Apparitions Foretelling Death
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Meeting with the following anecdote among some old manuscripts, it is much at the service of you and your readers.
A Memorandum, taken the 17th of September, 1719, by Mr. J. B. Having heard a report of the appearance of an apparition a little before Dr. Harris's* death, I went on Monday, the 14th of this instant, to see my cousin, Anne G., who had been at Mr. Godfrey's, at Norton Court, in Kent, some time before, and was there when the Doctor died at his house, and from her I had the following account.
On Monday evening, the 31st of August last, Mr. Godfrey sent out his coachman and gardener to catch some rabbits. After their sport was over, as they were coming home with their nets and what they had taken, and were now not above a field's length from the house, the dogs, who had been running about, came suddenly to them, creeping between their legs, as if it were to hide themselves. The fellows immediately took to their heels as fast as they could, not staying till they came within the gate, where they stopped, and accosted one another after the following fashion.
A. " Are not you prodigiously frightened ?"
B. " I was never so frightened in all my life !"
A. " What was it you saw?"
B. " Nay, what was it that frightened you so ?'
A. " I saw a coffin carried, just by us, on men's shoulders !"
B. " I saw the same, as plain as I ever saw anything in my life."
My cousin G. and Mrs. Betty H. were gone to bed together : Dr. Harris was in bed, and Mr. Godfrey in his chamber just going to bed. A maid-servant, who had heard the two men speak of this in the kitchen, ran up directly and told Mr. Godfrey. He laughed at it; and, desirous to let others partake with him in his mirth, goes into my cousin's chamber, and, calling to them, tells them " his men had seen the devil to-night !" She made answer that "she desired him not to tell them of it then, nor come into their room to disturb them at so unseasonable an hour, when they were just going to sleep ; that such a story would, however, serve well enough to divert Dr. Harris "—who, by the way, had often expressed a disbelief of such things. Mr. Godfrey went immediately to the Doctor's chamber, and, waking him out of a sound sleep, told him what had passed. The Doctor laughed very heartily at it, but was vexed Mr. G. had waked him. The next day the discourse of it served for the entertainment of the family, the Doctor saying, "it was only a tale of the men's devising in order to frighten the maids, but that in reality they saw nothing." Others thought that, by the strength of imagination, they might take a black horse or a black cow for a corpse on men's shoulders. Their fellow servants, however, declared that " when they came in, they both looked as if they had been frightened out of their wits." At the eating of the rabbits, the subject was resumed, and the Doctor in particular said that, "if the devil had a hand in catching them, he was sure they were good," and ate very heartily.
He complained a little on Tuesday, and on Wednesday more, but was very unwilling to have any advice. However, an apothecary was sent for, and afterwards Sir William Boys of Canterbury; from which time he grew very bad, the distemper lying so much in his head as caused him to be delirious the greatest part of the time he lived, which was till Monday the 7th instant, eleven in the forenoon.
My cousin A. G. told me at the same time another remarkable circumstance.
It had, it seems, frequently been the practice with one or other of them to tell their dreams in the morning over the tea-table. It happened, either on Tuesday or Wednesday, that somebody began that subject, whereupon the Doctor said he thought they were always recounting their dreams and talking of apparitions, and that he would make a collection of them and have them published; "for my part," added he, " if I ever took notice of a dream, it should be of one I had last night. I dreamed that the Bishop of —, in Ireland, sent for me to come over to him, and I returned answer that I could not —for I was dead ; when methought I laid my hands along by my sides, and so died."
The Doctor's death, and these circumstances attending it, so affected my cousin G., that she resolved to leave the house, and accordingly came away next morning.
Mr. Martin, in his " Bibliotheca Technologica," asserts, in his Discourse of Ontology, that the existence of the soul is a mere Ens Rationis, or Phoenix of ontologists, which brought to my mind the following relation.
A certain young woman, living in Bristol, was taken ill of the small-pox. Her mother attended her in her illness ; her father was a clergyman, living more than twenty miles from the City. One night her sister, who was at her father's, being in bed, heard the voice of her mother lamenting herself upon the death of her daughter. This much surprised her, knowing that her mother was then as far as Bristol. When she arose in the morning, her father, seeing her look much concerned, asked her what was the matter with her ?
" Nothing," says she. Her father replied, " I am sure something is amiss, and I must know what it is." " Why, then, father," says she,
" I believe my sister Molly is dead ; for this night I heard the voice of my mother lamenting her death." Says her father, " I heard the same myself, and her voice seemed to me to be in my study." Soon after, the same morning, came a messenger with tidings of her death. The deceased was brought to her father's to be buried, and, after the funeral, her mother, relating the manner of her daughter's illness, said that as soon as her daughter was dead, she being weary with watching and tired for want of sleep, lay down in her clothes, and dreamed that she was with them telling her grief for the loss of her daughter. This surprised them; and asking the time, it appeared to be much the same in which they heard her voice. The young woman was buried April 1, 1726. Her sister who heard the voice is now living in Bristol, and is ready to satisfy any inquirer of the truth of this fact.
The following narrative, given by a gentleman of unexceptionable honour and veracity, has been lately published at Edinburgh :
One William Sutor, aged about thirty-seven, a farmer in Middle-manse (belonging to the Laird of Balgown, near Craighal), being about the month of December, 1728, in the fields with his servants, near his own house, overheard at some distance, as it were, an uncommon shrieking and noise ; and they following the voice, fancied they saw a dark grey-coloured dog; but as it was a dark night, they concluded it was a fox, and accordingly were for setting on their dogs; but it was very observable that not one of them would so much as point his head that way. About a month after, the said Sutor being occasionally in the same spot, and much about the same time of night, it appeared to him again, and, in passing, touched him so smartly on the thigh, that he felt a pain all that night. In December, 1729, it again cast up to him at about the same place, and passed him at some distance. In June, 1730, it appeared to him as formerly; and it was now he began to judge it was something extra-ordinary. On the last Monday of November, 1730, about sky-setting, as he was coming from Drumlochy, this officious visitor passed him as formerly, and in passing he distinctly heard it speak these words, "Within eight or ten days do or die ;" and instantly disappeared, leaving him not a little perplexed. Next morning he came to his brother James's house, and gave him a particular account of all that had happened. And that night, about ten o'clock, these two brothers, having been visiting their sister at Glanballow, and returning home, stept aside to see the remarkable spot, where they had no sooner arrived, than it appeared to William, who, pointing his finger to it, desired his brother and a servant, who was with them, to look to it; but neither of them could see any such thing. Next Saturday evening, as William was at his sheepfold, it came up to him, and audibly uttered these words, " Come to the spot of ground within half an hour." Whereupon he went home; and, taking a staff in his hand, came to the ground, being at last determined to see the issue. He had scarce encircled himself with a line of circumvallation, when his troublesome familiar came up to him : he asked it, " In the name of God, who are you?" It answered, " I am David Sutor, George Sutor's brother ; I killed a man more than thirty-five, years ago,, at a bush by east the road as you go into the isle." $e said to it, " David Sutor was a man, and you appear as a dog." It answered,
I killed him with a dog, and am made to speak out of the mouth of a dog, and I tell you to go bury these bones!" This coming to the ears of the minister of Blair, the Lairds Glascloon and Rychalzie, and about forty men, went together to the said isle ; but after opening ground in several places, found no bones. On the second of December, about midnight, when William was in bed, it came to his door, and said, " Come away, you will find the bones at the side of the withered bush, and there are but eight left; and told him at the same time for a sign that he would find the print of a cross impressed on the ground. Next day William and his brother, with about forty or fifty people who had convened out of curiosity, came to the place, where they discovered the bush and the cross by it ; and upon digging the ground about a foot down found the eight bones; all which they immediately wrapped in clean linen, and, being put in a coffin with a mort-cloth over it, were interred that evening in the church-yard of Blair, attended by about a hundred persons.
N.B. Several persons in that country remember to have seen this David Sutor ; and that he listed for a soldier, and went abroad about thirty-four or thirty-five years ago.