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Lord Byron, and many others, not only believed in the existence of the Black Friar, but asserted that they had really seen it. It did not confine its visitations, however, to the "haunted chamber," but at night walked the cloisters and other portions of the Abbey:
A monk arrayed
Now in the moonlight, and now lapsed in shade,
This apparition is the evil genius of the Byrons, and its appearance portends misfortune of some kind to the member of the family to whom it appears. Lord Byron fully believed that he beheld this apparition a short time before the greatest misfortune of his life, his ill-starred union with Miss Millbanke. Alluding to his faith in these things, he said :
I merely mean to say what Johnson said,
That in the course of some six thousand years,
A visitant at intervals appears ;
Is that whatever bar the reason rears
And he thus introduces the presumed duties, as it were, of the Black Friar :
By the marriage-bed of their lords, 'tis said,
He flits on the bridal eve;
When an heir is born, he is heard to mourn,
And when aught is to befall
He walks from hall to hall.
His form you may trace, but not his face,
'Tis shadowed by his cowl;
And they seem of a parted soul.
Among the numerous people who have asserted that they saw the Black Friar was a Miss Kitty Parkins, a relative of the poet; and she is even said to have made a sketch of the apparition from memory.
NORTH SHIELDS: STEVENSON
The following account, certainly one of the most remarkable in our collection, is related upon the authority of Mrs. Crowe, who introduces it in her Night Side of Nature, as having been furnished to her by the Mrs. Ļ. of the story, herself a lady, remarks Mrs. Crowe, “ with whose family I am acquainted.”
A few years since, Mrs. L. took a furnished house in Stevenson Street, North Shields, and she had been in it a very few hours before she was perplexed by hearing feet in the passage, though whenever she opened the door she could see nobody. She went to the kitchen,
and asked the servant if she had not heard the same sound ; she said she had not, but there seemed to be strange noises in the house. When Mrs. L. went to bed, she could not go to sleep for the noise of a child's rattle, which seemed to be inside her curtains. It rattled round her head, first on one side then on the other; then there were sounds of feet and of a child crying, and a woman sobbing; and, in short, so many strange noises, that the servant became frightened, and went away. The next girl Mrs. L. engaged came from Leith, and was a stranger to the place; but she had only passed a night in the house, when she said to her mistress, " This is a troubled house you've got into ma'am,” and she described, amongst the rest, that she had repeatedly heard her own name called by a voice near her, though she could see nobody.
One night Mrs. L. heard a voice, like nothing human, close to her, cry, “Weep! Weep! Weep!” Then there was a sound like someone struggling for breath, and again, “ Weep! Weep! Weep!” Then the gasping, and a third time,“ Weep! Weep! Weep!” She stood still, and looked steadfastly on the spot whence the voice proceeded, but could see nothing; and her little boy, who held her hand, kept saying, “What is that, Mamma ? What is that?” She describes the sound as most frightful. All the noises seemed to suggest the idea of childhood, and of a woman in trouble. One night, when it was crying round her bed, Mrs. L. took courage and adjured it; upon which the noise ceased for that time, but there was no answer. Mr. L. was at sea when she took the house, and when he came home, he laughed at the story at first, but soon became so convinced the account she gave was correct, that he wanted to have the boards taken up, because, from the noises seeming to hover much about one spot, he thought perhaps some explanation of the mystery might be found. But Mrs. L. objected that if anything of a painful nature were discovered she should not be able to continue in the house; and, as she must pay the year's rent, she wished, if possible, to continue for the whole period.
She never saw anything but twice; once, the appearance of a child seemed to fall from the ceiling close to her, and then disappear; and another time she saw a child run into a closet in a room at the top of the house ; and it was most remarkable that a small door in that room which was used for going out on the roof, always stood open. However often they shut it, it was opened again immediately by an unseen hand, even before they got out of the room, and this continued the whole time they were in the house ; whilst night and day, someone in creaking shoes was heard pacing backwards and forwards in the room over Mr. and Mrs. L.'s heads.
At length the year expired, and, to their great relief, they quitted the house ; but five or six years afterwards, a person who had bought it having taken up the floor of that upper room to repair it, there was found, close to the small door above alluded to, the skeleton of a child. It was then remembered that some years before, a gentleman of somewhat dissolute habits had resided there, and that he was supposed to have been on very intimate terms with a young woman servant who lived with him ; but there had been no suspicion of anything more criminal.
The famous Dr. Abercrombie, in his Inquiries concerning the Intellectual Powers, adduces, as an undoubted fact, one of the most singular and inexplicable stories on record. The marvel of this story does not merely consist in the wonderful coincidence of the two concurring and synchronous dreams, but also in the persistent way with which the mother held that she had not dreamed her son appeared to her, but that he had really, if not in body then in spirit, been to her bedside and spoken to her. The account of this extraordinary affair was written by one of the persons concerned; that is to say, the Rev. Joseph Wilkins, who at the time it occurred, in 1754, he being then twenty-three years of age, was usher in a school at St. Mary Ottery, Devonshire, celebrated as the birth-place of Coleridge. Wilkins subsequently became a well-known dissenting minister.
“One night,” runs his narrative, “soon after I was in bed, I fell asleep, and dreamed I was going to Lon'