Today’s chilling tale comes from Pennsylvania, one of the most fortean of states—home to Women in Black, Kobolds, witches, and all manner of high strangeness. If I had to sub-categorize the crisis apparition in this story, I might call it a modified “Road Ghost,” although the witness was able to catch up to it and eventually saw its face.
A Pennsylvania Politician’s Thrilling Psychological Narrative.
A citizen of this county, who is not only prominent locally, but is well-known politically throughout the State, says the Punxsutawney (Pa.) correspondent to the New York Sun, was present recently where a number of persons were ridiculing supernatural or psychological phenomena, and finally said:
“There is no person who is more skeptical on such matters than I, but I had an experience once that was more than enough to make me a most ardent and sincere believer in the supernatural. I could never bring myself to think, however, that it was anything more than the result of some natural law beyond the cognizance or explanation of any human being.
“It occurred several years ago. One cold but clear winter’s night I was on my way to Reynoldsville on horseback. The Reynoldsville road, as you all know, leads for some distance through the woods, and I was passing over that stretch of the road when suddenly, probably a rod ahead of me, the figure of a man suddenly appeared in the road, and he seemed to be surrounded by a fierce fall of snow, which was apparently hurled against him by a terrific gale of wind. The man struggled along feebly against the storm. I had no need to draw my horse up, for he seemed to see the strange apparition too, and stopped suddenly, pricked up his ears and pawed the snow impatiently. All around, except in the small space surrounding the figure of the man, everything was clear and calm. I rubbed my eyes and made up my mid the man was some drunken fellow on his way home from the village, and that the storm was an optical illusion. I called out to him, but no answer came back. I shouted again and again, louder each time, but the struggling figure gave no response. At last the man fell as if exhausted and the snow continued to fall upon him and the fierce gale whirled it around him. Knowing that if the fallen man was drunk he would freeze to death if I left him lying there, I jumped from my horse and ran to help him up, intending to take him to the nearest place of shelter. It was starlight, but in that light alone the features of no person could have been recognized under the closest scrutiny. I hurried to the prostrate figure, and as I reached it I saw the face was turned upwards. As my eyes fell on the face I started back and almost fell fainting in the snow. The face was revealed in the darkness as plainly as if it was broad daylight, and it was the face of my brother, who lived in Dakota, and it was his face as a corpse. When I recovered from the shock the sight had given me and turned again to the body it was gone. There was not even an impression in the snow where it had lain. Bewildered and much unstrung by this singular vision, I finally mounted my horse and rode on. I gradually recovered my composure, and at last convinced myself that I had been the victim of a strange and unaccountable hallucination. But I slept but little that night, and a strange foreboding of evil haunted me for several days; in fact, until I received a letter from the station in Dakota where my brother was, and which informed me that he had been caught in a blizzard while on his way to his cabin, and was overpowered by it and frozen to death. The letter gave the time and date of his sad death. It had occurred the very hour and night that the apparition of the man struggling against the storm appeared to me on the Reynoldsville road, and I recognized my brother’s face as he lay dead in the snow.”
Aberdeen [SD] Daily News 8 February 1888: p. 2
The localized blizzard surrounding the apparition is a unique detail. I’ve not heard of a crisis apparition bringing along its own weather.
Other examples of micro-climates accompanying visions? Snow me at chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com.
This just in, which made me laugh:
Just read your post on The Blizzard Apparition – does the fact that the report comes from Punxatawney have any bearing on its accuracy ?
A fan from Haunted Ohio.
[If it was a recurring apparition, we might wonder! Thanks! c.w.]