Project Canterbury

The Unseen World; Communications with It, Real or Imaginary

By John Mason Neale

London: Joseph Masters, 1853.

Night VII. Of wraiths, or apparitions at the moment of death

Sophron. We said, some nights ago, that the well authenticated instances of the apparition of spirits, at the moment of their departure from the body, were far more numerous .than those of any other kind. There is so much sameness in these relations, that we shall probably not be desirous of hearing very many: five or six examples, on incontrovertible authority will prove as much as fifty.

Scepticus. I enter a protest against all cases in which the visitation of these apparitions has not been mentioned till after the death of the person was known. One can never tell how far the sheer desire of having a wonderful occurrence to relate will lead a man.

Sophron. You will not generally find that people have kept such kind .of visitations secret; therefore, that argument will be cut away from under you. These visitations 5 are generally useless, using the word as we have all along A used it; though there may be an instance or two to the contrary.

Eupeithes. One such I will tell you. The father of a dignitary of our Church, very well known in London, was a Colonel on service in Canada. His regiment was quartered in some place in that country, and two of his officers were stationed in an outpost at some distance from head quarters. They slept in the same room, and on the following morning one said to the other--"Pray, did you see any thing remarkable last night?" "Yes," said the other, "I did; dil you?" "Assuredly," was the reply," I saw the apparition of Colonel Blomberg." "Did he say anything to you?'" Yes." "So he did to me: we will not tell each other what it was; but we will make a deposition of it, and see if our two accounts agree." They accordingly did so; the two depositions agreed exactly, and to the following effect;--That Colonel Blomberg had appeared to each of them; that he had requested them, when they returned to England, to convey his son, then a young child, thither; on reaching [136/137] London, to go to such a room, in such a house, in such a Btreet, naming each; and when there, to look in such & drawer of such an escritoire, which he described exactly; that in that drawer they would find a paper, which he also particularized; that they should present this paper, together with his son, to Queen Charlotte; that if they did this, it would be the making of the boy's fortune, and that they themselves would be gainers. On finding that their two stories so completely tallied, they rode together to headquarters, and there learnt that Colonel Blomberg was dead. Shortly afterwards, the regiment was ordered to England; they took charge of young Blomberg, went to the house described on arriving in London, and found the paper without any trouble. They presented it and the child, as directed, to the Queen; the boy was thenceforth taken under royal patronage, and obtained as many pieces of preferment as he could hold; and the officers themselves were shortly afterwards promoted. This story comes from the relation of the party principally concerned, namely, Colonel Blomberg's son himself.

Scepticus. Not, then, from that of the officers?

Eupeithes. No.

Scepticus. Then you have no witness at all to the fact of the apparition; merely to events which took place in consequence of that event, real or supposed.

Eupeithes. Why, you would hardly accuse two officers of the grossest deceit, practised, too, for no imaginable end! If they were not informed of the paper and the escritoire supernaturally, they must have heard the story from Colonel Blomberg in his lifetime: and why be at the trouble of denying this fact, and getting up another, which, till the event proved it true, must have exposed them to great ridicule?

Scepticus. But why should not Colonel Blomberg have told them the secret in his lifetime, as well as after his death?

Eupeithes. Oh, you may imagine many reasons for that. He might naturally have been unwilling, when in health, to trust it to any one; when he lay on his deathbed, as I said, his two friends were absent, and he might have been unable to write. But, after all, there is a simpler and easier solution, which is by no means improbable, namely, that Colonel Blomberg might not have become acquainted [137/138] with the importance that that paper would exercise on his son's fortunes till he entered the invisible world.

Sophron. Very true. I think, Scepticus, we may turn Dr. Johnson's dictum against you: "He who relates nothing beyond the limits of probability, has a right to demand that they shall believe him who cannot contradict him."

Scepticus. So you call such an appearance as this, "nothing beyond the limits of probability?"

Sophron. In itself, certainly not: you say there is an antecedent improbability, which we do not see.

Eupeithes. I need not remind you, also, that the thing was sworn to, and could therefore, I presume, be legally verified in Canada.

Sophron. Few people, I suppose, will doubt that there are instances where the wraith has been seen before death. Strictly speaking, in that case it is a fetch. It is a highly probable supposition, I think, that in instances of this kind of apparition, the last thoughts of the dying person were in the place where his form appeared. I do not know above one or two stories in which--as it turned out afterwards--the spirit of a dying man was seen by those who were unacquainted with him in the flesh. And we have some proofs in confirmation of the conjecture I have mentioned. A lady, dying in Malta of consumption, was exceedingly desirous to see her children, then in England, once more. Her last hour drew on; and still her thoughts were continually harping on this subject: Oh! if she could but be in England! About an hour before death, she fell into a kind of trance: and on awaking, said,--her whole face lighted up with joy,--"Now I am ready. I have seen the children, and I am satisfied." She described what they were doing, and in a few minutes quietly expired. Of course this was then set down to delusion. But at that very hour, the wraith of this lady had been seen by her children, and they were engaged as she had described. This is an instance of the soul, just before its departure from the body, reasserting in some degree its native powers, and triumphing over space and time.

Eusebia. But I should like to know if there are any cases in which, indisputably, the wraith did not appear till after death?

Sophron. One should, à priori, say that this would be [138/139] the case in all instances of violent death. But then one is met by such examples to the contrary as that of the officer who appeared to his sister in England in the morning, and fell at Vittoria in the afternoon. I have never yet myself met with a case in which death had beyond all doubt taken place, though with many in which it probably had so done. Mrs. Crowe, however, in her very interesting work, gives some instances which appear conclusive; though that on which she seems to lay most stress does not appear to me an absolute proof. It is that of an officer who, having made an appointment with a shooting party to return to their boat at a certain time, came back, as they thought, just before them: when, on not finding him there, a search was instituted for him, and he was found drowned. But, in cases of death by drowning, one never can say at what moment soul and body are really separated. The spirit, hanging between death and life, is just in the condition which seems requisite for the appearance of a double: intense longing, probably, to see those whom it loves; comparative freedom from corporeal chains. And it is worth while to notice, how many stories of this kind of apparition are connected with drowning.

Eupeithes. I, too, should greatly desire to have the possibility of a certain answer to Eusebia's question. The thing, however, is not easily susceptible of proof; time cannot be kept at a distance with such extreme accuracy: and, unless the spirit were to speak, as in the case of Lord Tyrone and Lady Beresford, which I think is a decisive instance, the point could scarcely ever be definitively settled.

Eusebia. One cannot but wonder at the rashness and wickedness of striking at such appearances: and yet how often one hears of it! I knew an instance which occurred in Surrey, at the distance of about twenty miles from London. There was a manor house, with a long avenue of trees leading up to the principal door. The gentleman to whom the property belonged was walking here one summer's evening, when an apparition--he knew not of whom--presented itself to him. He was a most fearless man, and demanded what it wanted. "My business is not with you," said the spectre. "Then I'll not have you here," said the owner; "Be off!" The figure maintained its position; on which [139/140] the other struck at it with his stick. He was flung instantly to the ground, and was long before he recovered the shock.

Theodora. Of the same kind is that sad story which occurred in Paris, where a spendthrift son, seeing the wraith of his father, from whom he had parted on bad terms, and believing it to be simply an illusion, struck at it with his riding whip. And at the same moment, the father, on his dying bed, cried out in agony, "What have I done! What have I done! He is striking me with a whip!"

Eupeithes. A lady, with whom I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance, gave me the following account, which I quote as much for the beauty of the language, as for the fact which it relates. She is speaking of the dangerous illness of a child. "Poor------has had delirium for some nights, not painful to witness, except as an evidence of illness, but awfully solemn. Her idea was that she was surrounded by the spirits of the departed,--those who died 'in the LORD.' These spirits conversed with her, and comforted her in her sufferings. One of her most frequent (imagined) visitants was her little brother, and that was not wonderful; the other was poor Capt.------! Considering that she was only ten years old when she saw him, and that only once,--that she never heard him mentioned again till she heard of his death, it seems passing strange. Her father told me that about the time of your cousin's death, (I was in Scotland,) she had an illness, and talked of him as of one that was gone. The news had not then reached us. How mysterious is the thought that the spirits of the blessed may be about us, and speak to the innocent and the suffering as 'angels ministering.' There are few people to whom I would write all this. Some would laugh, and others would think me mad,--or delirious, like the child. It is very different, though, reading or speaking of these things in cold blood, as it were, to sitting at night in a darkened room, listening to the strange, dreamy, unearthly voice of delirium, and to watch the awe-struck eye of one who sees what we cannot see, and hears what we do not hear. I think the bravest person would feel a something of trembling to hear the hushed voice say, 'Do you not see him? You must: his hand is almost on your head!'"

I will now give you another instance [140/141] which occurred in Malta. Major Gainfoot--I use a name (fwnanta sunetoisin--was at the mess table with his brother officers, when his servant stepped in, and announced his brother, Colonel Gainfoot, as just arrived from England. "Bring him in, bring him in, Gainfoot," cried several of the officers, by whom he was well known. The major stepped out with that design, and presently returned by himself. "He seemed in rather a singular state," said he; "he pleaded business, and said that he was obliged to decline your invitation." "But how is he?" said some one. "Why, truly, he said very little about himself or anything else; but I suppose I shall see him by and by." However, that day and the next passed, and no Colonel Gainfoot appeared; and by the next mail from England, came news of his death at the precise moment that his arrival was announced to the officers.

Scepticus. I can hardly imagine one brother conversing with another, and not finding out that he was talking to an apparition, if the case really were so. How many questions of "When, and how, and why did you come?" and such like, must naturally be asked, which would not be answered!

Sophron. One should expect so; and so, indeed, it actually might have been in this case. Any how, Major Gainfoot thought that his brother's behaviour was strange and unaccountable. But I will read to you, from Lord Byron's Life, a more remarkable instance of the same thing. "Lord Byron," says Moore, "used sometimes to mention a strange story, which the commander of the packet, Captain Kidd, related to them on the passage. This officer stated that, being asleep one night in his berth, he was awakened by the pressure of something heavy on his limbs; and, there being a faint light in the room, could see, as he thought, distinctly the figure of his brother, who was at that time in the same service in the East Indies, dressed in his uniform, and stretched across the bed. Concluding it to be an illusion of the senses, he shut his eyes, and made an effort to sleep; but still the same pressure continued; and still, as often as he ventured to take another look, he saw the figure lying across him in the same position. To add to the wonder, on putting his hand forth to touch this form, he found the uniform, in which it appeared to be dressed, dripping [141/142] wet. On the entrance of one of his brother officers, to whom he cried out in alarm, the apparition vanished; but, in a few months after, he received the startling intelligence that, on that night, his brother had been drowned in the Indian seas. Of the supernatural character of this appearance, Captain Kidd himself did not appear to have the slightest doubt."

Eupeithes. I said, some time ago, that I could give you an instance of the apparition of one child to another. A Mr. B., of considerable practice as a surgeon, and who lived in Golden-square, was attending the infant of his brother-in-law, who was ill of scarlet fever. Desirous of preserving the other children from infection, he offered them a temporary home in his own house. The offer was accepted, and the children accordingly removed. One of them, a little girl of about five years of age, was playing in a dressing-room which opened out of a bed-room then used as a nursery, her aunt, Mrs. B., being in this nursery, all on a sudden she called out, "Oh, aunt! come and see the baby, the poor baby! There he is--there!" pointing to a corner of the room, and half way between the floor and the ceiling. Mrs. B. came in, and nothing was to be seen; but the child persisted in her story. This was about five o'clock in the evening; and shortly afterwards Mr. B. returned home, and said that the infant had actually died at that time. Now, will you say that this was a singular coincidence, or confess that it was supernatural?

Scepticus. If the tale were told by the child before the news of her brother's death were received-----

Eupeithes. As it most undoubtedly was.

Scepticus. Then, I think, that is a very strong case on your side.

Eupeithes. And so deep was the impression made on the child's mind, that she afterwards used to request permission to go into the dressing-room, under the idea that she should see her brother there. There certainly was no deceit in the case. There could be no room for fancy; nor does it reach you by any circuitous course. Mrs. B. told it to a lady, from whom I have it.

Eusebia. I have heard a somewhat similar story, though I cannot avouch its truth so positively. A gentleman, whose [142/143] mother was in a declining state of health, was keeping house in the absence of his wife. One of his children, who was little more than an infant, slept in a closet opening out of his bed-room. He awoke in the middle of the night, under the impression that some one was kissing his cheek; and, to his horror, he saw the figure of his mother standing by him. "Do not be sorry for me," it said; "I am happy:" and forthwith vanished in the direction of the closet. At the time of its disappearance, the child who slept in that closet shrieked out as if much alarmed. The gentleman of course imagined that his mother was dead; he resolved, however, to wait for the post. A letter came, not sealed with black; he opened it, and found that she was better. But, on re-perusing it, he observed that it was dated a day earlier than it ought to have been; and on looking at the outside, found the stamp, "too late." He now waited with great anxiety for the next post; and that brought him an account of the death of his mother, at the very time that he had seen her figure by his bed-side.

Scepticus. So those stories always terminate; but the exact time, I should think, was often difficult to ascertain.

Eupeithes. Why so? The time of death is always noticed; and if you saw such an apparition as we have been discussing, would not almost your first impulse be, to consult your watch? An historical example is the occurrence that is related by Lord Balcarres. He was confined in Edinburgh Castle, on a suspicion of Jacobitism, when his friend, Viscount Dundee, entered the room, walked to the mantelpiece, stood leaning upon it with one arm for several minutes, while his eyes were fixed on the prisoner, and then vanished. At that same time Dundee was shot at Killie-crankie. I will read you one of a more domestic kind, in the words of the person,--a respectable tradesman,--to whom it occurred. I had heard that something of the sort had been seen by him; and, in answer to my inquiries, he thus writes:--"My brother Josiah came home from a voyage to spend a short time with us. He wished me to lend him some money. I refused to do so, knowing that my father had given the captain orders to let him have whatever he wanted; and I knew that so much money to a sailor on shore might lead him into temptations which he could not withstand. I [143/144] told him so, on which he was displeased; and before he left Liverpool, he wrote me an angry letter, saying that I would rather see him drowned than lend him money. I had no opportunity to write to him before he sailed: I often felt hurt at the remarks in that letter.

"On the 18th of October, 1845, as near as I can remember, I dreamed that he turned the handle of my bedroom door, opened it, walked to my bedside, held out his hand, and said, 'Dear brother, I hope you are not angry, and will forgive me.' I took his hand, and said,' Tes, Josiah.' Ho then disappeared. In the morning, I mentioned the dream at the breakfast-table, in the presence of my wife, my son, and another young man, and said,' We shall hear something of poor Josiah.1 About one month after, a letter came to say that he was on his way home; but the letter was written before the date of my dream. A short time after, as the same persons sat at the breakfast-table, a letter came from my father to say that my brother had been drowned off Cape Horn, in a storm, about four o'clock in the morning of the 18th of October, 1845. The young man at the table immediately said, 'Tour dream was true!' and brought all the circumstances to our minds. We tried by various things to fix the time, but could not; but all agreed that it was about that time. I have such a vivid recollection, at this moment, of the occurrence, although more than seven years ago, and of my sitting upright in bed, that I cannot tell whether it was a dream, or whether it was a reality, that I did see him."--On this story I have one remark to make. Granting that the wraith was seen on the night of the 17th to the 18th of October, it was a true Fetch; and must have preceded the death of the unfortunate brother by several hours. Four a.m. at Cape Horn, is about half-past nine am. in the East of England; and the party round the breakfast-table must therefore have discussed the apparition while the doomed man was as yet unconscious of his fate.

Sophron. Glanville has one instance of the same kind; but it is not a very striking one. Dr. Bush, afterwards Bishop of Dromore, a name not ignoble among our divines, vouched for its truth. A London tradesman, named Watkinson, who lived in Smithfield, had a daughter married to one Francis Topham, resident at York. The match had [144/145] taken place against the parents' consent; but the offence had been forgiven, and Mrs. Topham sometimes visited her father. "When she was last with him," proceeds the story, "upon their parting, she expressed a fear that she should never see him more. He answered her, if he should die, if ever God did permit the dead to see the living, he would see her again. Now, after he had been buried half a year, on a night when she was in bed, but could not sleep, she heard music, and the chamber grew lighter and lighter; and she, being broad awake, saw her father stand at her bedside, who said, 'Mall, did I not tell thee that I would see thee once again?' She called him father, and talked of many things; and he bid her be patient and dutiful to her mother. And when she told him that she had a child since he did die, he said that would not trouble her long. He bade her speak what she would now to him, for he must go, and that he should never see her more till they met in the Kingdom of Heaven. So the chamber grew darker and darker, and he was gone, with music. And she said she did never dream of him, nor ever see any apparition of him after. He was a very honest, godly man, as far as I can tell."

Eusebia. A singular instance of an apparition unattended with terror on the part of the person visited by it.

Eupeithes. Ben Jonson's relation, in one respect, differs from any other similar story. He was in the country, at Sir Robert Cotton's house, a fellow-visitor with Camden, the antiquary. One night, his son, a child, appeared to him as he slept; but, mark you, not as a child: "of a manly shape," are the words, "and of that growth he thinks he shall be at the Resurrection." His forehead was gashed by a bloody cross, as if made by a sword. In process of time came letters to say that the child had indeed died of the plague, at that very hour: the bloody cross being apparently connected with the red plague cross, used to mark the doors of infected houses.

Sophron. An occurrence, so far resembling that which you have just related, as it points to the perfect renovation of our bodies, is related in "Burke's Tales of the Peerage." "Gabriel Hamilton, of Westburn, in the county of Lanark, was the representative of an ancient and distinguished branch of the Duke of Hamilton's family, viz., Hamilton of Torrance, a cadet of the great house of Raploch, which was immediately [145/146] sprung from the Lords of Cadzow, the ancestors of the Earls of Arran and Dukes of Hamilton. The grandmother of this Hamilton of Westburn was a daughter of Sir Walter Stewart, of Allanton. And thus Westburn and Allantonwere near kinsmen, at a time when relationship and intimacy were synonymous. The death of Westburn took place about 1757 or 1758, and Allanton had predeceased him several years. Their estates, moreover, were situated in the same county, and they were on the most affectionate and familiar terms with each other.

"Westburn, who was an elderly man, and not in very strong health, was in the habit of reposing during an hour after dinner, and his wife, the beautiful and estimable Agnes Dundas, heiress of Duddingston, usually sat by the side of the couch, reading to him, or conversing until he fell asleep. One day he slept longer, and apparently more soundly than usual, and at length he suddenly awoke, and said that he had been roused by the fluttering of the wings of doves. He then addressed his wife, and related to her the following remarkable dream:--

"'I was walking in the most lovely gardens and pleasure-grounds that I ever beheld, and so struck was I with their extraordinary extent and romantic beauty, and with the bright and glorious colours of the flowers which sprung up around me on every side, that I exclaimed,' This can be no other place than Paradise! this must be the garden of the Lord!' I had hardly uttered these words, when a youth of radiant beauty and heavenly expression approached me, and smiling sweetly on me, he accosted me familiarly by name, giving me a cordial welcome to his happy home. I expressed my surprise at his friendly and familiar greeting, seeing that we were but strangers. 'And yet,' said I, 'there is that in your countenance which makes me feel as if you were my friend!' 'Seek not,' said he, 'to deny our old and intimate acquaintance. You are my near kinsman, and a familiar neighbour and friend;' and, observing that I looked astonished and incredulous, he said, 'Is it possible that you have forgotten me? Is it, even with you, so soon, out of sight, out of mind? Do not you know me? I am your cousin, Stewart of Allanton.' 'Impossible,' said I; 'for my dear friend Allanton was old and plain-looking, whereas you [146/147] are the most beautiful youth my eyes did ever behold.' 'Even so,' said the youth; 'all those who come here are made youthful and beautiful. There is here neither age nor plainness. I am no other than your dear cousin and old friend Allanton, and within twenty-four hours you will be here with me, and you will be young and beautiful like me.' Hereupon, I heard the loud fluttering of the wings of doves, and I suddenly awoke.'

"It may be imagined that Westburn's dream made a deep impression, not unmingled with awe, on his affectionate wife. She deemed it to be a warning that she must hold herself in readiness to resign him ere long, at the call of his heavenly Master and Father; and even so it came to pass. On the following morning, Westburn was found dead in his bed. His spirit had departed during the night, and had gone to join his early friend and kinsman in the gardens of Paradise."

Theodora. That naturally recalls those beautiful verses of Longfellow's:--

"She is not dead, the child of our affection,
But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection,
And Christ Himself doth rule.

"In that great cloister's stillness and seclusion,
By guardian Angels led,
Safe from temptation, safe from sin's pollution,
She lives, whom we call dead.

"Day after day we think what she is doing
In those bright realms of air:
Year after year, her tender steps pursuing,
Behold her grown more fair.

"Thus we walk with her, and would keep unbroken
The bond which nature gives:
Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken,
May reach her where she lives.

"Not as a child shall we again behold her;
For when, in rapture wild,
In our embraces we again enfold her,
She will not be a child:

"But a fair maiden in her Father's mansion,
Clothed in celestial grace;
And beautiful, with all the soul's expansion,
Shall we behold her face."

[148] Sophron. They are very touching lines. I remember a Danish legend of the same nature as those on which we are dwelling. Archbishop Absalon, one of the great lights of that Church, was, notwithstanding his piety, apt at times to be overbearing and oppressive. He was in a declining state of health; when a poor man, who considered himself to have been injured by the Prelate, and who was on his death bed, summoned him to appear before the Throne of God in twenty-four hours, and answer for what he had done. That evening, the monks were at vespers in that stately church of Soro, when they heard a sweet but melancholy voice behind the high altar,--

"O Sora, Sora, pro me supplex precor ora!"

They searched the church, and could find nothing; but at that very hour Archbishop Absalon had gone to his account

Eupeithes. There is a captain in the West India packet service, now living, who affirms--and he is known for a man of honour--that the spirit of his deceased wife appears to him at stated intervals, and that he looks forward to her visits (I think they occur once a month) as the greatest happiness of his life.

Sophron. But the most complicated story, so to speak, of an apparition, is one which occurred on board a Brazil packet. A lady was lying on the sofa in the ladies' saloon, when, to her surprise, a gentleman entered it from the grand saloon, and passing through it, went out by the door that led towards the hold. She was much astonished, both that any one should enter the room at all, at least without knocking, and at not recognizing the gentleman who did so, as she had associated with the passengers for some days. She mentioned the matter to her husband, who said that he must have been confined to his berth till then, but that it would perhaps appear, when the passengers sat down to dinner, who he was. At dinner-time, the lady carefully examined her companions, and was positive that no such person was among them. She asked the captain if there were any passenger not then at table. He answered her, that there was not. She never forgot the circumstance, though her husband treated it as a mere fancy, and thought no more of it. Some time afterwards, she was walking with him in [148/149] London, when she pointed out a gentleman in the street, and said, with some agitation, "There! there! that is the person whom I saw on board the packet. Do go and speak to him; pray do go, and ask him if he were not there." "Impossible, my dear," replied her husband; "he would think that I meant to insult him." However, his wife's importunity and agitation prevailed. Stepping up to the gentleman she had pointed out, and apologizing for the liberty he was about to take, "Pray, sir," said he, "may I ask whether you were on board the ----- Brazil packet at such a time?" "No, sir," replied the person addressed, "I certainly was not; but may I inquire why you thought that I was?" The interrogator related the circumstance. "What day was it?" asked the other. That having been settled, "Well, sir," said the stranger, "it is a very remarkable circumstance that I had a twin brother, so like myself, that no one could tell us apart. He died, poor fellow, in America, on that very day."

Eupeithes. The most remarkable point in that story is its localism, so to speak. A man dies in America; and his spirit is seen, on that very day, on board a ship between America and England, as in crossing from one country to the other.

Scepticus. Well, if that be not materialism, I cannot imagine any thing that is.

Eupeithes. I only said what it seemed like; I do not presume to say what the real explanation may be. But I can see no more materialism in imagining a spirit to move locally, than to rest locally, as in the case of haunted houses.

Sophron. The story I am about to tell you I heard from the person to whom the event occurred. He was a most honourable man,--a merchant actively engaged in business,--a Dissenter, with strong religious feelings. He had several ships employed in his trade, and was of course intimately acquainted with his captains. One night he was lying awake in bed, when to his infinite surprise Capt. N., whom he knew to be on the point of sailing from Hull, stood by the bedside with every appearance of distress,--and, wringing his hands together as in agony, cried out,--and kept repeating the words,--"Oh that I had put back! Oh that I had put back!" My friend, in great alarm, woke [149/150] his wife, who tried to persuade him that it was a dream;--and at last he was not indisposed to think that it might have teen so. But not long after, he was told that the mate of this very ship wanted to see him on the most urgent business. "You here!" cried my friend. "I imagined that you were at sea.--What is the matter?"--"So we did put to sea, sir," replied the mate. We were all against it--every one said it was madness--the wind was threatening a hurricane--but Capt. N. would put out. I never saw a man so obstinate. But, poor fellow, it cost him dear enough: we had a tremendous gale, and on-----day night last, a heavy sea swept him off the deck, and we saw no more of him."--That was the very night on which my friend had seen the apparition.

Eusebia. It must have made a deep impression upon him.

Sophron. Yes: he never liked to hear it spoken of, nor even alluded to. Here is another story:

An elderly gentleman who lived on the banks of the Thames, near Richmond, had a nephew in London, a youth, who used to visit him generally on Saturdays and Sundays. One Saturday he did not come, nor was any message sent to explain the cause of his absence: as however, this was not uncommon, the old gentleman thought little of it. In the evening he walked out by the side of the river, and saw some boys bathing. On a sudden he heard one of them, who was further off from the bank than the rest, cry out, "Help! help! I am drowning, I am drowning!" What was the gentleman's grief to see his nephew struggling in the agonies of death! He immediately called to the other' bathers to rescue their companion, but they all declared there was no one beside themselves, and by this time the struggling youth had gone to the bottom.

The old gentleman returned home greatly alarmed and perplexed, and found a letter, which informed him that his nephew had been attacked by fever, and was in great danger. The next morning a second letter arrived, to say that his nephew was dead. He had died at the very moment h uncle had seen him struggling in the water, and, in the delirium of his fever his cry had been "Help! help! I am drowning! I am drowning!"

[151] Now let me read you a remarkable trial in the Court of King's Bench, London, as extracted from those for the years 1687, 1688, by Cockburn in his travels.

"An action in the Court of King's Bench was brought by a Mrs. Booty against Captain Barnaby, to recover £1000 as damages for the scandal of his assertion that he had seen her deceased husband, Mr. Booty, a receiver, driven into hell.

"The journal books of three different ships were produced in court, and the following passages recorded in each, submitted to the court by the defendant's counsel.

"'Thursday, May"l4, 1687. Saw the island of Lipari, and came to an anchor off the same island, and then we were at W.S.W.

"'Friday, May 15. Captain Barnaby, Captain Bristow, Captain Brown, I, and a Mr. Ball, merchant, went on shore to shoot rabbits, on Stromboli; and when we had done, we called all our men together to us, and about three quarters past three o'clock we all saw two men running towards us with such swiftness that no living man could run half so fast; when all of us heard Captain Barnaby say, 'LORD bless us; the foremost is old Booty, my next-door neighbour;' but he said he did not know the other, who ran behind. He was in black clothes, and the foremost was in grey. Then Captain Barnaby desired all of us to take an account of the time, and pen it down in our pocket-books: and when we got on board we wrote it in our journals, for we saw them run into the flames of fire, and there was a great noise, which greatly affrighted us all, for we none of us ever saw or heard the like before. Captain Barnaby said, He was certain it was old Booty which he saw running over Stromboli, and into the flames of hell.'

"Then coming home to England, and lying at Gravesend, Captain Barnaby's wife came on board the 6th day of October, 1687, at which time Captain Barnaby and Captain Brown sent for Captain Bristow and Mr. Ball, merchant, to congratulate with them; and after some discourse, Captain Barnaby's wife started up, and said, 'My dear, old Booty is dead;' and he directly made answer, 'We all saw him "run into hell.' Afterwards Captain Barnaby's wife told a gentleman of his acquaintance in London what her [151/152] husband had said, and he went and acquainted Mrs. Booty of the whole affair: upon that Mrs. Booty arrested Captain Barnaby in a £1000 action for what he had said of her husband. Captain Barnaby gave bail for it, and it came to a trial in the Court of King's Bench, and they had Mr. Booty's wearing apparel brought into court, and the sexton of the parish, and the people that were with him when he died; and we swore to our journals, and it came to the same time within two minutes. Ten of our men swore to the buttons on his coat, and that they were covered with the same sort of cloth his coat was made of, and so it proved.

"The jury asked Mr. Spinks (whose handwriting in the journal that happened to be read appeared) if he knew Mr. Booty: he answered, 'I never saw him till he ran by me on the burning mountains.'

"The judge said, 'LORD, have mercy on me, and grant I may never see what you have seen. One, two, or three may be mistaken, but thirty never can be mistaken.'

"So the widow lost her cause. The defence set up was, that the defendant had spoken no more than had been seen by a number of persons as well as himself." [A Voyage up the Mediterranean, &c., in 1810 and 1811, by Lieut. Gen. Cockburn. Vol. ii. p. 335, &c.]

Eupeithes. I will give you my text tale in the very words of the housekeeper,--a most respectable person,--who related it to me. "At Lewes, between twelve and one in the day, my mother heard her brother, who was a soldier in a regiment at Malta, call Bessum: that was a pet name he always called her by: her real name was Elizabeth. Hearing his voice, she went to the window, and there she saw her brother in his regimentals quite plainly: she had never before seen him in them. She went down stairs, and he was not there; and when my father came up to dinner, she was nearly crying, and said that she was sure that she had seen Alick, and that he was dead. They afterwards heard that his death, had occurred at the time at which my mother saw him." Now this was a family of ghostseers; for the tradesman whose letter I just now read about the appearance of his brother Josiah, was a son of the good woman who saw this apparition. It is singular that a brother should appear [152/153] the mother, and also to the son.--I have no doubt that the power exists, in families, as much of appearing as of seeing: of being able, when disembodied, to put oneself en rapport, as, when in the body, to be put en rapport with a spirit.

Sophron. Another of these popular stories, which may or may not be true, runs thus. At some one of the great theatres a diabolical dance was introduced, which was performed by twelve fiends. The first night it was exhibited the dancers perceived to their horror that a thirteenth fiend had introduced himself among them. They were so terrified that they retired from the stage, and the thing was never exhibited again. It was said at the time that there was no possibility of a trick; and certainly, if the appearance of a real fiend might ever be expected, it would be on such an occasion.

Eupeithes. I will now relate something which happened to myself,--and of which I am as certain as any human being can be of a fact. About six weeks ago, a gentleman, residing near me, and with whom I had some connection in the way of business, died suddenly, and at a distance from home. There were some papers which it was our duty to look over together; but the examination had been procrastinated from one cause or another, and was never completed. At the time of his death, which was about eleven o'clock on a Monday night, I was reading in my study. I should tell you that its door opens at the foot of a staircase, and close to another door, which leads into a court-yard. I heard a very heavy, quick, decided step crossing the court,--some one shook the outer door violently and impatiently, opened it, and went half way up stairs,--with the same heavy step. Wondering who it could be, and why he neither went to the top nor came back, I took a candle, opened my door, and looked out;--but, to my utter surprise, could see nothing. Then I looked in the rooms near,--and still, nothing was to be discovered. I thought it odd, certainly, but nothing further crossed my mind at the time. When I heard of my friend's death at that particular time, I was a good deal struck with the coincidence. But a few days later, a lady, who was staying in the house happened to mention that she had been very much alarmed, while going up to her bedroom the Saturday week before, [153/154] about eleven o'clock, by hearing a heavy step behind her, which seemed to go half way up the staircase, and then to stop. "On Saturday was it?" I asked. "No," replied she: "now you come to mention it, it must have been on Monday:" that is, it was at the very time that I, a good way off, had heard the same thing;--which, mind you, I had never mentioned to her.

Eusebia. And did nothing happen in consequence?

Eupeithes. Apparently not:--at least I could trace nothing that might be connected with the occurrence.

Sophron. It is a singular story; and it is not often that one hears such a tale related in the first person. A Dissenting preacher, now dead, related to me the following occurrence, which happened to himself. He was reading in his study, which opened on to a passage, at the end of which passage was the drawing-room. In the drawing-room two ladies were sitting; and it was evening. My informant heard heavy steps coming along the passage, and advancing to the drawing-room door, where they stopped, and then returned again. He felt alarmed, without knowing why;--looked out into the passage,--then examined the rest of the house, and could find nothing to explain the sound. On this, he went and sat in the drawing-room, where the ladies had not been conscious of the disturbance. Before long, however, they all heard the steps coming along the passage;--the minister got up, stood with his hand on the latch of the door, and when they seemed to be close to it, suddenly opened it. There was nothing to be seen,--and the whole party were, of course, extremely terrified. On that same evening the aunt of one of these ladies died.

Eupeithes. Valerius Maximus mentions an occurrence which came to him, he says, with the most convincing evidence. Two friends were travelling in Greece, and arrived at Megara. The one took up his quarters for the night at the house of an acquaintance in the city;--the other slept at an inn. The former dreamed that he saw,--or actual did see,--his companion standing by him. "The landlord," said the apparition, "is about to murder me for the sake my money;--come to my assistance; you will be in time save me." Starting from his bed, the traveller was about to hurry to the assistance of his friend. But the thought [154/155] rushed into his mind,--How absurd to be thus moved by a dream!--and he asked himself--the question, I dare say, had as much weight in Megara then as it has in London now--what will the world say? So he went back to his bed, and composed himself to sleep. A second time his friend stood before him, but pale and covered with blood. "It is too late now," said the spirit: "the landlord has murdered me. But, though you are too late to save me, you are not too late to avenge me. At this moment he is hiding my body in a dung cart, which he will take out of the city at such a gate; go you thither, and the murder will be discovered. "The dreamer sprang up, dressed himself, and went to the indicated gate. Presently the dung cart came up: the watcher stopped it,--mentioned his suspicions to the guards,--insisted that it should be searched; the yet warm body of the murdered man was discovered; the murderer was arrested, and paid the penalty of his crime.

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