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The Vision And The Portrait

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

Mrs. M. writes (December 15, 1891) that before her vision she had

heard nothing about hauntings in the house occupied by herself and her

husband, and nothing about the family sorrows of her predecessors


"One night, on retiring to my bedroom about 11 o'clock, I thought I

heard a peculiar moaning sound, and some one sobbing as if in great

distress of mind. I listened very attentively, and still it
continued; so I raised the gas in my bedroom, and then went to the

window on the landing, drew the blind aside, and there on the grass

was a very beautiful young girl in a kneeling posture, before a

soldier in a general's uniform, sobbing and clasping her hands

together, entreating for pardon, but alas! he only waved her away from

him. So much did I feel for the girl that I ran down the staircase to

the door opening upon the lawn, and begged her to come in and tell me

her sorrow. The figures then disappeared gradually, as in a

dissolving view. Not in the least nervous did I feel then; went again

to my bedroom, took a sheet of writing-paper, and wrote down what I

had seen." {77}

Mrs. M., whose husband was absent, began to feel nervous, and went to

another lady's room.

She later heard of an old disgrace to the youngest daughter of the

proud family, her predecessors in the house. The poor girl tried in

vain to win forgiveness, especially from a near relative, a soldier,

Sir X. Y.

"So vivid was my remembrance of the features of the soldier, that some

months after the occurrence [of the vision] when I called with my

husband at a house where there was a portrait of him, I stepped before

it and said, 'Why, look! there is the General!' And sure enough it


Mrs. M. had not heard that the portrait was in the room where she saw

it. Mr. M. writes that he took her to the house where he knew it to

be without telling her of its existence. Mrs. M. turned pale when she

saw it. Mr. M. knew the sad old story, but had kept it to himself.

The family in which the disgrace occurred, in 1847 or 1848, were his

relations. {78}

This vision was a veracious hallucination; it gave intelligence not

otherwise known to Mrs. M., and capable of confirmation, therefore the

appearances would be called "ghosts". The majority of people do not

believe in the truth of any such stories of veracious hallucinations,

just as they do not believe in veracious dreams. Mr. Galton, out of

all his packets of reports of hallucinations, does not even allude to

a veracious example, whether he has records of such a thing or not.

Such reports, however, are ghost stories, "which we now proceed," or

continue, "to narrate". The reader will do well to remember that

while everything ghostly, and not to be explained by known physical

facts, is in the view of science a hallucination, every hallucination

is not a ghost for the purposes of story-telling. The hallucination

must, for story-telling purposes, be _veracious_.

Following our usual method, we naturally begin with the anecdotes

least trying to the judicial faculties, and most capable of an

ordinary explanation. Perhaps of all the senses, the sense of touch,

though in some ways the surest, is in others the most easily deceived.

Some people who cannot call up a clear mental image of things seen,

say a saltcellar, can readily call up a mental revival of the feeling

of touching salt. Again, a slight accidental throb, or leap of a

sinew or vein, may feel so like a touch that we turn round to see who

touched us. These familiar facts go far to make the following tale

more or less conceivable.