Things happen to people in bed. Some wake to see ghosts looming over the foot-board. Others are snatched by aliens, or taken by the fairies. Wales was once home to a deadly Vampire Bed. And let us not forget the rarely seen, but still-feared, monsters under the bed.
For today’s Object of the Damned, we return to the theme of haunted furniture. By way of introduction, a brief bedtime story:
I was told by a librarian that an older gentleman had visited the reference desk wanting to know about the history of his house. He was certain that it was haunted–because his bed kept moving up and down. Research turned up the logical, if x-rated explanation that his house had once been a brothel.
It is doubtful that the following stories have such an interesting back-story, but they all feature bouncing beds.
I will tell of my experience about sixteen years ago: I moved into a house situated on D__ street, Waco, Texas. My daughter and myself went upstairs and entered the room on our left. She shivered and said: “How queer I feel; the place must be haunted.” It so happened that I chose the room for my bedroom.
The next day after getting things pretty well arranged, feeling rather tired, I lay down in my room to rest. It was but a short time until my bed began to rock like a cradle being gently rocked. It moved thus several times, then each side seemed to vie with the other in rocking the hardest (which threw the rough part in the middle) and made me feel very much like I was about to be ousted. When my husband came home that evening, I told him that I was afraid we had made a mistake in getting the place, for the wind did not seem to blow very hard, yet the house was so tall and I feared was poorly built, for it made the bed shake until I could scarcely lie on it. He looked at me with a questioning eye and said: “Now, of all women on earth, you are the last one that I ever expected to hear such foolishness from.” (He had heard of the reputation of the house.) At the time I did not understand why he was so displeased. The rocking continued, but only during the day, so I said nothing more about it, as I did not care to hear his criticism.
We had been there only a short time when my brother, A.J. Pratt, came to make me a visit. I arranged for him to occupy this room while there. I went with him to his room the first night and he made the same remark my daughter had made. He came to stay two weeks, but for some unknown reason he stayed only four days, and his cousin, David Gound of Granger said my brother told him that he was ashamed to tell us, but he just could not sleep another night in a bed that rocked as that did.
Shortly afterward Miss R__, who occupied the room on the right, was preparing to go to early mass. She needed some assistance, and I sent Annie King (who was cooking for me). It was only a few minutes until Miss Mary came down where I was, her whole body quivering, her arms jerking so hard that her hands coming up against her breast could be heard across the room. Her lips were purple; her eyes bulged out; her expression one of entreaty. I was shocked at her condition. I called her by name several times, took hold of and shook her, trying to get her to speak, but she could not. By this time Annie came and I said: “For mercy sake, Annie, tell me what is the matter with Miss Mary.”
She said: “I was fastening her dress when there seemed to be such a queer light pass thru the room and rustled as tissue paper, and Miss Mary threw up her hands and said, ‘Oh, my God! What eyes!’ Then she ran down to you.” By this time Mary’s voice returned, and she said: “How beautiful, but O! what eyes!” Upon being asked what was beautiful, she said: “I saw the most stately and beautiful woman with large beautiful eyes with O such an expression! O Mrs. Paxton, I’m sure they were pleading for help! O I can see them yet!” She covered her eyes with her hands to shut out the vision, and said: “Mrs. Paxton, I love you and would like to remain with you, but I cannot. I cannot sleep in that room another night.” Upon being told that she could room with Miss M__, she accepted the offer and remained with us until she returned to Dallas.
Some young ladies came to spend the night, nothing more being seen or heard since Mary’s fright. I put them, with two of my daughters, to sleep in her room. There were so many noises and flashes of light, which came at intervals, that they all suddenly became of one mind, and that was, to go downstairs. My husband and I, looking up to see who was descending in such haste, saw them.
About two weeks later, one morning my husband said his back hurt him so that he could hardly move and asked me to make the fire. I had just about completed getting the ashes out when I heard him call, “Manda, O Manda! Bring the light here (I was laughing already). I called back, “What’s the matter?” when he said, “Well, come on if you are going to,” and heard a noise as if someone was coming down the steps. I had started when I answered, but I suppose I was too slow, for when I entered the room from which the stairs went up, there stood my husband, his trousers on one arm, his shoes in the other hand, and he never said a word about his back. When I asked as meekly as I could, “What’s the trouble?” he only said, “That blamed old bed tried to rock me out. You can just bring our bed downstairs. I’ll not sleep up there another time.” I began to speak to my neighbors about it. They were surprised to hear that I did not know the house was haunted, and said that frequently families would pay a month’s rent, move in one day and out the next.
There are others I can refer you to if you wish to know more about the ghost story.
My husband made the fire while I enjoyed my laugh.
Mrs. A.J. Paxton
958 Helen avenue.
Fort Worth [TX] Star-Telegram 20 December 1907: p. 6
The following narrator sounds like she would have been a delightful house-guest. She certainly had nerve or she wouldn’t have been such a good sport about resident ghosts.
I have stayed in a good many houses supposed to be haunted. Of one house which I have visited, but never stayed in, the hostess says cheerfully: “We have three ghosts, so you can take your choice. There is the Clammy Hand, which is felt but not seen. You may wake at night to its touch. There is the gentleman in blue velvet. It is really true that one of our guests met him on the stairs one morning as she came down to breakfast and remarked as she came in, ” What a very picturesque footman you have!” The third is an old lady—a great-great-aunt of my husband—who steals about in the twilight, looking for something.”
I certainly should not have picked the Clammy Hand of those three ghosts.
But in our visitings we have had one experience, not at all a terrible one, for which we have no explanation. We had arrived at a house, very tired after a long journey, and “in the pink” as to nerves and health, for we had been holidaying for some time. Our rooms were oak-panelled and tapestried, which made them very dark, and there was the usual four-poster bed in the principal room of the suite, belonging at latest to the eighteenth century, its pillars very tall and slender, its curtains and coverlet decorated with the beautiful embroidery of the eighteenth-century ladies. In that room there were eleven electric lights, but when they were all switched on they only made the room appreciably darker. The first night I fell asleep with the thoroughness of healthy fatigue, only thinking to myself lazily before I slept that the tapestried wall on which my sleepy eyes rested was certainly very dark.
I had left an electric light on beside my bed, in the shadow of the curtains. I awoke to find it out, or I dreamt I did, and switched it on again. I certainly awoke later and found the light out. This time I felt almost too alarmed to stir. While I hesitated, with a quaking heart, somewhere in the house was a violent noise, as though a window had fallen, and, immediately following, the clock in the stable-yard struck two.
I was never very happy in that room, though it was a beautiful room, nor was Pamela in her room adjoining. I did not like even writing there by daylight, and found myself looking over my shoulder when I forced myself to do it.
We asked one day at the luncheon-table if there was a ghost, and our host said No: part of the house dated from the fourteenth century, so it could hardly escape a ghost. Our hostess said: “There is something like a ghost in the Peacock Room, or at least something very odd happens there. The bed goes up and down with you in the middle of the night.”
The men present laughed, but she persisted.
“Oh, but I felt it when I stayed here before I was married. You know”—to our host—”that we had to give up using that room because so many people felt it.”
Later on we asked another guest where the Peacock Room was situated. He answered vaguely that it was over there, waving his hand in a direction where our rooms were not.
Across the corridor from us there was the open door of a room in which we could see our trunks. One day one of us had occasion to find something which had not been unpacked. Lo and behold, it was the Peacock Room!— wonderfully embroidered peacocks on the curtains, the coverlet, and the chair covers, peacocks flaunting themselves on the carpet, peacocks in the beautiful old tiles of the grate. The room was entirely dismantled and out of use, though the beautiful furniture of buhl and ormolu remained. Its only use for the moment was to receive the empty trunks of the occupants of the opposite suite.
We went there a year later. Our host said to us: “We could not give you the rooms you had last year as they are occupied.”
We were shown to our rooms. As soon as we were left alone there we turned and looked at each other. We had the Peacock Room.
Oddly enough, we were not at all frightened there, though we had come much less physically fit than the year before. But all the same I would not sleep alone, so Pamela shared the spacious couch. She was awakened the first night, somewhere about the middle of the night, by a gentle swaying movement of the bed which lasted for some minutes. She did not feel at all frightened. She considered whether she should awaken me, but decided not to and went asleep. She said nothing about it the next day, fearing I should be frightened; but two or three nights later I awakened to the very same gentle swaying of the solid four-poster bed. One might have been in a hammock being swung very gently to and fro. I only felt a vague interest as to how long the motion would last. When it ceased I went asleep like a lamb.
I spent some of the morning hours in the Peacock Room at my daily work after that experience; but it never occurred to me to look over my shoulder. I feel sure that if “anything had happened,” it was in the Tapestry Room, not the Peacock.
The Wandering Years, Katharine Tynan, 1922: p. 220-227
This story comes from a much longer report from the Society for Psychical Research about a “haunted house,” whose location is not given:
There are several reports of a howling or screaming noise being heard, generally by daylight. This noise does not seem to be in any way connected with the wind, being heard as often in calm weather as during a storm. Many people complain that they wake in the night with an unpleasant feeling that somebody is bending over their bed. Sometimes they feel touches on the bedclothes.
“Mrs Westfield” writes:
” About 5 years ago or less I was really terrified. I was very tired and in a deep sleep when I was awakened by my bed shaking and vibrating as if someone was trying to move it backwards and forwards. I half woke and heard someone shuffling round the bed. The person bent over me, and it seemed that someone touched my feet and then began to grope their way up to my face. I was frozen with terror and seized a match box, and as soon as I got a light it stopped. I got out of bed and. with a powerful torch searched the room and the whole house, but there was nothing to account for it. It was a dead calm moonlight night.
“Exactly the same thing happened about three years later, when someone seemed to grope round my bed, and actually feel their way up to my face and press their face close to mine.”
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. XXIX 1935-1936 June 1936: p. 241
That last bit would have done it for me…
What explanation is there for these bouncing beds? Is it misfiring neurons causing tremors? Is it poltergeist activity? Is it settling foundations or earthquake activity? There is a theory that some polts are connected with sexuality: burgeoning, repressed, failing, or unwanted, as in the case of the burning beds I wrote about a few years ago. Then there is this little anecdote:
A few years ago a friend of mine was called in on his first case of paranormal investigation. The primary complaint, made by the woman who called, was that her bed moved. She had set up some crude (and ineffective) instruments to monitor this effect, which my friend never saw for himself. She reported other phenomenon, which seemed to follow the pattern of poltergeist behavior. It turned out that the bed was about 20 years old and had been used by her ex-husband and his mistress during their trysts. The woman was still quite bitter about the affair and the divorce. My friend suggested that the bed’s associations were causing some telekinetic phenomenon and she might want to get a new bed. For some reason, this did not satisfy her and there the matter rested. Or rather, didn’t rest.
Other bouncing beds? There was a case in 1938 Virginia where a young girl made her bed move by twitching one set of muscles below the blanket without showing any effort above. Her family thought she was bewitched until researchers put controls in place. Bounce reports to 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. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.