« FöregåendeFortsätt »
THE MUCHELNEY DISTURBANCES.
A very interesting narrative of a visit to the scene of these disturbances (to which attention was called in our last number) is given in The Western Gazette and Flying Post for July 31st. In the editorial summary of the week, the editor says :
“In our third page will be found a full account of a visit which we have paid to the scene of the Muchelney disturbances, and we commend the narrative to the careful attention of every student of natural philosophy, who, while uninfluenced by superstition, is not tied to any rigid theory as to what is possible and what impossible.”
We give the article entire:
“ Our readers will remember that, during the last two or three months, our paper has contained, almost weekly, accounts of some mysterious disturbances that have taken place, at irregular intervals, at the house of Mr. Travis, a farmer at Thorney, a small hamlet situated between Muchelney and Kingsbury Episcopi, about two and a half miles from the town of Langport. The eye and earwitnesses to these strange manifestations were so numerous, intelligent, and respectable, that we found it difficult, even in our most sceptical moments, either to disbelieve their statements, or to regard them as the victims of an elaborate hoax. Thinking, however, that on so extraordinary a subject, the evidence of our own senses would be more satisfactory than the statements of any number of witnesses, we sought permission to investigate the affair for ourselves. This was promptly and courteously granted, and, at seven o'clock last Friday evening, we, in the company of three friends, arrived at the haunted house,' as the scene of the strange phenomena in question is familiarly called. Mr. Travis—a jolly
comfortable-looking yeoman, apparently of the modern school, met us on the lawn and gave us a hearty greeting. As we crossed the threshold, and were in the very act of asking whether anything had been seen or heard lately, we were startled by a series of three or four sharp, vigorous raps. The sound, proceeding apparently from the middle of the house, was like that which would be produced by striking a hard table very rapidly with a small hammer. Our surprise at this singular greeting having been duly expressed, our host described to us the phenomena that had immediately preceded our arrival. He said that, a short time previously, he, and a relative of his-a gentleman from the neighbourhood of Glastonbury, were on the farm premises at a considerable distance from the house, when they heard what they thought was a vehicle approaching rapidly. Thinking it might be a trap containing our party, which they were then expecting, they hurried back to the house and found that the noise they had heard was caused by the violent shaking, by some invisible agency, of the door which opens out of the kitchen into the passage. Soon after these motions had ceased, the house bells began to ring gently, and the ringing was succeeded by knockings similar to those which greeted us as, a few minutes afterwards, we entered the house.
“ Mr. Travis's household consists of himself, his housekeeper (Mrs. Hawker), Miss Travis (a relative), and a maid servant. These were all present on Friday evening, as well as Mr. Kiddle—the gentleman to whom we have before referred. The arrangements of the ground floor apartments are as follow :The front door opens into a wide passage, having a large sitting room on the right, and a smaller one on the left, of a person entering. Immediately opposite the door of the larger room, the passage turns sharp to the left, and terminates at the kitchen door. The total distance from the front door, round the right angle formed by the passage, to the kitchen door, is probably not much more than eight or nine yards. Another door opens out of the kitchen into a back court, which, in its turn, communicates with the farm premises.
“One of our party was a believer in Spiritualism; and as he thought that if the disturbances were due to spiritual agency, a sitting, or séance, might be the means of obtaining some explanation of them, we formed a circle and impatiently awaited the result. That proved to be nothing. No sign of such movements as we have seen in other tables under similar circumstances was observed, and we presently gave up the sitting in despair. Our Spiritualist friend attributed this failure to the fact that there was no 'medium' among the sitters.
“For an hour or more after our arrival, we listened in vain
for more knockings; but, soon after eight o'clock, we heard a number of raps proceeding apparently from the kitchen. We at once ran into that room and found the servant there. She said the noise had proceeded from the direction of a deal table which was standing opposite the back door. As the girl was in the kitchen alone at this time, it would have been easy for her to produce the sounds we heard, and if nothing more had ever been seen or heard than such knockings, under similar circumstances, we confess we should be strongly disposed to suspect the girl of being at the bottom of the affair. But, after what we saw later in the evening, and what had been described to us by Mr. Travis, and a number of other reliable witnesses, we find it impossible to accept this explanation of the mystery.
"We had not left the kitchen long when we heard, from the same direction, a noise as of a heavy table being dragged over a stone floor. Again we ran into the kitchen, and found that one end of the deal table before-mentioned had been moved about a foot from the wall. The housekeeper was in the act of stepping out of the back door, and, on seeing us running into the kitchen, she said — Oh! it is nothing this time. I believe I must have dragged the table with my dress, for it moved as I passed the corner.' The servant, who was at the other end of the kitchen, declared, however, that her mistress was mistaken. certain, she said, that her dress did not touch the table, as she was looking in that direction when the lady walked towards the door. She asserted, moreover, and in this statement she was supported by the other inmates of the house, that the table had several times before moved away from the wall in the same manner. Not feeling quite satisfied, we requested Mrs. Hawker
the table again, dragging her dress against the corner as roughly as she could. This she did repeatedly, but found it impossible to move the table, which contained two heavy drawers, without actually lifting it with her hand, or pressing her side firmly against it. As both Mrs. Hawker and the girl were certainly present when the table moved, our sceptical readers will, of course, credit them with a trick. The strangest part of the evening's business, however, was yet to come.
“We were standing at the front door, chatting about what we had seen (all the inmates of the house, except the servant, being either with us or in the larger sitting room) when we heard a great noise in the kitchen, as of something heavy being thrown violently upon the ground. Within three seconds the whole of our party were at the kitchen back-door, looking in amazement upon the table to which we have before referred. It was lying across the door-way upside down, with its legs sticking bolt
upright in the air. We were fairly on the spot when the servant, who had been into the barton, and had, she said, heard the noise while there, made her appearance at the opposite side of the court, running towards the door. We placed the table in its normal position, and made a careful examination of the locality, without discovering anything in the slightest degree suspicious.
* One more piece of furniture-tumbling completed the evening's performance. On one side of the passage, and within two or three feet of the kitchen door, there stood a mahogany table, perhaps three feet long and two feet wide. Mr. Travis had described to us, early in the evening, a number of extraordinary gymnastic feats which this piece of furniture had performed at different times. Indeed, it bore the marks of very violent usage. The top was split from end to end, and pieces of veneer were missing in various places along the edges. At nine o'clock, several of Mr. Travis's labourers were in the kitchen, taking their supper.
passage door was wide open, so that they could see the table, and the clock which stood near it. At the opposite end of the passage, the door of the large sitting room, in which several persons were talking, was also wide open. The distance from one door to the other greatly exceeded 15 feet. One of our party had just left for Langport, and the rest of us were at the front door with Mr. Travis, preparing to leave, when we were startled by a noise very much like, but far louder than, that which accompanied the falling of the kitchen table.
This time, moreover, it was accompanied by a shrill scream.
We were within four or five paces of the spot from which these sounds proceeded (the inner passage), and were there in a twinkling. The mahogany table, in two or three pieces, was lying close to, indeed almost within the kitchen doorway, in full sight of the men who were at supper. The servant, pale and breathless, , with her hand pressed upon her side, was lying back upon the stairs, which leads out of the passage opposite the clock, and is therefore within a few inches of a straight line with the entrance passage in which we were standing when the crash occurred. We picked up the pieces of the table and propped them up against the side of the passage as well as we could, and then made inquiries. One of the men, who sat opposite the passage door, said he saw the table rear up at one end before being dashed violently on the floor; and the girl said that, as she was passing, either the table, or one of the pieces of it, struck her on the side, and threw her into the staircase in the position in which we had found her. If her fright was assumed, all we can say is-that she is an inimitable actor. We noticed that, when passing the remains of the table some time afterwards she
unconsciously put out her hand towards it, as if to protect herself from another surprise.
“ This grand smash of the mahogany table was the last act of the evening up to ten o'clock, when we left.
"It may not be amiss to recapitulate the various manifestations which occurred while we were present, and to see which of them (if any) might have been caused by trickery. They were as follow:
“1.- The knocking on our arrival.-- As we were not fairly in the house when this occurred, and have no idea whence the sound came and where the immates were at the time, we may pass
“ 2.- The knocking in the neighbourhood of the kitchen table.-In this case, the servant was alone in the kitchen, and certainly may have caused the noise.
“3.—The movement of the kitchen table.--This occurred when both Mrs. Ilawker and the girl were present, and may have been the result of either accident or design, though we cannot see how it could have resulted from the former.
4.—The overturning of the kitchen table. This was the only occurrence at which nobody was present. It was, we believe, utterly impossible that the girl could have caused the upset with her hands and then escape to the spot at which we first saw her, before our arrival. If she did play any trick, moreover, she played it, in this case, at the imminent risk of detection, for the table was visible from the farm premises on one side, and (through a window) from the inner passage on the other, and some of our party or of the other inmates were in the passage well nigh every minute.
“5.-The overturning and smashing of the passage table.Here the girl was present, but it is inconceivable that she should have ventured on such an act of violence as the destruction of a table in a place where she was overlooked from both ends of the passage.
We doubt, moreover, whether, by the exertion of her utmost strength, she could have caused so much noise and destruction. The effect of this last smash was, indeed, to render one of our party exceedingly nervous, and to causer him to declare to Mr. Travis that he would not sleep in house a single night for £1,000.
“ We do not assert that it would be utterly impossible skilled conjuror to produce by mechanical means all the e we have described.
Were ours the only evidence bearing o case, we do not know that we should greatly blame our re: for remaining sceptical. It is only when the accumu evidence of Mr. Travis and his household, and of scores of respectable witnesses, is viewed together, that the impossi