Exhibition tells how Charles Dickens was spooked by ghost tale doppelganger
The spirits which terrorise and ultimately reform Scrooge in A Christmas Carolmay have been due to a nightmare brought on, as the miser put it, by "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese".
Now a new exhibition at the British Library marking the bicentenary in 2012 of Charles Dickens's birth suggests that the real-life mystery of another ghost story by the author may have had an equally prosaic beginning: a manuscript he allegedly stole from a rival.
Dickens wrote some of the best-loved spooky yarns in the English language – but he did not please one artist who accused him of plagiarising his apparition in a piece published in 1861.
The author and artist Thomas Heaphy bitterly accused Dickens of underhand dealing and blatantly ripping off his own story which he had sent to the printers.
Friend and biographer John Forster described Dickens as having "a hankering after ghosts".
But Andrea Lloyd, curator of the British Library exhibition, says the author was always careful to include a possible rational explanation in his ghostly writings.
He was fascinated by the occult, a genius at evoking eerie atmosphere and powerful, malign characters, and knew there was nothing like a spinechiller to boost circulation for magazines which published his novels in installments.
In 1861 Dickens published a piece in his own All the Year Round magazine called Four Ghost Stories. One of the stories featured a beautiful young woman asking a portrait painter if he could remember her face well enough to paint it from memory months later.
The artist replied in puzzlement that he possibly could, but would much prefer conventional sittings.
"Impossible," she replied. "It could not be."
It transpires that she is already dead, and the portrait is needed to console her grieving father.
The story is hardly Dickens's finest effort, but it certainly caused a reaction in Heaphy, a now almost entirely forgotten Victorian artist. (Tate and the National Portrait Gallery both have works by his father in the collections, but nothing by him).
Heaphy wrote to Dickens in a rage, claiming that not only had he written up an identical story, ready for publication in the Christmas issue of a rival magazine, but that it had really happened to him – and on 13 September too, the very date Dickens had added in pencil in the margin of his own version.
There was never any explanation of the mystery: Dickens insisted that he was completely innocent of plagiarism, deliberate or psychic.
He called the episode, Forster wrote, "So very original, so very extraordinary, so very far beyond the version I have published that all other stories turn pale before it.
"Everything connected with it is amazing; but conceive this – the portrait painter had been engaged to write it elsewhere as a story for next Christmas and not unnaturally supposed when he saw himself anticipated in All the Year Round that there had been treachery at his printers."
The exhibition includes a very rare publication, a small booklet entitled A Wonderful Ghost Story Being Mr H's Own Narrative, which the artist published years later, giving his own version of the story.
Despite including in very large type "with unpublished Letters from Charles Dickens", it was not a success.
Although Dickens conducted a running battle with spiritualists over exposés in his magazines of fake mediums and seances, he did however believe in the so-called new science of mesmerism.
He was convinced he himself could heal others by putting them into a hypnotic trance.
Catherine, his long-suffering wife, pregnant by him for most of their 22 years together (10 of their children survived) before an acrimonious separation, made a rare protest when he devoted day after day of a holiday to gazing into the eyes of a beautiful young woman who claimed to be tormented by anxiety and insomnia.
In reference to this, the exhibition includes an indignant letter he wrote to Catherine years later, raking over the coals yet again.
There is also a copy of The Terrific Register, a "penny dreadful" weekly magazine which the teenage Dickens devoured, enthralled with and terrified by stories about murder, ghosts, incest and cannibalism.
Within five weeks of Dickens's death on 9 June 1870, spiritualists in America were claiming the last laugh. The spirit of the credulous sceptic, had been in touch, they insisted, and had dictated various messages through raps and knocks including the ending to his unfinished last book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood- guardian
Charles Dickens: A Life
Murder case solved in 2009 closes 127-year old cold case linked to paranormal phenomenon
In his book The Veil Beyond the Grave, Andru Hunter takes his readers into the world of the paranormal and uses forensic evidence from cold case files to create a thrilling and intriguing plot.
"Veil beyond the Grave" tells the true story of a series of murders in Jackson County, Mich. Four people, three men and one woman, who was 9-months pregnant, were shot as they slept on a county farm in 1883.
This case not only shocked the United States, but reached multiple parts of the world. The intrigue spread to a cattle ranch in Texas where more murders occurred. Other deaths ranged from an upstanding woman that was found dead in her bedroom to an apparent typhoid death which included a corpse that was posthumously shown to have three bullet holes.
After 127 years, two forensic paranormal investigators decide to re-examine the case. They will run into a gambit of outside forces that will stop at nothing to keep the detectives from learning the truth. The detectives have their own team of forensic technicians, research sleuths, internet detectives and ghost hunters to combat these evils in a battle of paranormal forces.
Hunter says he had a strong desire to complete this project, which was as much internal as it was external.
"The story, even in the unsolved state, was so entwined with truths and half truths that one day I was standing at a victim's grave and promised him that I would not only solve the case but write a book about it," Hunter says. "Thankfully, we did both."
Hunter uses the unique approach of writing the story through the eyes of the people who lived during the tragedies of the 1880s. For the modern day parts, he takes the persona of the investigators who worked the case in 2009. Hunter even takes a third approach by theorizing how ghosts look at today's investigators.
The Veil Beyond the Graveis available for sale online at Amazon.com and other channels.
North Miami Beach Police Department Employees Fired Over Plan To Put Santeria Curse On City Manager
Two North Miami Beach Police Department employees have been fired for plotting to put a Santeria curse on the city manager.
Officer Elizabeth Torres, a 24-year veteran of the police department, and Yvonne Rodriguez, an office manager for police chief Larry Gomer, were caught plotting to use birdseed to cast a spell to make Lyndon Bonner "go away" in August before a round of planned departmental layoffs.
Torres told Rodriguez she had previous success with the curse, having made her son and daughter move out by sprinkling it on the front porch of their home, according to the police report.
Investigators say the pair were upset with the "negative climate" in the department, and hatched a plan to similarly curse Bonner by gaining access to his office. Torres admitted to police that she brought the birdseed to Rodriguez, then approached janitor Esther Villanueva, asking her to sprinkle the birdseed in Bonner's office as she cleaned.
The two were busted when Villanueva reported the incident to a supervisor. Though Torres confessed to the plan, she told investigators it was just a superstitious idea and the pair meant no harm.
"It was kind of a joke, kind of a superstition," she said, according to interview transcripts. "It did have bases in religious knowledge I had from before...As misguided as it may seem, this idea popped into my head, and I thought, 'Well, it can't hurt anybody.'"
Fortunately for Bonner, University of Miami Religious Studies professor Michelle Maldonado agrees.
"Ultimately, the city manager really doesn't have anything to worry about. In Santeria, you can't just spread bird seed and make the supernatural do what you want it to do," she told WSVN.
The pair, who were fired last week, can appeal their terminations. - THP
Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America
30-Year Old Brazilian Woman Looks Like a 9-Month Baby
We bring to you the curious case of a real-life Benjamin Button, with a twist. A Brazilian woman, who has neither aged, nor is getting any younger. Born on May 7, 1981, Maria Audete do Nascimento still has the body of a baby.
Maria belongs to a poor family, living in a mud house in Ceara, Brazil. Her family consists of her father and his second wife, who has been caring for her ever since her own mother died, 13 years ago. The family cannot afford to provide any form of treatment for Maria, whose condition could have been reversed if treated at birth. For now, she continues to live like a baby, unable to tend to her own needs, and unable, even to speak. The home in which Maria lives, however poor, does not seem short of love. Her step-mother, Dora, has taken care of the woman-child since the day she was married. Dora believes that it is the passion of her life, and that the child was sent to her as a gift of God, to take care of.
Experts from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ceara believe that what Maria suffers from is a severe deficiency of the thyroid hormone. As a result of hypothyroidism, her body was never able to develop physically or mentally. They also went on to say that if the case had been identified early on, Maria may have grown up as a normal child. The University has agreed to provide free treatment to Maria, to enable her to be a little more independent – to walk, eat and say a few words. But for now she is, in some ways, what every parent wishes for – a child that never grows up. - odditycentral
Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit