Regency Ghost Stories

I’ve mentioned before that I have rather unusual taste in TV Shows. My current favorites include Say Yes To The Dress (about prospective brides picking out their wedding dresses), I Can’t Believe I Am Pregnant (self-explanatory), Too Fat For Fifteen (about a boarding school for teenagers battling obesity), and Celebrity Ghost Stories. Celebrity Ghost Stories features a celebrity (several from old TV shows) who tell of there experiences with ghosts. It isn’t as good as Ghost Stories, a Canadian show where ordinary people told their ghost stories, but it is not as scary as My Ghost Story, which is similar, but a lot scarier.

So I got to thinking….Did they tell ghost stories in the Regency?

I went to my favorite source for quick information that is specific to the period. Google Books, where you can search on key words from works printed in specific years. I came upon lots of fictional accounts of ghosts, but I was looking for the real thing. I finally discovered a couple of Regency Ghost Stories, but they all were similar to this one:

A Ghost (From The Cheap Magazine, 1814)

Some years ago, early on new year’s day rooming,, (when there had been a great fall of snow) three young persons in a country village set out to be first-fit to some of their friends a few miles distant. They walked cheerfully along the road, which is lined on each side with fences, till they came up to the parish church yard, which they had to pass, when suddenly their mirth was converted into terror at the appearance of a GHOST ! wrapt up in a winding-sheet, shaded with black, standing on a grave,
shaking its head and bowing to them as they approached!…Though they turned their backs upon the Ghost their agitation continued…they met a halfdrunk, hearty old soldier, whom they knew, and who was also bearing a hot-pint to some of his friends. They told him the dreary tale, and requested him to turn : He laughed at their timidity—determined to go on. When he came within view of the awful spot, he likewise saw the Ghost, as they had described it; taking a hearty draught of the hot-pint to keep up his courage, he proceeded, and the nearer he approached, and looking over the dyke at it, he was positive it had assumed the appearance of an old woman smoking a pipe ! — Determined to examine it, he sprung over the wall ; however, in
defiance of his resolution, fear made an invasion upon him : but still despising the idea of being a coward, pressed on, and with a few unsteady steps reached it; but instead of a terrific Ghost, it was only — a thorn bush waving with the wind, and clogged with the drifting snow !

Another story was about a man who claimed a dead man’s ghost came to him to tell him who the man’s murderer was. Turned out the murderer was the guy telling the ghost story.

I know the Victorians became very interested in spirits and seances and the occult, but these Regency folks are a skeptical bunch!

My question of the day….If you could see a ghost of anyone from the Regency, who would it be? And, if you dare, you can tell us if you have a Ghost Story of your own.

I’m still running a contest on my blog and on the website. Today I’m also visiting The Rockville 8, talking about never giving up on achieving your dreams.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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9 Responses to Regency Ghost Stories

  1. Diane Gaston says:

    Why,oh why did I not save this blog until Halloween? Doh!!! (Diane slaps forehead)

  2. Anonymous says:

    When my husband and I bought our first house on the day we moved in we had a small electrical fire in a ceiling fan luckily for us my firefighter brother found it and diffused the situation before any loss. The next day we came home and found the entire lanai flooded and water pouring out from a burst pipe leading to the outside kitchen island. Laughed it off and said to my husband, “now all we need is pestilence”. Needless to say Sunday morning rolls around and we wake up to the noises coming out of the pipes sounding like they were going to burst. The septic system then proceeds to back up into every tub, sink, and toilet in the entire house. The smell, and the flies were unbearable. I was in tears, wanting to move out. The worse part is after calling a plumber, having an emergency cleaning crew called out they could not find any cause. Nothing was wrong with the septic system.
    Our new neighbors then proceed to tell me how the family who had lived there previously had lost their mom and wife to cancer and that she had died in the house. They told me her name. I proceeded to have a heart felt chat with Jan and the house about how sorry I was that her family was gone but…
    We remained in that house for 8 years after our initial welcome and had many repeated unexplained happenings, lingering perfume that I could never place, lights, radios, and televisions (and not normal volume) turning on in the middle of the night. Nothing was as bad as that first weekend of home ownership.
    I do not know if it was a haunting but it was an experience I will never forget.
    To answer your great question ….If I could meet a ghost from the Regency it would be either Lady Jersey so she could tell me all the gossip or the Duke of Wellington just because he is so awesome!!

  3. Elena Greene says:

    I remember hearing ghost stories from a number of tour guides when visiting various historic homes in the UK. If these were old legends and not concocted for tourists (dunno but they were entertaining!) some of these ghosts would have been around during the Regency.

    I’ve always found it plausible to have Regency characters talk about Great Aunt Lobelia’s ghost being around, and other characters being skeptical.

    As for the ghost I’d like to talk to, it would be Jane of course.

  4. Diane Gaston says:

    Oh, Anonymous, you could be on “My Ghost Story.” After all this TV watching, I know that you did the right thing by telling the ghost to cut out the bad stuff and letting her know that you own the house now. Or you did own the house.

    Elena, it is so good to see you back!! Of course, wouldn’t it be wonderful to talk writing with Jane.

  5. I am such a sucker for those ghost shows too, though after I watch them I usually sit up half the night imagining I hear things in the hallway! 🙂 (luckily I have never encountered a real one)

    Elena, it seems like no house in England is complete without a ghost story! It especially seems like Mary Queen of Scots gets around a lot in her afterlife, haunting every house she ever so much as passed by…

  6. I think you’ve all heard my ghost stories. My youngest brother’s imaginary friend turned out to be our landlord’s brother who died in the house we rented when we lived in England. We were constantly being blamed for moving furniture in the night when it was actually John, who was not happy with the way his brother refurbished the house! And my father came up the stairs on a couple of occasions to add a blanket to my bed and to the bed my brothers shared only to find it had somehow already been done.

    The older of my two younger brothers has actually had a paranormal research team out to his house as they were having trouble with poltergeist type activity. Turns out it was the ghost of the previous owner. His wife mourned him so long after his death that he stayed around the house to comfort her. Apparently my SIL bears a striking resemblance to the dead man’s wife. My brother and his wife have since become very involved in paranormal research and house cleansings.

    Hmm. I would have a tough time choosing a Regency ghost. Jane Austen for obvious reasons. The Duke of Wellington, just because. AND Napoleon Bonaparte, just to ask him “What were you thinking?”

  7. Diane Gaston says:

    Amanda and Elena, I’ve not doubt that Regency people saw the ghosts of England. I just think the culture at the time was “you imagined it.” –then the Victorians got all interested in the occult!

    Louisa, I remember you telling me the story about the ghost in your house in England. And I think it is totally cool that your brother and sister-in-law are “ghost hunters.”

  8. librarypat says:

    We have an 1898 farm house. People who lived here before have told me of the young woman in white on the upstairs landing. My son said he woke up one night to see a young girl of about 10 standing near his bed.
    Our middle daughter had a very frightening experience. She was never comfortable in the old part of the house, so when she stayed there with her new baby house sitting for us she stayed in the family room in the new addition. She woke up to take care of the baby sometime during the night. While she was leaning over the portacrib, the hairs went up on her neck. She felt like she was being and it was a menacing presence. She looked down the hall to the old part of the house. There was a green cloud that was forming into a more solid form. Our black lab had been asleep near the crib. At the same time our daughter felt and saw this presence, the dog started growling and the fur was standing up along her back and neck. The dog got up and headed toward the thing growling the whole time. By the time the dog got halfway there, the cloud vanished. The dog stopped growling and turned around to come back and lie down again. My daughter said the feeling of menace vanished when the green mist did. In the almost twenty years we have lived here, no one else has had a negative experience.
    I have not seen anyone, but I have felt a welcoming presence here since we moved in.

    Whose ghost would I like to see? Probably Jane Austen.

  9. Diane Gaston says:

    librarypat, how cool that your lab protected your daughter and the baby, even from a spooky thing! And I love that you feel a welcoming presence.

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