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My grandmother Lotte Langden had a suit pending in 1920 over some of her -estate holdings in Wisconsin. Her lawyer Herbert Marshall asked her several times for a certain document fixing the debatable borders of the estate in litigation but Grandmother stubbornly refused to turn over the paper supporting her claims. “I’ll hold on to this paper if I die over it,” she stated. “There is no use risking it out of my hands.”
That July she did die, suddenly one evening at supper while the whole family was present. Now Mr. Marshall had not only the pending suit but also the settlement of her estate on his busy hands. We searched all over the house for her legal papers but without success.
The lack of the critical document deprived Mr. Marshall of his most potent argument in court, but along with the rest of her documents it was missing and we feared Grandmother had taken the secret of its hiding place with her to the grave.
On the fourth day after her death Mr. Marshall had joined the family for dinner and was lamenting the old lady’s stubbornness and his futile fight in court. Dinner was being served by our maid Berthe, who had been with the family for forty years.
In the midst of the meal our conversation was interrupted by a loud scream from Berthe followed by the sound of shattering dishes in the hallway. We rushed to the hallway through which Berthe passed on her way from the kitchen and found her standing among the ruins of a sumptuous supper, white and trembling, pointing toward the high backed chair that stood next to the old-fashioned grandfather clock.
Grandmother had so often rested in this chair after she came in from a walk or from puttering in her garden that the family jokingly referred to it as her “throne.”
When Berthe finally was calm enough to talk coherently she claimed that as she passed through the hallway with the tray of food she had seen Grandmother sitting on her “throne,” gently stroking the grandfather clock. We talked excitedly about this but Mr. Marshall called Berthe an hysterical old fool and turned the conversation to more mundane matters.
Perhaps we might have forgotten the incident if we had not been forcefully reminded of it the very next evening when the same thing recurred. When Berthe was walking through the hallway she again saw Grandmother seated on the chair and again she dropped her tray.
The matter grew frightening when the same thing was repeated on the third night. The excitement only added to our concern over the pending trial that would begin in only two days now. Mr. Marshall was running in circles trying to find either the missing document or some other proof that would clinch the case.
After the third appearance of Grandmother’s apparition, however, Grandfather William Langden, a cool practical man who at first attributed Berthe’s visions to her long, close relationship to the family, said to us: “Listen, my dears, I wonder-perhaps it’s ridiculous but no harm can come from it- If Grandmama did not want to tell us where her missing papers are. She stroked the clock-let’s search within.”
We did, and behold! In a hidden double back behind the swinging pendulum were Grandmother’s papers! The suit was won and Berthe received an ample reward in addition to her set-out share in Grandmother’s will.
And never again to her set-out share in Grandmother’s will. And never again was Grandmother seen to occupy her “throne.”
Paul C. Langden (as told to Hereward Carrington)