Woman in White

A young signalman on the Southern Railway, at Cane Hill Box, Coulsdon, had the fright of his life yesterday at daybreak. Looking out of one of the windows of his cabin, Ernest Fills saw a ghostly apparition approaching, says the London “Daily Chronicle” correspondent. It proved to be an old lady in her night attire, with her hair in disarray all over her face. There was a fixed stare in her eyes; she was clasping her hands over her breast and screaming. Evidently she had been attracted to the signal-box by the light. Fills opened the door and asked her in, but she did not answer. He touched her on the shoulder, and she turned round and cried, “Don’t touch me! Don’t send me back; don’t send me back! I want to find my children.” The signalman was alarmed, for the woman was shivering violently, but he persuaded the wanderer to enter the signal-box, and went to fetch an asylum attendant who lived near. When he returned the woman had gone. A quarter of an hour later she was found on the side of the railway, at Ashdown Park Hotel, still shrieking, “Don’t send back; don’t send me back.” It was found that the woman was a dangerous mental patient, who had escaped from Cane Hill Asylum. She was returned there.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, Thursday, 26 April 1923.

Chapter 3 - Mary Anne Evans, circa 1893, around the time of her engagement to Harry Deverill
Our great grandmother, Mary Anne Deverill, was a patient at Cane Hill Asylum not long before this article was written. This photograph shows her in happier times, in the 1890s, about to be married.

4 thoughts on “Woman in White

  1. Nancy Jo Cartwright

    So sad that Mary Anne had to experience the stigma of her admission and stay at this institution when I believe it was later discovered she had cancer that had metastasized to her brain. It may not likely have changed the outcome of her stay at Cane Hill, but might have helped her understand what was happening to her mind. A brave soul, to be sure.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Marilyn Charbonneau

    Oh, the poor woman. She must have been very desperate and not dangerous at all. Our poor Mary Ann must have felt similarly desperate, knowing something was wrong but not knowing what it was and hoping someone could help her.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A simple desperate act, hoping for help. We have come a long way through research and understand how Mary Ann would not end up in an asylum today. But how far have we come with access to and understanding mental health? I hope the woman in this story found the help she needed and was able to find some joy.

    Liked by 2 people

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