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Archive for the ‘Paranormal’ Category

Cloud Walks

In honor of Derby Day, I decided a story about a horse would be in order. I’ve never run across one about a ghostly racehorse (more’s the pity) but this one, from Unicoi County in my beloved East Tennessee, is a favorite. I first read it in Randy Russell and Janet Barnett’s collection of ghost tales and legends The Granny Curse (1999).

Holland Higgins was an early settler of Unicoi County, an Irishman with ancestral love of the land and of horses in his blood. Higgins had a favorite horse: a whitish-grayish stallion, the color of ashes with a dark mane and tail, whom he called Cloud. The two were inseparable; if you saw Higgins, he was invariably on Cloud’s broad back, riding around his acreage, passing the time of day with neighbors, and trotting home, man and horse tired but content, at day’s end.

On Big Bald Mountain, not far from Higgins’ home, there lived a hermit in a jerry-built shack. The hermit’s name was David Greer, but he was known far and near as Hog (which we pronounce Hawg) because of his exceptionally poor personal hygiene and the filthy state of his living quarters. He had come to the area as a paid cattle herder, and stayed on, much to his neighbors’ disgust. Nobody much liked the hermit, who became infamous for his drinking habits and violent temper.

Hog Greer, despite his nastiness and surliness, was a man who appreciated a fine horse. He tried to buy Cloud, always without success. After Holland Higgins refused, one last time, to sell the horse to him, Greer resorted to murder. One day in late November of 1824, he ambushed Higgins as he and Cloud rode by, knocking Higgins to the ground and shooting him through the heart as he lay.

Cloud ran off home before Greer could catch his reins, arriving riderless and covered in foam. One of Holland Higgins’s sons caught him, and Cloud led him to Higgins’ dead body. The son, shocked and grieving, laid his father’s body across the saddle, and for the last time, Cloud bore his beloved master home.

The neighbors knew of Hog Greer’s obsessive desire to own Cloud, and blamed him for Higgins’ murder. Greer prudently retreated to his shack on Big Bald Mountain and stayed there.

Cloud, meantime, deprived of his dearest friend, had gone flat mad. He refused to eat or drink, and paced his stall.

On the night of Holland Higgins’ wake, Cloud kicked his stall down and ran.

Later, the family and neighbors would learn that he ran all the way to Hog Greer’s filthy shack. He kicked down the door, knocked down the post in the middle of the floor that held up Greer’s loft bedroom, and, when Greer fell out, almost trampled him to death. Greer managed to get his gun and fire one shot, but missed. In desperation, he grabbed a log out of the fireplace, and swung it like a club. Cloud, startled by an explosion of ash and embers, backed away, and Greer, badly burned about hands, forearms and face by his makeshift weapon, managed to escape. Before daylight, he left for other parts.

Cloud returned home. He wouldn’t remain in his stall; he roamed the countryside, often pausing by the little cemetery where Higgins rested. He never ate or drank; he merely roamed. Lost without Higgins, he died, broken in heart and body, before Christmas.

But Cloud was not dead in spirit.

ghost horse Danielle Fekete

For the past two centuries, there have been reports of a ghostly horse who roams the area of Holland Higgins’ farmstead. Sometimes, he’s seen, galloping madly along the route he took home that late November day in 1824 when Higgins was killed; other times, he has actually entered homes–including, for many years, the cabin, disinfected and occupied by others after Hog Greer’s precipitate departure,–where, later tenants reported, the door Cloud kicked in would open on its own, and a ghostly horse would thunder through. Sometimes, they would hear the sound of a horse’s hooves in the fireplace, and embers, soot and ashes would fly through the room.

In Unicoi County, they think Cloud is still looking for Hog Greer, determined to kill him.

Cloud never found him. Greer was shot to death during an argument with a blacksmith in the spring of 1834.

I found the illustration of a ghost horse on the Internet; it was done in 2004 by Danielle Fekete. I hope she doesn’t mind me using it; it reminded me of this story the first time I saw it.

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In addition to being the saint’s day of Valentine, martyr and patron of lovers, February 14 is the anniversary of a number of bloody deeds that have nothing to do with love or romance.

Certainly this holds true for the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day massacre, the bloodiest episode in Chicago mob history. A culmination of a turf war between “Scarface” Al Capone and an Irish mobster named George “Bugs” Moran, its intent was to get Moran out of the way. Two things intervened that day to save Moran; he saw a couple of men in police uniform entering 2122 North Clark Street, where the massacre took place, turned around and left, while a Capone gunman mistook Moran gang member Albert Weinschenk for Moran himself, thus setting the massacre in motion before Moran’s arrival.

There are stories that the empty lot that once was 2122 North Clark Street is haunted to this day by phantom gunshots and the traumatized spirit of a German shepherd, the pet of one victim. Less well-known, perhaps, is the haunting that followed none other than Scarface himself, beginning in 1929 and, it’s said, continuing until his own death in 1947.

Capone thought it expedient, once the smoke of the massacre had cleared somewhat, to get out of Chicago for awhile. He and an associate took a road trip to Pennsylvania, where they fell afoul of local weapons laws and were sentenced to eight months in Philadelphia’s infamous Eastern State Penitentiary. Capone’s money insured that, in theory, he did not do hard time.

Capone cell Eastern State Penitentiary<

Or did he?

It was during his stay in Eastern State that early reports surfaced of a weeping, terrified Capone begging someone he called "Jimmy" to leave him alone.

Jimmy, it transpired, was the specter of James Clark, one of the seven men who died on that bloody February 14th. Born Albert Kachellek, Clark was Bugs Moran's second in command and brother-in-law. Why he, of the seven–not to mention all the other men who, down the years, had died on Capone's orders–should show up to haunt Scarface Al is a mystery. Some have suggested that Capone was already suffering from softening of the brain and possible hallucinations due to neurosyphilis; others, that Clark was a fragment of Capone's guilty conscience, if such Capone had; or even, perhaps, was a ghostly union rep of sorts, leader of all those whose secondhand blood stained Capone's hands.

There were those among Capone's guards and close friends, however, who would claim to have seen Clark's ghost, staring fish-eyed at Capone as Capone begged for mercy.

Capone is said to have called in a medium named Alice Britt in 1931 to try to find out what Clark wanted. Apparently, Britt was unsuccessful, and Clark continued to follow Capone: through his trial for income tax evasion, through the first years of his eleven-year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, and then, in 1934, to the Rock–Alcatraz, where Capone did three turns in "the hole" for rules infractions, played a fifteen-hundred-dollar banjo in a prison band and in the shower, was confined in solitary after attempts were made on his life, and slowly lost his mind.

Paroled in 1939, Capone left Alcatraz a broken man. Back in Chicago the mob had moved on; new leaders had taken his place, and even those loyal to him realized, once they saw him, that Capone would never control the mob again; as one observed, "Al's nuttier than a fruitcake."

Capone died, ironically, in his bed, of cardiac arrest following a stroke and a bout of pneumonia, in 1947. The ghost of James Clark, it's said, was with him till the end.

After Capone's death, no one reported an encounter with James Clark's spirit again.

Sources

The Haunting of Al Capone at prairieghosts.com

Dennis William Hauck, The National Directory of Haunted Places (1996 edition)

Ursula Bielski, More Chicago Haunts: Scenes from Myth and Memory (2000)

Jeff Belanger, Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales from Around the World (2005)

For stories specific to the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre:

Dale Kaczmarek, Windy City Ghosts: The Haunted History of Chicago (2000)

Richard T. Crowe and Carol Mercado, Chicago’s Street Guide to the Supernatural (2000)

And may your Valentine’s Day be a happy one–just sayin’– 😉

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Some of the most terrifying ghostlore in the world comes from Japan. Japanese ghosts tend to be far more malevolent and violent than their spectral western cohorts, and far less attractive in appearance. Many Japanese ghosts return to avenge themselves on the living, as in this story of a murdered wife who comes back to destroy the new life her wicked husband intends to make for himself and a younger, wealthier woman.

A samurai warrior from Yotsuya in Tokyo, whose name is lost in time, took as his wife an extremely beautiful, gentle woman called Oiwa. Oiwa was faithful in all things to her husband, in the old ways of the Japanese wife–right down to the way she never addressed him by his name: she always called him “Husband”.

Unfortunately, Husband was in no wise as faithful and loving as Oiwa. Some years into their marriage, he met and fell in love–or lust–with a young woman from a great and wealthy family. His new love was called Matsue, and as time passed he grew more obsessed with her. Eventually, he decided it was time for Oiwa to die, to clear the way for a marriage between him and Matsue.

One night he persuaded Oiwa to go for a walk with him, along cliffs above the sea. It was the dark of the moon, and, with no one to observe or prevent him, he gave Oiwa a hard shove to her death on the rocks below.

Next day, he and his friends went looking for her, finding her with her lovely face smashed to pieces and her broken body covered in sand and seaweed.

Husband put on an excellent show of grief, claiming that she had met with a fatal accident. With no witnesses, he got away with that spurious claim.

After Oiwa’s funeral, he returned alone to their home. He fell asleep on a mat, to dream of Matsue.

He was awakened by a high wind that shook the paper walls, one of which slid open to reveal Oiwa–but a changed Oiwa, her clothes in rags, one eye hanging on her cheek, her teeth broken, her hands like claws, reaching for him.

As he tried to hold back a scream, Oiwa hissed a single word at him: Vengeance. . .

Husband fled the house. The next night, he slept in an abandoned home nearby. Too nervous to be alone in the dark, he left a paper lantern burning near his bed. At midnight, he woke to find that, unaccountably, vines had broken through the walls and begun to writhe and shape themselves in to a semblance of Oiwa’s body. A cold breeze blew through the crack in the paper walls made by the vines, and the candle burning in the lantern guttered, setting the paper afire. Strangely, the fire made holes like two glowing eyes, and the bottom of the lantern moved like a jaw. Out of the fire came Oiwa’s voice: Vengeance. . .

Slashing at the vines with his sword, he ran shrieking into the night.

The formidable persecution continued unabated. At an inn, as he and two companions sat drinking tea, the two men suddenly seemed to go into a trance state and tried to kill him. When he shouted at them, asking what they were about, they answered in perfect unison, in Oiwa’s voice. Vengeance. . .

To this point Matsue, busy planning their wedding, had had no inkling of Oiwa’s unnatural death and return. Matsue happened, one day, to overhear Oiwa’s voice from another room, speaking to Husband, and became jealous, but he managed to persuade her that she had heard no woman’s voice.

At an engagement party, thrown by Husband to pacify Matsue, Oiwa appeared among the guests. Husband tried valiantly to distract the company with loud laughter, jokes and boasts, not realizing that he alone could see the hideous ghost of his late wife. Oiwa approached him as he grew noisier; he fell backwards, upsetting a tea table in his haste to get away, as Oiwa purred Vengeance. . .

Husband drew his sword and began flailing away at the ghost. His friends, thinking him drunk or mad, disarmed him, while an embarassed and terrified Matsue ran away. Their engagement was broken the next day.

Husband’s life was ruined, and he knew it. Eventually, on a night in the dark of the moon, demoralized and tired, he made his way to the cliffs where he had pushed Oiwa to her death. She was with him as he walked to the edge of the cliff and hurled himself over to die on the rocks, as she had.

The waves carried away Oiwa’s last whisper–Vengeance. . .–as she vanished into the darkness.

Richard and Judy Dockrey Young tell the story of Oiwa’s vengeance in their 1991 book Ghost Stories of the American Southwest. The Youngs say this is only one of many variants of a story called “Yotsuya Kaidan”–“Ghost Story from Yotsuya”–and is a favorite among California’s Nisei (American-born descendants of Japanese immigrants) people.

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Hot blood doesn’t necessarily keep a young man from getting cold feet, especially when his life is threatened over a forbidden love. Caisho Burroughes cut and ran from such an affair. . .

and the lady followed him, from beyond the grave.

Caisho Burroughes was a thug, despite his high birth. The son of an English diplomat who served Charles I as envoy to Germany, he was fond of drinking and fighting and chasing women, not always in that order.

Sir John Burroughes took his wayward eldest son with him when he went to assume his post, leaving the boy in Florence to continue his education and to study the Italian language. Caisho turned to his preferred pursuits as soon as his father was out of sight.

He was stopped in his happy tracks by the most beautiful woman he had ever met.

Her name is not recorded, but she was the young mistress of the contemporary Grand Duke of Tuscany. The fire between her and Caisho Burroughes took them both by surprise, and their surprise made them dangerously indiscreet. They were constantly to be seen in each other’s company, and the lady even offered, if Caisho would simply say the word, to leave the Grand Duke behind and devote herself to Caisho for life.

The Duke, naturally, was told about their affair. A cold but jealous and possessive man by nature, he decided the best way to deal with Caisho Burroughes was to arrange an accident in which the lad would, tragically, die.

Caisho was warned by friends of the plot against him. He laughed the warning off at first, but that very night he was involved in a brawl–a put-up job in which he would have been stabbed had the two friends with him not frightened off his would-be killer.

Not many years before, a playwright had sagely observed that the better part of valor is discretion. Caisho, on the whole, agreed with him. He left Florence in such haste that he never thought to tell the mistress he shared with the Grand Duke that he was returning to England to save his own hide.

That task was left to an angry and vengeful duke, who lost no time in castigating his mistress for her poor choice of men with whom to deceive him. Faithless and treacherous were the kindest terms with which he reproached her. Worse yet, he laughed at her protestations of love for the absent Caisho; how she could feel love for such an arrant coward was beyond him.

Pining for Caisho, and knowing the Duke could and would make the remainder of her life a living hell, she killed herself.

In London, Caisho Burroughes was sharing a room with a longtime friend, Colonel Remes, a somewhat older military man who was also a member of Parliament. Remes was unmarried, and the two settled in to a life of wine, women, and song.

One night, they were already in bed when a lady suddenly appeared at the foot of Caisho’s bed: the shade of his deserted Florentine lover. Remes watched and listened in horror as the filmy figure spoke to Caisho, reproaching him for leaving her to the Duke’s savage reprisals against her. She told Caisho that she was dead, and that he would be before long; he would be killed in a duel. And, she added, he would pray for that day, for she would haunt him as long as he lived.

Then she vanished. Although Caisho and Remes, once they had calmed down, joked about inviting the beautiful ghost to join them for a three-way should she visit again, a second visit frightened Remes so badly that he moved out.

An equally terrified Caisho persuaded his younger brother to come share his room; the brother, too, deserted him after seeing the lovely ghost, with her warning of doom.

Thereafter, Caisho would not return to his lodgings; he spent his nights in the lowest of taverns, drinking and cavorting with far less fine ladies. During one such night, he got into a fight with a stranger–a fight that escalated into a challenge to meet on the field of honor.

Caisho accepted, and returned to his room, one last time, to try to get some rest. He got none; his ghostly sweetheart returned and gloatingly informed him that he would die this day.

A hungover and exhausted Caisho didn’t stand a chance against the determined and angry stranger, falling with the man’s blade through his heart.

Opponent and seconds reported that, as Caisho lay dying, an odd mist gathered around him, taking a recognizably human form–of the lover he had so callously betrayed.

Vida Derry tells the story of Caisho Burroughes and his vengeful sweetheart in John Canning’s 50 Great Ghost Stories (1971).

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Truly, Melanie Lanier didn’t leave the Yankees who hanged her a lot of choice: she had tried to kill a man while attempting to break her husband and six hundred other POWs out of Massachusetts’ Fort Warren, and, dressed in civilian clothes, was tried and convicted as a spy.

Melanie doesn’t quite see it that way. She has tried, periodically, to avenge herself, as long as there were soldiers stationed at Fort Warren–and perhaps beyond.

Melanie was a newlywed when her husband, Samuel (some sources say Andrew) Lanier marched off to war, wearing the insignia of a Confederate lieutenant. When word came that he had been captured in Virginia, she immediately began to search for him.

Her search was narrowed down for her when a Confederate sympathizer from Boston sent word that Lt. Lanier, and six hundred others, were imprisoned at Fort Warren on Georges Island, seven miles or so from the city.

Melanie, determined to get her true love out of captivity, traveled to Boston as fast as she could through war and winter. Upon her arrival, she used the same Confederate sympathizer to obtain a rather curious paraphernalia: a shovel, a pickax, a man’s dark suit–and a pistol. She cut off her long hair, donned hat and suit, and rowed out to the island, where she slipped past Union sentries and into the fort.

Lt. Lanier and his fellow POWs had already been working on an escape plan: to dig a tunnel from their cells to the parade ground at the center of the fort, where they would break out, take control of the armory, and turn the tables on their captors. Melanie’s shovel and pickax came in mighty handy in this endeavor.

Like many well-laid plans, this one went awry.

Under cover of darkness, the POWs and Melanie broke out of the tunnel to find themselves staring into a heavily armed guard, led by the colonel in command of the fort.

The POWs surrendered; unarmed, they didn’t stand a chance.

Melanie Lanier, desperate to get her man out and on the way home, stood and fought. Pulling out her pistol, she fired point-blank at the colonel.

Unfortunately, the gun was of rather shoddy workmanship, and damp to boot. It exploded in her hand. When the smoke cleared, the colonel was still standing.

Lt. Lanier lay dead. A fragment from the pistol had pierced his brain, killing him instantly.

Melanie fell by her husband’s side, screaming his name. Only then did the Union colonel realize she was a woman–a woman who had, somehow, gotten into the fort.

She might have lived had she donned a uniform before sneaking past the sentries. Unfortunately, in civilian clothes, she was accounted a Southern spy. Her gender could not save her.

Melanie Lanier was hanged on February 2, 1862, wearing a black theatrical costume the soldiers of Fort Warren had found for her.

Seven weeks later, she struck from beyond the grave. A night sentry was accosted from behind and nearly strangled to death before he managed to shake off his attacker. He turned, winded and wheezing, to find himself staring into the dead face of Melanie Lanier. She was surrounded by a mysterious pale light, and vanished as he ran, as best he could, from his post. For his pains, and despite his vivid description of being strangled by the ghostly Melanie, he was sentenced to thirty days in solitary for deserting his post.

Over the years there have been many reports of Melanie’s angry spirit at Fort Warren. That first attack was one of several.

Occasionally, she would resort to poltergeist tricks: a running poker game, carried on in an ordnance room, had to be moved to another spot because she would roll stones across the floor, breaking the players’ concentration.

Many times, soldiers on sentry duty were reprimanded for firing their weapons at the Lady in Black, as she came to be known. She apparently was fond of strolling the parapets at night, and did not answer when challenged. She would, however, disappear when fired upon.

Small bare footprints in the snow, in the depths of winter at the fort, have been attributed to Melanie’s wandering spirit.

The most shattering of her appearances came during the Second World War. She approached a sentry on night duty and so terrified him–whether by strangling him or simply by her unexpected appearance is not recorded–that he is said to have had a complete breakdown and ended up spending more than twenty years in a mental hospital.

Interestingly, there have never been reports of the shade of her hapless husband.

Melanie Lanier made a ghostly career out of vengeance. She took her death personally.

Fort Warren has been decommissioned and is now a historic site. Brochures are said to tell Melanie Lanier’s sad story.

Sources:

Dennis William Hauck, The National Directory of Haunted Places (1996 edition)

S. E. Schlosser, Spooky New England (2004)

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There are many stories of enmity between sisters who, for whatever reason, want the same man. Some end in murder; others in broken sisterly ties that persist unto death. The story of Princess Orloff and her hapless sister Rosaleen falls into that last category. The big surprise is–whose death?

Angelica and Rosaleen Parrott were born fifteen years apart to an Irish squire and his mentally unstable wife, at the great house of Shallardstown, in County Waterford. When Rosaleen, the younger, was fourteen, their mother committed suicide.

A couple of years later, while Angelica was away on a trip to Paris and Rosaleen was at boarding school, their father died suddenly. As the estate was entailed, Angelica inherited it. If she died without issue, the estate would pass to Rosaleen and her children.

Angelica was not best pleased with that idea. She was a brilliant, well-educated, rather cold woman, whose chief passion in life was the maintenance of horses. The much younger Rosaleen was, by comparison, a featherhead; petted and indulged by her father and by staff to compensate for her mother’s often cruel and bewildering behavior, she was flighty and immature, and would bear close watching.

Angelica, therefore, began searching for a husband for herself: one who could give her strong sons to follow her at Shallardstown. She would find a gentle, kind man for Rosaleen, settle money and property on her, and all would be well.

Rather as she might study a horse to stand at stud, Angelica studied the men around her, and eventually chose a musclebound oaf of good family but little fortune named Dagan Ferriter for her husband. As she was known to be wealthier than God Himself, Ferriter accepted her business deal with alacrity. Their engagement was to be announced at a Christmas party at Shallardstown.

Rosaleen was summoned home from school for the holidays, and Angelica’s whole plan went to pieces; Dagan Ferriter fell madly in lust with pretty simpering biddable Rosaleen the moment he laid eyes on her. Nothing would do but he must have her, and so he told Angelica, minutes before she was to announce their wedding plans.

Angelica, for a wonder, announced that Rosaleen and Dagan Ferriter would be married in the new year, and gave them her blessing. Once the pair were wed, she sent them off on an extended honeymoon to the Continent, telling them to spare no expense, but to send all their bills to her; she also made them a handsome allowance. Then, she too left Shallardstown, for a visit with friends in London.

There she met a man altogether better suited to her than studly Dagan Ferriter: a Russian prince and breeder of horses called Nicholas Orloff. They were married in April, scarcely three months after Ferriter and Rosaleen, and the prince and his new princess traveled to Moscow to meet his family. If Orloff thought it strange that his wife did not send word of her marriage to her sister and brother-in-law, reportedly living the high life in Italy, or propose to visit them, he didn’t say so.

Angelica made one stipulation upon her marriage. She must, she solemnly told Orloff, be back at Shallardstown by the new year; she had a plan that must be set in motion by then. Orloff agreed.
They began the return trip in the fall, reaching Paris in the third week of December; there, a chest cold Nicholas Orloff had caught on the journey turned to pneumonia, and he was dead within days. Angelica buried him there, and hastened on to Shallardstown.

Once there, she reorganized her household staff from top to bottom, putting the day-to-day management in the hands of a sinister man named William Creed. It was largely due to his strict adherence to her plan, outlined for him when she hired him, that Angelica, Princess Orloff, was able to wreak her vengeance on her sister and the faithless Dagan Ferriter.

She began by cutting off their hitherto princely allowance and refusing to pay any more of their bills, and telling them sharply to come home. When they arrived, horrified and angry, at the gates of Shallardstown, they were met by Creed, who told them curtly that the princess would not see them. She would provide them with a small living allowance, and that was all.

Rosaleen and Dagan never saw Angelica–living–again. The one time they tried to approach her, on her afternoon drive in a horse-drawn landau–an inviolable custom, undertaken, so rumor said, so the princess could take the air–Creed called on them and threatened to cut off even their meager stipend. They never approached her again.

These drives were timed precisely. Each day, at three PM, the horses and landau pulled up in front of Shallardstown, and Creed would escort the princess, always attired in a purple brocade cape, a wide purple hat, and a thick veil, to her seat in it. The coachman would chirrup to the horses, and off they would go, returning to the house at precisely four PM.

Incredibly, this charade went on for thirty years.

In 1872, Dagan Ferriter, by now a raving drunk with a severely arthritic wife and five dead children to his credit, made the mistake of trying to pick a fight with one of Angelica’s house servants in a bar. The man knocked him down, then got in his face and told him that Angelica was dead. She had been dead for years.

The next day, Dagan and several sober companions marched up to the great house to be greeted by Creed, the butler. When they demanded to see the princess, Creed confirmed the manservant’s tale: Angelica, Princess Orloff, had been dead for eleven years.

She had left a letter, dated 1861, in which she explained that she had been determined to avenge herself on Ferriter for ruining her plan to bear an heir (and a few spares) for Shallardstown. To that end, she had made him and Rosaleen totally dependent on her largesse for such living as they had; then, she set out to convince them and the whole countryside that she was living when, in fact, she was dying of a cancerous tumor. Much of the time, her place in the landau had been taken by a lifesize doll, jointed to move like a person and dressed in her familiar purple. Once she was dead, Creed had instructions to continue as if she were still living, with the afternoon drives–a feat he accomplished for eleven years.

Their sudden good fortune did not improve Dagan and Rosaleen’s lives in the least. Dagan drank himself to death within a year, and Rosaleen, having outlived all her children, survived him by only a few more.

Shallardstown passed to a cousin. In later years it served as a Catholic boys school.

It was reported that boys and masters at the school would sometimes see a figure in purple walk down the great staircase. This figure would stop at a glass case which contained an oddity: a horse whip with a malachite handle. The figure would then go out the front door, and sounds of horses and a carriage would be heard.

A later caretaker of the house also reported seeing the figure in purple. This caretaker frequently would find the lid missing from the whip’s glass case, and the whip’s handle warm, as if lately held in a human hand.

James Reynolds told the twisted tale of Princess Orloff’s revenge in his 1947 book Ghosts in Irish Houses.

The late parapsychologist Hans Holzer was so intrigued by Reynolds’s story that, in the 1960s, he went looking for the house at Shallardstown, which was still standing, according to Reynolds, as late as 1937. Holzer never found a trace of it, nor, among the story-loving Irish, did he encounter anyone who had ever heard of it.

Just sayin’–but true or not, it’s a great story of vengeance.

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A mother’s mad hatred; a daughter’s broken heart; a soldier’s execution. All three come together in a tale of forbidden love between a beautiful Afrikaner girl and a British major. The daughter took a ghastly revenge on the one she held responsible for his death,but it is her soldier lover who walks the Transvaal to this day.

Love knows no enemies. Wartime has shown this again and again. One such case was the love between Caroline Potgieter, the twenty-year-old daughter of a farmer who was serving with Boer forces during the Second Boer War (1899-1902), and a British major whose name is remembered only as Vernon.

The pair met when the British army commandeered the Potgieter home for officer housing, quartering Vernon and three fellow officers in the house. Mrs. Potgieter, worried for her husband and infuriated by having enemy officers in her home, worked herself into a demonic hatred for the British.

Caroline, tall, dark, beautiful and twenty years old, felt differently; she was soon in love with handsome Major Vernon, and he with her.

Three weeks after Vernon’s arrival, orders came down for British troops to go on the attack against nearby Boer entrenchments. On the night he was supposed to depart for the front, Vernon came to Caroline and asked her to marry him at war’s end.

Mindful of her mother’s hatred of the British and remembering that, after all, he was one of the enemy, Caroline gave him her answer; she would marry him, but only if he laid down his arms, then and there. She would help him hide until they could get away to the nearest safe place–fifty miles away, in what was then Portuguese East Africa–where they would settle and marry.

Such was Vernon’s love that he deserted, then and there, hiding in the Potgieter attic as British troops moved out. Caroline, meanwhile, was laying plans for their escape; she had purchased a buckboard and made arrangements for fresh horses at various stages along their run.

On the day before their planned departure, the British returned.

Warned by the family’s native servant that British troops were approaching, Caroline and Vernon tried to make a run for it.

They reckoned without her mother. Mrs. Potgieter met the British officers at the door and turned collaborator, telling them that Caroline had hidden Vernon away for a month or more, and pointing them on the route the lovers planned to take on their way to the border.

The British mounted up and thundered after the couple. Caroline had taken the reins and was whipping the first pair of horses to a frenzied run when shots were fired, and Vernon, fearing for her safety, took them from her and pulled up. He was arrested, and he and Caroline were escorted back to the Potgieter home.

Tried and sentenced to death as a deserter by field court-martial, Vernon died by firing squad, on a hill overlooking the Potgieter farm, two days after their abortive escape. A tearless Caroline watched in silence from a short distance away as he died and was buried. Before she returned home she placed a wreath on his grave.

One can only wonder what happened in the Potgieter home after the execution: such contrasts as Caroline’s stony grief and her mother’s ugly joy at having prevented her daughter from running away with a hated Britisher can scarcely be imagined.

Something did happen, though. That night, a fire broke out at the farmhouse. Locals could only watch as the flames raced through walls and roof and all collapsed in embers. When the ashes cooled, someone found a body, charred beyond recognition, of a shortish, plumpish woman, obviously that of Mrs. Potgieter. No cause of death could be definitely established.

Caroline was missing, and indeed was never seen again in her hometown.

Some ten years after the war ended, natives first reported seeing a phantom near the ruined farmhouse: not a woman, but a man in the uniform of a British soldier from the late war. He walked down the slope of a hill–the hill on which Vernon had been executed–and stood for a long while, staring at the ruins, before walking back up the hill toward the cemetery where Vernon was buried.

Reports came in for two consecutive years following the initial sighting of this British soldier. In the second year, two Afrikaners reported that they were close enough that they could see a bullet hole and bloodstains on the front of his uniform, around the heart.

His appearances, it was noted, tended to come in the month of October–presumably around the anniversary of his death–and in the few days leading up to Christmas. Later reports said that he had an expression of deep sorrow on his face. Many people, both Afrikaner and English, tried to speak with him over the years, but he never responded; he simply would turn away and walk up the hill.

Although other British soldiers died and were buried in the area during 1899-1902, only Vernon might have reason to return to the ruins of the Potgieter house, perhaps searching in vain for his beloved Caroline.

The most recent report of his sad spirit dates to 1947.

Bill Wharton wrote of the sad British soldier in Visions of Ghost Armies: From the Files of Fate Magazine (2003).

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