Phil Oldcorne had just taken possession of the house that his Aunt Maggie had left him in inheritance in her will. Aunt Maggie was a sullen woman who disliked people, especially when they were awake. While they slept she could still tolerate them, but awake they became unbearable for her. Hence she had lived isolated in an isolated house in an isolated village in an isolated county of an isolated island. Phil never knew her, even though when he was a child she came home weekly to visit them. But her visits were nocturnal, when everyone in the house was asleep. Maggie’s sister (Phil’s mother, may she rest in peace) left a key hidden in the garden so that her sister could enter the house. Phil’s mother had a kind of sixth sense to know when Aunt Maggie was visiting them, but she always feigned to be asleep. According to her, the aunt lit a candle with which she moved through the various rooms where the family members slept. She stayed with each of them for a while watching them while they slept. Then she extinguished the candle and left. During these visits the aunt grew attached to little Phil. His mother knew this because it was in his room that the aunt spent more time judging by the amount of candle wax accumulated at the foot of the child’s bed. That’s why Phil was not surprised when he learned that Aunt Maggie had bequeathed her house to him.
The first night that Phil spent in his aunt’s house, he didn’t sleep a wink because of the little flame of a candle that remained all night at the foot of his bed. The next morning, he took the first train to London to get in touch with his friend Frederic W. H. Myers, who had just participated in the foundation of the Society for Psychical Research.
Myers accompanied his friend to his aunt’s old house with the intention of spending the next night hidden in it. Phil had told him that his family was of Catholic tradition and that is why an ancestor of his had to build a “priest hole” so that the occasional presence of a priest in the house could be concealed when necessary. And precisely this hole was located in Phil’s room. When it began to get dark, Myers left alone his friend to go hide in the priest hole which was behind a false wall. After an hour, Phil went to bed lighting his way with a gas lamp. Once in bed, he turned off the lamp and prepared to wait. But he did not have to wait long: suddenly a little candle flame appeared in the darkness. Myers, who was looking through a small hole in the false wall, could not avoid a cry of horror. Phil hurriedly turned on the gas lamp, but by the time the room was illuminated there was no trace of the flame or anything out of the ordinary. Exactly the same situation (including Myers’ cry of horror) was reproduced the following night. And the next. And the next, and the next and the next and… Until Phil said “Enough is enough!” and managed to convince his stubborn friend that it was useless to keep trying since Myers obviously was unable to suppress the cry of horror when the little flame appeared.
Myers excused himself by saying it was a reflex action.