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Searching for the Blomberg Ghost

A legend lost for 200 years is stirred up anew - in response to a single request in 1814.



Near the beginning of the 19th century, a well accredited ghost story related to visions of a man named Blomberg were in circulation. Far too early to be related to world renowned vampire killer Professor Ernst Blomberg, this tale piqued the interest of a lone scrutator fascinated by the spooky in 1814. Only 197 years later, Spookyland is proud to respond to this early crowdsourcing call.



Letter to the Editor, from The New Monthly Magazine, Volume 3, pg. 4, 1814:

Mr. Editor,

Having recently observed in some of the public prints a revival of the well-known story of Lord Lyttelton's apparition, with the additional circumstances of the late Mr. M. P. Andrews having received a similar supernatural impression at the time of his friend Lord L.'s death, I should be obliged to you to permit me to call the attention of some of your intelligent correspondents to an investigation of the origin and source of the superstitious credulity now so lamentably prevalent in this country.

It is a well-known fact, scarcely as it may seem credible in the nineteenth century, that, among other widely circulated stories of this description, the famous Blomberg vision (as it is generally called) is to this day seriously accredited even in the highest circles. In close connexion too with visionary impressions of this stamp, we may reckon the popular belief of second sight in Scotland; that "vision'd future," as Mr. Scott so elegantly designates it in his beautiful poem of the Lady of the Lake, (Canto I. st. 23.) In his note on the subject* even this accomplished writer observes, that "if force of evidence could authorize us to believe facts inconsistent with the general laws of nature, enough might be produced in favour of the existence of second sight."

To these more celebrated instances, leaving the credulous victims of poor Joanna Southcott's insane imposture out of the question, I must also add the case of the late absurdities practised in Somersetshire; "a country which," it has been justly remarked, "has of late been the scene of the grossest superstitions that ever debased the human mind." I cite this last case in particular, as it has led to a laudable attempt to counteract the growing influence of superstition on the popular feeling, in a very judicious discourse delivered on the spot, and since published by its author, Mr. Vowles, of Tiverton. In this discourse the author has very ably displayed the lamentable folly of such superstitions, and most clearly shewn the futility of the arguments which are supposed to countenance the belief of preternatural visitations.

But, satisfactory as this gentleman's view of the subject is, as far as the absurdity of the thing, and its melancholy consequences, are concerned, it still seems to require a closer investigation by tracing it to its origin, and to the causes that first produced it. As a decided enemy to every species of credulity and imposture, I should feel, therefore, particularly gratified if I could excite the attention of your readers to the subject. Some amongst them, with leisure and resources to pursue the inquiry, would do an acceptable service to the cause of reason, so degraded by such senseless visions, by undertaking, in a concise sketch of the origin and history of popular superstition, exemplified in some of the more memorable instances of its influence, to account for the real cause of that extraordinary credulity which seems still to retain such unabated power, not merely over the minds of the weak and illiterate, but, in a great measure, even over the understandings of the rational and reflecting.

Dec. 7, 1814.

Scrutator.


* In this note Mr. Scott gives a detailed account of the nature of this strange belief, and of its manner of operation on the Gaelic seers, extracted at length from "Martin's Descriptin of the Western Isles."




Here, then, we see an 1814 plea to crowdsource an investigation into some of these supernatural occurences - our Scrutator is eloquently and openly requesting those readers with 'leisure and resources' to conduct additional research into the matter.



As this specifically relates to another spooky Blomberg, Spookyland is honored to answer this dusty call only 197 years later.






Lord Lyttelton, known for occasionally ruthless politics in England during the American Revolution, died on November 27, 1779 - just two days after remarking in court disputes that his seat might be soon vacant. This event was soon popularized as a supernatural premonition, especially after reports began to surface that Lyttelton had received a spiritual warning (in the form of a 'robin-redbreast' that transformed into a woman) presaging his death in three days. But back to this Blomberg fellow.


Digging deeper into the famous 'Blomberg vision,' the following letter appears to a follow-up from Scrutator, published in The New Monthly Magazine, Volume 3, Page 403, 1815:

MR. EDITOR,

I am happy to observe that my letter on the melancholy prevalence of popular superstition in this country, has excited the attention of your readers to the subject, and it will afford me particular pleasure to further their discussion of it, as far as it is in my power. Whether any account of the Blomberg vision (as enquired after by your correspondent C. A. p. 230,) exists in print, I am not however competent at present to say, though I am rather inclined to think some particulars relative to it were stated a few years ago in the Gentleman's Magazine. Should I meet with any printed statement of this extraordinary apparition, he may rely upon my furnishing him with a reference to it, if no other correspondent in the mean time supplies the desideratum.

Since writing the letter on this subject (inserted in your 13th number,) it has struck me, upon an attentive reconsideration of the notorious coffin-imposture, in Somersetshire, which led to Mr. Vowles' sermon as there noticed, that this preposterous story bears some resemblance to the Vampyrism of the earlier part of the last century.* Of this strange object of the popular credulity of that period, some notices will be found in the 2d. vol. of the Gent. Mag. and a still more detailed and circumstantial account has been since given in the 2d and 3d vols. of the Athenaeum. But it does not, as far as I am aware, appear from any evidence that has been yet adduced, that this absurdest of all the superstitions that has ever degraded the human understanding, has in reality existed at any period in our own country. The Somersetshire folly however comes, I conceive, the nearest in all its circumstances to it. At all events we may fairly infer, that the credulity which could be so imposed upon as it has been by the coffin story, is but a short step from becoming really the dupe of all the terrific horrors of Vampyrism itself.

SCRUTATOR.
Berkshire, March 7, 1815.

* The horrible idea of Vampyrism is, that the bodies of persons so possessed, remain uncorrupted in the grave, and even after a long time will be found, though physically dead, yet fresh and as full of blood and apparently vital habit as when actually alive, and in this state be able to wander from time to time out of their earthly lodging to the great terror and annoyance of the really living!






What, then, are the facts surrounding this renowned 'Blomberg vision' that had so captured the imagination of discerning readers? Here follows an account of the tale, from Accredited Ghost Stories' (1823):




Apparition of Major Blomberg to the Governor of Dominica.



Early in the American war, Major Blomberg, the father of Dr. Blomberg, was expected to join his regiment, which was at the time on service in the island of Dominica. His period of absence had expired, and his brother officers, eagerly anticipating his return, as vessel after vessel arrived from England without conveying the looked for passenger, declared one to another, "Well at all events, he must come in the next." His presence in the island now became indispensable; and the governor, impatient of so long an absence, was on the point of writing a remonstrance on the subject to the authorities in this country, when, as he was sitting at night in his study with his secretary, and remarking on the conduct of the absentee, with no very favourable or lenient expresions, a step was heard to ascend the stairs, and walk along the passage without. "Who can it be?" exclaimed the governor, "intruding at so late an hour." "It is Blomberg's step," replied the secretary. "The very man himself," said the governor; and, as he spoke, the door opened, and Major Blomberg stood before them. The major advanced towards the table at which the gentlemen were sitting, and flung himself into a chair opposite the governor. There was something hurried in his manner; a forgetfulness of all the ordinary forms of greeting; and abruptly saying: "I must converse with you alone:" he gave a sign for the secretary to retreat. The sign was obeyed. There was an air of conscious superiority about the manner of the visitor that admitted no dispute. "On your return to England," he continued, as soon as the apartment was cleared of the objectionable witness, "On your return to England, you will go to a farm house, near the village of ___________, in Dorsetshire; you will there find two children; they are mine; the offspring and the orphans of my secret marriage. Be the guardian of those parentless infants. To prove their legitimacy, and their consequent right to my property, you must demand of the woman, with whom they are placed at nurse, the red Morocco case which was committed to her charge. Open it; it contains the necessary papers. Adieu! You will see me no more." Major Blomberg instantly withdrew. The Governor of Dominica, surprised at the commission, at the ebrupt entrance, and the abrupt departure, rang the bell to desire some of his household to follow the major and request his return. None had seen him enter; none had witnessed his exit. It was strange! it was passing strange! There soon after arrived intelligence that Major Blomberg had embarked on board a vessel for Dominica, which has been dismasted in a storm at sea, and was supposed to have subsequently sunk, as she was never more heard of, about the time in which the figure had appeared to the governor and his secretary.

All that Major Blomberg had communicated was carefully stamped in the memory of his friend. On his return to England, which occurred in a few months after the apparition above described had been seen by the governor, he immediately hastened to the village in Dorsetshire, and to the house in which the children were resident. He found them; he asked for the casket; it was immediately surrendered. The legitimacy and the claims of the orphans of Blomberg were established, and they were admitted to the enjoyment of their rights without any controversy or dispute.

This tale was related to the late Queen Charlotte, and so deeply interested her that she immediately adopted the son as the object of her peculiar care and favour. He was brought to Windsor, and educated with his present Majesty, of whom he has through life been the favourite, the companion, and the friend.






It is interesting that something as dubious as a ghost story would be tied to such specific people of prominence such as England's Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), and thereby her son King George IV (1762 - 1830), referred to above as 'his present Majesty.' Could it be that there is something more to this spooky tale? The search for possible proof is confounded by the variety of accounts of this particular tale. Consider this retelling, published in Personal Reminiscences by Barham, Harness and Hodder, edited by Richard Henry Stoddard in 1875:

The Blomberg Ghost Story


The name of Dr. Blomberg is well known in connection with the celebrated ghost story so frequently narrated by George IV. As several versions of this strange occurrence are in existence, it may be worth noting while to give the one which Mr. Barham heard at the doctor's own table, either on the occasion when the foregoing anecdotes were told, or a few days later.

"During the American War, two officers of rank were seated in their tent, and delayed taking supper till a brother officer, then absent upon a foraging party, should return. Their patience was well-nigh exhausted, and they were about to commence their meal, concluding something had occurred to detain the party, when suddenly his well-known footstep was heard approaching. Contrary to their expectation, however, he paused at the entrance of the tent, and without coming in called on one of them by name, requesting him with much earnestness, as soon as he should return to England, to proceed to a house in a particular street in Westminster, in a room of which (describing it) he would find certain papers of great consequence to a young lad with whom the speaker was nearly connected. The speaker then apparently turned away, and his footsteps were distinctly heard retiring till their sound was lost in the distance. Struck with the singularity of his behavior, they both rose, and proceeded in search of him. A neighboring sentinel on being questioned denied that he had either seen or heard any one, although, as they believed, their friend must have passed close by his post. In a few minutes their bewilderment was changed into a more painful feeling by the approach of the visiting officer of the night, who informed them that the party which went out in the morning had been surprised, and that the dead body of poor Major Blomberg (their friend) had been brought into the camp about ten minutes before. The two friends retired in silence, and sought the corpse of the person who, as both were fully persuaded, had just addressed them. They found him pierced by three bullets, one of which had passed through his temples and must have occasioned instant death. He was quite cold, and appeared to have been dead some hours. It may easily be conceived that a memorandum was immediately made of the request they had both so distinctly heard, and of the circumstances attending it, and that on the return of the regiment to Europe, no time was lost in searching for the papers. The house was found without difficulty, and in an upper room, agreeably with the information they had received in such an extraordinary manner, an old box was discovered, which had remained there many years, containing the title-deeds of some property now in the posession of the Rev. Dr. Blomberg, who was the 'lad' mentioned by name by the voice at the tent door.


"This story," adds Mr. Barham, "was repeated to me by Mr. Atwood, the King's organist, at Dr. Blomberg's own table in his temporary absence. Mr. Atwood declared that he had heard the story related by George IV, (whose foster-brother Dr. Blomberg was) more than once, and on one occasion when the doctor himself was present. He further stated that the King had mentioned the names of all the parties concerned, but that, with the exceptions of Major Blomberg's, they had escaped his memory."






Thus, some fifty years later, the tale is still being told, albeit with entirely different circumstances; still, the ties to specific royal persons is maintained. This particular recollection goes on to mention how there were, by this time (1875) a number of different versions of the Blomberg Ghost story in circulation:



Since the forgoing pages were prepared for the press a very different version of the story has reached me, furnished by a member of the family to the head of which the Yorkshire property had descended. The account given by my informant contains the substance of the narrative of the curcumstances under which the alleged supernatural communication was made, drawn up by the officer to whom it was more particularly addressed. It runs as follows: -

Captain (? Major) Edward Blomberg was left a widower, with one little boy, two years old, who was heir to a fair estate in Yorkshire then in the possession of Baron Blomberg. The captain's regiment being stationed in the island of Martinique, he was, in the course of duty, sent off with dispatches to a place at a considerable distance from headquarters. One night, shortly after his departure, an officer who, in consequence of the crowded condition of the barracks, was sharing his chamber with a comrade, was aroused, just as he was dropping off to sleep, by the opening of the door. Captain Blomberg entered, walked slowly to his friend's bed, and drew back the mosquito curtains.

"Why, Blomberg," exclaimed the latter in astonishment, "what on earth has brought you back?"

The intruder answered: "This night I died at ___________, and I have come hither to beg you to take charge of my little orphan boy." He then gave them the address of the child's grandmother and aunt, who were residing in London, and requested that his son might be sent to them immediately; adding directions as to the searching for certain papers necessary to establish the boy's title to the property of which he was heir. This done, without waiting for a reply, the figure departed. Perplexed, not to say alarmed, and thinking it just possible that his imagination might have played him false, the officer called to the occupant of the other bed:-

"Did you," he asked, "see any one come into the room?"

"Yes," was the answer; "it was Blomberg, was it not? What did he want?"

"Did n't you hear what he said?"

"No," returned the other; "I could hear that he was talking to you, but what he said I was unable to make out."

The first speaker then related the extraordinary communication he had just received. Both officers were much affected by the strangeness of the affair, but were not a little ridiculed on the following morning when they narrated the occurence at breakfast in the mess-room. In the evening, however, a message was forwarded to the general in command to the effect that Captain Blomberg's death had taken place on the preceding night, just at the time of his appearance in the bedroom. It came out that he had died of fever, evidently brought on by depression of spirits occasioned by the loss of his wife. No time was lost in seeking out the child, who was found and dispatched to England, where he appears to have been somewhat coldly received by the grandmother. His story, however, happened to reach the ears of Lady Caroline Finch, the Queen's governess, who repeated it to her Majesty.

The Queen, struck by the interest attaching to the boy, declared that the little Blomberg should never want a home; and immediately sending for him ordered that he should be brought up in the royal nursery. She afterwards provided for his education, and saw to the settlement of his property. In addition to this, when the lad reached the age of nine years, the Queen employed Gainsborough to paint his portrait, and subsequently presented the picture to the original. This lad, brought up at the palace, became in due time chaplain to George IV, and residentiary of St. Paul's. He married Miss Floyer, a Dorsetshire lady, but continuing childless, adopted her neice; and narrative and portrait, papers and estate - to say nothing of the ghost's plates and spoons - are, I am told, at the present time inthe possession of this lady's representative.





So, then, this Blomberg expired while pining for his lost wife - a more honorable end than most versions of the tale, which include an illegitimate child (or two) - could this be significant? Despite additional specific references in this tale, it will take further digging to determine if painter Thomas Gainsborough ever put the image of a young Blomberg to canvas.

The orphaned child, nameless in some of the tellings, is typically identified (as below) as the Rev. F. W. Blomberg, who was indeed a clergyman in England at the appropriate time. According to historians, the Rev. F. W. Blomberg went on to serve as Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales from 1785 to 1795. He did indeed claim the aforementioned property, all the while without any specific mention of his parentage. He also apparently served as the Vicar of the parish of St. Giles Without in Cripplegate into the late 1830s. A noteworthy gentleman himself, there is some evidence that he may not have been exactly exemplary in his spiritual calling; yet it remains to be shown why a seemingly reputable clergyman would persist in perpetuating the story of his ghostly provenance.

Moral character not withstanding, an assertion made here, in The Annals of Bristol in the Nineteenth Century by John Latimer (1887), offers an explanation that would account for the very existence of the story of the Blomberg Ghost itself:

In an interview which once took place between Sydney Smith and Mr. Gladstone, the witty canon frankly observed to the then youthful statesman that "whenever you see a clergyman of my age, you may feel certain that he is a bad clergyman;" and allowance must be made for the habits of a time when nearly the whole profession was apathetic, slothful, and self-seeking. These conditions being premised, the prebendary entitled to the precedence on the ground of seniority is the Rev. F. W. Blomberg, on whom the favours of royalty were abundantly showered.

...

Such abundant favour exciting curiosity, an explanation was offered, with the alleged approval of Dr. Blomberg himself. His father, it was said, was an officer in the army, who had made a secret marriage with a lady that died in a few years, whereupon the two children of the union were nursed in an obscure part of the country. During the wars the father died abroad, but immediately afterwards his ghost presented itself to a fellow officer, and gave him instructions where to find the children, and how to put them in possession of a valuable estate. This having been done, the marvel reached the ears of Queen Charlotte, who sent for the youthful Blomberg, and had him brought up and educated with the royal children. If the narrators of this story obtained it from the person chiefly interested, it is singular that their versions, three in number, should be utterly irreconcilable respecting the date and the place of the ghost's appearance, the locality of the deceased's estate, and every other detail in which they enter. Cynical people offered a perfectly unromantic explanation of Dr. Blomberg's good fortune. That he was brought up at Windsor appears certain, and it was generally agreed that in features he strikingly resembled the royal family.






Here, then, appears to be the whole cause of this ghostly tale - a startling diversionary tale to keep people from asking why the young F. W. Blomberg, raised among British royalty for no clear reason, looks so much like King George III and his children.

To coin the phrase 'pulling a Blomberg,' perhaps the best way to keep people from asking embarrassing questions is to throw them a story so preposterous that they will forget what they were thinking. How many of the twentieth century's alien abductions or Bigfoot liasons are cover stories to draw attention from so many backwoods Peyton Places?


A very unspooky ending to a spooky tale, indeed.







For your further consideration, here follow the sources referenced:
Letter 1 - New Monthly Magazine, Volume 3, Page 4 (Thomas Campbell, Samuel Carter Hall, et. al. 1815)
Letter 2 - New Monthly Magazine, Volume 3, Page 403 (Thomas Campbell, Samuel Carter Hall, et. al. 1815)
Excerpt - From Accredited Ghost Stories collected by T. M. Jarvis, Esq. London, printed for J. Andrews, New Bond Street, 1823.
Excerpt - From Personal Reminiscences by Barham, Harness and Hodder, Edited by Richard Henry Stoddard Stoddard New York Scribner, Armstrong & Co. New York, 1875.
Excerpt - From The Annals of Bristol in the Nineteenth Century, John Latimer, W. & F. Morgan, Clare Street, Bristol, 1887.
Also of interest is Right Royal Bastards: The Fruits of Passion (Peter de Vere Beauclerk-Dewar et al, 2006) which mentions F. W. Blomberg in the context of suspiciously chummy companion to George III's other children.