1891, February 4: Well, Agnes, How Are You?

It was February 4th, 1891, and around 7:30PM. Agnes Hall and her husband were having tea and relaxing at home in Cambridge, England, when a knock came from the door. Mrs. Hall -- who was 28 years old, and nine month's along in her pregnancy -- turned around to look at the door, as her back was to it; and there stood a person she immediately recognized as Mr. Middleton, whom she had been spent ten years working for when she was younger.

Agnes[Larger version here]

        Mr. Middleton said, "Well, Agnes, how are you?"

        Mrs. Hall said "Oh, it's Mr. Middleton"... and then Mr. Middleton suddenly vanished. He didn't step out; the door had never been opened. He simply wasn't standing in front of the door anymore, and was nowhere to be seen. As Mrs. Hall asked her husband about this perplexing moment, it became clear that he had not seen Mr. Middleton standing in the room, nor had he heard him talk... all he had heard was the initial knocking on the door. As the chair Mrs. Hall's husband was sitting in was facing the door, it was impossible for him to have missed Mr. Middleton if, indeed, he had been there. Her husband consigned the whole matter to the category of "nonsense."

        On one of the following days, between the 5th and the 9th of February, Mrs. Hall received a letter at dinner-time informing her of Mr. Middleton's death. Mrs. Hall had not seen Mr. Middleton for several years; he and his family had moved to America, and she had not known he was ill.

        In an interview with a representative of the Society for Psychical Research [SPR], Mrs. Hall stated that she had never had any sort of strange experience previous to Mr. Middleton's appearance at the door. He had been fully clothed and wearing a hat, and looked absolutely real to her in the moment she saw him. She also then told the interviewer that, a week or two after the strange vision, she and her husband had been disturbed by constant hammering or knocking noises at night which appeared to have no explanation after they questioned their neighbors about it.

        Possibly unrelated to the strange vision itself but necessary to note is that Mrs. Hall gave birth just days after, on February 10th, and one month after, on March 4th, 1891, her husband suddenly died.

Points to Ponder

        While seeing a disappearing figure seems definitely paranormal, the initial knocking on the door -- which both Mr. and Mrs. Hall heard -- might not have been. The spectre of Mr. Middleton may have simply taken advantage of an actual person's knock on the door to appear to Mrs. Hall as she looked over. Of course, with the further report of later unexplained knockings it would seem likely that the first knocking noise was related to the apparition as well, but we'll never really be sure.

        The whole matter falls under the category of "death wraiths" -- one-shot apparitions that notify of a person's death -- but it also falls into a sub-grouping that perplexed the researchers of the SPR. Most death wraiths appear either shortly before, at, or shortly after the actual death of the person whose apparition is seen... but a small number of cases, including this one, follow a different and more confusing pattern.

        Upon investigation, the SPR representatives -- F. W. Grantham, and a Miss Johnson -- soon realized that Mr. Middleton likely died well before the apparition appeared, as the letter to Mrs. Hall had to travel overseas. So the timing of the apparition's appearance seems to be geared around the arrival of the letter notifying Mrs. Hall of the death, and not Mr. Middleton's death itself!