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Trinity Poltergeist

Trinity is a mansion house district in Edinburgh that developed in the early 1800’s and was named after Trinity House in Leith. There was a suspected case of poltergeist activity in a house in Trinity around 1835 which led to a legal battle between the supposedly haunted Captain Molesworth and his neighbour and landlord, Mr Webster. The case was detailed in Night Side of Nature, by Catherine Crowe, who’s account was reprinted in The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain by John Ingram (1897).

According Crowe: ‘So late as the year 1835, a suit was brought before the sheriff of Edinburgh, in which Captain Molesworth was defendant, and the landlord of the house he inhabited (which was at Trinity, about a couple of miles from Edinburgh) was plaintiff, founded upon circumstances not so varied, certainly, but quite as inexplicable. The suit lasted two years, and I have been favoured with the particulars of the case by Mr.M L (identified as Maurice Lothian by Ingram), the advocate "employed by the plaintiff, who spent many hours in examining the numerous witnesses, several of whom were officers of the army, and gentlemen of undoubted honor and capacity for observation.

Captain Molesworth took the house of a Mr. Webster, who resided in the adjoining one, in May or June 1835, and when he had been in it about two months, he began to complain of sundry extraordinary noises, which, finding it impossible to account for, he took it into his head, strangely enough, were made by Mr. Webster. The latter naturally represented that it was not probable he should desire to damage the reputation of his own house, or drive his tenant out of it, and retorted the accusation. Still, as these noises and knockings continued, Captain Molesworth not only lifted the boards in the room most infected, but actually made holes in the wall which divided his residence from Mr. Webster's, for the purpose of detecting the delinquent of course without success. Do what they would, the thing went on just the same; footsteps of invisible feet, knockings, scratchings, and rustlings, first on one side, and then on the other, were heard daily and nightly. Sometimes this unseen agent seemed to be knocking to a certain tune, and if a question were addressed to it which could be answered numerically, as ' How many people are there in this room? ' for example, it would answer by so many knocks. The beds, too, were occasionally heaved up, as if somebody were underneath, and where the knockings were, the wall trembled visibly, but, search as they would, no one could be found.

Captain Molesworth had had two daughters, one of whom, named Matilda, had lately died ; the other, a girl between twelve and thirteen, called Jane, was sickly, and generally kept her bed ; and as it was observed that wherever she was these noises most frequently prevailed, Mr. Webster, who did not like the mala fama that was attaching itself to his house, declared that she made them, whilst the people in the neighbourhood believed that it was the ghost of Matilda warning her sister that she was soon to follow. Sheriff's officers, masons, justices of the peace, and the officers of the regiment quartered at Leith, who were friends of Captain Molesworth, all came to his aid, in hopes of detecting or frightening away his tormentor, but in vain. Sometimes it was said to be a trick of somebody outside the house, and then they formed a cordon round it ; and next, as the poor sick girl was suspected, they tied her up in a bag, but it was all to no purpose.

"At length, ill and wearied out by the annoyances and the anxieties attending the affair, Captain Molesworth quitted the house; and Mr. Webster brought an action against him for the damages committed by lifting the boards, breaking the walls, and firing at the wainscot, as well as for the injury clone to his house by saying it was haunted, which prevented other tenants taking it."

The poor young lady (Miss Molesworth) died, hastened out of the world, it is said, by the severe measures used while she was under suspi¬cion; and the persons that have since inhabited the house have experienced no repetition of the annoyance.

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Ian Topham
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Re: Trinity Poltergeist

DANGEROUS GHOSTS (1954) Elliott O'Donnell

In 1835 Captain Molesworth rented a house at Trinity, near Edinburgh, which belonged to a Mr. Webster. After he had been in the house for about two months he began to complain of extraordinary noises, and accused Mr. Webster, who lived next door, of making them. Mr. Webster indignantly repudiated the charge.

The noises continued, and Captain Molesworth not only took up the boards in the room in which the noises were worst, but bored holes in one of the walls which divided his residence from that of Mr. Webster, in order to detect the culprit.

His efforts were fruitless; the disturbances became worse; there were footsteps made by invisible feet, knockings, scratchings and the rustling of dresses. Sometimes the knocker seemed to be trying to play a tune, and if asked a question would respond by so many knocks.

Alarming things happened. Beds were raised during the night as if someone was underneath them, and the knockings were so violent at times that the walls shook.

Captain Molesworth had had two daughters, one of whom was named Matilda, the other one Jane. Matilda had died recently. Jane, who was between twelve and thirteen years of age, was frequently ill in bed. The fact that the noises were generally most frequent and loudest in her room made some people think that she made them. Other people thought that it was the ghost of Matilda, warning Jane that she was doomed to die very shortly.

Sheriff's officers, masons, magistrates, army officers and friends and relatives of Captain Molesworth spent nights in the house, in the hope of solving the mystery. Jane was bound, in order to prevent her playing any tricks. All to no purpose. The disturbances continued and grew worse and worse.

At length, unable to stand the haunting any longer, Captain Molesworth left the house. Mr. Webster brought an action against him for the damages committed by taking up the boards, breaking the walls and firing bullets at the wainscoting, as well as for slander of title, declaring that the house was defamed through spreading the report that it was haunted. The law-suit lasted for two years, and numerous witnesses were examined. I have been unable to find out how it ended.

Jane Molesworth died soon after she left the house, and the people who subsequently took it never complained of any mysterious disturbances. *

* Satan's Invisible World, by Prof. G. Sinclair.



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