‘In addition to the power of materialising and dematerialising at will, these spirits can, at times, exercise a certain amount of physical force. I have heard of them, for example, moving furniture, banging on doors and walls, and making all sorts of similar disturbances….
They are generally to be met within lonely places—country lanes and spinneys, empty houses, isolated barns, and on moors, commons, and hill-tops. In appearance they are caricatures of human and animal—sometimes compounds of both—and would seem to possess a great diversity of form.
I have, for example, had them described to me as tall, thin figures with tiny, rotund, or flattish or animal-like heads, and again as short, squat figures with a similar variety of heads. They are probably the most terrifying of all apparitions, as, apart from the grotesqueness of their bodies, the expression in their eyes is invariably diabolical; they seem, indeed, to be animated with an intense, an absolutely unlimited, animosity towards people. Why, I cannot, of course, say, unless it is that they are jealous of both man and beast, whom they might possibly regard as the usurpers of a sphere which was at one time strictly confined to themselves.
My first experience with this kind of spirit occurred when I was a boy. I was staying with some friends in a large old country house in the Midlands, and being, even at that early age, fond of adventure, I frequently used to wander off alone in order to explore the adjacent neighborhood.
On one of these outings I arrived at a farm which, for some reason or other, happened just then to be untenanted. Delighted at the prospect of examining the empty buildings, I scaled a gate, and, crossing a paved yard, entered a large barn. The sight of one or two rats scurrying away at my approach made me wish I had my friend’s terrier with me, and I was turning to look for a stone or some missile to throw at the rats, when a noise in the far corner of the barn attracted my attention
It was now twilight, and the only windows in the place being small, dirty, and high from the ground; the further extremities of the barn were bathed in gloom, a gloom that made me feel nervous. Following the direction of the sound, I looked and saw to my inconceivable horror a tall, luminous something with a white bulbous head, crouching in the hay on the floor. As its long, glittering, eyes met mine, it sprang up (I then perceived that it was fully seven feet high and perfectly nude), and, with its spidery arms poised high in the air, ran at me.
Shrieking at the top of my voice, I flew out of there; and my wild cries for help were overheard by some of my friends, who chanced to be returning home that way. They at once came to my assistance. I shall never forget their faces, for I am sure my cries frightened them almost as much as the apparition had frightened me.
To assure me it must have been my imagination, they searched the barn, and, of course, saw nothing, as the phantasm had, doubtless, dematerialised. I made enquiries, however, on the quiet about the farm, and learned that it had always borne the reputation for being haunted, and that it was on that account that it was then untenanted. Needless to say, I never ventured there again alone.’ ♢
– Elliott O’Donnell, Ghostly Phenomena (ca. 1900)