Punch, June 17, 1903


[A gentleman recently wrote to the Daily Express alleging that several times mysterious footsteps have been heard on the top of a South London tram at night, accompanied by the rattle of a conductor’s chain and (probably, though he does not say so) a whispered request for fares. And no conductor was visible!]

Ghosts of The Towers, The Grange, The Court,
 Ghosts of the Castle Keep,
Ghosts of the finnicking, “high life” sort
 Are growing a trifle cheap.
But here is a spook of another stamp,
 No thin theatrical sham,
But a spectre who fears not dirt nor damp:
 He rides on a London tram.

By the curious glance of a mortal eye
 He is not seen. He’s heard.
His steps go a-creeping, creeping by,
 He speaks but a single word.
You may hear his feet: you may hear them plain,
 For—it’s odd in a ghost—they crunch.
You may hear the whirr of his rattling chain,
 And the ting of his ringing punch.

The gathering shadows of night fall fast;
 The lamps in the street are lit;
To the roof have the eerie footsteps passed,
 Where the outside passengers sit.
To the passengers side has the spectre paced;
 For a moment he halts, they say,
Then a ring from the punch at the unseen waist,
 And the footsteps pass away.

That is the tale of the haunted car;
 And if on that car you ride
You won’t, believe me, have journeyed far
 Ere the spectre seeks your side.
Ay, all unseen by your seat he’ll stand,
 And (unless it’s a wig) your hair
Will rise at the touch of his icy hand,
 And the sound of his whispered “Fare!”

At the end of the trip, when you’re getting down
 (And you’ll probably simply fly!)
Just give the conductor half-a-crown,
 Ask who is the ghost and why.
And the man will explain with bated breath
 (And point you a moral) thus:
“ ’E’s a pore young bloke wot wos crushed to death
     By people as fought
     As they didn’t ought
 For seats on a crowded bus.”




Unsigned verse as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 124 of Punch.