Ghost of the Moat

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Ghost of the Moat is an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Daily Express No. 8508 on 4 august 1927.

Ghost of the Moat

Daily Express No. 8508 (p. 1 & 2)




Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sends to the "Daily Express" the following amazing document describing how a woman medium changed her personality in an instant for that of a ghostly ostler, the spirit inhabitant of a moated grange in Sussex.

The medium was Mrs. Wickland, wife of Dr. Carl A. Wickland, of California, a noted psychic investigator. Dr. Wickland, with Sir Arthur and Lady Conan Doyle, was present at the transformation, and questioned the medium.



If any one craves for adventure, he will find it in psychic work. I have myself encountered many incidents in actual fact which I could hardly beat if I gave free play to my imagination.

Some mentions of Dr. and Mrs. Wickland have already found their way into the Press. He is a deep student of psychic phenomena believing, as I do myself, that a great deal of mania and crime is due to direct obsession, and that a recognition of the fact would be the first necessary step for dealing with it.


She is a medium who is very sensitive to spirit presences, and is ready, with great bravery, to allow them to control her so long as she thinks a good purpose can be served. She is in my opinion one of the heroines of the world. Such were the couple, gentle, elderly folk, who drove out with us to see something of rural Sussex.

I took them to the old moated grange of H----. As we stood looking at the itchened brick walls a door which gave upon the deep moat opened and a woman looked out. Then it closed again. We passed on and I thought no more of the matter.

As we walked through the meadow which led to the high road. Mrs. Wickland kept glancing back. Presently she said, "There is such a strange old man walking beside us."

"What is he like?" "He is old. His face is sunk forward. His back is lunched. He is earthbound."

"How is he dressed?" "He has knee-breeches, a striped vest, and quite a short goat.

"Whence did he come?" "He came through that door that opened."

"Then how did he cross the moat?" "I don't know, and I don't know what he wants, but he is at our heels.


I took my guests to the old Crown Inn in the village, where we had tea. Mrs. Wickland kept glancing at a chair in the corner beside her. "He is there." Presently she began to laugh. "I did not in the least want that second cup of tea, and the extra slice." she said, "but he was close to me and would have taken possession and helped himself if I bad not done so."

We had driven home, and were seated among the roses on my verandah, the Wicklands, my wife, and myself. We were talking of other things when the Seer suddenly gave a start. "He's here."

Then came the amazing moment. Before our eyes she changed in an instant into a heavy-faced, sullen old man, with bent back and loose, senile lips. The whole expression was utterly different. She choked and spluttered in an effort to express the thoughts of the control.


Dr. Wickland, with the quiet assurance of long, practice, massaged the throat. "All right, friend, give yourself time." The newcomer shook off his hand angrily. "Leave me alone. What do you want to touch me for?" he croaked.

From that time the dialogue was as under, sometimes one and sometimes another asking the questions and with occasional gaspings and chokings as interruption.

"Who are you?"

"I am from H----. My name? Well, I don't feel clear in my mind. Yes, yes, I remember. It is David. And Fletcher. That is it, David Fletcher. Yes, I have been in service there. Horses. Yes, it was the horses I looked to. What year is it? I don't know. My mind ain's clear. Is it 1803or is it 1809? What d'ye say, 1927? Well, well, that's a good 'un.

"Dead, why, I am here talkin' to you. How can I be dead? I'd be with God if I was dead. Look at my hand? Why there are rings on it. They look like my lady's rings. No, I don't know how they came to be there.

"I don't understand a lot of things. I don't know who them folk are in the house. They have no call to be there. Me and the others try to put them out." ("The others." Dr. Wickland explained, "were probably other earthbound spirits in the old house.")

"Yes, master was a good master, but he died, and the others came in. The house was sold. We wasn't well treated after that. What could I do? No, I couldn't go away. Where was I to go out in the wide world, and me with a hump on my back? I belonged to the house. I had to do the best I could.

"What have I done? I don't rightly understand it. I've slept always in the same old comer. It seems a long, long time.

"Now tell us, David, don't you remember being very ill?"


"Me ill? No. I was never ill. But I'll tell you what happened. He pushed me into the water." "Into the moat?"

"Yes, into the water." "Who was he?"

"It was Sam. (Many chuckles.) But I held on to him, I did. He came in the water, too." (Dr. Wickland remarked that the man was probably drowned on that occasion.)

"Is there no one who loved you among the dead? Was your mother dead?"

"Mother was dead. No one ever loved me except mother. She loved me, mother did. No one could love me, because I looked queer. They laughed." (He burst into noisy sobbing.) "Mother loved me. Nobody else. They said it wasn't right that I wait upon the ladies, and me with a hump."

"Cheer up. David; we will soon get the hump off you. How came you to follow us?"

"I don't know. I think I was told. Then I got bread and tea. I have not had tea since I can remember. I would like more. I am always hungry. But what was that wagon? That was the devil's wagon, I think. I got in, but it went that fast that I was afeared to get out again."

"It's as well for you that you did not, for we are going to do you good, David. First of all you have got to realise that you are dead. You were drowned that time you fell into the moat."

"Well I never. That's a queer idea."

"Now understand this." It is Dr. Wickland, who is talking in cool, gentle, assured tones. "You can do anything now by the power of thought. If you know how to use it. This hump of yours. Take it off. Take it off, I say. Your back is as straight as mine." (The bent figure began to straighten up and to sit erect in the chair. Suddenly both hands were thrown forward).


"Mother, mother." (His face had become younger, more intelligent and was shining with ecstacy.) "I see her and it's mother, but she looks younger than I can remember."

"She will take charge of you now. You have been brought here by higher powers for a purpose — to save you. Do you want to go back to the old house ? "

"No, no. I want to go to mother. Oh you good kind people" — the rest was just incoherent gratitude.

And so it was that the earth-bound ostler found his mother at last among the rambler roses of my balcony. Have I not said truly that the actual experiences of the spiritualist, of which this is one in a hundred, are stranger far than what I should dare to invent?

Is it all a fairy tale? How about the change in the medium? How about the ostler's dress so accurately described? How about the cases where the actual names and addresses have been verified by the Wicklands?

It is not a fairy tale, but it is a new realm of knowledge which the human race has now to explore and to conquer.