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Bulwer Lytton's Strange Story," says the correspondent, "London Society seems just now affected with a general phantom mania. The last new phase of the malady is a ghost story which has lately obtained extensive currency in what are called the 'upper circles,' and which claims for its believers two counsel learned in the law, and the Lord High Chancellor himself. I don't pretend to vouch that the story can pretend to the ' ghost' of a foundation for its existence, I merely testify that it is being talked of by 'everybody,' and that the first question asked at most dinner-tables is, 'Have you heard of Lord Westbury's ghost?'
"The story runs thus :—Lord Westbury lately purchased Hackwood House, an old mansion near Basingstoke, the property of Lord Bolton. Snatching a spare day or two to obtain a more minute inspection of his investment, he took with him two of the gentlemen belonging to his official establishment, both members of the learned profession. On separating for the night,
the bedroom destined for one of them, a Mr. R ,
was found to be on the opposite side of the hall to those of the other gentlemen; he therefore shook hands and said ' good-night' in the hall, leaving the others talking there. He had not been very long asleep before he 'felt' himself awoke, but could neither hear nor perceive anything. By degrees, however, he became conscious of something luminous on the side of the room opposite his bed, which gradually assumed the appearance of a woman clothed in grey. He at first thought it was an optical illusion, next that his companions were playing him some phosphoric trick, and then, turning round, he composed himself to sleep again.
"Further on in the night he was awoke again, and then at once he saw the same figure brilliantly conspicuous on the wall. Whilst he was gazing at it, it seemed to leave the wall and advance into the middle of the apartment. He immediately jumped out of bed, rushed to it, and, of course, found—nothing. He was so impressed with the power of the delusion, that he found it impossible to seek any more sleep, and, as the day was beginning to break, he dressed and made his way into the grounds, where he walked for some time, pondering over the illusion so forcibly produced upon him.
"On his return to his room he wrote out an exact account of what he thought he had seen, it being then quite clear to him that it was no trick played by others, but simply an hallucination of his own brain. At the breakfast-table, however, he began to fancy that he had been cleverly imposed on by his friends, as they commenced at once bantering him on his night's rest, broken sleep, and so forth. Wishing to detect them if possible, he pretended unconsciousness and utter ignorance of their meaning, when, to his horror, one of them exclaimed,' Come, come, don't think we didn't see one of the women in grey follow you into your room last night.' He rushed up-stairs, produced his written account, which he gave them to read, and the consternation became general. On inquiry, of course, they found the legend of a murder done in the days of yore, and ths Lord Chancel'or is supposed to be exceedingly vexed at an incident which has decidedly shut up one room in his house for ever, if not, in all prohability, tahooed the mansion altogether. Thus much do the 'upper ten thousand' aver—how truly is quite another question."
In August, 1864, the Spiritual Magazine, published an account stated to have been related to the Staffordshire Sentinel in the previous year, of an apparition that had appeared to Mr. William Eidgway, a wellknown pottery owner, of Hanley, Staffordshire. It is a curious circumstance that the manufacturer should have concealed the story from all his family and friends, and, after so many years of silence, have revealed it to an apparent stranger. The editor of the newspaper in question does not, and, of course, in the circumstances, cannot produce any corroborative evidence of Mr. Kidgway's belief that he had seen the apparition of his deceased mother, nor does he state why the story was held back until three months after Mr. Kidgway's death. However, it is not our present purpose to question the editor's narrative but to cite it.
"For many years the family of the Ridgways," remarks our authority, " have held a high and influential position in the commercial world. Their name will go down to posterity as promoters of the beautiful art which gives wealth and fame to the Staffordshire potteries. William was in partnership with his elder brother, John, and was esteemed for his manly courage, untiring energy, and great probity of character; no man doubted the word of William Ridgway; it is, therefore, of great value in the support of the belief in and reality of apparitions to have the testimony of such a man, and I am able to give a well-authenticated story from the columns of the Staffordshire Sentinel, where a memoir of this much-respected gentleman appeared, about the time of his death in April last. The story is thus related:—
"The two brothers became partners with their father at the same time, when Mr. William was twenty-one years' old, and on equal terms, and their own partnership continued many years after his death.
"Immediately after this event they had a dispute which of the two should have the paternal mansion. Mr. John maintained the right of the elder, Mr. William the claim of an increasing family. The controversy threatened to culminate in a quarrel, when, about ten o'clock on a light evening, William beheld the apparition of his deceased mother, near to the side of the entrance of the house.
"The appearance was perfect as life, and she addressed him audibly and distinctly, saying, ' William, my dear, let your brother have the house, and God will make it right with you.' The next morning he simply said to his brother, ' John, you shall have the house.' But he never divulged the reason why he said this, either to his brother, or his wife, or to any human being, until he related it to us in the month of June 1863.
"The superstitious may regard this statement in one aspect, and the philosophical in another, but all must admit that its truth is simply a question of credibility. No one would doubt Mr. Ridgway's word, and few will believe that the eyes and ears of the then young man were deceived by an illusion. Happily, the friendship of the two brothers was uninterrupted, and it continued unbroken through life."
In that remarkable work, Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World, Robert Dale Owen publishes an interesting account of an apparition, supposed to have appeared about the time of the death of the person it represented. This account was supplied by Mr. William Howitt, the well-known author, it having happened in his own family; and in accordance with our usual custom of giving as nearly as possible the original narrator's own words—the only proper course in such cases—the story referred to above shall be told as Mr. Howitt tells it in his letter dated Highgate, March 28, 1859.