Home  »  The Haunters and the Haunted  »  By JOSEPH GLANVIL

Rhys, Ernest, ed. (1859–1946). The Haunters and the Haunted. 1921.

XXXII. The Iron Chest of Durley


MR John Bourne, for his Skill, Care and Honesty, was made by his Neighbour John Mallet, Esq., of Enmore, the chief of his Trustees, for his Son John Mallet (Father to Elizabeth, now Countess Dowager of Rochester) and the rest of his Children in Minority. He had the reputation of a worthy good Man, and was-commonly taken notice of for an habitual Saying, by way of Interjection almost to anything, viz. You say true, you say true, you are in the right. This Mr Bourne fell sick at his House at Durley, in the year 1654, and Dr Raymond of Oak was sent for to him, who after some time, gave the said Mr Bourne over. And he had not now spoken in twenty-four Hours, when the said Dr Raymond, and Mrs Carlisle (Mr Bourne’s Nephew’s Wife, whose Husband he had made one of his Heirs) sitting by his bedside, the Doctor opened the Bed-curtains at the Bed’s-feet, to give him air; when on a sudden, to the Horror and Amazement of Dr Raymond, and Mrs Carlisle, the great Iron Chest by the Window, at his Bed’s-feet, with three Locks to it (in which were all the Writings and Evidences of the said Mr Mallet’s Estate), began to open, first one Lock, and then another, then the third; afterwards the Lid of the Chest, lifted up of itself, and stood wide open. Then the patient, Mr Bourne, who had not spoke in 24 Hours, lifted himself up also, and looking upon the Chest, cry’d: You say true, you say true, you are in the right, I’ll be with you by and by. So the Patient lay down, and spake no more. Then the Chest fell again of itself, and lock’d itself, one Lock after another, as the 3 Locks opened; and they tried to knock it open, and could not, and Mr Bourne died within an Hour after.

N.B.—This Narrative was sent in a Letter to J. C., directed for Dr H. More from Mr Thomas Alcock, of Shear-Hampton; of which in a Letter to the said Doctor, he gives this Account. I am, said he, very confident of the truth of the Story; for I had it from a very good Lady, the eldest daughter of the said John Mallet (whose Trustee Mr Bourne was) and only Aunt to the Countess of Rochester, who knew all the parties; and I have heard Dr Raymond, and Mr Carlisle, relate it often with amazement, being both Persons of Credit.

The curious may be inquisitive what the meaning of the opening of the Chest may be, and of Mr Bourne his saying You say true, etc., I’ll be with you by and by. As for the former, it is noted by Paracelsus especially, and by others, that there are signs often given of the Departure of sick Men lying on their death beds, of which this opening of the Iron Coffer or Chest, and closing again, is more than ordinary significant, especially if we recall to mind that of Virgil:

  • “Olli dura quies oculos & ferreus urget
  • Somnus—”
  • Though this quaintness is more than is requisite in these Prodigies presaging the sick Man’s Death. As for the latter, it seems to be nothing else but the saying Amen to the Presage, uttered in his accustomary form of Speech, as if he should say, you of the invisible Kingdom of Spirits, have given the Token of my sudden Departure, and you say true, I shall be with you by and by. Which he was enabled so assuredly to assent to, upon the advantage of the relaxation of his Soul now departing from the Body: Which Diodorus Siculus, lib. 18, notes to be the Opinion of Pythagoras and his followers, that it is the privilege of the Soul near her Departure, to exercise a fatidical Faculty, and to pronounce truly touching things future.