PSICAN - Paranormal Studies and Inquiry Canada

Ghosts, Hauntings & Related Phenomena

Written by PSICAN Staff Writer

Original publication: The Graphic (London, England), February 17, 1883; Issue 690 Our thanks go out to Gerry at Farshores for letting us know that the British Library recently placed over two million pages of 49 national and regional UK newspapers from the 19th and early 20th century online for research.


This is a fascinating article on the topic of Ghost music from the perspective of a late 19th century researcher.

Scottish funerals have been known sometimes to assume the air of festivals : the bereaved have been so liberally provided with refreshments, the libations to the departed have been so abundant. It is told that on one of these should-be solemn occasions a certain mourner who had been labouring with considerable success to drown his own personal sorrows in the bowl, suddenly startled the company by calling for a song  There was a pause of deliberation. How was the demand to be met? One of the elders of the party stirred himself, stood erect, and in grave but gentle tones addressed his fellow mourner : "If you'll kindly recollect,"he said, "our lamented friend, the late laird, in his lifetime never cared for music. I think we'll not have a song just now. At any other time, I am sure, we should all be pleased to hear any gentleman that can sing. But for the present it may be as well to humour the late laird's prejudices on the subject."

It may be assumed that the song was not sung, and that what are commonly known as "musical honours" did not disturb the funeral solemnities of the deceased Scot. Particular strains of harmony, however, have maintained association with the fact of dissolution. Requiems and Dead Marches, of course, form part of the religious services for the dead ; and in addition to these are the compositions called "ghost melodies." It might almost be argued that in popular opinion music is dear to the defunct. In many a ghost story mysterious music plays an important part. Sir Walter Scott has told of the veteran major of Hussars who, while occupying a bedchamber in a certain old castle on the confines of Hungary, was roused from sleep by the solemn singing of three ladies fantastically attired in green. The major begged the ladies to stop apparently their strains were as disagreeable to him as the nocturnal outcries of cats, but the singers sang on. The major began to handle his pistols. The ladies did not desist. At last he gave them fair warning that he regarded their singing as a piece of impertinence, as a trick to frighten him, and promised them that he would give them but five minutes' law, and that if they continued to sing after that interval had elapsed he would assuredly discharge both barrels at them point blank. Still the ladies went on with their song. Presently the major showed himself a man of his word, deliberately cocked his pistols, took aim, and fired. Still the ladies sung. The major was completely overcome by the obstinacy of his visitors. He was seized, indeed, with a violent illness which endured some weeks. It was afterwards explained, but the worst and feeblest part of a ghost story is usually the explanation of it that the major had been deceived by the fact that he had seen only the reflection of the choristers who had stood in an adjoining room, while their images had been projected into his chamber with the help of a concave mirror, and presumably, a magic lantern, or by some such means.

The ghost of that Countess of Orlamunde " usually seen every seven years, preceded by the sound of a harp, on which instrument she had been a proficient," was perhaps a more impressive musical apparition. The countess was a German ghost Germany is the mother of many ghosts, and in her lifetime had borne two sons to a certain Margrave of Brandenburg who refused to make her his lawful wife, however. In revenge she had administered poison to her children, whereupon to punish her sins the Margrave had bricked her up alive in one of the vaults of the Castle ol Neuhaus, in Bohemia- This ghost who acquired that title of " the White Lady," which has been appropriated in what may be called an "untradesman-like " way by many other spectres did not confine itself to one particular spot, but haunted generally the castles and palaces belonging to the Royal family of Prussia. The countess was wont, however, to appear more frequently to children than adults, "as if," says a historian and an apologist, "the love she had denied her own offspring in life was now her torment, and she sought a reconciliation with childhood in general." Two young ladies attached to the Court of Prussia related that while occupied with their needlework, and conversing about the diversions of the Court, they suddenly heard the sound of a stringed instrument like a harp, proceeding, as it seemed, from behind the stove which occupied a corner of the room. One of the girls with a yard measure struck the spot whence the sound issued ; the music ceased, but the yard measure was wrested from her hand. Presently the music was repeated, however; a white figure issued from the neighbourhood of the stove and advanced into the room. The young lady, of course, screamed and fainted. She could hardly be expected to do otherwise in such circumstances. Upon other occasions the White Lady has been heard to speak, and in the Latin tongue, but whether she then played upon her harp by way of accompaniment to her locution has not been disclosed. It may be added that concerning the identity of this musical apparition much dispute has arisen. While some held the White Lady to be the Countess of Orlamunde, others maintain her to be a certain Princess Bertha von Rosenberg, who flourished and perished in the fifteenth century.

A tumultuous clapping of hands, melodious strains, and the singing of a celestial voice were among the spiritual phenomena which haunted the famous French actress Hippolyte Clairon. Mrs. Catherine Crowe, a great authority on ghosts, records that she has met with numerous instances "of heavenly music being heard when a death was occurring." In one case beautiful music was audible to a whole family, "including an unbelieving father," in attendance upon a sick child. This music indeed continued during a space of sixteen weeks ; sometimes it was like an organ, but more beautiful; at others there was singing of holy songs, in parts, and the words distinctly heard. Ghost music, however, seems to have been as often secular as sacred. There is a story of a house haunted by the sounds of a military march. " If that doesn't beat the devil," exclaimed an irreverent captain in the army upon hearing the music, and promptly he received from an invisible hand a smart slap on the face. A ghostly drummer beating an incessant tattoo upon his instrument may be described as the hero of Addison's comedy of The Drummer. A like apparition long haunted an earl's castle in North Britain ; and a manor house in Wiltshire was wont to cherish the tradition of a supernatural visitant who beat the drum, and could be heard to march in certain portions of the building. Sir Walter Scott has told the story of the murdered drummer lad whose ghost haunted his murderer, Pay-Sergeant Jarvis Matcham, on Salisbury Plain, and constrained him to confess is crime.    The   narrative  forms the subject of '* The Dead Drummer," one of the most admired of the Ingoldsby Legends.

The stage has long possessed its ghost music.  If memory serves, the famous ghost of Kichardson's Show was wont to appear to much simple beating upon a gong or thumping of a drum.  That ghost was of a brisk habit, and delighted to startle by the suddenness of its movements ; it being an object to all concerned apparently that the performances should be brought to as prompt a conclusion as possible.   But other ghosts of the stage have been accustomed to appear, as Goldsmith's bear danced, only "to the very genteelest of tunes."   That tremulous, sobbing, and sighing air, known as the " Ghost Melody," which lent so much that was thrilling and agitating to the drama of The Corsican Brothers, was one of the most popular compositions of its period.  And in his "Reminiscences" Michael Kelly tells of an earlier ghostly air he arranged for the production of The Castte Spectre at Drury Lane in 1797; it was a clusone, by Jomelli, which had been danced at Stuttgard by Vestris, and was thought by many to be ill-adapted for so solemn an occasion, but the low but sweet and thrilling harmony " greatly affected the audience.   Subsequently, indeed, this ghost music of Jomelli's was converted to the uses of the Church.   Attwood, the composer, employed it in the choir service, as the Response in the Litany, both in St. Paul's Cathedral and in the Royal Chapel at Windsor. D. C


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