I got to know Cate Ludlow, an author and freelance editor with the History Press through Paranormal Magazine. Cate is an enthusiastic collector of old journals like me - but of even older ones. She's managed to track down quite a few of the so-called Penny Dreadfuls or Penny Bloods of the late 18th and early 19th century, including an extensive collection of one of the best known, the Terrific Register.
After we began chatting, via email, she very kindly sent me as a gift a few pages of the Terrific Register, featuring a ghost story: 'The Apparition of the Duchess of Mazarine'. This tale is one of what I call the Friends Reunited class: two good friends make a pact that should one die, he or she should return in spirit form and visit the other. Such were the Duchess of Mazarine, mistress to Charles II, and Madam de Beauclair, mistress to James II. The Duchess died young but did not appear as a ghost, so Madam de Beauclair decided there was no afterlife and became a bitter atheist. Many years later her dead friend did appear to her, but only to warn her that she was soon to join her in the great beyond.
Such, at least, is the story. The picture above is a scan of the accompanying woodcut showing the Duchess appearing to her friend in a cloud of ectoplasm. The extract Cate was good enough to send me features a few other stories, with titles like: 'The Self Convicted Murderer', 'Escape and Sufferings of Three Officers from the Cannibals of Tate Island' and (I love this) 'Sarcastic Cruelty'. There's no date on it but I'm guessing it was printed not long after 1794, the date of the cannibals report.