There is an old house in Liverpool’s Clarence Street that is the theater of supernatural unrest every time the festive season is upon us. Here are heard the sounds of a disgruntled voice cursing a long-dead man named Charles and it happen on the Christmas Eve, when the ruffled ghost puts in an appearance.
He is a man of around 50 years of age who wears a long purple velveteen coat, a grey waistcoat, and a pair of long narrow trousers.
Over the years lot of people have seen him from the year 1910 to the present day, and from the accounts given by terrified witnesses, the Christmas spectre of Clarence Street smokes a pipe, wears a pair of glasses and paces backwards and forwards near the fireplace in the sitting room of the house.
At precisely ten to eleven at night the spectre appear, and always ends his ghostly performance by resting his head on the mantelpiece and sobbing. He then disappear, leaving an aromatic mist of pipe tobacco hanging in the air.
At the aforementioned address in Clarence Street in the Victorian age, there lived a a fifty year old bachelor, a doctor named Humphrey Brooke, who was not what women would find physically appealing: he was shorter than average and his extremely stooped shoulders didn’t help him. At the end of his long, crooked nose sat a pair of big glasses, and if it was enough, he was asthmatic and really socially awkward.
He was the opposite of twenty year old Felicia Clayton, who was one of the most attractive girls of Liverpool: a stunningly beautiful, kind and charming young daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate. She could have the heart of any man and was inundated with love letters, gentlemen suitors and proposals of marriage.
They first met at the funeral of Jesse Hartley, the eminent engineer who had transformed the Liverpool waterfront with his magnificent docks and warehouses. Felicia and her father attended the funeral too, and Dr Brooke was briefly introduced to the young beauty. He kissed her hand and she smiled at him several times during that sombre afternoon.
Dr. Brooke caught sight of Felicia around town a couple times after the funeral, once when she was coming out of a carriage and again as she walked down the street with a suitor, when she saw and smile at him. The suitor became jealous and reprimanded her.
Dr. Brooke’s infatuation with Felicia was now at it’s peak. The bachelor Brooke returned to his house and wrote of his encounters with Felicia in a little black book. Brooke also scribbled down his outrageous plans to win Felicia’s heart, and the most realistic plan was quite straightforward: A Christmas Eve ball was to take place at a prestigious address of a Rodney Street magistrate.
Humphrey Brooke had already received an invitation to the ball. The invitation card said the doctor was entitled to bring a lady, and so, Mr Brooke lovingly wrote the name Felicia Clayton on the invite. She accepted!
Some days later, Dr Brooke’s “friend”, a cotton merchant named Charles Wilson visited him at the surgery in Clarence Street. Wilson had a legendary reputation for chasing the opposite sex, and asked Brooke if he had anything planned for Christmas, because he wanted a bit of company in the taverns of Liverpool over the festive season. To his surprise, Dr. Brooke informed him that he did indeed have plans, ones that involved the most sought after woman in the city!
In the middle of their conversation, a woman rushed into the surgery and pleaded with Dr Brooke to come at once to treat her father, who had collapsed and was having a seizure. So fhe doctore grabbed his medical bag and rushed out the surgery, leaving Wilson behind.
Wilson opened a drawer in the doctor’s desk and read the little black book. Wilson grinned and sniggered as he read the book’s stories about Felicia. There’s no fool like an old fool, did think Wilson, and he saw the invitation card with his friend’s name on with Felicia’s name next to it. Wilson was intrigued (and jealous!) at his friend’s crush on the beautiful young woman.
When was Christmas Eve, Dr Brooke wore a fine purple velveteen jacket and his best embroidered grey silken waistcoat. He stood before the fireplace, pacing up and down, with butterflies in his stomach: a feeling he hadn’t experienced since the courting days of his youth, so many decades ago.
When there was a heavy jangling of the front door bell, he answered, thinking that perhaps Felicia had decided to call upon him.
Instead it was a messenger boy who had a letter for him, and his heart broke: Felicia no longer wished to go to the ball with the doctor. She was now going to the ball with her long-time admirer Colonel Burns. And the letter, written by Felicia’s father, warned Brooke to keep away from his daughter in future and to remember his age. Actually, unknown to Brooke, his “friend” Charles Wilson had sent an anonymous letter to Felicia’s father, warning him of Dr Brooke’s outrageous and obnoxious plans to have romantic involvements with Felicia, and added that he is a old fool, mentally ill.
Ironically, Felicia disobeyed her father and went to the Christmas Eve ball, where she looked everywhere for Dr Brooke, but he was nowhere to be seen. Felicia knew the doctor wasn’t much attractive, but his romantic letters to her had moved the girl so much, and Felicia was determined to meet the man. In the end, Felicia Clayton went home, much to the disappointment of the males at the ball.
But Dr Brooke was so devastated by the letter, and on that Christmas Eve, he died from what seems to have been a heart attack, no doubt brought on by the emotional turmoil of the apparent rejection from the girl. Brooke knocked the clock from the mantelpiece as he fell dead on the hearth rug, and the clock broke: its dial recorded that the death had occurred at precisely ten to eleven!
And that’s the sad history of the Christmas spectre of Clarence Street….