The Doctor's Fetch

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

We must not omit mention of the Fetch (qu. Feach, to see). But the readers of Chambers's Journal, and the works of German physiologists, and Harold and the Strange Story will comprehend (if the matter be comprehensible) how the human being under unhappy circumstances can (involuntarily in most cases) project some outer casing, or emanation, or larva, or Scin Laeca (horrible name). If this phantom be seen in the morning it betokens good fortune and long life to its prototype; if in the evening a near death awaits him. This superstition was known and felt in England even in the reign of Elizabeth. We quote a passage from Miss Strickland's account of her last illness:—

"As her mortal illness drew towards its close, the snperstitious fears of her simple ladies were excited almost to mania, even to conjuring up a spectral apparition of the Queen while she was yet alive. Lady Guildford, then in waiting on the Queen, leaving her in an almost breathless sleep in her privy chamber, went out to take a little air, and met her Majesty, as she thought, three or four chambers off. Alarmed at the thought of being discovered in the act of leaving the royal patient alone, she hurried forward in some trepidation, in order to excuse herself, when the apparition vanished away. She returned terrified to the chamber, but there lay the Queen still in the same lethargic slumber in which she left her."

Within a few days an unexplained mystery has been communicated to us. It is here given without any further commentary than our assurance of the good faith of our informant, who equally vouched for the veracity of her authorities, one of them being the principal witness of the apparition.


In one of our Irish cities, and in a room where the mild moonbeams of a summer night were resting on the carpet and on a table near the window, Mrs. B———, wife of a doctor in good practice and general esteem, looking towards this window from her pillow, was startled by the appearance of her husband, standing near the table just mentioned, and seeming to look with attention on a book that was lying open on it. Now the living and breathing man was lying by her side, apparently asleep; and greatly as she was surprised and affected, she had sufficient command of herself to remain without movement, lest she should expose him to the terror which she herself at the moment experienced. After gazing at the apparition for a few seconds, she bent her eyes on her husband, to ascertain if his looks were turned in the direction of the window, but his eyes were closed. She turned round again, though dreading the sight of what she now felt certain to be her husband's fetch, but it was no longer there. She lay sleepless throughout the remainder of the night, but still bravely refrained from disturbing her partner.

Next morning Mr. B——— seeing signs of disquiet in his wife's countenance while at breakfast, made some affectionate inquiries, but she concealed her trouble; and at his ordinary hour he sallied forth to make his calls. Meeting Dr. C——— in the street, and falling into conversation with him, he asked his opinion on the subject of fetches. "I think" was the answer, "and so I am sure do you, that they are mere illusions, produced by a disturbed stomach acting upon the excitable brain of a highly imaginative or superstitious person." "Then," said Dr. B——— "I am highly imaginative or superstitious, for I distinctly saw my own outward man last night, standing at the table in the bedroom, and clearly distinguishable in the moonlight. I am afraid my wife saw it too, but I have been afraid to speak to her on the subject." "You have acted like a sensible man; but now be off to your patients, as I must run to mine."

About the same hour on the ensuing night the poor lady was again roused, but by a more painful circumstance. She felt her husband moving convulsively, and immediately after he cried to her in low and interrupted accents, "Ellen, dear, I am suffocating; send for Dr. C———"

She sprang up, huddled on some clothes, and, without waiting for the slow movements of the servant, she ran to his house. He came with all speed, but his efforts for his friend were useless. He had burst a large bloodvessel in the lungs, and was soon beyond human aid.

In the passionate lamentations which the bereaved wife could not restrain in the presence of the physician, she frequently cried out, "Oh! the fetch, the fetch!" At a later period she told him of the appearance the night before her husband's death; and as he thoroughly believed her statement, it involved the theory he henceforth entertained on the subject of Fetches in considerable confusion.

End of this Story

It is not a difficult matter to a person of finely strung nerves to conjure up the eidolon of one in whom he or she is deeply interested.

A few accidental instances of deaths speedily following on such manifestations were sufficient to establish the existence of fetches.