To whet your appetite for The Victorian Book of the Dead, an excerpt from that book about a strange Marian-type apparition of a dead girl seen by multiple witnesses at the girl’s wake.
GLORIFIED VISION OF DEAD GIRL APPEARS TO SEVEN AWED MOURNERS
Apparition of Julia Murray, of Yonkers, Visible to Her Friends and Relatives While They Were Watching Near Her Corpse in the Early Morning.
One of the most remarkable phenomena ever recorded happened in Yonkers about 4 o’clock Monday morning. To seven persons who were watching near the body of Julia Murray, a devout member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, opposite her home, a glorified vision of the young girl appeared. It was seen at different times by these persons, who all agree in their testimony as to the appearance of the apparition. The witnesses are sober, industrious and devout persons.
Katie Kane, a cousin, who lives at No. 80 Orange Street, Brooklyn; William Murray, a brother, of No. 154 Ashburton Avenue, Yonkers; Nora Smith, a carpet weaver, of No. 99 Palisade Avenue; Mrs. Mary Corbalis, of No. 152 Ashburton Avenue; Rose and Tessie McGowan, of No. 154 Ashburton Avenue; Rose Kearns, of No. 58 St. Joseph’s Avenue, and Mamie Regan, of No. 4 Mulford Street…
MRS. CORBALIS’S STORY.
“I Tell It in Fear of God and in Love of the Blessed Virgin.”
I saw the vision of poor Julia Murray as surely as I see you now. I say it in the fear of God and in the love of the blessed Virgin.
I was sitting in the dining-room. We were all pretty tired, and the girls were falling asleep, but I was wide awake, and more, for I could not have slept then if my life depended on it.
There were five girls in the dining-room, and the young men were in the kitchen. Mrs. Murray, worn out with watching and tending her darling daughter, was sleeping in the next bedroom and two of the girls were lying on the bed with her.
Two others were in the parlor with the corpse and others were sitting in the bedroom where Julia died. Presently Miss Kearns came to the door of the dining-room, pale and frightened and weak. The two others stood beside her, but they could not speak. They stood with their heads bowed on their breasts and their hands crossed before them.
I heard a sound like someone falling and I went in through that room and into the room where Julia died to see what was the matter. Nora Smith had fallen in a dead faint.
There was a picture of the blessed Virgin hanging low over the bed, and when I entered there was a bright light on that side of the room and a vision was coming slowly from behind the picture.
It was the vision of Julia Murray dead in the next room. It rose slowly, slowly against and along the wall. The hands were crossed over the breast, the tips of the fingers resting on the shoulders.
Like Immaculate Conception.
She was all in a simple white dress or robe of linen just like in the Immaculate Conception, and was surrounded by white, filmy clouds.
It was Julia; I could see her soft, curly hair about her face floating like on the cloud.
She wore a beautiful wreath of roses and large leaves and her head was in a halo of bright red light. Kate Kane was beside me. She cried out to Julia’s sister, Mamie, and their brother Willie:
“Come Willie! Come Mamie! Here is Julia!”
Willie came, Katie dropped down on her knees, sobbing, “Oh, Julia, pray for me!”
The vision seemed to understand, for the hands slowly changed to a position as of prayer, the palms together before her face, and then a rosary seemed to drop down and hang as if hung on the left hand.
I could see it plainly and the face took on a sadder look and the eyes closed, as if she was praying. The vision kept rising and moving along the wall and faded slowly out at the ceiling.
We all had dropped down on our knees for prayer. I said the rosary, fifty-nine prayers altogether, and the others made the answers. I was saying the ‘Hail Mary’ when Katie asked Julia to pray for her.
There were eighteen of us on our knees saying the rosary.
Julia’s head seemed in a ball of fire. Her dress seemed like clouds. Her head slowly fell back, as the vision rose on the wall. When it passed away we all started for the dining-room.
Wonderful Moving Lights.
Rose Kearns and I were last. Rose looked back. Then she nodded to me to look back. The room seemed filled with light as if it was all afire.
I got a bottle of holy water from the kitchen and, returning to the room, sprinkled it in the sign of the cross. The light blazed up and was so strong it blinded me and made my eyes water.
Then it went before me like two torches, one of red and the other of blue and other colors. It passed into the parlor, paused a moment over the corpse and then passed out through the wall.
I asked the time and it was 4:30 in the morning. The vision must have lasted five minutes, the lights another five minutes or more.
It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw, and I shall not forget it as long as I live. It was not imaginary; it was real. There was no drink in the house, we were all awake, and I am a Catholic. I know that I should laugh if anyone had told this story to me, for I don’t believe in ghosts or visions, but this one was real. I saw it.
I did not see it when its hands were crossed on the breast, before Katie Kane asked it to pray.
Its hands were clasped in prayer when I first saw it, and it faded out slowly with its head thrown back and a look of sorrow on the face. It all happened long before daybreak. It was a rainy morning, anyway, and there was no sunrise in Yonkers.
The heavy portieres between the two rooms prevented the candelabra by the corpse from making a shadow, and it was dark in the bedroom. That light was a supernatural light, and what we saw was a vision of Julia Murray….”
The Evening World [New York, NY] 27 March 1901: p. 3 NEW YORK
The other witnesses’ affidavits were printed, but I have only included the most detailed. A further article in the next day’s Evening World gave a few additional details: Julia’s mother, brother and two sisters lived on the upper floor of 154 Ashburton Avenue, Yonkers. “The flat is of five rooms—parlor, bedroom, where Julia died and the ghost was seen; another bedroom, dining room and kitchen in a row from the south front toward Ashburton Avenue.
“The body lay, completely covered, on a slab in the bay window in the parlor, with a candelabra at its head. On the west wall is a small mantel mirror, and this reflected the light of the candles upon the north half of the wall in the first bedroom.”
The Evening World [New York, NY] 28 March 1901: p. 7 NEW YORK
NOTE: This case aroused much interest and was widely reported. Garrett P. Serviss, a famous scientific writer was called in to inspect the premises and he suggested three theories for the apparition: 1) a “Pepper’s Ghost” apparition generated by a mirror; 2) a prankster projecting a magic lantern slide through the front window, and 3) the “excited imagination” of a sensitive little girl who fancied she saw something in the flickering candle light and communicated her vision to the adults. [Source: The Bourbon News (Paris, KY) 16 April 1901: p. 4]
The newspaper illustrations give quite a religious slant to the case, using the same iconography as some Marian apparitions, as do the witnesses by comparing the vision to the Immaculate Conception. The local priest scoffed at the notion. Other theories/explanations about the vision? 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. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.