To traverse further the pathless sea beyond the Pillars of Hercules is not easy... my soul, towards what foreign headland are you diverting the course of my voyage?
THE COURSE of our argument has gradually conducted us to a point of capital importance. A profound and central question, approached in irregular fashion from time to time in previous chapters, must now be directly faced. From the actions and perceptions of spirits still in the flesh, and concerned with one another, we must pass on to inquire into the actions of spirits no longer in the flesh, and into the forms of perception with which men still in the flesh respond to that unfamiliar and mysterious agency.
Beginning, then, with the inquiry as to what kind of evidence ought to be demanded for human survival, we are met first by the bluff statement which is still often uttered even by intelligent men, that no evidence would convince them of such a fact; 'neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead'.
Extravagant as such a profession sounds, it has a meaning which we shall do well to note. These resolute antagonists mean that no new evidence can carry conviction to them unless it be continuous with old evidence; and that they cannot conceive that evidence to a world of spirit can possibly be continuous with evidence based upon our experience of a world of matter. I agree with this demand for continuity; and I agree also that the claims usually advanced for a spiritual world have not only made no attempt at continuity with known fact, but have even ostentatiously thrown such continuity to the winds. The popular mind has expressly desired something startling, something outside Law and above Nature. It has loved, if not a
Credo quia absurdum, at least a Credo quia non probatum.(1) But the inevitable retribution is a deep insecurity in the conviction thus attained. Unsupported by the general fabric of knowledge, the act of faith seems to shrink into the background as that great fabric stands and grows.
(1) I believe because it's irrational ... I believe because it has not been proved.
Let us move for a while among first definitions; trying to make clear to ourselves what kind of thing it is that we are endeavouring to trace or discover. In popular parlance, we are looking out for ghosts. What connotation, then, are we to give to the word 'ghost' - a word which has embodied so many unfounded theories and causeless fears?
Briefly, the popular view regards a 'ghost' as a deceased person permitted by Providence to hold communication with
survivors. And this short definition contains, I think, at least three unwarrantable assumptions.
In the first place, such words as permission and Providence are simply neither more nor less applicable to this phenomenon than to any other. We conceive that all phenomena alike take place in accordance with the laws of the universe, and consequently by permission of the Supreme Power in the universe. But there is no reason whatever for assuming that the phenomena with which we are dealing are permitted in any especial sense of their own, or that they form exceptions to law, instead of being exemplifications of law.
In the second place, we have no warrant for the assumption that the phantom seen, even though it be somehow
caused by a deceased person, is that deceased person, in any ordinary sense of the word. Instead of appealing to the crude analogy of the living friend who, when he has walked into the room,
is in the room, we shall find for the ghost a much closer parallel in those hallucinatory figures or phantasms which living persons can sometimes project at a distance.
But experience shows that when - as with these post-mortem phantoms - the deceased person has gone well out of sight or reach there is a tendency, so to say, to
anthropomorphose the apparition; to suppose that, as the deceased person is not provably anywhere else, he is probably here; and that the apparition is bound to behave accordingly. All such assumptions must be dismissed, and the phantom must be taken on its merits, as indicating merely a certain connection with the deceased, the precise nature of that connection being a part of the problem to be solved.
And in the third place, just as we must cease to say that the phantom is the deceased, so also must we cease to ascribe to the phantom the motives by which we imagine that the deceased might be swayed. We must therefore exclude from our definition of a ghost any words which assume its intention to communicate with the living. It may bear such a relation to the deceased that it can reflect or represent his presumed wish to communicate, or it may not. If, for instance, its relation to his
post-mortem life be like the relation of my dreams to my earthly life, it may represent little that is truly his, save such vague memories and instincts as give a dim individuality to each man's trivial dreams.
Let us attempt, then, a truer definition. Instead of describing a 'ghost' as a dead person permitted to communicate with the living, let us define it as
a manifestation of persistent personal energy, or as an indication that some kind of force is being exercised after death which is in some way connected with a person previously known on earth. In this definition we have eliminated, as will be seen, a great mass of popular assumptions. Yet we must introduce a further proviso, lest our definition still seem to imply an assumption which we have no right to make. It is theoretically possible that this force or influence, which after a man's death creates a phantasmal impression of him, may indicate no continuing action on his part, but may be some residue of the force or energy which he generates while yet alive.
Strange as this notion may seem, it is strongly suggested by many of the cases of
haunting which do not fall within the scope of the present chapter. We shall presently find that there is strong evidence for the recurrence of the same hallucinatory figures in the same localities, but weak evidence to indicate any purpose in most of these figures, or any connection with bygone individuals, or with such tragedies as are popularly supposed to start a ghost on its career. In some of these cases of frequent, meaningless recurrence of a figure in a given spot, we are driven to wonder whether it can be some deceased person's past frequentation of that spot, rather than any fresh action of his after death, which has generated what I have termed the veridical after-image - veridical in the sense that it communicates information, previously unknown to the percipient, as to a former inhabitant of the haunted locality.
Such are some of the questions which our evidence suggests. And I may point out that the very fact that such bizarre problems should present themselves at every turn does in a certain sense tend to show that these apparitions are not purely subjective things, - do not originate merely in the percipient's imagination. For they are not like what any man would have imagined. What man's mind does tend to fancy on such topics may be seen in the endless crop of fictitious ghost stories, which furnish, indeed, a curious proof of the persistence of preconceived notions. For they go on being framed according to canons of their own, and deal with a set of imaginary phenomena quite different from those which actually occur. The actual phenomena, I may add, could scarcely be made romantic. One true 'ghost story' is apt to be very like another, and most of them to be fragmentary and apparently meaningless. Their meaning, that is to say, lies in their conformity, not to the mythopoeic instinct of mankind, which fabricates and enjoys the fictitious tales, but to some unknown law, not based on human sentiment or convenience at all.
And thus, absurdly enough, we sometimes bear men ridicule the phenomena which actually do happen, simply because those phenomena do not suit their preconceived notions of what ghostly phenomena ought to be; - not perceiving that this very divergence, this very unexpectedness, is in itself no slight indication of an origin
outside the minds which obviously were so far from anticipating anything of the kind.
And in fact the very qualities which are most apt to raise derision are such as the evidence set forth in the earlier chapters of this work might reasonably lead us to expect. For I hold that now for the first time can we form a conception of ghostly communications which shall in any way consist or cohere with more established conceptions; which can be presented as in any way a development of facts which are already experimentally known. Two preliminary conceptions were needed. The first is the conception of multiplex personality, of the potential coexistence of many states and many memories in the same individual. The second is the conception of telepathy; of the action of mind on mind apart from the ordinary organs of sense; and especially of its action by means of hallucinations; by the generation of veridical phantasms which form, as it were, messages from men still in the flesh. And I believe that these two conceptions are in this way connected, that the telepathic message generally starts from, and generally impinges upon, a subconscious or submerged stratum in both agent and percipient. Wherever there is hallucination, whether delusive or veridical, I hold that a message of some sort is forcing its way upwards from one stratum of personality to another, - a message which may be merely dreamlike and incoherent, or which may symbolise a fact otherwise unreachable by the percipient personality. And the mechanism seems much the same whether the message's path be continued within one individual or pass between two; whether A's own submerged self be signalling to his emergent self, or B be telepathically stimulating the hidden fountains of perception in A. If anything like this be true, it seems plainly needful that all that we know of abnormal or supernormal communications between minds, or states of the same mind, still embodied in flesh, should be searched for analogies which may throw light on this strangest mode of intercourse between embodied and disembodied minds.
On what occasions, then, do we commonly find a mind conversing with another mind not on the same plane with itself? - with a mind inhabiting in some sense a different world, and viewing the environment with a difference of outlook greater than the mere difference of character of the two personages will account for?
The first instance of this sort which will occur to us lies in spontaneous somnambulism, or colloquy between a person asleep and a person awake.
The somnambulist, or rather the somniloquist - for it is the talking rather than the walking which is the gist of the matter - is thus our first natural type of the
And observing the habits of somnambulists, we note that the degree in which they can communicate with other minds varies greatly in different cases. One sleep-waker will go about his customary avocations without recognising the presence of any other person whatever; another will recognise certain persons only, or will answer when addressed, but only on certain subjects, his mind coming into contact with other minds only on a very few points. Rarely or never will a somnambulist spontaneously notice what other persons are doing, and adapt his own actions thereto.
Next, let us turn from natural to induced sleep-waking, from spontaneous somnambulism to the hypnotic trance. Here, too, throughout the different stages of the trance, we find a varying and partial (or elective) power of communication. Sometimes the entranced subject makes no sign whatever; sometimes he seems able to hear and answer one person, or certain persons, and not others; sometimes he will talk freely to all; but, however freely he may talk, he is not exactly his waking self, and as a rule he has no recollection, or a very imperfect recollection, in waking life of what he has said or done in his trance.
Judging, then, from such analogy as communications from one living state to another can suggest to us, we shall expect that the communication of a disembodied or discarnate person with an incarnate, if such exist, will be subject to narrow limitations, and very possibly will not form a part of the main current of the supposed discarnate consciousness.
These preliminary considerations are applicable to any kind of alleged communication from the departed - whether well or ill evidenced; whether conveyed in sensory or in motor form.
Let us next consider what types of communication from the dead our existing evidence of communications among the living suggests to us as analogically possible. It appears to me that there is an important parallelism running through each class of our experiments in automatism and each class of our spontaneous phenomena. Roughly speaking, we may say that our experiment and observation up to this point have comprised five different stages of phenomena, viz. (I) hypnotic suggestion; (II) telepathic experiments; (III) spontaneous telepathy during life; (IV) phantasms at death; (V) phantasms after death. And we find, I think, that the same types of communication meet us at each stage; so that this recurrent similarity of types raises a presumption that the underlying mechanism of manifestation at each stage may be in some way similar.
Again using a mere rough form of division, we have found three main forms of manifestation at each of the first four stages: (1) hallucinations of the senses; (2) emotional and motor impulses; (3) definite intellectual messages.
I maintain that in post-mortem cases also we find the same general classes persisting, and in somewhat the same proportion. Most conspicuous are the actual
apparitions, with which, indeed, the following pages will mainly deal. It is very rare to find an apparition which seems to impart any verbal message; but a case of this kind has been given in Chapter IV. As a rule, however, the apparition is of the apparently automatic purposeless character, already so fully described. We have also the
emotional and motor class of postmortem cases (see Chapter VIII); and these may, perhaps, be more numerous in proportion than the number of recorded cases would indicate; for it is obvious that impressions which are so much less definite than a visual hallucination (although they may be even more impressive to the percipient himself) can rarely be used as evidence of communication with the departed.
And we shall see that, besides these two classes of post-mortem manifestations, we have our
third class also still persisting; we have definite verbal messages which at least purport, and sometimes, I think, with strong probability, to come from the departed.
Let us now consider, for it is by no means evident at first sight, what conditions a visual or auditory phantasm is bound to fulfill before it can be regarded as indicating
prima facie the influence of a discarnate mind. The discussion may be best introduced by quoting the words in which Edmund Gurney opened it in 1888:
'It is evident that in alleged cases of apparitions of the dead, the point which we have held to distinguish certain apparitions of
living persons from purely subjective hallucinations is necessarily lacking. That point is
coincidence between the apparition and some critical or exceptional condition of the person who seems to appear; but with regard to the dead, we have no independent knowledge of their condition, and therefore never have the opportunity of observing any such coincidences.
'There remain three, and I think only three, conditions which might establish a presumption that an apparition or other immediate manifestation of a dead person is something more than a mere subjective hallucination of the percipient's senses. Either (1) more persons than one might be independently affected by the phenomenon; or (2) the phantasm might convey information, afterwards discovered to be true, of something which the percipient had never known; or (3) the appearance might be that of a person whom the percipient himself had never seen, and of whose aspect he was ignorant, and yet his description of it might be sufficiently definite for identification. But though one or more of these conditions would have to be fully satisfied before we could be convinced that any particular apparition of the dead had some cause external to the percipient's own mind, there is one more general characteristic of the class which is sufficiently suggestive of such a cause to be worth considering. I mean the disproportionate number of cases which occur
shortly after the death of the person represented. Such a time-relation, if frequently enough encountered, might enable us to argue for the objective origin of the phenomenon in a manner analogous to that which leads us to conclude that many phantasms of the living have an objective (a telepathic) origin. For, according to the doctrines of probabilities, a hallucination representing a known person would not
by chance present a definite time-relation to a special cognate event - viz., the death of that person - in more than a certain percentage of the whole number of similar hallucinations that occur; and if that percentage is decidedly exceeded, there is reason to surmise that some other cause than chance - in other words, some objective origin for the phantasm - is present.'
But, on the other hand, a phantasm representing a person whose death is recent is specially likely to arouse interest, and, in cases where the death is previously known to the percipient, his emotional state may be considered a sufficient cause of the hallucination.
'If, then,' Gurney continues, 'we are to draw any probable conclusion as to the objective nature of
post-mortem appearances and communications (or of some of them) from the fact of their special frequency soon after death, we must confine ourselves to cases where the fact of death has been unknown to the percipient at the time of his experience. Now, in these days of letters and telegrams, people for the most part hear of the deaths of friends and relatives within a very few days, sometimes within a very few hours, after the death occurs; so that appearances of the sort required would, as a rule, have to follow very closely indeed on the death. Have we evidence of any considerable number of such cases?
"Phantasms of the Living" will know that we have. In a number of cases which were treated in that book as examples of telepathic transference from a dying person, the person was actually dead at the time that the percipient's experience occurred; and the inclusion of such cases under the title of
"Phantasms of the Living" naturally occasioned a certain amount of adverse criticism. Their inclusion, it will be remembered, required an assumption which cannot by any means be regarded as certain. We had to suppose that the telepathic transfer took place just before, or exactly, at, the moment of death; but that the impression remained latent in the percipient's mind, and only after an interval emerged into his consciousness, whether as waking vision or as dream or in some other form. Now, as a provisional hypothesis, I think that this assumption was justified. For in the first place, the moment of death is, in time, the central point of a cluster of abnormal experiences occurring to percipients at a distance, of which some
precede, while others follow, the death; it is natural, therefore, to surmise that the same explanation will cover the whole group, and that the motive force in each of its divisions lies in a state of the 'agent' prior to bodily death. In the second place, some of the facts of experimental thought-transference countenance the view that 'transferred impressions' may be latent for a time before the recipient becomes aware of them; and recent discoveries with respect to the whole subject of automatism and 'secondary intelligence' make it seem far less improbable than it would otherwise have seemed that telepathy may take effect first on the 'unconscious' part of the mind. And in the third place, the period of supposed latency has in a good many instances been a period when the person affected was in activity, and when his mind and senses were being solicited by other things; and in such cases it is specially easy to suppose that the telepathic impression did not get the right conditions for rising into consciousness until a season of silence and
recueillement arrived. But though the theory of latency has thus a good deal to be said for it, my colleagues and I are most anxious not to be supposed to be putting forward as a dogma what must be regarded at present merely as a working hypothesis. Psychical research is of all subjects the one where it is most important to avoid this error, and to keep the mind open for new interpretations of the facts. And in the present instance there are certain definite objections which may fairly be made to the hypothesis that a telepathic impression derived from a dying person may emerge after hours of latency. The experimental cases to which I have referred as analogous are few and uncertain, and, moreover, in them the period of latency has been measured by seconds or minutes, not by hours. And though, as I have said, some of the instances of apparent delay among the death-cases might be accounted for by the fact that the percipient's mind or senses needed to be withdrawn from other occupations before the manifestation could take place, there are other instances where this is not so, and where no ground at all appears for connecting the delay with the percipient's condition. On the whole, then, the alternative hypothesis - that the condition of the phenomenon on the 'agent's' side (be it psychical or be it physical) is one which only comes into existence at a distinct interval after death, and that the percipient really is impressed at the moment, and not before the moment, when he is conscious of the impression - is one which must be steadily kept in view.
'So far I have been speaking of cases where the interval between the death and the manifestation was so short as to make the theory of latency possible. The rule adopted in
"Phantasms of the Living" was that this interval must not exceed twelve hours. But we have records of a few cases where this interval has been greatly exceeded, and yet where the fact of the death was still unknown to the percipient at the time of his experience. The theory of latency cannot reasonably be applied to cases where weeks or months divide the vision (or whatever it may be) from the moment of death, which is the latest at which an ordinary telepathically transferred idea could have obtained access to the percipient. And the existence of such cases - so far as it tends to establish the reality of objectively-caused apparitions of the dead - diminishes the objection to conceiving that the appearances, etc., which have very shortly
followed death have had a different causation from those which have coincided with or very shortly
preceded it. For we shall not be inventing a wholly new class for the former cases, but only provisionally shifting them from one class to another to a much smaller and much less well evidenced class, it is true, but one nevertheless for which we have evidence enough to Justify us in expecting more.'
This, as I conceive, is a sound method of proceeding from ground made secure in
"Phantasms of the Living" - and traversed in my own just previous chapter - to cases closely analogous, save for that little difference in
time-relations, that occurrence in the hours which follow, instead of the hours which precede, bodily dissolution, which counts for so much in our insight into cosmic law.
The hypothesis of latency which thus meets us in limine in this inquiry will soon be found inadequate to cover the facts. Yet it will be well to dwell somewhat more fully upon its possible range.
If we examine the proportionate number of apparitions observed at various periods before and after death, we find that they increase very rapidly for the few hours which precede death, and decrease gradually during the hours and days which follow, until after about a year's time they become merely sporadic.
Yet one more point must be touched on, to avoid misconception of the phrase cited above, that 'the moment of death is the centre of a cluster of abnormal experiences, of which some precede, while others follow, the death'. Gurney, of course, did not mean to assume that the act of death itself was the cause of all these experiences. Those which occur before death may be caused or conditioned, not by the death itself, but by the abnormal state, as of coma, delirium, etc., which preceded the death. This we say because we have many instances where veridical phantasms have coincided with moments of
crisis - carriage-accidents and the like - occurring to distant agents, but not followed by death. Accordingly we find that in almost all cases where a phantasm, apparently veridical, has
preceded the agent's death, that death was the result of disease and not of accident.
I now proceed briefly to review some of the cases where the interval between death and phantasm has been measurable by minutes or hours.
It is not easy to get definite cases where the interval has been measurable by minutes; for if the percipient is at a distance from the agent we can seldom be sure that the clocks at both places have been correct, and correctly observed; while if he is
present with the agent we can rarely be sure that the phantasm observed is more than a mere subjective hallucination. Thus we have several accounts of rushing sound heard by the watcher of a dying man just after his apparent death, or of some kind of luminosity observed near his person; but this is just the moment when we may suppose some subjective hallucination likely to occur, and if one person's senses alone are affected we cannot allow much evidential weight to the occurrence.
There are some circumstances, however, in which, in spite of the fact that the death is already known, a hallucination occurring shortly afterwards may have some slight evidential value. Thus we have a case where a lady who knew that her sister had died a few hours previously, but who was not herself in any morbidly excited condition, seemed to see some one enter her own dining-room, opening and shutting the door. The percipient (who had never had any other hallucination) was much astonished when she found no one in the dining-room; but it did not till some time afterwards occur to her that the incident could be in any way connected with her recent loss. This reminds us of a case
694)(2) where the Rev. R. M. Hill sees a tall figure rush into the room, which alarms and surprises him, then vanishes before he has time to recognise it. An uncle, a tall man, dies about that moment, and it is remarked that although Mr Hill knew his uncle to be ill, the anxiety which he may have felt would hardly have given rise to an unrecognised and formidable apparition.
(2) The references in this and the two following pages are to "Phantasms of the Living".
There are a few cases where a percipient is informed of a death by a veridical phantasm, and then some hours afterwards a similar phantasm differing perhaps in detail, recurs.
Such is the case of Archdeacon Farler (I, p. 414), who twice during one night saw the dripping figure of a friend who, as it turned out, had been drowned during the previous day. Even the first appearance was several hours after the death, but this we might explain by the latency of the impression till a season of quiet. The second appearance may have been a kind of recrudescence of the first; but if the theory of latency be discarded, so that the
first appearance (if more than a mere chance coincidence) is held to depend upon some energy excited by the deceased person after death, it would afford some ground for regarding the
second appearance as also veridical. The figure in this case was once more seen a fortnight later, and on this occasion, as Archdeacon Farler informs me, in ordinary garb, with no special trace of accident.
A similar repetition occurs in seven other cases recorded in "Phantasms of the
Turning now to the cases where the phantasm is not repeated, but occurs some hours after death, let us take a few narratives where the interval of time is pretty certain, and consider how far the hypothesis of
latency looks probable in each instance.
Where there is no actual hallucination, but only a feeling of unique malaise or distress following at a few hours' interval on a friend's death at a distance, as in Archdeacon Wilson's case
(I, p. 280), it is very hard to picture to ourselves what has taken place. Some injurious shock communicated to the percipient's brain at the moment of the agent's death may conceivably have slowly worked itself into consciousness. The delay may have been due, so to say, to physiological rather than to psychical causes.
Next take a case like that of Mrs Wheatcroft (I, p. 420), or of Mrs Evens (II, p. 690), or Sister Bertha
(I, p. 522), where a definite hallucination of sight or sound occurs some hours after the death, but in the middle of the night. It is in a case of this sort that we can most readily suppose that a 'telepathic impact' received during the day has lain dormant until other excitations were hushed, and has externalised itself as a hallucination after the first sleep, just as when we wake from a first sleep some subject of interest or anxiety, which has been thrust out of our thoughts during the day, will often well upwards into consciousness with quite a new distinctness and force. But, on the other hand, in the case (for instance) of Mrs Teale
(II, P. 693), there is a deferment of some eight hours, and then the hallucination occurs while the percipient is sitting wide awake in the middle of her family. And in one of the most remarkable dream-cases in our collection (given in Chapter IV), Mrs Storie's experience does not resemble the mere emergence of a latent impression. It is long and complex, and suggests some sort of clairvoyance; but if it be 'telepathic clairvoyance', that is, a picture transferred from the decedent's mind, then it almost requires us to suppose that a
post-mortem picture was thus transferred, a view of the accident and its consequences
fuller than any which could have flashed through the dying man's mind during his moment of sudden and violent death from 'the striking off of the top of the skull' by a railway train.
If once we assume that the deceased person's mind could continue to act on living persons after his bodily death, then the confused horror of the series of pictures which were presented to Mrs Storie's view - mixed, it should be said, with an element of
fresh departure which was nothing in the accident itself to suggest - would correspond well enough to what one can imagine a man's feelings a few hours after such a death to be. This is trespassing, no doubt, on hazardous ground; but if once we admit communication from the other side of death as a working hypothesis, we must allow ourselves to imagine something as to the attitude of the communicating mind, and the least violent supposition will be that that mind is still in part at least occupied with the same thoughts which last occupied it on earth. It is possible that there may be some interpretation of this kind for some of the cases where a funeral scene, or a dead body, is what the phantasm presents. There is a remarkable case
(I, p. 265) where a lady sees the body of a well-known London physician about ten hours after death - lying in a bare unfurnished room (a cottage hospital abroad). Here the description, as we have it, would certainly fit best with some kind of telepathic clairvoyance prolonged after death - some power on the deceased person's part to cause the percipient to share the picture which might at that moment be occupying his own mind.
It will be seen that these phenomena are not of so simple a type as to admit of our considering them from the point of view of
time-relations alone. Whatever else, indeed, a 'ghost' may be, it is probably one of the most complex phenomena in nature. It is a function of two unknown variables - the incarnate spirit's sensitivity and the discarnate spirit's capacity of self-manifestation.
There is a small group of cases(3) which I admit to be anomalous and non-evidential - for we cannot prove that they were more than subjective experiences - yet which certainly should not be lost, filling as they do a niche in our series otherwise as yet vacant. I refer to records which claim to represent the subjective sensations accompanying the transition from earthly to spiritual life.
(3) See "Phantasms of the Living", vol. ii, p. 305; Proceedings, S. P. R., vol. viii, p. 180;
ibid., p. 194.
If man's spirit is separated at death from his organism, there must needs be cases where that separation, although apparently, is not really complete. There must be subjective sensations corresponding to the objective external facts of apparent death and subsequent resuscitation. Nor need it surprise those who may have followed my general argument, if those subjective sensations should prove to be dreamlike and fantastic.
For it seems to me not improbable that the passage from one state to another may sometimes be accompanied with some temporary lack of adjustment between experiences taking place in such different environments between the systems of symbolism belonging to the one and to the other state. But the reason why I refer to the cases in this place is that here we have perhaps our nearest possible approach to the sensations of the spirit which is endeavouring to manifest itself; - an inside view of a would-be apparition. The narratives suggest, moreover, that spirits recently freed from the body may enjoy a fuller perception of earthly scenes than it is afterwards possible to retain, and that thus the predominance of apparitions of the
recently dead may be to some extent explained.
We have, indeed, very few cases where actual apparitions give evidence of any continuity in the knowledge possessed by a spirit of friends on earth. Such evidence is, naturally enough, more often furnished by automatic script or utterance. But there is one
case(4) where a spirit is recorded as appearing repeatedly - in guardian angel fashion - and especially as foreseeing and sympathising with the survivor's future marriage.
(4) See Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. x, pp.387-91
Less uncommon are the cases where an apparition, occurring singly and not repeated, indicates a continued knowledge of the affairs of earth. That knowledge, indeed, runs mainly, as we shall presently see, in two directions. There is often knowledge of some circumstance connected with the deceased person's own death, as the appearance of his body after dissolution, or the place of its temporary deposit or final burial. And there is often knowledge of the impending or actual death of some friend of the deceased person. On the view here taken of the gradual passage from the one environment into the other, both these kinds of knowledge seem probable enough. I think it likely that some part of the consciousness after death may for some time be dreamily occupied with the physical scene. And similarly, when some surviving friend is gradually verging towards the same dissolution, the fact may be readily perceptible in the spiritual world. When the friend has actually died, the knowledge which his predecessor may have of his transition is knowledge appertaining to events of the next world as much as of this.
But apart from this information, acquired perhaps on the borderland between two states, apparitions do sometimes imply a perception of more definitely terrene events, such as the moral crises (as marriage, grave quarrels, or impending crimes) of friends left behind on earth.
I here give a case where a spirit seems to be aware of the impending death of a survivor.
The account, which I quote from Proceedings, S. P. R., vol. vi, P 17, was sent in 1887 to the American Society for Psychical Research by Mr F. G., of Boston. Professor Royce and Dr Hodgson vouch for the high character and good position of the informants; and it will be seen that, besides the percipient himself, his father and brother are first-hand witnesses as regards the most important point, - the effect produced by a certain symbolic item in the phantom's aspect, Mr G. writes:
11th January, 1888
Sir, - Replying to the recently published request of your Society for actual occurrences of psychical phenomena, I respectfully submit the following remarkable occurrence to the consideration of your
distinguished Society, with the assurance that the event made a more powerful impression on my mind than the combined incidents of my whole life. I have never mentioned it outside of my family and a few intimate friends, knowing well that few would believe it, or else ascribe it to some disordered state of my mind at the time; but I well know I never was in better health or possessed a clearer head and mind than at the time it occurred.
In 1867 my only sister, a young lady of eighteen years, died suddenly of cholera in St Louis, Mo. My attachment for her was very strong, and the blow a severe one to me. A year or so after her death the writer became a commercial traveller, and it was in 1876, while on one of my Western trips, that the event occurred.
I had 'drummed' the city of St Joseph, Mo., and had gone to my room at the Pacific House to send in my orders, which were unusually large ones, so that I was in a very happy frame of mind indeed. My thoughts, of course, were about these orders, knowing how pleased my house would be at my success. I had not been thinking of my late sister, or in any manner reflecting on the past. The hour was high noon, and the sun was shining cheerfully into my room. While busily smoking a cigar and writing out my orders, I suddenly became conscious that some one was sitting on my left, with one arm resting on the table. Quick as a flash I turned and distinctly saw the form of my dead sister, and for a brief second or so looked her squarely in the face; and so sure was I that it was she, that I sprang forward in delight, calling her by name, and, as I did so, the apparition instantly vanished. Naturally, I was startled and dumbfounded, almost doubting my senses; but with the cigar in my mouth, and pen in hand, with the ink still moist on my letter, I satisfied myself I had not been dreaming and was wide awake. I was near enough to touch her, had it been a physical possibility, and noted her features, expression and details of dress, etc. She appeared as if alive. Her eyes looked kindly and perfectly natural into mine. Her skin was so life-like that I could see the glow or moisture on its surface, and, on the whole, there was no change in her appearance, otherwise than when alive.
Now comes the most remarkable confirmation of my statement, which cannot be doubted by those who know what I state actually occurred. This visitation, or whatever you may call it, so impressed me that I took the next train home, and in the presence of my parents and others I related what had occurred. My father, a man of rare good sense and very practical, was inclined to ridicule me, as he saw how earnestly I believed what I stated; but he, too, was amazed when later on I told them of a bright red line or
scratch on the right hand side of my sister's face, which I distinctly had seen. When I mentioned this my mother rose trembling to her feet and nearly fainted away, and as soon as she sufficiently recovered her self-possession, with tears streaming down her face, she exclaimed that I had indeed seen my sister, as no living mortal but herself was aware of that scratch, which she had accidentally made while doing some little act of kindness after my sister's death. She said she well remembered how pained she was to think she should have, unintentionally, marred the features of her dead daughter, and that, unknown to all, how she had carefully obliterated all traces of the slight scratch with the aid of powder, etc., and that she had never mentioned it to a human being from that day to this. In proof, neither my father nor any of our family had detected it, and positively were unaware of the incident, yet
I saw the scratch as bright as if just made. So strangely impressed was my mother, that even after she had retired to rest she got up and dressed, came to me and told me
she knew at least that I had seen my sister. A few weeks later my mother died, happy in her belief she would rejoin her favourite daughter in a better world.
In a further letter Mr F. G. adds:
There was nothing of a spiritual or ghostly nature in either the form or dress of my sister, she appearing perfectly natural, and dressed in clothing that she usually wore in life, and which was familiar to me. From her position at the table, I could only see her
from the waist up, and her appearance and everything she wore is indelibly photographed in my mind. I even had time to notice the collar and little breast-pin she wore, as well as the comb in her hair, after the style then worn by young ladies. The dress had no particular association for me or my mother, no more so than others she was in the habit of wearing; but
to-day, while I have forgotten all her other dresses, pins, and combs, I could go to her trunk (which we have just as she left it) and pick out the very dress and ornaments she wore when she appeared to me, so well do I remember it.
You are correct in understanding that I returned home earlier than I had intended, as it had such an effect on me that I could hardly think of any other matter; in fact, I abandoned a trip that I had barely commenced, and, ordinarily, would have remained on the road a month longer.
Mr F. G. again writes to Dr Hodgson, 23rd January, 1888:
As per your request, I enclose a letter from my father which is endorsed by my brother, confirming the statement I made to them of the apparition I had seen. I will add that my father is one of the oldest and most respected citizens of St Louis, Mo., a retired merchant, whose winter residence is at , Ills., a few miles out by rail. He is now seventy years of age, but a remarkably well-preserved gentlemen in body and mind, and a very learned man as well. As I informed you, he is slow to believe things that reason cannot explain. My brother, who indorses the statement, has resided in Boston for twelve years, doing business on Street, as per letter-head above, and the last man in the world to take stock in statements without good proof. The others who were present (Including my mother) are now dead, or were then so young as to now have but a dim remembrance of the matter.
You will note that my father refers to the 'scratch', and it was this that puzzled all, even himself, and which we have never been able to account for, further than that in some mysterious way I had actually seen my sister
nine years after death, and had particularly notice and described to my parents and family this bright red scratch, and which, beyond all doubt in our minds, was unknown to a soul save my mother, who had accidentally caused it.
When I made my statement, all, of course, listened and were interested; but the matter would probably have passed with comments that it was a freak of memory had not I asked about the scratch, and the instant I mentioned it my mother was aroused as if she had received an electric shock, as she had kept it a secret from all, and
she alone was able to explain it. My mother was a sincere Christian lady, who was for twenty-five years superintendent of a large infant class in her church, the Southern Methodist, and a directress in many charitable institutions, and was highly educated. No lady at the time stood higher in the city of St Louis, and she was, besides, a woman of rare good sense.
I mention these points to give you an insight into the character and standing of those whose testimony, in such a case, is necessary.
From Mr H. G.:-
-,ILLS., - 20th January, 1888
Dear R, - Yours of 16th inst. is received. In reply to your questions relating to your having seen our Annie, while at St Joseph, Mo., I will state that I well remember the statement you made to family on your return home. I remember your stating how she looked in ordinary home dress, and
particularly about the scratch (or red spot) on her face, which you could not account for, but which was fully explained by your mother. The spot was made while adjusting something about her head while in the casket, and covered with powder. All who heard you relate the phenomenal sight thought it was true. You well know how sceptical I am about things which reason cannot explain.
(Signed) H. G. (father).
I was present at the time and indorse the above.
(Signed) K. G. (brother).
redness of the scratch on the face of the apparition goes naturally enough with the look of life in the face. The phantom did not appear as a corpse, but as a blooming girl, and the scratch showed as it would have shown if made during life. Dr Hodgson visited Mr F. G later, and sent us the following notes of his interview:
ST Louis, Mo., 16th April, 1890.
In conversation with Mr F. G., now forty-three years of age, he says that there was a very special sympathy between his mother, sister, and himself.
When he saw the apparition he was seated at a small table, about two feet in diameter, and had his left elbow on the table. The scratch which he saw was on the right side of his sister's nose, about three-fourths of an inch long, and was a somewhat ragged mark. His home at the time of the incident was in St Louis. His mother died within two weeks after the incident. His sister's face was hardly a foot away from his own. The sun was shining upon it through the open window. The figure disappeared like an instantaneous evaporation.
Mr G. has had another experience but of a somewhat different character. Last fall the impression persisted for some time of a lady friend of his, and he could not rid himself for some time of thoughts of her. He found afterwards that she died at the time of the curious persistence of his impression.
Mr G. appears to be a first-class witness.
I have ranked this case
prima facie as a perception by the spirit of her mother's approaching death. That coincidence is too marked to be explained away: the son is brought home in time to see his mother once more by perhaps the only means which would have succeeded; and the mother herself is sustained by the knowledge that her daughter loves and awaits her. I think that the very fact that the apparition was not that of the corpse with the dull mark on which the mother's regretful thoughts might dwell, but was that of the girl in health and happiness, with the symbolic
red mark worn simply as a test of identity, goes far to show that it was not the
mother's mind from whence that image came. As to the spirit's own knowledge of the fate of the body after death, there are other cases which show, I think, that this specific form of
post-mortem perception is not unusual.
However explained, the case is one of the best-attested, and in itself one of the most remarkable, that we possess.
I place next a small group of cases which have the interest of uniting cases of the type just recounted, where the spirit anticipates the friend's departure, with the group next to be considered, where the spirit welcomes the friend already departed from earth. This class forms at the same time a natural extension of the clairvoyance of the dying exemplified in some 'reciprocal' cases (e.g. in the case of Miss W., where a dying aunt has a vision of her little niece who sees an apparition of her at the same time; see
"Phantasms of the Living", vol. II, p. 253). just as the approaching severance of spirit from body there aided the spirit to project its observation among incarnate spirits at a distance upon this earth, so in the type of case of which I now speak does the same approaching severance enable the dying person to see spirits who are already in the next world. It is not very uncommon for dying persons to say, or to indicate when beyond speech, that they see spirit friends apparently near them. But, of course, such vision becomes evidential only when the dying person is unaware that the friend whose spirit he sees has actually departed, or is just about to depart, from
(5) See Proceedings, S. P. R., vol. iii, p. 93, and vol. xiv, p. 288.
I turn, then, to cases where departed spirits manifest their knowledge that some friend who survived them has now passed on into their world. That such recognition and welcome does in fact take place, later evidence, drawn especially from trance-utterances, will give good ground to believe. Only rarely, however, will such welcome - taking place as it does in the spiritual world - be reflected by apparitions in
this. When so reflected, it may take different forms, from an actual utterance of sympathy, as from a known departed friend, down to a mere silent presence, perhaps inexplicable except to those who happen to have known some long predeceased friend of the decedent's.
I quote here one of the most complete cases of this type, which was brought to us by the Census of Hallucinations.
From Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. x, pp. 380-82.
From Miss L. Dodson:
September 14th, 1891
On 5th June, 1887, a Sunday evening,(6) between eleven and twelve at night, being awake, my name was called three times. I answered twice, thinking it was my uncle, 'Come in, Uncle George, I am awake,' but the third time I recognised the voice as that of my mother, who had been dead sixteen years. I said, 'Mamma!' She then came round a screen near my bedside with two children in her arms, and placed them in my arms and put the bedclothes over them and said, 'Lucy, promise me to take care of them, for their mother is Just dead.' I said, 'Yes, mamma.' She repeated,
'Promise me to take care of them.' I replied, 'Yes, I promise you;' and I added, 'Oh, mamma, stay and speak to me, I am so wretched.' She replied, 'Not yet, my child,' then she seemed to go round the screen again, and I remained, feeling the children to be still in my arms, and fell asleep. When I awoke there was nothing. Tuesday morning, 7th June, I received the news of my sister-in-law's death. She had given birth to a child three weeks before, which I did not know till after her death.
(6) We have ascertained that this date was a Sunday.
I was in bed, but not asleep, and the room was lighted by a gaslight in the street outside. I was out of health, and in anxiety about family troubles. My age was forty-two. I was quite alone. I mentioned the circumstance to my uncle the next morning. He thought I was sickening for brain fever. [I have had other experiences, but] only to the extent of having felt a hand laid on my head, and sometimes on my hands, at times of great trouble.
The collector, Mr C. H. Cope, writes in answer to our questions:
BRUSSELS, October 17th, 1891
I have received replies from Miss Dodson to your inquiries.
1. 'Yes [I was] perfectly awake [at the time].'
2. 'Was she in anxiety about her sister-in-law?' 'None whatever; I did not know a second baby had been born; in fact, had not the remotest idea of my sister-in-law's illness.'
3. 'Did she think at the time that the words about the children's mother having just died referred to her sister-in-law? Had she two children?' 'No, I was at a total loss to imagine whose children they were.'
4. 'I was living in Albany Street, Regent's Park, at the time. My sister-in-law, as I heard afterwards, was confined at St Andre (near Bruges), and removed to Bruges three days prior to her death. (N.B. - She had two children including the new-born baby.)'
5. 'My late uncle only saw business connections, and having no relations or personal friends in London, save myself, would not have been likely to mention the occurrence to any one.'
Mr Cope also sent us a copy of the printed announcement of the death, which Miss Dodson had received. It was dated, 'Bruges, June 7th, 1887', and gave the date of death as June 5th. He quotes from Miss Dodson's letter to him, enclosing it, as follows: '[My friend], Mrs Grange, tells me she saw [my sister-in-law] a couple of hours prior to her death, which took place about nine o'clock on the evening of June 5th, and it was between eleven and twelve o'clock the same night my mother brought me the two little children.'
Professor Sidgwick writes:-
November 23rd, 1892
I have just had an interesting conversation with Miss Dodson and her friend, Mrs Grange.
Miss Dodson told me that she was not thinking of her brother or his wife at this time, as her mind was absorbed by certain other matters. But the brother was an object of special concern to her, as her mother on her deathbed, in 1871, had specially charged her - and she had promised - to take care of the other children, especially this brother, who was then five years old. He had married in April, 1885, and she had not seen him since, though she had heard of the birth of his first child, a little girl, in January, 1886; and she had never seen his wife nor heard of the birth of the second child.
She is as sure as she can be that she was awake at the time of the experience. She knew the time by a clock in the room and also a clock outside. She heard this latter strike twelve afterwards, and the apparition must have occurred after eleven, because lights were out in front of the public-house. The children seemed to be with her a long time; indeed, they seemed to be still with her when the clock struck twelve. The room was usually light enough to see things in - e.g. to get a glass of water, etc. - owing to the lamp in the street, but the distinctness with which the vision was seen is not explicable by the real light. The children were of ages corresponding to those of her sister-in-law's children, i.e. they seemed to be a little girl and a baby newly born; the sex was not distinguished. She was not at all alarmed.
She heard from Mrs Grange by letter, and afterwards orally from her brother, that her sister-in-law died between eight and nine the same night.
She never had any experience of the kind, or any hallucination at all before; but
since she has occasionally felt a hand on her head in trouble.
Mrs Grange told me that she was with the sister-in-law about an hour and a half before her death. She left her about seven o'clock, without any particular alarm about her; though she was suffering from inflammation after childbirth, and Mrs Grange did not quite like her look; still her state was not considered alarming by those who were attending on her. Then about 8.30 news came to Mrs Grange in her own house that something had happened at the sister-in-law's. As it was only in the next street, Mrs Grange put on her bonnet and went round to the house, and found she was dead. She then wrote and told Miss Dodson.
There is, then, a considerable group of cases where the departed spirit shows a definite knowledge of some fact connected with his own earth-life, his death, or subsequent events connected with that death.
In this connection I may refer again to Mrs Storie's dream of the death of her brother in a railway accident, given in Chapter IV. While I think that Gurney was right - in the state of the evidence at the time
"Phantasms of the Living" was written - in doing his best to bring this incident under the head of telepathic clairvoyance, I yet feel that the knowledge since gained makes it impossible for me to adhere to that view. I cannot regard the visionary scene as wholly reflected from the mind of the dying man. I cannot think, in the first place, that the vision of Mr Johnstone - interpolated with seeming irrelevance among the details of the disaster - did only by accident coincide with the fact that that gentleman really
was in the train, and with the further fact that it was he who communicated the fact of Mr Hunter's death to Mr and Mrs Storie. I must suppose that the communicating intelligence was aware of Mr Johnstone's presence, and at least guessed that upon him (as a clergyman) that task would naturally fall. Nor can I pass over as purely symbolic so important a part of the vision as the
second figure, and the scrap of conversation, which seemed to be half-heard. I therefore consider that the case falls among those where a friend recently departed appears in company of some other friend, dead some time before.
We have thus seen the spirit occupied after death with various duties or engagements which it has incurred during life on earth. Such ties seem to prompt or aid its action upon its old surroundings. And here an important reflection occurs. Can we
prepare such a tie for the departing spirit? Can we create for it some welcome and helpful train of association which may facilitate the self-manifestation which many souls appear to desire? I believe that we can to some extent do this. At an early stage of our collection, Edmund Gurney was struck by the unexpectedly large proportion of cases where the percipient informed us that there had been a
compact between himself and the deceased person that whichever passed away first should try to appear to the other. 'Considering,' he adds, 'what an extremely small number of persons make such a compact, compared with those who do not, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that its existence has a certain efficacy.'
Let us now review the compact-cases given in "Phantasms of the Living" and consider how far they seem to indicate
ante-mortem or post-mortem communication. The twelve cases there recorded are such as fell, or may have fallen, within twelve hours of the death. In three of these cases, the agent whose phantasm appeared was certainly still alive. In most of the other cases the exact time relation is obscure; in a few of them there is strong probability that the agent was already dead. The inference will be that the existence of a promise or compact may act effectively both on the subliminal self before death and also probably on the spirit after death.
One specially impressive characteristic of apparitions (as has been already remarked) is their occasional
collectivity - the fact that more percipients than one sometimes see or hear the
phantasmal figure or voice simultaneously. It is natural to ask whether this characteristic - in my view so important - is found to accompany especially the higher, more intelligent manifestations.
I cannot find that this is so. On the contrary, it is, I think, in cases of mere
haunting that we oftenest find that the figure is seen by several persons at once, or else (a cognate phenomenon) by several persons successively. I know not how to explain this apparent tendency. Could we admit the underlying assumptions, it would suit the view that the 'haunting' spirits are 'earthbound', and thus somehow nearer to matter than spirits more exalted. Yet instances of collectivity are scattered through all classes of apparitions; and the irregular appearance of a characteristic which seems to us so fundamental affords another lesson how great may be the variety of inward mechanism in cases which to us might seem constructed on much the same type.
In the case which I shall now cite the deceased person's image is seen simultaneously by several members of his own household, in his own house. Note the analogy to a collective crystal vision.
The account is taken from "Phantasms of the Living", vol. II, p. 213. It is given by Mr Charles A. W. Lett, of the Military and Royal Naval Club, Albemarle Street, W.
December 3rd, 1885
On the 5th April, 1873, my wife's father, Captain Towns, died at his residence, Cranbrook, Rose Bay, near Sydney, N. S. Wales. About six weeks after his death my wife had occasion, one evening about nine o'clock to go to one of the bedrooms, in the house. She was accompanied by a young lady, Miss Berthon, and as they entered the room - the gas was burning all the time - they were amazed to see, reflected as it were on the polished surface of the wardrobe, the image of Captain Towns. It was barely half figure, the head, shoulders, and part of the arms only showing - in fact, it was like an ordinary medallion portrait, but life-size. The face appeared wan and pale, as it did before his death, and he wore a kind of grey flannel jacket, in which he had been accustomed to sleep. Surprised and half-alarmed at what they saw, their first idea was that a portrait had been hung in the room, and that what they saw was its reflection; but there was no picture of the kind.
Whilst they were looking and wondering, my wife's sister, Miss Towns, came into the room, and before either of the others had time to speak she exclaimed, 'Good gracious! Do you see Papa?' One of the housemaids happened to be passing downstairs at the moment, and she was called in, and asked if she saw anything, and her reply was, 'Oh, miss! the master.' Graham Captain Towns' old body servant - was then sent for, and he also immediately exclaimed, 'Oh, Lord save us! Mrs Lett, it's the Captain!' The butler was called, and then Mrs Crane, my wife's nurse, and they both said what they saw. Finally, Mrs Towns was sent for, and, seeing the apparition, she advanced towards it with her arm extended as if to touch it, and as she passed her hand over the panel of the wardrobe the figure gradually faded away, and never again appeared, though the room was regularly occupied for a long time after.
These are the simple facts of the case, and they admit of no doubt; no kind of intimation was given to any of the witnesses; the same question was put to each one as they came into the room, and the reply was given without hesitation by each. It was by the merest accident that I did not see the apparition. I was in the house at the time, but did not hear when I was called.
C. A. W. LETT.
We, the undersigned, having read the above statement, certify that it is strictly accurate, as we both were witnesses of the apparition.
SIBBIE SMYTH (nee TOWNS).
Mrs Lett assures me that neither she nor her sister ever experienced a hallucination of the senses on any other occasion. She is positive that the recognition of the appearance on the part of each of the later witnesses was
independent, and not due to any suggestion from the persons already in the room.
In another case
("Phantasms of the Living", vol. I, p. 212), the dead wife loiters round her husband's tomb, where she is seen by a gardener who had been in her employ, and who is unaware of her death.
In this case the apparition was seen about seven and a half hours after the death. This, as Gurney remarked, makes it very difficult to regard the case as a telepathic impression transmitted at the moment of death, and remaining latent in the mind of the percipient. The incident suggests rather that Bard, the gardener, had come upon Mrs de Freville's spirit, so to say, unawares. One cannot imagine that she specially wished him to see her. Rather this seems a rudimentary
haunting - an incipient lapse into those aimless, perhaps unconscious, reappearances in familiar spots which may persist (as it would seem) for many years after death.
A somewhat similar case is that of Colonel Crealock (in Proceedings, S.P.R., vol.
v, p. 432) where a soldier who had been dead some hours was seen by his superior officer in camp at night rolling up and taking away his bed.
It is, indeed, mainly by dwelling on these intermediate cases, between a message-bringing apparition and a purposeless haunt, that we have most hope of understanding the typical haunt which, while it has been in a sense the most popular of all our phenomena, is yet to the careful inquirer one of the least satisfactory. One main evidential difficulty generally lies in identifying the haunting figure, in finding anything to connect the history of the house with the vague and often various sights and sounds which perplex or terrify its flesh-and-blood inhabitants. We must, at any rate, rid ourselves of the notion that some great crime or catastrophe is always to be sought as the groundwork of a haunt of this kind. To that negative conclusion our cases concordantly point us. The apparition is most often seen by a stranger, several months after the death, with no apparent reason for its appearance at that special time. This last point is of interest in considering the question whether the hallucinatory picture could have been projected from any still incarnate mind. In one case - the vision of the Bishop of St Brieuc (given in Proceedings, S.P. R., vol.
v, p. 460), there
was such a special reason - the Bishop's body, unknown to the percipient, was at that moment being buried at the distance of a few miles. Mr Podmore suggests that it was from the minds of the living mourners that the Bishop's phantasm was generated. That hypothesis may have its portion of truth; the surrounding emotion may have been one of the factors which made the apparition possible. But the assumption that it was the only admissible factor - that the departed Bishop's own possible agency must be set aside altogether - lands us, I think, in difficulties greater than those which we should thus escape. The reader who tries to apply it to the apparitions quoted in my earlier groups will find himself in a labyrinth of complexity. Still more will this be the case in dealing with the far fuller and more explicit
motor communications, by automatic writing or speech, which we shall have to discuss in the two next chapters. Unless the actual evidence be disallowed in a wholesale manner, we shall be forced, I think, to admit the continued action of the departed as a apparitions.
I do not say as the only element. I myself hold, as already implied, that the thought and emotion of living persons does largely intervene, as aiding or conditioning the independent action of the departed. I even believe that it is possible that, say, an intense fixation of my own mind on a departed spirit may aid that spirit to manifest at a special moment - and not even to me, but to a percipient more sensitive than myself.
But now we are confronted by another possible element in these vaguer classes of apparitions, harder to evaluate even than the possible action of incarnate minds. I mean the possible
results of past mental action, which, for aught we know, may persist in some perceptible manner, without fresh reinforcement, just as the results of past bodily action persist. This question leads to the still wider question of
retrocognition, and of the relation of psychical phenomena to time generally - a problem whose discussion cannot be main element in these attempted
here.(7) Yet we must remember that such possibilities exist; they may explain certain phenomena into which little of fresh intelligence seems to enter, as for instance, the alleged persistence, perhaps for years, of meaningless sounds in a particular room or house.
(7) For a discussion of this problem, illustrated by a large number of cases, see my article on 'Retrocognition and Precognition' in the Proceedings, S.P. R., vol. xi, pp. 334-593.
And since we are coming now to cases into which this element of meaningless sound will enter, it seems right to begin their discussion with a small group of cases where there is evidence for the definite agency of some dying or deceased person in connection with inarticulate sounds, or I should rather say of the
connection of some deceased person with the sounds; since the best explanation may perhaps be that they are
sounds of welcome - before or after actual death - corresponding to those
apparitions of welcome which we have already mentioned. One of our cases (see
"Phantasms of the Living", vol. II, p. 639) is remarkable in that the auditory hallucination - a sound as of female voices gently singing - was heard by five persons, by four of them, as it seems, independently, and in two places, on different sides of the house. At the same time, one person - the Eton master whose mother had just died, and who was therefore presumably in a frame of mind more prone to hallucination than the physician, matron, friend, or servants who actually did hear the singing - himself heard nothing at all. In this case the physician felt no doubt that Mrs L. was actually dead; and in fact it was during the laying out of the body that the sounds occurred. The point on which I would here lay stress is that phantasmal sounds - even non-articulate sounds - may be as clear a manifestation of personality as phantasmal figures. In some of the cases of this class we see apparent attempts of various kinds to simulate sounds such as men and women - or manufactured, as opposed to natural, objects - are accustomed to produce. To claim this humanity, to indicate this intelligence, seems the only motive of sounds of this kind.
These sounds, in their rudimentary attempt at showing intelligence, are about on a level with the exploits of the 'Poltergeist', where coals are thrown about, water spilt, and so forth. Poltergeist phenomena, however, seldom coincide with the ordinary phenomena of a haunt. We have one remarkable case (Journal, S.P.R., vol.
ix, pp. 280-84) where Poltergeist phenomena coincide with a death, and a few cases where they are supposed to follow on a death; but, as a rule, where figures appear there are no movements; and where there are movements no apparition is seen. If alleged Poltergeist phenomena are always fraudulent, there would be nothing to be surprised at here. If, as I suspect, they are sometimes genuine, their dissociation from visual hallucinations may sometimes afford us a hint of value.
But after Poltergeists have been set aside, - after a severe line has been drawn excluding all those cases (in themselves singular enough) where the main phenomena observed consist of non-articulate sounds, - there remains a great mass of evidence to haunting, - that is, broadly speaking, to the fact that there are many houses in which more than one person has independently seen phantasmal figures, which usually, though not always, bear at least some resemblance to each other. The facts thus badly stated are beyond dispute. Their true interpretation is a very difficult matter. Mrs Sidgwick gives four hypotheses, which I must quote at length as the first serious attempt ever made (so far I know) to collect and face the difficulties of this problem, so often, but so loosely, discussed through all historical times. (From Proceedings, S.P.R., vol.
III, pp. 146-48).
'I will, therefore, proceed briefly to state and discuss the only four theories that have occurred to me.
'The two which I will take first in order assume that the apparitions are due to the agency or presence of the spirits of deceased men.
'There is first the popular view, that the apparition is something belonging to the external world - that, like ordinary matter, it occupies and moves through space, and would be in the room whether the percipient were there to see it or not. This hypothesis involves us in many difficulties, of which one serious one - that of accounting for the clothes of the ghost - has often been urged, and never, I think, satisfactorily answered. Nevertheless, I am bound to admit that there is some little evidence tending to suggest this theory. For instance, in the
account,(8) of which I have given an abstract, of the weeping lady who has appeared so frequently in a certain house, the following passage occurs: "They went after it (the figure) together into the drawing-room; it then came out, and went down the aforesaid passage (leading to the kitchen), but was the next minute seen by another Miss [M.] ... come up the outside steps from the kitchen. On this particular day, Captain [M.'s] married daughter happened to be at an upstairs window ... and independently saw the figure continue her course across the lawn and into the orchard". A considerable amount of clear evidence to the appearance of ghosts to independent observers in successive points in space would certainly afford a strong argument for their having a definite relation to space; but in estimating evidence of this kind it would be necessary to know how far the observer's attention had been drawn to the point in question. If it had been a real woman whom the Miss [M.'s] were observing, we should have inferred, with perfect certainty, from our knowledge that she could not be in two places at once, that she had been successively, in a certain order, in the places where she was seen by the three observers. If they had noted the moments at which they saw her, and, comparing notes afterwards, found that according to these notes they had all seen her at the same time, or in some other order to that inferred, we should still feel absolute confidence in our inference, and should conclude that there must be something wrong about the watches or the notes. From association of ideas, it would be perfectly natural to make the same inference in the case of a ghost which looks exactly like a woman. But in the case of the ghost the inference would not be legitimate because, unless the particular theory of ghosts which we are discussing be true, there is no reason, so far as we know, why it should not appear in two or more places at once. Hence, in the case of the ghost, a well-founded assurance that the appearances were successive would require a careful observation of the times, which, so far as I know, has never been made. On the whole, therefore, I must dismiss the popular theory as not having, in my opinion, even a
prima facie ground for serious consideration.
(8) See p. 208.
'The theory that I will next examine seems to me decidedly more plausible, from its analogy to the conclusion to which I am brought by the examination of the evidence for phantasms of the living. This theory is that the apparition has no real relation to the external world, but is a hallucination caused in some way by some communication, without the intervention of the senses, between the disembodied spirit and the percipient, its form depending on the mind either of the spirit or of the percipient, or of both. In the case of haunted houses, however, a difficulty meets us that we do not encounter, or at least rarely encounter, in applying a similar hypothesis to explain phantasms of the living, or phantasms of the dead other than fixed local ghosts. In these cases we have generally to suppose a simple
rapport between mind and mind, but in a haunted house we have a rapport complicated by its apparent dependence on locality. It seems necessary to make the improbable assumption, that the spirit is interested in an entirely special way in a particular house (though possibly this interest may be of subconscious kind), and that his interest in it puts him into connection with another mind, occupied with it in the way that of a living person actually there must consciously or unconsciously be, while he does not get into similar communication with the same, or with other persons elsewhere.
'If, notwithstanding these difficulties, it be true that haunting is due in any way to the agency of deceased persons, and conveys a definite idea of them to the percipients through the resemblance to them of the apparition, then, by patiently continuing our investigations, we may expect, sooner or later, to obtain a sufficient amount of evidence to connect clearly the commencement of hauntings with the death of particular persons, and to establish clearly the likeness of the apparition to those persons. The fact that almost everybody is now photographed ought to be of material assistance in obtaining evidence of this latter kind.
'My third theory dispenses with the agency of disembodied spirits, but involves us in other and perhaps equally great improbabilities. It is that the first appearance is a purely subjective hallucination, and that the subsequent similar appearances, both to the original percipient and to others, are the result of the first appearance; unconscious expectancy causing them in the case of the original percipient, and some sort of telepathic communication from the original percipient in the case of others. In fact, it assumes that a tendency to a particular hallucination is in a way infectious. If this theory be true, I should expect to find that the apparently independent appearances after the first depended on the percipient's having had some sort of intercourse with some one who had seen the ghost before, and that any decided discontinuity of occupancy would stop the haunting. I should also expect to find, as we do in one of the cases I have quoted, that sometimes the supposed ghost would follow the family from one abode to another, appearing to haunt them rather than any particular house.
'The fourth theory that I shall mention is one which I can hardly expect to appear plausible, and which, therefore, I only introduce because I think that it corresponds best to a certain part of the evidence; - and, as I have already said, considering the altogether tentative way in which we are inevitably dealing with this obscure subject, it is as well to express definitely every hypothesis which an impartial consideration of the facts suggests. It is that there is something in the actual building itself - some subtle physical influence - which produces in the brain that effect which, in its turn, becomes the cause of a hallucination. It is certainly difficult on this hypothesis alone to suppose that the hallucinations of different people would be similar, but we might account for this by a combination of this hypothesis and the last. The idea is suggested by the case, of which I have given an abstract, where the haunting continued through more than one occupancy, but changed its character; and if there be any truth in the theory, I should expect in time to obtain a good deal more evidence of this kind, combined with evidence that the same persons do not as a rule encounter ghosts elsewhere. I should also expect evidence to be forthcoming supporting the popular idea that repairs and alterations of the building sometimes cause the haunting to cease.'
These hypotheses - none of which, as Mrs Sidwick expressly states, seemed to herself satisfactory - did nevertheless, I think, comprise all the deductions which could reasonably be made from the evidence as it at that time stood. A few modifications, which the experience of subsequent years has led me to introduce, can hardly be said to afford further
explanation, although they state the difficulties in what now seems to me a more hopeful way.
In the first place then - as already explained in Chapter VI - I in some sense fuse into one Mrs Sidgwick's two first hypotheses by my own hypothesis of actual presence, actual spatial changes induced in the spiritual, but not in the material world. I hold that when the phantasm is discerned by more than one person at once (and on some other, but not all other occasions) it is actually effecting a change in that portion of space where it is perceived, although not, as a rule, in the matter which occupies that place. It is, therefore, not optically nor acoustically perceived; perhaps no rays of light are reflected nor waves of air set in motion; but an unknown form of supernormal perception, not necessarily acting through the sensory end-organs, comes into play. In the next place, I am inclined to lay stress on the parallel between these narratives of haunting and certain phantasms of the living which I have already discussed. In each case, as it seems to me, there is an involuntary detachment of some element of the spirit, probably with no knowledge thereof at the main centre of consciousness. Those 'haunts by the living', as they may be called, where, for instance, a man is seen phantasmally standing before his own fireplace, seem to me to be repeated, perhaps more readily, after the spirit is freed from the flesh.
Again, I think that the curious question as to the influence of certain houses in generating apparitions may be included under the broader heading of Retro-cognition. That is to say, we are not here dealing with a special condition of certain houses, but with a branch of the wide problem as to the relation of supernormal phenomena to
time. Manifestations which occur in haunted houses depend, let us say, on something which has taken place a long time ago. In what way do they depend on that past event? Are they a sequel, or only a residue? Is there fresh operation going on, or only fresh perception of something already accomplished? Or can we in such a case draw any real distinction between a continued action and a continued perception of a past action? The closest parallel, as it seems to me, although not at first sight an obvious one, lies between these phenomena of haunting, these persistent sights and sounds, and certain phenomena of crystal-vision and of automatic script, which also seem to depend somehow upon long-past events, - to be their sequel or their residue. One specimen case I give where the connection of the haunting apparition with a certain person long deceased may be maintained with more than usual plausibility.
The following case is in some respects one of the most remarkable and best authenticated instances of 'haunting' on record, although, as will be seen, the evidence for the identity of the apparition is inconclusive. The case was fully described in a paper entitled 'Record of a Haunted House', by Miss R. C. Morton, in Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. viii, pp. 311-32. Besides the account of the principal percipient, Miss R. C. Morton, the paper contains independent first-hand statements from six other witnesses, - a friend, Miss Campbell, a sister and brother of Miss Morton's who lived in the house, a married sister who visited there, and two former servants; also plans of the whole house. For the full details I must refer the reader to the original paper; I have space here only for abbreviated extracts from Miss Morton's account.
An account of the case first came into my hands in December, 1884, and this with Miss Morton's letters to her friend, Miss Campbell, are the earliest written records. On May 1st, 1886, I called upon Captain Morton at the 'haunted house', and afterwards visited him at intervals, and took notes of what he told me. I also saw Miss Morton and Miss E. Morton, and the two former servants whose accounts are given in Miss Morton's paper. The phenomena as seen or heard by all the witnesses were very uniform in character, even in the numerous instances where there had been no previous communication between the percipients. Miss Morton is a lady of scientific training, and was at the time her account was written (in April, 1892) preparing to be a physician. The name 'Morton' is substituted for the real family name. With that exception the names and initials are the true ones.
After describing the house and garden, Miss Morton proceeds:
It was built about the year 1860; the first occupant was Mr S., an Anglo-Indian, who lived in it for about sixteen years. During this time, in the month of August, year uncertain, he lost his wife, to whom he was passionately attached, and to drown his grief took to drinking. About two years later, Mr S. married again. His second wife, a Miss I. H., was in hopes of curing him of his intemperate habits, but instead she also took to drinking, and their married life was embittered by constant quarrels, frequently resulting in violent scenes. The chief subjects of dispute were the management of the children (two girls, and either one or two boys, all quite young) of the first Mrs S., and the possession of her jewellery, to preserve which for her children, Mr S. had some of the boards in the small front
sitting room taken up by a local carpenter and the jewels inserted in the receptacle so formed. Finally, few months before Mr S's death, on July 14th, 1876, his wife separated from him and went to live in Clifton. She was not present at the time of his death, nor, as far as is known, was she ever at the house afterwards. She died on September 23rd, 1878.
After Mr S's death the house was bought by Mr L., an elderly gentleman, who died rather suddenly within six months of going into it.. The house then remained empty for some years probably four.
During this time there is no direct evidence of haunting, but when inquiry was made later on much hearsay evidence was brought forward. In April, 1882, the house was let by the representatives of the late Mr L. to Captain Morton, and it is during his tenancy (not yet terminated) that the appearances recorded have taken place.
The family consists of Captain M. himself; his wife, who is a great invalid; neither of whom saw anything; a married daughter, Mrs K., then about twenty-six, who was only a visitor from time to time, sometimes with, but more often without, her husband; four unmarried daughters, myself, then aged nineteen, who was the chief percipient and now give the chief account of the apparition; E. Morton, then aged eighteen; L. and M. Morton, then fifteen and thirteen; two sons, one of sixteen, who was absent during the greater part of the time when the apparition was seen; the other, then six years old.
My father took the house in March, 1882, none of us having then heard of anything unusual about the house. We moved in towards the end of April, and it was not until the following June that I first saw the apparition.
I had gone up to my room, but was not yet in bed, when I heard someone at the door, and went to it, thinking it might be my mother. On opening the door, I saw no one; but on going a few steps along the passage, I saw the figure of a tall lady, dressed in black, standing at the head of the stairs. After a few moments she descended the stairs, and I followed for a short distance, feeling curious what it could be. I had only a small piece of candle, and it suddenly burnt itself out; and being unable to see more, I went back to my room.
The figure was that of a tall lady, dressed in black of a soft woollen material, Judging from the slight sound in moving. The face was hidden in a handkerchief held in the right hand. This is all I noticed then; but on further occasions, when I was able to observe her more closely, I saw the upper part of the left side of the forehead, and a little of the hair above. Her left hand was nearly hidden by her sleeve and a fold of her dress. As she held it down a portion of a widow's cuff was visible on both wrists, so that the whole impression was that of a lady in widow's weeds. There was no cap on the head but a general effect of blackness suggests a bonnet, with a long veil or a hood.
During the next two years - from 1882 to 1884 - I saw the figure about half-a-dozen times; at first at long intervals, and afterwards at shorter, but I only mentioned these appearances to one friend, who did not speak of them to any one. During this period, as far as we know, there were only three appearances to any one else.
1. In the summer of 1882 to my sister, Mrs K., when the figure was thought to be that of a Sister of Mercy who had called at the house, and no further curiosity was aroused. She was coming down the stairs rather late for dinner at 6.30, it being then quite light, when she saw the figure cross the hall in front of her, and pass into the drawing-room. She then asked the rest of us, already seated at dinner, 'Who was that Sister of Mercy whom I have just seen going into the drawing-room?' She was told there was no such person, and a servant was sent to look; but the drawing-room was empty and she was sure no one had come in. Mrs K. persisted that she had seen a tall figure in black, with some white about it; but nothing further was thought of the matter.
2. In the autumn of 1883 it was seen by the housemaid about 10 p.m., she declaring that some one had got into the house, her description agreeing fairly with what I had seen; but as on searching no one was found, her story received no credit.
3. On or about 18th December, 1883, it was seen in the drawing-room by my brother and another little boy. They were playing outside on the terrace when they saw the figure in the drawing-room close to the window, and ran in to see who it could be that was crying so bitterly. They found no one in the drawing-room, and the parlour-maid told them that no one had come into the house.
After the first time, I followed the figure several times downstairs into the drawing-room, where she remained a variable time, generally standing to the right hand side of the bow window. From the drawing-room, she went along the passage towards the garden door, where she always disappeared.
The first time I spoke to her was on 29th January, 1884. 'I opened the drawing-room door softly and went in, standing just by it. She came in past me and walked to the sofa and stood still there, so I went up to her and I asked her if I could help her. She moved, and I thought she was going to speak, but she only gave a slight gasp and moved towards the door. Just by the door I spoke to her again, but she seemed as if she were quite unable to speak. She walked into the hall, then by the side door she seemed to disappear as before.' (Quoted from a letter written on 31st January.) In May and June, 1884, I tried some experiments, fastening strings with marine glue across the stairs at different heights from the ground - of which I give a more detailed account later on.
I also attempted to touch her, but she always eluded me. It was not that, there was nothing there to touch, but that she always seemed to be
beyond me, and if followed into a corner, simply disappeared.
During these two years the only noises I heard were those of slight pushes against my bedroom door, accompanied by footsteps; and if I looked out on hearing these sounds, I invariably saw the figure. 'Her footstep is very light, you can hardly hear it, except on the linoleum, and then only like a person walking softly with thin boots on.' (Letter on 31st January, 1884.) The appearances during the next two months - July and August, 1884 - became much more frequent; indeed they were then at their maximum, from which time they seem gradually to have decreased, until now they seem to have ceased.
Of these two months I have a short record in a set of journal letters written at the time to a friend. On 21st July, I find the following account. 'I went into the drawing-room, where my father and sisters were sitting about nine in the evening, and sat down on a couch close to the bow window. A few minutes after, as I sat reading, I saw the figure come in at the open door, cross the room and take up a position close behind the couch where I was. I was astonished that no one else in the room saw her, as she was so very distinct to me. My youngest brother, who had before seen her, was not in the room. She stood behind the couch for about half-an-hour, and then as usual walked to the door. I went after her, on the excuse of getting a book, and saw her pass along the hall, until she came to the garden door, where she disappeared. I spoke to her as she passed the foot of the stairs, but she did not answer, although as before she stopped and seemed as though
about to speak.' On 31st July, some time after I had gone up to bed, my second sister E., who had remained downstairs
talking in another sister's room, came to me saying that some one had passed her on the stairs. I tried then to persuade her that it was one of the servants, but next morning found it could not have been so, as none of them had been out of their rooms at that hour, and E.'s more detailed description tallied with what I had already seen.
On the night of 1st August, I again saw the figure. I heard the footsteps outside on the landing about 2 a.m. I got up at once, and went outside. She was then at the end of the landing at the top of the stairs, with her side view towards me. She stood there some minutes, then went downstairs, stopping again when she reached the hall below. I opened the drawing-room door and she went in, walked across the room to the couch in the bow window, stayed there a little, then came out of the room, went along the passage, and disappeared by the garden door. I spoke to her again, but she did not answer.
On the night of 2nd August the footsteps were heard by my three sisters and by the cook, all of whom slept on the top landing - also by my married sister, Mrs K., who was sleeping on the floor below. They all said the next morning that they had heard them very plainly pass and repass their doors. The cook was a middle-aged and very sensible person; on my asking her the following morning if any of the servants had been out of their rooms the night before, after coming up to bed, she told me that she had heard these footsteps before, and that she had seen the figure on the stairs one night when going down to the kitchen to fetch hot water after the servants had come up to bed. She described it as a lady in widow's dress, tall and slight, with her face hidden in a handkerchief held in her right hand. Unfortunately we have since lost sight of this servant; she left us about a year afterwards on her mother's death, and we cannot now trace her. She also saw the figure outside the kitchen windows on the terrace-walk, she herself being in the kitchen; it was then about eleven in the morning, but having no note of the occurrence, I cannot now remember whether this appearance was subsequent to the one above mentioned.
These footsteps are very characteristic, and are not at all like those of any of the people in the house; they are soft and rather slow, though decided and even. My sisters would not go out on the landing after hearing them pass, nor would the servants, but each time when I have gone out after hearing them, I have seen the figure there.
On 5th August, I told my father about her and what we had seen and heard. He was much astonished, not having seen or heard anything himself at that time - neither then had my mother, but she is slightly deaf, and is an invalid. He made inquiries of the landlord (who then lived close by) as to whether he knew of anything unusual about the house, as he had himself lived in it for short time, but he replied that he had only been there for three months, and had never seen anything unusual.
On the evening of 11th August, we were sitting in the drawing-room with the gas lit but the shutters not shut, the light outside getting dusk, my brothers and a friend having just given up tennis, finding it too dark; my eldest sister, Mrs K., and myself both saw the figure on the balcony outside, looking in at the window. She stood there some minutes, then walked to the end and back again, after which she seemed to disappear. She soon after came into the drawing-room, when I saw her, but my sister did not. The same evening my sister E. saw her on the stairs as she came out of a room on the upper landing.
The following evening, 12th August, while coming up the garden, I walked towards the orchard, when I saw the figure cross the orchard, go along the carriage drive in front of the house, and in at the open side door, across the hall and into the drawing-room, I following. She crossed the drawing-room and took up her usual position behind the couch in the bow window. My father came in soon after, and I told him she was there. He could not see the figure, but went up to where I showed him she was. She then went swiftly round behind him, across the room, out of the door, and along the hall, disappearing as usual near the garden door, we both following her. We looked out into the garden, having first to unlock the garden door, which my father had locked as he came through, but saw nothing of her.
On 12th August, about 8 p.m., and still quite light, my sister E. was singing in the back drawing-room. I heard her stop abruptly, come out into the hall, and call me. She said she had seen the figure in the drawing-room close behind her as she sat at the piano. I went back into the room with her and saw the figure in the bow window in her usual place. I spoke to her several times, but had no answer. She stood there for about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour; then went across the room to the door, and along the passage, disappearing in the same place by the garden door.
My sister M. then came in from the garden, saying she had seen her coming up the kitchen steps outside. We all three then went out into the garden, when Mrs K. called out from a window on the first storey that she had just seen her pass across the lawn in front and along the carriage drive towards the orchard. This evening, then, altogether four people saw her. My father was then away, and my youngest brother was out.
On the morning of 14th August, the parlour-maid saw her in the dining room, about 8.30 a.m., having gone into the room to open the shutters. The room is very sunny, and even with all the shutters closed it is quite light, the shutters not fitting well, and letting sunlight through the cracks. She had opened one shutter, when, on turning round, she saw the figure cross the room. We were all on the look-out for her that evening, but saw nothing; in fact, whenever we had made arrangements to watch, and were especially expecting her, we never saw anything. This servant, who afterwards married, was interviewed by Mr Myers at her own house. . . .
On August 19th we all went to the seaside, and were away a month, leaving three servants in the house.
When we came back they said that they had heard footsteps and noises frequently, but as the stair-carpets were up part of the time and the house was empty, many of these noises were doubtless due to natural causes, though by them attributed to the figure.
The cook also spoke of seeing the figure in the garden, standing by a stone vase on the lawn behind the house.
During the rest of that year and the following, 1885, the apparition was frequently seen through each year, especially during July, August, and September. In these months the three deaths took place, viz., Mr S. on July 14th, 1876; the first Mrs S. in August, and the second Mrs S. on September 23rd.
The apparitions were of exactly the same type, seen in the same places and by the same people, at varying intervals.
The footsteps continued, and were heard by several visitors and new servants who had taken the places of those who had left, as well as by myself, four sisters and brother; in all by about twenty people, many of them not having previously heard of the apparitions or sounds.
Other sounds were also heard in addition which seemed gradually to increase in intensity. They consisted of walking up and down on the second-floor landing, of bumps against the doors of the bedrooms, and of the handles of the doors turning…
During this year, at Mr Myers's suggestion, I kept a photographic camera constantly ready to try to photograph the figure, but on the few occasions I was able to do so, I got no result; at night, usually only by candle-light, a long exposure would be necessary for so dark a figure, and this I could not obtain. I also tried to communicate with the figure, constantly speaking to it and asking it to make signs, if not able to speak, but with no result. I also tried especially to
touch her, but did not succeed. On cornering her, as I did once or twice, she disappeared.
Some time in the summer of this year (1886), Mrs Twining, our regular charwoman, saw the figure, while waiting in the hall at the door leading to the kitchen stairs, for her payment. Until it suddenly vanished from her sight, as no real figure could have done, she thought it was a lady visitor who had mistaken her way. Mr Myers interviewed her on December 29th, 1889, and has her separate account.
On one night in July, 1886 (my father and I being away from home), my mother and her maid heard a loud noise in an unoccupied room over their heads. They went up, but seeing nothing and the noise ceasing, they went back to my mother's room on the first storey. They then heard loud noises from the morning-room on the ground floor. They then went half-way downstairs, when they saw a bright light in the hall beneath. Being alarmed, they went up to my sister E., who then came down, and they all three examined the doors, windows, etc., and found them all fastened as usual. My mother and her maid then went to bed. My sister E. went up to her room on the second storey, but as she passed the room where my two sisters L. and M. were sleeping, they opened their door to say that they had heard noises, and also seen what they described as the
flame of a candle, without candle or hand visible, cross the room diagonally from corner to door. Two of the maids opened the doors of their two bedrooms, and said that they had also heard noises; they all five stood at their doors with their lighted candles for some little time. They all heard steps walking up and down the landing between them; as they passed they felt a sensation which they described as 'a cold wind', though their candles were not blown about. They
saw nothing. The steps then descended the stairs, re-ascended, again descended, and did not return.
In the course of the following autumn we heard traditions of earlier haunting, though, unfortunately, in no case were we able to get a first-hand
We also now heard from a carpenter who had done jobs in the house in Mrs S.'s time, that Mrs S. had wished to possess herself of the first Mrs S.'s jewels. Her husband had called him in to make a receptacle under the boards in the morning-room on the ground floor, in which receptacle he placed the jewels, and then had it nailed down and the carpet replaced. The carpenter showed us the place. My father made him take up the boards; the receptacle was there, but empty...
During the next two years, 1887 to 1889, the figure was very seldom seen, though footsteps were heard; the louder noises had gradually ceased. From 1889 to the present, 1892, so far as I know, the figure has not been seen at all; the lighter footsteps lasted a little longer, but even they have now ceased. The figure became much less substantial on its later appearances. Up to about 1886 it was so solid and life-like that it was often mistaken for a real person. It gradually became less distinct. At all times it intercepted the light; we have not been able to ascertain if it cast a shadow.
Proofs of Immateriality
1. I have several times fastened fine strings across the stairs at various heights before going to bed, but after all others have gone up to their rooms. These were fastened in the following way: I made small pellets of marine glue, into which I inserted the ends of the cord, then stuck one pellet lightly against the wall and the other to the banister, the string being thus stretched across the stairs. They were knocked down by a very slight touch, and yet would not be felt by anyone passing up or down the stairs, and by candle-light could not be seen from below. They were put at various heights from the ground from six inches to the height of the banisters, about three feet. I have twice at least seen the figure pass through the cords, leaving them intact.
2. The sudden and complete disappearance of the figure, while still in full view.
3. The impossibility of touching the figure. I have repeatedly followed it into a corner, when it disappeared, and have tried to suddenly pounce upon it, but have never succeeded in touching it or getting my hand up to it, the figure eluding my touch.
4. It has appeared in a room with the doors shut.
On the other hand, the figure was not called up by a desire to see it, for on every occasion when we had made special arrangements to watch for it, we never saw it. On several occasions we have sat up at night hoping to see it, but in vain, - my father, with my brother-in-law, myself with a friend three or four times, an aunt and myself twice, and my sisters with friends more than once; but on none of these occasions was anything seen. Nor have the appearances been seen after we have been talking or thinking much of the figure.
The figure has been connected with the second Mrs S.; the grounds for which are:
1. The complete history of the house is known, and if we are to connect the figure with any of the previous occupants, she is the only person who in any way resembled the figure.
2. The widow's garb excludes the first Mrs S.
3. Although none of us had ever seen the second Mrs S., several people who had known her identified her from our description. On being shown a photo-album containing a number of portraits, I picked out one of her sister as being most like that of the figure, and was afterwards told that the sisters were much alike.
4. Her step-daughter and others told us that she especially used the front drawing-room in which she continually appeared, and that her habitual seat was on a couch placed in similar position to ours.
5. The figure is undoubtedly connected with the house, none of the percipients having seen it anywhere else, nor had any other hallucination.
In writing the above account, my memory of the occurrences has been largely assisted by reference to a set of journal letters written [to Miss Campbell] at the time, and by notes of interviews held by Mr Myers with my father and various members of our family.
R. C. MORTON
Here is a natural place of pause in our inquiry. We have worked as far as we can on the data which we have had under our view.
The question of man's survival of death stands in a position uniquely intermediate between matters capable and matters incapable of proof. It is in itself a definite problem, admitting of conceivable proof which, even if not technically rigorous, might amply satisfy the scientific mind. And at the same time the conception which it involves is in itself a kind of avenue and inlet into infinity. Could a proof of our survival be obtained, it would carry us deeper into the true nature of the universe than we should be carried by an even perfect knowledge of the material scheme of things. It would carry us deeper both by achievement and by promise. The discovery that there was a life in man independent of blood and brain would be a cardinal, a dominating fact in all science and in all philosophy. And the prospect thus opened to human knowledge, in this or in other worlds, would be limitless indeed.