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, horses are heard and seen with their heads emerging from a high window 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]

Richmodis tower, Cologne

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 during Black Death year of 1357, though other versions claimed that it occurred in the 16th century. In Richmodstraße in Cologne one can find "Richmodis House", birthplace of the composer Max Bruch, where—according to legend—the Aduchts had lived. From a tower two sculpted horseheads look out of a window. These heads by sculptor Wilhelm Müller-Maus were installed in 1958 as a replacement for the wooden ones by Christoph Stephan (1797–1864) that had not survived the bombing of Cologne in World War II.

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.

Other European Countries[edit]

Britain

In 18th-century England, the woman in the story was identified as Emma Edgcumbe, Countess Mount 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 Halcro Erskine.

Ireland

A version of the story has become part of Lurgan folklore, The story is recorded in a number of other countries one hundred years before it came to Lurgan.

A story that has become part of Lurgan folklore is that of Marjorie McCall.

After succumbing to a fever of some sort in 1705, Marjorie McCall was hastily buried to prevent the spread of whatever had done her in.

Marjorie was buried with a valuable ring, which her husband had been unable to remove due to swelling. This made her an even better target for body snatchers, who could cash in on both the corpse and the ring.

The evening after Marjorie was buried, before the soil had even settled, the grave-robbers showed up and started digging. Unable to pry the ring off the finger, they decided to cut the finger off. As soon as blood was drawn, Marjorie awoke from her coma, sat straight up and screamed. The fate of the grave-robbers remains unknown. One story says the men dropped dead on the spot, while another claims they fled and never returned to their chosen profession.

Marjorie climbed out of the hole and made her way back to her home.

Her husband John, a doctor, was at home with the children when he heard a knock at the door. He told the children, “If your mother were still alive, I’d swear that was her knock.”

When he opened the door to find his wife standing there, dressed in her burial clothes, blood dripping from her finger but very much alive, he dropped dead to the floor. He was buried in the plot Marjorie had vacated.”

So is it true? Simple answer NO. It is nothing more than folklore.

Marjorie is known in several towns in Germany as Richmodis von Aducht. And this was 100 years before the story arrived in Lurgan.

In England she was Marjorie Ellis, Emma Edgcumbe also Annot of Benallay or Katherine Wyndham or Hannah Goodman.

In Scotland she was Marjorie Elphinstone or Marjorie Halcrow or Marjorie Erskine.

A renowned ethnologist determined that there were nineteen cities in Germany that claimed that a version of the Lady of the Ring.

In eleven of the cases, there were sculptures that commemorated the strange ending to the story. None showed death records of the period to prove it.

Much in the same way as I have searched the Shankill Parish records and found no Marjorie McCall married to a John McCall in Lurgan.

So where did the headstone come from?

With no record of her burial in Shankill cemetery or for that matter of her existence, it has been said a local monumental sculptor was permitted to erect the stone in Shankill cemetery in the early 19th century, some two hundred years after Marjorie was doing the double!

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.

Yes exactly the same story, word for word.

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.

And in every story there are a few variations. 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.

It is nothing more than an entertaining story told throughout Europe.

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]