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The Bright Scar

Categories: Waking Hallucinations
Scary Books: The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts
: Andrew Lang

In 1867, Miss G., aged eighteen, died suddenly of cholera in St.

Louis. In 1876 a brother, F. G., who was much attached to her, had

done a good day's business in St. Joseph. He was sending in his

orders to his employers (he is a commercial traveller) and was smoking

a cigar, when he became conscious that some one was sitting on his

left, with one arm on the table. It was his dead sister. He sprang

up to embrace her
(for even on meeting a stranger whom we take for a

dead friend, we never realise the impossibility in the half moment of

surprise) but she was gone. Mr. G. stood there, the ink wet on his

pen, the cigar lighted in his hand, the name of his sister on his

lips. He had noted her expression, features, dress, the kindness of

her eyes, the glow of the complexion, and what he had never seen

before, _a bright red scratch on the right side of her face_.

Mr. G. took the next train home to St. Louis, and told the story to

his parents. His father was inclined to ridicule him, but his mother

nearly fainted. When she could control herself, she said that,

unknown to any one, she had accidentally scratched the face of the

dead, apparently with the pin of her brooch, while arranging something

about the corpse. She had obliterated the scratch with powder, and

had kept the fact to herself. "She told me she _knew_ at least that I

had seen my sister." A few weeks later Mrs. G. died. {75}

Here the information existed in one living mind, the mother's, and if

there is any "mental telegraphy," may thence have been conveyed to Mr.

F. G.

Another kind of cases which may be called veracious, occurs when the

ghost seer, after seeing the ghost, recognises it in a portrait not

previously beheld. Of course, allowance must be made for fancy, and

for conscious or unconscious hoaxing. You see a spook in Castle

Dangerous. You then recognise the portrait in the hall, or elsewhere.

The temptation to recognise the spook rather more clearly than you

really do, is considerable, just as one is tempted to recognise the

features of the Stuarts in the royal family, of the parents in a baby,

or in any similar case.

Nothing is more common in literary ghost stories than for somebody to

see a spectre and afterwards recognise him or her in a portrait not

before seen. There is an early example in Sir Walter Scott's

Tapestried Chamber, which was told to him by Miss Anna Seward.

Another such tale is by Theophile Gautier. In an essay on Illusions

by Mr. James Sully, a case is given. A lady (who corroborated the

story to the present author) was vexed all night by a spectre in

armour. Next morning she saw, what she had not previously observed, a

portrait of the spectre in the room. Mr. Sully explains that she had

seen the portrait _unconsciously_, and dreamed of it. He adds the

curious circumstance that other people have had the same experience in

the same room, which his explanation does not cover. The following

story is published by the Society for Psychical Research, attested by

the seer and her husband, whose real names are known, but not

published. {76}