Mary Goffe (1691)
For 19 November 1691 there is a marriage record for a John Goffe of St Margaret’s, Rochester, widower, and Susanna Everest. This may be the same John Goffe who’s wife Mary, died on 4 June 1691 and just prior to this appeared as a crisis appartion to her children.
The following account of this was published in ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain’ By John Ingram (1897). ‘Baxter’s Certainty of the World of Spirits contains one of the most marvellous and, apparently, best authenticated stories of modern miracles extant. If it be accepted as fact it will be a difficult matter to doubt any supernatural incident merely on account of its inexplicability. The story was sent to Baxter by the Rev. Thomas Tilson, the minister of Aylesford, near Maidstone, in Kent, within five weeks of the event to which it referred happening; the narrator was on the spot, and therefore had every opportunity of disproving or confirming the statements made; whilst the names and residences of the witnesses are given, together with the exact time and place of the occurrences to which they testify. It would be difficult to adduce any historic event with, apparently, better testimony of its accuracy. Mr. Tilson’s story, as written out for Baxter, is this:
“Mary, the wife of John Goffe, of Rochester, being afflicted with a long illness, removed to her father’s house at West Mailing*, which is about nine miles distant from her own. There she died June the 4th, this present year, 1691.
“The day before her departure she grew very impatiently desirous to see her two children, whom she had left at home to the care of a nurse. She prayed her husband to hire a horse, for she must go home and die with the children. When they persuaded her to the contrary, telling her she was not fit to be taken out of her bed, nor able to sit on horseback, she entreated them, however, to try. ‘If I cannot sit,’ said she, ‘I will lie all along upon the horse; for I must go to see my poor babes.’
“A minister who lived in the town was with her at ten o’clock that night, to whom she expressed good hopes in the mercies of God, and a willingness to die. ‘But,’ said she, ‘it is my misery that I cannot see my children.’ Between one and two o’clock in the morning she fell into a trance. One, widow Turner, who watched with her that night, says that her eyes were open and fixed and her jaw fallen. She put her hand upon her mouth and nostrils, but could perceive no breath. She thought her to be in a fit, and doubted whether she were dead or alive.
“The next morning this dying woman told her mother that she had been at home with her children. ‘That is impossible,’ said the mother, ‘for you have been in bed all the while.’ ‘Yes,’ replied the other, ‘but I was with them last night when I was asleep.’
“The nurse at Rochester, widow Alexander by name, affirms, and says she will take her oath on’t before a magistrate, and take the sacrament upon it, that a little while before two o’clock that morning she saw the likeness of the said Mary Goffe come out of the next chamber (where the elder child lay in a bed by itself), the door being left open, and stood by her bedside for about a quarter of an hour; the younger child was there lying by her. Her eyes moved and her mouth went, but she said nothing. The nurse, moreover, says that she was perfectly awake; it was then daylight, being one of the longest days in the year. She sat up in her bed and looked steadfastly upon the apparition. In that time she heard the bridge clock strike two, and a while after said, ‘In the name of the Father, who art thou.’ Thereupon the appearance removed and went away. She slipped on her clothes and followed, but what became on’t she cannot tell. Then, and not before, she began to be grievously affrighted, and went out of doors and walked upon the wharf (the house is just on the river-side) for some hours, only going in now and then to look to the children. At five o’clock she went to a neighbour’s house and knocked at the door, but they would not rise. At six she went again; then they rose and let her in. She related to them all that had passed; they would persuade her she was mistaken or dreamt. But she confidently affirmed, ‘If ever I saw her in all my life, I saw her this night.’
“One of those to whom she made the relation (Mary the wife of John Sweet), had a messenger come from Mailing that forenoon, to let her know her neighbour Goffe was dying and desired to speak with her. She went over the same day, and found her just departing. The mother, among other discourse, related to her how much her daughter had longed to see the children, and said she had seen them. This brought to Mrs. Sweet’s mind what the nurse had told her that morning; for till then she had not thought to mention it, but disguised it, rather, as the woman’s disturbed imagination.
“The substance of this I had related to me” savs Mr. Tilson, “by John Carpenter, the father of the deceased, the next day after her burial, July the 2nd. I fully discoursed the matter with the nurse and two neighbours, to whose house she went that morning. Two days after, I had it from the mother, the minister that was with her in the evening, and the woman who sat up with her that last night. They all agree in the same story, and everyone helps to strengthen the other’s testimony. They appear to be sober, intelligent persons, far enough off from designing to impose a cheat upon the world, or to manage a lie; and what temptation they could lie under for so doing I cannot conceive.” And thus ends this incomprehensible affair.’