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The Hospital Ghost

This story was published in the Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), Sunday 30th September 1906

The Hospital Ghost

A True Sydney Story. (For the “Sunday Times.”)

The following remarkable story was told me a few days back by a lady who was some time ago the inmate of a Sydney hospital. I repeat the story for the reason that it demonstrates a theory I have long held, namely, that under certain physical conditions of the body the mental faculties acquire abnormal powers of perception. I have used the term “mental faculties” for lack of a better, and in order that I may not wander into the region of abstruse words, the meanings of which are not generally understood.

Mrs. B. had been a patient at the hospital for a considerable time. Her case was a serious one, but, contrary to the expectations of doctors and nurses, she survived an operation which was only resorted to as a last chance.

When the incident I am about to relate happened she was convalescent, and about to return to her home.  Waking one night with a feeling of thirst, and not seeing the night nurse about, she was patiently awaiting her return, when, as she thought, she heard the door of the ward, which was hidden from her view by a screen, open gently. Almost immediately a tall woman, with short black hair and a pale complexion, stepped from behind the screen.

There were two things about her which particularly struck Mrs. B. The first was that she had remarkably heavy dark rims round her eyes, as though she had been long and seriously ill. The second was that, being a woman, she naturally took notice of what the other wore, and saw that it consisted of a long grey wrapper trimmed with black braid, which was worked into a peculiar pattern.

“Aha,” thought Mrs. B., as the midnight intruder stood as though in doubt whether to proceed or retire, “you had better not let the nurse catch you wandering about like this, or there will be trouble for you.”
Whatever her business was, she had evidently made up her mind to proceed, for, gathering her skirt round her with one hand, she advanced slowly down the centre of the ward, pausing every few steps, as though she were trying to remember something. One point about her that particularly struck Mrs. B.  was the kindly expression of her countenance, more especially of the eyes, which were dark and soft. At last she paused beside an unoccupied bed, and raising the pillow, appeared to be looking for something beneath it. Next she opened the door of the little safe that stood beside the bed and carefully examined the interior. She evidently did not find what she sought, for, closing the door, and raising her hand to her forehead, she stood with a puzzled expression on her face.

It was when she once said again started on her slow walk that Mrs. B. first noticed anything peculiar about her. As she drew near, she seemed to be walking a few inches above the surface of the floor, and not on it. Then she observed that the lower part of the woman’s body was slowly fading away, until it had entirely disappeared below the waist. The upper portion, however, kept slowly advancing, and as Mrs. B. observed, with the rhythmic motions of head and shoulders as of one walking.

Strange to say, Mrs. B. states that she felt not the slightest fear. The apparition was so gentle and kindly in its appearance that it would have been impossible to feel horror of it. When at last it was within a few feet of her bed, one of the other patients coughed loudly. In an instant the vision, or whatever it was, vanished.

The sequel is perhaps the strangest part of the story. On the following day Mrs. B. heard a conversation on the telephone, and, with the characteristic curiosity of the invalid, wanted to know what it was about.
“Oh, it was only someone ringing up for Miss L.’s things. I’ll just run and get them. It will be something for you to do,” replied the nurse, hurrying away.

She returned in a few minutes carrying a small portmanteau and several articles of women's wearing apparel, amongst which Mrs. B. at once recognised the wrapper worn by the apparition of the night before. Not being herself a superstitious woman, and fearing ridicule should she relate what she had seen, she kept silence about the ghostly visitor. But, being deeply interested in learning all she could about the late owner of the wrapper, she questioned the nurse closely regarding her, and learned  that Miss L. - for that was her name - had come to the hospital in the first instance suffering from the effects of typhoid. After a protracted illness, and when everybody thought she was on the way to a complete recovery, grave complications developed, necessitating an immediate operation, from the effects of which she had succumbed three days previously.

“She was the dearest creature, and the best patient we ever had here,” said the nurse enthusiastically. “Do you know, when she was convalescent, just before the operation, she occupied a bed in your ward. Poor thing, when she was dying she asked for a letter she said she left under the pillow of her bed in your ward, and seemed to fret a great deal when it could not be found.”

Mts. B. concluded her story somewhat illogically by remarking: “Of course, you know, I don’t believe in ghosts; but I saw one that night. Of that I am quite confident” - H.

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