Broadwick Street, London
Broadwick Street was originally known as Broad Street and apart from being the site of a major outbreak of Cholera on 31 August 1854, about a hundred years earlier an apparitional experience was reported here. The following account of the experience was published in ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain’ (1897) by John Ingram.
One of those stories of apparitions which are so frequently alluded to, but of which the facts are apparently, chiefly or entirely unknown to most authors of supernatural works, is that related by the Rev. Dr. Scott, an eminent divine in his days. The narrative of this most marvellous affair originally appeared in The History and Reality of Apparitions, from which curious little work we shall transcribe it. The editor of that book, which was published in 1770, and who was, apparently, de Foe, asserts that this story had never appeared in print before, and adds of the Rev. Dr. Scott, that he was not only a man whose learning and piety were eminent, but one whose judgement was known to be good, and who could not be easily imposed upon.
According to the story, Dr. Scott was sitting alone by his fireside in the library of his house in Broad Street; he had shut himself in the room to study and, so it is alleged, had locked the door. In the midst of his reading happening to look up, he was much astounded to see, sitting in an elbow-chair on the other side of the fireplace, a grave, elderly gentleman, in a black velvet gown and a long wig, looking at him with a pleased countenance, and as if about to speak. Knowing that he had locked the door, Dr. Scott was quite confounded at seeing this uninvited visitor sitting in the elbow chair, and from the first appears to have suspected its supernatural character. Indeed, so disturbed was he at the sight of the apparition, for such it was, that he was unable to speak, as he himself acknowledged in telling the story. The spectre, however, began the discourse by telling the doctor not to be frightened, for it would do him no harm, but came to see him upon a matter of great importance to an injured family, which was in danger of being ruined. Although the doctor was a stranger to this family, the apparition stated that knowing him to be a man of integrity it had selected him to perform an act of great charity as well as justice.
At first Dr. Scott was not sufficiently composed to pay proper attention to what the apparition propounded; but was rather more inclined to escape from the room if he could, and made one or two futile attempts to knock for some of his household to come up; at which his visitor appeared to be somewhat displeased. But, as the doctor afterwards stated, he had no power to go out of the room, even if he had been next the door, nor to knock for help, even if any had been close at hand.
Then the apparition, seeing the doctor still so confused, again desired him to compose himself, assuring him that he would not do him the slightest injury, nor do anything to cause him the least uneasiness, but desired that he would permit him to deliver the business he came about, which, when he had heard, he said, he would probably see less cause to be surprised or apprehensive than he did now.
By this time “Dr. Scott had somewhat recovered himself, and encouraged by the calm manner in which the apparition addressed him, contrived to falter out:
“In the name of God, what art thou?”
“I desire you will not be frightened,” responded the apparition. ” I am a stranger to you, and if I tell you my name you will not know it. But you may do the business without inquiring farther.” The doctor could not compose himself, but still remained very uneasy, and for some time said nothing. Again the apparition attempted to reassure him, but could only elicit from him a repetition of the ejaculation, “In the name of God, what art thou?”
Upon this, says the narration, the spectre appeared to be displeased, and expostulated with Dr. Scott, telling him that it could have terrified him into compliance, but that it chose to come quietly and calmly to him; and, indeed, made use of such civil and natural discourse that the doctor began to grow a little more familiar, and at last ventured to ask what it wanted of him. Upon this the apparition appeared to be very gratified, and began its story. It related that it had once owned a very good estate, which at that time was enjoyed by its grandson; two nephews, however, the sons of its younger brother, were then suing for possession of the property and, owing to certain family reasons which the doctor could not or would not specify, were likely to oust the young man from his property. A deed of settlement, being the conveyance of the inheritance, could not be found and without it the owner of the estate had every reason to fear he would be ejected.
“Well,” said Dr. Scott, “what can I do in the case?”
“Go to my grandson,” said the apparition, “and direct him where to find the missing deed, which is concealed in a place where I put it myself’. And then it gave the doctor minute particulars of the chest wherein the needed document was hidden stowed away in an old lumber-room. When the apparition had impressed the matter thoroughly upon the doctor’s mind, Dr. Scott not unnaturally asked his visitor why it could not direct the grandson himself to recover the missing deed.
“Ask me not about that,” said the apparition; “there are diverse reasons, which you may know hereafter. I can depend upon your honesty in it in the meantime.”
Still Dr. Scott did not like to take upon himself the strange mission, whereupon the apparition seemed to grow angry, and even begin to threaten him, so that he was at last compelled to promise compliance. The apparition then assumed a pleasant aspect, thanked him, and disappeared.
The strangest part of this strange story yet remains to be told. At the earliest opportunity Dr. Scott posted away to the address given him by the apparition, or dream as some persons deemed it. He asked for and was at once introduced to the gentleman the apparition had sent him to, and to his surprise was received most, cordially by him. Dr. Scott’s surprise was, indeed, quickened when the stranger entered most unreservedly into the particulars of his law-suit, telling him that he had had a dream the previous night, in which he had dreamed that a strange gentleman came to him, and assisted him to find the deed which was needed to confirm him in the possession of his estate.
This assured Dr. Scott that it was not a dream which he had had, and that he was really selected to discover the missing document. Making himself agreeable to his host, he eventually got him to take him all over his splendid old mansion. Finally, he beheld just such a lumber-room as the apparition had told him of, and on entering it, saw an exact facsimile of the chest described to him by his supernatural visitant. There was an old rusty key in it that would neither turn round, nor come out of the lock, which was exactly what the apparition had forewarned him of! At the doctor’s request a hammer and chisel were sent for, and the chest broken open, and, after some difficulty, a false drawer was found in it. This being split open, there lay the missing parchment spread out flat over the whole breadth of the bottom of the trunk!
The joy of the young heir, and of his family, may be imagined, whilst their surprise can have been no less. Whether Dr. Scott informed them of the means by which he was led to make the discovery is not stated; but it is alleged the production of the needed deed confirmed the owner in the possession of his estates. As this gentleman was still living, the narrator was not inclined to publish his name; and, now-a-days, the chances of discovering it are, doubtless, far less than they were in his time of finding the missing document. Regard it how we may, as a dream or a coincidence, certainly Dr. Scott’s adventure was a very marvellous one.