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Ghost Stories

Has Presented It
But, in the drawings, the fragments were of different c...

The House And The Brain
A friend of mine, who is a man of letters and a ph...

The Vision And The Portrait
Mrs. M. writes (December 15, 1891) that before her visi...

The Mysterious Sketch
ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN I Opposite the chapel of Sain...

The Grocer's Cough
A man of letters was born in a small Scotch town, where...

The Cow With The Bell
I had given a glass ball to the wife of a friend, whose...

Farm Barn 2 Rabbits
It may appear that we are extending our Rural Architect...

The Hymn Of Donald Ban
O God that created me so helpless, Strengthen my belie...

Cottage Design Iv
This cottage is still in advance of the last, in its ac...

The Major's Lease
A curious little story was told the other day in a ce...





Mark Twain's Story






Mark was smoking his cigar outside the door of his house when he saw a
man, a stranger, approaching him. Suddenly he ceased to be visible!
Mark, who had long desired to see a ghost, rushed into his house to
record the phenomenon. There, seated on a chair in the hall, was the
very man, who had come on some business. As Mark's negro footman
acts, when the bell is rung, on the principle, "Perhaps they won't
persevere," his master is wholly unable to account for the
disappearance of the visitor, whom he never saw passing him or waiting
at his door--except on the theory of an unconscious nap. Now, a
disappearance is quite as mystical as an appearance, and much less
common.

This theory, that apparitions come in an infinitesimal moment of
sleep, while a man is conscious of his surroundings and believes
himself to be awake was the current explanation of ghosts in the
eighteenth century. Any educated man who "saw a ghost" or "had a
hallucination" called it a "dream," as Lord Brougham and Lord
Lyttelton did. But, if the death of the person seen coincided with
his appearance to them, they illogically argued that, out of the
innumerable multitude of dreams, some _must_ coincide, accidentally,
with facts. They strove to forget that though dreams in sleep are
universal and countless, "dreams" in waking hours are extremely rare--
unique, for instance, in Lord Brougham's own experience. Therefore,
the odds against chance coincidence are very great.

Dreams only form subjects of good dream-stories when the vision
coincides with and adequately represents an _unknown_ event in the
past, the present, or the future. We dream, however vividly, of the
murder of Rizzio. Nobody is surprised at that, the incident being
familiar to most people, in history and art. But, if we dreamed of
being present at an unchronicled scene in Queen Mary's life, and if,
_after_ the dream was recorded, a document proving its accuracy should
be for the first time recovered, then there is matter for a good
dream-story. {8} Again, we dream of an event not to be naturally
guessed or known by us, and our dream (which should be recorded before
tidings of the fact arrive) tallies with the news of the event when it
comes. Or, finally, we dream of an event (recording the dream), and
that event occurs in the future. In all these cases the actual
occurrence of the unknown event is the only addition to the dream's
usual power of crumpling up time and space.

As a rule such dreams are only mentioned _after_ the event, and so are
not worth noticing. Very often the dream is forgotten by the dreamer
till he hears of or sees the event. He is then either reminded of his
dream by association of ideas or _he has never dreamed at all_, and
his belief that he has dreamed is only a form of false memory, of the
common sensation of "having been here before," which he attributes to
an awakened memory of a real dream. Still more often the dream is
unconsciously cooked by the narrator into harmony with facts.

As a rule fulfilled dreams deal with the most trivial affairs, and
such as, being usual, may readily occur by chance coincidence. Indeed
it is impossible to set limits to such coincidence, for it would
indeed be extraordinary if extraordinary coincidences never occurred.

To take examples:--





Next: The Pig In The Dining-room

Previous: The Dog Fanti



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