Thursday 30 January 2014

The Ghost Layer

We don't know if An Jenny Hendy's ghost went to rest of its own free will, or whether any divine assisted in binding the troubled spirit to the grave. There need, however, be no difficulty about getting a ghost laid.

We have just heard of a local preacher, living in the district between Camborne and Helston, who, according to his own account, has put many troublesome spirits to rest, generally by settling for them their mundane affairs, about which they were troubled, by reasoning with and advising them to stay below, bear their punishment with a good heart, make the best of a bad matter, and hope for better times. He allowed that sometimes he was merely deluding the ghosts; yet, no matter, the end sought was attained—anything to get rid of them!

As he had a rather uncommon adventure in laying one ghost, we give his account, somewhat abridged, of this enterprise.

From some triflling cause the spirit got back again, to its late abode, before the mourners had quitted the public-house, in church-town, where, as is customary, they stopped a while to treat and take leave of their friends, who had come to the funeral from a distance.

The ghost became, at once, so annoying, that none could rest in the house with it, and, a few nights after the burial, the family of the deceased, not knowing what to do to obtain any quiet, fetched the preacher, who was believed to possess extraordinary knowledge of spiritual matters and power over the ghostly world and its inhabitants. He entered the haunted house alone. After many hours passed in prayer and expostulation with the obstinate spirit, it at last consented to return to its grave and stay there, if the exorcist and preacher would accompany it to the churchyard, to see it safely landed there.

And now happened the most remarkable part of this affair. About midnight the ghost-layer bound the spirit with a piece of new rope, and fastened the other end of it round his own waist, that the spirit mightn't give him the slip. The spirit, gentle as a lamb, was then led out of the house; but it had no sooner crossed the doorsill then the dwelling was surrounded by a pack of yelping hounds, of which the town-place was full, and the old one riding up the lane in a blaze of fire.

The spirit, to save itself from being caught by hounds and huntsman, mounted high up in the air, taking the man (hanging by the middle) with it. Away they went, over trees, hills, and water. In less than a minute they passed over some miles, and alighted in the churchyard, close by the spirit's grave, which the man saw open and blue sulphurous flames issuing therefrom, and he heard, coming from below, most horrid shrieks and moans.

The ghost, knowing it was no use contending with the man of faith, only stopped to say farewell, and then descended into its grave, which immediately closed. The man—overcome, by being borne, with lightning speed, through the air, or by the infernal fumes rising from the open grave—fell down in a fit, from which he didn't recover till daybreak, and then he was scarcely able to leave the churchyard. When near the town-place, which he had left with the spirit, in the branch of a tree he found his hat, that must have fallen from his head on first mounting through the air.

The most probable solution of this story, (told in good faith and firmly believed) is that the ghost-layer, after taking too much spirit in the public-house, rambled into the churchyard, there fell asleep, and dreamed the rest.

From: Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1, by William Bottrell

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