The Mysterious Visitor, a Ghost Story

In the year 1704, a gentleman, to all appearance, of large fortune, took furnished lodgings in a house in Soho Square. After he had resided there some weeks with his establishment, he lost his brother, who had lived at Hampstead, and who, on his death-bed, particularly desired to be interred in the family-vault at Westminster Abbey. The gentleman requested his landlord to permit him to bring the corpse of his brother to his lodgings, and to make arrangements there for the funeral. The landlord, without hesitation, signified his compliance.

"The body, dressed in a white shroud, was accordingly brought in a very handsome coffin, and placed in the great dining-room. The funeral was to take place the next day, and the lodger and his servants went out to make the necessary preparations for the solemnity. He staid out late; but this was no uncommon thing. The landlord and his family, conceiving that they had no occasion to wait for him, retired to bed as usual about twelve o'clock. One maid-servant was left up to let him in, and to boil some water, which he had desired might be ready for making tea on his return. The girl was accordingly sitting all alone in the kitchen, when a tall, spectre-looking figure entered, and clapped itself down in a chair opposite to her.

"The maid was by no means one of the most timid of her sex; but she was terrified beyond expression, lonely as she was, at this unexpected apparition. Uttering a loud scream, she flew out like an arrow at a side door, and hurried to the chamber of her master and mistress. Scarcely had she awakened them, and communicated to the whole family some portion of the fright with which she was herself overwhelmed, when the spectre, enveloped in a shroud, and with a face of deathlike paleness, made its appearance, and sat down in a chair in the bed-room, without their having observed how it entered. The worst of all was, that this chair stood by the door of the bedchamber, so that not a creature could get away without passing close to the apparition, which rolled its glaring eyes so frightfully, and so hideously distorted its features, that they could not bear to look at it. The master and mistress crept under the bed-clothes, covered with profuse perspiration, while the maid-servant sunk nearly insensible by the side of the bed.

"At the same time the whole house seemed to be in an uproar; for though they had covered themselves over head and ears, they could still hear the incessant noise and clatter, which served to increase their terror.

"At length all became perfectly still in the house. The landlord ventured to raise his head, and to steal a glance at the chair by the door; but, behold, the ghost was gone! Sober reason began to resume its power. The poor girl was brought to herself after a good deal of shaking. In a short time, they plucked up sufficient courage to quit the bed-room, and to commence an examination of the house, which they expected to find in great disorder. Nor were their anticipations unfounded. The whole house had been stripped by artful thieves, and the gentleman had decamped without paying for his lodging. It turned out that he was no other than an accomplice of the notorious Arthur Chambers, who was executed at Tyburn in 1706; and that the supposed corpse was this arch rogue himself, who had whitened his hands and face with chalk, and merely counterfeited death. About midnight he quitted the coffin, and appeared to the maid in the kitchen. When she flew up stairs, he softly followed her, and, seated, at the door of the chamber, he acted as a sentinel, so that his industrious accomplices were enabled to plunder the house without the least molestation."