immediately aroused a female relative who had retired for the night, and related to her the above particulars. She assured me that I must have been suffering from mental hallucination, but, seeing the great perturbation of my mind, and at the same time knowing my natural scepticism with regard to all so-called supernatural phenomena, she came to the conclusion that, after all, I might possibly have seen what has been described above. The next day I made inquiries in the neighbouthood of Knotty Ash, and ascertained from a very old woman that she remembered a story in her youth having reference to the mysterious and sudden death of an old occupant of Thingwall Hall, who was hastily and secretly buried, she thought, at midnight, in old Knotty Ash churchyard; If so, was this a ghastly repetition or the event got up for my especial benefit, or was it a portent intended to foreshadow the coming of the Dread Visitor to myself? Now, as I have before stated, I am no believer in ghosts, but certainly this very remarkable experience of mine has entirely upset all my previous conceived notions of the subject, leaving me in a quandary of doubt. On the evening upon which I saw the mysterious midnight funeral at Knotty Ash, I was exceedingly wide awake; had met several cyclists on the Trescottroad, with whom I conversed, and had likewise refreshed myself at the public drinking fountain placed at the top of Thomas-lane. Strange that a few hundred yards further down the road I should encounter so ghostly an experience, an experience I shall never forget to my dying day.

    Can anyone help with this tale: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Beach notes that Sylvester Tomkyns, published in 1891, a fifty-one page book The Ghost Mystery at Knotty Ash, Liverpool, Or the Mysterious Midnight Funeral. Solitarius, the Ghost-seer, Interviewed After the Most Approved Fashion. The publishers were Tarstow, Denver and Company. The book appears in the Bodleian at Oxford, God help us, and in the National Library of Scotland. It sounds like there may be a genuine memorate (very different from saying a genuine ghost) behind this account.

    Chris, 29 Apr 2017, from Haunted Ohio Books: I always thought that the Liverpool story had too much of the literary tone about it to be a memorate, but it is said that it was written by W.T. Stead, spiritualist and journalist, so perhaps not. The version I have comes from W.T. Stead Greater Britain [London, England] 15 September 1891: p. 37. I included it in a post about other phantom funerals.

    Beach replies. ‘I trust Chris’ judgement over mine… I suspect she’s right about this being a literary story on reflection. I hope to get my hand on the missing book though… Hopefully sooner or later Tom Slemen, the Liverpool ghost man, will write in.