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The Restraining Hand

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

"About twenty years ago," writes Mrs. Elliot, "I received some letters

by post, one of which contained 15 pounds in bank notes. After

reading the letters I went into the kitchen with them in my hands. I

was alone at the time. . . . Having done with the letters, I made an

effort to throw them into the fire, when I distinctly felt my hand

arrested in the act. It was as though another hand were gently laid

upon my own
pressing it back. Much surprised, I looked at my hand

and then saw it contained, not the letters I had intended to destroy,

but the bank notes, and that the letters were in the other hand. I

was so surprised that I called out, 'Who's here?'" {80a}

Nobody will call this "the touch of a vanished hand". Part of Mrs.

Elliot's mind knew what she was about, and started an unreal but

veracious feeling to warn her. We shall come to plenty of Hands not

so readily disposed of.

Next to touch, the sense most apt to be deceived is hearing. Every

one who has listened anxiously for an approaching carriage, has often

heard it come before it came. In the summer of 1896 the writer, with

a lady and another companion, were standing on the veranda at the back

of a house in Dumfriesshire, waiting for a cab to take one of them to

the station. They heard a cab arrive and draw up, went round to the

front of the house, saw the servant open the door and bring out the

luggage, but wheeled vehicle there was none in sound or sight. Yet

all four persons had heard it, probably by dint of expectation.

To hear articulate voices where there are none is extremely common in

madness, {80b} but not very rare, as Mr. Galton shows, among the sane.

When the voices are veracious, give unknown information, they are in

the same case as truthful dreams. I offer a few from the experience,

reported to me by himself, of a man of learning whom I shall call a

Benedictine monk, though that is not his real position in life.