VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of Informational Site Network Informational

Home Ghost Stories Categories Authors Books Search

Ghost Stories

In My Lady's Bedchamber
'Well,' said Harry laughingly, as he showed me the fa...

The Butter Dairy
This, if pursued on the same farm with the cheese dairy...

The Bloody Footstep
On the threshold of one of the doors of Smithills ...

Cottage 2 Interior Arrangement
PLAN The front door opens into a common living room,...


Long-wooled Ewe
The Cotswold, New Oxford, and Leicester sheep, of the l...

Repentance Tower
SCENE I. TEMPTATION Late one spring evening not lo...

Jane Of George Street Edinburgh
The news that, for several years at any rate, George ...

Powys Castle
It had been for some time reported in the neighbou...

Farm House Design Ii
This is the plan of a house and out-buildings based chi...

The Dead Shopman

Swooning, or slight mental mistiness, is not very unusual in ghost
seers. The brother of a friend of my own, a man of letters and wide
erudition, was, as a boy, employed in a shop in a town, say Wexington.
The overseer was a dark, rather hectic-looking man, who died. Some
months afterwards the boy was sent on an errand. He did his business,
but, like a boy, returned by a longer and more interesting route. He
stopped as a bookseller's shop to stare at the books and pictures, and
while doing so felt a kind of mental vagueness. It was just before
his dinner hour, and he may have been hungry. On resuming his way, he
looked up and found the dead overseer beside him. He had no sense of
surprise, and walked for some distance, conversing on ordinary topics
with the appearance. He happened to notice such a minute detail as
that the spectre's boots were laced in an unusual way. At a crossing,
something in the street attracted his attention; he looked away from
his companion, and, on turning to resume their talk, saw no more of
him. He then walked to the shop, where he mentioned the occurrence to
a friend. He has never during a number of years had any such
experience again, or suffered the preceding sensation of vagueness.

This, of course, is not a ghost story, but leads up to the old tale of
the wraith of Valogne. In this case, two boys had made a covenant,
the first who died was to appear to the other. He _did_ appear before
news of his death arrived, but after a swoon of his friend's, whose
health (like that of Elizabeth Conley) suffered in consequence.


"PERCEVAL MURDER." Times, 25th May, 1812.

"A Dumfries paper states that on the night of Sunday, the 10th
instant, _twenty-four hours before the fatal deed was perpetrated_, a
report was brought to Bude Kirk, two miles from Annan, that _Mr.
Perceval was shot on his way to the House of Commons, at the door or
in the lobby of that House_. This the whole inhabitants of the
village are ready to attest, as the report quickly spread and became
the topic of conversation. A clergyman investigated the rumour, with
the view of tracing it to its source, but without success."

The Times of 2nd June says, "Report without foundation".

Perth Courier, 28th May, quoting from the Dumfries and Galloway
Courier, repeats above almost verbatim. " . . . The clergyman to
whom we have alluded, and who allows me to make use of his name, is
Mr. Yorstoun, minister of Hoddam. This gentleman went to the spot and
carefully investigated the rumour, but has not hitherto been
successful, although he has obtained the most satisfactory proof of
its having existed at the time we have mentioned. We forbear to make
any comments on this wonderful circumstance, but should anything
further transpire that may tend to throw light upon it, we shall not
fail to give the public earliest information."

The Dumfries and Galloway Courier I cannot find! It is not in the
British Museum.

Transition from Dreams to Waking Hallucinations. Popular Scepticism
about the Existence of Hallucinations in the Sane. Evidence of Mr.
Francis Galton, F.R.S. Scientific Disbelief in ordinary Mental
Imagery. Scientific Men who do not see in "the Mind's Eye". Ordinary
People who do. Frequency of Waking Hallucinations among Mr. Gallon's
friends. Kept Private till asked for by Science. Causes of such
Hallucinations unknown. Story of the Diplomatist. Voluntary or
Induced Hallucinations. Crystal Gazing. Its Universality.
Experience of George Sand. Nature of such Visions. Examples.
Novelists. Crystal Visions only "Ghostly" when Veracious. Modern
Examples. Under the Lamp. The Cow with the Bell Historical Example.
Prophetic Crystal Vision. St. Simon The Regent d'Orleans. The
Deathbed of Louis XIV. References for other Cases of Crystal Visions.

From dreams, in sleep or swoon, of a character difficult to believe in
we pass by way of "hallucinations" to ghosts. Everybody is ready to
admit that dreams do really occur, because almost everybody has
dreamed. But everybody is not so ready to admit that sane and
sensible men and women can have hallucinations, just because everybody
has not been hallucinated.

On this point Mr. Francis Galton, in his Inquiries into Human Faculty
(1833), is very instructive. Mr. Galton drew up a short catechism,
asking people how clearly or how dimly they saw things "in their
mind's eye".

"Think of your breakfast-table," he said; "is your mental picture of
it as clearly illuminated and as complete as your actual view of the
scene?" Mr. Galton began by questioning friends in the scientific
world, F.R.S.'s and other savants. "The earliest results of my
inquiry amazed me. . . . The great majority of the men of science to
whom I first applied, protested that _mental imagery was unknown to
them_, and they looked on me as fanciful and fantastic in supposing
that the words 'mental imagery' really expressed what I believed
everybody supposed them to mean." One gentleman wrote: "It is only
by a figure of speech that I can describe my recollection of a scene
as a 'mental image' which I can 'see' with 'my mind's eye'. I do not
see it," so he seems to have supposed that nobody else did.

When he made inquiries in general society, Mr. Galton found plenty of
people who "saw" mental imagery with every degree of brilliance or
dimness, from "quite comparable to the real object" to "I recollect
the table, but do not see it"--my own position.

Mr. Galton was next "greatly struck by the frequency of the replies in
which my correspondents" (sane and healthy) "described themselves as
subject to 'visions'". These varied in degree, "some were so vivid as
actually to deceive the judgment". Finally, "a notable proportion of
sane persons have had not only visions, but actual hallucinations of
sight at one or more periods of their life. I have a considerable
packet of instances contributed by my personal friends." Thus one
"distinguished authoress" saw "the principal character of one of her
novels glide through the door straight up to her. It was about the
size of a large doll." Another heard unreal music, and opened the
door to hear it better. Another was plagued by voices, which said
"Pray," and so forth.

Thus, on scientific evidence, sane and healthy people may, and "in a
notable proportion _do_, experience hallucinations". That is to say,
they see persons, or hear them, or believe they are touched by them,
or all their senses are equally affected at once, when no such persons
are really present. This kind of thing is always going on, but "when
popular opinion is of a matter-of-fact kind, the seers of visions keep
quiet; they do not like to be thought fanciful or mad, and they hide
their experiences, which only come to light through inquiries such as
those that I have been making".

We may now proceed to the waking hallucinations of sane and healthy
people, which Mr. Galton declares to be so far from uncommon. Into
the _causes_ of these hallucinations which may actually deceive the
judgment, Mr. Galton does not enter.


For example, there is a living diplomatist who knows men and cities,
and has, moreover, a fine sense of humour. "My Lord," said a famous
Russian statesman to him, "you have all the qualities of a
diplomatist, but you cannot control your smile." This gentleman,
walking alone in a certain cloister at Cambridge, met a casual
acquaintance, a well-known London clergyman, and was just about
shaking hands with him, when the clergyman vanished. Nothing in
particular happened to either of them; the clergyman was not in the
seer's mind at the moment.

This is a good example of a solitary hallucination in the experience
of a very cool-headed observer. The _causes_ of such experiences are
still a mystery to science. Even people who believe in "mental
telegraphy," say when a distant person, at death or in any other
crisis, impresses himself as present on the senses of a friend, cannot
account for an experience like that of the diplomatist, an experience
not very uncommon, and little noticed except when it happens to
coincide with some remarkable event. {56b} Nor are such
hallucinations of an origin easily detected, like those of delirium,
insanity, intoxication, grief, anxiety, or remorse. We can only
suppose that a past impression of the aspect of a friend is recalled
by some association of ideas so vividly that (though we are not
_consciously_ thinking of him) we conceive the friend to be actually
present in the body when he is absent.

These hallucinations are casual and unsought. But between these and
the dreams of sleep there is a kind of waking hallucinations which
some people can purposely evoke. Such are the visions of _crystal

Among the superstitions of almost all ages and countries is the belief
that "spirits" will show themselves, usually after magical ceremonies,
to certain persons, commonly children, who stare into a crystal ball,
a cup, a mirror, a blob of ink (in Egypt and India), a drop of blood
(among the Maoris of New Zealand), a bowl of water (Red Indian), a
pond (Roman and African), water in a glass bowl (in Fez), or almost
any polished surface. The magical ceremonies, which have probably
nothing to do with the matter, have succeeded in making this old and
nearly universal belief seem a mere fantastic superstition. But
occasionally a person not superstitious has recorded this experience.
Thus George Sand in her Histoire de ma Vie mentions that, as a little
girl, she used to see wonderful moving landscapes in the polished back
of a screen. These were so vivid that she thought they must be
visible to others.

Recent experiments have proved that an unexpected number of people
have this faculty. Gazing into a ball of crystal or glass, a crystal
or other smooth ring stone, such as a sapphire or ruby, or even into a
common ink-pot, they will see visions very brilliant. These are often
mere reminiscences of faces or places, occasionally of faces or places
sunk deep below the ordinary memory. Still more frequently they
represent fantastic landscapes and romantic scenes, as in an
historical novel, with people in odd costumes coming, going and
acting. Thus I have been present when a lady saw in a glass ball a
man in white Oriental costume kneeling beside a leaping fountain of
fire. Presently a hand appeared pointing downwards through the flame.
The _first_ vision seen pretty often represents an invalid in bed.
Printed words are occasionally read in the glass, as also happens in
the visions beheld with shut eyes before sleeping.

All these kinds of things, in fact, are common in our visions between
sleeping and waking (illusions hypnagogiques). The singularity is
that they are seen by people wide awake in glass balls and so forth.
Usually the seer is a person whose ordinary "mental imagery" is
particularly vivid. But every "visualiser" is not a crystal seer. A
novelist of my acquaintance can "visualise" so well that, having
forgotten an address and lost the letter on which it was written, he
called up a mental picture of the letter, and so discovered the
address. But this very popular writer can see no visions in a crystal
ball. Another very popular novelist can see them; little dramas are
acted out in the ball for his edification. {58}

These things are as unfamiliar to men of science as Mr. Galton found
ordinary mental imagery, pictures in memory, to be. Psychology may or
may not include them in her province; they may or may not come to be
studied as ordinary dreams are studied. But, like dreams, these
crystal visions enter the domain of the ghostly only when they are
_veracious_, and contribute information previously unknown as to past,
present or future. There are plenty of stories to this effect. To
begin with an easy, or comparatively easy, exercise in belief.

Next: Under The Lamp

Previous: The Satin Slippers

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network