The Girl Who Married a Ghost
In this most unusual story about ghostly desire, a fiancé returns to claim his living bride. Was it the delusion of a woman unhinged by grief? Or a ghost determined to marry, despite the poet’s assertion that “the grave’s a fine and private place, But none I think do there embrace.”
GIRL WEDS A GHOST
WOMAN IN OKLAHOMA MARRIES THE SPIRIT OF HER DEAD FIANCE
Bride Keeps House—Midnight Ceremony in Graveyard Shocks Village Gossips
Witchita, Kan., Oct. 10. Bessie Brown, of Cameron, Okla., is married to a ghost. Furthermore, she and her spectral husband are living together in a five-room cottage. The wedding took place one week ago, and the bride and groom moved at once into their new house, which Miss Brown had furnished with her own money. They are as happy as any young married couple could be, and persons who pass the house can hear them talking and laughing just as if they were both in human form.
This is the strangest romance ever known. Bessie Brown, of wealthy parents, high social standing, and possessed of many natural charms that make her one of the most beautiful girls in Oklahoma, married the ghost of the man she loved. She is not demented. Her mind has been tested, her brain has been examined by specialists, and her actions have been watched carefully, but no trace of insanity can be discovered. Therefore her parents agree that she must be wedded to an apparition, something which she imagines she can see and know, but which no other human being can recognize. This is what her father says about his daughter’s queer actions:
“Bessie had been brooding continually over the death of John Allen, to whom she was engaged to be married when he was killed. We tried to console her in her grief, but she wanted us to leave her alone. We feared she would lose her mind if she did not stop grieving so intensely. I had a doctor visit her several times and he said her mind was all right, but that she was failing in health on account of constant worry. That was a year ago. About six weeks ago Bessie brightened up so much that we feared she was under the influence of some drug. Then one day she made the statement that she had seen the ghost of Mr. Allen, and that hereafter she would not be sorrowful any more, for she was going to marry the ghost. She said she had given her promise to her sweetheart that if ever he died she would marry his ghost, and that now, since his spirit had appeared to her, she must keep her promise.
“Mrs. Brown and I feared the poor girl had lost her mind surely by this time, so we sent to Dallas for a specialist to make another examination of her brain. He pronounced her mental condition perfectly normal, and said that she was not under the influence of any drug. He said her case was a strange one, and that she must surely see the ghost she talked about so much. I asked her to introduce me to the ghost, and she said I could not see it, but that it was with her always. She talked reasonably about it. She seemed to know that we thought her insane because of her strange declarations, but insisted that she was actually going to marry the specter. She called upon our minister and asked him to perform the ceremony. He tried to persuade her that it was sinful that she should marry a mere apparition, but she insisted.
“The minister went with Bessie last week into the graveyard where her lover was buried and at midnight the ceremony was performed which united her to the ghost of the man whom she had promised to marry two years ago, but who was killed in a railroad wreck just a few weeks previous to the wedding. I believe after close study of the girl’s actions that she truly thinks she is wedded to the ghost, and that the apparition appears to her as naturally as if the spirit were still in the body. We are trying to do everything we can to make her forget her ghost, but it seems as if we are going to fail.”
Before the graveyard wedding Miss Brown rented a cottage and furnished it for two. She is now living in it with her ghost husband. She can be seen sitting on the back porch conversing with an invisible companion, and often walks along the street talking aloud to some person whom no one else can see. The town people are much excited over the matter. They all know Miss Brown to be a Christian young woman, and one who would not deceive anyone for the world. Most of them actually believe she is married to the ghost of her dead lover.
Jackson [MI] Citizen Patriot 10 October 1900: p. 2
NOTE: One of the versions of this story tells of the young Mrs. Allen setting the table for two and sitting down to eat with her ghostly husband. I wonder if one day she looked across the table and realized with a sudden shock that the chair was empty. Did she ever fall in love with another, living man and, if so, how would she get a divorce from a ghost?
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.