The following is the most detailed account I’ve read of Erskine’s mother ordeal
Poor Mrs. Erskine had one terrible experience. The minister, a widower when he married Marion Halcro, was deeply attached to his young wife, and bitter was his anguish when, a few months after the marriage, she was cut off by a short illness. Mr. Erskine resolved that her trinkets and jewellery should be buried with her, and a valuable ring was left upon her finger.
When John Carr, village carpenter, and sexton of Chirnside Parish Church, came to screw down the coffin lid, the minister, gazing on the features of his beloved wife, thought he saw the lips quiver. Every available test was vainly tried in the fond hope that life had not departed. But Carr had seen the jewellery, examined the bracelets, and had even tried whether the ring would slip off without difficulty, for he thought it a pity that such beautiful articles should be lost. To save himself subsequent labour and time, the nails were loosely screwed, and in late afternoon at the graveyard, consulting the feelings of the bereaved husband, the earth was lightly thrown in, the considerate sexton remarking that he could finish the work better in daylight.
At night Carr returned to the burial ground, quickly removed the earth, and opened the coffin. The ring was first sought, but it refused to leave its place. Taking his knife, the operator placed the finger on the edge of the coffin and proceeded to amputation.
With the opening of a vein vitality was restored, and Mrs. Erskine uttered a piercing shriek. Carr yelled and fled, leaving the lady to get out of the grave as best she might. Weak and cold as a corpse, she found her way home, but even at the manse her troubles were not over. The door was locked, though the inmates had not retired.
The minister was strangely affected by the knock, which was exactly that of his late wife, and the old servant who opened the door fainted on seeing the apparition. But Margaret Halcro, even in such an emergency, was practical. The terrified husband could not believe the voice which declared that this was no ghost, but his own living and loving wife.
While he stood helpless, Mrs. Erskine, shivering in her grave clothes, slipped past and hurried to the study, where there was a fire. Stimulants were administered, and the bed, warmed with hot bricks, soon restored her to comfort, and she was able to relate in detail her terrible experiences, through all of which she had been perfectly conscious. She told of her great effort to speak when her husband was looking at her in her coffin; of Carr’s examination of the jewellery; and of her calculating on the sexton’s return to the grave.
Mrs. Erskine survived her husband twenty years.