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Famous Modern Ghost Stories

What Was It?
BY FITZ-JAMES O'BRIEN
It is, I confess, with considerable diffidence, that I approach the strange narrative which I
am about to relate. The events which I purpose detailing are of so extraordinary a
character that I am quite prepared to meet with an unusual amount of incredulity and
scorn. I accept all such beforehand. I have, I trust, the literary courage to face unbelief. I
have, after mature consideration resolved to narrate, in as simple and straightforward a
manner as I can compass, some facts that passed under my observation, in the month of
July last, and which, in the annals of the mysteries of physical science, are wholly
unparalleled.
I live at No. —— Twenty-sixth Street, in New York. The house is in some respects a
curious one. It has enjoyed for the last two years the reputation of being haunted. It is a
large and stately residence, surrounded by what was once a garden, but which is now
only a green enclosure used for bleaching clothes. The dry basin of what has been a
fountain, and a few fruit trees ragged and unpruned, indicate that this spot in past days
was a pleasant, shady retreat, filled with fruits and flowers and the sweet murmur of
waters.
The house is very spacious. A hall of noble size leads to a large spiral staircase winding
through its center, while the various apartments are of imposing dimensions. It was built
some fifteen or twenty years since by Mr. A——, the well-known New York merchant,
who five years ago threw the commercial world into convulsions by a stupendous bank
fraud. Mr. A——, as everyone knows, escaped to Europe, and died not long after, of a
broken heart. Almost immediately after the news of his decease reached this country and
was verified, the report spread in Twenty-sixth Street that No. —— was haunted. Legal
measures had dispossessed the widow of its former owner, and it was inhabited merely
by a caretaker and his wife, placed there by the house agent into whose hands it had
passed for the purposes of renting or sale. These people declared that they were troubled
with unnatural noises. Doors were opened without any visible agency. The remnants of
furniture scattered through the various rooms were, during the night, piled one upon the
other by unknown hands. Invisible feet passed up and down the stairs in broad daylight,
accompanied by the rustle of unseen silk dresses, and the gliding of viewless hands along
the massive balusters. The caretaker and his wife declared they would live there no
longer. The house agent laughed, dismissed them, and put others in their place. The
noises and supernatural manifestations continued. The neighborhood caught up the story,
and the house remained untenanted for three years. Several persons negotiated for it; but,
somehow, always before the bargain was closed they heard the unpleasant rumors and
declined to treat any further.
It was in this state of things that my landlady, who at that time kept a boarding-house in
Bleecker Street, and who wished to move further up town, conceived the bold idea of
 
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