Here’s an interesting article that was published in the Boston Post on June 10, 1900:
GHOST IN TROUBLE
St. Louis, June 9 — For the first time in the history of the courts a ghost will appear as correspondent in a divorce suit next Tuesday.
The ghost is that of William J. Florence, who was one of the best actors who ever graced the boards. Mr. Florence, of course, in life was full of fun, a great practical joker. It may be that Mr. Florence’s spirit has continued to play pranks. Charles L. Bates, an expert on diamonds in the largest jewelry store here, names the spiritual Mr. Florence as correspondent in his suit for divorce from his wife, Mrs. Lou E. Bates, who has herself brought a suit for divorce, in which she names as correspondent a “grass widow and Spiritualistic medium.” But, it turns out, the grass widow is in the flesh. She is Miss Marion L. Wilson of El Paso, Tex., who once lived at the home of the Bateses here.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Bates are Spiritualists. To be authoritative one must quote from the sworn depositions in Mr. Bates’s suit. Mrs. Mattie Brayelle swears:
“Mrs. Bates has often spoken to me of meeting the ghost of William J. Florence, the actor. She told me she made love to the spirit, and when I was dubious she informed me that though it was a spirit he was just as tangible as if he had been mortal and existed in the flesh.
“I am a Spiritualist myself and believe that a spirit can appear in human shape. Whenever it appears it can dominate the action of any person it dominates. Mrs. Bates also told me that her husband would die, that she had a premonition to that effect and named a date.”
In her deposition Miss Marion Wilson states that she has gone to places of entertainment with Mr. Bates, but his wife was always with them, save on one occasion.
“Mr. Bates has often kissed me,” swears Miss Wilson “never at Spiritual manifestations. He always kissed me as he would his daughters. I was considered a member of the family. I went to their house at Mrs. Bates’ request. I was so intimate with them that I called them ‘Papa’ and ‘Mamma.’ Our first meeting was at a Spiritual seance.”
Mrs. Louise C. Patterson, a daughter of the Bateses, declares:
“Mamma never went to church. She spoke to me frequently of Mr. Florence’s ghost, and told me that he would be her husband in the next world. Mother has frequently told me of visiting actors behind the scenes, and she was much taken up with all stage work.
“She secured me a position with the Effie Shannon company, which was playing at local theatres, and I also acted at her suggestion at other times, but always against father’s will. I have seen father kiss Marion L. Wilson, but it was always done in the presence of mother and the rest of us. In fact, she was considered a member of the family.”
Last December Mrs. Bates, with her son Charles, 11 years old, was at Mrs. Mary Gile’s house, No. 694 Monroe street, Brooklyn. Mrs. Bates then exhibited a large revolver, saying she would shoot anyone who tried to kidnap her son. But no one tried.
Here is William J. Florence’s biography and obituary (July 26, 1831 – November 19, 1891). He was a popular stage actor and comedian…and also a well-regarded Freemason.
The following brief account was posted in the San Francisco Call on June 13, 1900:
DIVORCE SUIT BRINGS A QUEER GHOST STORY
ST. LOUIS, Mo., June 12 — The ghost of William J, Florence, an actor, figured in the testimony introduced to-day in the suit of Charles L. Bates for divorce. In the depositions recently taken In San Francisco It had been testified that Mrs. Bates, an ardent spiritualist, had made love to the dead actor’s spirit, and had said she was engaged to marry him Mn the next world. These statements, sworn to in one Instance by Mrs. Louise C. Patterson, a daughter from San Francisco, were read in court to-day. Evidence was given by James Edward Reeves which created interest. Letters written by Mrs. Bates to Reeves when he was only 20 years old and the writer 47 years old and the mother of several children were read.The letters addressed young: Reeves as “My darling” and expressed the deepest affection. They also spoke, In terms of contempt of Bates.
Reeves testified to meeting her frequently. He had written to Mrs. Bates while she was in New York upon the request of Mr. Bates and gave the replies to him. Arthur F. McEntlre, who was mentioned in the cross bill filed by Mr. Bates, said the ghost of Mr. Florence was claimed by Mrs. Batts to be the father of one of- her daughters., The depositions of Mrs. Louise C. Patterson, one of Mrs. Bates’ daughters living In San Francisco, told of the ghost of W.J. Florence, and of domestic infelicities in the Bates household.