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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Book Of Dreams And Ghosts - Chapter IV - OLD FAMILY COACH. RIDING HOME FROM MESS. BRIGHT SCAR. VISION AND THE PORTRAIT
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The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts - Chapter IV - OLD FAMILY COACH. RIDING HOME FROM MESS. BRIGHT SCAR. VISION AND THE PORTRAIT Post by :johnsonproducts Category :Long Stories Author :Andrew Lang Date :July 2011 Read :3188

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The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts - Chapter IV - OLD FAMILY COACH. RIDING HOME FROM MESS. BRIGHT SCAR. VISION AND THE PORTRAIT

CHAPTER IV - OLD FAMILY COACH. RIDING HOME FROM MESS. BRIGHT SCAR. VISION AND THE PORTRAIT

Veracious Waking Hallucinations not recognised by Science; or explained by Coincidence, Imposture, False Memory. A Veracious Hallucination popularly called a Wraith or Ghost. Example of Unveracious Hallucination. The Family Coach. Ghosts' Clothes and other Properties and Practices; how explained. Case of Veracious Hallucination. Riding Home from Mess. Another Case. The Bright Scar. The Vision and the Portrait. Such Stories not usually believed. Cases of Touch: The Restraining Hand. Of Hearing: The Benedictine's Voices; The Voice in the Bath-room. Other "Warnings". The Maoris. The Man at the Lift. Appearances Coincident with Death. Others not Coincident with Anything.

In "crystal-gazing" anybody can make experiments for himself and among such friends as he thinks he can trust. They are hallucinations consciously sought for, and as far as possible, provoked or induced by taking certain simple measures. Unsought, spontaneous waking hallucinations, according to the result of Mr. Galton's researches, though not nearly so common as dreams, are as much facts of sane mental experience. Now every ghost or wraith is a hallucination. You see your wife in the dining-room when she really is in the drawing- room; you see your late great-great-grandfather anywhere. Neither person is really present. The first appearance in popular language is a "wraith"; the second is a "ghost" in ordinary speech. Both are hallucinations.

So far Mr. Galton would go, but mark what follows! Everybody allows the existence of dreams, but comparatively few believe in dream stories of veracious dreams. So every scientific man believes in hallucinations, {68} but few believe in veracious hallucinations. A veracious hallucination is, for our purpose, one which communicates (as veracious dreams do) information not otherwise known, or, at least, not known to the knower to be known. The communication of the knowledge may be done by audible words, with or without an actual apparition, or with an apparition, by words or gestures. Again, if a hallucination of Jones's presence tallies with a great crisis in Jones's life, or with his death, the hallucination is so far veracious in that, at least, it does not seem meaningless. Or if Jones's appearance has some unwonted feature not known to the seer, but afterwards proved to be correct in fact, that is veracious. Next, if several persons successively in the same place, or simultaneously, have a similar hallucination not to be accounted for physically, that is, if not a veracious, a curious hallucination. Once more, if a hallucinatory figure is afterwards recognised in a living person previously unknown, or a portrait previously unseen, that (if the recognition be genuine) is a veracious hallucination. The vulgar call it a wraith of the living, or a ghost of the dead.

Here follow two cases. The first, The Family Coach, {69a} gave no verified intelligence, and would be styled a "subjective hallucination". The second contributed knowledge of facts not previously known to the witness, and so the vulgar would call it a ghost. Both appearances were very rich and full of complicated detail. Indeed, any ghost that wears clothes is a puzzle. Nobody but savages thinks that clothes have ghosts, but Tom Sawyer conjectures that ghosts' clothes "are made of ghost stuff".

As a rule, not very much is seen of a ghost; he is "something of a shadowy being". Yet we very seldom hear of a ghost stark naked; that of Sergeant Davies, murdered in 1749, is one of three or four examples in civilised life. {69b} Hence arises the old question, "How are we to account for the clothes of ghosts?" One obvious reply is that there is no ghost at all, only a hallucination. We do not see people naked, as a rule, in our dreams; and hallucinations, being waking dreams, conform to the same rule. If a ghost opens a door or lifts a curtain in our sight, that, too, is only part of the illusion. The door did not open; the curtain was not lifted. Nay, if the wrist or hand of the seer is burned or withered, as in a crowd of stories, the ghost's hand did not produce the effect. It was produced in the same way as when a hypnotised patient is told that "his hand is burned," his fancy then begets real blisters, or so we are informed, truly or not. The stigmata of St. Francis and others are explained in the same way. {70} How ghosts pull bedclothes off and make objects fly about is another question: in any case the ghosts are not seen in the act.

Thus the clothes of ghosts, their properties, and their actions affecting physical objects, are not more difficult to explain than a naked ghost would be, they are all the "stuff that dreams are made of". But occasionally things are carried to a great pitch, as when a ghost drives off in a ghostly dogcart, with a ghostly horse, whip and harness. Of this complicated kind we give two examples; the first reckons as a "subjective," the second as a veracious hallucination.

THE OLD FAMILY COACH

A distinguished and accomplished country gentleman and politician, of scientific tastes, was riding in the New Forest, some twelve miles from the place where he was residing. In a grassy glade he discovered that he did not very clearly know his way to a country town which he intended to visit. At this moment, on the other side of some bushes a carriage drove along, and then came into clear view where there was a gap in the bushes. Mr. Hyndford saw it perfectly distinctly; it was a slightly antiquated family carriage, the sides were in that imitation of wicker work on green panel which was once so common. The coachman was a respectable family servant, he drove two horses: two old ladies were in the carriage, one of them wore a hat, the other a bonnet. They passed, and then Mr. Hyndford, going through the gap in the bushes, rode after them to ask his way. There was no carriage in sight, the avenue ended in a cul-de-sac of tangled brake, and there were no traces of wheels on the grass. Mr. Hyndford rode back to his original point of view, and looked for any object which could suggest the illusion of one old-fashioned carriage, one coachman, two horses and two elderly ladies, one in a hat and one in a bonnet. He looked in vain--and that is all!

Nobody in his senses would call this appearance a ghostly one. The name, however, would be applied to the following tale of

RIDING HOME FROM MESS

In 1854, General Barter, C.B., was a subaltern in the 75th Regiment, and was doing duty at the hill station of Murree in the Punjaub. He lived in a house built recently by a Lieutenant B., who died, as researches at the War Office prove, at Peshawur on 2nd January, 1854. The house was on a spur of the hill, three or four hundred yards under the only road, with which it communicated by a "bridle path," never used by horsemen. That path ended in a precipice; a footpath led into the bridle path from Mr. Barter's house.__

One evening Mr. Barter had a visit from a Mr. and Mrs. Deane, who stayed till near eleven o'clock. There was a full moon, and Mr. Barter walked to the bridle path with his friends, who climbed it to join the road. He loitered with two dogs, smoking a cigar, and just as he turned to go home, he heard a horse's hoofs coming down the bridle path. At a bend of the path a tall hat came into view, then round the corner, the wearer of the hat, who rode a pony and was attended by two native grooms. "At this time the two dogs came, and crouching at my side, gave low frightened whimpers. The moon was at the full, a tropical moon, so bright that you could see to read a newspaper by its light, and I saw the party above me advance as plainly as if it were noon-day; they were above me some eight or ten feet on the bridle road. . . . On the party came, . . . and now I had better describe them. The rider was in full dinner dress, with white waistcoat and a tall chimney-pot hat, and he sat on a powerful hill pony (dark-brown, with black mane and tail) in a listless sort of way, the reins hanging loosely from both hands." Grooms led the pony and supported the rider. Mr. Barter, knowing that there was no place they could go to but his own house, cried "Quon hai?" (who is it?), adding in English, "Hullo, what the devil do you want here?" The group halted, the rider gathered up the reins with both hands, and turning, showed Mr. Barter the known features of the late Lieutenant B.

He was very pale, the face was a dead man's face, he was stouter than when Mr. Barter knew him and he wore a dark Newgate fringe .

Mr. Barter dashed up the bank, the earth thrown up in making the bridle path crumbled under him, he fell, scrambled on, reached the bridle path where the group had stopped, and found nobody. Mr. Barter ran up the path for a hundred yards, as nobody could go down it except over a precipice, and neither heard nor saw anything. His dogs did not accompany him.

Next day Mr. Barter gently led his friend Deane to talk of Lieutenant B., who said that the lieutenant "grew very bloated before his death, and while on the sick list he allowed the fringe to grow in spite of all we could say to him, and I believe he was buried with it". Mr. Barter then asked where he got the pony, describing it minutely.

"He bought him at Peshawur, and killed him one day, riding in his reckless fashion down the hill to Trete."

Mr. Barter and his wife often heard the horse's hoofs later, though he doubts if any one but B. had ever ridden the bridle path. His Hindoo bearer he found one day armed with a lattie, being determined to waylay the sound, which "passed him like a typhoon". {74} Here the appearance gave correct information unknown previously to General Barter, namely, that Lieutenant B. grew stout and wore a beard before his death, also that he had owned a brown pony, with black mane and tail. Even granting that the ghosts of the pony and lieutenant were present (both being dead), we are not informed that the grooms were dead also. The hallucination, on the theory of "mental telegraphy," was telegraphed to General Barter's mind from some one who had seen Lieutenant B. ride home from mess not very sober, or from the mind of the defunct lieutenant, or, perhaps, from that of the deceased pony. The message also reached and alarmed General Barter's dogs.

Something of the same kind may or may not explain Mr. Hyndford's view of the family coach, which gave no traceable information.

The following story, in which an appearance of the dead conveyed information not known to the seer, and so deserving to be called veracious, is a little ghastly.

THE BRIGHT SCAR

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}

THE VISION AND THE PORTRAIT

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 there.__

"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 was ."

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.

THE RESTRAINING HAND

"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.

THE BENEDICTINE'S VOICES

My friend, as a lad, was in a strait between the choice of two professions. He prayed for enlightenment, and soon afterwards heard an internal voice, advising a certain course. "Did you act on it?" I asked.

"No; I didn't. I considered that in my circumstances it did not demand attention."

Later, when a man grown, he was in his study merely idling over some books on the table, when he heard a loud voice from a corner of the room assert that a public event of great importance would occur at a given date. It did occur. About the same time, being abroad, he was in great anxiety as to a matter involving only himself. Of this he never spoke to any one. On his return to England his mother said, "You were very wretched about so and so".

"How on earth did you know?"

"I heard ---'s voice telling me."

Now --- had died years before, in childhood.

In these cases the Benedictine's own conjecture and his mother's affection probably divined facts, which did not present themselves as thoughts in the ordinary way, but took the form of unreal voices.

There are many examples, as of the girl in her bath who heard a voice say "Open the door" four times, did so, then fainted, and only escaped drowning by ringing the bell just before she swooned.

Of course she might not have swooned if she had not been alarmed by hearing the voices. These tales are dull enough, and many voices, like Dr. Johnson's mother's, when he heard her call his name, she being hundreds of miles away, lead to nothing and are not veracious. When they are veracious, as in the case of dreams, it may be by sheer accident.

In a similar class are "warnings" conveyed by the eye, not by the ear. The Maoris of New Zealand believe that if one sees a body lying across a path or oneself on the opposite side of a river, it is wiser to try another path and a different ford.

THE MAN AT THE LIFT

In the same way, in August, 1890, a lady in a Boston hotel in the dusk rang for the lift, walked along the corridor and looked out of a window, started to run to the door of the lift, saw a man in front of it, stopped, and when the lighted lift came up, found that the door was wide open and that, had she run on as she intended, she would have fallen down the well. Here part of her mind may have known that the door was open, and started a ghost (for there was no real man there) to stop her. Pity that these things do not occur more frequently. They do--in New Zealand. {82}

These are a few examples of useful veracious waking dreams. The sort of which we hear most are "wraiths". A, when awake, meets B, who is dead or dying or quite well at a distance. The number of these stories is legion. To these we advance, under their Highland title, spirits of the living .

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