From The Church Treasury of History, Custom, Folk-Lore, etc., edited by William Andrews; London :  William Andrews & Co., 1898; pp. 241-274.




Ghost-Layers and Ghost-Laying.


INCREDIBLE though it may seem it is none the less true, that a canon authorising exorcism under episcopal licence is still a part of the ecclesiastical law of the Anglican church. The writer does not suppose, however, that any present occupant of the episcopal bench has received an application for a faculty, notwithstanding the fact that we live in an age of Mahatmas, second-sight, visions, clairvoyance, astral planes, and other wonders.

One of the most interesting descriptions of ghost-laying is supplied by “An Account of an Apparition, attested by the Rev. William Rudall, Minister at Launceston, in Cornwall,” written in 1665. But before extended reference is make to the strange experiences therein alluded to, the concluding paragraph of the account shall be given in full: — “To the ignorance of men in our age in this particular and mysterious part of philosophy and religion — namely, the communication 242 between spirits and men — not one scholar out of ten thousand, though otherwise of excellent learning, knows anything of it, or the way how to manage it. This ignorance breeds fear and abhorrence of that which otherwise might be of incomparable benefit to mankind.”

G. S. Gilbert, in his “Historical Survey of Cornwall,” refers at length to Rudall’s story, but the extremely fascinating narrative, “The Botathen Ghost,” from the versatile pen of the late Rev. R. S. Hawker, Morwenstow, is unquestionably the best account of all. It would seem that Parson Rudall’s “Diurnal” fell by chance into Mr. Hawker’s hands, and it is hardly possible to imagine that the manuscript could have received more skilful treatment or more sympathetic attention. The unusual character of Rudall’s “Diurnal,” together with the particulars it contains in connection with ghost-laying, will be adequate excuse for what, otherwise, might be considered undue quotation.

“A singular felicity,” says the learned Launceston parson, “had befallen young Master Bligh, once the hopeful heir of his parents and of the lands of Botathen. Whereas he had been from childhood a blithe and merry boy, ‘the gladness,’ 243 like Isaac of old, of his father’s age, he had suddenly, and of late, become morose and silent — nay, even austere and stern — dwelling apart, always solemn, often in tears,” but at last he disclosed the secret cause — that he was haunted by the spirit of one Dorothy Dinglet. At the urgent request of his friends and a resident clergyman the lad made a confidant of Parson Rudall, and eventually went with him to the field — still pointed out — where he was in the habit of meeting the apparition. Rudall himself there saw the ghostly visitor, and on returning to the house promised the boy and his parents that, when he had fulfilled certain business elsewhere, he would come back and take orders to assuage the disturbances and their cause.

The diary thus proceeds: “January 7, 1665. — At my own house, I find, by my books, what is expedient to be done; and then, Apage Sathanas!

“January 9, 1665. — this day I took leave of my wife and family, under pretext of engagements elsewhere, and made my secret journey to our diocesan city, wherein the good and venerable bishop then abode.

“January 10. — Deo gratias, in safe arrival at 244 Exeter; craved and obtained immediate audience of his lordship; pleading it was for counsel and admonition on a weighty and pressing cause; called to the presence; made obeisance; and then by command stated my case — the Botathen perplexity — which I moved with strong and earnest instances and solemn asseverations of that which I had myself seen and heard. Demanded by his lordship, what was the succour that I had come to entreat at his hands? Replied, licence for my exorcism, that so I might, ministerially, allay this spiritual visitant, and thus render to the living and the dead release from this surprise. ‘But,’ said our bishop, ‘of what authority do you allege that I am intrusted with faculty so to do? Our Church, as is well known, hath abjured certain branches of her ancient power, on grounds of perversion and abuse.’ ‘Nay, my lord,’ I humbly answered, ‘under favour, the seventy-second of the canons ratified and enjoined on us, the clergy, anno Domino 1604, doth expressly provide, that: “No minister, unless he hath the licence of his diocesan bishop, shall essay to exorcise a spirit, evil or good.” Therefore it was, I did here mildly allege, ‘that I did not presume to enter on such a work without lawful privilege 245 under your lordship’s hand and seal.’ Hereupon did our wise and learned bishop, sitting in his chair, condescend upon the theme at some length with many gracious interpretations from ancient writers and from Holy Scripture, and I did humbly rejoin and reply, till the upshot was that he did call in his secretary, and command him to draw the aforesaid faculty, forthwith and without further delay, assigning him a form, insomuch that the matter was incontinently done; and after I had disbursed into the secretary’s hands certain moneys for signatory purposes, as the manner of such officers hath always been, the bishop did himself affix his signature under the sigillum of his see, and deliver the document into my hands. When I knelt own to receive his benediction, he softy said, ‘Let it be secret, Mr. R. Weak brethren! weak brethren!’

“January 11, 1665. — Therewithal did I hasten home and prepare my instruments, and cast my figures for the onset of the next day. Took out my ring of brass and put it on the index-finger of my right hand, with the scutum Davidis traced thereon.

“January 12, 1665. — Rode into the gateway at Botathen, armed at all points, but not with Saul’s 246 armour, and ready. There is danger from the demons, but so there is in the surrounding air every day. At early morning then, and alone, — for so the usage ordains, — I betook me towards the field. It was void, and I had thereby due time to prepare. First, I paced and measured out my circle on the grass. Then did I mark my pentacle in the very midst, and at the intersection of the five angles I did set up and fix my crutch of raun (rowan). Lastly, I took my station south, at the true line of the meridian, and stood facing north. I waited and watched for a long time. At last there was a kind of trouble in the air, a soft and rippling sound, and all at once the shape appeared, and came on towards me gradually. I opened my parchment-scroll and read aloud the command. She paused, and seemed to waver and doubt; stood still; then I rehearsed the sentence again, sounding out every syllable like a chant. She drew near my ring, but halted at first outside, on the brink. I sounded again, and now at the third time I gave the signal in Syriac — the speech which is used, they say, where such ones dwell and converse in thoughts that glide.

“She was at last obedient, and swam into 247 the midst of the circle and there stood still, suddenly. I saw, moreover, that she drew back her pointing hand. All this while I do confess that my knees shook under me, and the drops of sweat ran down my flesh like rain. But now, although face to face with the spirit, my heart grew calm, and my mind was composed. I knew that the pentacle would govern her, and the ring must bind, until I gave the word. Then I called to mind the rule laid down of old. That no angel or fiend, no spirit, good or evil, will ever speak until they have been first spoken to. N.B. — This is the great law of prayer. God Himself will not yield reply until man hath made vocal entreaty, once and again. So I went on to demand, as the books advise, and the phantom made answer, willingly. Questioned wherefore not at rest? Unquiet, because of a certain sin. Asked why, and by whom? Revealed it; but it is sub sigillo, and therefore nefas dictu; more anon. Inquired, what sign she could give that she was a true spirit and not a false fiend? Stated, before next Yule-tide a fearful pestilence would lay waste the land, and myriads of souls would be loosened from their flesh, until, as she piteously said, ‘our valleys will be full.’ Asked 248 again, why she so terrified the lad? Replied: ‘It is the law; we must seek a youth or a maiden of clean life, and under age, to receive messages and admonitions.’ We conversed with many more words, but it is not lawful for me to set them down. Pen and ink would degrade and defile the thoughts she uttered, and which my mind received that day. I broke the ring, and she passed, but to return once more next day. At even-song, a long discourse with that ancient transgressor, Mr. B. Great horror and remorse; entire atonement and penance; whatsoever I enjoin; full acknowledgment before pardon.

January 13, 1665. — At sunrise I was again in the field. She came in at once, and, as it seemed, with freedom. Inquired if she knew my thoughts, and what I was going to relate? Answered, ‘Nay, we only know what we perceive and hear; we cannot see the heart.’ Then I rehearsed the penitent words of the man she had come up to denounce, and the satisfaction he would perform. Then said she, ‘Peace in our midst.’ I went through the proper forms of dismissal, fulfilled all as it was set down and written in my memoranda; and then, with certain fixed rites, I did dismiss that troubled ghost, 249 until she peacefully withdrew, gliding towards the west. Neither did she ever afterward appear, but was allayed until she shall come in her second flesh to the valley of Armageddon on the last day.”

One further entry in Rudall’s “Diurnal,” under date July 10, 1665, must be given: “How sorely must the infidels and heretics of this generation be dismayed when they know that this black death (i.e. the Great Plague), which is now swallowing its thousands in the streets of the great city, was foretold six months agone, under the exorcisms of a country minister, by a visible and suppliant ghost!”

Of the apparent sincerity of this record there can be little doubt, and the facts contained in it are referred to with, at least, a certain amount of credence even to he present day. But Parson Rudall’s narrative of the Botathen ghost by no means exhausts the ghost-laying stories of the south-west of England, and in the remaining part of this chapter a selection is given indicating various methods and connected with various localities.

All tourists to the Lizard district will remember Mullion church, if but for the superior carvings — quaintly 250 and diversely designed — which adorn its ancient benches. In the chancel is a tablet to the memory of Thomas Flavel, a former vicar of the parish, who died in 1682, and on the brass immediately beneath it is the curious inscription:

“Earth, take thine Earth, my Sin let Satan havet.
  The World my goods; my Soul my God who gavet;
  For from these four — Earth, Satan, World, and God —
  My flesh, my Sin, my goods, my Soul, I had.”

Flavel was credited with possessing to a remarkable degree the power of “laying” ghosts, and all advances in intelligence have utterly failed to throw discredit on his marvellous skill or the stories told in connection with its exorcise. One morning when Flavel was engaged in the service at church, a prying servant entered his sanctum, and incautiously opening a book on the black-art, raised at once a legion of evil spirits. Through his power of second-sight the parson became aware of this as he was reading the prayers. He abruptly closed the service, and returned in haste to the vicarage. There he found the poor servant still in the study, distracted with fear and tormented by the spirits. Quickly seizing the book, Flavel proceeded to read backwards the passages at which the girl had glanced, all the 251 while striking in every direction with the stout walking-stick he carried. The spirits were soon dismissed, but not before they had so abused the servant that for days she bore evidences of their violence!

These extraordinary powers caused Flavel to be summoned to the aid of many far and near. On one occasion he was called to settle a ghost that for long had baffled and defied all other skill, and no less a sum than five guineas was required by him as payment for the “laying” of this unruly spirit. Because of such an expenditure, two men interested in the matter thought that the exorcist should be watched so that they might be satisfied as to the performance of his task. Neither, however, made a confidant of the other, and on the night of the ceremony they were posted behind different gravestones, each wholly unconscious of the presence of his friend. At the appointed hour Flavel arrived, armed with a heavy whip and a book of divination. Crack went the whip, and both the spies started in fear! Each caught sight of the frightened face of the other, and in dread alarm at what seemed a ghostly appearance ran as though for life, leaving the vicar to settle accounts in his own 252 fashion with the spirit. When Flavel died his ghost was “laid” by a clergyman of whom he had said, “When he comes I must go.” The exact spot where this was done is even now indicated.

Scarcely five miles distant from the celebrated well of St. Keyne is the village of Talland, known for its picturesquely situated church with detached tower. This church is said to owe its present position, as do other Cornish churches, such as Lelant, Mawgan, and Gunwalloe, to the fact that every night the devil removed the stones that had been elsewhere placed by day. Night after night a mysterious voice came: — 

“If you will my wish fulfil,
  Build the church on Talland hill.”

But about a hundred and fifty years ago his satanic majesty met his match in the Talland vicar, the Rev. Richard Dodge, whose authority over the spirit world was simply supreme. With him the slightest effort of the will sufficed to raise or “lay” the inhabitants of the other world, and a nod of the head to send any troublesome ghost to that safest of all spirit-prisons, the depths of the Red Sea. His people held him in the deepest dread, and all shrank from any nightly 253 encounter with one who, in the hours of darkness, would be preceded, almost invariably, by a host of evil spirits whom, with unsparing hand, he would be driving before him.

For years the horrible apparition of a funeral coach drawn by headless horses had terrified the people of Lanreath, a neighbouring parish, where it would be often seen crossing Blackadown moor at a fiendlike pace. At last the Lanreath parson implored the aid of his brother Dodge, and at the dead of night they rode to the haunted spot. Nothing, however, was to be seen, and after a while the clergymen separated, each turning towards home. But no great distance had Dodge gone when his horse, with the preternatural sight its tribe is often declared to possess, stood stock-still, refusing to take another step in the direction of Talland. “This,” thought he, “must surely be a sign from heaven,” and throwing the reins on the horse’s neck he permitted the animal to go as it chose. Back to the haunted moor it went, and there in the gloom could be perceived at last the dark forms of the funeral coach and its headless horses. The driver had descended from his seat and was standing in a threatening attitude over the prostrate body of the Lanreath vicar lying as 254 if dead at the spectre’s feet. Such a sight was enough to shatter even the iron nerve of Parson Dodge; but, notwithstanding all alarm, the sense of duty so possessed him that he quickly began the words of exorcism. Before the prayer, short though it was, could be ended, the phantom coachman started, exclaiming, “Dodge is come, I must be gone,” and, springing to his box, drove the phantom team away like the wind, and nevermore returned. But, though Dodge’s ghost-laying was most effectual, days elapsed before the Lanreath vicar regained his senses.

The late William Bottrell (“An Old Celt”), that indefatigable collector of the traditions and hearthside stories of Cornwall, tells an extraordinary story of ghost-laying, the scene of which is laid at Bosava near Lamorna. The devil, in the capacity of a master-mason, had materially helped a miserly old cobbler to build a fine house, and had bargained with him for the surrender of his life after a certain period. But the cobbler tricked the devil, and as a consequence, even after the death of the former, such a war was waged between the two that a miller who lived near the haunted house, on which no roof could ever be securely fixed, fared badly both in person and 255 in pocket. The miller ultimately begged Parson Corker, a noted huntsman, ghost-layer, and devil-driver, who lived in the neighbourhood, to exert his power on the devil and cobbler. “He thought that if the parson could not succeed in driving them away, he might at least, as he was a justice, bind them over to keep the peace.”

“After the parson and his friends had well fortified themselves, as well as the miller, with plenty of strong drink (that they might be the better able to undertake the difficult work), they all started about midnight from the parson’s plaisance for the scene of their ghostly operations, and arrived at Bosava in the small hours of the morning.

“They say that when the parson, assisted by Dr. Maddern and the miller, drew the magic pentagram and sacred triangle, within which they placed themselves for safety, and commenced the other ceremonies, only known to the learned, which are required for the effectual subjugation of restless spirits, an awful gale sprang up in the cove (Lamorna) and raged up the vale with increasing fury, until scarcely a tree was left standing in the bottom. Yet there was scarcely a breath of wind stirring in other places. As the 256 parson continued to read, the devil swore, howled, shrieked, and roared louder than the raging storm. The parson, undaunted, read on and performed more powerful operations in the art of exorcism, till the sweat boiled from his body so that there was not a dry thread on him, and he was beginning to fear that he had met with more than his match, when the whole force of the storm gathered itself around the haunted house, and the tree to which the parson clung, that he might not be blown away, was rooted from the ground, and swept by the gale, parson and all, right across the water. Then the thatch, timbers, and stones were seen, by the lightning flashes, to fly all over the bottom. One of the sharp spars from the thatch stuck in the parson’s side, and made a wound which pained him ever after. Yet, not to be baffled, the parson made the black spirit hear spells that were stronger still. A moment after the devil (as if in defiance of the parson) had made a clean sweep of the roof, from amidst the wreck of the building a figure was seen to rise in the shape of the dark master-mason, and fly away in the black thunder cloud, with his level, square, plumb-line, compasses, and other tools around him.


“After the devil had disappeared there was a lull in the tempest. The brave parson then tried his power on the cobbler, who might still be heard beating his lapstone louder than ever. The parson, after summoning him to appear, and after much trouble in chasing the obstinate spirit of the old miser from place to place, at last caught him in the pulrose under the mill-wheel. Then the ghost threw his hammer and lapstone at the parson’s head, at the same time crying out, ‘Now, Corker, that thee art come I must be gone, but it’s only for a time.’ Luckily the parson was too well acquainted with spiritual weapons to let ghostly tools do him any harm. The night was passed. The parson’s power had compelled both demon and cobbler to depart. After making a wreck of the house between them, the parson could do no more for the miller. But a few days after it was found that the old cobbler had returned to the charge, making more noise and annoyance about the place than ever, by broad daylight even as bad as by night, and that the parson could only hunt him from spot to spot about the wreck of the haunted place, without being able to make the noises cease from amidst the ruins. It was then decided 258 to demolish all the walls of the devil’s building.

“There the best piece of work ever seen in this part of the country was long ago destroyed, and the stones employed for building hedges and out-houses. No one cared to use them about any dwelling-house, for fear that the old miserly cobbler might claim them and again settle down to beat his lapstone beside them.”

Such is one of the most extreme and fanciful of those stories of the supernatural which Cornish people are wont to relate earnestly even to this day.

Near Grampound Road Station on the Great Western Railway, and not far from Truro, is the parish of Ladock where lived, about a century since, another ghost-laying parson of undoubted powers. Mr. Woods, this master of spirits, generally used as a walking-stick a staff made of ebony, and having a strange silver head embellished with a five-sided figure of mystic import, and a silver band bearing the signs of the zodiac and various hieroglyphics. Parson Woods usually dealt with obnoxious spirits in a summary fashion. By some magic rite he made them incarnate in the form of any brute he might fancy, and then gave them an unmerciful horsewhipping. But on 259 one occasion he was set at nought by a spirit who, with demoniacal cunning, took the shape of a bird of sombre hue and strange appearance, which most frequently occupied a position in the belfry where, during the conduct of divine service, it would make all kinds of ludicrous noises, to the chagrin of the vicar, the annoyance of the devout, and the delight of the young and irreverent. There was no possibility of administering a thrashing to the bird, and the spirit was much too far away to be properly “laid.” At last the poor clergyman, driven almost to despair, was made aware of the fact that no evil spirit could remain in any locality after being brought face to face with innocent children, and all parents in the parish having unbaptised children were at once urged to bring their youngsters to the church on the next Sunday to be christened. Eight children were thus to be brought, but as the charm could only work effectually when twelve, the prescribed number, were present, four mothers whose babies had been recently baptised were requested to bring their children also. The eight infants were duly christened; and then in solemn procession the vicar and the mothers with the children and their sponsors left the church. Opposite the belfry door 260 the procession stopped, and the parson directed each mother to hand her child to its sponsor who in turn was to pass it to him so that he might hold it out for the demon to see. But the crafty bird remained hidden at the top of the tower, and no effort availed to dislodge it from behind the pinnacles. Luckily some of the babies began to cry, and soon, as a natural result, there was a perfect babel of infant voices. This proved too much even for the curiosity of a demon, and unthinkingly the bird hopped out from its hiding-place to see what could have occurred. The sight of the twelve children at once cast the desired spell, and with a screaming noise, louder and more hideous than that produced by the dozen children, the bird took to its wings and disappeared, never again troubling he church, its precincts, or the neighbourhood.

But no mention of the ghost-laying parsons of the Delectable Duchy can be considered complete without the inclusion of the Rev. Mr. Jago, a famous vicar of Wendron, near Helston. Of Jago it was said that, though he used to ride far and wide over the moorland of his parish, he never took a groom with him, for the moment he alighted from his horse he had but to strike the earth with his 261 whip to summon a demon-groom to take charge of his steed. At certain cross-roads, about a quarter of a mile from Wendron Church-town, the place is pointed out where Jago “laid” the ghost of a poor suicide who had been buried there. It was supposed that no spirit walking the earth could resist the spells of this mighty parson, and that he could even make ghosts appear as marks of delicate attention to those who might be walking with him! From him many a night-wanderer has received his quietus, and all the people of his time seem to have been strangely impressed by his tremendous powers. The tradition remains that to all the evil-disposed he was also a constant terror, for it was firmly believed that every act was visible to him at the moment it was done — whether at night or in the day. Consequently he could indicate criminals with unerring directness, and those who before had never been suspected confessed at once to deeds of wrong when brought under the lightning glance of Jago’s eye.

We should hardly expect to find John Wesley among the list of ghost-layers, and there is no doubt that his supposed encounter with spirits at St. Agnes is known to very few. Not one of the lives of the great religious leaders alludes to it, 262 while Jeffrey’s ghost at Epworth parsonage is usually given a place of honour. The story runs that, during one of his frequent journeys through Cornwall, Wesley was compelled when visiting St. Agnes to spend the night in a house which was declared to be possessed by evil spirits. Nothing daunted, the brave little man retired to bed, but soon his rest was broken by loud and angry sounds below. Now the roll of carriage wheels could be distinctly heard, then the tramp of feet, — all to be succeeded by blasphemy and curses. Wesley speedily left his bed, and hurrying to the rooms beneath his chamber found a large number of people seated about the table in the hall. Boisterous words of welcome hailed his appearance, and the good man was jovially requested to join them at their merry meal. “Yes,” said he, “but I must say grace first.” The building rang with the laughter with which these words were greeted, but with unmoved courage Wesley broke in with the line, “Jesus, the Name high over all.” Instantly the lights disappeared; utter darkness prevailed; not a sign was to be seen; not a voice was to be heard; and for ever after the house was freed from its ghostly terrors.

The parson’s presence has been considered 263 indispensable in all ghost-laying operations, but the following story, related in all good faith to the writer by those who received it from the woman in question and her praying friends, would throw discredit on the absolute necessity of clerical aid. Not many miles from Penzance in a little village called after its church, supposed to be dedicated to St. Swithin, near which stands a cottage — the scene some years ago of a strange occurrence. Here lived a woman of striking appearance, who, in deference to friends still living, shall be called Johanna Johns. For long she had worked in the service of a farmer and his wife whose immediate descendants now live in the old homestead, and when the master died he left her a substantial annuity, to be paid after the decease of her mistress. The farmer’s widow, in her last hours, implored Johanna to take all possible care of a favourite dog, but notwithstanding the servant’s repeated promise to fulfill her mistress’s wish, the poor brute was shamefully neglected, and as a consequence very soon died.

Thenceforward Johanna was haunted without intermission by the spirit of her mistress, and vain were all attempts to “lay” the intruder. But at last the ghost so far relented as to inform the 264 woman that it would be quieted, but that she alone should accomplish the feat; and that when a few days had elapsed she must be prepared to proceed to the churchyard at midnight for the purpose. Deliverance was cheap, however, to any price.

The eventful night came. Johanna sat near her kitchen window with a pious Methodist on either side, praying earnestly in her behalf. Suddenly, at the stroke of twelve, a strange wind seemed to sweep right through the room, and when the men lifted their heads the woman was gone! About an hour elapsed; and then, with awed and pallor-stricken face, she returned to relate the eventful experience of that brief space of time. The ghost had indeed come for her, and she was borne without the house, when she distinctly heard the words breathed into her ear, “Over or under?” Hardly knowing what she said, she gasped “Over,” and straightway was carried far above the earth. Up, up she went, beyond the church’s lofty tower, and then right on towards the east. Soon, in the weird light that seemed to be diffused abroad, she distinctly discerned beneath her the tall, gaunt trees surrounding an old and famous house about two 265 miles distant from her home. Then the course was changed to the north, and speedily she was flying over the low, straggling houses of the village on a neighbouring hill. Once more the course was changed, and now to the south-west — homewards. Together the spirit and Johanna descended into the churchyard and approached the grave at whose head stood the stone bearing the name of the dead mistress — they drew near to the grave of the ghost! Here the “laying” of the spirit was successfully accomplished, and the woman returned to her cottage once more free from the haunting presence. “But what was done at the graveside?” eagerly demanded the men who had been praying with her. The only response to this question was a fit of agonised crying. The secret of the graveside rites she was not permitted to reveal, and to her dying day she kept it safe. Again and again curious neighbours and people from a distance came to hear the queer, unearthly story, but when they endeavoured to wrest from her this part of her experience the only response was that evoked by the memories of that awful night — an outburst of bitter tears. Such is a story accepted as unquestionably true by those who, perhaps, were best able to judge of 266 its veracity. For a long time previous to her death, Johanna was esteemed as a good and devout woman, but to her last days she solemnly declared that her story was nothing more than a narration of indisputable fact. Let the unbeliever, therefore, make of it what he will.

The clergyman was supposed to conduct the ghost-laying ceremony, as a rule, in Latin, a language that struck the most audacious spirit in all the world with terror. The penalties imposed by the ghost-layer were various. The ghost of Mrs. Baines, which haunted Chapel Street, Penzance, was bound by a powerful exorcist, Parson Singleton, to spin ropes of sand from the banks on the western green for a term of a thousand years, unless she, before that time, spun a rope sufficiently long and strong to reach from St. Michael’s Mount to St. Clement’s Isle. Some knowing ones have asserted that generally these obstreperous ghosts might be laid for any term less than a hundred years, and in any place or body, full or empty, which was very convenient; as for instance, a solid oak, or the pommel of a sword, or a barrel of beer, if a farmer or simple gentleman, or a butt of wine, if a county magistrate, a big squire, or a lord. But of all places, as it 267 has been already hinted, that which a ghost least liked was the Red Sea; it being related that ghosts have prayed their exorcists not to continue them in that place. It was nevertheless considered an incontestable fact that there was an infinite number laid there, perhaps from its being, somehow, a safer prison than any other nearer at hand; though neither history nor tradition gives us any instance of ghosts escaping or returning from this kind of transportation before their time. About the year 1761, a pinnacle was thrown down by lightning from the tower of the church at Ludgvan. The effect was then universally imputed, so Mr. Robert Hunt tells us, to the vengeance of a perturbed spirit, exorcised from Treassow, and passing eastward, towards the usual place of banishment — the Red Sea.

Even in these days the clergy are not supposed to have lost this power over the spirit world, and quite recently there have been cases in which they were implored to exercise it. The writer has it on good authority that a poor woman living, at any rate till recently, in Madron near Penzance, went not long ago to the house of clergyman residing there, and asked him to walk round her, reading some passages from the Bible 268 to exercise the ghost of her dead sister who had entered into her, she said, and was tormenting her in the shape of a small fly which continually buzzed in her ear. Once, when before the Board of Guardians, she talked sensibly for a time, then suddenly stopped and exclaimed, shaking her head as she did so, “Be quiet, you brute! don’t you see I’m talking to the gentleman?”