The Generous Ghost, 1867

Seventy-five year old Mrs Lyons was terrified at the start of 1867. Though she was very wealthy, thanks to her deceased husband’s legacy adding to her own fortune, she felt as though she were under a curse. Her husband’s dying words had been to warn her that she would only outlive him by seven years…and he had died seven years previously. Knowing that she was nearing her sell-by date, she went to the celebrated psychic medium, D.D. Home. Home was very glad to help. He needed to build up his reputation having been excommunicated from the Catholic Church the year before for ‘sorcery’.

Two days after Lyons reached out, Home was in her house conducting a seance. Tension build as he summoned the spirit of her husband, again and again…and then a gentle tapping was heard. The Ghost of Mr Lyons was communicating with them by knocking on the table! Luckily, Home knew how to translate ghostly percussion into words: Mr Lyons wanted to say ‘I live to bless you, my own precious darling’. Mrs Lyons was so overjoyed to finally hear from her beloved that she gave home £30 (£3,384.06 in 2020’s money).

However, after her excitement had died down, she realised that her husband’s message wasn’t that helpful and hadn’t really mentioned her curse. Luckily, Home was still nearby to help. The deceased Mr Lyons returned and, via sharp knocking on her dining table, informed her that she needed to adopt Home as her son to lift the curse, and he didn’t want his new adopted son to work so she should also support him. Mrs Lyons was dubious but gave Home a gift of £50 (£5,640.10) for his help. Dead Mr Lyons was not amused, and in the next seance informed her (via Home’s translation) that £700 per year (£78,961.39) was the only amount fitting for his new son. Mr Lyons also insisted that Mrs Lyons would need to fund Home’s best friend’s publishing business and sign over her properties to her ‘son’.

This was the moment that pushed Mrs Lyons into doubt, and when she told her friends about this new ‘son’, they told her to tell the police in case she was murdered and to cut Home out of her life. Home was suddenly on the back foot and desperately wrote to his ‘dearest mother’. He would send back the property if she sent back some jewellery he gave her as a gift. Mrs Lyons was not convinced at all, and she promptly had Home arrested.

This is the point where this story diverges. Our tale, to this point, is what both parties attested to occurring when they were asked to give a statement in court…but that may not be the truth. One of the witnesses said that she caught the seventy-five year old Lyons and the forty three year old Home kissing passionately. Mrs Lyons protested: that was a kiss to the forehead by a loving mother! The jury also noticed that her behaviour towards Home was inappropriately touchy-feely for a ‘mother and son’, and she behaved extremely jealously. The jewellery he asked her to return? Two rings. To make matters worse, when upset due to harsh questioning, Lyons burst out with,

“He’s my son! I bought him outright and he’s mine!”

In the end, it’s a little disappointing that there was no ghostly intervention in the courtroom. As far as the documents suggest, Home returned all the money he had been given plus damages and the two parted ways as amicably as possible, but we do know that Mrs Lyons did not die seven years after her unfortunate husband.

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