Cross-Dressing Demons, 1873

In 1873, Charlotte Goodhall and her two daughters were enjoying an afternoon in the park, somewhere in North London. It was a sunny day and, being ladies of means, they were being driven in a pony carriage. The sun was shining and the flowers were just beginning to bloom. Suddenly, their peace was shattered: Charlotte began to scream and point, and her daughters were aghast at what she had seen.

It was a ‘figure, dressed in black from head to foot, advancing: it appeared to glide along.’ In between her tears, Charlotte told her daughters to,

“Look! Look at that strange figure!”

As they stared, the figure grew closer, gliding along at the same speed as the carriage. When it reached around a metre away, the Goodhalls could finally see its face. Charlotte later said ‘of all the fiendish faces it was the most horrible you can imagine; it’s garments seemed to trail behind it.’ The figure suddenly stopped chasing them. As their carriage drove away, the figure disappeared.

In 1892, times had changed and the scientific community had become more interested in investigating these accounts of mysterious phenomena, and the journalist Frank Podmore came to re-interview the Goodhalls, pressing them for more details of the spirit’s appearance. The most horrifying thing about the spirit, according to Charlotte Goodhall, was that the face was masculine, with a short beard, but had makeup on it, amateurishly applied! How terrifying! The figure was also taller than a woman, despite wearing a black dress and had much broader shoulders. He or she definitely disappeared, insisted Charlotte. However, when Podmore visited the park, he noticed the site of the ‘disappearance’ was next to a hole in the hedge which the Goodhalls could not have seen from the path their carriage was on.

Podmore dismissed this as a collective hallucination, but to us in the twenty-first century, it seems as though the family may have interrupted a drag performer’s rehearsal time.

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