A Strange Tale From Charlton

A favourite pastime for many Victorians around the Christmas period was the telling of ghost stories.

Perhaps the best example of this love of supernatural literature was Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. But, many newspapers and periodicals also jumped on the bandwagon and tried to bring their readers at least one spooky story to spook their festive season.

The Illustrated Police News was one such esteemed journal, and, you have to hand it to them, they certainly knew how to spin a yarn out of very little!

On  Saturday, 30th December 1882, the following story appeared in its pages:-


A most singular occurrence took place a few days back at a village near Charlton.

We have received the intelligence from an acquaintance of ours staying in the village at the time, from which we print the following:-

Some seven years back a young lady of the village, about eighteen years of age, and who was well known to the villagers roundabout for her affability and generous disposition fell desperately in love with a young person about her own age.

The love was as readily returned, and the two soon after were frequently seen in each other’s society, and a more happy and congenial couple could not be conceived.’

Some six or eight months rolled on in this happy condition when the young man received a letter from his parents in Canada urging his immediate. attendance in consequence of his father’s serious illness, and other affairs that had to receive prompt attention.


From time to time letters were interchanged between the lovers, in which she received information of his father’s extreme delicate state of health, which rendered him incapable of managing his business affairs, which of necessity involved upon his sons.

Some few years had now rolled over and, as the fates had degree di with no apparent hope of her lover’s return, when all of a sudden the communications from Canada ceased, and, though she had written several letters in succession urgently requesting to know what strange mishap had occurred that was the occasion of not writing, she fully and strenuously believed in her lover’s faith.


Still receiving no reply, it worked desperate havoc upon a sensitive and not overstrong constitution.

The neighbours one and all perceived the painful alteration in her appearance, and many and varied were the conjectures brought to bear upon the subject, and one, which sometime afterwards seemed to bear much truth upon the matter was that a brother to the intended young lady had intercepted by some means their communications.

This was in part vouched for by a person who had resided some time in Canada, and who was well acquainted with the brothers and their affairs, so much so that he had heard from the younger brother that he had received no communication from England for some time past.

That the elder was disliked in the family in consequence of his dissolute habits was likewise confirmed, and also that the younger son was retained to manage the father’s business, who, I should have stated, had died some three years back.


Matters had now grown so serious that the lady was advised a change of scenery, that the recollection of the past might be somewhat expelled.


This she objected to, and called to her bedside a brother for whom she had every confidence and affection to whom she related the following story:-

She had for three nights in succession dreamt that she saw Charles (her lover) at a favourite resort of theirs called Swallow Lane in the form of a skeleton, and lying on the ground was his wounded brother.

Charles stated that he had received a letter from her (this she declared to her brother was false), urging him to meet her on a certain date at their old trysting place.

He then related how his brother had pounced upon and slain him, but not before he had wounded his brother, and with the same weapon.

Here the sister said the voice of the spirit became indistinct; but, as far as she could understand, it was to the following effect:-

She saw the outstretched figure of her lover’s brother raise himself from the ground, and was soon lost to view.

An illustration showing the girl fainting at the appearance of her lover's skeleton.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 30th December 1882. Copyright, The British Library Board.


‘Then the spectral figure said, “Meet me, love, on Swallow Lane on such an evening, that such may be confirmed which I have revealed to you through a dream. ‘Farewell, farewell,’ and the figure vanished.

The young lady then, lifting herself from her pillow, addressed her brother and said, “dear brother, I must go there, I must go. Will you accompany me, that I may be satisfied in this mystery?”

The brother accompanied his sister to the old and familiar spot specified in her dream.

The evening was lovely and warm, and all that could be wished for; but a cold chill seized the maiden’s frame as they approached the spot, where they saw a skeleton form, as predicted; and the brother lying on the ground was not only perceived by the girl, but by the brother likewise, who declares that he saw it, but no sound reached his ears.


Soon after this, the construction of the young lady weakened by degrees and she passed away.

The brother of the broken-hearted girl has made for Canada.

Swallow Lane is well known to the neighbours’ roundabout, and many hundreds have visited the spot of late, but without eliciting any proof to unravel this strange and mysterious story.


If you want to enjoy some more ghostly tales, then you will find an entire playlist of supernatural offerings on our YouTube Channel, that tell of several such tales from the past.