“This is one of those strange apparitions I have often heard of. I will watch it as carefully as I can.”

The best ghost stories do not come from people who lurk about haunted houses with recording equipment they cannot afford, they come from people who least expect to see them. Take this tale from G.N.M. Tyrrell’s Apparitions (1953). It is one of the better ghost stories I’ve heard and is worth quoting in full:

The narrator and his niece were sitting in the drawing-room about 2 p.m. ‘I saw what I supposed at the first moment to be dirty soapy water running in at the door; and I was in the act of jumping up to scold the housemaid for upsetting the water, when I saw that the supposed water was the tail or train of a lady’s dress. The lady glided in backwards, as if she had been slid in on a slide, each part of her dress keeping its place without disturbance. She glided in till I could see the whole of her, except the tip of her nose, her lips and the tip of her chin, which were hidden by the edge of the door. Her head was slightly turned over her shoulder, and her eyes also turned, so that it appeared fixed upon me. She held her arm, which was a very fine one, in a peculiar way, as if she were proud of it. She was dressed in a pale blue evening dress, worked with white lace. I instantly recognized the figure as a lady whom I had known some 25 years or more before; and with whom I had frequently danced. She was a bright, dashing girl, a good dancer, and we were good friends, but nothing more. She had afterwards married, and I had occasionally heard of her, but do not think I had seen her for certainly more than 20 or 25 years. She looked much as I used to see her —with long curls and bright eyes, but perhaps something stouter and more matronly. I said to myself, “This is one of those strange apparitions I have often heard of. I will watch it as carefully as I can.” My niece, who did not see the figure, in the course of a minute or two exclaimed, “Uncle A., what is the matter with you? You look as if you saw a ghost!” I motioned her to be quiet, as I wished to observe the thing carefully; and an impression came upon me that if I moved, the thing would disappear. I tried to find out whether there was anything in the ornaments on the walls, or anything else which could suggest the figure: but I found all the lines close to her cut the outline of her figure at all sorts of angles, and none of these coincided with the outline of her figure, and the colour of everything around her strongly contrasted with her colour. In the course of a few minutes, I heard the door-bell ring, and I heard my brother’s voice in the hall. He came upstairs, and walked right through the figure into the room. The figure then began to fade rather quickly, at first losing the colours and then the form….’

Some years afterwards the percipient found that the lady had died, about seven months after the apparition, of cancer in the face. ‘She never showed me the front of her face,’ he says; ‘it was always concealed by the edge of the door.’

Apparitions is long out of print, but you can buy a used copy off AbeBooks for a reasonable price.

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