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APPARITIONS, supernormal appearances suggesting the real presence of someone distant or dead, or reminding of the latter's continuity of existence. The perception is visual, mostly spontaneous, but sometimes it may be experimentally induced. The state of the percipient may be normal (waking or dream state) or abnormal, the agent may be living or dead. The first systematic inquiry into the reality of phantasmal appearances was instituted by the Society for Psychical Research in 1882. The result was embodied in the Phantasms of the Living by Myers, Podmore and Gurney. It was published in 1886 after 5,705 persons, chosen at random, had been canvassed for eventual phantasmal visions within the previous 12 years. It concluded: "Between death and apparitions a connection exists not due to chance alone. This we hold a proved fact." As the scientific world did not consider the evidence of 702 accepted cases sufficient for such a momentous conclusion, an international statistical inquiry, called the Census of Hallucination, was decided upon in 1889. Thirty-two thousand answers were received, 17,000 in English. The report published in 1894 fills almost the whole of Volume X of the Proceedings. Chance coincidence was more powerfully ruled out than before and the previous conclusion has been confirmed. The enquiry of the American S.P.R. and the census of Flammarion have led to the same result.
The belief in apparitions is as old as humanity. But the scientific age has reduced the phantoms to human shapes. No more do we encounter accounts like Plutarch's of Brutus: "A little before he left Asia he was sitting alone in his tent, by a dim light, and at a late hour. The whole army lay in sleep and silence, while the general, wrapped in meditation, thought he perceived something enter his tent; turning towards the door he saw a horrible and monstrous spectre standing silently by his side. "What art thou" said he boldly. "Art thou God or man, and what is thy business with me?" The spectre answered, "I am thy evil genius, Brutus! Thou wilt see me at Philippi." To which he calmly replied, "I'll meet thee there." When the apparition was gone he called his servants, who told him they had neither heard any voice, nor seen any vision."
About the true nature of apparitions we do not know much. As Andrew Lang stated: "Only one thing is certain about apparitions, namely this that they do appear. They really are perceived." How are they seen? When Lord Adare submitted this question to the control of D. D. Home, he received the following answer "At times we make passes over the individual to cause him to see us, sometimes we make the actual resemblance of our former clothing, and of what we were, so that we appear exactly as we were known to you on earth; sometimes we project an image that you see, sometimes you see us as we are, with a cloud-like aura of light around us."
The perception is not restricted to the small hours of the night or to times of seclusion. It may occur at the most unexpected moments and publicly. A ghost in evening dress was seen one morning in a London street in 1878. The Daily Telegraph reported: "A woman fled in affright, the figure had a most cadaverous look, but the next person the apparition encountered recognized it as that of a friend, a foreigner." This next person was Dr. Armand Leslie. His friend was found dead in evening clothes in a foreign city at the time his phantasm was seen. However, occurrences like this are very rare. In the majority of cases there is some mediumistic intervention or some sufficiently potent driving motive to achieve the manifestation to non-sensitive people provided they happen to be in a receptive state. An instance of the first is Cromwell Varley's oft-quoted testimony before the London Dialectical Society in 1869: "In the Winter of 1864-5 I was busy with the Atlantic cable. I left a gentleman at Birmingham to test the iron wire. He had seen something of Spiritualism but he did not believe in it. He had had a brother whom I had never seen in life. One night in my room there were a great number of loud raps. When at length I sat up in bed I saw a man in the air-a spirit-in military dress. I could see the pattern of the paper on the wall through him. Mrs. Varley did not see it. She was in a peculiar state and became entranced. The spirit spoke to me through her. He told me his name and said that he had seen his brother in Birmingham but that what he had to communicate was not understood. He asked me to write a message to his brother, which I did, and received an answer from Birmingham "Yes, I know my brother has seen you, for he came to me and was able to make known as much." The spirit informed me that when at school in France he was stabbed. This fact was only known to his eldest surviving brother and his mother. When I narrated this to the survivor he turned very pale and confirmed it."
Why do they appear?
The driving motive is usually an urgent message of extreme danger, worry, illness or death on the part of the agent. But it is also often a warning of impending danger or death of someone closely connected to the percipient. The mode of delivery in the first group may disclose a confused, perturbed mentality. A phantom form may rush into a room and alarm the inhabitants by its sudden appearance or by the noises it makes. The purpose, nevertheless, is mostly clear and the apparition may come back more than once as if to make sure that the information of the fact of decease was duly understood. Sometimes more is conveyed, especially in cases of accidental or violent death. Successive pictures may arise as if in a vision of the state of the body or of subsequent steps taken in regard to it.
The announcement of death may be quite explicit as in the case of Proceedings S.P.R. Vol. X. p. 380-82 . "On June 5th, 1887, a Sunday evening, between eleven and twelve at night, being awake, my name was called three times. I answered twice, thinking it was my uncle, "Come in, Uncle George, I am awake," but the third time I recognized the voice as that of my mother, who had been dead sixteen years. I said "Mamma!" She then came round a screen near my bedside with two children in her arms, and placed them in my arms and put the bedclothes over them, and said "Lucy, promise me to take care of them, for their mother is just dead." I said "Yes, Mamma."
She repeated: "Promise me to take care of them." I replied "Yes, I promise you," and I added: "Oh, Mamma, stay and speak to me, I am so wretched." She replied: "Not yet, my child." Then she seemed to go round the screen again, and I remained, feeling the children to be still in my arms, and fell asleep. When I awoke, there was nothing. Tuesday morning, June 7th, I received the news of my sister-in-law's death. She had given birth to a child three weeks before which I did not know till after her death."
In a similar case a mother brought the news of the death of her grandson by drowning, the drowned man also appearing to the percipient. In an instance quoted by Flammarion in The Unknown, the percipient, whose brother was killed in the attack at Sedan awoke suddenly during the night and saw "opposite to the window and beside my bed my brother on his knees surrounded by a sort of luminous mist. I tried to speak to him but I could not. I jumped out of bed. I looked out of the window and I saw there was no moonlight. The night was dark and it was raining heavily, great drops pattering on the window panes. My poor Oliver was still there. Then I drew near. I walked right through the apparition. I reached my chamber door, and as I turned the knob to open I looked back once more. The apparition slowly turned its head towards me, and gave me another look full of anguish and love. Then for the first time I observed a wound on his right temple, and from it trickled a little stream of blood. The face was pale as wax, but it was transparent." A letter later received proved that the dead man had a wound corresponding to that shown by the apparition.
The warning of death is sometimes veiled. The type is well illustrated by the instance recorded by the A.S.P.R. of a commercial traveller who, in a distant city, had suddenly seen the phantasmal appearance of his sister, full of life and natural, with a bright red scratch on the right side of her face. Perturbed by the vision he immediately broke his journey. At home his mother nearly fainted when the scar was mentioned. Nobody knew of it. She had accidentally scratched her daughter's face after her death and carefully obliterated all the traces with powder. A few weeks later the mother died. But for the vision her son would not have seen her in life again. It is known that Josephine appeared to Napoleon at St. Helena and warned him of his approaching death-Mozart saw an apparition who ordered him to compose a Requiem and frequently came to inquire after its progress. The Requiem was completed just in 'time to be played at his own funeral.
The message is usually brief as if the power to convey it were limited. The apparition seems to be drawn to the spot by the personality of the percipient. The place may have been totally unknown to him when in life. It may be a boat on the open sea. When a picture, for instance, a scene in a death chamber, is presented, the alternative explanation of clairvoyance should be considered. In a curious group of cases images are seen instead of the lifelike figure. Miss Anna Blackwell testified to such an experience before the Dialectical Committee. The face of a beloved relative, like a life-size daguerrotype, appeared on a window pane of the house opposite to her window. It faded away several times, and appeared again. There seemed to be upon the pane a sort of dark iridescence out of which the face evolved, each appearance lasting about eight seconds, and each being darker and fainter than the preceding one. She also quoted the case of Mrs. M. G. who in the tortoise-shell handle of a new parasol saw the face of Charles Dickens soon after his death. The face was small but with every feature perfectly distinct; and as she gazed upon it in utter amazement, the eyes moved and the mouth smiled.
These images usually appear on polished surfaces. They may be seen by several people and they disappear after a while. In Vol. 11. of Phantasms of the Living there is recorded an apparition of this kind of Capt. Towns which was witnessed by eight people. His face was seen on the polished surface of a wardrobe six weeks after his death.
In seeing apparitions of the dead or the dying, the percipients often feel a chilliness. The phenomenon may be related to the cold air of the is also suggestive that in those cases sleep together and one suddenly wakes to see an apparition the other is in abnormally deep sleep.
Shackleton's experience, recorded in his book South, borders on abnormal perception: "I know that during that long and racking march of 36 hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to me often that we were four, not three. I said nothing to my companions on the point, but afterwards Worsley said to me: "Boss, I had a curious feeling on the march that there was another person with us." Crean confessed to the same idea. Being interviewed by the Daily Telegraph (February 1, 1922) on this point, he said: "None of us cares to speak about that. There are some things which can never be spoken of. Almost to hint about them comes perilously near sacrilege. This experience was eminently one of those things."
Apparitions may be accompanied by bright light. A case in the Proceedings of the American S.P.R. (Vol. I. p. 405) proves objectivity. A physician and his wife, sleeping in separate but adjoining rooms, were awakened by a bright light. The physician saw a figure, his wife got up and went into her husband's room to see what the light was. By that time the figure had disappeared. In the Rev. Tweedale's house the disappearance of a phantom on Nov. 14th, 1908, was accompanied by a big flash of light and a cloud of smoke which filled the kitchen and the passage. The smoke had no ordinary smell. On another occasion the figure touched and spoke to his wife, then dissolved into a pillar of black vapor.
There are some cases in which the apparition is behind the percipient yet clearly seen. Again, the phantom may appear quite solid yet objects may be seen beyond it. Occasionally it is a reflection only. Mrs. Scarle (Phantasms of the Living, Vol. 8. p. 35) fainted. Her husband saw her head and face white and bloodless about the same time in a looking glass upon a window opposite him.
Apparitions seen at death-beds are in a class of their own. In these so-called "meeting cases" it appears as if deceased friends, relatives would hasten to the borderland to extend a welcome to the dying.
"The dying person," writes Miss Frances Power Cobbe, in Peak in Darien, "is lying quietly, when suddenly, in the very act of expiring, he looks upsometimes starts up in bed-and gazes on what appears to be vacancy, with an expression of astonishment, sometimes developing instantly into joy, and sometimes cut short in the first emotion of solemn wonder and awe. If the dying man were to see some utterly-unexpected but instantly recognized vision, causing him great surprise, or rapturous joy, his face could not better reveal the fact. The very instant this phenomenon occurs, Death is actually taking place, and the eyes glaze even while they gaze at the unknown sight."
There are numbers of cases on record to prove that such supernormal perception and death are not always simultaneous. "Among all the facts adduced to prove survival these seem to me to be the most disquieting," writes Professor Richet who tries to explain all the spiritistic facts by his theory of cryptesthesia. Hallucination is effectively barred out by those cases in which others in the room also perceive the phantom forms but there is sufficient evidence for a genuine phenomenon if the person was not known to be dead to the dying at the moment of perception, or if independent evidence comes forth to prove that the perception was veridical. A striking illustration of the latter instance is the case of Elisa Mannors whose near relatives and friends, concerned in the communications received through Mrs. Piper, were known to Dr. Hodgson. His account (Proc. S.P.R. Vol. XIII. p. 378) says:
"The notice of his (F., an uncle of Elisa Mannors) death was in a Boston morning paper, and I happened to see it on my way to the sitting. The first writing of the sitting came from Madame Elisa, without my expecting it. She wrote clearly and strongly, explaining that F. was there with her, but unable to speak directly, that she wished to give me an account of how she had helped F. to reach her. She said that she had been present at his deathbed, and had spoken to him, and she repeated what she had said, an unusual form of expression, and indicated that he had heard and recognized her. This was confirmed in detail in the only way possible at the time, by a very intimate friend of Mme. Elisa and myself, and also of the nearest surviving relative of F. I showed my friend the account of the sitting, and to this friend, a day or two later, the relative, who was present at the deathbed, stated spontaneously that F. when dying said that he saw Madame Elisa who was speaking to him, and he repeated what she was saying. The expression so repeated, which the relative quoted to my friend, was that which I had received from Madame Elisa through Mrs. Piper's trance when the death-bed incident was, of course, entirely unknown to me."
As Ernesto Bozzano points out, a curious feature of these visions is that the dying only claim to see deceased persons, whereas, if his thoughts alone would be concerned in it, he might be expected to see living persons as frequently as deceased ones. Again, even people who have been skeptical of survival all their life sometimes have given evidence of such visions. The effect on those who witness such rending of the veil is very dramatic. Dr. Wilson of New York who was present at the death of the well-known American tenor, Mr. James Moore, wrote:
"Then something which I shall never forget to my dying day happened, something which is utterly indescribable. While he appeared perfectly rational and as sane as any man I have ever seen, the only way that I can express it is that he was transported into another world, and although I cannot satisfactorily explain the matter to myself, I am fully convinced that he, had entered the Golden City-for he said in a stronger voice than he had used since I had attended him: 'There is Mother. Why, Mother, have you come here to see me? No, no, I'm coming to see you. Just wait, Mother, I am almost over. I can jump it. Wait, Mother.' On his face there was a look of inexpressible happiness, and the way in which he said the words impressed me as I have never been before, and I am as firmly convinced that he saw and talked with his mother as I am that I am sitting here."
In his Psychic Facts and Theories, Dr. Minot J. Savage quotes the following well authenticated instance in which the death in question was not known to the dying:
"In a neighboring city were two little girls, Jennie and Edith, one about eight years of age, and the other but a little older. They were schoolmates and intimate friends. In June, 1889, both were taken ill with diphtheria. At noon on Wednesday Jennie died. Then the parents of Edith, and her physician as well, took particular pains to keep from her the fact that her little playmate was gone. They feared the effect of the knowledge on her own condition. To prove that they succeeded and that she did not know, it may be mentioned that on Saturday, June 8th, at noon, just before she became unconscious of all that was passing about her, she selected two of her photographs to be sent to Jennie, and also told her attendants to bid her goodbye. She died at half-past six o'clock on the evening of Saturday, June 8th. She had roused and .bidden her friends goodbye, and was talking of dying and seemed to have no fear. She appeared to see one and another of the friends she knew were dead. So far it was like the common cases. But now suddenly, and with every appearance of surprise, she turned to her father and exclaimed Why, papa, I am going to take Jennie with me! Then she added "Why, papa, why, papa, you did not tell me that Jennie was here." And immediately she reached out her arms as if in welcome, and said: "Oh, Jennie, I am so glad you are here ... . . . .
Stainton Moses is quoted by Prof. Richet as the source of the following case: Miss H., the daughter of an English clergyman, was tending a dying child. His little brother aged three to four years, was in a little bed in the same room. As the former was dying, the child woke up, and, pointing to the ceiling with every expression of joy, said: "Mother, look at the beautiful ladies round my brother. How lovely they are, they want to take him." The elder child died at that moment.
There is a group of cases in which only some sort of a presence is felt or a cloud of depression experienced which becomes instantly relieved when the actual news of death arrives. Phenomena of sound are often recorded in place of a visual apparition. Sometimes they attempt to prove identity, imitating the professional work of the departed, for instance the work in a carpenter's shop. They differ from Poltergeist phenomena as the latter do not coincide with death.
If no definite message is conveyed, the apparition may be explained by a continued interest in earthly occupations. The spirit apparently cannot adjust himself immediately to his new surroundings, he may be seen for a while in his favourite haunts or at his usual work, being somehow enabled, when recently freed from the body, to enjoy a fuller perception of earthly scenes than it is afterwards possible to retain.
Knowledge and memory are the two main characteristics of after-death apparitions. Local apparitions which are attached to no persons usually degenerate into mere spectral automatons, as witnessed in haunted houses. Somewhat similar, yet belonging to a different class, is a case of apparitions en masse reported by Mrs. Sidgwick in Proceedings S.P.R. Vol. III. p. 76: "Two ladies, Mrs. F. and her sister, saw in the street during a thick fog numerous human forms passing by. Some were tall persons who seemed to enter the body of one of the two sisters. The servant who was with the two ladies cried out in terror. In this crowd of phantoms there were men, women and dogs. The women wore high bonnets and large shawls of old fashion. Their faces were livid and cadaverous. The whole phantasmal troop accompanied Mrs. F. and her sister about three hundred yards. Sometimes they seemed to be lit up by a kind of yellow light. When Mrs. F., her sister and the servant reached their home, only one single individual of the crowd, taller than the others and hideous in appearance, remained. He then disappeared also." Prolonged apparitions are very rare, and possibly serve some deeper purpose as in the case of the sailor Spring, who saw beside him on his ship during a storm, his father on the bridge for two hours. The message of the apparition is, as a rule, simple and appears to be chosen intelligently in the form which may best suit the percipient's power of understanding. An apparition with empty eye sockets perceived by a sailor's wife, the sound of a terrific storm, the image of a coffin conveys the intended message nearly as efficiently as the spoken words. The percipient appears to be curiously receptive in such moments and seldom exhibits astonishment at the most unlikely things.
Death-compacts offer another fruitful field of study. There are cases on record when the apparition concerned was perceived not after death but before, at the moment of a dangerous accident. In Phantasms of the Living there are 12 such cases recorded, the apparition having appeared within twelve hours of the death. In three cases the agent was still alive. It appears as if such a compact would act effectively both on the subconscious before death and on the spirit after death. How long the efforts as a result of such a compact may continue we cannot tell. It is usually fulfilled shortly after death, but in some cases after years. The living party to the compact may not be sufficiently sensitive to be successfully impressed and others may see a phantom of the departed much sooner than he.
The genesis of apparitions
Are apparitions objective, produced in space, or are they subjectively seen as the result of a telepathic impact from the agent? This is the crux of the problem. The answer is a qualified one as the subjective nature of the apparition is often unquestionable. Helen Smith wrote to Prof. Flournoy in 1926 of an Italian spiritualist from whom she received a letter. She decided to ask him for details of his life. Suddenly, she heard a knock at the door, three sharp and distinct raps, the door opened and she saw a man, holding in each hand a small wickerwork basket, containing grain of different kinds. He made a sign, inviting her attention to the baskets. Two minutes afterwards he disappeared. The door was found shut. After sending off the intended letter, a photograph came, the exact reproduction of the man seen, with the information that the writer was a dealer in corn still living in Genoa.
The objectivity of any apparition could best be decided by the means of the camera. Circumstances, however, are very seldom such that would make possible the acquisition of such evidence. There is, however, a well authenticated case, furnished by the Rev. Charles L. Tweedale, Vicar of Weston. He photographed in the breakfast room of the vicarage an old man who was clairvoyantly seen by Mrs. Tweedale. The photographs obtained by spirit photographers belong to a different class as there is no perceptible apparition during the process.
Nevertheless the photograph of the Combermere ghost demands consideration here. Lady C. had taken for a summer Lord Combermere's country house, Combermere Abbey, in Cheshire. The library in the house was a fine paneled room and the new tenant was anxious to secure a photograph of it. Accordingly, placing her half-plate camera on its stand in a favorable position-fronting the unoccupied carved oak arm chair on which Lord Combermere always used to sit-she opened a new box of photographic plates in the dark room, put a plate in the dark slide, and after focussing the, camera, inserted and exposed the plate. On developing the plate by herself, she was amazed to find the figure of a leg-less old man seated in the carved oak arm chair. The curious coincidence that Lord Combermere was buried a few miles from his country house at the very time the photograph was taken led to the surmise whether the ghostly figure resembled the late nobleman. Opinions of the family differed but on the whole it was considered to be like him, especially in the peculiar attitude which was habitual to him when seated in his chair. But Sir William Barrett who investigated the case and reported on it in the Journal S.P.R., December, 1895, was not satisfied. Working on the theory that a man servant may have come in and seated himself in the chair he took a test photograph and got a picture which was almost a duplicate of the Combermere photograph. With this the matter was ended but-as he tells in On the Threshold of the Unseen-some time later he received a letter from Lord Combermere's daughter-in-law in which she said:
"The face was always too indistinct to be quite convincing to me, though some of his children had no doubt at all of the identity. I may add, none of the men servants in the house in the least resembled the figure and were all young men; whilst the outside men were all attending the funeral, which was taking place at the Church four miles off, at the very time the photograph was being done."
This testimony induced Sir William Barrett to change his opinion.
The question whether an objective apparition is simply an effigy or the actual presence of whom it represents is satisfactorily settled in J. N. Maskelyne's account of a drowning experience of his (M.A.P., April 22nd, 1899) He said: "One thing, however, did appear to my mental vision as plainly as though it were actually before my eyes. That was the form of my mother, engaged upon her household duties. Upon returning home, I was utterly astonished to find that she had been as conscious of my danger as I had been, and at the moment when I was so near death." It seems that when his past life flashed by in the moment of drowning the last thoughts of Maskelyne dwelt on his mother with the effect that he found his mental self gazing at her. Many other apparitions may be simply thought forms, reflections of intense mental anguish experienced in some time past in certain places which are now called haunted or, as Myers suggested, they may be visible dreams of the dead.
Gurney, writing in 1888, believed that there are three conditions which might establish a presumption that an apparition or other immediate manifestation of a dead person is something more than a subjective hallucination. Either (1) more persons than one might be independently affected by the phenomenon, or (2) the phantasm might convey information, afterwards discovered to be true, of something which the percipient had never known; or (3) the appearance might be that of a person whom the percipient himself had never seen, and of whose aspect he was ignorant, and yet his description of it might be sufficiently definite for identification. Gurney also noted that the high number of phantasmal appearances shortly after death is also very suggestive as the calculation of probabilities for telepathic impressions from the living would not result in such a disproportionate number. The telepathic explanation of apparitions presents many difficulties. One has to suppose that a dying man can visualize himself and his condition sufficiently clearly to project a telepathic image as distinctly as perceived. It is also strange that intense concentration at such critical moments should result in the transmission of an image of oneself and not on the reverse, in the perception of the person in the mind of the dying. In experimental thought transference it is always the idea on which the agent concentrates that is perceived by the percipients. On the other hand in the projection-of-the-double experiments the agent always concentrates on the person to whom he wishes to appear and not on himself. But again in such cases the agent often sees the percipient and brings back an account which can be subsequently verified. This speaks for the real presence of the agent and for the insufficiency of the telepathic impact theory.
Apparently the telepathic impulse is first registered on the unconscious part of the mind. If so, the impression may be latent for a time. Strong preoccupation of the conscious mind with the business of life may prevent its emergence. This would explain why the vision of an apparition does not always coincide in time with the actual happening. In Phantasms of the Living such deferred telepathic perceptions are admitted within a period of 12 hours. On the other hand, the theory does not bar out the other, that there is an actual presence which does not always find the mind of the percipient sufficiently receptive to take cognition. Reciprocal perceptions are also on record. The telepathic theory has to be twisted and modified to cover the wide range of supernormal perceptions. In case of accidental death, the apparition is sometimes seen at the moment of death, sometimes after it. Does the mind transform the picture of deadly danger into a picture of death? If this were true we would come across many cases in which the vision of death w as premature as the accident did not prove fatal. Again, in cases of suicides the apparition is often found to precede the actual commission of the act. It would seem very credible that brooding over the fatal act and its possible effect on close relations produces a telepathic image. By all means, the telepathic theory would account for the clothes worn by the ghosts and would eliminate suggestions as that of d'Assier of the ghosts of garments. But it meets with difficulties in cases when animals are stricken with terror and when they register alarm before the man suspects anything unusual. The greatest stumbling block in the way of the telepathic theory, as an all-inclusive explanation, is presented by those cases in which the apparition is collectively perceived. Gurney attempted to explain these cases by a fresh telepathic transmission which takes place from the percipient's mind to the mind of his neighbors. This theory is obviously inadequate. There is nothing to prove its possibility. The hallucinations of the insane or the visions seen in delirium tremens are never communicated to those around them. Why should such a communication take place in cases of apparitions, coinciding with the death of someone distant? What happened when the percipient appeared to have traveled to a distant scene and he was actually perceived there? As early as 1885 Myers began to feel the insufficiency of the telepathic theory. Gurney himself, by the time he died, was convinced of the veridical character of many an apparition. The trance phenomena of Mrs. Piper led Myers to the belief that the evidence for communications from the departed is quite as strong as for telepathic communication between the living. Still, there remained a large number of phantasmal manifestations that even communication from the departed could not explain. So Myers worked out a theory of psychical invasion, the creation of a "Phantasmogenetic center" in the percipient's surroundings by some dissociated elements of the agent's personality which in some way are potent enough to affect and modify space. He considered it a subliminal operation, resembling the continuous dream-life which he supposed to run concurrently with the waking life, not necessarily a profound incident but rather a special idiosyncrasy on the part of the agent which tends to make his phantasm easily visible. From the Greek he coined the word "psychorrhagy" which means "to let the soul break loose." He believed he had discovered a new physiological fact, the psychorrhagic diathesis, essentially a psychical manifestation by some people born with an ability to produce phantasmogenetic effect either on the mind of another person or on a portion of space, in which case several persons may simultaneously discern the phantasm.
This theory is most important. It is a half-way house between telepathy and the double of the living or the astral self of the dead. The supposition of the double easily explains many an apparition of the living: the "arrival cases" where a man's attention is fixed on his return home, the cases in which there is a strong link of emotion between agent and percipient and the phantom is collectively or repeatedly seen; but there is a residue of phantasmal apparitions in which the theory of the double offers no satisfactory explanation. The case of Canon Bourne, in the Journal of S.P.R., Vol. VI. p. 129 is a very good instance. It is told by Miss L. Bourne as follows: "On February 5th, 1887, my father, sister, and I went out hunting. About the middle of the day my sister and I decided to return home with the coachman, while my father went on. Somebody came and spoke to us, and delayed us for a few moments. As we were turning to go home, we distinctly saw my father, waving his hat to us and signing us to follow him. He was on the side of a small hill, and there was a dip between him and us. My sister, the coachman and myself all recognized my father, and also the horse. The horse looked so dirty and shaken that the coachman remarked he thought there had been a nasty accident. As my father waved his hat I clearly saw the Lincoln and Bennett mark inside, though from the distance we were apart it ought to have been utterly impossible for me to have seen it. At the time I mentioned seeing the mark in the hat, though the strangeness of seeing it did not strike me till afterwards.
"Fearing an accident, we hurried down the hill. From the nature of the ground we had to lose sight of my father, but it took us very few seconds to reach the place where we had seen him. When we got there, there was no sign of him anywhere, nor could we see anyone in sight at all. We rode about for some time looking for him, but could not see or hear anything of him. We all reached home within a quarter of an hour of each other. My father then told us he had never been in the field, nor near the field, in which we thought we saw him, the whole of that day. He had never waved to us, and had met with no accident. My father was riding the only white horse that was out that day.
Myers believes that Canon Bourne was subliminally dreaming of himself as having had a fall, and as beckoning to his daughters, an incoherent dream but of quite ordinary type. Being born with the psychorrhagic diathesis a certain psychical element so far detached itself from his organism as to affect a certain portion of space near the daughters of whom he was thinking, to effect it not materially nor even optically, but yet in such a manner that to a certain kind of immaterial and non-optical sensitivity a phantasm of himself and his horse became discernible.
Myers suggested that hauntings by departed spirits may be similarly explained and that the modification of space into a phantasmogenetic center applies to a phantasmal voice as well.
If this alteration of space is more than a theory it may theoretically happen, so Myers thought, that a bystander may discern the alteration more clearly than the person for whose benefit it was made or that the bystander alone may perceive it. Such seems to be the case of Frances Reddell quoted in Phantasms of the Living, Vol. 1. p. 214: "Helen Alexander (maid to Lady Waldegrave) was lying here very ill with typhoid fever, and was attended by me. I was standing at the table by her bedside, pouring out her medicine, at about 4 o'clock in the morning of the 4th October, 1880. I heard the call bell ring (this had been heard twice before during the night in that same week) and was attracted by the door of the room opening, and by seeing a person entering the room whom I instantly felt to be the mother of the sick woman. She had a brass candlestick in her hand, a red shawl over her shoulder, and a flannel petticoat on which had a hole in the front. I looked at her as much as to say "I am glad you have come" but the woman looked at me sternly, as much as to say "Why wasn't I sent for before?" I gave the medicine to Helen Alexander and then turned round to speak to the vision, but no one was there. She had gone. She was a short, dark person, and very stout. At about 6 o'clock that morning Helen Alexander died. Two days after her parents and a sister came to Antony, and arrived between 1 and 2 o'clock in the morning; I and another maid let them in, and it gave me a great turn when I saw the living likeness of the vision I had seen two nights before. I told the sister about the vision, and she said that the description of the dress exactly answered to her mother's, and that they had brass candlesticks at home exactly like the one described. There was not the slightest resemblance between the mother and daughter."
The account was corroborated. Myers believes the vision was meant for the daughter by the mother who, in her anxiety paid her a psychical visit and affected part of the space with an image corresponding to the conception of her own aspect latent in her mind. A bystander, a susceptible person, happened to see the image while the girl for whom it was meant died without leaving a sign of having perceived it.
A still more curious but, according to Myers, similarly explainable case is the sailor's (Phantasms of the Living, Vol II. p. 144) who, watching by a dying comrade, saw figures around his hammock, apparently representing the dying man's family, in mourning garb. The family, it was found out, was alarmed by noises which they took as indication of danger to the dying. According to Myers the wife paid a psychical visit to her husband. The mourning garb and the figures of the children were symbolical expressions of her thought that her children will be orphans.
Would the alteration of space theory account for changes in physical objects? Myers is silent on this point. Andrew Lang considers it crucial. For if an apparition can thump, open a door or pull a curtain, it must be a ghost, real, objective entity, filling space. Per contra, "no ghost who does not do this has any strict legal claim to be regarded as other than a telepathic hallucination at best." The statement is rather severe in view of his quotation from Dr. Binn's Anatomy of Sleep of the case of the gentleman who, in a dream, pushed so strongly against a door in a distant house that they hardly could hold it against him.
Apparitions may be produced experimentally by the projection of the double or powerful suggestion. The first attempts in the latter class are recorded from Germany in H. M. Wesermanns' Der Magnetismus und die Allgemeine Weltsprache, Creveld, 1822. On four occasions he succeeded in inducing four separate acquaintances to dream on matters suggested by himself. On the fifth occasion he produced a collective apparition. The subject and a friend who happened to be in his company saw, in the waking state, the apparition of a woman in accordance with the operator's suggestion.
Frank Podmore, the most ardent champion of the telepathic theory of apparitions, gives a case of a most interesting failure to induce a vision in dream. The agent desired that a certain lieutenant should see a lady who had been dead five years, in his dreams. Instead of this, the apparition was seen by the lieutenant and a companion of his while they were wide awake. The door, while they were conversing, suddenly opened and the lady entered. She was dressed in white, head uncovered, and she smilingly bowed to the young lieutenant three times, passed through the doorway and disappeared.
For other types of apparitions, see Materialization and Transfiguration
Bibliography: John Beaumont: Treatise of Spirits, Apparitions, Witches, etc., 1705; Andrew Moreton: The Secrets of the Invisible World Disclosed, or a Universal History of Apparitions, Sacred and Profane, 1729; Anon: An Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions, 1727; Don Augustin Calmet: Dissertations upon the Apparitions of Angels, Demons and Ghosts, 1759; The Phantom World, 1850; Anon.: The Secrets of the Invisible World Laid Open, 1770; John Tregortha: News from the Invisible World, 1813; S. Hibbert: Sketches of the Philosophy of Apparitions, 1825; The Unseen World, 1847; Catherine Crowe: The Nightside of Nature, 1848; Ghosts and Family Legends, 1859; N. Crossland: Apparitions, 1856; Rev. B. W. Saville: Apparitions, 1874; Rev. Wrey Savile: Apparitions, A Narrative of Facts, 1874; Frances Power Cobbe: The Peak in Darien, 1881; Rev. J. S. Pollock: Dead and Gone; Gurney, Meyers and Podmore: Phantasms of the Living, 1886; Frank Podmore: Apparitions and Thought Transference, 1894, The New View of Ghosts; W. T. Stead: Real Ghost Stories, 1897; Andrew Lang: Book of Dreams and Ghosts, 1898; Hamlin Garland: The Shadow World, 1908; Camille Flammarion: Death and its Mystery, I. II., and 111., 1922-23; Ernesto Bozzano: Phenomenes Psychique au Moment de la Mort, 1923; E. 0. Donnell: Ghostly Phenomena; Ghosts Helpful and Harmful, Byways and Highways of Ghostland; Animal Ghosts; 1913; Confessions of a Ghost Hunter, 1928; Werewolves; Dudley Wright: Vampires and vampirism, 1914; Frank Hamel: Human Animals, 1915; H. Carrington: True Ghost Stories, 1915; Violet Tweedale: Ghosts I Have Seen, 1920; W. F. Barrett: Death Bed Visions, 1926; A. 0. Eaves: Vampirism; Dr. Edward H. Clarke: Visions; J. W. Wickwar: The Ghost World; Mrs. joy Snell: The Ministry of Angels; Richard Pike: Life's Borderland and Beyond.
Continued on page 7
Continued on page 7
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