Hidden Histories

The Strange Death of Richard Elliott and his Encounter with the Balls of Light: A Halloween Story

Wednesday, 10/30/13

Earlier this year, a Huff/Post/YouGov poll revealed that 45% of Americans believe in ghosts, or in the spirits of the dead, and that those revenants can and have often returned to certain places and situations known in life. Though many are skeptical of such beliefs, Carl Jung, the famed psychologist, summed it up quite well in 1919, when he remarked that, “I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.”

Having mentioned the above, I have always been intrigued by an incident recorded within the Providence Gazette & Country Journal on March 19, 1814. During that period, Trumble County, Ohio, was still a frontier. Major Richard Elliott, a former resident of Kent, Connecticut, and veteran of the Seventh Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Line during the American Revolution, had afterward migrated to the town of Poland in Ohio, where he experienced what the newspaper described as “truly extraordinary” circumstances in regard to his death. This encounter with the supernatural or paranormal was also published in H.C. Bradsby’s work, History of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, published in Chicago in 1893.

Suffice it to say, that one Sabbath evening, Richard Elliott was walking along a local highway, not far from Poland, when “he observed two lights coming towards him in the shape of a half moon.” These strange orbs then “seemed to enclose him in a circle round his breast,” after which he then heard distinctly, a voice ask the following question, “Are you prepared to die?” He answered, “If it’s God’s will, I think I am.” The mysterious lights then passed on, but then turned and followed him until he had passed the local cemetery or graveyard, where “they made a stand, and he could observe them on looking back for half a mile.”

After reaching his home, Maj. Elliott related to his family the strange events to several people, both friends and family, stating how he believed that “he was soon to die, and made preparations accordingly, with manifest resignation to the will of Providence.”

It is recorded that, on the third day after seeing the above lights, “he was seized with the prevailing epidemic,” became “raving insane, and in twenty-four hours died.” The author of this blog has personally obtained his last will and testament, which indeed confirms his death in 1814.

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