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This collection of strange stories and weird traditions has not been compiled with a view of creating un frisson nouveau, but to serve as a guide to the geography of Ghostland—a handbook to the Haunted Houses of Great Britain. Many historic tales of apparitions and supernaturally disturbed dwellings are imbedded in British literature ; are frequently alluded to in journalistic and other publications, and are known to everybody by name, but by nume only. Most people have heard of “The Demon of Tedworth,” “The Lord Lyttleton Ghost Story,” and other celebrated narratives of the uncanny kind, but it is rare to find anyone able to furnish particulars of them : to enable them to do this is the raison d'être of this work.
The number of dwellings reputed to be haunted is much greater than is commonly supposed ; and although
steam-engines and speculative builders are rapidly diminishing these lingering relics of the past, Dr. Mackay's words, in his Extraordinary Popular Delusions, anent this theme, are still applicable :“Who has not either seen or heard of some house, shut up and uninhabitable, fallen into decay, and looking dusty and dreary, whence, at midnight, strange sounds have been heard to issue—the rattling of chains, and the groaning of perturbed spirits ?— a house that people have thought it unsafe to pass after dark, and which has remained for years without a tenant, and which no tenant would occupy even were he paid to do so ? There are hundreds of such houses in England at the present day .... which are marked with the mark of fear-places for the timid to avoid, and the pious to bless themselves at, and ask protection from, as they pass—the abodes of ghosts and evil spirits. There are many such houses in London ; and if any vain boaster of the march of intellect would but take the trouble to find them out and count them, he would be convinced that intellect must yet make some enormous strides before such old superstitions can be eradicated.”
Although Dr. Mackay may not have exaggerated the number of places having the discredit of heing haunted, particulars of the manner of the haunting is generally
difficult to obtain : nearly every ancient castle, or timeworn hall, bears the reputation of being thus troubled, but in a very large majority of such cases no evidence is forthcoming—not even the ghost of a tradition! Guide-books, topographical works, even the loquacious custodian-where there is one of the building, fail to furnish any details ; were it otherwise, instead of one modest volume & many-tomed cyclopedia would be necessary.
To mention here separately the many sources whence the information contained in this compilation has been drawn would be impossible, and as in most instances the authority for each story has been specified under its respective heading, would be needless ; but still thanks are due and are hereby tendered to those authors whose books have been made use of, and to those noblemen and gentlemen who have aided the work by their friendly information.
In conclusion, it should be remarked that authors and correspondents having, as far as possible, been allowed to tell their tales after their own fashion, the editor does not hold himself responsible for their opinions. Had he ever entertained any belief whatever in supernatural manifestations--as evidently many of his authorities do--the compilation of this work would
have effectually cured him of such mental weakness ; but, it must be added, no story has been included the incidents of which have been proved to have been the result of palpable deception, or for which any natural explanation has been found. Trusting that his psychomanteum will exercise no worse effect upon his readers than it has had upon its compiler, he leaves it to their judgment.
JOHN H. INGRAM.