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In Tavistock Place {93}

Categories: Out of Body
Scary Books: The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts
: Andrew Lang

"In the latter part of the autumn of 1878, between half-past three and

four in the morning, I was leisurely walking home from the house of a

sick friend. A middle-aged woman, apparently a nurse, was slowly

following, going in the same direction. We crossed Tavistock Square

together, and emerged simultaneously into Tavistock Place. The

streets and squares were deserted, the morning bright and calm, my

health excellen
, nor did I suffer from anxiety or fatigue. A man

suddenly appeared, striding up Tavistock Place, coming towards me, and

going in a direction opposite to mine. When first seen he was

standing exactly in front of my own door (5 Tavistock Place). Young

and ghastly pale, he was dressed in evening clothes, evidently made by

a foreign tailor. Tall and slim, he walked with long measured strides

noiselessly. A tall white hat, covered thickly with black crape, and

an eyeglass, completed the costume of this strange form. The

moonbeams falling on the corpse-like features revealed a face well

known to me, that of a friend and relative. The sole and only person

in the street beyond myself and this being was the woman already

alluded to. She stopped abruptly, as if spell-bound, then rushing

towards the man, she gazed intently and with horror unmistakable on

his face, which was now upturned to the heavens and smiling ghastly.

She indulged in her strange contemplation but during very few seconds,

then with extraordinary and unexpected speed for her weight and age

she ran away with a terrific shriek and yell. This woman never have I

seen or heard of since, and but for her presence I could have

explained the incident: called it, say, subjection of the mental

powers to the domination of physical reflex action, and the man's

presence could have been termed a false impression on the retina.

"A week after this event, news of this very friend's death reached me.

It occurred on the morning in question. From the family I learned

that according to the rites of the Greek Church and the custom of the

country he resided in, he was buried in his evening clothes made

abroad by a foreign tailor, and strange to say, he wore goloshes over

his boots, according also to the custom of the country he died in. . .

. When in England, he lived in Tavistock Place, and occupied my rooms

during my absence." {95a}


"In the month of November (1785 or 1786), Sir John Sherbrooke and

Colonel Wynyard were sitting before dinner in their barrack room at

Sydney Cove, in America. It was duskish, and a candle was placed on a

table at a little distance. A figure dressed in plain clothes and a

good round hat, passed gently between the above people and the fire.

While passing, Sir J. Sherbrooke exclaimed, 'God bless my soul, who's


"Almost at the same moment Colonel W. said, 'That's my brother John

Wynyard, and I am sure he is dead'. Colonel W. was much agitated, and

cried and sobbed a great deal. Sir John said, 'The fellow has a

devilish good hat; I wish I had it'. (Hats were not to be got there

and theirs were worn out.) They immediately got up (Sir John was on

crutches, having broken his leg), took a candle and went into the

bedroom, into which the figure had entered. They searched the bed and

every corner of the room to no effect; the windows were fastened up

with mortar. . . .

"They received no communication from England for about five months,

when a letter from Mr. Rush, the surgeon (Coldstream Guards),

announced the death of John Wynyard at the moment, as near as could be

ascertained, when the figure appeared. In addition to this

extraordinary circumstance, Sir John told me that two years and a half

afterwards he was walking with Lilly Wynyard (a brother of Colonel W.)

in London, and seeing somebody on the other side of the way, he

recognised, he thought, the person who had appeared to him and Colonel

Wynyard in America. Lilly Wynyard said that the person pointed out

was a Mr. Eyre (Hay?), that he and John Wynyard were frequently

mistaken for each other, and that money had actually been paid to this

Mr. Eyre in mistake."

A famous tale of an appearance is Lord Brougham's. His Lordship was

not reckoned precisely a veracious man; on the other hand, this was

not the kind of fable he was likely to tell. He was brought up under

the regime of common-sense. "On all such subjects my father was very

sceptical," he says. To disbelieve Lord Brougham we must suppose

either that he wilfully made a false entry in his diary in 1799, or

that in preparing his Autobiography in 1862, he deliberately added a

falsehood--and then explained his own marvel away!


"December 19, 1799.

" . . . At one in the morning, arriving at a decent inn (in Sweden),

we decided to stop for the night, and found a couple of comfortable

rooms. Tired with the cold of yesterday, I was glad to take advantage

of a hot bath before I turned in. And here a most remarkable thing

happened to me--so remarkable that I must tell the story from the


"After I left the High School, I went with G---, my most intimate

friend, to attend the classes in the University. . . . We actually

committed the folly of drawing up an agreement, written with our

blood, to the effect that whichever of us died the first should appear

to the other, and thus solve any doubts we had entertained of 'the

life after death'. G--- went to India, years passed, and," says Lord

Brougham, "I had nearly forgotten his existence. I had taken, as I

have said, a warm bath, and while lying in it and enjoying the comfort

of the heat, I turned my head round, looking towards the chair on

which I had deposited my clothes, as I was about to get out of the

bath. On the chair sat G---, looking calmly at me. How I got out of

the bath I know not, but on recovering my senses I found myself

sprawling on the floor. The apparition, or whatever it was that had

taken the likeness of G---, had disappeared. . . . So strongly was I

affected by it that I have here written down the whole history, with

the date, 19th December, and all the particulars as they are now fresh

before me. No doubt I had fallen asleep" (he has just said that he

was awake and on the point of leaving the bath), "and that the

appearance presented so distinctly to my eyes was a dream I cannot for

a moment doubt. . . ."

On 16th October, 1862, Lord Brougham copied this extract for his

Autobiography, and says that on his arrival in Edinburgh he received a

letter from India, announcing that G--- had died on 19th December. He

remarks "singular coincidence!" and adds that, considering the vast

number of dreams, the number of coincidences is perhaps fewer than a

fair calculation of chances would warrant us to expect.

This is a concession to common-sense, and argues an ignorance of the

fact that sane and (apparently) waking men may have hallucinations.

On the theory that we _may_ have inappreciable moments of sleep when

we think ourselves awake, it is not an ordinary but an extraordinary

coincidence that Brougham should have had that peculiar moment of the

"dream" of G--- on the day or night of G---'s death, while the

circumstance that he had made a compact with G--- multiplies the odds

against accident in a ratio which mathematicians may calculate.

Brougham was used to dreams, like other people; he was not shocked by

them. This "dream" "produced such a shock that I had no inclination

to talk about it". Even on Brougham's showing, then, this dream was a

thing unique in his experience, and not one of the swarm of visions of

sleep. Thus his including it among these, while his whole language

shows that he himself did not really reckon it among these, is an

example of the fallacies of common-sense. He completes his fallacy by

saying, "It is not much more wonderful than that a person whom we had

no reason to expect should appear to us at the very moment we had been

thinking or speaking of him". But Lord Brougham had _not_ been

speaking or thinking of G---; "there had been nothing to call him to

my recollection," he says. To give his logic any value, he should

constantly when (as far as he knew) awake, have had dreams that

"shocked" him. Then _one_ coincidence would have had no assignable

cause save ordinary accident.

If Lord Brougham fabled in 1799 or in 1862, he did so to make a

"sensation". And then he tried to undo it by arguing that his

experience was a thoroughly commonplace affair.

We now give a very old story, "The Dying Mother". If the reader will

compare it with Mr. Cleave's case, "An Astral Body," in this chapter,

he will be struck by the resemblance. Mr. Cleave and Mrs. Goffe were

both in a trance. Both wished to see persons at a distance. Both

saw, and each was seen, Mrs. Goffe by her children's nurse; Mr. Cleave

by the person whom he wished to see, but _not_ by a small boy also