Real Ghost Stories by E. and H. Heron
The Supernatural Experiences of Mr. Flaxman Low
Real Ghost Stories – The Supernatural Experiences of Mr. Flaxman Low.
Flaxman Low is credited with being the first occult detective of fiction. These twelve stories of his encounters with the abnormal, the occult, and the supernatural, were first published in Pearson’s Magazine in 1898 and 1899.
No. 1.— The Story of the Spaniards, Hammersmith
No. 2.— The Story Of Medhans Lea
No. 3.— The Story Of The Moor Road
No. 4.— The Story of Baelbrow
No. 5.— The Story of the Grey House
No. 6.— The Story of Yand Manor House
No. 1.— The Story Of Sevens Hall.
No. 2.— The Story of Saddler’s Croft
No. 3.— The Story of No. 1, Karma Crescent
No. 4.— The Story of Konnor Old House
No. 5.— The Story of Crowsedge
No. 6.— The Story of Mr. Flaxman Low.
Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard (1876–1922) wrote his first story in 1896 when he was nineteen. His mother, Kate O’Brien Ryall Prichard (1852–1935), edited it and it was sold to the Pall Mall Magazine for one guinea. After the success of his story, he abandoned the practice of law for which he had studied and traveled that summer. Upon returning to England he began writing with his mother under the pseudonyms H. Heron and E. Heron.
Real Ghost Stories contains 83 illustrations.
Excerpt: No. 1.— The Story of the Spaniards, Hammersmith
LIEUTENANT RODERICK HOUSTON, of H.M.S. Sphinx, had practically nothing beyond his pay, and he was beginning to be very tired of the West African station, when he received the pleasant intelligence that a relative had left him a legacy. This consisted of a satisfactory sum in ready money and a house in Hammersmith, which was rated at over £200 a year, and was said in addition to be comfortably furnished. Houston, therefore, counted on its rental to bring his income up to a fairly desirable figure. Further information from home, however, showed him that he had been rather premature in his expectations, whereupon, being a man of action, he applied for two months’ leave, and came home to look after his affairs himself.
When he had been a week in London he arrived at the conclusion that he could not possibly hope single-handed to tackle the difficulties which presented themselves. He accordingly wrote the following letter to his friend, Flaxman Low:
The Spaniards, Hammersmith,
Since we parted some three years ago, I have heard very little of you. It was only yesterday that I met our mutual friend, Sammy Smith (‘Silkworm’ of our schooldays) who told me that your studies have developed in a new direction, and that you are now a good deal interested in psychical subjects. If this be so, I hope to induce you to come and stay with me here for a few days by promising to introduce you to a problem in your own line. I am just now living at “The Spaniards,” a house that has lately been left to me, and which in the first instance was built by an old fellow named Van Nuysen, who married a great-aunt of mine. It is a good house, but there is said to be ‘something wrong’ with it. It lets easily, but unluckily the tenants cannot be persuaded to remain above a week or two. They complain that the place is haunted by something — presumably a ghost — because its vagaries bear just that brand of inconsequence which stamps the common run of manifestations.
It occurs to me that you may care to investigate the matter with me. If so, send me a wire when to expect you.
Houston waited in some anxiety for an answer. Low was the sort of man one could rely on in almost any emergency. Sammy Smith had told him a characteristic anecdote of Low’s career at Oxford, where, although his intellectual triumphs may be forgotten, he will always be remembered by the story that when Sands, of Queen’s, fell ill on the day before the ‘Varsity sports, a telegram was sent to Low’s rooms: “Sands ill. You must do the hammer for us.” Low’s reply was pithy: “I’ll be there.” Thereupon he finished the treatise upon which he was engaged, and next day his strong, lean figure was to be seen swinging the hammer amidst vociferous cheering, for that was the occasion on which he not only won the event, but beat the record.
On the fifth day Low’s answer came from Vienna. As he read it, Houston recalled the high forehead, long neck — with its accompanying low collar — and thin moustache of his scholarly, athletic friend, and smiled. There was so much more in Flaxman Low than anyone gave him credit for.
MY DEAR HOUSTON, — Very glad to hear of you again. In response to your kind invitation, I thank you for the opportunity of meeting the ghost, and still more for the pleasure of your companionship. I came here to inquire into a somewhat similar affair. I hope, however, to be able to leave to-morrow, and will be with you some time on Friday evening.
Very sincerely yours.
P.S. — By the way, will it be convenient to give your servants a holiday during the term of my visit, as, if my investigations are to be of any value, not a grain of dust must be disturbed in your house, excepting by ourselves? — F.L.
“The Spaniards” was within some fifteen minutes’ walk of Hammersmith Bridge. Set in the midst of a fairly respectable neighbourhood, it presented an odd contrast to the commonplace dullness of the narrow streets crowded about it. As Flaxman Low drove up in the evening light, he reflected that the house might have come from the back of beyond — it gave an impression of something old-world and something exotic.
It was surrounded by a ten-foot wall, above which the upper storey was visible, and Low decided that this intensely English house still gave some curious suggestion of the tropics. The interior of the house carried out the same idea, with its sense of space and air, cool tints and wide, matted passages.
“So you have seen something yourself since you came?” Low said, as they sat at dinner, for Houston had arranged that meals should be sent in for them from an hotel.
“I’ve heard tapping up and down the passage upstairs. It is an uncarpeted landing which runs the whole length of the house. One night, when I was quicker than usual, I saw what looked like a bladder disappear into one of the bedrooms — your room it is to be, by the way — and the door closed behind it,” replied Houston discontentedly. “The usual meaningless antics of a ghost.”
“What had the tenants who lived here to say about it?” went on Low.
“Most of the people saw and heard just what I have told you, and promptly went away. The only one who stood out for a little while was old Filderg — you know the man? Twenty years ago he made an effort to cross the Australian deserts— he stopped for eight weeks. When he left he saw the house-agent, and said he was afraid he had done a little shooting practice in the upper passage, and he hoped it wouldn’t count against him in the bill, as it was done in defence of his life. He said something had jumped on to the bed and tried to strangle him. He described it as cold and glutinous, and he pursued it down the passage, firing at it. He advised the owner to have the house pulled down; but, of course, my cousin did nothing of the kind. It’s a very good house, and he did not see the sense of spoiling his property.”
“That’s very true,” replied Flaxman Low, looking round. “Mr. Van Nuysen had been in the West Indies, and kept his liking for spacious rooms.”
“Where did you hear anything about him?” asked Houston in surprise.
“I have heard nothing beyond what you told me in your letter; but I see a couple of bottles of Gulf weed and a lace-plant ornament, such as people used to bring from the West Indies in former days.”
“Perhaps I should tell you the history of the old man,” said Houston doubtfully; “but we aren’t proud of it!”
Flaxman Low considered a moment.
“When was the ghost seen for the first time?”
“When the first tenant took the house. It was let after old Van Nuysen’s time.”
“Then it may clear the way if you will tell me something of him.”
“He owned sugar plantations in Trinidad, where he passed the greater part of his life, while his wife mostly remained in England — incompatibility of temper it was said. When he came home for good and built this house they still lived apart, my aunt declaring that nothing on earth would persuade her to return to him. In course of time he became a confirmed invalid, and he then insisted on my aunt joining him. She lived here for perhaps a year, when she was found dead in bed one morning — in your room.”
“What caused her death?”
“She had been in the habit of taking narcotics, and it was supposed that she smothered herself while under their influence.”
“That doesn’t sound very satisfactory,” remarked Flaxman Low.
“Her husband was satisfied with it anyhow, and it was no one else’s business. The family were only too glad to have the affair hushed up.”
“And what became of Mr. Van Nuysen?”
“That I can’t tell you. He disappeared a short time after. Search was made for him in the usual way, but nobody knows to this day what became of him.”
Excerpt From: E. and H. Heron. “Real Ghost Stories”
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