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Scottish Ghost Stories
Chapter IV.


CASE IV

JANE OF GEORGE STREET, EDINBURGH

“The news that, for several years at any rate, George Street, Edinburgh, was haunted wrote a correspondent of mine some short time ago, might cause no little surprise to many of its inhabitants/’ And my friend proceeded to relate his experience of the haunting, which I will reproduce as nearly as possible in his own words. I quote from memory, having foolishly destroyed the letter.

I was walking in a leisurely way along George Street the other day, towards Strunalls, where I get my cigars, and had arrived opposite No. —y when I suddenly noticed, just ahead of me, a tall lady of remarkably graceful figure, clad in a costume which, even to an ignoramus in fashions like myself, seemed extraordinarily out of date. In my untechnical language it consisted of a dark blue coat and skirt, trimmed with black braid. The coat had a very high collar, turned over to show a facing of blue velvet, its sleeves were very full at the shoulders, and a band of blue velvet drew it tightly in at the waist. Moreover, unlike every other lady I saw, she wore a small hat, which I subsequently learned was a toque, with one white and one blue plume placed moderately high at the side. The only other conspicuous items of her dress, the effect of which was, on the whole, quiet, were white glace gloves,—over which dangled gold curb bracelets with innumerable pendants,—shoes, which were of patent leather with silver buckles and rather high Louis heels, and fine, blue silk openwork stockings. So much for her dress. Now for her herself. She was a strikingly fair woman with very pale yellow hair and a startlingly white complexion; and this latter peculiarity so impressed me that I hastened my steps, determining to get a full view of her. Passing her with rapid strides, I looked back, and as I did so a cold chill ran through me,—what I looked at was—the face of the dead. I slowed down and allowed her to take the lead.

I now observed that, startling as she was, no one else seemed to notice her. One or two people obviously, though probably unconsciously, possessing the germs of psychism, shivered when they passed her, but as they neither slackened their pace nor turned to steal a second look, I concluded they had not seen her. Without glancing either to the right or left, she moved steadily on, past Molton’s the confectioner’s, past Perrin’s the hatter’s. Once, I thought she was coming to a halt, and that she intended crossing the road, but no—on, on, on, till we came to D- Street. There we were preparing to cross over, when an elderly gentleman walked deliberately into her. I half expected to hear him apologise, but naturally nothing of the sort happened ; she was only too obviously a phantom, and, in accordance with the nature of a phantom, she passed right through him. A few yards farther on, she came to an abrupt pause, and then, with a slight inclination of her head as if meaning me to follow, she glided into a chemist’s shop. She was certainly not more than six feet ahead of me when she passed through the door, and I was even nearer than that to her when she suddenly disappeared as she stood before the counter. I asked the chemist if he could tell me anything about the lady who had just entered his shop, but he merely turned away and laughed.

“Lady!” he said; “what are you talking about? You’re a bit out of your reckoning. This isn’t the first of April. Come, what do you want?”

I bought a bottle of formamints, and reluctantly and regretfully turned away. That night I dreamed I again saw the ghost. I followed her up George Street just as I had done in reality; but when she came to the chemist’s shop, she turned swiftly round. “I’m Jane!” she said in a hollow voice. “Jane! Only Jane!” and with that name ringing in my ears I awoke.

Some days elapsed before I was in George Street again. The weather had in the meanwhile undergone one of those sudden and violent changes, so characteristic of the Scottish climate. The lock-gates of heaven had been opened and the rain was descending in cataracts. The few pedestrians I encountered were enveloped in mackintoshes, and carried huge umbrellas, through which the rain was soaking, and pouring off from every point. Everything was wet—everywhere was mud. The water, splashing upwards, saturated the tops of my boots and converted my trousers into sodden sacks. Some weather isn’t fit for dogs, but this weather wasn’t good enough for tadpoles—even fish would have kicked at it and kept in their holes. Imagine, then, the anomaly! Amidst all this aqueous inferno, this slippery-sloppery, filth-bespattering inferno, a spotlessly clean apparition in blue without either waterproof or umbrella. I refer to Jane. She suddenly appeared, as I was passing The Ladies’ Tea Association Rooms, walking in front of me. She looked just the same as when I last saw her—spick and span, and—dry. I repeat the word—dry —for that is what attracted my attention most. Despite the deluge, not a single raindrop touched her—the plumes on her toque were splendidly erect and curly, her shoe-buckles sparkled, her patent leathers were spotless, whilst the cloth of her coat and skirt looked as sheeny as if they had but just come from Keeley’s.

Anxious to get another look at her face, I quickened my pace, and, darting past her, gazed straight into her countenance. The result was a severe shock. The terror of what I saw—the ghastly horror of her dead white face—sent me reeling across the pavement. I let her pass me, and, impelled by a sickly fascination, followed in her wake.

Outside a jeweller’s stood a hansom— quite a curiosity in these days of motors —and, as Jane glided past, the horse shied. I have never seen an animal so terrified. We went on, and at the next crossing halted. A policeman had his hand up checking the traffic. His glance fell on Jane — the effect was electrical. His eyes bulged, his cheeks whitened, his chest heaved, his hand dropped, and he would undoubtedly have fallen had not a good Samaritan, in the guise of a non - psychical public - house loafer, held him up. Jane was now close to the chemist’s, and it was with a sigh of relief that I saw her glide in and disappear.

Had there been any doubt at all, after my first encounter with Jane, as to her being superphysical, there was certainly none now. The policeman’s paroxysm of fear and the horse’s fit of shying were facts. What had produced them ? I alone knew—and I knew for certain—it was Jane. Both man and animal saw what I saw. Hence the phantom was not subjective; it was not illusionary; it was a bona fide spirit manifestation—a visitant from the other world—the world of earth-bound souls. Jane fascinated me. I made endless researches in connection with her, and, in answer to one of my inquiries, I was informed that eighteen years ago—that is to say, about the time Jane’s dress was in fashion—the chemist’s shop had been occupied by a dressmaker of the name of Bosworth. I hunted up Miss Bosworth’s address and called on her. She had retired from business and was living in St. Michael’s Road, Bournemouth. I came to the point straight.

“Can you give me any information,” I asked, “about a lady whose Christian name was Jane? ”

“That sounds vague!” Miss Bosworth said. “I've met a good many Janes in my time.

“But not Janes with pale yellow hair, and white eyebrows and eyelashes!” And I described her in detail.

“How do you come to know about her?” Miss Bosworth said, after a long pause.

“Because,” I replied with a certain slowness and deliberation characteristic of me, “because I've seen her ghost! ”

Of course I knew Miss Bosworth was no sceptic—the moment my eyes rested on her I saw she was psychic, and that the superphysical was often at her elbow. Accordingly, I was not in the least surprised at her look of horror.

“What!” she exclaimed, “is she still there? I thought she would surely be at rest now!”

“Who was she?  I inquired. “Come —you need not be afraid of me. I have come here solely because the occult has always interested me. Who was Jane, and why should her ghost haunt George Street?”

“It happened a good many years ago,” Miss Bosworth replied, “in 1892. In answer to an advertisement I saw in one of the daily papers, I called on a Miss Jane Vernelt—Mademoiselle Vernelt she called herself—who ran a costumier's business in George Street, in the very building, in fact, now occupied by the chemist you have mentioned. The business was for sale, and Miss Vernelt wanted a big sum for it. However, as her books showed a very satisfactory annual increase in receipts and her clientele included a duchess and other society leaders, I considered the bargain a tolerably safe one, and we came to terms. Within a week I was running the business, and, exactly a month after I had taken it over, I was greatly astonished to receive a visit from Miss Vernelt. She came into the shop quite beside herself with agitation. It's all a mistake! ' she screamed. 41 didn't want to sell it. I can't do anything with my capital. Let me buy it back.' I listened to her politely, and then informed her that as I had gone to all the trouble of taking over the business and had already succeeded in extending it, I most certainly had no intention of selling it—at least not for some time. Well, she behaved like a 5 lunatic, and in the end created such a disturbance that I had to summon my assistants and actually turn her out. After that I had no peace for six weeks. She came every day, at any and all times, and I was at last obliged to take legal proceedings. I then discovered that her mind was really unhinged, and that she nad been suffering from softening of the brain for many months. Her medical advisers had, it appeared, warned her to give up business and place herself in the hands of trustworthy friends or relations, who would see that her money was properly invested, but she had delayed doing so; and when, at last, she did make up her mind to retire, the excitement, resulting from so great a change in her mode of living, accelerated the disease, and, exactly three weeks after the sale of her business, she became a victim to the delusion that she was ruined. This delusion grew more and more pronounced as her malady increased, and amidst her wildest ravings she clamoured to be taken back to George Street. The hauntings, indeed, began before she died ; and I frequently saw her— when I knew her material body to be under restraint—just as you describe, gliding in and out the show-rooms.

“For several weeks after her death, the manifestations continued—they then ceased, and I have never heard of her again until now.”

I remember tightly the account of the George Street ghost here terminated; but my friend referred to it again at the close of his letter.

“Since my return to Scotland,” he wrote, “I have frequently visited George Street, almost daily, but I have not seen Jane, I only hope that her poor distracted spirit has at last found rest.” And with this kindly sentiment my correspondent concluded.


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