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A Man from Ysbyty Ystwyth sees a Corpse Candle

Mary Thomas (1905-83)

The corpse, well, the corpse candle, went before the funeral. I was telling you about my grandfather, that he was very superstitious [and] saw such things. He and his daughter lived on a little smallholding not far away from here, and he'd see this corpse candle every time. And one day - one night -he and his daughter were outside the house. And he was saying to his daughter:

'Do you see that corpse candle down there by the hedge?'

'No, I don't,' said his daughter. 'I don't see anything there.'

'Do you see that light over there?' he said.

'Oh, not at all,' she said.

'Well, it's going down through the field,' he said, 'and through the gap in the hedge,' he said, ' and it's going to that house, over there, T? Newydd,' he said.

And they thought nothing more of it. A couple of days later the T? Newydd girl came here, to my grandfather's house, to visit. She went home the same day. By the time she got home her mother had had a stroke and had fallen near the fire, and had been burned a little near the fire. She'd died just there, had had a stroke by the fireside. And she ran back to my grandfather's house, and said:

'Come with me at once,' she said, 'Mam is dead.'

And my grandfather went, and my aunt went with him. And there it was, the corpse candle. They were going back with her, that day, to the house. He'd seen them going before then. He saw them, you see. He'd seen the corpse candle already.

Thomas -

Thomas Jones.

Your mother's father -

My mother's father, my grandfather, always saw the corpse candle...

Well, how did you feel when you heard that story?

Oh, well, I felt as if there were cold water trickling down my spine, when I heard about these spirits.

Had your grandfather had any other experiences himself?

He'd had many experiences of the corpse candle. My grandmother died when my mother was eight years old, my Uncle David six and Aunty Charlotte a baby, a young girl, twenty-eight years old. She died of the dicâd [tuberculosis], as they called it in those days, [and] there was no cure. And the night before she died he was by her bedside, and he saw a little lighted candle on the bed, and he saw it going out of the house. And then his wife died. And he saw his wife's corpse candle going out of the house. And she saw it too. She said:

'Do you see that light going out through the door, Tomos?' Both she and he saw the light, and she died the next day.

Well, well!

Oh, they certainly saw it.


A Man from Ysbyty Ystwyth sees a Corpse Candle

More information


MWL 6451. Recorded 4.v.1979.


Mary Thomas told these stories as part of a conversation between herself, her husband William Thomas, and the interviewer, about portents of death in Ffair-rhos and the surrounding area. These stories follow the anecdote 'Seeing a Funeral on the Road from Pontrhydfendigaid to Ystrad-fflur' and the following comments by William Thomas and Mary Thomas about a particular belief concerning the corpse candle, or gole corff ('corpse light'), as they called the portent.

WT: But, you know, years ago there was a corpse candle going along the road, you'd see a little light coming, you see. And old Doctor Rowlands was living in Bont here, you see. And say he'd see a light coming, he'd get down off his horse - at that time, you see, he'd go all over the surrounding area to visit the sick, and so on, and they went on horseback - and what he'd do, was take off his hat, you see, if he saw a pool or puddle of water, he'd put his hat by the water. And he'd see who was going to die, as the light went through the hat.

MT: If you happened to see a corpse candle and you were passing through water on the road, you'd look in the water when the funeral procession went through the water and you'd see the person in the coffin [laughs].

WT: I hope he sleeps tonight! I hope you sleep tonight [referring to the interviewer and laughing]!

MT: Oh dear me!

RG: And who told you this story?

WT: Well, I heard my grandmother telling it. My grandmother was her [MT's] father's sister.

MT: We'd hear the old people talking, you see, the old people discussing [things], you see. It was the old people who told all those stories.

RG: And that was the belief, that you could see who'd die if you looked in the water?

WT: Well, [if] you put your hat here by the water, you'd see the light, and then you'd know the person in the hat, you know, as the light passed. That's what they said.

After Mary Thomas had recounted the experiences of her grandfather, Thomas Jones of Ysbyty Ystwyth, this was her answer to the question: 'What kind of light was this?' 'Well, I'd think that it would vary in size according to the age of the person. I think it would be quite a small candle if it was a child; it would be bigger if it was a grown-up.' And here are further comments from her about her grandfather's beliefs and his influence on her (tape MWL 6450).

He was a very remarkable character... quite unique. He'd see ghosts and corpse candles everywhere.

Do you believe in things like that?

Well, yes, I do.

Do you?

Yes, I do believe, because my grandfather believed and he saw them, and of one thing I'm sure, that my grandfather didn't lie. My grandfather told the truth.


ML 4002 (C) Supernatural manifestations.