Old Lady Sits Up In Her Coffin

Author Unknown - 1873

The idea that mankind does not carry their grudges beyond the grave seems to have received a severe shock by a recent occurrence near Ramsey, a neighboring village of ours, located on Green River, in the junction of Butler and McLean Counties.

The story, as told by a credible resident of the neighborhood, is to the effect that some years ago an old gentleman died in that neighborhood and willed certain of his property to his relatives. He gave his wife a life interest in his real estate, which was to go after her death to his nephew, who was also to have the rest of his personal property not especially devised to others. Unexpectedly to his wife this amounted to more than was evidently intended, for he chose to claim and get possession of even that property which she had considered and treated as her own. The avarice of the nephew so irritated her that she declared he should never enjoy the property after her death, and that she should live so long that his expectations and hopes should be long unrealized. Her tenacity of her own way was such that many of them declared they believed she would either live forever or haunt the nephew after her death. For years there were bickerings and bitterness between the aunt and nephew, and no opportunity was lost by either to annoy the other, and when the nephew was an old man the aunt died, apparently of natural decay; went out like an exhausted taper. Just before she died she gave directions to her attendants about the manner in which her remains should be prepared for the grave, and among other things she strictly enjoined on them to put no flowers about her corpse, to use no shroud, but clothe her corpse in a black dress and have no useless paraphernalia or pomp in connection with her funeral. Her orders were strictly observed, except that after she was placed in her coffin a young lady, who had not heard of her antipathy to flowers, spread a small bunch on her breast. She had hardly laid the floral testimonial of her respect out of her hand when the corpse began to move, and in a few seconds the old woman sat up in her coffin and threw the flowers at the young lady, who, frightened half out of her senses, ran screaming from the room, while all those who beheld the spectacle were shocked beyond measure, but the old lady being apparently satisfied when the offensive ornaments were gotten rid of, quietly lay down again and was buried in due time. As soon as the funeral was over, the nephew entered and took possession of his inheritance, moving his family into the old house, which was a much better building than the one he had occupied. He was congratulating himself on his good fortune while setting things to rights, but on the first night of his arrival he found that the old lady intended to keep her threat of haunting him. He was not made of the metal that fear ghosts, and he allowed no trifle to disturb him, but about midnight he was awakened by the screaming of his children, who had been awakened by the well-known step of his aunt, and they heard her footsteps clattering up the stairs. The father, although anxious to comfort his children, had to acknowledge he too had heard the steps, but scouted the idea of a ghost and went to bed. The next night the steps were heard by all, and a strange, whitish light floated through the house and was recognized by some of the members of the family as having the form of a woman, clad not in white, as ghosts are generally seen, but in the black dress in which the relentless aunt had been buried.

The same blood-curdling sights and sounds were endured for several nights, when the heir was entirely unable to longer endure the annoyance, and they moved out of the house, which has ever since remained untenanted. As the lonely traveler passes the house in the night, the strange light which so annoyed the family of the heir is sometimes seen passing and repassing before the uncurtained windows, and such is the reputation of the house that the owner cannot get a tenant to enter it, and even a greater portion of the surrounding grounds have been allowed to go to waste; so great is the dislike to approach the premises.

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