The Haunting of Captain James Standiford

From: The Denton Journal; March 12, 1892
Denton, Maryland




          Hark!  There it is.  The ghost is taking his midnight walk.  There can be no mistaking that light step echoing through the wide and silent hallway. It is the ghost!

          Spring up as I grasp Dalrymple by the arm and give him a raising shake.  He starts up with a sleepy, half frightened look.

          “Jack” said I in an awed whisper. “Listen!  There is the ghost’s step.  This house is haunted sure.  He’s coming down the stairs!”

          Dalrymple rubbed his eyes and sprang to his feet.  Ghosts nor men had no terrors for him, and it was for this reason that I had asked him to spend a night with me in this house, about which were so many stories of shots walking at night, and which was so much avoided by the villagers.

          And in truth the houses’ uncanny reputation was not without foundation.  It had not been occupied for thirteen years and was now inhabited by rats and cockroaches; its roof was all moss grown and all approaches to it were grown up in weeds and briars.  No one had cared to go near it in thirteen years.  Its last occupant was a rich old man who lived in it only during the summer and was all alone.  For fifteen summers he lived there.  The people knew but little of him save that his name was Caspar Tromp and that he was very wealthy.

          The last seen of him about the village was one day in August just thirteen years before the occurrence of the incident narrated at the beginning of this story.  He was observed walking about the place superintending some work that he was having done.  The next day the house was shut up and he was seen no more.  It was thought that he had returned to the city and would turn up the next summer.  A few months later a younger brother of his came down and removed the furniture and closed up the house.  That was the last ever seen of Casper Troup and the next summer the house was not opened.

          The big roomy house remained all through the year following closed up, deserted and alone.  The villagers who passed by it at night began to tell strange stories of the sounds that they hear inside and declared that they had often seen a light shining through the blinds and had heard wolves moaning as if in pain.  These stories gave the house a reputation of being haunted, and it was given a wide berth by all at night, just as many other houses are in nearly every village.  For thirteen years the house maintained the reputation well and even increased it.  It became the talk of the town, and any number of intrepid youths spoke of spending a night in the house and solving the mystery.  But none ever did so.  I detained to see if there was anything in the many stories that had been told and proposed to Jack Dalrymple that we spend a night in the house and meet the ghost face to face.

          And so it came to pass that we repaired to the silent house one night just after dusk, and opening the creaking door entered the wide hallway.  All was dark.  We light a wax taper and set it down in the hallway to give us light.  We spent the first few hours of the night speculating about the appearance of his ghostship, and finally, wearied, we had fallen asleep.  I had scarcely gotten asleep when I heard the front steps as described above.

   And after rousing Dalrymple we walked into the hallway.   We could hear the footsteps sounding in the hallway just over our heads.  It was the ghost and it was coming toward the stairway.  Nearer ad nearer the footsteps came, and faster and faster my hear beat.  Another step---

          Great God!  There it was!  Hideous!  Horrible!

          At last I had seen a ghost.  In all my most horrible freaks of imagination I had never conjured up anything half so frightful or hideous as this.  It was the figure of an old man, who might have been a thousands years old so bent, so feeble and decrepit he seemed.  He was leaning with one hand on a cane, while with the other he steadied himself on the railing of the stairway.  But more horrible that all was the aw awful gaping cut which extended from one of his ear to the other and which was dripping with blood.  His white beard was clotted with blood, and the long white hair which fell in folds over his shoulder was soaked with gore.

This horrible, unearthly figure came down the stairway and stood before us staring at us with his wild, maniacal protruding bloodshot eyes, while his thin lips were twitching nervously and the ghastly wound was gaping open showing the severed windpipe.

           “Who—who are you?” asked Dalrymple in a husky voice.

          The creature replied in a squeaking voice without moving his lips.  The voice coming out of the gaping wound.

          “I” he said, “I am Caspar Troup.  And I was murdered here in this house thirteen years ago.”

          “-----Troup—murdered!” was all I could ejaculate.

          And this was a ghost.

          “Yes, I am.  I am a ghost.”  He continued in the same way as before. “But I have not time to spare with you.  I am going to call on my murderer.”

          “Call on your murderer?  What do you mean?  Explain yourself,” asked Dalrymple excitedly.

          ”I mean what I say,” continued the ghost.  “I was murdered in here.  I am a ghost and I am now going to haunt the wretch who gave me that,” and he pointed to the gaping, ghastly wound across his throat.

          “Who—who killed you?” ask Dalrymple.

          “His name?” the ghost asked.  “Ah, I don’t know that.  But his face—Ah!  How many thousand times have I caused it to grow contorted in the most dreadful agony, as I would appear before him suddenly.  Before the night he gave me this death wound I used to see him hanging about the village with the other loafers.  I paid no attention to him.  But on that dreadful night I recognized him as he stood over me with that shining blade drawn.  I cried out for mercy, but he would not hear me.  He struck the fatal blow.  I felt the keen edge of the knife and then I felt my life blood flowing out and y strength was going.”

          “Everything appeared in a mist to me and pretty soon all had faded and I was dead.  But I was in another world.  I would hold communion with a thousand other wronged beings who had been transformed from life into the ghost world.  They told me merry stories on how they at all hours haunted those persons who had wronged them in this world.  Bin in that respect I am a peculiar ghost.  I have my regular haunting hour.  I remember as my murderer stood over me the clock in an adjoining room chimed the hour of 1 o’clock, and every night just at 1 o’clock I pay my victim—he’s my victim now—a visit.  And I must be going.”

          He moved toward the door and we followed.

          “Do you young men want to follow a ghost upon his cheerful mission?”  he asked.

          “By all means, if you will let us,” said Dalrymple.

          “I have no objection.  A ghost desire no company, but you may go.”    

           We followed him out through the darkness to the road that led past the house.  He moved quickly along the road and we followed, filled with a sensation, which I cannot explain.  With a ghost on his nightly rounds!  This was something strange---passing strange.

          Over the hills we followed his ghostship until the village had been completely left behind.  The fields, waving with their harvests of corn, were on either side.

          Where was he going?  Who was the murderer?  These thoughts flitted through my mind a thousand times.  Presently he stopped before a large farmhouse.

          “This is the place,” said he.

          Great heavens!  Was it possible?

          I knew the place well.  It was the residence of Captain James Standiford, one of the most prominent men in our whole vicinity.

          “This cannot be true,” said Dalrymple.

          But the ghost gave us no time for words or thoughts.

          “Follow me,” he said, and he entered the house.  Bolts and bars have no restraining power against a ghost, for he pushed the door lightly aside and stepped into the hallway.  Evidently he knew the place well.  A look of delight, I fancied, came over his face as he beckoned us to follow him up the stairway.

          At the top of the stairs he stopped before a door.

          “This is his room,” he said.

         He turned the knob and went in.  The room was dark, but through an open shutter a faint steak of light entered.

          On a bed a sleeper was tossing restlessly about.  It was Standiford.   He moaned, restlessly turned over and then, with a frightened start, sat up in bed.

          His eyes fell upon the ghastly ghost figure standing at the foot of his bed, looking a thousand times more horrible than when we had first seen him.

With a loud cry of terror he sprang from the bed and ran to the farther side of the room.  Slowly the ghost went after him.

          “Take it away!  Take it away!” he shrieked.  “It’s his face!  Take it away”  Oh, God!  Take it away!”

          Standiford’s face was so terribly drawn and contorted by his terrors that one of his most intimate acquaintances would not have known him.

          The ghost went slowly toward him, and with a maniacal, terrified look he ran about the room getting as far from the ghost as the room would allow, shrieking and moaning piteously all the while.

          Shrinking in a corner like a cur at bay with his bloodshot eyes almost ready to burst from their sockets, Standiford held up his hands toward the ghost and cried out piteously.

          “Go away now, please go away!  I am sorry—so sorry, and this is enough---my God!  It’s enough!”

         But the avenging spirit did not hear his pleas for mercy.  Wherever Standiford went the horrible thing followed him.

           For almost an hour it went on thus, when at last Standiford becoming utterly exhausted, threw himself on the bed and covered his face with his pillow, trying to shut out the hideous sight and crying out in the most penitent manner.

          For a moment the ghost hovered over him and was gone.

          Dalrymple and myself stood rooted to the spot for a few moments, and then, realizing our positions, went back down the stairway and out of the house.

          “This is a horrible experience,” said Dalrymple, “and a horrible revelation.”

          We walked back home in silence, busy with our own thoughts concerning the novel experience of the night.

          The next day I met Standiford on the streets.  He spoke to me in his usual happy manner, but I noticed dark lines under his eyes, while he wore a sleepy and dejected look.

          He was a murdered, and no one but myself and Dalrymple knew and would ever know.

          Would it do to proclaim him to the world as such with proof but the ghost’s testimony, and to have the ghost summoned into court?  I think not.

By Robert L. Adamson -- Atlanta Constitution.

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