The Victorian Book of the Dead’s first chapter is on personifications of Death. Although this account had to be cut from the book due to space considerations, perhaps it will whet your appetite for the subject. Here we meet a Reaper-like Death Angel, who discusses, in a weirdly bureaucratic way, the persons who are to be taken.
[Nov. 20th, 1901.] During the months of July and August 1900 I was alone much of the time. One evening near the first of August, I do not remember just the date, I, as I thought, fell asleep. Sometime during the night I saw the room fill with a thick black mist or vapor; as I watched this it became thinner and then gradually condensed until it took form, and came and stood over my bed. The figure was that of a woman, yet I could not distinguish any of the features, and the figure seemed draped in this thick mist.
As she came to my bed she stood a moment and then bent far over me and waited as if for recognition. The thought kept flashing through my mind, I know you, have seen you often, why who are you. And then I asked, “Don’t I know you?” “Certainly,” she said, “I am the Death Angel. I have been all night on a sad errand; we did not want to take this man; it is a mistake that he should have to come so soon, but as it is necessary to take him we came to bear him away. The baby too we feared would have to come, but we have left her and I hope we shall not have to take her at all, and now here we are.” As she said these words I saw before my eyes three houses which are situated on Somerville Avenue in this city. As I stood with her I was directly in front of the house in which lived one of my friends, yet I noticed the other two beside it. Then she left me and in the morning when I awoke I tried to remember what had occurred in the night that had left such a troubled, painful impression, but could recall nothing, yet all day the thought would haunt me that something unpleasant was to happen, or that I was to hear of the death of some friend.
A few nights afterward Mr. R., the husband of the friend before whose house I stood that night, came to the door and said that his wife was sick, that she was delirious and that she had asked several times for me, and he asked me if I would go down to see her. I did not in any way associate this with the dream, then or on the way down nor even going up the stairs, but the moment I stepped into the room a voice, not an audible one, but something vastly different from and stronger than an impression, came and said, “Now don’t you remember your dream? This woman cannot live long.” Just as the voice came I saw every detail of my dream as on that night, the mist, the figure and the houses and in an instant recalled every word spoken by us both. Mrs. R. was not a particular friend of mine, only an acquaintance of mine, who had made my stay in S___ pleasant by her many kindnesses. She at once began to talk about the man who had recently died next door and who, she declared had been brought into the room adjoining hers. I tried to quiet her by telling her it was not true, but until I made a pretense of having him removed could I quiet her. I was with her two days, I think, and then as she could not have the proper care at home it was deemed best to remove her to the hospital. We considered her quite sick at that time yet not alarmingly so. At the hospital she began to gain slowly, and when I visited her about a week later she seemed well and quite strong, altho she was still in bed. She told me of her plans to return to her home soon and asked me to go with her.
After coming home from her I sat down to write to see if a message would come concerning her sickness that had developed so differently from what had been predicted. In reply to my questioning came: “That woman will not live two days.” She died that week of an internal trouble of which the doctors were ignorant.
At this time I told my dream to Miss B. who lives here with us, and of whom you heard me speak as “Auntie.” I had ascertained that a man had died at the next house from prostration of the heat, and as Miss B. is well acquainted in that part of the city thought she might be able to find out who lived in the third house. It was not until late in the fall, after she had returned from her vacation, that she came home one night and said that a baby that had been sick all summer had just died in that house I indicated in my dream.
The three houses that I saw are all alike, but I noticed afterward that there is a fourth on the avenue exactly like the others, but this I did not see that night. Another thing that impressed me strangely was that the form that came to me should say (and I remember the words so well) “I am the Death Angel,” and then say we every time afterward. [Letter from Miss Edith Wright]
The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 5, 20 October, 1911.
I am not sure who Miss Edith Wright was–she wrote a very lengthy letter to the ASPR about her psychic experiences, of which this is only a small part.
Other accounts of Death Angels or Grim Reapers? I’ve previously written on these Death personifications and am always eager to collect more accounts of meetings with Death. Wing your story to Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com
While this account missed the final cut for The Victorian Book of the Dead, there are other weird Reapers in the chapter.
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.