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One of the most curious law suits of recent years occurred at Edinburgh in 1835, concerning the ghost disturbances in a dwelling-house at Trinity, about two miles or so from Edinburgh. This law-suit lasted for two years, and during its progress, Mr. Maurice Lothian, (afterwards Procurator Fiscal for the county), the advocate employed by Mr. Webster, the plaintiff, spent many hours in examining the numerous witnesses, several of whom were military officers, and gentlemen of good social position, but without obtaining any solution of the mysterious affair. The account furnished by Mr. Lothian himself is this :
“ Captain Molesworth took the house of a Mr. Webster, who resided in the adjoining one, in May or June 1835, and when he had been in it about two months, he began to complain of sundry extraordinary noises, which, finding it impossible to account for, he took it into his head, strangely enough, were made by Mr. Webster. The latter naturally represented that it was not probable he should desire to damage the reputation of his own house, or drive his tenant out of it, and retorted the accusation. Still, as these noises and knockings continued, Captain Molesworth not only lifted the boards in the room most infected, but actually made holes in the wall which divided his residence from Mr. Webster's, for the purpose of detecting the delinquent-of course without success. Do what they would, the thing went on just the same; footsteps of invisible feet, knockings, scratchings, and rustlings, first on one side, and then on the other, were heard daily and nightly. Sometimes this unseen agent seemed to be knocking to a certain tune, and if a question were addressed to it which could be answered numerically, as 'How many people are there in this room?' for example, it would answer by so many knocks. The beds, too, were occasionally heaved up, as if somebody were underneath, and where the knockings were, the wall trembled visibly, but, search as they would, no one could be found. Captain Molesworth had had two daughters, one of whom, named Matilda, had lately died; the other, a girl between twelve and thirteen, called Jane, was sickly, and generally kept her bed ; and as it was observed that wherever she was these noises most frequently prevailed, Mr. Webster, who did not like the mala fama that was attaching itself to his house, declared that she made them, whilst the people in the neighbourhood believed that it was the ghost of Matilda warning her sister that she was soon to follow. Sheriff's officers, masons, justices of the peace, and the officers of the regiment quartered at Leith, who were friends of Captain Molesworth, all came to his aid, in hopes of detecting or frightening away his tormentor, but in vain. Sometimes it was said to be a trick of somebody outside the house, and then they formed a cordon round it; and next, as the poor sick girl was suspected, they tied her up in a bag, but it was all to no purpose.
“At length, ill and wearied out by the annoyances and the anxieties attending the affair, Captain Molesworth quitted the house; and Mr. Webster brought an action against him for the damages committed by lifting the boards, breaking the walls, and firing at the wainscot, as well as for the injury done to his house by saying it was haunted, which prevented other tenants taking it.”
Miss Molesworth died soon after “the haunted house" was quitted, hastened out of the world, so people declared, by the severe measures to which she was subjected whilst she was an object of suspicion. At any rate, the house became quiet after the Captain and his family left it, and the persons who have since inhabited it, so it is said, have not experienced any repetitions of the disturbances.
Mr. T. WESTWOOD, from whose most attractive communication to Notes and Queries on the subject of “ Ghosts and Haunted Houses,” an excerpt is made in another portion of this work, gives the following account of a most singular and, as far as our knowledge of such things extends, unique experience. According to Mr. Westwood's narrative, which no one has as yet appeared to question, he on one occasion was directly and personally “under ghostly influences,” or what appeared to be such. His story is, that “in a lonely neighbourhood on the verge of Enfield Chace, stands an old house, much beaten by wind and weather. It was inhabited when I knew it,” states Mr. Westwood," by two elderly people, maiden sisters, with whom I had some acquaintance, and who once invited me to dine with them, and meet a circle of local guests. I well remember my walk thither. It led me up a steep ascent of oak avenue, opening out at the top on what was called the ‘ridge-road' of the Chace.
“It was the close of a splendid autumn afternoon: through the mossy boles of the great oaks I saw
... The golden autumn woodland reel
Athwart the smoke of burning flowers ... “On reaching my destination, the sun had already dipped below the horizon, and the eastern front of the house projected a black shadow at its foot. What was there in the aspect of the pile that reminded me of the corpse described by the poet-the corpse that
Was calm and cold, as it did hold
Some secret, glorying ?
“Having some changes to make in my attire, a servant led the way to an upper chamber, and left me. No sooner was he gone than I became conscious of a peculiar. sound in the room—a sort of shuddering sound in the room, as of suppressed dread. It seemed close to me. I gave little heed to it at first, setting it down for the wind in the chimney, or a
draught from the half open door; but moving about the room, I perceived that the sound moved with me. Whichever way I turned it followed me. I went to the furthest extremity of the chamber—it was there also. Beginning to feel uneasy, and being quite unable to account for the singularity, I completed my toilet in haste, and descended to the drawing-room, hoping I should thus leave the uncomfortable sound behind me, but not so. It was on the landing, on the stair, it went down with me, always the same sound of shuddering horror, faint, but audible, and always close at hand. Even at the dinner-table, when the conversation flagged, I heard it unmistakably several times, and so near, that, if there was an entity connected with it, we were two on one chair. It seemed to be noticed by nobody else, but it ended by harassing and distressing me, and I was relieved to think that I had not to sleep in the house that night.
“At an early hour, several of the guests having far to go, the party broke up, and it was a satisfaction to me to breathe the fresh, wholesome air of the night, and feel rid at last of my shuddering incubus.
“When I saw my hosts again, it was under another and unhaunted roof. On my telling them what had occurred to me, they smiled and said it was perfectly true, but added they were so used to the sound it had ceased to perturb them. Sometimes, they said, it would be quiet for weeks, at others it followed them from room to room, from floor to floor, pertinaciously, as it had followed me. They could give me no explanation of