I have been enjoying Dr Beachcombing’s recent series of posts on bogie-bunnies: the dread Baum-Rappit, a ghost-rabbit as big as a sheep, and the Hare of the Dobbie of Furness. In tribute to his consummate collection of coneys, I offer this Rabbit of Doom.
A Vision of a White Rabbit and its Consequences.
[From the New Albany Commercial, 30th.]
We are not superstitious, and have no faith in signs. Neither do we, as a general rule, mundanely believe in ghosts, spirits, or things of such immaterial natures, notwithstanding the wonderful stories that frequently come to us of the doings of these supposed wonders. But there are people who actually believe in ghosts. There are those who believe that the breaking of a looking-glass, the fluttering into the house of a bird, the hooting on the roof of an owl, are certain “signs” of the death of some one of the household. It’s an old superstition, and will probably always have believers.
A gentleman of this city, whose veracity is beyond question, narrates to us the following particulars of a singular apparition that was witnessed in the lower end of the city not long ago. A mechanic had arisen about four o’clock in the morning to go to his work. On stepping out of his yard into the street, he discovered, just in front of him, what he supposed to be a white rabbit, very white and clean and appearance.
The supposed rabbit was close to him, and he concluded to pick it up and carry it into his house. He reached out his hand to seize it; but it suddenly leaped away and stopped near the middle of the street. The man again approached it, and again tried to seize it, but once more the supposed rabbit ran away to the opposite side of the street, squatting upon the pavement. The man, determined to catch it, pursued; but upon his again reaching out to take hold of it, the singular creature ran across the street again and took its position upon the door-step of the house of the man’s neighbor.
The gentleman followed it, and approaching within easy reach, stopped over to pick it up, when suddenly and mysteriously it disappeared, and was not seen afterwards. The door was behind it and the pavement in front. There was no opening for it to enter, and the gentleman stoutly avers that it “vanished into thin air.”
A few days after and the little child of the man upon whose doorstep the supposed white rabbit rested and from which it so mysteriously disappeared, died. We do not know what connection there is between death and the supposed little white rabbit. But the man who witnessed the strange scene we have described, and was one of the actors in it, thinks that a little white angel strayed away from the upper and beautiful world and came in the form of a little white rabbit to seek out some pure, little white soul in this troublous world of ours, that it might be transplanted up above in the beautiful garden of heaven, where there is no temptation or sickness, or death. The little innocent of his neighbor has gone to that heavenly land.
We do not doubt that good angels do come to earth, and hover over the couches of the good while death is doing its work, and when that work is wrought to bear away upon their golden wings, to the land of joy and rest, the spirit set free from its tenement of clay. The Cincinnati [OH] Daily Enquirer 4 December 1868: p. 3
I, of course, being well-grounded in the realities of Victorian death, do not for a minute believe that that sentimental twaddle about the little white rabbit being an angel to waft the little white soul—hippety-hoppety!—to the Heavenly garden. It was, purely and simply, an omen of death, as are so many disappearing animals: the strange black birds heard fluttering in a grave vault, the disappearing butterfly, the white rabbit chased, but never caught by miners at Wheal Vor [Cornwall], believed to presage bad accidents. “Miners solemnly declare that they have chased these appearances till they were hemmed in with no possible way of escape—and yet they got away.” [The Occult Review November 1915]
While there is a well-known theme in ghost-lore of a witness seeing a seemingly living person who then disappears and is found to have died before seen, where do disappearing animals fit in? Are they pet psychopomps?
Any other Rabbits of Doom? Or, for that matter, any disappearing, preferably uncommon, animals as tokens of death? chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com, whose cup of joy would overflow to find a Sloth or Goldfish of Doom.
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.