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The Spectre Of The Broken






The following observations on that singular phenomenon called the
Spectre of the Broken, in Germany, is related by Monsieur J. L. Jordan,
in the following words.

"In the course of my repeated tours through the Harz (mountains in
Germany), I ascended the Broken twelve times: but I had the good fortune
only twice (both times about Whitsuntide) to see that atmospheric
phenomenon called the Spectre of the Broken, which appears to me so
worthy of particular attention, as it must, no doubt, be observed on
other high mountains, which have a situation favourable for producing
it. The first time I was deceived by this extraordinary phenomenon, I
had clambered up to the summit of the Broken very early in the morning,
in order to wait for the inexpressibly beautiful view of the sun rising
in the east. The heavens were already streaked with red; the sun was
just appearing above the horizon in full majesty; and the most perfect
serenity prevailed throughout the surrounding country; when the other
Harz mountains in the south-west, towards the Worm mountains, &c. lying
under the Broken, began to be covered by thick clouds. Ascending at that
moment the granite rocks called the Tempelskanzel, there appeared before
me, though at a great distance, towards the Worm mountains and the
Auchtermanshohe, the gigantic figure of a man, as if standing on a large
pedestal. But scarcely had I discovered it, when it began to disappear;
the clouds sunk down speedily, and expanded; and I saw the phenomenon no
more. The second time, however, I saw this spectre somewhat more
distinctly, a little below the summit of the Broken, and near the
Heinnichshohe, as I was looking at the sun-rising, about four o'clock in
the morning. The weather was rather tempestuous; the sky towards the
level country was pretty clear; but the Harz mountains had attracted
several thick clouds which had been hovering round them, and which,
beginning on the Broken, confined the prospect. In these clouds, soon
after the rising of the sun, I saw my own shadow, of a monstrous size,
move itself, for a couple of seconds, in the clouds; and the phenomenon
disappeared. It is impossible to see this phenomenon, except when the
sun is at such an altitude as to throw his rays upon the body in an
horizontal direction; for if he is higher, the shadow is thrown rather
under the body than before it.

"In the month of September, last year, as I was making a tour through
the Harz with a very agreeable party, and ascended the Broken, I found
an excellent account and explanation of this phenomenon, as seen by M.
Haue on the 23d of May 1797, in his diary of an excursion to that
mountain; I shall therefore take the liberty of transcribing it.

"'After having been here for the thirtieth time,' says M. Haue; 'and,
besides other objects of my attention, having procured information
respecting the above-mentioned atmospheric phenomenon, I was at length
so fortunate as to have the pleasure of seeing it; and, perhaps, my
description may afford satisfaction to others who visit the Broken
through curiosity. The sun rose about four o'clock; and, the atmosphere
being quite serene towards the east, his rays could pass without any
obstruction over the Heinnichshohe. In the south-west, however, towards
the Auchtermaunshohe, a brisk west wind carried before it their
transparent vapours, which were not yet condensed into thick heavy
clouds. About a quarter past four I went towards the inn, and looked
round to see whether the atmosphere would permit me to have a free
prospect to the south-west; when I observed, at a very great distance,
towards the Auchtermaunshohe, a human figure, of a monstrous size. A
violent gust of wind having almost carried away my hat, I clapped my
hand to it by moving my arm towards my head, and the colossal figure did
the same. The pleasure which I felt on this discovery can hardly be
described; for I had already walked many a weary step in the hope of
seeing this shadowy image, without being able to satisfy my curiosity. I
immediately made another movement by bending my body, and the colossal
figure before me repeated it. I was desirous of doing the same thing
once more; but my colossus had vanished. I remained in the same
position, waiting to see whether it would return; and, in a few minutes,
it again made its appearance in the Auchtermaunshohe. I paid my respects
to it a second time, and it did the same to me. I then called the
landlord of the Broken; and, having both taken the same position which I
had taken alone, we looked towards the Auchtermaunshohe, but saw
nothing. We had not, however, stood long, when two such colossal figures
were formed over the above eminence, which repeated our compliment, by
bending their bodies as we did; after which they vanished. We retained
our position, kept our eyes fixed upon the same spot; and, in a little
time, the two figures again stood before us, and were joined by a third.
Every movement that we made by bending our bodies, these figures
imitated; but with this difference, that the phenomenon was sometimes
weak and faint, sometimes strong and well-defined. Having thus had an
opportunity of discovering the whole secret of this phenomenon, I can
give the following information to such of my readers as may be desirous
of seeing it themselves. When the rising sun (and, according to analogy,
the case will be the same at the setting sun) throws his rays over the
Broken upon the body of a man standing opposite to fine light clouds
floating around or hovering past him, he needs only fix his eye
stedfastly upon them, and in all probability he will see the singular
spectacle of his own shadow extending to the length of five or six
hundred feet, at the distance of about two miles from him. This is one
of the most agreeable phenomena I have ever had an opportunity of
remarking on the great observations of Germany.'--"





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