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An "astral Body"






Mr. Sparks and Mr. Cleave, young men of twenty and nineteen, were
accustomed to "mesmerise" each other in their dormitory at Portsmouth,
where they were students of naval engineering. Mr. Sparks simply
stared into Mr. Cleave's eyes as he lay on his bed till he "went off".
The experiments seemed so curious that witnesses were called, Mr.
Darley and Mr. Thurgood. On Friday, 15th January, 1886, Mr. Cleave
determined to try to see, when asleep, a young lady at Wandsworth to
whom he was in the habit of writing every Sunday. He also intended,
if possible, to make _her_ see _him_. On awaking, he said that he had
seen her in the dining-room of her house, that she had seemed to grow
restless, had looked at him, and then had covered her face with her
hands. On Monday he tried again, and he thought he had frightened
her, as after looking at him for a few minutes she fell back in her
chair in a kind of faint. Her little brother was in the room with her
at the time. On Tuesday next the young lady wrote, telling Mr. Cleave
that she had been startled by seeing him on Friday evening (this is an
error), and again on Monday evening, "much clearer," when she nearly
fainted.

All this Mr. Sparks wrote to Mr. Gurney in the same week. He was
inviting instructions on hypnotic experiments, and "launched a letter
into space," having read something vague about Mr. Gurney's studies in
the newspapers. The letter, after some adventures, arrived, and on
15th March Mr. Cleave wrote his account, Mr. Darley and Mr. Thurgood
corroborating as to their presence during the trance and as to Mr.
Cleave's statement when he awoke. Mr. Cleave added that he made
experiments "for five nights running" before seeing the lady. The
young lady's letter of 19th January, 1886, is also produced (postmark,
Portsmouth, 20th January). But the lady mentions her _first_ vision
of Mr. Cleave as on last _Tuesday_ (not Friday), and her second, while
she was alone with her little brother, at supper on Monday. "I was so
frightened that I nearly fainted."

These are all young people. It may be said that all five were
concerned in a complicated hoax on Mr. Gurney. Nor would such a hoax
argue any unusual moral obliquity. Surtees of Mainsforth, in other
respects an honourable man, took in Sir Walter Scott with forged
ballads, and never undeceived his friend. Southey played off a hoax
with his book The Doctor. Hogg, Lockhart, and Wilson, with Allan
Cunningham and many others, were constantly engaged in such
mystifications, and a "ghost-hunter" might seem a fair butt.

But the very discrepancy in Miss ---'s letter is a proof of fairness.
Her first vision of Mr. Cleave was on "Tuesday last". Mr. Cleave's
first impression of success was on the Friday following.

But he had been making the experiment for five nights previous,
including the Tuesday of Miss ---'s letter. Had the affair been a
hoax, Miss --- would either have been requested by him to re-write her
letter, putting Friday for Tuesday, or what is simpler, Mr. Sparks
would have adopted her version and written "Tuesday" in place of
"Friday" in his first letter to Mr. Gurney. The young lady,
naturally, requested Mr. Cleave not to try his experiment on her
again.

A similar case is that of Mrs. Russell, who tried successfully, when
awake and in Scotland, to appear to one of her family in Germany. The
sister corroborates and says, "Pray don't come appearing to me again".


These spirits of the living lead to the subject of spirits of the
dying. No kind of tale is so common as that of dying people appearing
at a distance. Hundreds have been conscientiously published. {91b}
The belief is prevalent among the Maoris of New Zealand, where the
apparition is regarded as a proof of death. {91c} Now there is
nothing in savage philosophy to account for this opinion of the
Maoris. A man's "spirit" leaves his body in dreams, savages think,
and as dreaming is infinitely more common than death, the Maoris
should argue that the appearance is that of a man's spirit wandering
in his sleep. However, they, like many Europeans, associate a man's
apparition with his death. Not being derived from their philosophy,
this habit may be deduced from their experience.

As there are, undeniably, many examples of hallucinatory appearances
of persons in perfect health and ordinary circumstances, the question
has been asked whether there are _more_ cases of an apparition
coinciding with death than, according to the doctrine of chances,
there ought to be. Out of about 18,000 answers to questions on this
subject, has been deduced the conclusion that the deaths do coincide
with the apparitions to an extent beyond mere accident. Even if we
had an empty hallucination for every case coinciding with death, we
could not set the coincidences down to mere chance. As well might we
say that if "at the end of an hour's rifle practice at long-distance
range, the record shows that for every shot that has hit the bull's
eye, another has missed the target, therefore the shots that hit the
target did so by accident." {92} But as empty hallucinations are more
likely to be forgotten than those which coincide with a death; as
exaggeration creeps in, as the collectors of evidence are naturally
inclined to select and question people whom they know to have a good
story to tell, the evidence connecting apparitions, voices, and so on
with deaths is not likely to be received with favour.

One thing must be remembered as affecting the theory that the
coincidence between the wraith and the death is purely an accident.
Everybody dreams and out of the innumerable dreams of mankind, a few
must hit the mark by a fluke. But _hallucinations_ are not nearly so
common as dreams. Perhaps, roughly speaking, one person in ten has
had what he believes to be a waking hallucination. Therefore, so to
speak, compared with dreams, but a small number of shots of this kind
are fired. Therefore, bull's eyes (the coincidence between an
appearance and a death) are infinitely less likely to be due to chance
in the case of waking hallucinations than in the case of dreams, which
all mankind are firing off every night of their lives. Stories of
these coincidences between appearances and deaths are as common as
they are dull. Most people come across them in the circle of their
friends. They are all very much alike, and make tedious reading. We
give a few which have some picturesque features.





Next: In Tavistock Place {93}

Previous: The Wraith Of The Czarina



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