30 May The Carriage of Grafton Street
“The Carriage of Grafton Street”Written by Grant Hinton Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 12 minutes
My pursuit for the occult and arcane lead me to London in the year 1646, wherein a new bridge was planned to cross the river at Tower Hill and near the growing fame of Shakespeare’s theatre. I, on the other hand, to save myself from the toxic fumes from the fabrication of steel and timber, took up residence in the area of Mayfair – Close enough to the royal palace and names of note, but also far removed that I could study the mysteries of this ancient city in peace. It was, however, upon hiring a carriage that I learned of a dread force, indescribable to some, that plagued the streets of London.
This chronicle belongs, in its entirety, to antiquity and to the many that encountered the Carriage of Grafton Street. Hitherto is a compendium of declarations, witness statements, medical papers and the journals of some who witnessed firsthand the Carriage and its aftermath.
Journal entry of Dr. James M. Drayton
14th January 1646
Today was both a queer day and one of auspicious merit. I had the honor of presiding surgeon at St Thomas’s for a pioneering surgery, for after many years of my letters to the royal surgeon, the practice of amputations without any form of pain relief have been heard. However, my carriage ride home has dampened the joyousness of this day to one of dull disbelief.
What should have been a celebratory day, for it was the first surgery of many that will be performed with the numbing properties of ether, has been overshadowed by a rather fearsome occurrence.
I must skip the glorification of one’s self to write this while it is still fresh in one’s mind. It was upon exiting the Herb Garnett onto St. Thomas street after the successful operation that I saw, what I believe, was a specter of the most equestrian nature, and sat atop a carriage of similar repute to that of the Hackney Carriages now in service for those of lower station, but still, gentlemen was a cloaked driver.
It gave me such a shock that I dropped my bag to the cobbles. A young aspiring student by the name of Walter Downey and his uncle Lord Baltimore by chance happened to approach me, that I know said apparition was, in fact, true and not that of my tired eyes.
The exuberance of riding isn’t unbeknownst to me; my estate in Shropshire has a few mares that Lady Drayton enjoys on summer occasions. So, I was befuddled that this working horse’s maleficent eyes were glazed over with a white film similar to that of cataracts.
Lord Baltimore engaged my conversation about a new venture and the possibility of financially backing a new bridge to be built in the Tower Hamlets area. It was with sudden regret that Lord Baltimore informed me of his daughter’s recent passing; a fair young maiden named Veronica of only thirteen years old. It was with sad repose that Lord Baltimore told me of his prestigious honor to have her remains laid in the foundations of the new bridge; a high honor, indeed. However, the blasted carriage frequently pulled at my attention like a relentless child, that I fear my response was rather uncouth.
The horse gave me pause still. It was a rather large hack specimen, raggedy of appearance; its skin patchy in places, and not from wear of straps or tackle, but as if of psoriasis. I did not ponder too much on the horse, for the driver’s dread stare held me transfixed.
It was a queer feeling indeed, for I swear that I heard the whispers of multiple voices when it was only Lord Baltimore, Mr. Downey and I who stood there. It was on the precipice of my hearing, just loud enough that I could hear it but not what was being said. Also, the driver’s eyes shone with malice in its purest form that the icy sensation did not leave me until that blast carriage was gone. However, I feel I must have offended Lord Baltimore, for it was with His Lordship inside and Mr. Downey waving from the window when it did leave that bothers me still.
Bethlem Hospital – Notice of Admission
I, the undersigned, hereby give you notice that Walter Shamus Downey was admitted into this asylum as a patient at the hour of three o’clock in the afternoon on the eighteenth day of January 1646, and I hereby transmit a copy of the Order and Statement and Medical Certificate on which he was received.
Clerk, Bethlem Hospital
* * * * * *
In the bizarre occurrences concerning the Carriage of Grafton Street, the myth had quickly and wholly formulated by March of 1646 from other carriage drivers and those of the newly formed Hackney Carriages frequenting London’s streets in service for hire. Many attested to sightings of a rogue carriage of ill-repute. The horse said to be ill of appearance, with flaking skin, shedding of hairs and foaming at the bit. Of the few sightings, some say that no breath billows from the nostrils even on the coldest of mornings leading them to believe that it was an apparition of a demon sort.
Of the drivers conversed with, each concurred that whispers spoke to them without persons within speaking distance. The whispers brought forth dread of the most incomprehensible nature, where one’s soul was so completely overpowered that disturbing thoughts seemed as sweet as sugar to a babe. Of one carriage driver questioned, who alleged to seeing this carriage at close proximity, he described the driver as the devil incarnate.
Scotland Yard Police Station
Constable T. Henderson
It is with a grim resolve that I issue this statement for fear of bedlam and my badge rescinded. However, I must present my findings so those of higher station can ascertain what may have occurred the night of the 4th of February 1646.
Whilst walking my beat in the Berkeley Square area at approximately 2 am, I heard distress of the whistle of a fellow officer and proceeded to answer that call. When I rounded the corner of Hay Hill onto Grafton Street, I witness something I can only suggest as supernatural. It was beside a carriage that I witnessed what seemed to be four men engaged in a brawl. My fellow officer was but a feet away and unconscious. I blew my whistle sounding the second call of distress; however, I did not hear any answering calls. So, I proceeded to break up the ruckus.
Upon closer inspection, it grieves me to say, I noticed that of a young female within the mass of bodies, and also that one young man’s britches were around his ankles. It was then that I heard a terrible whispering so loudly that it seems ten scores of children spoke in my ears at once. It was also my belief that the carriage driver was one of the men entwined in this despicable act; that was, until the men stopped, similar assaulted that they covered their ears and started to moan most unmanly.
I am not proud of the next part, but by my honor, I will tell it as so. The carriage door opened of its own accord, as the carriage driver still sat hunched upon the top, and two of the men stepped through before it closed, sealing them inside. I cannot repeat for loss of vocabulary what emanated from the carriage, but the attackers stopped, and the screams of those men inside will forever ghost my ears and haunt my nights.
It was then that the carriage driver, a man shadowed in a blanket of night, changed to mist like that of a morning stroll through Hyde Park on a winter morning, and entered the interior of the carriage by ghostly means. I stood transfixed. The men outside fell to the cobbles and moved like a snake, white foam coated their mouths and noses. The door opened again, and the bodies of the other two men fell to the pavement. I can only describe those bodies like the Egyptian Mummies on exhibit in the British Museum; dried skeletons wearing clothing.
The carriage then drove off on its own accord, being the driver was still inside the carriage, following Grafton Street and then turned left onto New Bond Street. The female, a young lady by the name of Mary Jenkins (24) was shaken but unscathed. She issued a statement that the men had attacked her after leaving a nearby residence. Of the carriage she could not tell me anything; however, she inclined to tell me that she too heard the whispers and thought she’d taken a knock to the head.
Of the two men that survived the (for want of a better word) attacks, they do nothing but utter gibberish. Their eyes roll around their heads as if not fixed. White spittle covered their teeth and mouth from their incessant rambling. They were taken to the Yard for questioning, but, I waiver, they are in no state to answer any questions put to them.
Journal entry of Dr. James M. Drayton
16th January 1646
I was called to Walter Downey’s home today by a Miss Fortue, Walter’s betrothed. She had concerns, and rightly so, that Mr. Downey had gone mad. She was quite upset when I entered the red door on Baker Street that she wept openly. I directed a maid to fetch some tea, and we retired to the parlor wherein I tried to placate her. She told me that Walter didn’t come home last night, and she feared that he had fallen ill of some unscrupulous vagabonds. I assured Miss Fortue that I saw him take a carriage with Lord Baltimore from the Herb Garnet myself and that he should have arrived shortly after ten o’clock that evening.
However, Miss Fortue shocked me with another revelation. Lord Baltimore is missing. I asked how she knew this to be true. She replied, she had just arrived back from his residence to ask about Walter, and Lady Baltimore assured her that Lord Baltimore had no business and was due to take a trip to their estate in Kent.
Also (and this is where the bizarre occurs), Mr. Downey did return early the next morning, bedraggled and looking like the devil himself had dragged him through Hell. I asked if he smelt of liquor, although that may be none of her concern, and perhaps Mr. Downey had changed course to the 106 Club on Marylebone Road wherein Lord Baltimore is known to frequent. She assured me that he did not; furthermore, that he kept muttering as if speaking to one that wasn’t there. Curious was the exchange that she put Walter to bed, with a stiff whiskey.
Miss Fortue begged me to examine Walter for any malady assaulting him for fear he had gone bedlam. I have been a doctor for twenty-eight years, with four years of study under the leading surgeons of the world and the royal surgeon elite. I have seen many prognoses, ailment and defects, but I venture that I will not, and have never, witness one such as Walter.
The young, vibrant man I knew was but a shell for whatever was animating him. He did not respond to my presence in the room, completely and utterly, as if I were a ghost. The oddities that Miss Fortue explained are apparent; Walter’s gibbering is on the verge of babbling so rapid that I cannot understand one word.
I have an acquaintance in Bethlem Hospital, Dr. Donald Kilmartin, with whom I attended medical school. I have called upon his services for a better diagnosis than I can gather, for I have specialized in surgery, where his field of expertise is that of the brain. As of Miss Fortue, I have persuaded her to keep a close eye on Walter and report to me after each visit.
The Declaration of a Hackney Carriage Driver
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions, George. This will help my inquiries no end. I understand that you know London very well?
Yes, my lord, I was raised in the workhouses on Commercial Road, sir. Not much of an upbringing, but I know my rights from wrongs. It was a tough life, sir. That was, until fortune touched me one day, when I was able to drive a carriage for Your Lordship. Who better a guide to the area and someone to tend to the beast than one with the way and means for both?
I understand that after our business has concluded, you service London as a Hackney Carriage?
Yes, sir; again, with your grace, I was able to afford the license, sir.
You’re very welcome, George. Now, tell me about the attacks.
Yes, the Grafton Street Carriage.
Well, there were many. Word was out about the first one and the papers were full of it; it was bad press for us carriages, and I know Your Lordship was intrigued by it, so I kept my ear to the ground, like. My first encounter with the Carriage of Grafton Street was last week (15th March 1646). By this time, rumor and speculation were rife; we’d never had this sort of thing in London before, sir. Sure, we had bad people doing bad things, but this was different.
Tell me about when you first saw this carriage?
I had taken a fare from Lord Bromwell’s house on the south bank, sir.
Ah, yes, Bromwell. Good man, part of the East India trading company, if I’m not mistaken.
Very good, sir. Yes, he was a distinguished gentleman from the East India Trading Company. I knew this because I stowed his luggage which had the insignia stamped on them, but as you said, you knew that. Well, after leaving his home just behind Oxford Street, sir, I made my way back to Hyde Park to see if I could get a fare back across town on accounts of my home being on the east end.
It was then that a mist rolled in, swept across the grass as a ship wakes rolls on the Thames. Never seen anything like it before. I shuddered and pulled my cloak about me. That’s when I heard the blasted whispers, and my thoughts turned black as Hell.
Can you explain what you mean by “black as Hell?”
I’m a God-fearing man, sir. I know my place, and all I want to do is honest work. But, if someone was there, right in front of me, at that moment, I would have murdered them, no joke. It was like my deepest darkest thoughts took control of me, wanted to burst out and run amuck around London. I don’t know how else to tell ya. It was scary.
I looked about in a temper, I remember thinking about old Jack Black, on account of his black thumb, and how he’d ripped me off at cards last week. I thought about taking back my money in pain. To my right was a carriage off the path behind some bushes. I remember the horse snorting; made me jump. I called out, but the damn whispering increased. Someone was there, in the bushes, lurking about. I thought, how dare they spy on me while I was working, so I shouted out and steered my horse towards them.
Who was it?
It was a man. I first took him as drunk, because his feet wouldn’t stay under him. Someone else was with him; I only noticed the glint of moonlight of something sparkly like a buckle. That one wasn’t moving, though. Dead, I reckoned.
What happened, George?
Well, sir, it was most curious, as the horse drew near, she started to whine. Old Jess is a good horse, sir, straight and true, trusts me to the end of the earth she would, but she wouldn’t go any further. So I had to go on foot. Bless me, sir, it was a necklace that glittered, belonged to a young lady, elegant-like. Big dress, big hair, and she was proper brown bread, sir.
Brown bread? Speak properly, man! This is no time for your cockney lingo.
Sorry sir, brown bread, dead. She was dead, maybe only a few minutes, I reckon. The ground was thick with mud from the carriage wheels, but she didn’t have much on her clothes. I bet she walked to where she was and then was attacked.
What of the carriage?
That’s the thing, sir; that wasn’t the carriage. The man, I guess he was a lord or someone of importance, finely dressed like Your Lordship. He stood up straight and looked about, and saw me. That’s when I saw the Carriage of Grafton Street. It came out the mist, slow like, like it was a hunter. The lord turned as if he could feel it. It makes me shiver to recall it, sir. The horse started forward at a trot, the driver hunched on top. As it got near, the driver disappeared. Just vanished.
Next thing I know, the door flies open, and something snatches the lord off his feet, takes him into the carriage, and dashes off. I went back to the lady, sir, didn’t seem right to leave her there. The police came soon enough and, as you know, there took me to Scotland Yard. Thank you again for getting me out of the clink, sir. I do much appreciate it.
What of the girl, George? The inspector was disinclined to answer any direct questions from me. Who was she?
Mary Jerkins sir, youngest daughter of Attorney Jerkins, a magistrate at Crown Court, Fleet Street.
That is bizarre.
Anthony Jerkins, the magistrate you speak off, was found dead this morning at the pool of London. It seems whoever killed him put his remains in the foundations of the new bridge they are building down there.
What do you think it means?
It means, George, that I want you to carry on listening to the rumors and gossip of your people and report back to me whatever you hear.
Statement as to Mental and Bodily Health
I, the undersigned, have this day seen and examined Walter Shamus Downey, the patient mentioned in the Notice of Admission of the twentieth day of January, and hereby certify that with regards to mental state, he is suffering from psychosis with bizarre delusions. Upon first inspection, Mr. Downey rambles at an extraordinary rate; sedation was administered in the hope of calming his mind. However, something quite unnerving happened when he did fall under the drug.
Mr. Downey speaks one sentence repeatedly: “My fair ladies.” I, after repeated attempts, have not forced anything but these words from his lips. It unnerved me so because I’ve feverishly tried to get him to explain what he speaks of.
With respect to Mr. Downey’s bodily health, he was in fair condition upon first inspection; however, his health seems to be rapidly failing. It is determined not due to such conditions here at Bethlem Hospital, but something within his mind.
Dr. D. Kilmartin
Medical officer, Bethlem Hospital
Journal entry of Dr. D. Kilmartin
10th February 1646
It was a most peculiar day. But fret not, the working at Bethlem hospital is far from the ordinary sights a distinguished gentleman should see on a day-to-day basis. I, on the other hand, am proud that I have seen so much of humanity’s dysfunctions and can still assimilate into high society.
As I have said, my profession is not the norm, and as such, I have and will continue to see perplexing cases. This was apparent today. I fear I might have witnessed something beyond the realm of my understanding of the human mind. Two men were brought into Bethlem hospital this morning with the exact same ailments that young Walter Downey manifested before his demise. Both patients were sedated, and like young Walter, both spoke the same words once the drug had taken effect.
“My fair ladies.”
Either this is some sort of disease of the mind transferred by saliva or blood, although Walter has been dead a few weeks and couldn’t possibly have had contact with these men; more frightening, it’s administered by someone. “How” is the question I would like answered, but also tickling the back of my mind is “whom” and “for what ends.”
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableGrant Hinton Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A