Ghost Story

10 15 sir john sherbrookeNow that it’s the middle of October, the nights are really starting to draw in here, so it’s probably time for a ghost story. This one concerns two young officers of the British army who were serving with their regiment in Nova Scotia in 1785. They were Captain John Coape Sherbrooke and Lieutenant George Wynyard. These two friends, unlike their fellow officers, liked to spend their free time reading rather than carousing. I don’t have a picture of Wynyard, but this is Sherbrooke, later Sir John Sherbrooke, Leiutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.

On the evening of October 15th, 1785 they were in Wynyard’s parlour, sitting beside the fire and drinking coffee. The Barracks where they were stationed were newly built and it’s important to the story that you know there were only two doors in this room. One led into a corridor and the other into Wynyard’s bedroom. There was no other exit from the bedroom and its window was closed. Sherbrooke looked up and saw, standing by the door into the corridor, a tall, very thin, very pale young stranger. He wondered where this stranger had come from and drew his friend’s attention to their guest. When Wynyard saw the man he was clearly agitated. Sherbrooke said later: “I have heard of a man’s being as pale as death, but I never saw a living face assume the appearance of a corpse, except Wynyard’s at that moment.” Wynyard was unable to speak and Sherbrooke also kept silent as they watched the figure walk slowly across the room and into the bedroom. As it did so, it met the eyes of Wynyard with a look of affection and sorrow. As soon as it had disappeared from view Wynyard recovered the power of speech and seized his friend by the arm. “Great God!” he said “my brother.” His brother, you must understand, was not stationed with them in Nova Scotia and there was no way it could have been him. Sherbrooke was sure they must be the victims of a prank and led his friend into the bedroom so they could talk to the man. They were surprised to find themselves in an empty room. The figure had vanished.

Another friend, Ralph Gore helped them search the room but nothing was found. Sherbrooke was still sure it was some sort of trick, but Wynyard knew what he had seen. The three decided not to mention anything to their comrades but Wynyard naturally became concerned over the fate of his brother. Their post was an isolated one, with the only news from England arriving by ship. Also they were cut off by ice from the outside world for many months and the story eventually came out. Everyone was waiting for news of Wynyard’s brother. When mail did get through, they would ask if there was any letters for Wynyard before they asked for their own correspondence. In vain, they scanned the newspapers they were sent for any mention of George Wynyard’s brother. Then a letter arrived addressed to Sherbrooke. He opened it over supper in the mess hall, read it in silence and then taking Wynyard with him he left the room. They were gone for an hour. Sherbrooke returned alone and the other men were afraid to ask him what news the letter contained. After a long silence he said quietly: “Wynyard’s brother is no more.” the first line of his letter read: “Dear John, break to your friend, Wynyard, the death of his favourite brother” he had died on the very day, at the very hour that the two men had seen his spirit pass through the apartment.

Several years later, Sherbrooke was back in London. While walking in Piccadilly he saw a man across the way who was the very image of the spectre he had seen in Wynyard’s room. Still expecting to find a rational explanation for the incident he introduced himself to the man and explained the story, expecting the man to admit that he had been the one who had tricked them. The man was, he said, very pleased to meet Sherbrooke, but they had never met before and he had never been out of England. He was however, another of George Wynyard’s brothers.