Lady with the Ring

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The "Lady with the Ring" is a story about premature burial from European folklore. Versions of the story were popular throughout Europe in the 14th through the 19th centuries.


Story[edit]

Central features[edit]

The central feature of the story is that a woman is buried or entombed while wearing a valuable ring. Shortly after the burial, a grave robber (often a corrupt sexton) disinters the body with the intent of stealing the ring. The robber is unable to slide the ring off the woman's finger, so he prepares to cut off the finger with a knife. However, upon making the initial incision, the woman awakes, surprising the grave robber. The woman had not been dead at all, but had been the victim of premature burial.

Variations[edit]

The following details are included in some versions of the story:

  • the grave robber instantly dies of fright after the woman awakes;
  • the woman walks a considerable distance from her burial spot to her home;
  • the woman's husband or other people at her house think that she is a ghost and refuse her entry into the house;
  • the person refusing entry to the woman tells the woman that it would be as impossible for her to return from the dead as it would be for horses to leave their stable and run up the stairs in the house; immediately after making this comparison, two neighing horses are heard and seen with their heads emerging from the second-storey windows of the house; when this occurs, the person refusing entry realises that the woman is not a ghost;
  • the woman lives for many more years and gives birth to numerous children.

Popularity[edit]

Versions of the story have been found to exist in almost every European country, including Germany, the Netherlands, France, Scandinavia, Italy, England, Scotland, and Ireland. The story is also told about a former resident of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Specific examples[edit]

Germany[edit]

The most famous version of the story is from Cologne, where the woman has been popularly identified as Richmodis von Aducht, the wife of Menginus von Aducht. The incident was said to have occurred in 1357, though other versions claimed that it occurred in the 16th century. There is a street in Cologne named Richmodis-Strasse on which is the "Richmodis House", where legend states that the Aduchts lived. The heads of two sculpted horses look out from a second-story window the house onto the square below.

In 1920, an ethnologist determined that there were nineteen cities in Germany that claimed that a version of the Lady of the Ring had occurred there, including Hamburg, Lübeck, Dresden, and Freiberg. In eleven of the cases, there were horse sculptures that commemorated the strange ending to the story.

British Isles[edit]

In 18th-century England, the woman in the story was identified as Lady Emma Edgcumbe, wife of George Edgcumbe, 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. However, the century before, Emma's ancestor Lady Anne Edgcumbe was commonly identified as the woman. In England, numerous other ladies with the ring have been identified, including Annot of Benallay, Lady Katherine Wyndham (wife of Sir Edward Wyndham, 2nd Baronet), Hannah Goodman, and Constance Whitney. In Scotland, the woman was identified as Marjorie Elphinstone (second wife of Robert Drummond of Carnock), or sometimes Margaret Halcrow Erskine. In Ireland, her name was Marjorie McCall.

An example: Marjorie McCall[edit]

A popular story in Lurgan is that of Marjorie McCall, the lady who “lived once and was buried twice." While it makes an interesting story, it is nothing more than Irish folklore. For centuries historians have attempted to establish some factual truth or proof of the event, without success.

The central feature of the story is that McCall is buried in 1705 while wearing a valuable ring. Shortly after the burial, a grave robber (or a corrupt sexton) disinters the body with the intent of stealing the ring. The robber is unable to slide the ring off the woman's finger, so he prepares to cut off the finger with a knife. However, upon the initial incision, the woman wakes, surprising the grave robber. The woman had not been dead at all, but was the victim of premature burial.

McCall reputedly lived with her family in or around what would be known as Church Place, Lurgan today. She was married to a man called John, who was a local doctor. Parish records held in the Public Records Office (PRONI) record the deaths of nine Marjorie McCalls in Lurgan, three of whom were married to a John McCall, so the name was a good bet to offer some credence to the story. No record is held of the death in 1705 of a Marjorie McCall married to a John McCall.

No record exists of anyone's being buried twice. No descendants of John or Marjorie McCall are on record giving verification of the story. In the 1860s (some 150 years after the supposed interment of Marjorie McCall), a local stonemason by the name of William Graham created a headstone bearing the inscription "Marjorie McCall — Lived Once, Buried Twice," and, with the permission of Rev. Theophilus Campbell, erected the headstone in Shankill cemetery.

The headstone remains in the cemetery to this day.

References[edit]

  • Jan Bondeson (2001). Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear (New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 0-393-04906-X) pp. 35–50
  • Rodney Davies (1998). The Lazarus Syndrome: Burial Alive and the Horrors of the Undead (New York: Barnes and Noble, ISBN 0-7607-1922-5) pp. 150–151
  • William Tebb & Edward Parry Vollum (1905). Premature Burial and How It May Be Prevented (London: Swan Sonnenschein) pp. 380–384
  • Robert Wilkins (1991). The Bedside Book of Death: Macabre Tales of Our Final Passage (New York: Citadel, ISBN 0-8065-1277-6) pp. 32–37

External links[edit]