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Title: Byways of Ghost-Land
Author: O'Donnell, Elliott, 1872-1965
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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BYWAYS OF GHOST-LAND



                      BYWAYS OF
                     GHOST-LAND

                         BY

                  ELLIOTT O'DONNELL

                      AUTHOR OF

      "SOME HAUNTED HOUSES OF ENGLAND AND WALES,"
    "HAUNTED HOUSES OF LONDON," "GHOSTLY PHENOMENA,"
  "DREAMS AND THEIR MEANINGS," "SCOTTISH GHOST TALES,"
             "TRUE GHOST TALES," ETC., ETC.

             WILLIAM RIDER AND SON, LIMITED
            164 Aldersgate St., London, E.C.
                         1911



CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                                  PAGE

    1. THE UNKNOWN BRAIN                                    1

    2. THE OCCULT IN SHADOWS                               21

    3. OBSESSION, POSSESSION                               28

    4. OCCULT HOOLIGANS                                    47

    5. SYLVAN HORRORS                                      56

    6. COMPLEX HAUNTINGS AND OCCULT BESTIALITIES           80

    7. VAMPIRES, WERE-WOLVES, FOX-WOMEN, ETC.             110

    8. DEATH-WARNINGS AND FAMILY GHOSTS                   132

    9. SUPERSTITIONS AND FORTUNES                         153

   10. THE HAND OF GLORY; THE BLOODY HAND OF ULSTER;
         THE SEVENTH SON; BIRTH-MARKS; NATURE'S
         DEVIL SIGNALS; PRE-EXISTENCE; THE FUTURE;
         PROJECTION; TELEPATHY; ETC.                      176

   11. OCCULT INHABITANTS OF THE SEA AND RIVERS           198

   12. BUDDHAS AND BOGGLE CHAIRS                          210

       INDEX                                              244



BYWAYS OF GHOST-LAND



CHAPTER I

THE UNKNOWN BRAIN


Whether all that constitutes man's spiritual nature, that is to say, ALL
his mind, is inseparably amalgamated with the whitish mass of soft
matter enclosed in his cranium and called his brain, is a question that
must, one supposes, be ever open to debate.

One knows that this whitish substance is the centre of the nervous
system and the seat of consciousness and volition, and, from the
constant study of character by type or by phrenology, one may even go on
to deduce with reason that in this protoplasmic substance--in each of
the numerous cells into which it is divided and subdivided--are located
the human faculties. Hence, it would seem that one may rationally
conclude, that all man's vital force, all that comprises his
mind--_i.e._ the power in him that conceives, remembers, reasons,
wills--is so wrapped up in the actual matter of his cerebrum as to be
incapable of existing apart from it; and that as a natural sequence
thereto, on the dissolution of the brain, the mind and everything
pertaining to the mind dies with it--there is no future life because
there is nothing left to survive.

Such a condition, if complete annihilation can be so named, is the one
and only conclusion to the doctrine that mind--crude, undiagnosed
mind--is dependent on matter, a doctrine confirmed by the apparent facts
that injury to the cranium is accompanied by unconsciousness and
protracted loss of memory, and that the sanity of the individual is
entirely contingent upon the state of his cerebral matter--a clot of
blood in one of the cerebral veins, or the unhealthy condition of a
cell, being in itself sufficient to bring about a complete mental
metamorphose, and, in common parlance, to produce madness.

In the deepest of sleeps, too, when there is less blood in the cerebral
veins, and the muscles are generally relaxed, and the pulse is slower,
and the respiratory movements are fewer in number, consciousness
departs, and man apparently lapses into a state of absolute nothingness
which materialists, not unreasonably, presume must be akin to death. It
would appear, then, that our mental faculties are entirely regulated by,
and consequently, entirely dependent on, the material within our brain
cells, and that, granted certain conditions of that material, we have
consciousness, and that, without those conditions, we have no
consciousness--in other words, "our minds cease to exist." Hence, there
is no such thing as separate spiritual existence; mind is merely an
eventuality of matter, and, when the latter perishes, the former
perishes too. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can exist
apart from the physical.

This is an assertion--unquestionably dogmatic--that exponents of
materialism hold to be logically unassailable. To disprove it may not be
an easy task at present; but I am, nevertheless, convinced there is a
world apart from matter--a superphysical plane with which part of us, at
least, is in some way connected, and I discredit the materialist's
dogma, partly because something in my nature compels me to an opposite
conclusion, and partly because certain phenomena I have experienced,
cannot, I am certain, have been produced by any physical agency.

In support of my theory that we are not solely material, but partly
physical and partly superphysical, I maintain that consciousness is
never wholly lost; that even in swoons and dreams, when all sensations
would seem to be swallowed up in the blackness of darkness, there is
SOME consciousness left--the consciousness of existence, of impression.
We recover from a faint, or awake from the most profound of slumbers,
and remember not that we have dreamed. Yet, if we think with sufficient
concentration, our memory suddenly returns to us, and we recollect that,
during the swoon or sleep, ALL thought was not obliterated, but, that we
were conscious of being somewhere and of experiencing SOMETHING.

It is only in our lighter sleeps, when the spirit traverses
superphysical planes more closely connected with the material, that we
remember ALL that occurred. Most of us will agree that there are two
distinct forms of mental existence--the one in which we are conscious
of the purely superphysical, and the one wherein we are only cognisant
of the physical. In the first-named of these two mental existences--
_i.e._ in swoons, sleep, and even death, consciousness is never entirely
lost; we still think--we think with our spiritual or unknown brain; and
when in the last-named state, _i.e._ in our physical wakefulness and
life, we think with our material or known brain.

Unknown brains exist on all sides of us. Many of them are the
earth-bound spirits of those whose spiritual or unknown brains, when on
the earth, were starved to feed their material or known brains; or, in
other words, the earth-bound spirits of those whose cravings, when in
carnal form, were entirely animal. It is they, together with a variety
of elementary forms of superphysical life (_i.e._ phantasms that have
never inhabited any kind of earthly body), that constantly surround us,
and, with their occult brains, suggest to our known brains every kind of
base and impure thought.

Something, it is difficult to say what, usually warns me of the presence
of these occult brains, and at certain times (and in certain places) I
can feel, with my superphysical mind, their subtle hypnotic influences.

It is the unknown brain that produces those manifestations usually
attributed to ghosts, and it is, more often than not, the possessors of
the unknown brain in constant activity, _i.e._ the denizens of the
superphysical world, who convey to our organs of hearing, either by
suggestion or actual presentation, the sensations of uncanny knocks,
crashes, shrieks, etc.; and to our organs of sight, all kinds of
uncanny, visual phenomena.

All the phenomena we see are not objective; but the agents who "will"
that we should see them are objective--they are the unknown brains. It
is a mistake to think that these unknown brains can only exert their
influence on a few of us. We are all subject to them, though we do not
all see their manifestations. Were it not for the lower order of spirit
brains, there would be comparatively few drunkards, gamblers,
adulterers, fornicators, murderers, and suicides. It is they who excite
man's animal senses, by conjuring up alluring pictures of drink, and
gold, and sexual happiness. By the aid of the higher type of spirit
brains (who, contending for ever with the lower forms of spirit brains,
are indeed our "guardian angels") I have been enabled to perceive the
atmosphere surrounding drinking-dens and brothels full of all kinds of
bestial influences, from elementals, who allure men by presenting to
their minds all kinds of attractive tableaux, to the earth-bound spirits
of drunkards and libertines, transformed into horrors of the sub-human,
sub-animal order of phantasms--things with bloated, nude bodies and
pigs' faces, shaggy bears with fulsome, watery eyes; mangy dogs, etc. I
have watched these things that still possess--and possess in a far
greater degree--all the passions of their life incarnate, sniffing the
foul and vitiated atmosphere of the public-houses and brothels, and
chafing in the most hideous manner at their inability to gratify their
lustful cravings in a more substantial way. A man advances along the
road at a swinging pace, with no thought, as yet, of deviating from his
course and entering a public-house. He comes within the radius of the
sinister influences, which I can see and feel hanging around the saloon.
Their shadowy, silent brain power at once comes into play and gains
ascendancy over his weaker will. He halts because he is "willed" to do
so. A tempting tableau of drink rises before him and he at once imagines
he is thirsty. Soft and fascinating elemental hands close over his and
draw him gently aside. A look of beastly satisfaction suffuses his eyes.
He smacks his lips, hastens his steps, the bar-room door closes behind
him, and, for the remaining hours of the day, he wallows in drink.

But the unknown brain does not confine itself to the neighbourhood of a
public-house--it may be anywhere. I have, intuitively, felt its presence
on the deserted moors of Cornwall, between St Ives and the Land's End;
in the grey Cornish churches and chapels (very much in the latter);
around the cold and dismal mouths of disused mine-shafts; all along the
rocky North Cornish coast; on the sea; at various spots on different
railway lines, both in the United Kingdom and abroad; and, of course, in
multitudinous places in London.

A year or so ago, I called on Mrs de B----, a well-known society lady,
at that time residing in Cadogan Gardens. The moment I entered her
drawing-room, I became aware of an occult presence that seemed to be
hovering around her. Wherever she moved, it moved with her, and I FELT
that its strange, fathomless, enigmatical eyes were fixed on her,
noting and guiding her innermost thoughts and her every action with
inexorable persistence.

Some six months later, I met Lady D----, a friend in common, and in
answer to my inquiries concerning Mrs de B----, was informed that she
had just been divorced. "Dorothy" (_i.e._ Mrs de B----), Lady D---- went
on to explain, "had been all right till she took up spiritualism, but
directly she began to attend séances everything seemed to go wrong with
her. At last she quarrelled with her husband, the climax being reached
when she became violently infatuated with an officer in the Guards. The
result was a decree _nisi_ with heavy costs." I exhibited, perhaps, more
surprise than I felt. But the fact of Mrs de B---- having attended
séances explained everything. She was obviously a woman with a naturally
weak will, and had fallen under the influence of one of the lowest, and
most dangerous types of earth-bound spirits, the type that so often
attends séances. This occult brain had attached itself to her, and,
accompanying her home, had deliberately wrecked her domestic happiness.
It would doubtless remain with her now _ad infinitum_. Indeed, it is
next to impossible to shake off these superphysical cerebrums. They
cling to one with such leech-like tenacity, and can rarely be made to
depart till they have accomplished their purposes.

Burial-grounds appear to have great attractions for this class of
spirit. A man, whom I once met at Boulogne, told me a remarkable story,
the veracity of which I have no reason to doubt.

"I have," he began, "undergone an experience which, though,
unfortunately, by no means unique, is one that is rarer nowadays than
formerly. I was once all but buried alive. It happened at a little
village, a most charming spot, near Maestel in the valley of the Rhone.
I had been stopping at the only inn the place possessed, and, cycling
out one morning, met with an accident--my machine skidded violently as I
was descending a steep hill, with the result that I was pitched head
first against a brick wall. The latter being considerably harder than my
skull, concussion followed. Some villagers picked me up insensible, I
was taken to the inn, and the nearest doctor--an uncertificated
wretch--was summoned. He knew little of trepanning; besides, I was a
foreigner, a German, and it did not matter. He bled me, it is true, and
performed other of the ordinary means of relief; but these producing no
apparent effect, he pronounced me dead, and preparations were at once
made for my burial. As strangers kept coming to the inn and the
accommodation was strictly limited, the landlord was considerably
incensed at having to waste a room on a corpse. Accordingly, he had me
screwed down in my coffin without delay, and placed in the cemetery
among the tombs, till the public gravedigger could conveniently spare a
few minutes to inter me. The shaking I received during my transit (for
the yokels were exceedingly rough and clumsy), together with the cold
night air which, luckily for me, found an easy means of access through
the innumerable chinks and cracks in the ill-fitting coffin-lid, acting
like a restorative tonic, I gradually revived, and the horror I felt in
realising my position is better, perhaps, imagined than described. When
consciousness first began to reassert itself, I simply fancied I was
awakening from a particularly deep sleep. I then struggled hard to
remember where I was and what had taken place. At first nothing came
back to me, all was blank and void; but as I continued to persevere,
gradually, very gradually, a recollection of my accident and of the
subsequent events returned to me. I remembered with the utmost
distinctness striking my head against the wall, and of SEEING myself
carried, head first, by two rustics--the one with a shock head of red
hair, the other swarthy as a Dago--to the inn. I recollected seeing the
almost humorous look of horror in the chambermaid's face, as she rushed
to inform the landlord, and the consternation of one and all during the
discussion as to what ought to be done. The landlady suggested one
thing, her husband another, the chambermaid another; and they all united
in ransacking my pockets--much to my dismay--to see if they could
discover a card-case or letter that might give them a clue as to my home
address. I saw them do all this; and it seemed as if I were standing
beside by own body, looking down at it, and that on all sides of me, and
apparently invisible to the rest of the company, were strange,
inscrutable pale eyes, set in the midst of grey, shapeless, shadowy
substances.

"Then the doctor--a little slim, narrow-chested man, with a pointed
beard and big ears--came and held a mirror to my mouth, and opened one
of my veins, and talked a great deal of gibberish, whilst he made
countless covert sheep's eyes at the pretty chambermaid, who had taken
advantage of his arrival to overhaul my knapsack and help herself from
my purse. I distinctly heard the arrangements made for my funeral, and
the voice of the landlord saying: 'Yes, of course, doctor, that is only
fair; you have taken no end of trouble with him. I will keep his watch'
(the watch was of solid gold, and cost me £25) 'and clothes to defray
the expenses of the funeral and pay for his recent board' (I had only
settled my account with him that morning). And the shrill voice of the
landlady echoed: 'Yes, that is only fair, only right!' Then they all
left the room, and I remained alone with my body. What followed was more
or less blurred. The innumerable and ever-watchful grey eyes impressed
me most. I recollected, however, the advent of the men--the same two who
had brought me to the inn--to take me away in my coffin, and I had vivid
recollections of tramping along the dark and silent road beside them,
and wishing I could liberate my body. Then we halted at the iron gate
leading into the cemetery, the coffin was dropped on the ground with a
bang, and--the rest was a blank. Nothing, nothing came back to me. At
first I was inclined to attribute my memory to a dream. 'Absurd!' I said
to myself. 'Such things cannot have occurred. I am in bed; I know I am!'
Then I endeavoured to move my arms to feel the counterpane; I could not;
my arms were bound, tightly bound to my side. A cold sweat burst out all
over me. Good God! was it true? I tried again; and the same thing
happened--I could not stir. Again and again I tried, straining and
tugging at my sides till the muscles on my arms were on the verge of
bursting, and I had to desist through utter exhaustion. I lay still and
listened to the beating of my heart. Then, I clenched my toes and tried
to kick. I could not; my feet were ruthlessly fastened together.

"Death garments! A winding-sheet! I could feel it clinging to me all
over. It compressed the air in my lungs, it retarded the circulation,
and gave me the most excruciating cramp, and pins and needles. My
sufferings were so acute that I groaned, and, on attempting to stretch
my jaws, found that they were encased in tight, clammy bandages. By
prodigious efforts I eventually managed to gain a certain amount of
liberty for my head, and this gave me the consolation that if I could do
nothing else I could at least howl--howl! How utterly futile, for who,
in God's name, would hear me? The thought of all there was above me, of
all the piles of earth and grass--for the idea that I was not actually
buried never entered my mind--filled me with the most abject sorrow and
despair. The utter helplessness of my position came home to me with
damning force. Rescue was absolutely out of the question, because the
only persons, who knew where I was, believed me dead. To my friends and
relations, my fate would ever remain a mystery. The knowledge that they
would, at once, have come to my assistance, had I only been able to
communicate with them, was cruel in the extreme; and tears of
mortification poured down my cheeks when I realised how blissfully
unconscious they were of my fate. The most vivid and alluring visions of
home, of my parents, and brothers, and sisters, flitted tantalisingly
before me. I saw them all sitting on their accustomary seats, in the
parlour, my father smoking his meerschaum, my mother knitting, my eldest
sister describing an opera she had been to that afternoon, my youngest
sister listening to her with mouth half open and absorbing interest in
her blue eyes, my brother examining the works of a clockwork engine
which he had just taken to pieces; whilst from the room overhead,
inhabited by a Count, a veteran who had won distinction in the campaigns
of '64 and '66, came strains of 'The Watch on the Rhine.' Every now and
then my mother would lean back in her chair and close her eyes, and I
knew intuitively she was thinking of me. Mein Gott! If she had only
known the truth. These tableaux faded away, and the gruesome awfulness
of my surroundings thrust themselves upon me. A damp, foetid smell,
suggestive of the rottenness of decay, assailed my nostrils and made me
sneeze. I choked; the saliva streamed in torrents down my chin and
throat! My recumbent position and ligaments made it difficult for me to
recover my breath; I grew black in the face; I imagined I was dying. I
abruptly, miraculously recovered, and all was silent as before. Silent!
Good heavens! There is no silence compared with that of the grave.

"I longed for a sound, for any sound, the creaking of a board, the
snapping of a twig, the ticking of an insect--there was none--the
silence was the silence of stone. I thought of worms; I imagined
countless legions of them making their way to me from the surrounding
mouldering coffins. Every now and then I uttered a shriek as something
cold and slimy touched my skin, and my stomach heaved within me as a
whiff of something particularly offensive fanned my face.

"Suddenly I saw eyes--the same grey, inscrutable eyes that I had seen
before--immediately above my own. I tried to fathom them, to discover
some trace of expression. I could not--they were insoluble. I
instinctively felt there was a subtle brain behind them, a brain that
was stealthily analysing me, and I tried to assure myself its intentions
were not hostile. Above, and on either side of the eyes, I saw the
shadow of something white, soft, and spongy, in which I fancied I could
detect a distinct likeness to a human brain, only on a large scale.
There were the cerebral lobes, or largest part of the forebrain,
enormously developed and overhanging the cerebellum, or great lobe of
the hindbrain, and completely covering the lobes of the midbrain. On the
cerebrum I even thought I could detect--for I have a smattering of
anatomy--the usual convolutions, and the grooves dividing the cerebrum
into two hemispheres. But there was something I had never seen before,
and which I could not account for--two things like antennæ, one on
either side of the cerebrum. As I gazed at them, they lengthened and
shortened in such quick succession that I grew giddy and had to remove
my eyes. What they were I cannot think; but then, of course the brain,
being occult, doubtless possessed properties of a nature wholly
unsuspected by me. The moment I averted my glance, I experienced--this
time on my forehead--the same cold, slimy sensation I had felt before,
and I at once associated it with the cerebral tentacles. Soon after this
I was touched in a similar manner on my right thigh, then on my left,
and simultaneously on both legs; then in a half a dozen places at the
same time. I looked out of the corner of my eyes, first on one side of
me and then the other, and encountered the shadowy semblance to brains
in each direction. I was therefore forced to conclude that the
atmosphere in the coffin was literally impregnated with psychic
cerebrums, and that every internal organ I possessed was being subjected
to the most minute inspection. My mind rapidly became filled with every
vile and lustful desire, and I cried aloud to be permitted five minutes'
freedom to put into operation the basest and filthiest of actions. My
thoughts were thus occupied when, to my amazement, I suddenly heard the
sound of voices--human voices. At first I listened with incredulity,
thinking that it must be merely a trick of my imagination or some
further ingenious, devilish device, on the part of the ghostly brains,
to torture me. But the voices continued, and drew nearer and nearer,
until I could at length distinguish what they were saying. The speakers
were two men, François and Jacques, and they were discussing the task
that brought them thither--the task of burying me. Burying me! So, then,
I was not yet under the earth! The revulsion of my feelings on
discovering that there was still a spark of hope is indescribable; the
blood surged through my veins in waves of fire, my eyes danced, my heart
thumped, and--I laughed! Laughed! There was no stopping me--peal
followed peal, louder and louder, until cobblestones and tombstones
reverberated and thundered back the sound.

"The effect on François and Jacques was the reverse of what I wished.
When first they heard me, they became suddenly and deathly silent. Then
their pent-up feelings of horror could stand it no longer, and with the
wildest of yells they dropped their pick and shovel, and fled. My
laughter ceased, and, half drowned in tears of anguish, I listened to
their sabots pounding along the gravel walk and on to the hard highroad,
till the noises ceased and there was, once again, universal and
awe-inspiring silence. Again the eyes and tentacles, again the yearnings
for base and shameful deeds, and again--oh, blissful interruption! the
sound of human voices--François and Jacques returning with a crowd of
people, all greatly excited, all talking at once.

"'I call God as my witness I heard it, and Jacques too. Isn't that so,
Jacques?' a voice, which I identified as that of François, shrieked. And
Jacques, doubtless as eager to be heard--for it was not once in a
lifetime anyone in his position had such an opportunity for
notoriety--as he was to come to his companion's rescue, bawled out; 'Ay!
There was no mistaking the sounds. May I never live to eat my supper
again if it was not laughter. Listen!' And everyone, at once, grew
quiet.

"Now was my opportunity--my only opportunity. A single sound, however
slight, however trivial, and I should be saved! A cry rose in my throat;
another instant and it would have escaped my lips, when a dozen
tentacles shot forward and I was silent. Despair, such as no soul
experienced more acutely, even when on the threshold of hell, now seized
me, and bid me make my last, convulsive effort. Collecting, nay, even
dragging together every atom of will-power that still remained within my
enfeebled frame, I swelled my lungs to their utmost. A kind of rusty,
vibratory movement ran through my parched tongue; my jaws creaked,
creaked and strained on their hinges, my lips puffed and assumed the
dimensions of bladders and--that was all. No sound came. A weight, soft,
sticky, pungent, and overwhelming, cloaked my brain, and spreading
weed-like, with numbing coldness, stifled the cry ere it left the
precincts of my larynx. Hope died within me--I was irretrievably lost. A
babel of voices now arose together. François, Jacques, the village curé,
gendarme, doctor, chambermaid, mine host and hostess, and others, whose
tones I did not recognise, clamoured to be heard. Some, foremost amongst
whom were François, Jacques, and a boy, were in favour of the coffin
being opened; whilst others, notably the doctor and chambermaid (who
pertly declared she had seen quite enough of my ugly face), ridiculed
the notion and said the sooner I was buried the better it would be. The
weather had been more than usually hot that day, and the corpse, which
was very much swollen--for, like all gourmands, I had had chronic
disease of the liver--had, in their opinion, already become insanitary.
The boy then burst out crying. It had always been the height of his
ambition, he said, to see someone dead, and he thought it a dastardly
shame on the part of the doctor and chambermaid to wish to deny him this
opportunity.

"The gendarme thinking, no doubt, he ought to have a say in the matter,
muttered something to the effect that children were a great deal too
forward nowadays, and that it would be time enough for the boy to see a
corpse when he broke his mother's heart--which, following the precedence
of all spoilt boys, he was certain to do sooner or later; and this
opinion found ready endorsement. The boy suppressed, my case began to
look hopeless, and the poignancy of my suspense became such that I
thought I should have gone mad. François was already persuaded into
setting to work with his pick, and, I should most certainly have been
speedily interred, had it not been for the timely arrival of a village
wag, who, planking himself unobserved behind a tombstone close to my
coffin, burst out laughing in the most sepulchral fashion. The effect on
the company was electrical; the majority, including the women, fled
precipitately, and the rest, overcoming the feeble protests of the
doctor, wrenched off the lid of the coffin. The spell, cast over me by
the occult brains, was now by a merciful Providence broken, and I was
able to explain my condition to the flabbergasted faces around me.

"I need only say, in conclusion, that the discomfiture of the doctor was
complete, and that I took good care to express my opinion of him
everywhere I went. Doubtless, many poor wretches have been less
fortunate than I, and, being pronounced dead by unskilled physicians,
have been prematurely interred. Apart from all the agony consequent to
asphyxiation, they must have suffered hellish tortures through the
agency of spirit brains."

This is the anecdote as related to me, and it serves as an illustration
of my theory that the unknown brain is objective, and that it can, under
given circumstances--_i.e._ when physical life is, so to speak, in
abeyance--be both seen and felt by the known brain. At birth, and more
particularly at death, the presence of the unknown brain is most marked.
And here it may not be inappropriate to remark that, in my experience at
least, the hour of midnight is by no means the time most favourable to
occult phenomena. I have seen far more manifestations at twilight, and
between two and four a.m., than at any other period of the day--times, I
think, according with those when human vitality is at its lowest and
death most frequently takes place. It is, doubtless, the ebb of human
vitality and the possibility of death that attracts the earth-bound
brains and other varying types of elemental harpies. They scent death
with ten times the acuteness of sharks and vultures, and hie with all
haste to the spot, so as to be there in good time to get their final
suck, vampire fashion, at the spiritual brain of the dying; substituting
in the place of what they extract, substance--in the shape of foul and
lustful thoughts--for the material or known brain to feed upon. The food
they have stolen, these vampires vainly imagine will enable them to rise
to a higher spiritual plane.

In connection with this subject of the two brains, the question arises:
What forms the connecting link between the material or known brain, and
the spiritual or unknown brain? If the unknown brain has a separate
existence, and can detach itself at times (as in "projection"), why must
it wait for death to set it entirely free? My answer to that question
is: That the connecting link consists of a magnetic force, at present
indefinable, the scope, or pale, of which varies according to the
relative dimensions of the two brains. In a case, for example, where the
physical or known brain is far more developed than the spiritual or
unknown brain, the radius of attraction would be limited and the
connecting link strong; on the other hand, in a case where the spiritual
or unknown brain is more developed than the physical or known brain, the
magnetic pale is proportionately wide, and the connecting link would be
weak.

Thus, in the swoon or profound sleep of a person possessing a greater
preponderance of physical than spiritual brain, the conscious self would
still be concerned with purely material matters, such as eating and
drinking, petty disputes, money, sexual desires, etc., though, owing to
the lack of concentration, which is a marked feature of those who
possess the grossly material brain, little or nothing of this conscious
self would be remembered. But in the swoon, or deep sleep of a person
possessing the spiritual brain in excess, the unknown brain is partially
freed from the known brain, and the conscious self is consequently far
away from the material body, on the confines of an entirely spiritual
plane. Of course, the experiences of this conscious self may or may not
be remembered, but there is, in its case, always the possibility, owing
to the capacity for concentration which is invariably the property of
all who have developed their spiritual or unknown brain, of subsequent
recollection.

At death, and at death only, the magnetic link is actually broken. The
unknown brain is then entirely freed from the known brain, and the
latter, together with the rest of the material body, perishes from
natural decay; whilst the former, no longer restricted within the limits
of its earthly pale, is at liberty to soar _ad infinitum_.



CHAPTER II

THE OCCULT IN SHADOWS


Many of the shadows, I have seen, have not had material counterparts.
They have invariably proved themselves to be superphysical danger
signals, the sure indicators of the presence of those grey, inscrutable,
inhuman cerebrums to which I have alluded; of phantasms of the dead and
of elementals of all kinds. There is an indescribable something about
them, that at once distinguishes them from ordinary shadows, and puts me
on my guard. I have seen them in houses that to all appearances are the
least likely to be haunted--houses full of sunshine and the gladness of
human voices. In the midst of merriment, they have darkened the wall
opposite me like the mystic writing in Nebuchadnezzar's palace. They
have suddenly appeared by my side, as I have been standing on rich, new
carpeting or sun-kissed swards. They have floated into my presence with
both sunbeams and moonbeams, through windows, doors, and curtains, and
their advent has invariably been followed by some form or other of
occult demonstration. I spent some weeks this summer at Worthing, and,
walking one afternoon to the Downs, selected a bright and secluded spot
for a comfortable snooze. I revel in snatching naps in the open
sunshine, and this was a place that struck me as being perfectly ideal
for that purpose. It was on the brow of a diminutive hillock covered
with fresh, lovely grass of a particularly vivid green. In the rear and
on either side of it, the ground rose and fell in pleasing alternation
for an almost interminable distance, whilst in front of it there was a
gentle declivity (up which I had clambered) terminating in the broad,
level road leading to Worthing. Here, on this broad expanse of the
Downs, was a fairyland of soft sea air, sunshine and rest--rest from
mankind, from the shrill, unmusical voices of the crude and rude product
of the County Council schools.

I sat down; I never for one moment thought of phantasms; I fell asleep.
I awoke; the hot floodgates of the cloudless heaven were still open, the
air translucent over and around me, when straight in front of me, on a
gloriously gilded patch of grass, there fell a shadow--a shadow from no
apparent substance, for both air and ground were void of obstacles, and,
apart from myself, there was no living object in the near landscape. Yet
it was a shadow; a shadow that I could not diagnose; a waving,
fluctuating shadow, unpleasantly suggestive of something subtle and
horrid. It was, I instinctively knew, the shadow of the occult; a few
moments more, and a development would, in all probability, take place.
The blue sky, the golden sea, the tiny trails of smoke creeping up
lazily from the myriads of chimney-pots, the white house-tops, the red
house-tops, the church spire, the railway line, the puffing, humming,
shuffling goods-train, the glistening white roads, the breathing, busy
figures, and the bright and smiling mile upon mile of emerald turf rose
in rebellion against the likelihood of ghosts--yet, there was the
shadow. I looked away from it, and, as I did so, an icy touch fell on my
shoulder. I dared not turn; I sat motionless, petrified, frozen. The
touch passed to my forehead and from thence to my chin, my head swung
round forcibly, and I saw--nothing--only the shadow; but how different,
for out of the chaotic blotches there now appeared a well--a remarkably
well--defined outline, the outline of a head and hand, the head of a
fantastic beast, a repulsive beast, and the hand of a man. A flock of
swallows swirled overhead, a grasshopper chirped, a linnet sang, and,
with this sudden awakening of nature, the touch and shadow vanished
simultaneously. But the hillock had lost its attractions for me, and,
rising hastily, I dashed down the decline and hurried homewards. I
discovered no reason other than solitude, and the possible burial-place
of prehistoric man, for the presence of the occult; but the next time I
visited the spot, the same thing happened. I have been there twice
since, and the same, always the same thing--first the shadow, then the
touch, then the shadow, then the arrival of some form or other of joyous
animal life, and the abrupt disappearance of the Unknown.

I was once practising bowls on the lawn of a very old house, the other
inhabitants of which were all occupied indoors. I had taken up a bowl,
and was in the act of throwing it, when, suddenly, on the empty space in
front of me I saw a shadow, a nodding, waving, impenetrable,
undecipherable shadow. I looked around, but there was nothing visible
that could in any way account for it. I threw down the bowl and turned
to go indoors. As I did so, something touched me lightly in the face. I
threw out my hand and touched a cold, clammy substance strangely
suggestive of the leafy branch of a tree. Yet nothing was to be seen. I
felt again, and my fingers wandered to a broader expanse of something
gnarled and uneven. I kept on exploring, and my grasp closed over
something painfully prickly. I drew my hand smartly back, and, as I did
so, distinctly heard the loud and angry rustling of leaves. Just then
one of my friends called out to me from a window. I veered round to
reply, and the shadow had vanished. I never saw it again, though I often
had the curious sensation that it was there. I did not mention my
experience to my friends, as they were pronounced disbelievers in the
superphysical, but tactful inquiry led to my gleaning the information
that on the identical spot, where I had felt the phenomena, had once
stood a horse-chestnut tree, which had been cut down owing to the strong
aversion the family had taken to it, partly on account of a strange
growth on the trunk, unpleasantly suggestive of cancer, and partly
because a tramp had hanged himself on one of the branches.

All sorts of extraordinary shadows have come to me in the Parks, the
Twopenny Tube, and along the Thames Embankment. At ten o'clock, on the
morning of 1st April 1899, I entered Hyde Park by one of the side gates
of the Marble Arch, and crossing to the island, sat down on an empty
bench. The sky was grey, the weather ominous, and occasional heavy drops
of rain made me rejoice in the possession of an umbrella. On such a day,
the park does not appear at its best. The Arch exhibited a dull, dirty,
yellowish-grey exterior; every seat was bespattered with mud; whilst, to
render the general aspect still more unprepossessing, the trees had not
yet donned their mantles of green, but stood dejectedly drooping their
leafless branches as if overcome with embarrassment at their nakedness.
On the benches around me sat, or lay, London's homeless--wretched-looking
men in long, tattered overcoats, baggy, buttonless trousers, cracked and
laceless boots, and shapeless bowlers, too weak from want of food and
rest even to think of work, almost incapable, indeed, of thought at
all--breathing corpses, nothing more, with premature signs of
decomposition in their filthy smell. And the women--the women were, if
possible, ranker--feebly pulsating, feebly throbbing, foully stinking,
rotten, living deaths. No amount of soap, food, or warmth could reclaim
them now. Nature's implacable law--the survival of the fittest, the
weakest to the wall--was here exhibited in all its brutal force, and, as
I gazed at the weakest, my heart turned sick within me.

Time advanced; one by one the army of tatterdemalions crawled away, God
alone knew how, God alone knew where. In all probability God did not
care. Why should He? He created Nature and Nature's laws.

A different type of humanity replaced this garbage: neat and dapper
girls on their way to business; black-bowlered, spotless-leathered,
a-guinea-a-week clerks, casting longing glances at the pale grass and
countless trees (their only reminiscence of the country), as they
hastened their pace, lest they should be a minute late for their hateful
servitude; a policeman with the characteristic stride and swinging arms;
a brisk and short-stepped postman; an apoplectic-looking,
second-hand-clothes-man; an emaciated widow; a typical charwoman; two
mechanics; the usual brutal-faced labourer; one of the idle rich in
shiny hat, high collar, cutaway coat, prancing past on a coal-black
horse; and a bevy of nursemaids.

To show my mind was not centred on the occult,--bootlaces, collar-studs,
the two buttons on the back of ladies' coats, dyed hair, servants' feet,
and a dozen and one other subjects, quite other than the superphysical,
successively occupied my thoughts. Imagine, then, my surprise and the
shock I received, when, on glancing at the gravel in front of me, I saw
two shadows--two enigmatical shadows. A dog came shambling along the
path, showed its teeth, snarled, sprang on one side, and, with bristling
hair, fled for its life. I examined the plot of ground behind me; there
was nothing that could in any way account for the shadows, nothing like
them. Something rubbed against my leg. I involuntarily put down my hand;
it was a foot--a clammy lump of ice, but, unmistakably, a foot. Yet of
what? I saw nothing, only the shadows. I did not want to discover more;
my very soul shrank within me at the bare idea of what there might be,
what there was. But, as is always the case, the superphysical gave me no
choice; my hand, moving involuntarily forward, rested on something flat,
round, grotesque, horrid, something I took for a face, but a face which
I knew could not be human. Then I understood the shadows. Uniting, they
formed the outline of something lithe and tall, the outline of a
monstrosity with a growth even as I had felt it--flat, round, grotesque,
and horrid. Was it the phantasm of one of those poor waifs and strays,
having all their bestialities and diseases magnified; or was it the
spirit of a tree of some unusually noxious nature?

I could not divine, and so I came away unsatisfied. But I believe the
shadow is still there, for I saw it only the last time I was in the
Park.



CHAPTER III

OBSESSION, POSSESSION


_Clocks, Chests and Mummies_

As I have already remarked, spirit or unknown brains are frequently
present at births. The brains of infants are very susceptible to
impressions, and, in them, the thought-germs of the occult brains find
snug billets. As time goes on, these germs develop and become generally
known as "tastes," "cranks," and "manias."

It is an error to think that men of genius are especially prone to
manias. On the contrary, the occult brains have the greatest difficulty
in selecting thought-germs sufficiently subtle to lodge in the
brain-cells of a child of genius. Practically, any germ of carnal
thought will be sure of reception in the protoplasmic brain-cells of a
child, who is destined to become a doctor, solicitor, soldier,
shopkeeper, labourer, or worker in any ordinary occupation; but the
thought-germ that will find entrance to the brain-cells of a future
painter, writer, actor, or musician, must represent some propensity of a
more or less extraordinary nature.

We all harbour these occult missiles, we are all to a certain extent
mad: the proud mamma who puts her only son into the Church or makes a
lawyer of him, and placidly watches him develop a scarlet face, double
chin, and prodigious paunch, would flounce out a hundred and one
indignant denials if anyone suggested he had a mania, but it would be
true; gluttony would be his mania, and one every whit as prohibitive to
his chances of reaching the spiritual plane, as drink, or sexual
passion. Love of eating is, indeed, quite the commonest form of
obsession, and one that develops soonest. Nine out of ten
children--particularly present-day children, whose doting parents
encourage their every desire--are fonder of cramming their bellies than
of playing cricket or skipping; games soon weary them, but buns and
chocolates never. The truth is, buns and chocolate have obsessed them.
They think of them all day, and dream of them all night. It is buns and
chocolates! wherever and whenever they turn or look--buns and
chocolates! This greed soon develops, as the occult brain intended it
should; enforced physical labour, or athletics, or even sedentary work
may dwarf its growth for a time, but at middle and old age it comes on
again, and the buns and chocolates are become so many coursed luncheons
and dinners. Their world is one of menus, nothing but menus; their only
mental exertion the study of menus, and I have no doubt that "tuck"
shops and restaurants are besieged by the ever-hungry spirit of the
earth-bound glutton. Though the drink-germ is usually developed later
(and its later growth is invariably accelerated with seas of alcohol),
it not infrequently feeds its initial growth with copious streams of
ginger beer and lemon kali.

Manual labourers--_i.e._ navvies, coal-heavers, miners, etc.--are
naturally more or less brutal. Their brain-cells at birth offered so
little resistance to the evil occult influences that they received, in
full, all the lower germs of thought inoculated by the occult brains.
Drink, gluttony, cruelty, all came to their infant cerebrums
cotemporaneously. The cruelty germ develops first, and cats, dogs,
donkeys, smaller brothers, and even babies are made to feel the superior
physical strength of the early wearer of hobnails. He is obsessed with a
mania for hurting something, and with his strongly innate instinct of
self-preservation, invariably chooses something that cannot harm him.
Daily he looks around for fresh victims, and finally decides that the
weedy offspring of the hated superior classes are the easiest prey. In
company with others of his species, he annihilates the boy in Etons on
his way to and from school, and the after recollections of the
weakling's bloody nose and teardrops are as nectar to him. The cruelty
germ develops apace. The bloody noses of the well-dressed classes are
his mania now. He sees them at every turn and even dreams of them. He
grows to manhood, and either digs in the road or plies the pick and
shovel underground. The mechanical, monotonous exercise and the
sordidness of his home surroundings foster the germ, and his leisure
moments are occupied with the memory of those glorious times when he was
hitting out at someone, and he feels he would give anything just to
have one more blow. Curse the police! If it were not for them he could
indulge his hobby to the utmost. But the stalwart, officious man in blue
is ever on the scene, and the thrashing of a puny cleric or sawbones is
scarcely compensation for a month's hard labour. Yet his mania must be
satisfied somehow--it worries him to pieces. He must either smash
someone's nose or go mad; there is no alternative, and he chooses the
former. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals prevents
him skinning a cat; the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Children will be down on him at once if he strikes a child, and so he
has no other resource left but his wife--he can knock out all her teeth,
bash in her ribs, and jump on her head to his heart's content. She will
never dare prosecute him, and, if she does, some Humanitarian Society
will be sure to see that he is not legally punished. He thus finds safe
scope for the indulgence of his crank, and when there is nothing left of
his own wife, he turns his unattractive and pusillanimous attentions to
someone else's.

But occult thought-germs of this elementary type only thrive where the
infant's spiritual or unknown brain is wholly undeveloped. Where the
spiritual or unknown brain of an infant is partially developed, the
germ-thought to be lodged in it (especially if it be a germ-thought of
cruelty) must be of a more subtle and refined nature.

I have traced the growth of cruelty obsession in children one would not
suspect of any great tendency to animalism. A refined love of making
others suffer has led them to vent inquisitionary tortures on insects,
and the mania for pulling off the legs of flies and roasting beetles
under spyglasses has been gradually extended to drowning mice in cages
and seeing pigs killed. Time develops the germ; the cruel boy becomes
the callous doctor or "sharp-practising" attorney, and the cruel girl
becomes the cruel mother and often the frail divorcée. Drink and cards
are an obsession with some; cruelty is just as much a matter of
obsession with others. But the ingenuity of the occult brain rises to
higher things; it rises to the subtlest form of invention when dealing
with the artistic and literary temperament. I have been intimately
acquainted with authors--well-known in the popular sense of the
word--who have been obsessed in the oddest and often most painful ways.

The constant going back to turn door-handles, the sitting in grotesque
and untoward positions, the fondness for fingering any smooth and shiny
objects, such as mother-of-pearl, develop into manias for change--change
of scenery, of occupation, of affections, of people--change that
inevitably necessitates misery; for breaking--breaking promises,
contracts, family ties, furniture--but breaking, always breaking; for
sensuality--sensuality sometimes venial, but often of the most gross and
unpardonable nature.

I knew a musician who was obsessed in a peculiarly loathsome manner. Few
knew of his misfortune, and none abominated it more than himself. He
sang divinely, had the most charming personality, was all that could be
desired as a husband and father, and yet was, in secret, a monomaniac of
the most degrading and unusual order. In the daytime, when all was
bright and cheerful, his mania was forgotten; but the moment twilight
came, and he saw the shadows of night stealing stealthily towards him,
his craze returned, and, if alone, he would steal surreptitiously out of
the house and, with the utmost perseverance, seek an opportunity of
carrying into effect his bestial practices. I have known him tie himself
to the table, surround himself with Bibles, and resort to every
imaginable device to divert his mind from his passion, but all to no
purpose; the knowledge that outside all was darkness and shadows proved
irresistible. With a beating heart he put on his coat and hat, and,
furtively opening the door, slunk out to gratify his hateful lust.
Heaven knows! he went through hell.

I once watched a woman obsessed with an unnatural and wholly monstrous
mania for her dog. She took it with her wherever she went, to the
theatre, the shops, church, in railway carriages, on board ship. She
dressed it in the richest silks and furs, decorated it with bangles,
presented it with a watch, hugged, kissed, and fondled it, took it to
bed with her, dreamed of it. When it died, she went into heavy mourning
for it, and in an incredibly short space of time pined away. I saw her a
few days before her death, and I was shocked; her gestures, mannerisms,
and expression had become absolutely canine, and when she smiled--smiled
in a forced and unnatural manner--I could have sworn I saw Launcelot,
her pet!

There was also a man, a brilliant writer, who from a boy had been
obsessed with a craze for all sorts of glossy things, more especially
buttons. The mania grew; he spent all his time running after girls who
were manicured, or who wore shining buttons, and, when he married, he
besought his wife to sew buttons on every article of her apparel. In the
end, he is said to have swallowed a button, merely to enjoy the
sensation of its smooth surface on the coats of his stomach.

This somewhat exaggerated instance of obsession serves to show that, no
matter how extraordinary the thought-germ, it may enter one's mind and
finally become a passion.

That the majority of people are obsessed, though in a varying degree, is
a generally accepted fact; but that furniture can be possessed by occult
brains, though not a generally accepted fact, is, I believe, equally
true.

In a former work, entitled _Some Haunted Houses of England and Wales_,
published by Mr Eveleigh Nash, I described how a bog-oak grandfather's
clock was possessed by a peculiar type of elemental, which I
subsequently classified as a vagrarian, or kind of grotesque spirit that
inhabits wild and lonely places, and, not infrequently, spots where
there are the remains of prehistoric (and even latter-day) man and
beast. In another volume called _The Haunted Houses of London_, I
narrated the haunting of a house in Portman Square by a grandfather's
clock, the spirit in possession causing it to foretell death by
striking certain times; and I have since heard of hauntings by phenomena
of a more or less similar nature.

The following is an example. A very dear friend of mine was taken ill
shortly before Christmas. No one at the time suspected there was
anything serious the matter with her, although her health of late had
been far from good. I happened to be staying in the house just then, and
found, that for some reason or other, I could not sleep. I do not often
suffer from insomnia, so that the occurrence struck me as somewhat
extraordinary. My bedroom opened on to a large, dark landing. In one
corner of it stood a very old grandfather's clock, the ticking of which
I could distinctly hear when the house was quiet. For the first two or
three nights of my visit the clock was as usual, but, the night before
my friend was taken ill, its ticking became strangely irregular. At one
moment it sounded faint, at the next moment, the reverse; now it was
slow, now quick; until at length, in a paroxysm of curiosity and fear, I
cautiously opened my door and peeped out. It was a light night, and the
glass face of the clock flashed back the moonbeams with startling
brilliancy. A grim and subdued hush hung over the staircases and
landings. The ticking was now low; but as I listened intently, it
gradually grew louder and louder, until, to my horror, the colossal
frame swayed violently backwards and forwards. Unable to stand the sight
of it any longer, and fearful of what I might see next, I retreated into
my room, and, carefully locking the door, lit the gas, and got into
bed. At three o'clock the ticking once again became normal. The
following night the same thing occurred, and I discovered that certain
other members of the household had also heard it. My friend rapidly grew
worse, and the irregularities of the clock became more and more
pronounced, more and more disturbing. Then there came a morning, when,
between two and three o'clock, unable to lie in bed and listen to the
ticking any longer, I got up. An irresistible attraction dragged me to
the door. I peeped out, and there, with the moonlight concentrated on
its face as before, swayed the clock, backwards and forwards, backwards
and forwards, slowly and solemnly; and with each movement there issued
from within it a hollow, agonised voice, the counterpart of that of my
sick friend, exclaiming, "Oh dear! Oh dear! It is coming! It is coming!"

I was so fascinated, so frightened, that I could not remove my gaze, but
was constrained to stand still and stare at it; and all the while there
was a dull, mechanical repetition of the words: "Oh dear! Oh dear! It is
coming, it is coming!" Half an hour passed in this manner, and the hands
indicated five minutes to three, when a creak on the staircase made me
look round. My heart turned to ice--there, half-way down the stairs, was
a tall, black figure, its polished ebony skin shining in the moonbeams.
I saw only its body at first, for I was far too surprised even to glance
at its face. As it glided noiselessly towards me, however, obeying an
uncontrollable impulse, I looked. There was no face at all, only two
eyes--two long, oblique, half-open eyes--grey and sinister,
inexpressibly, hellishly sinister--and, as they met my gaze, they smiled
gleefully. They passed on, the door of the clock swung open, and the
figure stepped inside and vanished! I was now able to move, and
re-entering my room, I locked myself in, turned on the gas, and buried
myself under the bedclothes.

I left the house next day, and shortly afterwards received the
melancholy tidings of the death of my dear friend. For the time being,
at least, the clock had been possessed by an elemental spirit of death.

I know an instance, too, in which a long, protracted whine, like the
whine of a dog, proceeded from a grandfather's clock, prior to any
catastrophe in a certain family; another instance, in which loud thumps
were heard in a grandfather's clock before a death; and still another
instance in which a hooded face used occasionally to be seen in lieu of
the clock's face.

In all these cases, the clocks were undoubtedly temporarily possessed by
the same type of spirit--the type I have classified "Clanogrian" or
Family Ghost--occult phenomena that, having attached themselves in
bygone ages to certain families, sometimes cling to furniture (often not
inappropriately to clocks) that belonged to those families; and, still
clinging, in its various removals, to the piece they have "possessed,"
continue to perform their original grizzly function of foretelling
death.

Of course, these charnel prophets are not the only phantasms that
"possess" furniture. For example, I once heard of a case of
"possession" by a non-prophetic phantasm in connection with a chest--an
antique oak chest which, I believe, claimed to be a native of Limerick.
After experiencing many vicissitudes in its career, the chest fell into
the hands of a Mrs MacNeill, who bought it at a rather exorbitant price
from a second-hand dealer in Cork.

The chest, placed in the dining-room of its new home, was the recipient
of much premature adulation. The awakening came one afternoon soon after
its arrival, when Mrs MacNeill was alone in the dining-room at twilight.
She had spent a very tiring morning shopping in Tralee, her nearest
market-town, and consequently fell asleep in an arm-chair in front of
the fire, directly after luncheon. She awoke with a sensation of extreme
chilliness, and thinking the window could not have been shut properly,
she got up to close it, when her attention was attracted by something
white protruding from under the lid of the chest. She went up to inspect
it, but she recoiled in horror. It was a long finger, with a very
protuberant knuckle-bone, but no sign of a nail. She was so shocked that
for some seconds she could only stand staring at it, mute and helpless;
but the sound of approaching carriage-wheels breaking the spell, she
rushed to the fireplace and pulled the bell vigorously. As she did so,
there came a loud chuckle from the chest, and all the walls of the room
seemed to shake with laughter.

Of course everyone laughed when Mrs MacNeill related what had happened.
The chest was minutely examined, and as it was found to contain nothing
but some mats that had been stored away in it the previous day, the
finger was forthwith declared to have been an optical illusion, and Mrs
MacNeill was, for the time being, ridiculed into believing it was so
herself. For the next two or three days nothing occurred; nothing, in
fact, until one night when Mrs MacNeill and her daughters heard the
queerest of noises downstairs, proceeding apparently from the
dining-room--heavy, flopping footsteps, bumps as if a body was being
dragged backwards and forwards across the floor, crashes as if all the
crockery in the house had been piled in a mass on the floor, loud peals
of malevolent laughter, and then--silence.

The following night, the disturbances being repeated, Mrs MacNeill
summoned up courage to go downstairs and peep into the room. The noises
were still going on when she arrived at the door, but, the moment she
opened it, they ceased and there was nothing to be seen. A day or two
afterwards, when she was again alone in the dining-room and the evening
shadows were beginning to make their appearance, she glanced anxiously
at the chest, and--there was the finger. Losing her self-possession at
once, and yielding to a paroxysm of the wildest, the most ungovernable
terror, she opened her mouth to shriek. Not a sound came; the cry that
had been generated in her lungs died away ere it reached her larynx, and
she relapsed into a kind of cataleptic condition, in which all her
faculties were acutely alert but her limbs and organs of speech palsied.

She expected every instant that the chest-lid would fly open and that
the baleful thing lurking within would spring upon her. The torture she
suffered from such anticipations was little short of hell, and was
rendered all the more maddening by occasional quiverings of the lid,
which brought all her expectations to a climax. Now, now at any rate,
she assured herself, the moment had come when the acme of horrordom
would be bounced upon her and she would either die or go mad. But no;
her agonies were again and again borne anew, and her prognostications
unfulfilled. At last the creakings abruptly ceased--nothing was to be
heard save the shaking of the trees, the distant yelping of a dog, and
the far-away footfall of one of the servants. Having somewhat recovered
from the shock, Mrs MacNeill was busy speculating as to the appearance
of the hidden horror, when she heard a breathing, the subtle, stealthy
breathing of the secreted pouncer. Again she was spellbound. The evening
advanced, and from every nook and cranny of the room, from behind
chairs, sofa, sideboard, and table, from window-sill and curtains, stole
the shadows, all sorts of curious shadows, that brought with them an
atmosphere of the barren, wind-swept cliffs and dark, deserted
mountains, an atmosphere that added fresh terrors to Mrs MacNeill's
already more than distraught mind.

The room was now full of occult possibilities, drawn from all quarters,
and doubtless attracted thither by the chest, which acted as a physical
magnet. It grew late; still no one came to her rescue; and still more
shadows, and more, and more, and more, until the room was full of them.
She actually saw them gliding towards the house, in shoals, across the
moon-kissed lawn and carriage-drive. Shadows of all sorts--some,
unmistakable phantasms of the dead, with skinless faces and glassy eyes,
their bodies either wrapped in shrouds covered with the black slime of
bogs or dripping with water; some, whole and lank and bony; some with an
arm or leg missing; some with no limbs or body, only heads--shrunken,
bloodless heads with wide-open, staring eyes--yellow, ichorous
eyes--gleaming, devilish eyes. Elementals of all sorts--some, tall and
thin, with rotund heads and meaningless features; some, with
rectangular, fleshy heads; some, with animal heads. On they came in
countless legions, on, on, and on, one after another, each vying with
the other in ghastly horridness.

The series of terrific shocks Mrs MacNeill experienced during the
advance of this long and seemingly interminable procession of every
conceivable ghoulish abortion, at length wore her out. The pulsations of
her naturally strong heart temporarily failed, and, as her pent-up
feelings found vent in one gasping scream for help, she fell insensible
to the ground.

That very night the chest was ruthlessly cremated, and Mrs MacNeill's
dining-room ceased to be a meeting-place for spooks.

Whenever I see an old chest now, I always view it with
suspicion--especially if it should happen to be a bog-oak chest. The
fact is, the latter is more likely than not to be "possessed" by
elementals, which need scarcely be a matter of surprise when one
remembers that bogs--particularly Irish bogs--have been haunted, from
time immemorial, by the most uncouth and fantastic type of spirits.

But mummies, mummies even more often than clocks and chests, are
"possessed" by denizens of the occult world. Of course, everyone has
heard of the "unlucky" mummy, the painted case of which, only, is in the
Oriental department of the British Museum, and the story connected with
it is so well known that it would be superfluous to expatiate on it
here. I will therefore pass on to instances of other mummies "possessed"
in a more or less similar manner.

During one of my sojourns in Paris, I met a Frenchman who, he informed
me, had just returned from the East. I asked him if he had brought back
any curios, such as vases, funeral urns, weapons, or amulets. "Yes,
lots," he replied, "two cases full. But no mummies! Mon Dieu! No
mummies! You ask me why? Ah! Therein hangs a tale. If you will have
patience, I will tell it you."

The following is the gist of his narrative:--

"Some seasons ago I travelled up the Nile as far as Assiut, and when
there, managed to pay a brief visit to the grand ruins of Thebes. Among
the various treasures I brought away with me, of no great archæological
value, was a mummy. I found it lying in an enormous lidless sarcophagus,
close to a mutilated statue of Anubis. On my return to Assiut, I had the
mummy placed in my tent, and thought no more of it till something awoke
me with a startling suddenness in the night. Then, obeying a peculiar
impulse, I turned over on my side and looked in the direction of my
treasure.

"The nights in the Soudan at this time of year are brilliant; one can
even see to read, and every object in the desert is almost as clearly
visible as by day. But I was quite startled by the whiteness of the glow
that rested on the mummy, the face of which was immediately opposite
mine. The remains--those of Met-Om-Karema, lady of the College of the
god Amen-ra--were swathed in bandages, some of which had worn away in
parts or become loose; and the figure, plainly discernible, was that of
a shapely woman with elegant bust, well-formed limbs, rounded arms and
small hands. The thumbs were slender, and the fingers, each of which
were separately bandaged, long and tapering. The neck was full, the
cranium rather long, the nose aquiline, the chin firm. Imitation eyes,
brows, and lips were painted on the wrappings, and the effect thus
produced, and in the phosphorescent glare of the moonbeams, was very
weird. I was quite alone in the tent, the only other European, who had
accompanied me to Assiut, having stayed in the town by preference, and
my servants being encamped at some hundred or so yards from me on the
ground.

"Sound travels far in the desert, but the silence now was absolute, and
although I listened attentively, I could not detect the slightest
noise--man, beast, and insect were abnormally still. There was something
in the air, too, that struck me as unusual; an odd, clammy coldness that
reminded me at once of the catacombs in Paris. I had hardly, however,
conceived the resemblance, when a sob--low, gentle, but very
distinct--sent a thrill of terror through me. It was ridiculous, absurd!
It could not be, and I fought against the idea as to whence the sound
had proceeded, as something too utterly fantastic, too utterly
impossible! I tried to occupy my mind with other thoughts--the
frivolities of Cairo, the casinos of Nice; but all to no purpose; and
soon on my eager, throbbing ear there again fell that sound, that low
and gentle sob. My hair stood on end; this time there was no doubt, no
possible manner of doubt--the mummy lived! I looked at it aghast. I
strained my vision to detect any movement in its limbs, but none was
perceptible. Yet the noise had come from it, it had breathed--breathed--
and even as I hissed the word unconsciously through my clenched lips,
the bosom of the mummy rose and fell.

"A frightful terror seized me. I tried to shriek to my servants; I could
not ejaculate a syllable. I tried to close my eyelids, but they were
held open as in a vice. Again there came a sob that was immediately
succeeded by a sigh; and a tremor ran through the figure from head to
foot. One of its hands then began to move, the fingers clutched the air
convulsively, then grew rigid, then curled slowly into the palms, then
suddenly straightened. The bandages concealing them from view then fell
off, and to my agonised sight were disclosed objects that struck me as
strangely familiar. There is something about fingers, a marked
individuality, I never forget. No two persons' hands are alike. And in
these fingers, in their excessive whiteness, round knuckles, and blue
veins, in their tapering formation and perfect filbert nails, I read a
likeness whose prototype, struggle how I would, I could not recall.
Gradually the hand moved upwards, and, reaching the throat, the fingers
set to work, at once, to remove the wrappings. My terror was now
sublime! I dare not imagine, I dare not for one instant think, what I
should see! And there was no getting away from it; I could not stir an
inch, not the fraction of an inch, and the ghastly revelation would take
place within a yard of my face.

"One by one the bandages came off. A glimmer of skin, pallid as marble;
the beginning of the nose, the whole nose; the upper lip, exquisitely,
delicately cut; the teeth, white and even on the whole, but here and
there a shining gold filling; the under-lip, soft and gentle; a mouth I
knew, but--God!--where? In my dreams, in the wild fantasies that had
oft-times visited my pillow at night--in delirium, in reality, where?
Mon Dieu! WHERE?

"The uncasing continued. The chin came next, a chin that was purely
feminine, purely classical; then the upper part of the head--the hair
long, black, luxuriant--the forehead low and white--the brows black,
finely pencilled; and, last of all, the eyes!--and as they met my
frenzied gaze and smiled, smiled right down into the depths of my livid
soul, I recognised them--they were the eyes of my mother, my mother who
had died in my boyhood! Seized with a madness that knew no bounds, I
sprang to my feet. The figure rose and confronted me. I flung open my
arms to embrace her, the woman of all women in the world I loved best,
the only woman I had loved. Shrinking from my touch, she cowered against
the side of the tent. I fell on my knees before her and kissed--what?
Not the feet of my mother, but that of the long unburied dead. Sick with
repulsion and fear I looked up, and there, bending over and peering into
my eyes was the face, the fleshless, mouldering face of a foul and
barely recognisable corpse! With a shriek of horror I rolled backwards,
and, springing to my feet, prepared to fly. I glanced at the mummy. It
was lying on the ground, stiff and still, every bandage in its place;
whilst standing over it, a look of fiendish glee in its light, doglike
eyes, was the figure of Anubis, lurid and menacing.

"The voices of my servants, assuring me they were coming, broke the
silence, and in an instant the apparition vanished.

"I had had enough of the tent, however, at least for that night, and,
seeking refuge in the town, I whiled away the hours till morning with a
fragrant cigar and novel. Directly I had breakfasted, I took the mummy
back to Thebes and left it there. No, thank you, Mr O'Donnell, I collect
many kinds of curios, but--no more mummies!"



CHAPTER IV

OCCULT HOOLIGANS


Deducing from my own and other people's experiences, there exists a
distinct type of occult phenomenon whose sole occupation is in
boisterous orgies and in making manifestations purely for the sake of
causing annoyance. To this phantasm the Germans have given the name
POLTERGEIST, whilst in former of my works I have classified it as a
Vagrarian Order of ELEMENTAL. It is this form of the superphysical,
perhaps, that up to the present time has gained the greatest
credence--it has been known in all ages and in all countries. Who, for
example, has not heard of the famous Stockwell ghost that caused such a
sensation in 1772, and of which Mrs Crowe gives a detailed account in
her _Night Side of Nature_; or again, of "The Black Lion Lane, Bayswater
Ghost," referred to many years ago in _The Morning Post_; or, of the
"Epworth Ghost," that so unceasingly tormented the Wesley family; or, of
the "Demon of Tedworth" that gave John Mompesson and his family no
peace, and of countless other well-authenticated and recorded instances
of this same type of occult phenomenon? The poltergeists in the
above-mentioned cases were never seen, only felt and heard; but in what
a disagreeable and often painful manner! The Demon of Tedworth, for
example, awoke everyone at night by thumping on doors and imitating the
beatings of a drum. It rattled bedsteads, scratched on the floor and
wall as if possessing iron talons, groaned, and uttered loud cries of "A
witch! A witch!" Nor was it content with these auditory demonstrations,
for it resorted to far more energetic methods of physical violence.
Furniture was moved out of its place and upset; the children's shoes
were taken off their feet and thrown over their heads; their hair was
tweaked and their clothes pulled; one little boy was even hit on a sore
place on his heel; the servants were lifted bodily out of their beds and
let fall; whilst several members of the household were stripped of all
they had on, forcibly held down, and pelted with shoes. Nor were the
proceedings at Stockwell, Black Lion Lane, and Epworth, though rather
more bizarre, any less violent.

To quote another instance of this kind of haunting, Professor Schuppart
at Gressen, in Upper Hesse, was for six years persecuted by a
poltergeist in the most unpleasant manner; stones were sent whizzing
through closed rooms in all directions, breaking windows but hurting no
one; his books were torn to pieces; the lamp by which he was reading was
removed to a distant corner of the room, and his cheeks were slapped,
and slapped so incessantly that he could get no sleep.

According to Mrs Crowe, there was a case of a similar nature at Mr
Chave's, in Devonshire, in 1910, where affidavits were made before the
magistrate attesting the facts, and large rewards offered for discovery;
but in vain, the phenomena continued, and the spiritual agent was
frequently seen in the form of some strange animal.

There seems to be little limit, short of grievous bodily injury--and
even that limit has occasionally been overstepped--to poltergeist
hooliganism. Last summer the Rev. Henry Hacon, M.A., of Searly Vicarage,
North Kelsey Moor, very kindly sent me an original manuscript dealing
with poltergeist disturbances of a very peculiar nature, at the old
Syderstone Parsonage near Fakenham. I published the account _ad verbum_
in a work of mine that appeared the ensuing autumn, entitled _Ghostly
Phenomena_, and the interest it created encourages me to refer to other
cases dealing with the same kind of phenomena.

There is a parsonage in the South of England where not only noises have
been heard, but articles have been mysteriously whisked away and not
returned. A lady assures me that when a gentleman, with whom she was
intimately acquainted, was alone in one of the reception rooms one day,
he placed some coins to the value, I believe, of fifteen shillings, on
the table beside him, and chancing to have his attention directed to the
fire, which had burned low, was surprised on looking again to discover
the coins had gone; nor did he ever recover them. Other things, too, for
the most part trivial, were also taken in the same incomprehensible
manner, and apparently by the same mischievous unseen agency. It is true
that one of the former inhabitants of the house had, during the latter
portion of his life, been heavily in debt, and that his borrowing
propensities may have accompanied him to the occult world; but though
such an explanation is quite feasible, I am rather inclined to attribute
the disappearances to the pranks of some mischievous vagrarian.

I have myself over and over again experienced a similar kind of thing.
For example, in a certain house in Norwood, I remember losing in rapid
succession two stylograph pens, a knife, and a sash. I remembered, in
each case, laying the article on a table, then having my attention
called away by some rather unusual sound in a far corner of the room,
and then, on returning to the table, finding the article had vanished.
There was no one else in the house, so that ordinary theft was out of
the question. Yet where did these articles go, and of what use would
they be to a poltergeist? On one occasion, only, I caught a glimpse of
the miscreant. It was about eight o'clock on a warm evening in June, and
I was sitting reading in my study. The room is slightly below the level
of the road, and in summer, the trees outside, whilst acting as an
effective screen against the sun's rays, cast their shadows somewhat too
thickly on the floor and walls, burying the angles in heavy gloom. In
the daytime one rather welcomes this darkness; but in the afternoon it
becomes a trifle oppressive, and at twilight one sometimes wishes it was
not there. It is at twilight that the nature of the shadows usually
undergoes a change, and there amalgamates, with them, that Something,
that peculiar, indefinable Something that I can only associate with the
superphysical. Here, in my library, I often watch it creep in with the
fading of the sunlight, or, postponing its advent till later--steal in
through the window with the moonbeams, and I feel its presence just as
assuredly and instinctively as I can feel and detect the presence of
hostility in an audience or individual. I cannot describe how; I can
only say I do, and that my discernment is seldom misleading. On the
evening in question I was alone in the house. I had noticed, amid the
shadows that lay in clusters on the floor and walls, this enigmatical
Something. It was there most markedly; but I did not associate it with
anything particularly terrifying or antagonistic. Perhaps that was
because the book I was reading interested me most profoundly--it was a
translation from Heine, and I am devoted to Heine. Let me quote an
extract. It is from _Florentine Nights_, and runs: "But is it not folly
to wish to sound the inner meaning of any phenomenon outside us, when we
cannot even solve the enigma of our own souls? We hardly know even
whether outside phenomena really exist! We are often unable to
distinguish reality from mere dream-faces. Was it a shape of my fancy,
or was it horrible reality that I heard and saw on that night? I know
not. I only remember that, as the wildest thoughts were flowing through
my heart, a singular sound came to my ear." I had got so far,
absorbingly, spiritually interested, when I heard a laugh, a long, low
chuckle, that seemed to come from the darkest and most remote corner of
the room. A cold paroxysm froze my body, the book slid from my hands,
and I sat upright in my chair, every faculty within me acutely alert and
active. The laugh was repeated, this time from behind a writing-table in
quite another part of the room. Something which sounded like a shower of
tintacks then fell into the grate; after which there was a long pause,
and then a terrific bump, as if some heavy body had fallen from a great
height on to the floor immediately in front of me. I even heard the
hissing and whizzing the body made in its descent as it cut its passage
through the air. Again there came an interval of tranquillity broken
only by the sounds of people in the road, the hurrying footsteps of a
girl, the clattering of a man in hobnails, the quick, sharp tread of the
lamplighter, and the scampering patter of a bevy of children. Then there
came a series of knockings on the ceiling, and then the sound of
something falling into a gaping abyss which I intuitively felt had
surreptitiously opened at my feet.

For many seconds I listened to the reverberations of the object as it
dashed against the sides of the unknown chasm; at length there was a
splash, succeeded by hollow echoes. Shaking in every limb, I shrank back
as far as I possibly could in my chair and clutched the arms. A draught,
cold and dank, as if coming from an almost interminable distance, blew
upwards and fanned my nostrils. Then there came the most appalling, the
most blood-curdling chuckle, and I saw a hand--a lurid grey hand with
long, knotted fingers and black, curved nails--feeling its way towards
me, through the subtle darkness, like some enormous, unsavoury insect.
Nearer, nearer, and nearer it drew, its fingers waving in the air,
antennæ fashion. For a moment it paused, and then, with lightning
rapidity, snatched the book from my knees and disappeared. Directly
afterwards I heard the sound of a latchkey inserted in the front door,
whilst the voice of my wife inquiring why the house was in darkness
broke the superphysical spell. Obeying her summons, I ascended the
staircase, and the first object that greeted my vision in the hall was
the volume of Heine that had been so unceremoniously taken from me!
Assuredly this was the doings of a poltergeist! A poltergeist that up to
the present had confined its attentions to me, no one else in the house
having either heard or seen it.

In my study there is a deep recess concealed in the winter-time by heavy
curtains drawn across it; and often when I am writing something makes me
look up, and a cold horror falls upon me as I perceive the curtains
rustle, rustle as though they were laughing, laughing in conjunction
with some hidden occult monstrosity; some grey--the bulk of the
phantasms that come to me are grey--and glittering monstrosity who was
enjoying a rich jest at my expense. Occasionally, to emphasise its
presence, this poltergeist has scratched the wall, or thumped, or thrown
an invisible missile over my head, or sighed, or groaned, or gurgled,
and I have been frightened, horribly, ghastly frightened. Then something
has happened--my wife has called out, or someone has rung a bell, or the
postman has given one of his whole-hearted smashes with the knocker,
and the poltergeist has "cleared off," and I have not been disturbed by
it again for the remainder of the evening.

I am not the only person whom poltergeists visit. Judging from my
correspondence and the accounts I see in the letters of various
psychical research magazines, they patronise many people. Their _modus
operandi_, covering a wide range, is always boisterous. Undoubtedly they
have been badly brought up--their home influence and their educational
training must have been sadly lacking in discipline. Or is it the
reverse? Are their crude devices and mad, tomboyish pranks merely
reactionary, and the only means they have of finding vent for their
naturally high spirits? If so, I devoutly wish they would choose some
locality other than my study for their playground. Yet they interest me,
and although I quake horribly when they are present, I derive endless
amusement at other times, in speculating on their _raison d'être_, and
curious--perhaps complex--constitutions. I do not believe they have ever
inhabited any earthly body, either human or animal. I think it likely
that they may be survivals of early experiments in animal and vegetable
life in this planet, prior to the selection of any definite types;
spirits that have never been anything else but spirits, and which have,
no doubt, often envied man his carnal body and the possibilities that
have been permitted him of eventually reaching a higher spiritual plane.
It is envy, perhaps, that has made them mischievous, and generated in
them an insatiable thirst to torment and frighten man. Another probable
explanation of them is, that they may be inhabitants of one of the other
planets that have the power granted, under certain conditions at present
unknown to us, of making themselves seen and heard by certain dwellers
on the earth; and it is, of course, possible that they are but one of
many types of spirits inhabiting a superphysical sphere that encloses or
infringes on our own. They may be only another form of life, a form that
is neither carnal nor immortal, but which has to depend for its
existence on a superphysical food. They may be born in a fashion that,
apart from its peculiarity and extravagance, bears some resemblance to
the generation of physical animal life; and they may die, too, as man
dies, and their death may be but the passing from one stage to another,
or it may be for eternity.

But enough of possibilities, of probable and improbable theories. For
the present not only poltergeists but all other phantoms are seen as
through a glass darkly, and, pending the discovery of some definite
data, we do but flounder in a sea of wide, limitless, and infinite
speculation.



CHAPTER V

SYLVAN HORRORS


I believe trees have spirits; I believe everything that grows has a
spirit, and that such spirits never die, but passing into another state,
a state of film and shadow, live on for ever. The phantasms of vegetable
life are everywhere, though discernible only to the few of us. Often as
I ramble through thoroughfares, crowded with pedestrians and vehicles,
and impregnated with steam and smoke and all the impurities arising from
over-congested humanity, I have suddenly smelt a different atmosphere,
the cold atmosphere of superphysical forest land. I have come to a halt,
and leaning in some doorway, gazed in awestruck wonder at the nodding
foliage of a leviathan lepidodendron, the phantasm of one of those
mammoth lycopods that flourished in the Carboniferous period. I have
watched it swaying its shadowy arms backwards and forwards as if keeping
time to some ghostly music, and the breeze it has thus created has
rustled through my hair, while the sweet scent of its resin has
pleasantly tickled my nostrils. I have seen, too, suddenly open before
me, dark, gloomy aisles, lined with stupendous pines and carpeted with
long, luxuriant grass, gigantic ferns, and other monstrous primeval
flora, of a nomenclature wholly unknown to me; I have watched in chilled
fascination the black trunks twist and bend and contort, as if under the
influence of an uncontrollable fit of laughter, or at the bidding of
some psychic cyclone. I have at times stayed my steps when in the throes
of the city-pavements; shops and people have been obliterated, and their
places taken by occult foliage; immense fungi have blocked out the sun's
rays, and under the shelter of their slimy, glistening heads, I have
been thrilled to see the wriggling, gliding forms of countless smaller
saprophytes. I have felt the cold touch of loathsome toadstools and
sniffed the hot, dry dust of the full, ripe puff-ball. On the Thames
Embankment, up Chelsea way, I have at twilight beheld wonderful
metamorphoses. In company with the shadows of natural objects of the
landscape, have silently sprung up giant reeds and bullrushes. I have
felt their icy coldness as, blowing hither and thither in the delirium
of their free, untrammelled existence, they have swished across my face.
Visions, truly visions, the exquisite fantasies of a vivid imagination.
So says the sage. I do not think so; I dispute him _in toto_. These
objects I have seen have not been illusions; else, why have I not
imagined other things; why, for example, have I not seen rocks walking
about and tables coming in at my door? If these phantasms were but
tricks of the imagination, then imagination would stop at nothing. But
they are not imagination, neither are they the idle fancies of an
over-active brain. They are objective--just as much objective as are the
smells of recognised physical objects, that those, with keenly sensitive
olfactory organs, can detect, and those, with a less sensitive sense of
smell, cannot detect; those, with acute hearing, can hear, and those
with less acute hearing cannot hear. And yet, people are slow to believe
that the seeing of the occult is as much a faculty as is the scenting of
smells or the hearing of noises.

I have heard it said that, deep down in coal mines, certain of the
workers have seen wondrous sights; that when they have been alone in a
drift, they have heard the blowing of the wind and the rustling of
leaves, and suddenly found themselves penned in on all sides by the
naked trunks of enormous primitive trees, lepidodendrons, sigillarias,
ferns, and other plants, that have shone out with phosphorescent
grandeur amid the inky blackness of the subterranean ether. Around the
feet of the spellbound watchers have sprung up rank blades of
Brobdingnagian grass and creepers, out of which have crept, with lurid
eyes, prodigious millipedes, cockroaches, white ants, myriapods and
scorpions, whilst added to the moaning and sighing of the trees has been
the humming of stone-flies, dragon-flies, and locusts. Galleries and
shafts have echoed and re-echoed with these noises of the old world,
which yet lives, and will continue to live, maybe, to the end of time.

But are the physical trees, the trees that we can all see budding and
sprouting in our gardens to-day--are they ever cognisant of the presence
of the occult? Can they, like certain--not all--dogs and horses and
other animals, detect the proximity of the unknown? Do they tremble and
shake with fear at the sight of some psychic vegetation, or are they
utterly devoid of any such faculty? Can they see, hear, or smell? Have
they any senses at all? And, if they have one sense, have they not
others? Aye, there is food for reflection.

Personally, I believe trees have senses--not, of course, in such a high
state of development as those of animal life; but, nevertheless, senses.
Consequently, I think it quite possible that certain of them, like
certain animals, feel the presence of the superphysical. I often stroll
in woods. I do not love solitude; I love the trees, and I do not think
there is anything in nature, apart from man, I love much more. The oak,
the ash, the elm, the poplar, the willow, to me are more than mere
names; they are friends, the friends of my boyhood and manhood;
companions in my lonely rambles and voluntary banishments; guardians of
my siestas; comforters of my tribulations. The gentle fanning of their
branches has eased my pain-racked brow and given me much-needed sleep,
whilst the chlorophyll of their leaves has acted like balm to my
eyelids, inflamed after long hours of study. I have leaned my head
against their trunks, and heard, or fancied I have heard, the fantastic
murmurings of their peaceful minds. This is what happens in the daytime,
when the hot summer sun has turned the meadow-grass a golden brown. But
with the twilight comes the change. Phantom-land awakes, and mingled
with the shadows of the trees and bushes that lazily unroll themselves
from trunk and branches are the darkest of shades, that impart to the
forest an atmosphere of dreary coldness. Usually I hie away with haste
at sunset, but there are occasions when I have dallied longer than I
have intended, and only realised my error when it has been too late. I
have then, controlled by the irresistible fascination of the woods,
waited and watched. I well recollect, for example, being caught in this
way in a Hampshire spinney, at that time one of my most frequented
haunts. The day had been unusually close and stifling, and the heat, in
conjunction with a hard morning's work--for I had written, God only
knows how long, without ceasing,--made me frightfully sleepy, and on
arriving at my favourite spot beneath a lofty pine, I had slept till,
for very shame, my eyelids could keep closed no longer. It was then nine
o'clock, and the metamorphosis of sunset had commenced in solemn
earnest. The evening was charming, ideal of the heart of summer; the air
soft, sweetly scented; the sky unspotted blue. A peaceful hush, broken
only by the chiming of some distant church bells, and the faint, the
very faint barking of dogs, enveloped everything and instilled in me a
false sensation of security. Facing me was a diminutive glade padded
with downy grass, transformed into a pale yellow by the lustrous rays of
the now encrimsoned sun. Fainter and fainter grew the ruddy glow, until
there was nought of it left but a pale pink streak, whose delicate
marginal lines still separated the blue of the sky from the quickly
superseding grey. A barely perceptible mist gradually cloaked the grass,
whilst the gloom amid the foliage on the opposite side of the glade
intensified. There was now no sound of bells, no barking of dogs; and
silence, a silence tinged with the sadness so characteristic of summer
evenings, was everywhere paramount. A sudden rush of icy air made my
teeth chatter. I made an effort to stir, to escape ere the grotesque and
intangible horrors of the wood could catch me. I ignominiously failed;
the soles of my feet froze to the ground. Then I felt the slender,
graceful body of the pine against which I leaned my back, shake and
quiver, and my hand--the hand that rested on its bark--grew damp and
sticky.

I endeavoured to avert my eyes from the open space confronting them. I
failed; and as I gazed, filled with the anticipations of the damned,
there suddenly burst into view, with all the frightful vividness
associated only with the occult, a tall form--armless, legless--fashioned
like the gnarled trunk of a tree--white, startlingly white in places
where the bark had worn away, but on the whole a bright, a luridly
bright, yellow and black. At first I successfully resisted a powerful
impulse to raise my eyes to its face; but as I only too well knew would
be the case, I was obliged to look at last, and, as I anticipated, I
underwent a most violent shock. In lieu of a face I saw a raw and
shining polyp, a mass of waving, tossing, pulpy radicles from whose
centre shone two long, obliquely set, pale eyes, ablaze with devilry and
malice. The thing, after the nature of all terrifying phantasms, was
endowed with hypnotic properties, and directly its eyes rested on me I
became numb; my muscles slept while my faculties remained awake,
acutely awake.

Inch by inch the thing approached me; its stealthy, gliding motion
reminding me of a tiger subtly and relentlessly stalking its prey. It
came up to me, and the catalepsy which had held me rigidly upright
departed. I fell on the ground for protection, and, as the great unknown
curved its ghastly figure over me and touched my throat and forehead
with its fulsome tentacles, I was overcome with nervous tremors; a
deadly pain griped my entrails, and, convulsed with agony, I rolled over
on my face, furiously clawing the bracken. In this condition I continued
for probably one or even two minutes, though to me it seemed very much
longer. My sufferings terminated with the loud report of firearms, and
slowly picking myself up, I found that the apparition had vanished, and
that standing some twenty or so paces from me was a boy with a gun. I
recognised him at once as the son of my neighbour, the village
schoolmaster; but not wishing to tarry there any longer, I hurriedly
wished him good night, and leaving the copse a great deal more quickly
than I had entered it, I hastened home.

What had I seen? A phantasm of some dead tree? some peculiar species of
spirit (I have elsewhere termed a vagrarian), attracted thither by the
loneliness of the locality? some vicious, evil phantasm? or a
vice-elemental, whose presence there would be due to some particularly
wicked crime or series of crimes perpetrated on or near the spot? I
cannot say. It might well have been either one of them, or something
quite different. I am quite sure, however, that most woods are haunted,
and that he who sees spirit phenomena can be pretty certain of seeing
them there. Again and again, as I have been passing after nightfall,
through tree-girt glen, forest, or avenue, I have seen all sorts of
curious forms and shapes move noiselessly from tree to tree. Hooded
figures, with death's-heads, have glided surreptitiously through
moon-kissed spaces; icy hands have touched me on the shoulders; whilst,
pacing alongside me, I have oft-times heard footsteps, light and heavy,
though I have seen nothing.

Miss Frances Sinclair tells me that, once, when walking along a country
lane, she espied some odd-looking object lying on the ground at the foot
of a tree. She approached it, and found to her horror it was a human
finger swimming in a pool of blood. She turned round to attract the
attention of her friends, and when she looked again the finger had
vanished. On this very spot, she was subsequently informed, the murder
of a child had taken place.

Trees are, I believe, frequently haunted by spirits that suggest crime.
I have no doubt that numbers of people have hanged themselves on the
same tree in just the same way as countless people have committed
suicide by jumping over certain bridges. Why? For the very simple reason
that hovering about these bridges are influences antagonistic to the
human race, spirits whose chief and fiendish delight is to breathe
thoughts of self-destruction into the brains of passers-by. I once heard
of a man, medically pronounced sane, who frequently complained that he
was tormented by a voice whispering in his ear, "Shoot yourself! Shoot
yourself!"--advice which he eventually found himself bound to follow.
And of a man, likewise stated to be sane, who journeyed a considerable
distance to jump over a notorious bridge because he was for ever being
haunted by the phantasm of a weirdly beautiful woman who told him to do
so. If bridges have their attendant sinister spirits, so undoubtedly
have trees--spirits ever anxious to entice within the magnetic circle of
their baleful influence anyone of the human race.

Many tales of trees being haunted in this way have come to me from India
and the East. I quoted one in my _Ghostly Phenomena_, and the following
was told me by a lady whom I met recently, when on a visit to my wife's
relations in the Midlands.

"I was riding with my husband along a very lonely mountain road in
Assam," my informant began, "when I suddenly discovered I had lost my
silk scarf, which happened to be a rather costly one. I had a pretty
shrewd idea whereabouts I might have dropped it, and, on mentioning the
fact to my husband, he at once turned and rode back to look for it.
Being armed, I did not feel at all nervous at being left alone,
especially as there had been no cases, for many years, of assault on a
European in our district; but, seeing a big mango tree standing quite by
itself a few yards from the road, I turned my horse's head with the
intention of riding up to it and picking some of its fruit. To my great
annoyance, however, the beast refused to go; moreover, although at all
times most docile, it now reared, and kicked, and showed unmistakable
signs of fright.

"I speedily came to the conclusion that my horse was aware of the
presence of something--probably a wild beast--I could not see myself,
and I at once dismounted, and tethering the shivering animal to a
boulder, advanced cautiously, revolver in hand, to the tree. At every
step I took, I expected the spring of a panther or some other beast of
prey; but, being afraid of nothing but a tiger--and there were none,
thank God! in that immediate neighbourhood--I went boldly on. On nearing
the tree, I noticed that the soil under the branches was singularly
dark, as if scorched and blackened by a fire, and that the atmosphere
around it had suddenly grown very cold and dreary. To my disappointment
there was no fruit, and I was coming away in disgust, when I caught
sight of a queer-looking thing just over my head and half-hidden by the
foliage. I parted the leaves asunder with my whip and looked up at it.
My blood froze.

"The thing was nothing human. It had a long, grey, nude body, shaped
like that of a man, only with abnormally long arms and legs, and very
long and crooked fingers. Its head was flat and rectangular, without any
features saving a pair of long and heavy lidded, light eyes, that were
fixed on mine with an expression of hellish glee. For some seconds I was
too appalled even to think, and then the most mad desire to kill myself
surged through me. I raised my revolver, and was in the act of placing
it to my forehead, when a loud shout from behind startled me. It was my
husband. He had found my scarf, and, hurrying back, had arrived just in
time to see me raise the revolver--strange to relate--at him! In a few
words I explained to him what had happened, and we examined the tree
together. But there were no signs of the terrifying phenomenon--it had
completely vanished. Though my husband declared that I must have been
dreaming, I noticed he looked singularly grave, and, on our return home,
he begged me never to go near the tree again. I asked him if he had had
any idea it was haunted, and he said: 'No! but I know there are such
trees. Ask Dingan.' Dingan was one of our native servants--the one we
respected most, as he had been with my husband for nearly twelve
years--ever since, in fact, he had settled in Assam. 'The mango tree,
mem-sahib!' Dingan exclaimed, when I approached him on the subject, 'the
mango tree on the Yuka Road, just before you get to the bridge over the
river? I know it well. We call it "the devil tree," mem-sahib. No other
tree will grow near it. There is a spirit peculiar to certain trees that
lives in its branches, and persuades anyone who ventures within a few
feet of it, either to kill themselves, or to kill other people. I have
seen three men from this village alone, hanging to its accursed
branches; they were left there till the ropes rotted and the jackals
bore them off to the jungles. Three suicides have I seen, and three
murders--two were women, strangers in these parts, and they were both
lying within the shadow of the mango's trunk, with the backs of their
heads broken in like eggs! It is a thrice-accursed tree, mem-sahib.'
Needless to say, I agreed with Dingan, and in future gave the mango a
wide berth."

Vagrarians, tree devils (a type of vice elemental), and phantasms of
dead trees are some of the occult horrors that haunt woods, and, in
fact, the whole country-side! Added to these, there are the fauns and
satyrs, those queer creatures, undoubtedly vagrarians, half-man and
half-goat, that are accredited by the ancients with much merry-making,
and grievous to add, much lasciviousness. Of these spirits there is
mention in Scripture, namely, Isaiah xiii. 21, where we read: "And their
houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and owls shall dwell there,
and satyrs shall dance there"; and in Baddeley's _Historical
Meditations_, published about the beginning of the seventeenth century,
there is a description by Plutarch, of a satyr captured by Sulla, when
the latter was on his way from Dyrrachium to Brundisium. The creature,
which appears to have been very material, was found asleep in a park
near Apollonia. On being led into the presence of Sulla, it commenced
speaking in a harsh voice that was an odd mixture of the neighing of a
horse and the crying of a goat. As neither Sulla nor any of his
followers could understand in the slightest degree what the monstrosity
meant, they let it go, nor is there any further reference to it.

Now, granted that this account is not "faked," and that such a beast
actually did exist, it would naturally suggest to one that vagrarians,
pixies, and other grotesque forms of phantasms are, after all, only the
spirits of similar types of material life, and that, in all
probability, the earth, contemporary with prehistoric, and even
later-day man, fairly swarmed with such creatures. However, this, like
everything else connected with these early times, is merely a matter of
speculation. Another explanatory theory is, that possibly superphysical
phenomena were much more common formerly than now, and that the various
types of sub-human and sub-animal apparitions (which were then
constantly seen by the many, but which are now only visible to the few)
have been handed down to us in the likeness of satyrs and fauns. Anyhow,
I think they may be rightly classified in the category of vagrarians.
The association of spirits with trees is pretty nearly universal. In the
fairy tales of youth we have frequent allusions to them. In the
Caucasus, where the population is not of Slavonic origin, we have
innumerable stories of sacred trees, and in each of these stones the
main idea is the same--namely, that a human life is dependent on the
existence of a tree. In Slavonic mythology, plants as well as trees are
magnets for spirits, and in the sweet-scented pinewoods, in the dark,
lonely pinewoods, dwell "psipolnitza," or female goblins, who plague the
harvesters; and "lieshi," or forest male demons, closely allied to
satyrs. In Iceland there was a pretty superstition to the effect that,
when an innocent person was put to death, a sorb or mountain ash would
spring over their grave. In Teutonic mythology the sorb is supposed to
take the form of a lily or white rose, and, on the chairs of those about
to die, one or other of these flowers is placed by unseen hands. White
lilies, too, are emblematic of innocence, and have a knack of
mysteriously shooting up on the graves of those who have been unjustly
executed. Surely this would be the work of a spirit, as, also, would be
the action of the Eglantine, which is so charmingly illustrated in the
touching story of Tristram and Yseult. Tradition says that from the
grave of Tristram there sprang an eglantine which twined about the
statue of the lovely Yseult, and, despite the fact of its being thrice
cut down, grew again, ever embracing the same fair image. Among the
North American Indians there was, and maybe still is, a general belief
that the spirits of those who died, naturally reverted to trees--to the
great pines of the mountain forests--where they dwelt for ever amid the
branches. The Indians believed also that the spirits of certain trees
walked at night in the guise of beautiful women. Lucky Indians! Would
that my experience of the forest phantasms had been half so entrancing.
The modern Greeks, Australian bushmen, and natives of the East Indies,
like myself, only see the ugly side of the superphysical, for the
spirits that haunt their vegetation are irredeemably ugly, horribly
terrifying, and fiendishly vindictive.

The idea that the dead often passed into trees is well illustrated in
the classics. For example, Æneas, in his wanderings, strikes a tree, and
is half-frightened out of his wits by a great spurt of blood. A hollow
voice, typical of phantasms and apparently proceeding from somewhere
within the trunk, then begs him to desist, going on to explain that the
tree is not an ordinary tree but the metamorphosed soul of an unlucky
wight called Polydorus, (he must have been unlucky, if only to have had
such a name). Needless to say, Æneas, who was strictly a gentleman in
spite of his aristocratic pretensions, at once dropped his axe and
showed his sympathy for the poor tree-bound spirit in an abundant flow
of tears, which must have satisfied, even, Polydorus. There is a very
similar story in Swedish folk-lore. A voice in a tree addressed a man,
who was about to cut it down, with these words, "Friend, hew me not!"
But the man on this occasion was not a gentleman, and, instead of
complying with the modest request, only plied his axe the more heartily.
To his horror--a just punishment for his barbarity--there was a most
frightful groan of agony, and out from the hole he had made in the
trunk, rushed a fountain of blood, real human blood. What happened then
I cannot say, but I imagine that the woodcutter, stricken with remorse,
whipped up his bandana from the ground, and did all that lay in his
power--though he had not had the advantages of lessons in first aid--to
stop the bleeding. One cannot help being amused at these marvellous
stories, but, after all, they are not very much more wonderful than many
of one's own ghostly experiences. At any rate, they serve to illustrate
how widespread and venerable is the belief that trees--trees, perhaps,
in particular--are closely associated with the occult.

Pixies! What are pixies? That they are not the dear, delightful, quaint
little people Shakespeare so inimitably portrays in the _Midsummer
Night's Dream_, is, I fear, only too readily acknowledged. I am told
that they may be seen even now, and I know those who say that they have
seen them, but that they are the mere shadows of those dainty creatures
that used to gambol in the moonshine and help the poor and weary in
their household work. The present-day pixies, whom I am loath to imagine
are the descendants of the old-world pixies--though, of course, on the
other hand, they may be merely degenerates, a much more pleasant
alternative--are I think still to be occasionally encountered in lonely,
isolated districts; such, for instance, as the mountains in the West of
Ireland, the Hebrides, and other more or less desolate islands, and on
one or two of the Cornish hills and moors.

Like most phantasms, the modern pixies are silent and elusive. They
appear and disappear with equal abruptness, contenting themselves with
merely gliding along noiselessly from rock to rock, or from bush to
bush. Dainty they are not, pretty they are not, and in stature only do
they resemble the pixie of fairy tales; otherwise they are true
vagrarians, grotesque and often harrowing.

In my _Ghostly Phenomena_ I have given one or two accounts of their
appearance in the West of England, but the nearest approach to pixies
that I have myself seen, were phantasms that appeared to me, in 1903, on
the Wicklow Hills, near Bray. I was out for a walk on the afternoon of
Thursday, May 18; the weather was oppressive, and the grey, lowering sky
threatened rain, a fact which accounted for the paucity of pedestrians.
Leaving my temporary headquarters, at Bray, at half-past one, I arrived
at a pretty village close to the foot of the hills and immediately began
the ascent. Selecting a deviating path that wound its way up gradually,
I, at length, reached the summit of the ridge.

On and on I strolled, careless of time and distance, until a sudden
dryness in my throat reminded me it must be about the hour at which I
generally took tea. I turned round and began to retrace my steps
homeward. The place was absolutely deserted; not a sign of a human being
or animal anywhere, and the deepest silence. I had come to the brink of
a slight elevation when, to my astonishment, I saw in the tiny plateau
beneath, three extraordinary shapes. Standing not more than two feet
from the ground, they had the most perfectly proportioned bodies of
human beings, but monstrous heads; their faces had a leadish blue hue,
like that of corpses; their eyes were wide open and glassy. They glided
along slowly and solemnly in Indian file, their grey, straggling hair
and loose white clothes rustling in the breeze; and on arriving at a
slight depression in the ground, they sank and sank, until they entirely
disappeared from view. I then descended from my perch, and made a
thorough examination of the spot where they had vanished. It was firm,
hard, caked soil, without hole or cover, or anything in which they could
possibly have hidden. I was somewhat shocked, as indeed I always am
after an encounter with the superphysical, but not so much shocked as I
should have been had the phantasms been bigger. I visited the same spot
subsequently, but did not see another manifestation.

To revert to trees--fascinating, haunting trees. Much credulity was at
one time attached to the tradition that the tree on which Jesus Christ
was crucified was an aspen, and that, thenceforth, all aspens were
afflicted with a peculiar shivering. Botanists, scientists, and
matter-of-fact people of all sorts pooh-pooh this legend, as, indeed,
many people nowadays pooh-pooh the very existence of Christ. But
something--you may call it intuition--I prefer to call it my Guardian
Spirit--bids me believe both; and I do believe as much in the tradition
of the aspen as in the existence of Christ. Moreover, this intuition or
influence--the work of my Guardian Spirit--whether dealing with things
psychical, psychological, or physical has never yet failed me. If it
warns me of the presence of a phantasm, I subsequently experience some
kind or other of spiritual phenomenon; if it bids me beware of a person,
I am invariably brought to discover later on that that person's
intentions have been antagonistic to me; and if it causes me to deter
from travelling by a certain route, or on a certain day, I always
discover afterwards that it was a very fortunate thing for me that I
abided by its warning. That is why I attach great importance to the
voice of my Guardian Spirit; and that is why, when it tells me that,
despite the many obvious discrepancies and absurdities in the
Scriptures, despite the character of the Old Testament God--who repels
rather than attracts me--despite all this, there was a Jesus Christ who
actually was a great and benevolent Spirit, temporarily incarnate, and
who really did suffer on the Cross in the manner described in
subsequent MSS.,--I believe it all implicitly. I back the still, small
voice of my Guardian Spirit against all the arguments scepticism can
produce.

Very good, then. I believe in the existence and spirituality of Jesus
Christ because of the biddings of my Guardian Spirit, and, for the very
same reason, I attach credence to the tradition of the quivering of the
aspen. The sceptic accounts for the shaking of this tree by showing that
it is due to a peculiar formation in the structure of the aspen's
foliage. This may be so, but that peculiarity of structure was created
immediately after Christ's crucifixion, and was created as a memento,
for all time, of one of the most unpardonable murders on record.

There is something especially weird, too, in the ash; something that
suggests to my mind that it is particularly susceptible to superphysical
influences. I have often sat and listened to its groaning, and more than
once, at twilight, perceived the filmy outline of some fantastic figure
writhed around its slender trunk.

John Timbs, F.S.A., in his book of _Popular Errors_, published by
Crosby, Lockwood & Co. in 1880, quotes from a letter, dated 7th July
1606, thus: "It is stated that at Brampton, near Gainsborough, in
Lincolnshire, 'an ash tree shaketh in body and boughs thereof, sighing
and groaning like a man troubled in his sleep, as if it felt some
sensible torment. Many have climbed to the top of it, who heard the
groans more easily than they could below. But one among the rest, being
on the top thereof, spake to the tree; but presently came down much
aghast, and lay grovelling on the earth, three hours speechless. In the
end reviving, he said: "Brampton, Brampton, thou art much bound to
pray!"' The Earl of Lincoln caused one of the arms of the ash to be
lopped off and a hole bored through the body, and then was the sound, or
hollow voice, heard more audibly than before, but in a kind of speech
which they could not comprehend. This is the second wonderful ash
produced by past ages in this district--according to tradition,
Ethelreda's budding staff having shot out into the first." So says the
letter, and from my own experience of the ash, I am quite ready to
accredit it with special psychic properties, though I cannot state I
have ever heard it speak.

I believe it attracts phantasms in just the same way as do certain
people, myself included, and certain kinds of furniture. Its groanings
at night have constantly attracted, startled, and terrified me; they
have been quite different to the sounds I have heard it make in the
daytime; and often I could have sworn that, when I listened to its
groanings, I was listening to the groanings of some dying person, and,
what is more harrowing still, to some person I knew.

I have heard it said, too, that the most ghastly screams and gurgles
have been heard proceeding from the ash trees planted in or near the
site of murders or suicides, and as I sit here writing, a scene opens
before me, and I can see a plain with one solitary tree--an
ash--standing by a pool of water, on the margin of which are three
clusters of reeds. Dark clouds scud across the sky, and the moon only
shows itself at intervals. It is an intensely wild and lonely spot, and
the cold, dank air blowing across the barren wastes renders it all the
more inhospitable. No one, no living thing, no object is visible save
the ash. Suddenly it moves its livid trunk, sways violently,
unnaturally, backwards and forwards--once, twice, thrice; and there
comes from it a cry, a most piercing, agonising cry, half human, half
animal, that dies away in a wail and imparts to the atmosphere a
sensation of ice. I can hear the cry as I sit here writing; my memory
rehearses it; it was one of the most frightful, blood-curdling, hellish
sounds I ever endured; and the scene was on the Wicklow hills in
Ireland.

The narcotic plant, the mandrake, is also credited with groaning, though
I cannot say I have ever heard it. Though there is nothing particularly
psychic about the witch-hazel, in the hands of certain people who are
mediumistic, it will indicate the exact spot where water lies under the
ground. The people who possess this faculty of discovering the locality
of water by means of the hazel, are named dowsers, and my only wonder is
that their undeniably useful faculty is not more cultivated and
developed.

To my mind, there is no limit to the possibilities suggested by this
faculty; for surely, if one species of tree possesses attraction for a
certain object in nature, there can be no reason why other species of
trees should not possess a similar attraction for other objects in
nature. And if they possess this attraction for the physical, why not
for the superphysical--why, indeed, should not "ghosts" come within the
radius of their magnetism?

The palm and sycamore trees have invariably been associated with the
spiritual, and made use of symbolically, as the tree of life. An
illustration, on a stele in the Berlin Museum, depicts a palm tree from
the stem of which proceeds two arms, one administering to a figure,
kneeling below, the fruit or bread of life; the other, pouring from a
vase the water of life.

On another, a later Egyptian stele, the tree of life is the sycamore.
There is no doubt that the Egyptians and Assyrians regarded these two
trees as susceptible only to good psychic influences, they figure so
frequently in illustrations of the benevolent deities. Nor were the Jews
and Christians behind in their recognition of the extraordinary
properties of these two trees, especially the palm. We find it
symbolically introduced in the decoration of Solomon's Temple--on the
walls, furniture, and vessels; whilst in Christian mosaics it figures as
the tree of life in Paradise (_vide_ Rev. xxii. 1, 2, and in the apsis
of S. Giovanni Laterans). It is even regarded as synonymous with Jesus
Christ, as may be seen in the illuminated frontispiece to an
_Evangelium_ in the library of the British Museum, where the symbols of
the four Evangelists, placed over corresponding columns of lessons from
their gospels, are portrayed looking up to a palm tree, rising from the
earth, on the summit of which is a cross, with the symbolical letters
alpha and omega suspended from its arms.

I am, of course, only speaking from my own experience, but this much I
can vouch for, that I have never heard of a palm tree being haunted by
an evil spirit, whereas I have heard of several cases in which palm
leaves or crosses cut from palms have been used, and apparently with
effect, as preventives of injuries caused by malevolent occult
demonstrations; and were I forced to spend a night in some lonely
forest, I think I should prefer, viewing the situation entirely from the
standpoint of psychical possibilities, that that forest should be
composed partly or wholly of palms.

Before concluding this chapter, I must make a brief allusion to another
type of spirit--the BARROWVIAN--that resembles the vagrarian and pixie,
inasmuch as it delights in lonely places. Whenever I see a barrow,
tumulus or druidical, circle, I scent the probability of
phantasms--phantasms of a peculiar sort. Most ancient burial-places are
haunted, and haunted by two species of the same genus: the one, the
spirits of whatever prehistoric forms of animal life lie buried there;
and the other, grotesque phantasms, often very similar to vagrarians in
appearance, but with distinct ghoulish propensities and an inveterate
hatred to living human beings. In my _Ghostly Phenomena_ I have referred
to the haunting of a druidical circle in the North of England, and also
to the haunting of a house I once rented in Cornwall, near Castle on
Dinas, by barrowvians; I have heard, too, of many cases of a like
nature. I have, of course, often watched all night, near barrows or
cromlechs, without any manifestations taking place; sometimes, even,
without feeling the presence of the Unknown, though these occasions have
been rare. At about two o'clock one morning, when I was keeping my vigil
beside a barrow in the South of England, I saw a phenomenon in the shape
of a hand--only a hand, a big, misty, luminous blue hand, with long
crooked fingers. I could, of course, only speculate as to the owner of
the hand, and I must confess that I postponed that speculation till I
was safe and sound, and bathed in sunshine, within the doors of my own
domicile.

Hauntings of this type generally occur where excavations have been made,
a barrow broken into, or a dolmen removed; the manifestations generally
taking the form of phantasms of the dead, the prehistoric dead. But
phenomena that are seen there are, more often than not, things that bear
little or no resemblance to human beings; abnormally tall, thin things
with small, bizarre heads, round, rectangular, or cone-shaped, sometimes
semi- or wholly animal, and always expressive of the utmost malignity.
Occasionally, in fact I might say often, the phenomena are entirely
bestial--such, for example, as huge, blue, or spotted dogs, shaggy
bears, and monstrous horses. Houses, built on or near the site of such
burial-places, are not infrequently disturbed by strange noises, and the
manifestations, when materialised, usually take one or other of these
forms. In cases of this kind I have found that exorcism has little or no
effect; or, if any, it is that the phenomena become even more emphatic.



CHAPTER VI

COMPLEX HAUNTINGS AND OCCULT BESTIALITIES


What are occult bestialities? Are they the spirits of human beings who,
when inhabiting material bodies, led thoroughly criminal lives; are they
the phantasms of dead beasts--cats and dogs, etc.; or are they things
that were never carnate? I think they may be either one or the
other--that any one of these alternatives is admissible. There is a
house, for example, in a London square, haunted by the apparition of a
nude woman with long, yellow, curly hair and a pig's face. There is no
mistaking the resemblance--eyes, snout, mouth, jaw, jowls, all are
piggish, and the appearance of the thing is hideously suggestive of all
that is bestial. What, then, is it? From the fact that in all
probability a very sensuous, animal-minded woman once lived in the
house, I am led to suppose that this may be her phantasm--or--one only
of her many phantasms. And in this latter supposition lies much food for
reflection. The physical brain, as we know, consists of multitudinous
cells which we may reasonably take to be the homes of our respective
faculties. Now, as each material cell has its representative immaterial
inhabitant, so each immaterial inhabitant has its representative
phantasm. Thus each representative phantasm, on the dissolution of the
material brain, would be either earth-bound or promoted to the higher
spiritual plane. Hence, one human being may be represented by a score of
phantasms, and it is quite possible for a house to be haunted by many
totally different phenomena of the same person. I know, for instance, of
a house being subjected to the hauntings of a dog, a sensual-looking
priest, the bloated shape of an indescribable something, and a
ferocious-visaged sailor. It had had, prior to my investigation, only
one tenant, a notorious rake and glutton; no priest or sailor had ever
been known to enter the house; and so I concluded the many apparitions
were but phantasms of the same person--phantasms of his several,
separate, and distinct personalities. He had brutal tendencies,
sacerdotal (not spiritual) tendencies, gluttonous, and nautical
tendencies, and his whole character being dominated by carnal cravings,
on the dissolution of his material body each separate tendency would
remain earth-bound, represented by the phantasm most closely resembling
it. I believe this theory may explain many dual hauntings, and it holds
good with regard to the case I have quoted, the case of the apparition
with the pig's head. The ghost need not necessarily have been the spirit
of a dead woman _in toto_, but merely the phantasm of one of her grosser
personalities; her more spiritual personalities, represented by other
phantasms, having migrated to the higher plane. Let me take, as another
example, the case which I personally investigated, and which interested
me deeply. The house was then haunted (and, as far as I know to the
contrary, is still haunted) by a blurred figure, suggestive of something
hardly human and extremely nasty, that bounded up the stairs two steps
at a time; by a big, malignant eye--only an eye--that appeared in one of
the top rooms; and by a phantasm resembling a lady in distinctly modern
costume. The house is old, and as, according to tradition, some crime
was committed within its walls many years ago, the case may really be an
instance of separate hauntings--the bounding figure and the eye (the
latter either belonging to the figure or to another phantasm) being the
phantasms of the principal, or principals, in the ancient tragedy; the
lady, either the phantasm of someone who died there comparatively
recently, or of someone still alive, who consciously, or unconsciously,
projects her superphysical ego to that spot. On the other hand, the
three different phenomena might be three different phantasms of one
person, that person being either alive or dead--for one can
unquestionably, at times, project phantasms of one's various
personalities before physical dissolution. The question of occult
phenomena, one may thus see, is far more complex than it would appear to
be at first sight, and naturally so,--the whole of nature being complex
from start to finish. Just as minerals are not composed of one atom but
of countless atoms, so the human brain is not constituted of one cell
but of many; and as with the material cerebrum, so with the
immaterial--hence the complexity. With regard to the phenomena of
superphysical bestialities such as dogs, bears, etc., it is almost
impossible to say whether the phantasm would be that of a dead person,
or rather that representing one of some dead person's several
personalities--the phantasm of a genuine animal, of a vagrarian, or of
some other type of elemental.

One can only surmise the identity of such phantasms, after becoming
acquainted with the history of the locality in which such manifestations
appear. The case to which I referred in my previous works, _Some Haunted
Houses of England and Wales_, and _Ghostly Phenomena_, namely, that of
the apparition of a nude man being seen outside an unused burial-ground
in Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, furnishes a good example of
alternatives. Near to the spot, at least within two or three hundred
yards of it, was a barrow, close to which a sacrificial stone had been
unearthed; consequently the phantasm may have been a barrowvian; and
again, as the locality is much wooded and but thinly populated, it may
have been a vagrarian; and again, the burial-ground being in such close
proximity, the apparition may well have been the phantasm of one of the
various personalities of a human being interred there.

One night, as I was sitting reading alone in an isolated cottage on the
Wicklow hills, I was half-startled out of my senses by hearing a loud,
menacing cry, half-human and half-animal, and apparently in mid-air,
directly over my head. I looked up, and to my horror saw suspended, a
few feet above me, the face of a Dalmatian dog--of a long since dead
Dalmatian dog, with glassy, expressionless eyes, and yellow, gaping
jaws. The phenomenon did not last more than half a minute, and with its
abrupt disappearance came a repetition of the cry. What was it? I
questioned the owner of the cottage, and she informed me she had always
had the sensation something uncanny walked the place at night, but had
never seen anything. "One of my children did, though," she added;
"Mike--he was drowned at sea twelve months ago. Before he became a
sailor he lived with me here, and often used to see a dog--a big,
spotted cratur, like what we called a plum-pudding dog. It was a nasty,
unwholesome-looking thing, he used to tell me, and would run round and
round his room--the room where you sleep--at night. Though a bold enough
lad as a rule, the thing always scared him; and he used to come and tell
me about it, with a face as white as linen--'Mother!' he would say, 'I
saw the spotted cratur again in the night, and I couldn't get as much as
a wink of sleep.' He would sometimes throw a boot at it, and always with
the same result--the boot would go right through it." She then told me
that a former tenant of the house, who had borne an evil reputation in
the village--the peasants unanimously declaring she was a witch--had
died, so it was said, in my room. "But, of course," she added, "it
wasn't her ghost that Mike saw." Here I disagreed with her. However, if
she could not come to any conclusion, neither could I; for though, of
course, the dog may have been the earth-bound spirit of some
particularly carnal-minded occupant of the cottage--or, in other words,
a phantasm representing one of that carnal-minded person's several
personalities,--it may have been the phantasm of a vagrarian, of a
barrowvian, or, of some other kind of elemental, attracted to the spot
by its extreme loneliness, and the presence there, unsuspected by man,
of some ancient remains, either human or animal. Occult dogs are very
often of a luminous, semi-transparent bluish-grey--a bluish-grey that is
common to many other kinds of superphysical phenomena, but which I have
never seen in the physical world.

I have heard of several houses in Westmoreland and Devon, always in the
vicinity of ancient burial-places, being haunted by blue dogs, and
sometimes by blue dogs without heads. Indeed, headless apparitions of
all sorts are by no means uncommon. A lady, who is well known to me, had
a very unpleasant experience in a house in Norfolk, where she was
awakened one night by a scratching on her window-pane, which was some
distance from the ground, and, on getting out of bed to see what was
there, perceived the huge form of a shaggy dog, without a head, pressed
against the glass.

Fortunately for my informant, the manifestation was brief. The height of
the window from the ground quite precluded the possibility of the
apparition being any natural dog, and my friend was subsequently
informed that what she had seen was one of the many headless phantasms
that haunted the house. Of course, it does not follow that because one
does not actually see a head, a head is not objectively there--it may be
very much there, only not materialised. A story of one of these
seemingly headless apparitions was once told me by a Mrs Forbes du Barry
whom I met at Lady D.'s house in Eaton Square. I remember the at-home to
which I refer, particularly well, as the entertainment on that occasion
was entirely entrusted to Miss Lilian North, who as a reciter and
raconteur is, in my opinion, as far superior to any other reciter and
raconteur as the stars are superior to the earth. Those who have not
heard her stories, have not listened to her eloquent voice--that appeals
not merely to the heart, but to the soul--are to be pitied. But there--I
am digressing. Let me proceed. It was, I repeat, on the soul-inspiring
occasion above mentioned that I was introduced to Mrs Forbes du Barry,
who must be held responsible for the following story.

"I was reading one of your books the other day, Mr O'Donnell," she
began, "and some of your experiences remind me of one of my own--one
that occurred to me many years ago, when I was living in Worthing, in
the old part of the town, not far from where the Public Library now
stands. Directly after we had taken the house, my husband was ordered to
India. However, he did not expect to be away for long, so, as I was not
in very good health just then, I did not go with him, but remained with
my little boy, Philip, in Worthing. Besides Philip and myself, my
household only consisted of a nursery-governess, cook, housemaid, and
kitchen-maid. The hauntings began before we had been in our new quarters
many days. We all heard strange noises, scratchings, and whinings, and
the servants complained that often, when they were at meals, something
they could not see, but which they could swear was a dog, came sniffing
round them, jumping up and placing its invisible paws on their lap.
Often, too, when they were in bed the same thing entered their room,
they said, and jumped on the top of them. They were all very much
frightened, and declared that if the hauntings continued they would not
be able to stay in the house. Of course, I endeavoured to laugh away
their fears, but the latter were far too deeply rooted, and I myself,
apart from the noises I had heard, could not help feeling that there was
some strangely unpleasant influence in the house. The climax was brought
about by Philip. One afternoon, hearing him cry very loudly in the
nursery, I ran upstairs to see what was the matter. On the landing
outside the nursery I narrowly avoided a collision with the governess,
who came tearing out of the room, her eyes half out of her head with
terror, and her cheeks white as a sheet. She said nothing--and indeed
her silence was far more impressive than words--but, rushing past me,
flung herself downstairs, half a dozen steps at a time, and ran into the
garden. In an agony of fear--for I dreaded to think what had happened--I
burst into the nursery, and found Philip standing on the bed,
frantically beating the air with his hands. 'Take it away--oh, take it
away!' he cried; 'it is a horrid dog; it has no head!' Then, seeing me,
he sprang down and, racing up to me, leaped into my open arms. As he did
so, something darted past and disappeared through the open doorway. It
was a huge greyhound without a head! I left the house the next day--I
was fortunately able to sublet it--and went to Bournemouth. But, do you
know, Mr O'Donnell, that dog followed us! Wherever we went it went too,
nor did it ever leave Philip till his death, which took place in Egypt
on his twenty-first birthday. Now, what do you think of that?"

"I think," I replied, "that the phantasm was very probably that of a
real dog, and that it became genuinely attached to your son. I do not
think it was headless, but that, for some reason unknown for the
present, its head never materialised. What was the history of the
house?"

"It had no history as far as I could gather," Mrs Forbes du Barry said.
"A lady once lived there who was devoted to dogs, but no one thinks she
ever had a greyhound."

"Then," I replied thoughtfully, "it is just possible that the headless
dog was the phantasm of the lady herself, or, at least, of one of her
personalities!"

Mrs du Barry appeared somewhat shocked, and I adroitly changed the
conversation. However, I should not be at all surprised if this were the
case.

The improbability of any ancient remains being interred under or near
the house, precludes the idea of barrowvians, whilst the thickly
populated nature of the neighbourhood and the entire absence of
loneliness, renders the possibility of vagrarians equally unlikely. That
being so, one only has to consider the possibility of its being a vice
elemental attracted to the house by the vicious lives and thoughts of
some former occupant, and I am, after all, inclined to favour the theory
that the phantasm was the phantasm of the old dog-loving lady herself,
attaching itself in true canine fashion to the child Philip.

The most popular animal form amongst spirits--the form assumed by them
more often than any other--is undoubtedly the dog. I hear of the occult
dog more often than of any other occult beast, and in many places there
is yet a firm belief that the souls of the wicked are chained to this
earth in the shape of monstrous dogs. According to Mr Dyer, in his
_Ghost World_, a man who hanged himself at Broomfield, near Salisbury,
manifested himself in the guise of a huge black dog; whilst the Lady
Howard of James I.'s reign, for her many misdeeds, not the least of
which was getting rid of her husbands, was, on her death, transformed
into a hound and compelled to run every night, between midnight and
cock-crow, from the gateway of Fitzford, her former residence, to
Oakhampton Park, and bring back to the place, from whence she started, a
blade of grass in her mouth; and this penance she is doomed to continue
till every blade of grass is removed from the park, which feat she will
not be able to effect till the end of the world. Mr Dyer also goes on to
say that in the hamlet of Dean Combe, Devon, there once lived a weaver
of great fame and skill, who the day after his death was seen sitting
working away at the loom as usual. A parson was promptly fetched, and
the following conversation took place.

"Knowles!" the parson commanded (not without, I shrewdly suspect, some
fear), "come down! This is no place for thee!" "I will!" said the
weaver, "as soon as I have worked out my quill." "Nay," said the vicar,
"thou hast been long enough at thy work; come down at once." The spirit
then descended, and, on being pelted with earth and thrown on the ground
by the parson, was converted into a black hound, which apparently was
its ultimate shape.

Some years ago, Mr Dyer says, there was an accident in a Cornish mine
whereby several men lost their lives, and, rather than that their
relatives should be shocked at the sight of their mangled remains, some
bystander, with all the best intentions in the world, threw the bodies
into a fire, with the result that the mine has ever since been haunted
by a troop of little black dogs.

According to the _Book of Days_, ii. p. 433, there is a widespread
belief in most parts of England in a spectral dog, "large, shaggy, and
black," but not confined to any one particular species. This phantasm is
believed to haunt localities that have witnessed crimes, and also to
foretell catastrophes. The Lancashire people, according to Harland and
Wilkinson in their _Lancashire Folk-lore_, call it the "stuker" and
"trash": the latter name being given it on account of its heavy,
slopping walk; and the former appellation from its curious screech,
which is a sure indication of some approaching death or calamity. To the
peasantry of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire it is known as "the shuck," an
apparition that haunts churchyards and other lonely places. In the Isle
of Man a similar kind of phantasm, called "the Mauthe dog," was said to
walk Peel Castle; whilst many of the Welsh lanes--particularly that
leading from Mowsiad to Lisworney Crossways--are, according to Wirt
Sikes' _British Goblins_, haunted by the gwyllgi, a big black dog of the
most terrifying aspect.

Cases of hauntings by packs of spectral hounds have from time to time
been reported from all parts of the United Kingdom; but mostly from
Northumberland, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, Wales, Devon, and
Cornwall. In the northern districts they are designated "Gabriel's
hounds"; in Devon, "the Wisk, Yesk, or Heath hounds"; in Wales, "the Cwn
Annwn or Cwn y Wybr" (see Dyer's _Ghost World_); and in Cornwall, "the
devil and his dandy dogs." My own experiences fully coincide with the
traditional belief that the dog is a very common form of spirit
phenomena; but I can only repeat (the same remark applying to other
animal manifestations), that it is impossible to decide with any degree
of certainty to what category of phantasms, in addition to the general
order of occult bestialities, the dog belongs. It seems quite
permissible to think that the spirits of ladies, with an absorbing mania
for canine pets, should be eventually earth-bound in the form of dogs--a
fate which many of the fair sex have assured me would be "absolutely
divine," and far preferable to the orthodox heaven.

I cannot see why the shape of a dog should be appropriated by the less
desirable denizens of the occult world. But, that it is so, there is no
room to doubt, as the following illustration shows. As soon as the trial
of the infamous slaughterer X---- was over, and the verdict of death
generally known, a deep sigh of relief was heaved by the whole of
civilisation--saving, of course, those pseudo-humanitarians who always
pity murderers and women-beaters, and who, if the law was at all
sensible and just, should be hanged with their bestial _protégés_. From
all classes of men, I repeat, with the exception of those pernicious
cranks, were heard the ejaculations: "Well! he's settled. What a good
thing! I am glad! The world will be well rid of him!"

Then I smiled. The world well rid of him! Would it be rid of him? Not if
I knew anything about occult phenomena. Indeed, the career on earth for
such an epicure in murder as X---- had only just begun; in fact, it
could hardly be said to begin till physical dissolution. The last
drop--that six feet or so plunge between grim scaffolding--might in the
case of some criminals, mere tyros at the trade, terminate for good
their connection with this material plane; but not, decidedly not, in
the case of this bosom comrade of vice elementals.

From both a psychological and superphysical point of view the case had
interested me from the first. I had been anxious to see the man, for I
felt sure, even if he did not display any of the ordinary physiognomical
danger signals observable in many bestial criminals, there would
nevertheless be a something about or around him, that would immediately
warn as keen a student of the occult as myself of his close association
with the lowest order of phantasms. I was not, however, permitted an
interview, and so had to base my deductions upon the descriptions of him
given me, first hand, by two experts in psychology, and upon
photographs. In the latter I recognised--though not with the readiness
I should have done in the photo's living prototype--the presence of the
unknown brain, the grey, silent, stealthy, ever-watchful, ever-lurking
occult brain. As I gazed at his picture, as in a crystal, it faded away,
and I saw the material man sitting alone in his study before a glowing
fire. From out of him there crept a shadow, the shadow of something big,
bloated, and crawling. I could distinguish nothing further. On reaching
the door it paused, and I felt it was eyeing him--or rather his material
body--anxiously. Perhaps it feared lest some other shadow, equally
baleful, equally sly and subtle, would usurp its home. Its hesitation
was, however, but momentary, and, passing through the door, it glided
across the dimly lighted hall and out into the freedom of the open air.
Picture succeeding picture with great rapidity, I followed it as it
curled and fawned over the tombstones in more than one churchyard; moved
with a peculiar waddling motion through foul alleys, halting wherever
the garbage lay thickest, rubbed itself caressingly on the gory floors
of slaughter-houses, and finally entered a dark, empty house in a road
that, if not the Euston Road, was a road in every way resembling it.

The atmosphere of the place was so suggestive of murder that my soul
sickened within me; and so much so, in fact, that when I saw several
grisly forms gliding down the gloomy staircases and along the sombre,
narrow passages, where X----'s immaterial personality was halting,
apparently to greet it, I could look no longer, but shut my eyes. For
some seconds I kept them closed, and, on re-opening them, found the
tableau had changed--the material body before the fire was re-animated,
and in the depths of the bleared, protruding eyes I saw the creeping,
crawling, waddling, enigmatical shadow vibrating with murder. Again the
scene changed, and I saw the physical man standing in the middle of a
bedroom, listening--listening with blanched face and slightly open
mouth, a steely glimmer of the superphysical, of the malignant, devilish
superphysical, in his dilated pupils. What he is anticipating I cannot
say, I dare not think--unless--unless the repetition of a scream; and it
comes--I cannot hear it, but I can feel it, feel the reverberation
through the crime-kissed walls and vicious, tainted atmosphere.

Something is at the door--it presses against it; I can catch a glimpse
of its head, its face; my blood freezes--it is horrible. It enters the
room, grey and silent--it lays one hand on the man's sleeve and drags
him forward. He ascends to the room above, and, with all the brutality
of those accustomed to the dead and dying, drags the---- But I will not
go on. The grey unknown, the occult something, sternly issues its
directions, and the merely physical obeys them. It is all over; the plot
of the vice elementals has triumphed, and as they gleefully step away,
one by one, patting their material comrade on the shoulder, the
darkness, the hellish darkness of that infamous night lightens, and in
through the windows steal the cold grey beams of early morning. I am
assured; I have had enough; I pitch the photograph into the grate. The
evening comes--the evening after the execution. A feeling of the
greatest, the most unenviable curiosity urges me to go, to see if what I
surmise, will actually happen. I leave Gipsy Hill by an early afternoon
train, I spend a few hours at a literary club, I dine at a quiet--an
eminently quiet--restaurant in Oxford Street, and at eleven o'clock I am
standing near a spot which I believe--I have no positive proof--I merely
believe, was frequented by X----. It is more than twelve hours since he
was executed; will anything--will the shape, the personality, I
anticipate--come? The night air grows colder; I shrink deeper and deeper
into the folds of my overcoat, and wish--devoutly wish--myself back
again by my fireside.

The minutes glide by slowly. The streets are very silent now. With the
exception of an occasional toot-toot from a taxi and the shrill whistle
of a goods train, no other sounds are to be heard. It is the hour when
nearly all material London sleeps and the streets are monopolised by
shadows, interspersed with something rather more substantial--namely,
policemen. A few yards away from me there slips by a man in a blue serge
suit; and then, tip-toeing surreptitiously behind him, with one hand in
his trousers-pocket and the other carrying a suspicious-looking black
bag, comes a white-faced young man, dressed in shabby imitation of a
West End swell; an ill-fitting frock-coat, which, even in the uncertain
flicker of the gas-lamps, pronounces itself to be ready made, and the
typical shopwalker's silk hat worn slightly on one side. Whether this
night bird goes through life on tiptoe, as many people do, or whether
he only adopts that fashion on this particular occasion, is a conundrum,
not without interest to students of character to whom a man's walk
denotes much.

For a long time the street is deserted, and then a bedraggled figure in
a shawl, with a big paper parcel under her arm, shuffles noiselessly by
and disappears down an adjacent turning. Then there is another long
interval, interrupted by a pretentious clock sonorously sounding two. A
feeling of drowsiness creeps over me; my eyelids droop. I begin to lose
cognisance of my surroundings and to imagine myself in some far-away
place, when I am recalled sharply to myself by an intensely cold current
of air. Intuitively I recognise the superphysical; it is the same
species of cold which invariably heralds its approach. I have been right
in my surmises after all; this spot is destined to be haunted. My eyes
are wide enough open now, and every nerve in my body tingles with the
keenest expectation. Something is coming, and, if that something is not
the phantasm of him whom I believe is earthbound, whose phantasm is it?
There is a slight noise of scratching from somewhere close beside me. It
might have been the wind rustling the leaves against the masonry, or it
might have been--I look round and see nothing. The sound is repeated and
with the same result--NOTHING! A third time I heard it, and then from
the dark road on one side of me there waddles--I recognise the waddling
at once--a shadow that, gradually becoming a little more distinct,
develops into the rather blurry form of a dog--a gaunt, hungry-looking
mongrel. In a few seconds it stops short and looks at me with big
swollen eyes that glitter with a something that is not actually bestial
or savage, something strange yet not altogether strange, something
enigmatic yet not entirely enigmatic. I am nonplussed; it was, and yet
it was not, what I expected. With restless, ambling steps it slinks past
me, disappearing through the closed gate by my side. Then satisfied, yet
vaguely puzzled, I come away, wondering, wondering--wondering why on
earth dogs should thus be desecrated.

Contrary to what one would imagine to be the case from the close
association of cats with witches and magic, phantasms in a feline form
are comparatively rare, and their appearance is seldom, if ever, as
repulsive as that of the occult dog. I have seen phantasm cats several
times, but, though they have been abnormally large and alarming, only
once--and I am anxious to forget that time--were they anything like as
offensive as many of the ghostly dogs that have manifested themselves to
me. In my _Haunted Houses of England and Wales_ I have given an instance
of dual haunting, in which one of the phenomena was a big black cat with
a fiendish expression in its eyes, but otherwise normal; and, _à propos_
of cats, there now comes back to me a story I was once told in the Far
West--the Golden State of California. I was on my way back to England,
after a short but somewhat bitter absence, and I was staying for the
night at a small hotel in San Francisco. The man who related the
anecdote was an Australian, born and bred, on his way home to his
native land after many years' sojourn in Texas. I was sitting on the
sofa in the smoke-room reading, when he threw himself down in a chair
opposite me and we gradually got into conversation. It was late when we
began talking, and the other visitors, one by one, yawned, rose, and
withdrew to their bedrooms, until we found ourselves alone--absolutely
alone. The night was unusually dark and silent.

Leaning over the little tile-covered table at which we sat, the stranger
suddenly said: "Do you see anything by me? Look hard." Much surprised at
his request, for I confess that up to then I had taken him for a very
ordinary kind of person, I looked, and, to my infinite astonishment and
awe, saw, floating in mid-air, about two yards from him, and on a level
with his chair, the shadowy outlines of what looked like an enormous
cat--a cat with very little hair and unpleasant eyes--decidedly
unpleasant eyes. My flesh crawled!

"Well?" said the stranger--who, by-the-by, had called himself
Gallaher,--in very anxious tones, "Well--you don't seem in a hurry, nor
yet particularly pleased--what is it?"

"A cat!" I gasped. "A cat--and a cat in mid-air!"

The stranger swore. "D---- it!" he cried, dashing his fist on the table
with such force that the match-box flew a dozen or so feet up the
room--"Cuss! the infernal thing! I guessed it was near me, I could feel
its icy breath!" He glanced sharply round as he spoke, and hurled his
tobacco pouch at the shape. It passed right through it and fell with a
soft squash on the ground. Gallaher picked it up with an oath. "I will
tell you the history of that cat," he went on, as he resumed his seat,
"and a d----d queer history it is."

Pouring himself out a bumper of whisky and refilling his pipe, he
cleared his throat and began: "As a boy I always hated cats--God knows
why--but the sight of a cat made me sick. I could not stand their soft,
sleek fur; nor their silly, senseless faces; nor their smell--the smell
of their skins, which most people don't seem able to detect. I could,
however; I could recognise that d----d scent a mile off, and could
always tell, without seeing it, when there was a cat in the house. If
any of the boys at school wanted to play me a trick they let loose half
a dozen mangy tabbies in our yard, or sent me a hideous 'Tom' trussed up
like a fowl in a hamper, or made cats' noises in the dead of night under
my window. Everyone in the village, from the baker to the bone-setter,
knew of my hatred of cats, and, consequently, I had many
enemies--chiefly amongst the old ladies. I must tell you, however, much
as I loathed and abominated cats, I never killed one. I threw stones and
sticks at them; I emptied jugs, and cans, and many pails of water on
them; I pelted them with turnips; I hurled cushions, bolsters, pillows,
anything I could first lay my hands on, at them; and"--here he cast a
furtive look at the shadow--"I have pinched and trodden on their tails;
but I have never killed one. When I grew up, my attitude towards them
remained the same, and wherever I went I won the reputation for being
the inveterate, the most poignantly inveterate, enemy of cats.

"When I was about twenty-five, I settled in a part of Texas where there
were no cats. It was on a ranch in the upper valley of the Colorado. I
was cattle ranching, and having had a pretty shrewd knowledge of the
business before I left home, I soon made headway, and--between
ourselves, mate, for there are mighty 'tough uns' in these town
hotels--a good pile of dollars. I never had any of the adventures that
befall most men out West, never but once, and I am coming to that right
away.

"I had been selling some hundred head of cattle and about the same
number of hogs, at a town some twenty or so miles from my ranch, and
feeling I would like a bit of excitement, after so many months of
monotony--the monotony of the desert life--I turned into the theatre--a
wooden shanty--where a company of touring players, mostly Yankees, were
performing. Sitting next to me was a fellow who speedily got into
conversation with me and assured me he was an Australian. I did not
believe him, for he had not the cut of an Australian,--until he
mentioned one or two of the streets I knew in Adelaide, and that settled
me. We drank to each other's health straight away, and he invited me to
supper at his hotel. I accepted; and as soon as the performance was
over, and we had exchanged greetings with some half-dozen of the
performers, in whisky, he slipped his arm through mine and we strolled
off together. Of course it was very foolish of me, seeing that I had a
belt full of money; but then I had not had an outing for a long time,
and I thirsted for adventure as I thirsted for whisky, and God alone
knows how much of THAT I had already drunk. We arrived at the hotel. It
was a poor-looking place in a sinister neighbourhood, abounding with
evil-eyed Dagos and cut-throats of all kinds. Still I was young and
strong, and well armed, for I never left home in those days without a
six-shooter. My companion escorted me into a low room in the rear of the
premises, smelling villainously of foul tobacco and equally foul
alcohol. Some half-cooked slices of bacon and suspicious-looking fried
eggs were placed before us, which, with huge hunks of bread and a bottle
of very much belabelled--too much belabelled--Highland whisky, completed
the repast. But it was too unsavoury even for my companion, whose hungry
eyes and lantern jaws proclaimed he had a ravenous appetite. However, he
ate the bacon and I the bread; the eggs we emptied into a flower-pot.
The supper--the supper of which he had led me to think so much--over, we
filled our glasses, or at least he poured out for both, for his hands
were steadier--even in my condition of semi-intoxication I noticed they
were steadier--than mine. Then he brought me a cigar and took me to his
bedroom, a bare, grimy apartment overhead. There was no furniture,
saving a bed showing unmistakable signs that someone had been lying on
it in dirty boots, a small rectangular deal table, and one chair.

"In a stupefied condition I was hesitating which of the alternatives to
choose--the chair or the table, for, oddly enough, I never thought of
the bed, when my host settled the question by leading me forcibly
forward and flinging me down on the mattress. He then took a wooden
wedge out of his pocket, and, going to the door, thrust it in the crack,
giving the handle a violent tug to see whether the door stood the test.
'There now, mate,' he said with a grin--a grin that seemed to suggest
something my tipsy brain could not grasp, 'I have just shut us in snug
and secure so that we can chat away without fear of interruption. Let us
drink to a comfortable night's sleep. You will sleep sound enough here,
I can tell you!' He handed me a glass as he spoke. 'Drink!' he said with
a leer. 'You are not half an Australian if you cannot hold that! See!'
and pouring himself out a tumbler of spirits and water he was about to
gulp it down, when I uttered an ejaculation of horror. The light from
the single gas jet over his head, falling on his face as he lifted it up
to drink the whisky, revealed in his wide open, protruding pupils, the
reflection of a cat--I can swear it was a cat. Instantly my intoxication
evaporated and I scented danger. How was it I had not noticed before
that the man was a typical ruffian--a regular street-corner loiterer,
waiting, hawklike, to pounce upon and fleece the first well-to-do
looking stranger he saw. Of course I saw it all now like a flash of
lightning: he had seen me about the town during the earlier part of the
day, had found out I was there on business, that I was an Australian,
and one or two other things--it is surprising how soon one's affairs get
mooted in a small town,--and guessing I had the receipts of my sales on
my person, had decided to rob me. Accordingly, with this end in view, he
had followed me into the theatre, and, securing the seat next me, had
broken the ice by pretending he was an Australian. He had then plied me
with drink and brought me, already more than half drunk, to this
cut-throat den. And I owed the discovery to a cat! My first thought was
to feel for my revolver. I did, and found it was--gone. My hopes sank to
zero; for though I might have been more than a match for the wiry framed
stranger had we both been unarmed, I had not the slightest chance with
him were he armed, as he undoubtedly was, with my revolver as well as
his own. Though it takes some time to explain this, it all passed
through my mind in a few seconds--before he had finished drinking. 'Now,
mate!' he said, putting down his glass, the first WHOLE glass even of
whisky and water he had taken that night, 'that's my share, now for
yours.'

"'Wait a bit!' I stammered, pretending to hiccough, 'wait a bit. I don't
feel that I can drink any more just yet! Maybe I will in a few minutes.'
We sat down, and I saw protruding from his hip pocket the butt end of a
revolver. If only I could get it! Determined to try, I edged slightly
towards him. He immediately drew away, a curious, furtive, bestial smile
lurking in the corner of his lips. I casually repeated the manoeuvre,
and he just as casually repeated his. Then I glanced at the window--the
door I knew was hopeless,--and it was iron barred. I gazed again at the
man, and his eyes grinned evilly as they met mine. Without a doubt he
meant to murder me. The ghastliness of my position stunned me. Even if I
shrieked for help, who would hear me save desperadoes, in all
probability every whit as ready as my companion to kill me.

"A hideous stupor now began to assert itself, and as I strained to keep
my lids from closing, I watched with a thrill of terror a fiendish look
of expectancy creep into the white, gleaming face of the stranger. I
realised, only too acutely, that he was waiting for me to fall asleep so
as the more conveniently to rob and murder me. The man was a murderer by
instinct--his whole air suggested it--his very breath was impregnated
with the sickly desire to kill. Physically, he was the ideal assassin.
It was strange that I had not observed it before; but in this light,
this yellow, piercing glare, all the criminality of his features was
revealed with damning clearness: the high cheek-bones, the light,
protruding eyes, the abnormally developed forehead and temporal regions,
the small, weak chin, the grossly irregular teeth, the poisonous breath,
the club-shaped finger-tips and thick palms. Where could one find a
greater combination of typically criminal characteristics? The man was
made for destroying his fellow creatures. When would he begin his job
and how?

"I am not narrow minded, I can recognise merit even in my enemies; and
though I was so soon to be his victim, I could not but admire the
thoroughly professional manner, indicative of past mastership, with
which he set about his business. So far all his plans, generated with
meteor-like quickness, had been successful; he was now showing how
devoted he was to his vocation, and how richly he appreciated the
situation, by abandoning himself to a short period of greedy, voluptuous
anticipation, fully expressed in his staring eyes and thinly lipped
mouth, before experiencing the delicious sensation of slitting my
windpipe and dismembering me. My drowsiness, which I verily believe was
in a great measure due to the peculiar fascination he had for me,
steadily increased, and it was only with the most desperate efforts,
egged on by the knowledge that my very existence depended on it, that I
could keep my eyelids from actually coming together and sticking fast.
At last they closed so nearly as to deceive my companion, who, rising
stealthily to his feet, showed his teeth in a broad grin of
satisfaction, and whipping from his coat pocket a glittering,
horn-handled knife, ran his dirty, spatulate thumb over the blade to see
if it was sharp. Grinning still more, he now tiptoed to the window,
pulled the blind as far down as it would go, and, after placing his ear
against the panel of the door to make sure no one was about, gaily spat
on his palms, and, with a soft, sardonic chuckle, crept slowly towards
me. Had he advanced with a war-whoop it would have made little or no
difference--the man and his atmosphere paralysed me--I was held in the
chair by iron bonds that swathed themselves round hands, and feet, and
tongue. I could neither stir nor utter a sound,--only look, look with
all the pent-up agonies of my soul through my burning, quivering
eye-lashes. A yard, a foot, an inch, and the perspiring fingers of his
left hand dexterously loosened the gaudy coloured scarf that hid my
throat. A second later and I felt them smartly transferred to my long,
curly hair. They tightened, and my neck was on the very verge of being
jerked back, when between my quivering eyelids I saw on the sheeny
surface of his bulging eye-balls,--the cat--the damnable, hated cat. The
effect was magical. A wave of the most terrific, the most ungovernable
fury surged through me. I struck out blindly, and one of my fists
alighting on the would-be murderer's face made him stagger back and drop
the knife. In an instant the weapon was mine, and ere he could draw his
six-shooter--for the suddenness of the encounter and my blow had
considerably dazed him--I had hurled myself upon him, and brought him to
the ground.

"The force with which I had thrown him, together with my blow, had
stunned him, and I would have left him in that condition had it not been
for the cat--the accursed cat--that, peeping up at me from every
particle of his prostrate body, egged me on to kill him. My intense
admiration for his genius now manifested itself in the way in which I
imitated all his movements, from the visit to the door and window, to
the spitting on his palms; and with a grin--the nearest counterpart that
I could get, after prodigious efforts, to the one that so fascinated
me--I approached his recumbent figure, and, bending over it, removed his
neckerchief. I sat and admired the gently throbbing whiteness of his
throat for some seconds, and then, with a volley of execrations at the
cat, commenced my novel and by no means uninteresting work. I am afraid
I bungled it sadly, for I was disturbed when in the midst of it, by the
sound of scratching, the violent and frantic scratching, of some animal
on the upper panels of the door. The sound flustered me, and, my hand
shaking in consequence, I did not make such a neat job of it as I should
have liked. However, I did my best, and at all events I killed him; and
I enjoyed the supreme satisfaction of knowing that I had killed
him--killed the cat. But my joy was of short duration, and I now
bitterly regret my rash deed. Wherever I go in the daytime, the shadowy
figure of the cat accompanies me, and at night, crouching on my
bedclothes, it watches--watches me with the expression in its eyes and
mouth of my would-be murderer on that memorable night."

As he concluded, for an instant, only for an instant, the shadow by his
side grew clearer, and I saw the cat, saw it watching him with murder,
ghastly murder lurking in its eyes. I struck a match, and, as I had
anticipated, the phenomenon vanished.

"It will return," the Australian said gloomily; "it always does. I shall
never get rid of it!" And as I fully concurred with this statement, and
had no suggestions to offer, I thanked him for his story, and wished him
good night. But I did not leave him alone. He still had his cat. I saw
it return to him as I passed through the doorway. Of course, I had no
means of verifying his story; it might have been true, or it might not.
But there was the cat!--thoroughly objective and as perfect a specimen
of a feline, occult bestiality as I have ever seen or wish to see again.

That a spirit should appear in the form of a pig need not seem
remarkable when we remember that those who live foul lives, _i.e._ the
sensual and greedy, must, after death, assume the shape that is most
appropriate to them; indeed, in these circumstances, one might rather be
surprised that a phantasm in the shape of a hog is not a more frequent
occurrence.

There are numerous instances of hauntings by phenomena of this kind, in
some cases the phantasms being wholly animal, and in other cases
semi-animal.

What I have said with regard to the phantasms of dogs--namely, the
difficulty, practically the impossibility, of deciding whether the
manifestation is due to an elemental or to a spirit of the dead--holds
good in the case of "pig" as well as every other kind of bestial
phenomenon.

The phantasm in the shape of a horse I am inclined to attribute to the
once actually material horse and not to elementals.

With regard to phantom birds--and there are innumerable cases of occult
bird phenomena--I fancy it is otherwise, and that the majority of bird
hauntings are caused either by the spirits of dead people, or by vicious
forms of elementals.

Though one hears of few cases of occult bestialities in the shape of
tigers, lions, or any other wild animal--saving bears and wolves,
phantasms of which appear to be common--I nevertheless believe, from
hearsay evidence, that they are to be met with in certain of the jungles
and deserts in the East, and that for the most part they are the
phantasms of the dead animals themselves, still hankering to be
cruel--still hankering to kill.



CHAPTER VII

VAMPIRES, WERE-WOLVES, FOX-WOMEN, ETC.


_Vampires_

According to a work by Jos. Ennemoser, entitled _The Phantom World_,
Hungary was at one time full of vampires. Between the river Theiss and
Transylvania, were (and still are, I believe) a people called Heyducs,
who were much pestered with this particularly noxious kind of phantasm.
About 1732, a Heyduc called Arnauld Paul was crushed to death by a
waggon. Thirty days after his burial a great number of people began to
die, and it was then remembered that Paul had said he was tormented by a
vampire. A consultation was held and it was decided to exhume him. On
digging up his body, it was found to be red all over and literally
bursting with blood, some of which had forced a passage out and wetted
his winding sheet. Moreover, his hair, nails, and beard had grown
considerably. These being sure signs that the corpse was possessed by a
vampire, the local bailie was fetched and the usual proceedings for the
expulsion of the undesirable phantasm began. A stake, sharply pointed at
one end, was handed to the bailie, who, raising it above his head,
drove it with all his might into the heart of the corpse. There then
issued from the body the most fearful screams, whereupon it was at once
thrown into a fire that had been specially prepared for it, and burned
to ashes. But, though this was the end of that particular vampire, it
was by no means the end of the hauntings; for the deaths, far from
decreasing in number, continued in rapid succession, and no less than
seventeen people in the village died within a period of three months.
The question now arose as to which of the other bodies in the cemetery
were "possessed," it being very evident that more than one vampire lay
buried there. Whilst the matter was at the height of discussion, the
solution to the problem was brought about thus. A girl, of the name of
Stanoska, awoke in the middle of the night, uttering the most
heartrending screams, and declaring that the son of a man called Millo
(who had been dead nine weeks) had nearly strangled her. A rush was at
once made to the cemetery, and a general disinterment taking place,
seventeen out of the forty corpses (including that of the son of Millo)
showed unmistakable signs of vampirism. They were all treated according
to the mode described, and their ashes cast into the adjacent river. A
committee of inquiry concluded that the spread of vampirism had been due
to the eating of certain cattle, of which Paul had been the first to
partake. The disturbances ceased with the death of the girl and the
destruction of her body, and the full account of the hauntings, attested
to by officers of the local garrison, the chief surgeons, and most
influential of the inhabitants of the district, was sent to the
Imperial Council of War at Venice, which caused a strict inquiry to be
made into the matter, and were subsequently, according to Ennemoser,
satisfied that all was _bona fide_.

In another work, _A History of Magic_, Ennemoser also refers to a case
in the village of Kisilova, in Hungary, where the body of an old man,
three days after his death, appeared to his son on two consecutive
nights, demanding something to eat, and, being given some meat, ate it
ravenously. The third night the son died, and the succeeding day
witnessed the deaths of some five or six others. The matter was reported
to the Tribunal of Belgrade, which promptly sent two officers to inquire
into the case. On their arrival the old man's grave was opened, and his
body found to be full of blood and natural respiration. A stake was then
driven through its heart, and the hauntings ceased.

Though far fewer in number than they were, and more than ever confined
to certain localities, I am quite sure that vampires are by no means
extinct. Their modes and habits--they are no longer gregarious--have
changed with the modes and habits of their victims, but they are none
the less vampires. Have I seen them? No! but my not having been thus
fortunate, or rather unfortunate, does not make me so discourteous as to
disbelieve those who tell me that they have seen a vampire--that
peculiar, indefinably peculiar shape that, wriggling along the ground
from one tombstone to another, crawls up and over the churchyard wall,
and making for the nearest house, disappears through one of its upper
windows. Indeed, I have no doubt that had I watched that house some few
days afterwards, I should have seen a pale, anæmic looking creature,
with projecting teeth and a thoroughly imbecile expression, come out of
it. I believe a large percentage of idiots and imbecile epileptics owe
their pitiable plight to vampires which, in their infancy, they had the
misfortune to attract. I do not think that, as of old, the vampires come
to their prey installed in stolen bodies, but that they visit people
wholly in spirit form, and, with their superphysical mouths, suck the
brain cells dry of intellect. The baby, who is thus the victim of a
vampire, grows up into something on a far lower scale of intelligence
than dumb animals, more bestial than monkeys, and more dangerous (far
more dangerous, if the public only realised it) than tigers; for,
whereas the tiger is content with one square meal a day, the hunger of
vampirism is never satisfied, and the half-starved, mal-shaped brain
cells, the prey of vampirism, are in a constant state of suction, ever
trying to draw in mental sustenance from the healthy brain cells around
them. Idiots and epileptics are the cephalopoda of the land--only, if
anything, fouler, more voracious, and more insatiable than their aquatic
prototypes. They never ought to be at large. If not destroyed in their
early infancy (which one cannot help thinking would be the most merciful
plan both for the idiot and the community in general), those polyp
brains ought to be kept in some isolated place where they would have
only each other to feed upon. When I see an idiot walking in the
streets, I always take very good care to give him a wide berth, as I
have no desire that the vampire buried in his withered brain cells
should derive any nutrition at my expense. From the fact that some towns
which are close to cromlechs, ancient burial-grounds, woods, or moors
are full of idiots, leads me to suppose that vampires often frequent the
same spots as barrowvians, vagrarians and other types of elementals.
Whilst, on the other hand, since many densely crowded centres have fully
their share of idiots, I am led to believe that vampires are equally
attracted by populous districts, and that, in short, unlike barrowvians
and vagrarians, they can be met with pretty nearly everywhere. And now
for examples.

A man I know, who spends most of his time in Germany, once had a strange
experience when staying in the neighbourhood of the Hartz mountains. One
sultry evening in August he was walking in the country, and noticed a
perambulator with a white figure, which he took to be that of a
remarkably tall nursemaid, bending over it. As he drew nearer, however,
he found that he had been mistaken. The figure was nothing human; it had
no limbs; it was cylindrical. A faint, sickly sound of sucking caused my
friend to start forward with an exclamation of horror, and as he did so,
the phantasm glided away from the perambulator and disappeared among the
trees. The baby, my friend assured me, was a mere bag of bones, with a
ghastly, grinning anæmic face. Again, when touring in Hungary, he had a
similar experience. He was walking down a back street in a large,
thickly populated town, when he beheld a baby lying on the hot and
sticky pavement with a queer-looking object stooping over it. Wondering
what on earth the thing was, he advanced rapidly, and saw, to his
unmitigated horror, that it was a phantasm with a limbless, cylindrical
body, a huge flat, pulpy head, and protruding, luminous lips, which were
tightly glued to the infant's ears; and again my friend heard a faint,
sickly sound of sucking, and a sound more hideously nauseating, he
informed me, could not be imagined. He was too dumbfounded to act; he
could only stare; and the phantasm, after continuing its loathsome
occupation for some seconds, leisurely arose, and moving away with a
gliding motion, vanished in the yard of an adjacent house. The child did
not appear to be human, but a concoction of half a dozen diminutive
bestialities, and as my friend gazed at it, too fascinated for the
moment to tear himself away, it smiled up at him with the hungry,
leering smile of vampirism and idiocy.

So much for vampires in the country and in crowded cities, but, as I
have already remarked, they are ubiquitous. As an illustration, there is
said to be a maritime town in a remote part of England, which, besides
being full of quaintness (of a kind not invariably pleasant) and of foul
smells, is also full of more than half-savage fishermen and idiots;
idiots that often come out at dusk, and greatly alarm strangers by
running after them.

Some years ago, one of these idiots went into a stranger's house, took a
noisy baby out of its cot, and after tubbing it well (which I think
showed that the idiot possessed certain powers of observation), cut off
its head, throwing the offending member into the fire. The parents were
naturally indignant, and so were some of the inhabitants; but the affair
was speedily forgotten, and although the murderer was confined to a
lunatic asylum, nothing was done to rid the town of other idiots who
were, collectively, doing mischief of a nature far more serious than
that of the recently perpetrated murder.

The wild and rugged coast upon which the town is situated was formerly
the hunting-ground of wreckers, and I fear the present breed of
fishermen, in spite of their hypocritical pretensions to religion, prove
only too plainly by their abominable cruelty to birds and inhospitable
treatment of strangers, that they are in reality no better than their
forbears. This inherited strain of cruelty in the fishermen would alone
account for the presence of vampires and every other kind of vicious
elemental; but the town has still another attraction--namely, a
prehistoric burial-ground, on a wide expanse of thinly populated
moorland--in its rear.

_À propos_ of vampires, my friend Mrs South writes to me as follows (I
quote her letter _ad verbum_): "The other night, I was dining with a
very old friend of mine whom I had not seen for years, and, during a
pause in the conversation, he suddenly said, 'Do you believe in
vampires?' I wondered for a moment if he had gone mad, and I think, in
my matter-of-fact way, I blurted out something of the sort; but I saw in
a moment, from the expression in his eyes, that he had something to
tell me, and that he was not at all in the mood to be laughed at or
misunderstood, 'Tell me,' I said, 'I am listening.' 'Well,' he replied,
'I had an extraordinary experience a few months ago, and not a word of
it have I breathed to any living soul. But sometimes the horror of it so
overpowers me that I feel I must share my secret with someone; and
you--well, you and I have always been such pals.' I answered nothing,
but gently pressed his hand.

"After lighting a cigarette, he commenced his story, which I will give
you as nearly as possible in his own words:--

"'It is about six months ago since I returned from my travels. Up to
that time I had been away from England for nearly three years, as you
know. About a couple of nights after my return, I was dining at my Club,
when someone tapped me on the shoulder, and turning round, I saw my old
friend S----.

"'As I had no idea he was in London, you may imagine my delight. He
joined me at dinner and we went over old times together. He asked me if
I had heard anything of our mutual friend G----, to whom we were both
very much attached. I said I had had a few lines from him about six
months previously, announcing his marriage, but that I had never heard
from him nor seen him since. He had settled, I believe, in the heart of
the country. S---- then told me that he had not seen G---- since his
engagement, neither had he heard from him; in fact he had written to him
once or twice, but his letters had received no answer. There were
whispered rumours that he was looking ill and unhappy. Hearing this, I
got G----'s address from S----, and made up my mind I would run down and
see him as soon as I could get away from town.

"'About a week afterwards I found myself, after driving an interminable
distance, so it seemed to me, through Devonshire lanes, stopping outside
a beautiful house which appeared to be entirely isolated from any other
dwelling.

"'A few more minutes and I was standing before a blazing log fire in a
fine old hall, eagerly awaiting the welcome I knew my old friend would
give me. I did not anticipate long; in less time than it takes to tell
G---- appeared, and with slow, painfully slow steps, crossed the hall to
greet me. He was wasted to a shadow, and I felt a lump rise in my throat
as I thought of the splendid, athletic boy I used to know. He made no
excuse for his wife, who did not accompany him; and though I was
naturally anxious to see her, I was glad that Jack and I were alone. We
chatted together utterly regardless of the time, and it was not until
the first gong had sounded that I thought of dressing for dinner. After
performing a somewhat hurried toilette, I was hastening downstairs, when
I suddenly became conscious that I was being watched. I looked all round
and could see no one. I then heard a low, musical laugh just above my
head, and looking up, I saw a figure leaning over the banisters. The
beauty of the face dazzled me for a moment, and the loveliness of the
eyes, which looked into mine and seemed to shine a red gold, held me
spellbound. Presently a voice, every whit as lovely as the face, said:
"So you are Jack's chum?" The most beautiful woman I have ever seen then
came slowly down the stairs, and slipping her arm through mine, led me
to the dining-room. As her hand rested on my coat-sleeve, I remember
noticing that the fingers were long, and thin, and pointed, and the
nails so polished that they almost shone red. Indeed, I could not help
feeling somewhat puzzled by the fact that everything about her shone red
with the exception of her skin, which, with an equal brilliancy, shone
white. At dinner she was lively, but she ate and drank very sparingly,
and as though food was loathsome to her.

"'Soon after dinner I felt so exceedingly tired and sleepy, a most
unusual thing for me, that I found it absolutely impossible to keep
awake, and consequently asked my host and hostess to excuse me. I woke
next morning feeling languid and giddy, and, while shaving, I noticed a
curious red mark at the base of my neck. I imagined I must have cut
myself shaving hurriedly the evening before, and thought nothing more
about it.

"'The following night, after dinner, I experienced the same sensation of
sleepiness, and felt almost as if I had been drugged. It was impossible
for me to keep awake, so I again asked to be excused! On this occasion,
after I had retired, a curious thing happened. I dreamed--or at least I
suppose I dreamed--that I saw my door slowly open, and the figure of a
woman carrying a candle in one hand, and with the other carefully
shading the flame, glide noiselessly into my room. She was clad in a
loose red gown, and a great rope of hair hung over one shoulder. Again
those red-gold eyes looked into mine; again I heard that low musical
laugh; and this time I felt powerless either to speak or to move. She
leaned down, nearer and nearer to me; her eyes gradually assumed a
fiendish and terrible expression; and with a sucking noise, which was
horrible to hear, she fastened her crimson lips to the little wound in
my neck. I remembered nothing more until the morning. The place on my
neck, I thought, looked more inflamed, and as I looked at it, my dream
came vividly back to me and I began to wonder if after all it was only a
dream. I felt frightfully rotten, so rotten that I decided to return to
town that day; and yet I yielded to some strange fascination, and
determined, after all, to stay another night. At dinner I drank
sparingly; and, making the same excuse as on the previous nights, I
retired to bed at an early hour. I lay awake until midnight, waiting for
I know not what; and was just thinking what a mad fool I was, when
suddenly the door gently opened and again I saw Jack's wife. Slowly she
came towards me, gliding as stealthily and noiselessly as a snake. I
waited until she leaned over me, until I felt her breath on my cheek,
and then--then flung my arms round her. I had just time to see the mad
terror in her eyes as she realised I was awake, and the next instant,
like an eel, she had slipped from my grasp, and was gone. I never saw
her again. I left early the next morning, and I shall never forget dear
old Jack's face when I said good-bye to him. It is only a few days since
I heard of his death.'"


_Were-wolves_

Closely allied to the vampire is the were-wolf, which, however, instead
of devouring the intellect of human beings, feeds only on their flesh.
Like the vampire, the were-wolf belongs to the order of elementals; but,
unlike the vampire, it is confined to a very limited sphere--the wilds
of Norway, Sweden, and Russia, and only appears in two guises, that of a
human being in the daytime and a wolf at night. I have closely
questioned many people who have travelled in those regions, but very few
of them--one or two at the most--have actually come in contact with
those to whom the existence of the were-wolf is not a fable but a fact.
One of these travellers, a mere acquaintance whom I met in an hotel in
the Latin Quarter of Paris, assured me that the authenticity of a story
he would tell me, relating to the were-wolf, was, in the neighbourhood
through which he travelled, never for a single moment doubted.

My informant, a highly cultured Russian, spoke English, French, German,
and Italian with as great fluency as I spoke my native tongue, and I
believed him to be perfectly genuine. The incident he told me, to which
unanimous belief was accredited, happened to two young men (whom I will
call Hans and Carl), who were travelling to Nijni Novgorod, a city in
the province of Tobolsk. The route they took was off the beaten track,
and led them through a singularly wild and desolate tract of country.
One evening, when they were trotting mechanically along, their horses
suddenly came to a standstill and appeared to be very much frightened.
They inquired of the driver the reason of such strange behaviour, and he
pointed with his whip to a spot on the ice--they were then crossing a
frozen lake--a few feet ahead of them. They got out of the sleigh, and,
approaching the spot indicated, found the body of a peasant lying on his
back, his throat gnawed away and all his entrails gone. "A wolf without
a doubt," they said, and getting back into the sleigh, they drove on,
taking good care to see that their rifles were ready for instant action.
They had barely gone a mile when the horses again halted, and a second
corpse was discovered, the corpse of a child with its face and thighs
entirely eaten away. Again they drove on, and had progressed a few more
miles when the horses stopped so abruptly that the driver was pitched
bodily out; and before Carl and Hans could dismount, the brutes started
off at a wild gallop. They were eventually got under control, but it was
with the greatest difficulty that they were forced to turn round and go
back, in order to pick up the unfortunate driver. The farther they went,
the more restless they became, and when, at length, they approached the
place where the driver had been thrown, they came to a sudden and
resolute standstill. As no amount of whipping would now make them go on,
Hans got out, and advancing a few steps, espied something lying across
the track some little distance ahead of them. Gun in hand, he advanced
a few more steps, when he suddenly stopped. To his utter amazement he
saw, bending over a body, which he at once identified as that of their
driver, the figure of a woman. She started as he approached, and,
hastily springing up, turned towards him. The strange beauty of her
face, her long, lithe limbs (she stood fully six feet high) and slender
body,--the beauty of the latter enhanced by the white woollen costume in
which she was clad,--had an extraordinary effect upon Hans. Her shining
masses of golden hair, that curled in thick clusters over her forehead
and about her ears; the perfect regularity of her features, and the
lustrous blue of her eyes, enraptured him; whilst the expression both in
her face and figure--in her sparkling eyes and firmly modelled mouth; in
her red lips, and even in her pearly teeth, repulsed and almost
frightened him. He gazed steadily at her, and, as he did so, the hold on
his rifle involuntarily tightened. He then glanced from her face to her
hands, and noticed with a spasm of horror that the tips of her long and
beautifully shaped nails were dripping with blood, and that there was
blood, too, on her knees and feet, blood all over her. He then looked at
the driver and saw the wretched man's clothes had been partially
stripped off, and that there were great gory holes in his throat and
abdomen.

"Oh, I am so glad you have come!" the woman cried, addressing him in a
strangely peculiar voice, that thrilled him to the marrow of his bones.
"It is the wolves. Do come and see what they have done. I saw them, from
a distance, attack this poor man, and leaving my sleigh, for my horses
came to a dead halt, and nothing I could do would induce them to move, I
ran to his assistance. But, alas! I was too late!" Then, looking at her
dress, from which Hans could scarcely remove his eyes, she cried out:
"Ugh! How disgusting--blood! My hands and clothes are covered with it. I
tried to stop the bleeding, but it was no use"; and she proceeded to
wipe her fingers on the snow.

"But why did you venture here alone?" Hans inquired, "and why unarmed?
How foolhardy! The wolves would have made short work of you had you
encountered them!"

"Then you cannot have heard the report of my gun!" the woman cried, in
well-feigned astonishment. "How strange! I fired at the wolves from over
there"; and she pointed with one of her slender, milky-white fingers to
a spot on the ice some fifty yards away. "Fortunately, they all made
off," she continued, "and I hastened hither, dropping my gun that I
might run the faster."

"I can see no gun," Hans exclaimed, shading his eyes with his hand and
staring hard.

The woman laughed. "What a disbelieving Jew it is!" she said. "The gun
is there; I can see it plainly. You must be short-sighted." And then,
straining her eyes on the far distance, she shrieked: "Great Heavens! My
sleigh has gone! Oh! what shall I do? What shall I do?"

Giving way to every gesture of despair, she looked so forlorn and
beautiful that Hans would have been full of pity for her, had not
certain vague suspicions, which he could neither account for nor
overcome, entered his heart. Sorely perplexed, he did not know what to
do, and stood looking at her in critical silence.

"Won't you come with me?" she said, clasping her hands beseechingly.
"Come with me to look for it. The horses may only have strayed a short
distance, and we might overtake them without much difficulty."

As she spoke thus, her piercing, earnest gaze thrilled him to the very
soul, and his heart rose in rebellion against his reason. He had seen
many fair women, but assuredly none as fair as this one. What eyes! What
hair! What a complexion! What limbs! It seemed to him that she was not
like ordinary women, that she was not of the same flesh and blood as any
of the women he had ever met, and that she was in reality something far
superior; something generated by the primitive glamour of the starry
night, of the great, sparkling, ice-covered lake, and the lone,
snow-capped peaks beyond. And all the while he was thinking thus, and
unconsciously coming under the spell of her weird beauty, the woman
continued to gaze entreatingly at him from under the long lashes which
swept her cheeks. At last he could refuse her no longer--he would have
gone to hell with her had she asked it--and shouting to Carl to remain
where he was, he bade her lead the way. Setting off with long, quick
strides that made Hans wonder anew, she soon put a considerable distance
between herself and companion, and Carl. Hans now perceived a change;
the sky grew dark, the clouds heavy, and the farther they went, the more
perceptible this change became. The brightness and sense of joy in the
air vanished, and, with its dissipation, came a chill and melancholy
wind that rose from the bosom of the lake and swept all around them,
moaning and sighing like a legion of lost souls.

But Hans, who came of a military stock, feared little, and, with his
beautiful guide beside him, would cheerfully have faced a thousand
devils. He had no eyes for anything save her, no thought of anything but
her, and when she sidled up to him, playfully fingering his gun, he
allowed her to take it from him and do what she liked with it. Indeed,
he was so absorbed in the contemplation of her marvellous beauty, that
he did not perceive her deftly unload his rifle and throw it from her on
the ice; nor did he take any other notice than to think it a very
pretty, playful trick when she laughingly caught his two hands, and
bound them securely together behind his back. He was still drinking in
the wondrous beauty of her eyes, when she suddenly slipped one of her
pretty, shapely feet between his, and with a quick, subtle movement,
tripped him and threw him to the ground. There was a dull crash, and,
amid the hundred and one sounds that echoed and re-echoed through his
head as it came in contact with the ice, he seemed to hear the far-off
patter of horses' hoofs. Then something deliciously soft and cool
touched his throat, and opening his eyes, he found his beautiful
companion bending over him and undoing the folds of his woollen
neckerchief with her shapely fingers. For such an experience he would
fall and faint till further orders. He sought her eyes, and all but
fainted again--the expression in them appalled him. They were no longer
those of a woman but a devil, a horrible, sordid devil that hungered not
merely for his soul, but for his flesh and blood. Then, in a second, he
understood it all--she was a were-wolf, one of those ghastly creatures
he had hitherto scoffingly attributed to the idle superstitions of the
peasants. It was she who had mutilated the bodies they had passed on the
road; it was she who had killed and half-eaten their driver; it was
she--but he could think no more, it was all too horrible, and the
revulsion of his feelings towards her clogged his brain. He longed to
grapple with her, strangle her, and he could do nothing. The bare touch
of those fingers--those cool, white, tapering fingers, with their long,
shining filbert nails, all ready and eager to tear and rend his flesh to
pieces--had taken all the life from his limbs, and he could only gaze
feebly at her and damn her from the very bottom of his soul. One by one,
more swiftly now, she unfastened the buttons of his coat and vest and
then, baring her cruel teeth with a soft gurgle of excitement, and a
smack of her red glistening lips, she prepared to eat him. Strangely
enough, he experienced no pain as her nails sank into the flesh of his
throat and chest and clawed it asunder. He was numb, numb with the
numbness produced by hypnotism or paralysis--only some of his faculties
were awake, vividly, startlingly awake. He was abruptly roused from this
state by the dull crack of a rifle, and an agonising, blood-curdling
scream, after which he knew no more till he found himself sitting
upright on the ice, gulping down brandy, his throat a mass of bandages,
and Carl kneeling beside him.

"Where is she?" he asked, and Carl pointed to an object on the ice. It
was the body of a huge white wolf, with half its head blown away.

"An explosive bullet," Carl said grimly. "I thought I would make certain
of the beast, even at the risk of hurting you; and, mein Gott! it was a
near shave! You have lost some of your hair, but nothing more. When I
saw you go away with the woman, I guessed something was up. I did not
like the look of her at all; she was a giantess, taller than any woman I
have ever seen; and the way she had you in tow made me decidedly
uncomfortable. Consequently, I followed you at a distance, and when I
saw her trip you, I lashed up our horses and came to your rescue as fast
as I could. Unfortunately, I had to dismount when I was still some
distance off, as no amount of lashing would induce the horses to
approach you nearer, and after arriving within range, it took me some
seconds to get my rifle ready and select the best position for a shot.
But, thank God! I was just in time, and, beyond a few scratches, you are
all right. Shall we leave the beast here or take it with us?"

"We will do neither," Hans said, with a shudder, whilst a new and sad
expression stole into his eyes. "I cannot forget it was once a woman!
and, my God! what a woman! We will bury her here in the ice."

The story here terminated, and from the fact that I have heard other
stories of a similar nature, I am led to believe that there is in this
one some substratum of truth. Were-wolves are not, of course, always
prepossessing; they vary considerably. Moreover, they are not restricted
to one sex, but are just as likely to be met with in the guise of boys
and men as of girls and women.


_Fox-women_

Very different from this were-wolf, though also belonging to the great
family of elementals, are the fox-women of Japan and China, about which
much has been written, but about which, apparently, very little is
known.

In China the fox was (and in remote parts still is) believed to attain
the age of eight hundred or a thousand years. At fifty it can assume the
form of a woman, and at one hundred that of a young and lovely girl,
called Kao-Sai, or "Our Lady." On reaching the thousand years' limit, it
goes to Paradise without physical dissolution. I have questioned many
Chinese concerning these fox-women, but have never been able to get any
very definite information. One Chinaman, however, assured me that his
brother had actually seen the transmigration from fox to woman take
place. The man's name I have forgotten, but I will call him Ching Kang.
Well, Ching Kang was one day threading his way through a lovely valley
of the Tapa-ling mountains, when he came upon a silver (_i.e._ white)
fox crouching on the bank of a stream in such a peculiar attitude that
Ching Kang's attention was at once arrested. Thinking that the animal
was ill, and delighted at the prospect of lending it aid, for silver
foxes are regarded as of good omen in China, Ching Kang approached it,
and was about to examine it carefully, when to his astonishment he found
he could not move--he was hypnotised. But although his limbs were
paralysed, his faculties were wonderfully active, and his heart almost
ceased beating when he saw the fox slowly begin to get bigger and
bigger, until at last its head was on a level with his own. There was
then a loud crash, its skin burst asunder, and there stepped out of it
the form of a girl of such entrancing beauty that Ching Kang thought he
must be in Heaven. She was fairer than most Chinese women; her eyes were
blue instead of brown, and her shapely hands and feet were of milky
whiteness. She was gaily dressed in blue silk, with earrings and
bracelets of blue stone, and carried in one of her hands a blue fan.
With a wave of her slender palms she released Ching Kang from his spell,
and, bidding him follow her, plunged into a thick clump of bushes. Madly
infatuated, Ching Kang needed no second bidding, but, keeping close to
her heels, stolidly pushed his way through barricades of brambles that,
whilst yielding to her touch, closed on him and beat him on the face and
body so unmercifully that in a very short time he was barely
recognisable, being literally bathed in blood. However, despite his
wounds increasing and multiplying with every step he took, and naturally
causing him the most excruciating agony, Ching Kang never, for one
instant, thought of turning back; he always kept within touching
distance of the blue form in front of him. But at last human nature
could stand it no longer; his strength gave way, and as with a mad
shriek of despair he implored her to stop, his senses left him and he
fell in a heap to the ground. When he recovered he was lying alone,
quite alone in the middle of the road, exactly opposite the spot where
he had first seen the fox, and by his side was a fan, a blue fan.
Picking it up sadly, he placed it near his heart (where it remained to
the very day of his death), and with one last lingering look at the bank
of the stream, he continued his solitary journey.

This was Ching Kang's story. His brother did not think he ever met the
fox-woman again. He believed Ching Kang was still searching for her when
he died.



CHAPTER VIII

DEATH WARNINGS AND FAMILY GHOSTS


Candles are very subject to psychic influences. Many years ago, when I
was a boy, I was sitting in a room with some very dear friends of mine,
when one of them, suddenly turning livid, pointed at the candle, and
with eyes starting out of their sockets, screamed, "A winding-sheet! A
winding-sheet! See! it is pointing at me!" We were all so frightened by
the suddenness of her action, that for some seconds no one spoke, but
all sat transfixed with horror, gaping at the candle. "It must be my
brother Tom," she continued, "or Jack. Can't you see it?" Then, one
after another, we all examined the candle and discovered that what she
said was quite true--there was an unmistakable winding-sheet in the wax,
and it emphatically pointed in her direction. Nor were her surmisings in
vain, for the next morning she received a telegram to say her brother
Tom had died suddenly. I am sceptical with regard to some
manifestations, but I certainly do believe in this one, and I often
regard my candle anxiously, fearing that I may see a winding-sheet in
it.

To have three candles lighted at the same time is also an omen of
death, and as I have known it to be fulfilled in several cases within my
own experience, I cannot help regarding it as one of the most certain.

I am sometimes informed of the advent of the occult in a very startling
manner--my candle burns blue. It has done this when I have been sitting
alone in my study, at night, writing. I have been busily engaged penning
descriptions of the ghosts I and others have seen, when I have been
startled by the fact that my paper, originally white, has suddenly
become the colour of the sky, and on looking hastily up to discover a
reason, have been in no small measure shocked to see my candle burning a
bright blue. An occult manifestation of sorts has invariably followed. I
am often warned of the near advent of the occult in this same manner
when I am investigating in a haunted house--the flame of the candle
burns blue before the appearance of the ghost. It is, by the way, an
error to think that different types of phantasms can only appear in
certain colours--colours that are peculiar to them. I have seen the same
phenomenon manifest itself in half a dozen different colours, and blue
is as often adopted by the higher types of spirits as by the lower, and
is, in fact, common to both. I have little patience with occultists who
draw hard and fast lines, and, ignoring everybody else's experiences,
presume to diagnose within the narrow limits of their own. No one can as
yet say anything for certain with regard to the superphysical, and the
statements of the most humble psychic investigator, provided he has had
actual experience, and is genuine, are just as worthy of attention as
those of the most eminent exponents of theosophy or spiritualism, or of
any learned member of the Psychical Research Societies. The occult does
not reveal itself to the rich in preference to the poor, and, for
manifestation, is not more partial to the Professor of Physics and Law
than to the Professor of Nothing--other than keen interest and common
sense.


_Corpse-candles_

In Wales there are corpse-candles. According to the account of the Rev.
Mr Davis in a work by T. Charley entitled _The Invisible World_,
corpse-candles are so called because their light resembles a material
candle-light, and might be mistaken for the same, saving that when
anyone approaches them they vanish, and presently reappear. If the
corpse-candle be small, pale, or bluish, it denotes the death of an
infant; if it be big, the death of an adult is foretold; and if there
are two, three, or more candle-lights, varying in size, then the deaths
are predicted of a corresponding number of infants and adults. "Of
late," the Rev. Mr Davis goes on to say (I quote him _ad verbum_), "my
sexton's wife, an aged, understanding woman, saw from her bed a little
bluish candle upon her table: within two or three days after comes a
fellow in, inquiring for her husband, and, taking something from under
his cloak, clapt it down directly upon the table end where she had seen
the candle; and what was it but a dead-born child? Another time, the
same woman saw such another candle upon the other end of the same
table: within a few days later, a weak child, by myself newly
christened, was brought into the sexton's house, where presently he
died; and when the sexton's wife, who was then abroad, came home, she
found the women shrouding the child on that other end of the table where
she had seen the candle. On a time, myself and a huntsman coming from
our school in England, and being three or four hours benighted ere we
could reach home, saw such a light, which, coming from a house we well
knew, held its course (but not directly) in the highway to church:
shortly after, the eldest son in that house died, and steered the same
course.... About thirty-four or thirty-five years since, one Jane Wyatt,
my wife's sister, being nurse to Baronet Rud's three eldest children,
and (the lady being deceased) the lady of the house going late into a
chamber where the maid-servants lay, saw there no less than five of
these lights together. It happened awhile after, the chamber being newly
plastered, and a great grate of coal-fire therein kindled to hasten the
drying up of the plastering, that five of the maid-servants went there
to bed as they were wont; but in the morning they were all dead, being
suffocated in their sleep with the steam of the newly tempered lime and
coal. This was at Llangathen in Carmarthen."

So wrote the Rev. Mr Davis, and in an old number of _Frazer's Journal_ I
came across the following account of death-tokens, which, although not
exactly corpse-candles, might certainly be classed in the same category.
It ran thus:

"In a wild and retired district in North Wales, the following
occurrence took place, to the great astonishment of the mountaineers. We
can vouch for the truth of the statement, as many of our own teutu, or
clan, were witnesses of the facts. On a dark evening a few weeks ago,
some persons, with whom we are well acquainted, were returning to
Barmouth on the south or opposite side of the river. As they approached
the ferry house at Penthryn, which is directly opposite Barmouth, they
observed a light near the house, which they conjectured to be produced
by a bonfire, and greatly puzzled they were to discover the reason why
it should have been lighted. As they came nearer, however, it vanished;
and when they inquired at the house respecting it, they were surprised
to learn that not only had the people there displayed no light, but they
had not even seen one; nor could they perceive any signs of it on the
sands. On reaching Barmouth, the circumstance was mentioned, and the
fact corroborated by some of the people there, who had also plainly and
distinctly seen the light. It was settled, therefore, by some of the old
fishermen that this was a death-token; and, sure enough, the man who
kept the ferry at that time was drowned at high water a few nights
afterwards, on the very spot where the light was seen. He was landing
from the boat, when he fell into the water, and so perished. The same
winter the Barmouth people, as well as the inhabitants of the opposite
bank, were struck by the appearance of a number of small lights, which
were seen dancing in the air at a place called Borthwyn, about half a
mile from the town. A great number of people came out to see these
lights; and after awhile they all but one disappeared, and this one
proceeded slowly towards the water's edge to a little bay where some
boats were moored. The men in a sloop which was anchored near the spot
saw the light advancing, they saw it also hover for a few seconds over
one particular boat, and then totally disappear. Two or three days
afterwards, the man to whom that particular boat belonged was drowned in
the river, while he was sailing about Barmouth harbour in that very
boat."

As the corpse-candle is obviously a phantasm whose invariable custom is
to foretell death, it must, I think, be classified with that species of
elementals which I have named--for want of a more appropriate
title--CLANOGRIAN. CLANOGRIANS embrace every kind of national and family
ghost, such as The White Owl of the Arundels, the Drummer of the
Airlies, and the Banshee of the O'Neills and O'Donnells.

With regard to the origin of corpse-candles, as of all other
clanogrians, one can only speculate. The powers that govern the
superphysical world have much in their close keeping that they
absolutely refuse to disclose to mortal man. Presuming, however, that
corpse-candles and all sorts of family ghosts are analogous, I should
say that the former are spirits which have attached themselves to
certain localities, either owing to some great crime or crimes having
been committed there in the past, or because at some still more remote
period the inhabitants of those parts--the Milesians and Nemedhians, the
early ancestors of the Irish, dabbled in sorcery.


_Fire-coffins_

Who has not seen all manner of pictures in the fire? Who has not seen,
or fancied he has seen, a fire-coffin? A fire-coffin is a bit of red-hot
coal that pops mysteriously out of the grate in the rude shape of a
coffin, and is prophetic of death, not necessarily the death of the
beholder, but of someone known to him.


_The Death-watch_

Though this omen in a room is undoubtedly due to the presence in the
woodwork of the wall of a minute beetle of the timber-boring genus
ANOBIUM, it is a strange fact that its ticking should only be heard
before the death of someone, who, if not living in the house, is
connected with someone who does live in it. From this fact, one is led
to suppose that this minute beetle has an intuitive knowledge of
impending death, as is the case with certain people and also certain
animals.

The noise is said to be produced by the beetle raising itself upon its
hind legs (see _Popular Errors explained_, by John Timbs), with the body
somewhat inclined, and beating its head with great force and agility
upon the plane of position; and its strokes are so powerful as to be
heard from some little distance. It usually taps from six to twelve
times in succession, then pauses, and then recommences. It is an error
to suppose it only ticks in the spring, for I know those who have heard
its ticking at other, and indeed, at all times in the year.


_Owls_

Owls have always been deemed psychic, and they figure ominously in the
folk-lore of many countries. I myself can testify to the fact that they
are often the harbinger of death, as I have on several occasions been
present when the screeching of an owl, just outside the window, has
occurred almost coincident with the death of someone, nearly related
either to myself or to one of my companions. That owls have the faculty
of "scenting the approach of death" is to my mind no mere idle
superstition, for we constantly read about them hovering around gibbets,
and they have not infrequently been known to consummate Heaven's wrath
by plucking out the eyes of the still living murderers and feeding on
their brains. That they also have tastes in common with the least
desirable of the occult world may be gathered from the fact that they
show a distinct preference for the haunts of vagrarians, barrowvians,
and other kinds of elementals; and even the worthy Isaiah goes so far as
to couple them with satyrs.

Occasionally, too, as in the case of the Arundels of Wardour, where a
white owl is seen before the death of one of the family, they perform
the function of clanogrians.


_Ravens_

A close rival of the owl in psychic significance is the raven, the
subtle, cunning, ghostly raven that taps on window-panes and croaks
dismally before a death or illness. I love ravens--they have the
greatest fascination for me. Years ago I had a raven, but, alas! only
for a time, a very short time. It came to me one gloomy night, when the
wind was blowing and the rain falling in cataracts. I was at the
time--and as usual--writing ghost tales. Thought I to myself, this raven
is just what I want; I will make a great friend of it, it shall sit at
my table while I write and inspire me with its eyes--its esoteric eyes
and mystic voice. I let it in, gave it food and shelter, and we settled
down together, the raven and I, both revellers in the occult, both
lovers of solitude. But it proved to be a worthless bird, a shallow,
empty-minded, shameless bird, and all I gleaned from it was--idleness.
It made me listless and restless; it filled me with cravings, not for
work, but for nature, for the dark open air of night-time, for the vast
loneliness of mountains, the deep secluded valleys, the rushing, foaming
flow of streams, and for woods--ah! how I love the woods!--woods full of
stalwart oaks and silvery beeches, full of silent, moon-kissed glades,
nymphs, sirens, and pixies. Ah! how I longed for all these, and more
besides--for anything and everything that appertained neither to man nor
his works. Then I said good-bye to the raven, and, taking it with me to
the top of a high hill, let it go. Croaking, croaking, croaking it flew
away, without giving me as much as one farewell glance.


_Mermaids_

Who would not, if they could, believe in mermaids? Surely all save those
who have no sense of the beautiful--of poetry, flowers, painting, music,
romance; all save those who have never built fairy castles in the air
nor seen fairy palaces in the fire; all save those whose minds, steeped
in money-making, are both sordid and stunted. That mermaids did exist,
and more or less in legendary form, I think quite probable, for I feel
sure there was a time in the earth's history when man was in much closer
touch with the superphysical than he is at present. They may, I think,
be classified with pixies, nymphs, and sylphs, and other pleasant types
of elementals that ceased to fraternise with man when he became more
plentiful and forsook the simple mode of living for the artificial.

Pixies, nymphs, sylphs, and other similar kinds of fairies are all
harmless and benevolent elementals, and I believe they were all fond of
visiting this earth, but that they seldom visit it now, only appearing
at rare intervals to a highly favoured few.


_The Wandering Jew_

No story fascinated me more when I was a boy than that of Ahasuerus, the
Wandering Jew. How vividly I saw him--in my mental vision--with his
hooked nose, and wild, dark eyes, gleaming with hatred, cruelty, and
terror, spit out his curses at Christ and frantically bid him begone!
And Christ! How plainly I saw Him, too, bathed in the sweat of agony,
stumbling, staggering, reeling, and tottering beneath the cross he had
to carry! And then the climax--the calm, biting, damning climax. "Tarry
thou till I come!" How distinctly I heard Christ utter those words, and
with what relief I watched the pallor of sickly fear and superstition
steal into the Jew's eyes and overspread his cheeks! And he is said to
be living now! Periodically he turns up in some portion or other of the
globe, causing a great sensation. And many are the people who claim to
have met him--the man whom no prison can detain, no fetters hold; who
can reel off the history of the last nineteen hundred odd years with the
most minute fluency, and with an intimate knowledge of men and things
long since dead and forgotten. Ahasuerus, still, always, ever
Ahasuerus--no matter whether we call him Joseph, Cartaphilus, or
Salathiel, his fine name and guilty life stick to him--he can get rid of
neither. For all time he is, and must be, Ahasuerus, the Wandering
Jew--the Jew Christ damned.


_Attendant Spirits_

I believe that, from the moment of our birth, most, if not all of us,
have our attendant spirits, namely, a spirit sent by the higher occult
powers that are in favour of man's spiritual progress, whose function it
is to guide us in the path of virtue and guard us from physical danger,
and a spirit sent by the higher occult powers that are antagonistic to
man's spiritual progress, whose function it is to lead us into all sorts
of mental, moral, and spiritual evil, and also to bring about our path
some bodily harm. The former is a benevolent elemental, well known to
the many, and termed by them "Our Guardian Angel"; the latter is a vice
elemental, equally well known perhaps, to the many, and termed by them
"Our Evil Genie." The benevolent creative powers and the evil creative
powers (in whose service respectively our attendant spirits are
employed) are for ever contending for man's superphysical body, and it
is, perhaps, only in the proportion of our response to the influences of
these attendant spirits, that we either evolve to a higher spiritual
plane, or remain earth-bound. I, myself, having been through many
vicissitudes, feel that I owe both my moral and physical preservation
from danger entirely to the vigilance of my guardian attendant spirit. I
was once travelling in the United States at the time of a great railway
strike. The strikers held up my train at Crown Point, a few miles
outside Chicago; and as I was forced to take to flight, and leave my
baggage (which unfortunately contained all my ready money), I arrived in
Chicago late at night without a cent on me. Beyond the clothes I had on,
I had nothing; consequently, on my presenting myself at a hotel with the
request for a night's lodging, I was curtly refused. One hotel after
another, one house after another, I tried, but always with the same
result; having no luggage, and being unable to pay a deposit, no one
would take me. The night advanced; the streets became rougher and
rougher, for Chicago just then was teeming with the scum of the earth,
ruffians of every description, who would cheerfully have cut any man's
throat simply for the sake of his clothes. All around me was a sea of
swarthy faces with insolent, sinister eyes that flashed and glittered in
the gaslight. I was pushed, jostled, and cursed, and the bare thought of
having to spend a whole night amid such a foul, cut-throat horde filled
me with dismay. Yet what could I do? Clearly nothing, until the morning,
when I should be able to explain my position to the British Consul. The
knowledge that in all the crises through which I had hitherto passed, my
guardian spirit had never deserted me, gave me hope, and I prayed
devoutly that it would now come to my assistance and help me to get to
some place of shelter.

Time passed, and as my prayers were not answered, I repeated them with
increased vigour. Then, quite suddenly, a man stepped out from the dark
entrance to a by-street, and, touching me lightly on the arm, said, "Is
there anything amiss? I have been looking at you for some time, and a
feeling has come over me that you need assistance. What is the matter?"
I regarded the speaker earnestly, and, convinced that he was honest,
told him my story, whereupon to my delight he at once said, "I think I
can help you, for a friend of mine runs a small but thoroughly
respectable hotel close to here, and, if you like to trust yourself to
my guidance, I will take you there and explain your penniless
condition." I accepted his offer; what he said proved to be correct; the
hotel-keeper believed my story, and I passed the night in decency and
comfort. In the morning the proprietor lent me the requisite amount of
money for a cablegram to Europe. My bank in England cabled to a bank in
Chicago, and the hotel-keeper generously made himself responsible for my
identity; the draft was cashed, and I was once again able to proceed on
my journey. But what caused the man in the street to notice me? What
prompted him to lend me his aid? Surely my guardian spirit. Again, when
in Denver, in the Denver of old times, before it had grown into anything
like the city it is now, I was seized with a severe attack of dysentery,
and the owner of the hotel in which I was staying, believing it to be
cholera, turned me, weak and faint as I was, into the street. I tried
everywhere to get shelter; the ghastly pallor and emaciation of my
countenance went against me--no one, not even by dint of bribing, for I
was then well off, would take me in. At last, completely overcome by
exhaustion, I sank down in the street, where, in all probability, I
should have remained all night, had not a negro suddenly come up to me,
and, with a sympathetic expression in his face, asked if he could help
me. "I passed you some time ago," he said, "and noticed how ill you
looked, but I did not like to speak to you for fear you might resent it,
but I had not got far before I felt compelled to turn back. I tried to
resist this impulse, but it was no good. What ails you?" I told him. For
a moment or so he was silent, and then, his face brightening up, he
exclaimed, "I think I can help you. Come along with me," and, helping me
gently to my feet, he conducted me to his own house, not a very grand
one, it is true, but scrupulously clean and well conducted, and I
remained there until I was thoroughly sound and fit. The negro is not as
a rule a creature of impulse, and here again I felt that I owed my
preservation to the kindly interference of my guardian spirit.

Thrice I have been nearly drowned, and on both occasions saved as by a
miracle, or, in other words, by my attendant guardian spirit. Once, when
I was bathing alone in a Scotch loch and had swum out some considerable
distance, I suddenly became exhausted, and realised with terror that it
was quite impossible for me to regain the shore. I was making a last
futile effort to strike out, when something came bobbing up against me.
It was an oar! Whence it had come Heaven alone knew, for Heaven alone
could have sent it. Leaning my chin lightly on it and propelling myself
gently with my limbs, I had no difficulty in keeping afloat, and
eventually reached the land in safety. The scene of my next miraculous
rescue from drowning was a river. In diving into the water off a boat, I
got my legs entangled in a thick undergrowth of weeds. Frantically
struggling to get free and realising only too acutely the seriousness of
my position, for my lungs were on the verge of bursting, I fervently
solicited the succour of my guardian spirit, and had no sooner done so,
than I fancied I felt soft hands press against my flesh, and the next
moment my body had risen to the surface. No living person was within
sight, so that my rescuer could only have been--as usual--my guardian
spirit.

Several times I fancy I have seen her, white, luminous, and shadowy,
but for all that suggestive of great beauty. Once, too, in the wilder
moments of my youth, when I contemplated rash deeds, I heard her sigh,
and the sigh, sinking down into the furthermost recesses of my soul,
drowned all my thoughts of rash deeds in a thousand reverberating
echoes. I have been invariably warned by strangers against taking a
false step that would unquestionably have led to the direst misfortune.
I meet a stranger, and without the slightest hint from me, he touches
upon the very matter uppermost in my mind, and, in a few earnest and
never-to-be-forgotten words of admonition, deters me from my scheme.
Whence come these strangers, to all appearance of flesh and blood like
myself? Were they my guardian spirit in temporary material guise, or
were they human beings that, like the hotel proprietor's friend in
Chicago, and the negro, have been impelled by my guardian spirit to
converse with me and by their friendly assistance save me? Many of the
faces we see around us every day are, I believe, attendant spirits, and
phantasms of every species, that have adopted physical form for some
specific purpose.


_Banshees_

It has been suggested that banshees are guardian spirits and evil genii;
but I do not think so, for whereas one or other of the two latter
phantasms (sometimes both) are in constant attendance on man, banshees
only visit certain families before a catastrophe about to happen in
those families, or before the death of a member of those families. As
to their origin, little can be said, for little is at present known.
Some say their attachment to a family is due to some crime perpetrated
by a member of that family in the far dim past, whilst others attribute
it to the fact that certain classes and races in bygone times dabbled in
sorcery, thus attracting the elementals, which have haunted them ever
since. Others, again, claim that banshees are mere thought
materialisations handed down from one generation to another. But
although no one knows the origin and nature of a banshee, the statements
of those who have actually experienced these hauntings should surely
carry far more weight and command more attention than the statements of
those who only speak from hearsay; for it is, after all, only the
sensation of actual experience that can guide us in the study of this
subject; and, perhaps, through our "sensations" alone, the key to it
will one day be found. A phantasm produces an effect on us totally
unlike any that can be produced by physical agency--at least such is my
experience--hence, for those who have never come in contact with the
unknown to pronounce any verdict on it, is to my mind both futile and
absurd. Of one thing, at least, I am sure, namely, that banshees are no
more thought materialisations than they are cats--neither are they in
any way traceable to telepathy or suggestion; they are entirely due to
objective spirit forms. I do not base this assertion on a knowledge
gained from other people's experiences--and surely the information thus
gained cannot properly be termed knowledge--but from the sensations I
myself, as a member of an old Irish clan, have experienced from the
hauntings of the banshee--the banshee that down through the long links
of my Celtic ancestry, through all vicissitudes, through all changes of
fortune, has followed us, and will follow us, to the end of time.
Because it is customary to speak of an Irish family ghost by its generic
title, the banshee, it must not be supposed that every Irish family
possessing a ghost is haunted by the same phantasm--the same banshee.

In Ireland, as in other countries, family ghosts are varied and
distinct, and consequently there are many and varying forms of the
banshee. To a member of our clan, a single wail signifies the advent of
the banshee, which, when materialised, is not beautiful to look upon.
The banshee does not necessarily signify its advent by one wail--that of
a clan allied to us wails three times. Another banshee does not wail at
all, but moans, and yet another heralds its approach with music. When
materialised, to quote only a few instances, one banshee is in the form
of a beautiful girl, another is in the form of a hideous prehistoric
hag, and another in the form of a head--only a head with rough matted
hair and malevolent, bestial eyes.


_Scottish Ghosts_

When it is remembered that the ancestors of the Highlanders, _i.e._, the
Picts and Scots, originally came from Ireland and are of Formosian and
Milesian descent, it will be readily understood that their proud old
clans--and rightly proud, for who but a grovelling money grubber would
not sooner be descended from a warrior, elected chief, on account of his
all-round prowess, than from some measly hireling whose instincts were
all mercenary?--possess ghosts that are nearly allied to the banshee.

The Airlie family, whose headquarters are at Cortachy Castle, is haunted
by the phantasm of a drummer that beats a tattoo before the death of one
of the members of the clan. There is no question as to the genuineness
of this haunting, its actuality is beyond dispute. All sorts of theories
as to the origin of this ghostly drummer have been advanced by a prying,
inquisitive public, but it is extremely doubtful if any of them approach
the truth. Other families have pipers that pipe a dismal dirge, and
skaters that are seen skating even when there is no ice, and always
before a death or great calamity.


_English Family Ghosts_

There are a few old English families, too, families who, in all
probability, can point to Celtic blood at some distant period in their
history, that possess family ghosts. I have, for example, stayed in one
house where, prior to a death, a boat is seen gliding noiselessly along
a stream that flows through the grounds. The rower is invariably the
person doomed to die. A friend of mine, who was very sceptical in such
matters, was fishing in this stream late one evening when he suddenly
saw a boat shoot round the bend. Much astonished--for he knew it could
be no one from the house--he threw down his rod and watched. Nearer and
nearer it came, but not a sound; the oars stirred and splashed the
rippling, foaming water in absolute silence. Convinced now that what he
beheld was nothing physical, my friend was greatly frightened, and, as
the boat shot past him, he perceived in the rower his host's youngest
son, who was then fighting in South Africa. He did not mention the
incident to his friends, but he was scarcely surprised when, in the
course of the next few days, a cablegram was received with the tidings
that the material counterpart of his vision had been killed in action.

A white dove is the harbinger of death to the Arundels of Wardour; a
white hare to an equally well-known family in Cornwall. Corby Castle in
Cumberland has its "Radiant Boy"; whilst Mrs E. M. Ward has stated, in
her reminiscences, that a certain room at Knebworth was once haunted by
the phantasm of a boy with long yellow hair, called "The Yellow Boy,"
who never appeared to anyone in it, unless they were to die a violent
death, the manner of which death he indicated by a series of ghastly
pantomimics.

Other families, I am told, lay claim to phantom coaches, clocks, beds,
ladies in white, and a variety of ghostly phenomena whose manifestations
are always a sinister omen.


_Welsh Ghosts_

In addition to corpse-candles and blue lights, the Welsh, according to
Mr Wirt Sykes, in his work, _British Goblins_, pp. 212-216, possess a
species of ill-omened ghost that is not, however, restricted to any one
family, but which visits promiscuously any house or village prior to a
death. Sometimes it flaps its leathern wings against the window of the
room containing the sick person, and in a broken, howling tone calls
upon the latter to give up his life; whilst, at other times, according
to Mr Dyer in his _Ghost World_, it actually materialises and appears in
the form of an old crone with streaming hair and a coat of blue, when it
is called the "Ellyllon," and, like the banshee, presages death with a
scream.

Again, when it is called the "Cyhyraeth," and is never seen, it
foretells the death of the insane, or those who have for a long time
been ill, by moaning, groaning, and rattling shutters in the immediate
vicinity of the doomed person.



CHAPTER IX

"SUPERSTITIONS AND FORTUNES"


_Thirteen at Table_

There is no doubt that there have been many occasions upon which
thirteen people have sat down to dinner, all of which people at the end
of a year have been alive and well; there is no doubt also that there
have been many occasions upon which thirteen have sat down to dine, and
the first of them to rise has died within twelve months. Therefore, I
prefer not to take the risk, and to sit down to dinner in any number but
thirteen.

A curious story is told in connection with this superstition. A lady was
present at a dinner party given by the Count D---- in Buda-Pesth, when
it was discovered that the company about to sit down numbered thirteen.
Immediately there was a loud protest, and the poor Count was at his
wits' end to know how to get out of the difficulty, when a servant
hurriedly entered and whispered something in his ear. Instantly the
Count's face lighted up. "How very fortunate!" he exclaimed, addressing
his guests. "A very old friend of mine, who, to tell the truth, I had
thought to be dead, has just turned up. We may, therefore, sit down in
peace, for we shall now be fourteen." A wave of relief swept through
the party, and, in the midst of their congratulations, in walked the
opportune guest, a tall, heavily bearded young man, with a strangely set
expression in his eyes and mouth, and not a vestige of colour in his
cheeks. It was noticed that after replying to the Count's salutations in
remarkably hollow tones that made those nearest him shiver, he took no
part in the conversation, and partook of nothing beyond a glass of wine
and some fruit. The evening passed in the usual manner; the guests, with
the exception of the stranger, went, and, eventually, the Count found
himself alone with the friend of his boyhood, the friend whom he had not
seen for years, and whom he had believed to be dead.

Wondering at the unusual reticence of his old chum, but attributing it
to shyness, the Count, seeing that he now had an opportunity for a chat,
and, anxious to hear what his friend had been doing in the long interval
since they had last met, sat down beside him on the couch, and thus
began: "How very odd that you should have turned up to-night! If you
hadn't come just when you did, I don't know what would have happened!"

"But I do!" was the quiet reply. "You would have been the first to rise
from the table, and, consequently, you would have died within the year.
That is why I came."

At this the Count burst out laughing. "Come, come, Max!" he cried. "You
always were a bit of a wag, and I see you haven't improved. But be
serious now, I beg you, and tell me what made you come to-night and what
you have been doing all these years? Why, it must be sixteen years, if a
day, since last I saw you!"

Max leaned back in his seat, and, regarding the Count earnestly with his
dark, penetrating eyes, said, "I have already told you why I came here
to-night, and you don't believe me, but WAIT! Now, as to what has
happened to me since we parted. Can I expect you to believe that?
Hardly! Anyhow, I will put you to the test. When we parted, if you
remember rightly, I had just passed my final, and having been elected
junior house surgeon at my hospital, St Christopher's, at Brunn, had
taken up my abode there. I remained at St Christopher's for two years,
just long enough to earn distinction in the operating theatre, when I
received a more lucrative appointment in Cracow. There I soon had a
private practice of my own and was on the high road to fame and fortune,
when I was unlucky enough to fall in love."

"Unlucky!" laughed the Count. "Pray what was the matter with her? Had
she no dowry, or was she an heiress with an ogre of a father, or was she
already married?"

"Married," Max responded, "married to a regular martinet who, whilst
treating her in the same austere manner he treated his soldiers--he was
colonel of a line regiment--was jealous to the verge of insanity. It was
when I was attending him for a slight ailment of the throat that I met
her, and we fell in love with each other at first sight."

"How romantic!" sighed the Count. "How very romantic! Another glass of
Moselle?"

"For some time," Max continued, not noticing the interruption, "all went
smoothly. We met clandestinely and spent many an hour together, unknown
to the invalid. We tried to keep him in bed as long as we could, but his
constitution, which was that of an ox, was against us, and his recovery
was astonishingly rapid. An indiscreet observation on the part of one of
the household first led him to suspect, and, watching his wife like a
cat does a mouse, he caught her one evening in the act of holding out
her hand for me to kiss. With a yell of fury he rushed upon us, and in
the scuffle that followed----"

"You killed him," said the Count. "Well! I forgive you! We all forgive
you! By the love of Heaven! you had some excuse."

"You are mistaken!" Max went on, still in the same cold, unmoved
accents, "it was I who was killed!" He looked at the Count, and the
Count's blood turned to ice as he suddenly realised he was, indeed,
gazing at a corpse.

For some seconds the Count and the corpse sat facing one another in
absolute silence, and then the latter, rising solemnly from the chair,
mounted the window-sill, and, with an expressive wave of farewell,
disappeared in the absorbing darkness without. Now, as Max was never
seen again, and it was ascertained without any difficulty that he had
actually perished in the manner he had described, there is surely every
reason to believe that a _bona fide_ danger had threatened the Count,
and that the spirit of Max in his earthly guise had, in very deed,
turned up at the dinner party with the sole object of saving his friend.


_Spilling Salt_

Everyone knows that to avoid bad luck from spilling salt, it is only
necessary to throw some of it over the left shoulder; but no one knows
why such an act is a deterrent to misfortune, any more than why
misfortune, if not then averted, should accrue from the spilling.

That the superstition originated in a tradition that Judas Iscariot
overturned a salt-cellar is ridiculous, for there is but little doubt it
was in vogue long before the advent of Christ, and is certainly current
to-day among tribes and races that have never heard of the "Last
Supper."

In all probability the superstition is derived from the fact that salt,
from its usage in ancient sacrificial rites, was once regarded as
sacred. Hence to spill any carelessly was looked upon as sacrilegious
and an offence to the gods, to appease whom the device of throwing it
over the left, the more psychic shoulder, was instituted.


_Looking-glasses_

The breaking of a looking-glass is said to be an ill omen, and I have
certainly known many cases in which one misfortune after another has
occurred to the person who has had the misfortune to break a
looking-glass. Some think that because looking-glasses were once used in
sorcery, they possess certain psychic properties, and that by reason of
their psychic properties any injury done to a mirror must be fraught
with danger to the doer of that injury, but whether this is so or not is
a matter of conjecture.


_Psychic Days_

"Friday's child is full of woe." Of all days Friday is universally
regarded as the most unlucky. According to Soames in his work, _The
Anglo-Saxon Church_, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit on a Friday
and died on a Friday. And since Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday,
it is naturally of small wonder that Friday is accursed.

To travel on Friday is generally deemed to be courting accident; to be
married on Friday, courting divorce or death. Few sailors care to embark
on Friday; few theatrical managers to produce a new play on Friday. In
Livonia most of the inhabitants are so prejudiced against Friday, that
they never settle any important business, or conclude a bargain on that
day; in some places they do not even dress their children.

For my part, I so far believe in this superstition that I never set out
for a journey, or commence any new work on Friday, if I have the option
of any other day. Thursday has always been an unlucky day for me. Most
of my accidents, disappointments, illnesses have happened on Thursdays.
Wednesday has been my luckiest day. Monday, Thursday, Friday, and
Saturday the days when I have mostly experienced occult phenomena. On
All-Hallows E'en the spirits of the dead are supposed to walk. I
remember when a child hearing from the lips of a relative how in her
girlhood she had screwed up the courage to shut herself in a dark room
on All-Hallows E'en and had eaten an apple in front of the mirror; and
that instead of seeing the face of her future husband peering over her
shoulder, she had seen a quantity of earth falling. She was informed
that this was a prognostication of death, and, surely enough, within the
year her father died. I have heard, too, of a girl who, on All-Hallows
E'en, walked down a gloomy garden path scattering hempseed for her
future lover to pick up, and on hearing someone tiptoeing behind her,
and fancying it was a practical joker, turned sharply round, to confront
a skeleton dressed exactly similar to herself. She died before the year
was out from the result of an accident on the ice.

I have often poured boiling lead into water on All-Hallows E'en and it
has assumed strange shapes, once--a boot, once--a coffin, once--a ship;
and I have placed all the letters of the alphabet cut out of pasteboard
by my bedside, and on one occasion (my door was locked, by the way, and
I fully satisfied myself no one was in hiding) found, on awakening in
the morning, the following word spelt out of them--"Merivale." It was
not until some days afterwards that I remembered associations with this
word, and then it all came back to me in a trice--it was the name of a
man who had once wanted me to join him in an enterprise in British West
Africa.

On New Year's Eve a certain family, with whom I am very intimately
acquainted, frequently see ghosts of the future, as well as phantasms of
the dead, and, when I stay with them, which I often do at Christmas, I
am always glad when this night is over. On one occasion, one of them saw
a lady come up the garden path and vanish on the front doorsteps. She
saw the lady's face distinctly; every feature in it, together with the
clothes she was wearing, stood out with startling perspicuity.

Some six months later, she was introduced to the material counterpart of
the phantasm, who was destined to play a most important part in her
life. On another New Year's Eve she saw the phantasm of a dog, to which
she had been deeply attached, enter her bedroom and jump on her bed,
just as it had done during its lifetime. Not in the least frightened,
she put down her hand to stroke it, when it vanished. I have given
several other instances of this kind in my _Haunted Houses of London_
and _Ghostly Phenomena_--they all, I think, tend to prove a future
existence for dumb animals.

The 28th of December, Childermass Day, or the Feast of the Holy
Innocents, the day on which King Herod slaughtered so many infants (if
they were no better mannered than the bulk of the County Council
children of to-day, one can hardly blame him), is held to be
unpropitious for the commencement of any new undertaking by those of
tender years.

The fishermen who dwell on the Baltic seldom use their nets between All
Saints and St Martin's Day, or on St Blaise's Day; if they did, they
believe they would not take any fish for a whole year. On Ash Wednesday
the women in those parts neither sew nor knit for fear of bringing
misfortune upon their cattle, whilst they do not use fire on St
Lawrence's Day, in order to secure themselves against fire for the rest
of the year.

In Moravia the peasants used not to hunt on St Mark's or St Catherine's
Day, for fear they should be unlucky all the rest of the year. In
Yorkshire it was once customary to watch for the dead on St Mark's
(April 24) and Midsummer Eve. On both those nights (so says Mr Timbs in
his _Mysteries of Life and Futurity_) persons would sit and watch in the
church porch from eleven o'clock at night till one in the morning. In
the third year (for it must be done thrice), the watchers were said to
see the spectres of all those who were to die the next year pass into
the church.

I am quite sure there is much truth in this, for I have heard of
sceptics putting it to the test, and of "singing to quite a different
tune" when the phantasms of those they knew quite well suddenly shot up
from the ground, and, gliding past them, vanished at the threshold of
the church. Occasionally, too, I have been informed of cases where the
watchers have seen themselves in the ghastly procession and have died
shortly afterwards.


_Fortune-telling_

Before ridiculing the possibility of telling fortunes by cards, it would
be just as well for sceptics to inquire into the history of cards, and
the reason of their being designated the Devil's pasteboards. Their
origin may be traced to the days when man was undoubtedly in close touch
with the occult, and each card, _i.e._ of the original design, has a
psychic meaning. Hence the telling of fortunes by certain people--those
who have had actual experience with occult phenomena--deserves to be
taken seriously; and I am convinced many of the fortunes thus told come
true.


_Palmistry_

That there is much truth in palmistry--the palmistry of those who have
made a thorough study of the subject--should by this time, I think, be
an established fact. I can honestly say I have had my hand told with
absolute accuracy, and in such a manner as utterly precludes the
possibility of coincidence or chance. Many of the events, and
out-of-the-way events, of my life have been read in my lines with
perfect veracity, my character has been delineated with equal fidelity,
and the future portrayed exactly in the manner it has come about--and
all by a stranger, one who had never seen or heard of me before he "told
my hand."

To attempt to negative the positive is the height of folly, but fools
will deny anything and everything save their own wit. It does not follow
that because one palmist has been at fault, all palmists are at fault. I
believe in palmistry, because I have seen it verified in a hundred and
one instances.

Apart from the lines, however, there is a wealth of character in hands:
I am never tired of studying them. To me the most beautiful and
interesting hands are the pure psychic and the dramatic--the former with
its thin, narrow palm, slender, tapering fingers and filbert nails; the
latter a model of symmetry and grace, with conical finger-tips and
filbert nails--indeed, filbert nails are more or less confined to these
two types; one seldom sees them in other hands.

Then there are the literary and artistic hands, with their mixed types
of fingers, some conical and some square-tipped, but always with some
redeeming feature of refinement and elegance in them; and the musical
hand, sometimes a modified edition of the psychic, and sometimes quite
different, with short, supple fingers and square tips. And yet
again--would that it did not exist!--the business hand, far more common
in England, where the bulk of the people have commercial minds, than
elsewhere. It has no redeeming feature, but is short, and square, and
fat, with stumpy fingers and hideous, spatulate nails, the very sight of
which makes me shudder. Indeed, I have heard it said abroad, and not
without some reason, that, apart from other little peculiarities, such
as projecting teeth and big feet, the English have two sets of toes!
When I look at English children's fingers, and see how universal is the
custom of biting the nails, I feel quite sure the day will come when
there will be no nails left to bite--that the day, in fact, is not far
distant, when nails, rather than teeth, will become extinct.

The Irish, French, Italians, Spanish, and Danes, being far more dramatic
and psychic than the English, have far nicer hands, and for one set of
filbert nails in London, we may count a dozen in Paris or Madrid.

Murderers' hands are often noticeable for their knotted knuckles and
club-shaped finger-tips; suicides--for the slenderness of the thumbs
and strong inclination of the index to the second finger; thieves--for
the pointedness of the finger-tips, and the length and suppleness of the
fingers. Dominating, coarse-minded people, and people who exert undue
influence over others, generally have broad, flat thumbs. The hands of
soldiers and sailors are usually broad, with short, thick, square-tipped
fingers; the hands of clergy are also more often broad and coarse than
slender and conical, which may be accounted for by the fact that so many
of them enter the Church with other than spiritual motives. The really
spiritual hand is the counterpart of the psychical, and rarely seen in
England. Doctors, doctors with a genuine love of their profession, in
other words, "born" doctors, have broad but slender palms, with long,
supple fingers and moderately square tips. This type of hand is typical,
also, of the hospital nurse.

It is, of course, a gross error to think that birth has everything to do
with the shape of the hand; for the latter is entirely dependent on
temperament; but it is also a mistake to say that as many
beautiful-shaped hands are to be found among the lower as among the
upper classes in England. It is a mistake, because the psychic and
dramatic temperaments (and the psychic and dramatic type of hand is
unquestionably the most beautiful) are rarely to be found in the middle
and lower classes in England--they are almost entirely confined to the
upper classes.


_Pyromancy_

Predicting the future by fire is one of the oldest methods of
fortune-telling, and has been practised from time immemorial. I have
often had my fortune told in the fire, but I cannot say it has ever
proved to be very correct; only once a prognostication came true,--a
sudden death occurred in a family very nearly connected with me, after a
very fanciful churchyard had been pointed out to me amid the glowing
embers.


_Hydromancy_

There are many ways of telling the fortune by means of water. One of the
most usual methods is to float some object on the water's surface,
predicting the future in accordance with the course that object takes;
but I believe future events are just as often foretold by means of the
water only.

Many people believe that especially successful results in
fortune-telling may be obtained by means of water only, on All-Hallows
E'en or New Year's Eve.

On the former night, the method of divining the future is as
follows:--Place a bowl of clear spring water on your lap at midnight,
and gaze into it. If you are to be married, you will see the face of
your future husband (or bride) reflected in the water; if you are to
remain single all your life, you will see nothing; and if you are to die
within the year, the water will become muddy. On New Year's Eve a
tumbler of water should be placed at midnight before the looking-glass,
when any person, or persons, destined to play a very important rôle in
your life within the coming year, will suddenly appear and sip the
water. Should you be doomed to die within that period, the tumbler will
be thrown on the ground and dashed to pieces.

The conditions during the trial of both these methods are that you
should be alone in the room, with only one candle burning.


_The Crystal_

I often practise crystal-gazing, and the results are strangely
inconsistent. I see with startling vividness events that actually come
to pass, and sometimes with equal perspicuity events that, as far as I
know, are never fulfilled. And this I feel sure must be the case with
all crystal-gazers, if they would but admit it. My method is very
simple. As I cannot concentrate unless I have absolute quiet, I wait
till the house is very still, and I then sit alone in my room with my
back to the light, in such a position that the light pours over my
shoulders on to the crystal, which I have set on the table before me.
Sometimes I sit for a long time before I see anything, and sometimes,
after a lengthy sitting, I see nothing at all; but when a tableau does
come, it is always with the most startling vividness. When I want to be
initiated into what is happening to certain of my friends, I concentrate
my whole mind on those friends--I think of nothing but them--their
faces, forms, mannerisms, and surroundings--and then, suddenly, I see
them in the crystal! Visions are sometimes of the future, sometimes of
the present, sometimes of the past, and sometimes of neither, but of
what never actually transpires--and there is the strange inconsistency.
I do not know what methods other people adopt, I daresay some of them
differ from mine, but I feel quite sure that, look at the crystal how
they will, it will invariably lie to them at times.

A day or so before the death of Lafayette, when I was concentrating my
whole mind on forthcoming events, I distinctly saw, in the crystal, a
stage with a man standing before the footlights, either speaking or
singing. In the midst of his performance, a black curtain suddenly fell,
and I intuitively realised the theatre was on fire. The picture then
faded away and was replaced by something of a totally different
character. Again, just before the great thunder-storm at the end of May,
when Holy Trinity Church, Marylebone, was struck, I saw, in the crystal,
a black sky, vivid flashes of lightning, a road rushing with brown
water, and a church spire with an enormous crack in it.

Of course, it is very easy to say these visions might have been mere
coincidences; but if they were only coincidences, they were surpassingly
uncommon ones.


_Talismans and Amulets_

Amulets, though now practically confined to the East, were once very
much in vogue throughout Europe.

Count Daniel O'Donnell, brigadier-general in the Irish Brigade of Louis
XIV., never went into battle without carrying with him an amulet in the
shape of the jewelled casket "Cathach of Columbcille," containing a
Latin psalter said to have been written by St Columba. It has quite
recently been lent to the Royal Irish Academy (where it is now) by my
kinsman, the late Sir Richard O'Donnell, Bart. Count O'Donnell used to
say that so long as he had this talisman with him, he would never be
wounded, and it is a fact that though he led his regiment in the thick
of the fight at Borgoforte, Nago, Arco, Vercelli, Ivrea, Verrua,
Chivasso, Cassano, and other battles in the Italian Campaign of 1701-7,
and at Oudenarde, Malplaquet, Arleux, Denain, Douai, Bouchain, and
Fuesnoy, in the Netherlands, he always came through scathless. Hence,
like him, I am inclined to attribute his escapes to the psychic
properties of the talisman.

The great family of Lyons were in possession of a talisman in the form
of a "lion-cup," the original of Scott's "Blessed Bear of Bradwardine,"
which always brought them good luck till they went to Glamis, and after
that they experienced centuries of misfortune.

Another famous talisman is the "Luck of Edenhall," in the possession of
Sir Richard Musgrave of Edenhall, in Cumberland; and many other ancient
families still retain their amulets.


_"The Evil Eye"_

I was recently speaking to an Italian lady who informed me that belief
in "the evil eye" is still very prevalent in many parts of Italy. "I
myself believe in it," she said, "and whenever I pass a person whom I
think possesses it, I make a sign with my fingers"--and she held up two
of her fingers as she spoke. I certainly have observed that people with
a peculiar and undefinable "something" in their eyes are particularly
unlucky and invariably bring misfortune on those with whom they are in
any degree intimate. These people, I have no doubt, possess "the evil
eye," though it would not be discernible except to the extremely
psychic, and there is no doubt that the Irish and Italians are both far
more psychic than the English.

People are of opinion that the eye is not a particularly safe indicator
of true character, but I beg to differ. To me the eye tells everything,
and I have never yet looked directly into a person's eyes without being
able to satisfy myself as to their disposition. Cruelty, vanity, deceit,
temper, sensuality, and all the other vices display themselves at once;
and so with vulgarity--the glitter of the vulgar, of the ignorant,
petty, mean, sordid mind, the mind that estimates all things and all
people by money and clothes, cannot be hidden; "vulgarity" will out, and
in no way more effectually than through the eyes. No matter how "smart"
the _parvenu_ dresses, no matter how perfect his "style," the glitter of
the eye tells me what manner of man he is, and when I see that strange
anomaly, "nature's gentleman," in the service of such a man, I do not
say to myself "Jack is as good"--I say, "Jack is better than his
master."

But to me "the evil eye," no less than the vulgar eye, manifests
itself. I was at an "at home" one afternoon several seasons ago, when an
old friend of mine suddenly whispered:

"You see that lady in black, over there? I must tell you about her. She
has just lost her husband, and he committed suicide under rather
extraordinary circumstances in Sicily. He was not only very unlucky
himself, but he invariably brought misfortune on those to whom he took a
liking--even his dogs. His mother died from the effects of a railway
accident; his favourite brother was drowned; the girl to whom he was
first engaged went into rapid consumption; and no sooner had he married
the lady you see, than she indirectly experienced misfortune through the
heavy monetary losses of her father. At last he became convinced that he
must be labouring under the influence of a curse, and, filled with a
curious desire to see if he had 'the evil eye,'--people of course said
he was mad--he went to Sicily. Arriving there, he had no sooner shown
himself among the superstitious peasants, than they made a sign with
their fingers to ward off evil, and in every possible way shunned him.
Convinced then that what he had suspected was true, namely, that he was
genuinely accursed, he went into a wood and shot himself."

This, I daresay, is only one of many suicides in similar circumstances,
and not a few of the suicides we attribute, with such obvious
inconsistency (thinking thereby to cover our ignorance), to "temporary
insanity," may be traceable to the influence of "the evil eye."


_Witches_

Though witches no longer wear conical hats and red cloaks and fly
through the air on broomsticks, and though their _modus operandi_ has
changed with their change of attire, I believe there are just as many
witches in the world to-day, perhaps even more, than in days gone by.
All women are witches who exert baleful influence over others--who wreck
the happiness of families by setting husbands against wives (or, what is
even more common, wives against husbands), parents against children, and
brothers against sisters; and, who steal whole fortunes by inveigling
into love, silly, weak-minded old men, or by captivating equally silly
and weak-willed women. Indeed, the latter is far from rare, and there
are instances of women having filled other women with the blindest
infatuation for them--an infatuation surpassing that of the most doting
lovers, and, without doubt, generated by undue influence, or, in other
words, by witchcraft. Indeed, I am inclined to believe that the orthodox
witch of the past was harmless compared with her present-day
representative. There is, however, one thing we may be thankful for, and
that is--that in the majority of cases the modern witch, despite her
disregard of the former properties of her calling, cannot hide her
danger signals. Her manners are soft and insinuating, but her eyes are
hard--hard with the steely hardness, which, granted certain conditions,
would not hesitate at murder. Her hands, too, are coarse--an
exaggeration of the business type of hand--the fingers short and
club-shaped, the thumbs broad and flat, the nails hideous; they are the
antipodes of the psychic or dramatic type of hands: a type that,
needless to say, witches have never been known to possess. Once the
invocation of the dead was one of the practices of ancient witchcraft:
one might, perhaps, not inappropriately apply the term witch to the
modern spiritualist.

If we credit the Scriptures with any degree of truth, then witches most
certainly had the power of calling up the dead in Biblical days, for at
Endor the feat--rare even in those times--was accomplished of invoking
in material form the phantasms of the good as well as the evil. Though I
am of the opinion that no amount of invocation will bring back a
phantasm from the higher spiritual planes to-day, unless that invocation
be made in very exceptional circumstances, with a specific purpose, I am
quite sure that _bona fide_ spirits of the earth-bound do occasionally
materialise in answer to the summons of the spiritualist. I do not base
this statement on any experience I have ever had, for it is a rather
singular fact that, although I have seen many spontaneous phenomena in
haunted houses, I have never seen anything resembling, in the slightest
degree, a genuine spirit form, at a séance. Therefore, I repeat, I do
not base my statement, as to the occasional materialisation of _bona
fide_ earth-bound spirits, on any of my experiences, but on those of
"sitters" with whom I am intimately acquainted. What benefit can be
derived from getting into close touch with earth-bound spirits, _i.e._
with vice and impersonating elementals and the phantasms of dead idiots,
lunatics, murderers, suicides, rakes, drunkards, immoral women and silly
people of all sorts, is, I think, difficult to say; for my own part, I
am only too content to steer clear of them, and confine my attentions to
trying to be of service to those apparitions that are, obviously, for
some reason, made to appear by the higher occult powers. Thus, what is
popularly known as spiritualism is, from my point of view, a mischievous
and often very dangerous form of witchcraft.

A Frenchman to whom I was recently introduced at a house in Maida Vale,
told me the following case, which he assured me actually happened in the
middle of the eighteenth century, and was attested to by judicial
documents. A French nobleman, whom I will designate the Vicomte
Davergny, whilst on a visit to some friends near Toulouse, on hearing
that a miller in the neighbourhood was in the habit of holding Sabbats,
was seized with a burning desire to attend one. Consequently, in
opposition to the advice of his friends, he saw the miller, and, by dint
of prodigious bribing, finally persuaded the latter to permit him to
attend one of the orgies. But the miller made one stipulation--the
Vicomte was on no account to carry firearms; and to this the latter
readily agreed. When, however, the eventful night arrived, the Vicomte,
becoming convinced that it would be the height of folly to go to a
notoriously lonely spot, in the dark, and unarmed, concealed a brace of
pistols under his clothes. On reaching the place of assignation, he
found the miller already there, and on the latter enveloping him in a
heavy cloak, the Vicomte felt himself lifted bodily from the ground and
whirled through the air. This sensation continued for several moments,
when he was suddenly set down on the earth again and the cloak taken off
him. At first he could scarcely make out anything owing to a blaze of
light, but as soon as his eyes grew accustomed to the illumination, he
perceived that he was standing near a huge faggot fire, around which
squatted a score or so of the most hideous hags he had ever conceived
even in his wildest imagination. After going through a number of strange
incantations, which were more or less Greek to the Vicomte, there was a
most impressive lull, that was abruptly broken by the appearance of an
extraordinary and alarming-looking individual in the midst of the
flames. All the witches at once uttered piercing shrieks and prostrated
themselves, and the Vicomte then realised that the remarkable being who
had caused the commotion was none other than the devil. Yielding to an
irresistible impulse, but without really knowing what he was doing, the
Vicomte whipped out a pistol, and, pointing at Mephistopheles, fired. In
an instant, fire and witches vanished, and all was darkness and silence.

Terrified out of his wits, the Count sank on the ground, where he
remained till daylight, when he received another shock, on discovering,
stretched close to him, the body of the miller with a bullet wound in
his forehead. Flying from the spot, he wandered on and on, until he
came to a cottage, at which he inquired his way home. And here another
surprise awaited him. For the cottagers, in answer to his inquiries,
informed him that the nearest town was not Toulouse but Bordeaux, and if
he went on walking in such and such a direction, he would speedily come
to it. Arriving at Bordeaux, as the peasant had directed, the Vicomte
rested a short time, and then set out for Toulouse, which city he at
length reached after a few days' journeying. But he had not been back
long before he was arrested for the murder of the miller, it being
deposed that he had been seen near Bordeaux, in the immediate
neighbourhood of the tragedy, directly after its enaction. However, as
it was obviously impossible that the Vicomte could have taken less than
a few days to travel from Toulouse to a spot near Bordeaux, where the
murder had taken place, a distance of several hundreds of miles, on the
evidence of his friends, who declared that he had been with them till
within a few hours of the time when it was presumed the crime was
committed, the charge was withdrawn, and the Vicomte was fully
acquitted.



CHAPTER X

  THE HAND OF GLORY; THE BLOODY HAND OF
    ULSTER; THE SEVENTH SON; BIRTHMARKS;
    NATURE'S DEVIL SIGNALS; PRE-EXISTENCE; THE
    FUTURE; PROJECTION; TELEPATHY, ETC.


_The Hand of Glory_

Belief in the power of the Hand of Glory still, I believe, exists in
certain parts of European and Asiatic Russia. Once it was prevalent
everywhere. The Hand of Glory was a hand cut off from the body of a
robber and murderer who had expiated his crimes on the gallows. To endow
it with the properties of a talisman, the blood was first of all
extracted; it was then given a thorough soaking in saltpetre and pepper,
and hung out in the sun. When perfectly dry, it was used as a
candlestick for a candle made of white wax, sesame seed, and fat from
the corpse of the criminal. Prepared thus, the Hand of Glory was deemed
to have the power of aiding and protecting the robbers in their
nefarious work by sending to sleep their intended victims. Hence no
robber ever visited a house without having such a talisman with him.


_The Bloody Hand of Ulster_

The Red Right Hand of Ulster is the badge of the O'Neills, and according
to tradition it originated thus:--On the approach of an ancient
expedition to Ulster, the leader declared that whoever first touched the
shore should possess the land in the immediate vicinity. An ancestor of
the O'Neills, anxious to obtain the reward, at once cut off his right
hand and threw it on the coast, which henceforth became his territory.

Since then the O'Neills have always claimed the Red Right Hand of Ulster
as their badge, and it figured only the other day on the banner which,
for the first time since the days of Shane the Proud, was flown from the
battlements of their ancient stronghold, Ardglass Castle, now in the
possession of Mr F. J. Bigger.

A very similar story to that of the O'Neill is told of an O'Donnell,
who, with a similar motive, namely, to acquire territory, on arriving
within sight of Spain, cut off his hand and hurled it on the shore, and,
like the O'Neills, the O'Donnells from that time have adopted the hand
as their badge.


_The Seventh Son_

It was formerly believed that a seventh son could cure diseases, and
that a seventh son of a seventh son, with no female born in between,
could cure the king's evil. Indeed, seven was universally regarded as a
psychic number, and according to astrologers the greatest events in a
person's life, and his nearest approach to death without actually
incurring it, would be every seven years. The grand climacterics are
sixty-three and eighty-four, and the most critical periods of a
person's life occur when they are sixty-three and eighty-four years of
age.


_Birthmarks_

Some families have a heritage of peculiar markings on the skin. The only
birthmark of this description which I am acquainted with is "The
Historic Baldearg," or red spot that has periodically appeared on the
skins of members of the O'Donnell clan. Its origin is dubious, but I
imagine it must go back pretty nearly to the time of the great Niall. In
the days when Ireland was in a chronic state of rebellion, it was said
that it would never shake off the yoke of its cruel English oppressors
till its forces united under the leadership of an O'Donnell with the
Baldearg. An O'Donnell with the Baldearg turned up in 1690, in the
person of Hugh Baldearg O'Donnell, son of John O'Donnell, an officer in
the Spanish Army, and descendant of the Calvagh O'Donnell of Tyrconnell,
who had been created Earl of Wexford by Queen Elizabeth. But the Irish,
as has ever been the case, would not unite, and despite the aid given
him by Talbot (who had succeeded the O'Donnells in the Earldom of
Tyrconnell), he met with but little success, and returning to Spain,
died there with the rank of Major-General in 1704.

References to the Baldearg may be seen in various of the Memoirs of the
O'Donnells in the libraries of the British Museum, Madrid, Dublin, and
elsewhere.


_Nature's Devil Signals_

I have already alluded to the fingers typical of murderers; I will now
refer in brief to a form of Nature's other danger signals. The feet of
murderers are, as a rule, very short and broad, the toes flat and
square-tipped. As a rule, too, they either have very receding chins, as
in the case of Mapleton Lefroy, or very massive, prominent chins, as in
the case of Gotfried.

In many instances the ears of murderers are set very far back and low
down on their heads, and the outer rims are very much crumpled; also
they have very high and prominent cheek-bones, whilst one side of the
face is different from the other. The backs of many murderers' heads are
nearly perpendicular, or, if anything, rather inclined to recede than
otherwise--they seldom project--whilst the forehead is unusually
prominent.

It is a noteworthy fact that a large percentage of modern murderers have
had rather prominent light, steely blue eyes--rarely grey or brown.

Their voices--and there is another key to the character--are either
hollow and metallic, or suggestive of the sounds made by certain
animals.

Many of these characteristics are to be found in criminal lunatics.


_Pre-existence and the Future_

To talk of a former life as if it were an established fact is, of
course, an absurdity; to dogmatise at all on such a question, with
regard to which one man's opinion is just as speculative as another's,
is, perhaps, equally ridiculous. Granted, then, the equal value of the
varying opinions of sane men on this subject, it is clear that no one
can be considered an authority; my opinion, no less than other people's,
is, as I have said, merely speculation. That I had a former life is, I
think, extremely likely, and that I misconducted myself in that former
life, more than likely, since it is only by supposing a previous
existence in which I misbehaved, that I can see the shadow of a
justification for all the apparently unmerited misfortunes I have
suffered in my present existence.

I do not, however, see any specific reason why my former existence
should have been here; on the contrary, I think it far more probable
that I was once in some other sphere--perhaps one of the planets--where
my misdeeds led to my banishment and my subsequent appearance in this
world. With regard to a future life, eternal punishment, and its
converse, everlasting bliss, I fear I never had any orthodox views, or,
if I had, my orthodoxy exploded as soon as my common sense began to
grow.

Hell, the hell hurled at my head from the pulpit, only excited my
indignation--it was so unjust--nor did the God of the Old Testament fill
me with aught save indignation and disgust. Lost in a quagmire of doubts
and perplexities, I inquired of my preceptors as to the authorship of
the book that held up for adoration a being so stern, relentless, and
unjust as God; and in answer to my inquiries was told that I was very
wicked to talk in such a way about the Bible; that it was God's own
book--divinely inspired--in fact, written by God Himself. Then I
inquired if the original manuscript in God's handwriting was still in
existence; and was told I was very wicked and must hold my tongue. Yet I
had no idea of being in any way irreverent or blasphemous; I was merely
perplexed, and longed to have my difficulties settled. Failing this,
they grew, and I began to question whether the terms "merciful" and
"almighty" were terms that could be applied with any degree of
consistency to the scriptural one and only Creator. Would that God, if
He were almighty, have permitted the existence of such an enemy (or
indeed an enemy at all) as the Devil? And if He were merciful, would He,
for the one disobedient act of one human being, have condemned to the
most ghastly and diabolical sufferings, millions of human beings, and
not only human beings, but animals? Ah! that's where the rub comes in,
for though there may be some sense, if not justice, in causing men and
women, who have sinned--to suffer, there is surely neither reason nor
justice in making animals, who have not sinned--to suffer.

And yet, for man's one act of disobedience, both man and beast have
suffered thousands of years of untold agonies. Could anyone save the
blindest and most fanatical of biblical bigots call the ordainer of such
a punishment merciful? How often have I asked myself who created the
laws and principles of Nature! They are certainly more suggestive of a
fiendish than a benevolent author. It is ridiculous to say man owes
disease to his own acts--such an argument--if argument at all--would
not deceive an infant. Are the insects, the trees, the fish responsible
for the diseases with which they are inflicted? No, Nature, or rather
the creator of Nature, is alone responsible. But, granted we have lived
before, there may be grounds for the suffering both of man and beast.
The story of the Fall may be but a contortion of something that has
happened to man in a former existence, in another sphere, possibly, in
another planet; and its description based on nothing more substantial
than memory, vague and fleeting as a dream. Anyhow, I am inclined to
think that incarnation here might be traced to something of
more--infinitely more--importance than an apple; possibly, to some cause
of which we have not, at the present, even the remotest conception.
People, who do not believe in the former existence, attempt to justify
the ills of man here, by assuming that a state of perfect happiness
cannot be attained by man, except he has suffered a certain amount of
pain; so that, in order to attain to perfect happiness, man must of
necessity experience suffering--a theory founded on the much
misunderstood axiom, that nothing can exist save by contrast. But
supposing, for the sake of argument, that this axiom, according to its
everyday interpretation, is an axiom, _i.e._ a true saying, then God,
the Creator of all things, must have created evil--evil that good may
exist, and good that evil may exist. This deduction, however, is
obviously at variance with the theory that God is all goodness, since if
nothing can exist save by contrast, goodness must of necessity
presuppose badness, and we are thus led to the conclusion that God is
at the same time both good and bad, a conclusion which is undoubtedly a
_reductio ad absurdum_.

Seeing, then, that a God all good cannot have created evil, surely we
should be more rational, if less scriptural, were we to suppose a
plurality of gods. In any case I cannot see how pain, if God is indeed
all mighty and all good, can be the inevitable corollary of pleasure.
Nor can I see the necessity for man to suffer here, in order to enjoy
absolute happiness in the hereafter. No, I think if there is any
justification for the suffering of mankind on this earth, it is to be
found, not in the theory of "contrast," but in a former existence, and
in an existence in some other sphere or plane. Vague recollections of
such an existence arise and perplex many of us; but they are so elusive,
the moment we attempt to grapple with them, they fade away.

The frequent and vivid dreams I have, of visiting a region that is
peopled with beings that have nothing at all in common with mankind, and
who welcome me as effusively as if I had been long acquainted with them,
makes me wonder if I have actually dwelt amongst them in a previous
life.

I cannot get rid of the idea that in everything I see (in these
dreams)--in the appearance, mannerisms, and expressions of my queer
companions, in the scenery, in the atmosphere--I do but recall the
actual experience of long ago--the actual experience of a previous
existence. Nor is this identical dreamland confined to me; and the fact
that others whom I have met, have dreamed of a land, corresponding in
every detail to my dreamland, proves, to my mind, the possibility that
both they and I have lived a former life, and in that former life
inhabited the same sphere.


_Projection_

I have, as I have previously stated in my work, _The Haunted Houses of
London_, succeeded, on one occasion, in separating at will, my
immaterial from my material body. I was walking alone along a very
quiet, country lane, at 4 P.M., and concentrating with all my mind, on
being at home. I kept repeating to myself, "I WILL be there." Suddenly a
vivid picture of the exterior of the house rose before me, and, the next
instant, I found myself, in the most natural manner possible, walking
down some steps and across the side garden leading to the conservatory.
I entered the house, and found all my possessions--books, papers, shoes,
etc.--just as I had left them some hours previously. With the intention
of showing myself to my wife, in order that she might be a witness to my
appearance, I hastened to the room, where I thought it most likely I
should find her, and was about to turn the handle of the door, when, for
the fraction of a second, I saw nothing. Immediately afterwards there
came a blank, and I was once again on the lonely moorland road, toiling
along, fishing rod in hand, a couple of miles, at least, away from home.
When I did arrive home, my wife met me in the hall, eager to tell me
that at four o'clock both she and the girls had distinctly heard me come
down the steps and through the conservatory into the house. "You
actually came," my wife continued, "to the door of the room in which I
was sitting. I called out to you to come in, but, receiving no reply, I
got up and opened the door, and found, to my utter amazement, no one
there. I searched for you everywhere, and should much like to know why
you have behaved in this very extraordinary manner."

Much excited in my turn, I hastened to explain to her that I had been
practising projection, and had actually succeeded in separating my
material from my immaterial body, for a brief space of time, just about
four o'clock. The footsteps she had heard were indeed my own
footsteps--and upon this point she was even more positive than I--the
footsteps of my immaterial self.

I have made my presence felt, though I have never "appeared," on several
other occasions. In my sleep, I believe, I am often separated from my
physical body, as my dreams are so intensely real and vivid. They are so
real that I am frequently able to remember, almost _verbatim_, long
conversations I have had in them, and I awake repeating broken-off
sentences. Often, after I have taken active exercise, such as running,
or done manual labour, such as digging or lifting heavy weights in the
land of my dreams, my muscles have ached all the following day.

With regard to the projections of other people, I have often seen
phantasms of the living, and an account of one appearing to me, when in
the company of three other persons, all of whom saw it, may be read in
the Psychical Research Society's Magazine for October 1899. I have
referred to it as well as to other of my similar experiences in
_Ghostly Phenomena_ and _Haunted Houses of London_.

_Doubles_, _i.e._ people who are more or less the exact counterpart of
other people, may easily be taken for projections by those who have but
little acquaintance with the occult. I, myself, have seen many doubles,
but though they be as like as the proverbial two peas, I can tell at a
glance whether they be the material or immaterial likeness of those they
so exactly resemble. I think there is no doubt that, in a good many
instances, doubles have been mistaken for projections, and, of course,
_vice versâ_.


_Telepathy and Suggestion_

Though telepathy between two very wakeful minds is an established fact,
I do not think it is generally known that it can also take place between
two minds when asleep, or between one person awake and another asleep,
and yet I have proved this to be the case. My wife and I continually
dream of the same thing at the same time, and if I lie down in the
afternoon and fall asleep alone, she often thinks of precisely what I am
dreaming about. Though telepathy and suggestion may possibly account for
hauntings when the phenomenon is only experienced individually, I cannot
see how it can do so when the manifestations are witnessed by numbers,
_i.e._ collectively. I am quite sure that neither telepathy nor
suggestion are in any degree responsible for the phenomena I have
experienced, and that the latter hail only from one quarter--the
objective and genuine occult world.


_The Psychic Faculty and Second Sight_

Whereas some people seem fated to experience occult phenomena and others
not, there is this inconsistency: the person with the supposed psychic
faculty does not always witness the phenomena when they appear. By way
of illustration: I have been present on one occasion in a haunted room
when all present have seen the ghost with the exception of myself;
whilst on other occasions, either I have been the only one who has seen
it, or some or all of us have seen it. It would thus seem that the
psychic faculty does not ensure one's seeing a ghost, whenever a ghost
is to be seen.

I think, as a matter of fact, that apparitions can, whilst manifesting
themselves to some, remain invisible to others, and that they themselves
determine to whom they will appear. Some types of phantasms apparently
prefer manifesting themselves to the spiritual or psychic-minded person,
whilst other types do not discriminate, but appear to the spiritual and
carnal-minded alike. There is just as much variety in the tastes and
habits of phantasms as in the tastes and habits of human beings, and in
the behaviour of both phantasm and human being, I regret to say, there
is an equal and predominant amount of inconsistency.


_Intuition_

I do not think it can be doubted that psychic people have the faculty of
intuition far more highly developed than is the case with the more
material-minded.

"Second sight" is but another name for the psychic faculty, and it is
generally acknowledged to be far more common among the Celts than the
Anglo-Saxons. That this is so need not be wondered at, since the Irish
and the Highlanders of Scotland (originally the same race) are far more
spiritual-minded than the English (in whom commerciality and worldliness
are innate), and consequently have, on the whole, a far greater
attraction for spirits who would naturally prefer to reveal themselves
to those in whom they would be the more likely to find something in
common.

There is still a belief in certain parts of the Hebrides that second
sight was once obtained there through a practice called "The Taigheirm."
This rite, which is said to have been last performed about the middle of
the seventeenth century, consisted in roasting on a spit, before a slow
fire, a number of black cats. As soon as one was dead another took its
place, and the sacrifice was continued until the screeches of the
tortured animals summoned from the occult world an enormous black cat,
that promised to bestow as a perpetual heritage on the sacrificer and
his family, the faculty of second sight, if he would desist from any
further slaughter.

The sacrificer joyfully closed with the bargain, and the ceremony
concluded with much feasting and merriment, in which, however, it is
highly improbable that the phantasms of the poor roasted "toms" took
part.


_Clairvoyance_

Clairvoyance is a branch of occultism in which I have had little
experience, and can, therefore, only refer to in brief. When I was the
Principal of a Preparatory School, I once had on my staff a Frenchman of
the name of Deslys. On recommencing school after the Christmas vacation,
M. Deslys surprised me very much by suddenly observing: "Mr O'Donnell,
did you not stay during the holidays at No. ... The Crescent, Bath?"

"Yes," I replied; "but how on earth do you know?" I had only been there
two days, and had certainly never mentioned my visit either to him or to
anyone acquainted with him.

"Well!" he said, "I'll tell you how I came to know. Hearing from my
friends that Mme. Leprès, a well-known clairvoyante, had just come to
Paris, I went to see her. It is just a week ago to-day. After she had
described, with wonderful accuracy, several houses and scenes with which
I was familiar, and given me several pieces of information about my
friends, which I subsequently found to be correct, I asked her to tell
me where you were and what you were doing. For some moments she was
silent, and then she said very slowly: 'He is staying with a friend at
No. ... The Crescent, Bath. I can see him (it was then three o'clock in
the afternoon) sitting by the bedside of his friend, who has his head
tied up in bandages. Mr O'Donnell is telling him a very droll story
about Lady B----, to whom he has been lately introduced.' She then
stopped, made a futile effort to go on, and after a protracted pause
exclaimed: 'I can see no more--something has happened.' That was all I
found out about you."

"And enough, too, M. Deslys," I responded, "for what she told you was
absolutely true. A week ago to-day I was staying at No. ... The
Crescent, Bath, and at three o'clock in the afternoon I was sitting at
the bedside of my friend, who had injured his head in a fall, and had it
tied up in bandages; and amongst other bits of gossip, I narrated to him
a very amusing anecdote concerning Lady B----, whom I have only just
met, for the first time, in London."

Now M. Deslys could not possibly have known, excepting through psychical
agency, where I had been staying a week before that time, or what I had
been doing at three o'clock on that identical afternoon.


_Automatic Writing_

I have frequently experimented in automatic writing. Who that is
interested in the occult has not! But I cannot say I have ever had any
astonishing results. However, though my own experiences are not worth
recording, I have heard of many extraordinary results obtained by
others--results from automatic messages that one can not help believing
could only be due to superphysical agency.


_Table-turning_

I do not think there is anything superphysical in merely turning the
table, or making it move across the room, or causing it to fall over on
to the ground, and to get up again. I am of the opinion that all this is
due to animal magnetism, and to the unconscious efforts of the audience,
who are ever anxious for the ghost to come and something startling to
happen. The ladies, in particular, I would point out, press a little
hard with their dainty but determined hands, or with their self-willed
knees resort to a few sly pushes. When this does not happen, I think it
is quite possible that an elemental or some other equally undesirable
type of phantasm does actually attend the séance, and, emphasising its
arrival by sundry noises, is responsible for many, if not all the
phenomena. On the other hand, I certainly think that ninety per cent. of
the rappings and the manifestations of musical enthusiasts is due to
trickery on the part of the medium, or, if there be no professional
medium present, to an over-zealous sitter.

But since ghosts can and do show themselves spontaneously in haunted
houses, why the necessity of musical instruments, professional medium,
and sitting round a table with fingers linked? Surely, when one comes to
think of it, the _modus operandi_ of the séance, besides being extremely
undignified, is somewhat superfluous. Tin trumpets, twopenny
tambourines, and concertinas are all very well in their way, but, try
how I will, I cannot associate them with ghosts. What phantasm of any
standing at all would be attracted by such baubles? Surely only the
phantasms of the very silliest of servant girls, of incurable idiots,
and of advanced imbeciles. But even they, I think, might be "above it,"
in which case the musical instruments, tin trumpets, tambourines, and
concertinas, disdained by the immaterial, must be manipulated by the
material! And this rule with regard to table-turning, the manipulation
of musical instruments, etc., equally applies to materialisation. I have
no doubt that genuine phantasms of the earth-bound or elementals do
occasionally show themselves, but I am quite sure in nine cases out of
ten the manifestations are manifestations of living flesh and blood.


_Charms and Checks against Ghosts_

"When I feel the approach of the superphysical, I always cross myself,"
an old lady once remarked to me; and this is what many people do;
indeed, the sign of the cross is the most common mode of warding off
evil. Whether it is really efficacious is doubtful. I, for my part, make
use of the sign, involuntarily rather than otherwise, because the custom
is innate in me, and is, perhaps, with various other customs, the
heritage of all my race from ages past; but I cannot say it always or
even often answers, for ghosts frequently manifest themselves to me in
spite of it. Then there is the magic circle which is described
differently by divers writers. According to Mr Dyer, in his _Ghost
World_, pp. 167-168, the circle was prepared thus: "A piece of ground
was usually chosen, nine feet square, at the full extent of which
parallel lines were drawn, one within the other, having sundry crosses
and triangles described between them, close to which was formed the
first or outer circle; then about half a foot within the same, a second
circle was described, and within that another square corresponding to
the first, the centre of which was the spot where the master and
associate were to be placed. The vacancies formed by the various lines
and angles of the figure were filled up by the holy names of God, having
crosses and triangles described between them.... The reason assigned for
the use of the circles was, that so much ground being blessed and
consecrated by such holy words and ceremonies as they made use of in
forming it, had a secret force to expel all evil spirits from the bounds
thereof, and, being sprinkled with pure sanctified water, the ground was
purified from all uncleanliness; besides, the holy names of God being
written over every part of it, its forces became so powerful that no
evil spirits had ability to break through it, or to get at the magician
and his companion, by reason of the antipathy in nature they bore to
these sacred names. And the reason given for the triangles was, that if
the spirits were not easily brought to speak the truth, they might by
the exorcist be conjured to enter the same, where, by virtue of the
names of the essence and divinity of God, they could speak nothing but
what was true and right."

Again according to Mr Dyer, when a spot was haunted by the spirit of a
murderer or suicide who lay buried there, a magic circle was made just
over the grave, and he who was daring enough to venture there, at
midnight, preferably when the elements were at their worst, would
conjure the ghost to appear and give its reason for haunting the spot.
In answer to the summons there was generally a long, unnatural silence,
which was succeeded by a tremendous crash, when the phantasm would
appear, and, in ghastly, hollow tones answer all the questions put to
it. Never once would it encroach on the circle, and on its interrogator
promising to carry out its wishes, it would suddenly vanish and never
again walk abroad. If the hauntings were in a house, the investigator
entered the haunted room at midnight with a candle, and compass, and a
crucifix or Bible. After carefully shutting the door, and describing a
circle on the floor, in which he drew a cross, he placed within it a
chair, and table, and on the latter, put the crucifix, a Bible, and a
lighted candle. He then sat down on the chair and awaited the advent of
the apparition, which either entered noiselessly or with a terrific
crash. On the promise that its wishes would be fulfilled, the ghost
withdrew, and there were no more disturbances. Sometimes the
investigator, if he were a priest, would sprinkle the phantasm with holy
water and sometimes make passes over it with the crucifix, but the
results were always the same; it responded to all the questions that
were put to it and never troubled the house again.

How different from what happens in reality! Though I have seen and
interrogated many ghosts, I have never had a reply, or anything in the
shape of a reply, nor perceived any alteration in their expression that
would in any way lead me to suppose they had understood me; and as to
exorcism--well, I know of innumerable cases where it has been tried,
and tried by the most pious of clergy--clergy of all denominations--and
singularly failed. It is true I have never experimented with a magic
circle, but, somehow, I have not much faith in it.

In China the method of expelling ghosts from haunted houses has been
described as follows:--An altar containing tapers and incense sticks is
erected in the spot where the manifestations are most frequent. A Taoist
priest is then summoned, and enters the house dressed in a red robe,
with blue stockings and a black cap. He has with him a sword, made of
the wood of the peach or date tree, the hilt and guard of which are
covered with red cloth. Written in ink on the blade of the sword is a
charm against ghosts. Advancing to the altar, the priest deposits his
sword on it. He then prepares a mystic scroll, which he burns,
collecting and emptying the ashes into a cup of spring water. Next, he
takes the sword in his right hand and the cup in his left, and, after
taking seven paces to the left and eight to the right, he says: "Gods of
heaven and earth, invest me with the heavy seal, in order that I may
eject from this dwelling-house all kinds of evil spirits. Should any
disobey me, give me power to deliver them for safe custody to rulers of
such demons." Then, addressing the ghost in a loud voice, he says: "As
quick as lightning depart from this house." This done, he takes a bunch
of willow, dips it in the cup, and sprinkles it in the east, west,
north, and south corners of the house, and, laying it down, picks up his
sword and cup, and, going to the east corner of the building, calls
out: "I have the authority, Tai-Shaong-Loo-Kivan." He then fills his
mouth with water from the cup, and spits it out on the wall, exclaiming:
"Kill the green evil spirits which come from unlucky stars, or let them
be driven away." This ceremony he repeats at the south, west, and north
corners respectively, substituting, in turn, red, white, and yellow in
the place of green. The attendants then beat gongs, drums, and tom-toms,
and the exorcist cries out: "Evil spirits from the east, I send back to
the east; evil spirits from the south, I send back to the south," and so
on. Finally, he goes to the door of the house, and, after making some
mystical signs in the air, manoeuvres with his sword, congratulates the
owner of the establishment on the expulsion of the ghosts, and demands
his fee.

In China the sword is generally deemed to have psychic properties, and
is often to be seen suspended over a bed to scare away ghosts. Sometimes
a horse's tail--a horse being also considered extremely psychic--or a
rag dipped in the blood from a criminal's head, are used for the same
purpose. But no matter how many, or how varied, the precautions we take,
ghosts will come, and nothing will drive them away. The only protection
I have ever found to be of any practical value in preventing them from
materialising is a powerful light. As a rule they cannot stand _that_,
and whenever I have turned a pocket flashlight on them, they have at
once dematerialised; often, however, materialising again immediately the
light has been turned off.

The cock was, at one time, (and still is in some parts of the world)
regarded as a psychic bird; it being thought that phantasms invariably
took their departure as soon as it began to crow. This, however, is a
fallacy. As ghosts appear at all hours of the day and night, in season
and out of season, I fear it is only too obvious that their
manifestations cannot be restricted within the limits of any particular
time, and that their coming and going, far from being subject to the
crowing of a cock, however vociferous, depend entirely on themselves.



CHAPTER XI

OCCULT INHABITANTS OF THE SEA AND RIVERS


_Phantom Ships_

From time to time, one still hears of a phantom ship being seen, in
various parts of the world. Sometimes it is in the Straits of Magellan,
vainly trying to weather the Horn; sometimes in the frozen latitudes of
the north, steering its way in miraculous fashion past monster icebergs;
sometimes in the Pacific, sometimes in the Atlantic, and only the other
day I heard of its being seen off Cornwall. The night was dark and
stormy, and lights being suddenly seen out at sea as of a vessel in
distress, the lifeboat was launched. On approaching the lights, it was
discovered that they proceeded from a vessel that mysteriously vanished
as soon as the would-be rescuers were within hailing. Much puzzled, the
lifeboat men were about to return, when they saw the lights suddenly
reappear to leeward. On drawing near to them, they again disappeared,
and were once more seen right out to sea. Utterly nonplussed, and
feeling certain that the elusive bark must be the notorious phantom
ship, the lifeboat men abandoned the pursuit, and returned home.

A fisherman of the same town--the town to which the lifeboat that had
gone to the rescue of the phantom ship belonged--told me, when I was out
with him one evening in his boat, that one of the oldest inhabitants of
the place had on one occasion, when the phantom ship visited the bay,
actually got his hands on her gunwales before she melted away, and he
narrowly escaped pitching headlong into the sea. Though the weather was
then still and warm, the yards of the ship, which were coated with ice,
flapped violently to and fro, as if under the influence of some mighty
wind. The appearance of the phenomenon was followed, as usual, by a
catastrophe to one of the local boats.

I very often sound sailors as to whether they have ever come across this
ominous vessel, and sometimes hear very enthralling accounts of it. An
old sea captain whom I met on the pier at Southampton, in reply to my
inquiry, said: "Yes! I have seen the phantom ship, or at any rate a
phantom ship, once--but only once. It was one night in the fifties, and
we were becalmed in the South Pacific about three hundred miles due west
of Callao. It had been terrifically hot all day, and, only too thankful
that it was now a little cooler, I was lolling over the bulwarks to get
a few mouthfuls of fresh air before turning into my berth, when one of
the crew touched me on the shoulder, and ejaculating, 'For God's
sake----' abruptly left off. Following the direction of his glaring
eyes, I saw to my amazement a large black brig bearing directly down on
us. She was about a mile off, and, despite the intense calmness of the
sea, was pitching and tossing as if in the roughest water. As she drew
nearer I was able to make her out better, and from her build--she
carried two masts and was square-rigged forward and schooner-rigged
aft--as well as from her tawdry gilt figurehead, concluded she was a
hermaphrodite brig of, very possibly, Dutch nationality. She had
evidently seen a great deal of rough weather, for her foretopmast and
part of her starboard bulwarks were gone, and what added to my
astonishment and filled me with fears and doubts was, that in spite of
the pace at which she was approaching us and the dead calmness of the
air, she had no other sails than her foresail and mainsail, and
flying-jib.

"By this time all of our crew were on deck, and the skipper and the
second mate took up their positions one on either side of me, the man
who had first called my attention to the strange ship, joining some
other seamen near the forecastle. No one spoke, but, from the expression
in their eyes and ghastly pallor of their cheeks, it was very easy to
see that one and all were dominated by the same feelings of terror and
suspicion. Nearer and nearer drew the brig, until she was at last so
close that we could perceive her crew--all of whom, save the helmsman,
were leaning over the bulwarks--grinning at us. Never shall I forget the
horror of those grins. They were hideous, meaningless, hellish grins,
the grins of corpses in the last stage of putrefaction. And that is just
what they were--all of them--corpses, but corpses possessed by spirits
of the most devilish sort, for as we stared, too petrified with fear to
remove our gaze, they nodded their ulcerated heads and gesticulated
vehemently. The brig then gave a sudden yaw, and with that motion there
was wafted a stink--a stink too damnably foul and rotten to originate
from anywhere, save from some cesspool in hell. Choking, retching, and
all but fainting, I buried my face in the skipper's coat, and did not
venture to raise it, till the far-away sounds of plunging and tossing
assured me the cursed ship had passed. I then looked up, and was just in
time to catch a final glimpse of the brig, a few hundred yards to
leeward, (she had passed close under our stern) before her lofty stern
rose out of the water, and, bows foremost, she plunged into the stilly
depths and we saw her no more. There was no need for the skipper to tell
us that she was the phantom ship, nor did she belie her sinister
reputation, for within a week of seeing her, yellow fever broke out on
board, and when we arrived at port, there were only three of us left."


_The Sargasso Sea_

Of all the seas in the world, none bear a greater reputation for being
haunted than the Sargasso. Within this impenetrable waste of rank,
stinking seaweed, in places many feet deep, are collected wreckages of
all ages and all climes, grim and permanent records of the world's
maritime history, unsinkable and undestroyable. It has ever been my
ambition to explore the margins of this unsightly yet fascinating marine
wilderness, but, so far, I have been unable to extend my peregrinations
further south than the thirty-fifth degree of latitude.

Among the many stories I have heard in connection with this sea, the
following will, I think, bear repeating:--

"A brig with twelve hands aboard, bound from Boston to the Cape Verde
Islands, was caught in a storm, and, being blown out of her course,
drifted on to the northern extremities of the Sargasso. The wind then
sinking, and an absolute calm taking its place, there seemed every
prospect that the brig would remain where it was for an indefinite
period. A most horrible fate now stared the crew in the face, for
although they had food enough to last them for many weeks, they only had
a very limited supply of water, and the intense heat and terrific stench
from the weeds made them abnormally thirsty.

"After a long and earnest consultation, in which the skipper acted as
chairman, it was decided that on the consumption of the last drop of
water they should all commit suicide, anything rather than to perish of
thirst, and it would be far less harrowing to die in a body and face the
awful possibilities of the next world in company than alone.

"As there was only one firearm on board, and the idea of throat-cutting
was disapproved of by several of the more timid, rat poison, of which
there was just enough to go all round, was chosen. Meanwhile, in
consideration of the short time left to them on earth, the crew insisted
that they should be allowed to enjoy themselves to the utmost. To this
the captain, knowing only too well what that would mean, reluctantly
gave his consent. A general pandemonium at once ensued, one of the men
producing a mouth accordion and another a concertina, whilst the rest,
selecting partners with much mock gallantry, danced to the air of a
popular Vaudeville song till they could dance no longer.

"The next item on the programme was dinner. The best of everything on
board was served up, and they all ate and drank till they could hold no
more. They were then so sleepy that they tumbled off their seats, and,
lying on the floor, soon snored like hogs. The cool of the evening
restoring them, they played pitch and toss, and poker, till tea-time,
and then fooled away the remainder of the evening in more cards and more
drink. In this manner the best part of a week was beguiled. Then the
skipper announced the fact that the last drop of liquor on board had
gone, and that, according to the compact, the hour had arrived to commit
suicide. Had a bombshell fallen in their midst, it could not have caused
a greater consternation than this announcement. The men had, by this
time, become so enamoured with their easy and irresponsible mode of
living, that the idea of quitting it in so abrupt a manner was by no
means to their liking, and they evinced their displeasure in the
roughest and most forcible of language. 'The skipper could d----d well
put an end to himself if he had a mind to, but they would see themselves
somewhere else before they did any such thing--it would be time enough
to talk of dying when the victuals were all eaten up.' Then they
thoroughly overhauled the ship, and on discovering half a dozen bottles
of rum and a small cask of water stowed away in the skipper's cabin,
they threw him overboard and pelted him with empty bottles till he sank;
after which they cleared the deck and danced till sunset.

"Two nights later, when they were all lying on the deck near the
companion way, licking their parched lips and commiserating with
themselves on the prospect of their gradually approaching end--for they
had abandoned all idea of the rat poison--they suddenly saw a hideous,
seaweedy object rise up over the bulwarks on the leeward side of the
ship. In breathless expectation they all sat up and watched. Inch by
inch it rose, until they saw before them a tall form enveloped from head
to foot in green slime, and horribly suggestive of the well-known figure
of the murdered captain. Gliding noiselessly over the deck, it shook its
hands menacingly at each of the sailors, until it came to the
cabin-boy--the only one among them who had not participated in the
skipper's death--when it touched him gently on the forehead, and,
stooping down, appeared to whisper something in his ears. It then
recrossed the deck, and, mounting the bulwarks, leaped into the sea.

"For some seconds no one stirred; and then, as if under the influence of
some hypnotic spell, one by one, each of the crew, with the exception of
the cabin-boy, got up, and, marching in Indian file to the spot where
the apparition had vanished, flung themselves overboard. The last of the
procession had barely disappeared from view, when the cabin-boy, whose
agony of mind during this infernal tragedy cannot be described, fell
into a heavy stupor, from which he did not awake till morning. In the
meanwhile the brig, owing to a stiff breeze that had arisen in the
night, was freed from its environment, and was drifting away from the
seaweed. It went on and on, day after day, and day after day, till it
was eventually sighted by a steamer and taken in tow. The cabin-boy, by
this time barely alive, was nursed with the tenderest care, and, owing
to the assiduous attention bestowed on him, he completely recovered."

I think this story, though naturally ridiculed and discredited by some,
may be unreservedly accepted by those whose knowledge and experience of
the occult warrant their belief in it.

Along the coast of Brittany are many haunted spots, none more so than
the "Bay of the Departed," where, in the dead of night, wails and cries,
presumably uttered by the phantasms of drowned sailors, are distinctly
heard by the terrified peasantry on shore. I can the more readily
believe this, because I myself have heard similar sounds off the Irish,
Scottish, and Cornish coasts, where shrieks, and wails, and groans as of
the drowning have been borne to me from the inky blackness of the
foaming and tossing sea. According to Mr Hunt in his _Romances of the
West of England_, the sands of Porth Towan were haunted, a fisherman
declaring that one night when he was walking on them alone, he suddenly
heard a voice from the sea cry out, "The hour is come, but not the man."
This was repeated three times, when a black figure, like that of a man,
appeared on the crest of an adjacent hill, and, dashing down the steep
side, rushed over the sands and vanished in the waves.

In other parts of England, as well as in Brittany and Spain, a voice
from the sea is always said to be heard prior to a storm and loss of
life. In the Bermudas, I have heard that before a wreck a huge white
fish is often seen; whilst in the Cape Verde Islands maritime disasters
are similarly presaged by flocks of peculiarly marked gulls.

On no more reliable authority than hearsay evidence, I understand that
off the coast of Finland a whirlpool suddenly appears close beside a
vessel that is doomed to be wrecked, and that a like calamity is
foretold off the coast of Peru by the phantasm of a sailor who, in
eighteenth-century costume, swarms up the side of the doomed ship,
enters the captain's cabin, and, touching him on the shoulder, points
solemnly at the porthole and vanishes.


_River Ghosts_

In China there is a strong belief that spots in rivers, creeks, and
ponds where people have been drowned are haunted by devils that,
concealing themselves either in the water itself or on the banks, spring
out upon the unwary and drown them. To warn people against these
dangerous elementals, a stone or pillar called "The Fat-pee," on which
the name of the future Buddha or Pam-mo-o-mee-to-foo is inscribed, is
set up near the place where they are supposed to lurk, and when the
hauntings become very frequent the evil spirit is exorcised. The
ceremony of exorcism consists in the decapitation of a white horse by a
specially selected executioner, on the site of the hauntings. The head
of the slaughtered animal is placed in an earthenware jar, and buried in
the exact spot where it was killed, which place is then carefully marked
by the erection of a stone tablet with the words "O-me-o-to-fat"
transcribed on it. The performance concludes with the cutting up and
selling of the horse's body for food. Amongst the numerous other creeks
that have witnessed this practice in recent years are those adjoining
the villages of Tsze-tow (near Whampoa) and Gna-zew (near Canton).

Various of the lakes, particularly the crater lakes of America, were
once thought to be haunted by spirits or devils of a fiery red who
raised storms and upset canoes.


_Sirens_

But by far the most fascinating of all the phantasms of the water are
the sirens that haunted (and still occasionally haunt) rivers and
waterfalls, particularly those of Germany and Austria. Not so very long
ago on my travels I came across an aged Hungarian who declared that he
had once seen a siren. I append the story he told me, as nearly as
possible in his own words.

"My brother Hans and I were wandering, early one morning, along the
banks of a tributary of the Drave, in search of birds' eggs. The shores
on either side the river were thickly wooded, and so rough and uneven in
places that we had to exercise the greatest care to avoid getting hurt.
Few people visited the neighbourhood, save in the warmest and brightest
time of the day, and, with the exception of a woodcutter, we had met no
one. Much, then, to our astonishment, on arriving at an open space on
the bank, we heard the sound of singing and music. 'Whoever can it be?'
we asked ourselves, and then, advancing close to the water's edge, we
strained our heads, and saw, perched high on a rock in midstream a few
feet to our left, a girl with long yellow hair and a face of the most
exquisite beauty. Though I was too young then to trouble my head about
girls, I could not help being struck with this one, whilst Hans, who was
several years older than I, was simply spellbound. 'My God! how lovely!'
he cried out, 'and what a voice--how exquisite! Isn't she divine? She is
altogether too beautiful for a human being; she must be an angel,' and
he fell on his knees and extended his hands towards her, as if in the
act of worship. Never having seen Hans behave in such a queer way
before, I touched him on the shoulder, and said: 'Get up! If you go on
like this the lady will think you mad. Besides, it is getting late, we
ought to be going on!' But Hans did not heed me. He still continued to
exclaim aloud, expressing his admiration in the most extravagant
phrases; and then the girl ceased singing, and, looking at Hans with her
large blue eyes, smiled and beckoned him to approach. I caught hold of
him, and begged and implored him to do nothing so foolish, but he
wrenched himself free, and, striking me savagely on the chest, leaped
into the water and swam towards the rock.

"With what eagerness I counted his strokes and watched the dreaded
distance diminish! On and on he swam, till at length he was close to the
rock, and the lady, bending down, was holding out her lily hands to him.
Hans clutched at them, and they were, I thought, already in his fevered
grasp, when she coyly snatched them away and struck him playfully on the
head. The cruel, hungry waters then surged over him. I saw him sink
down, down, down: I saw him no more. When I raised my agonised eyes to
the rocks, all was silent and desolate: the lady had vanished."



CHAPTER XII

BUDDHAS AND BOGGLE CHAIRS


It was in Paris, at the Hotel Mandeville, that I met the Baroness Paoli,
an almost solitary survivor of the famous Corsican family. I was
introduced to her by John Heroncourt, a friend in common, and the
introduction was typical of his characteristic unorthodoxy.

"Mr Elliott O'Donnell, the Baroness Paoli. Mr Elliott O'Donnell is a
writer on the superphysical. He is unlike the majority of psychical
researchers, inasmuch as he has not based his knowledge on hearsay, but
has actually seen, heard, and felt occult phenomena, both collectively
and individually."

The Baroness smiled.

"Then I am delighted to meet Mr O'Donnell, for I, too, have had
experience with the superphysical."

She extended her hand; the introduction was over.

A man in my line of life has to work hard. My motto is promptness. I
have no time to waste on superfluity of any kind. I come to the point at
once. Consequently, my first remark to the Baroness was direct from the
shoulder:

"Your experiences. Please tell them--they will be both interesting and
useful."

The Baroness gently clasped her hands--truly psychic hands, with slender
fingers and long shapely nails--and, looking at me fixedly, said:

"If you write about it, promise that you will not mention names."

"They shall at all events be unrecognisable," I said. "Please begin."

And without further delay the Baroness commenced her story.

"You must know," she said, "that in my family, as in most historical
families--particularly Corsican--there have been many tragedies. In some
cases merely orthodox tragedies--a smile, a blow, a groan; in other
cases peculiar tragedies--peculiar even in that country and in the
grimness of the mediæval age.

"Since 1316 the headquarters of my branch of the Paolis has been at
Sartoris, once the strongest fortified castle in Corsica, but now, alas!
almost past repair, in fact little better than a heap of crumbling
ruins. As you know, Mr O'Donnell, it takes a vast fortune to keep such a
place merely habitable.

"I lived there with my mother until my marriage two years ago, and
neither she nor I had ever seen or heard any superphysical
manifestations. From time to time some of the servants complained of odd
noises, and there was one room which none of them would pass alone even
in daylight; but we laughed at their fears, merely attributing them to
the superstition which is so common among the Corsican peasants.

"The year after my marriage, my husband, a Mr Vercoe, who was a great
friend of ours, and I, accepted my mother's invitation to spend
Christmas with her, and we all three travelled together to Sartoris.

"It was an ideal season, and the snow--an exceptional sight in my native
town--lay thick in the Castle grounds.

"But to get on with my story--for I see I must not try your patience
with unnecessary detail--I must give you a brief description of the
bedroom in which my husband and I slept. Like all the rooms in the
Castle, it was oak panelled throughout. Floor, ceiling, and walls, all
were of oak, and the bed, also of oak, and certainly of no later date
than the fourteenth century, was superbly carved, and had been recently
valued at £30,000.

"There were two entrances, the one leading into a passage, and the other
into a large reception room, formerly a chapel, at the furthest
extremity of which was a huge barred and bolted door that had not been
opened for more than a hundred years. This door led down a flight of
stone steps to a series of ancient dungeons that occupied the space
underneath our bedroom and the reception room.

"On Christmas Eve we retired to rest somewhat earlier than usual, and,
being tired after a long day's motoring, speedily fell into a deep
sleep. We awoke simultaneously, both querying the time and agreeing that
it must be about five o'clock.

"Whilst we were talking, we suddenly heard, to our utter astonishment,
the sound of footsteps--heavy footsteps--accompanied by a curious
clanging sound, immediately beneath us; and, as if by mutual consent, we
both held our breath and listened.

"The footsteps moved on, and we presently heard them begin to ascend the
stone steps leading to the adjoining room. Up, up, up, they came, until,
having reached the summit, they paused. Then we heard the huge, heavy
bolts of the fast-closed door shoot back with a sonorous clash. So far I
had been rather more puzzled than frightened, and the idea of ghosts had
not entered my mind, but when I heard the door--the door which I knew to
be so securely fastened from the inside--thus opened, a great fear swept
over me, and I prayed Heaven to save us from what might ensue.

"Several people, talking rapidly in gruff voices, now entered the room,
and we distinctly heard the jingling of spurs and the rattling of sword
scabbards coming to us distinctly through the cracks of the door.

"I was so paralysed with fear that I could do nothing. I could neither
speak nor move, and my very soul was concentrated in one great, sickly
dread, one awful anticipation that the intruders would burst into our
room, and, before our very eyes, perform unthinkable horrors.

"To my immeasurable relief, however, this did not happen. The footsteps,
as far as I could judge, advanced into the middle of the room--there was
a ghastly suggestion of a scuffle, of a smothered cry, a gurgle; and the
mailed feet then retired whence they had come, dragging with them some
heavy load which bumped, bumped, bumped down the stairs and into the
cellar. Then a brief silence followed, abruptly broken by the sound of a
girlish voice, which, though beautifully tintinnabulous, was unearthly,
and full of suggestions so sinister and blood-curdling, that the fetters
which had hitherto held me tongue-tied snapped asunder, and I was able
to give vent to my terror in words. The instant I did so the singing
ceased, all was still, and not another sound disturbed us till morning.

"We got up as soon as we dared and found the door at the head of the
dungeon steps barred and bolted as usual, while the heavy and antique
furniture in the apartment showed no sign of having been disturbed.

"On the following night my husband sat up in the room adjoining our
bedroom, to see if there would be a repetition of what had taken place
the night before, but nothing occurred, and we never heard the noises
again.

"That is one experience. The other, though not our own, was almost
coincidental, and happened to our engineer friend, Mr Vercoe. When we
told him about the noises we had heard, he roared with laughter.

"'Well,' he said, 'I always understood you Corsicans were superstitious,
but this beats everything. The regulation stereotype ghost in armour and
clanking chains, eh! Do you know what the sounds were, Baroness? Rats!'
and he smiled odiously.

"Then a sudden idea flashed across me. 'Look here, Mr Vercoe,' I
exclaimed, 'there is one room in our Castle I defy even you--sceptic as
you are--to sleep in. It is the Barceleri Chamber, called after my
ancestor, Barceleri Paoli. He visited China in the fifteenth century,
bringing back with him a number of Chinese curiosities, and a Buddha
which I shrewdly suspect he had stolen from a Canton temple. The room is
much the same as when my ancestor occupied it, for no one has slept in
it since. Moreover, the servants declare that the noises they so
frequently hear come from it. But, of course, you won't mind spending a
night in it?'

"Mr Vercoe laughed. 'He, he, he! Only too delighted. Give me a bottle of
your most excellent vintage, and I defy any ghost that was ever
created!'

"He was as good as his word, Mr O'Donnell, and though he had advised the
contrary, we--that is to say, my mother, my husband, our two old
servants and I--sat up in one of the rooms close at hand.

"Eleven, twelve, one, two, and three o'clock struck, and we were
beginning to wish we had taken his advice and gone to bed, when we heard
the most appalling, agonising, soul-rending screams for help. We rushed
out, and, as we did so, the door of Mr Vercoe's room flew open and
something--something white and glistening--bounded into the
candle-light.

"We were so shocked, so absolutely petrified with terror, that it was a
second or so before we realised that it was Mr Vercoe--not the Mr Vercoe
we knew, but an entirely different Mr Vercoe--a Mr Vercoe without a
stitch of clothing, and with a face metamorphosed into a lurid, solid
block of horror, overspreading which was a suspicion of
something--something too dreadful to name, but which we could have sworn
was utterly at variance with his nature. Close at his heels was the
blurred outline of something small and unquestionably horrid. I cannot
define it. I dare not attempt to diagnose the sensations it produced.
Apart from a deadly, nauseating fear, they were mercifully novel.

"Dashing past us, Mr Vercoe literally hurled himself along the corridor,
and with almost superhuman strides, disappeared downstairs. A moment
later, and the clashing of the hall door told us he was in the open air.
A breathless silence fell on us, and for some seconds we were all too
frightened to move. My husband was the first to pull himself together.

"'Come along!' he cried, gripping one of the trembling servants by the
arm. 'Come along instantly! We must keep him in sight at all costs,'
and, bidding me remain where I was, he raced downstairs.

"After a long search he eventually discovered Mr Vercoe lying at full
length on the grass--insensible.

"For some weeks our friend's condition was critical--on the top of a
violent shock to the system, sufficient in itself to endanger life, he
had taken a severe chill, which resulted in double pneumonia. However,
thanks to a bull-dog constitution, typically English, he recovered, and
we then begged him to give us an account of all that had happened.

"'I cannot!' he said. 'My one desire is to forget everything that
happened on that awful night.'

"He was obdurate, and our curiosity was, therefore, doomed to remain
unsatisfied. Both my husband and I, however, felt quite sure that the
image of Buddha was at the bottom of the mischief, and, as there chanced
just then to be an English doctor staying at a neighbouring chateau, who
was on his way to China, we entrusted the image to him, on the
understanding that he would place it in a Buddhist temple. He deceived
us, and, returning almost immediately to England, took the image with
him. We subsequently learned that within three months this man was
divorced, that he murdered a woman in Clapham Rise, and, in order to
escape arrest, poisoned himself.

"The image then found its way to a pawnbroker's establishment in
Houndsditch, which shortly afterwards was burned to the ground. Where it
is now, I cannot definitely say, but I have been told that an image of
Buddha is the sole occupant of an empty house in the Shepherd's Bush
Road--a house that is now deemed haunted. These are the experiences I
wanted to tell you, Mr O'Donnell. What do you think of them?"

"I think," I said, "they are of absorbing interest. Can you see any
association in the two hauntings--any possible connection between what
you heard and what Mr Vercoe saw?"

A look of perplexity crossed the Baroness's face. "I hardly know," she
said. "What is your opinion on that point?"

"That they are distinct--absolutely distinct. The phenomena you heard
are periodical re-enactions, (either by the earth-bound spirits of the
actual victim and perpetrators, or by impersonating phantoms), of a
crime once committed within the Castle walls. A girl was obviously
murdered in the chapel and her coffin dragged into the dungeons, where,
no doubt, her remains are to be found. I presume it was her spirit you
heard tintinnabulating. Very possibly, if her skeleton were unearthed
and re-interred in an orthodox fashion, the hauntings would cease.

"Now, with regard to your friend's experience. The blurred figure you
saw pursuing the engineer was not the image of Buddha--it was one of Mr
Vercoe's many personalities, extracted from him by the image of Buddha.
We are all, as you are aware, complex creatures, all composed of diverse
selves, each self possessing a specific shape and individuality. The
more animal of these separate selves, the higher spiritual forces
attaching themselves to certain localities and symbols have the power of
drawing out of us, and eventually destroying. The higher spiritual
forces, however, do not associate themselves with all crucifixes and
Buddhas, but only with those moulded by true believers. For instance, a
Buddha fashioned for mere gain, and by a person who was not a genuine
follower of the prophet, would have no power of attraction.

"I have proved all this, experimentally, times without number.

"Mr Vercoe must have had--as indeed many of us have--vices, in all
probability, little suspected. The close proximity of the Buddha acted
on them, and they began to leave his body and form a shape of their own.
Had he allowed them to do so, all might have gone well; they would have
been effectually overcome by the higher spiritual forces attached to the
Buddha. But as soon as he saw a figure beginning to form--and no doubt
it was very dreadful--he lost his head. His shrieks interrupted the
work, the power of the Buddha was, _pro tempus_, at an end, and the
extracted personality commenced at once to re-enter Vercoe. Rushing at
him with that end in view, it so terrified him that he fled from the
room, and it was at that stage that you appeared upon the scene. What
followed is, of course, pure conjecture on my part, but I fear, I
greatly fear, that by the time Mr Vercoe became unconscious the mischief
was done, and the latter's evil personality had once again united with
his other personalities."

"And what would be the after-effect, Mr O'Donnell?" the Baroness
inquired anxiously.

"I fear a serious one," I replied evasively. "In the case of the doctor
you mentioned, who committed murder, an evil ego had doubtless been
expelled, and, receiving a rebuff, had reunited, for after a reunion the
evil personality usually receives a new impetus and grows with amazing
rapidity. Have you heard from Mr Vercoe lately?"

The Baroness shook her head. "Not for several months."

"You will let me know when you do?"

She nodded.

A week later she wrote to me from Rome.

"Isn't it terrible?" she began, "Mr Vercoe committed suicide on
Wednesday--the Birmingham papers--he was a Birmingham man--are full of
it!"


_The Barrowvian_

The description of an adventure Mr Trobas, a friend of mine, had with a
barrowvian in Brittany (and which I omitted to relate when referring to
barrowvians), I now append as nearly as possible in his own words:--

"Night! A sky partially concealed from view by dark, fantastically
shaped clouds, that, crawling along with a slow, stealthy motion,
periodically obscure the moon. The crest of a hill covered with
short-clipped grass, much worn away in places, and in the centre a
Druidical circle broken and incomplete; a few of the stones are erect,
the rest either lie at full length on the sward, close to the mystic
ring, or at some considerable distance from it. Here and there are
distinct evidences of recent digging, and at the base of one of the
horizontal stones is an excavation of no little depth.

"A sudden, but only temporary clearance of the sky reveals the
surrounding landscape; the rugged mountain side, flecked with gleaming
granite boulders and bordered with sturdy hedges (a mixture of mud and
bracken), and beyond them the meadows, traversed by sinuous streams
whose scintillating surfaces sparkle like diamonds in the silvery
moonlight. At rare intervals the scene is variegated, and nature
interrupted, by a mill or a cottage,--toy-like when viewed from such an
altitude,--and then the sweep of meadowland continues, undulating gently
till it finds repose at the foot of some distant ridge of cone-shaped
mountains. Over everything there is a hush, awe-inspiring in its
intensity. Not the cry of a bird, not the howl of a dog, not the rustle
of a leaf; there is nothing, nothing but the silence of the most
profound sleep. In these remote rural districts man retires to rest
early, the physical world accompanying him; and all nature dreams
simultaneously.

"It was shortly after the commencement of this period of universal
slumber, one night in April, that I toiled laboriously to the summit of
the hill in question, and, spreading a rug on one of the fallen stones,
converted it into a seat. Naturally I had not climbed this steep ascent
without a purpose. The reason was this--at eight-thirty that morning I
received a telegram from a friend at Armennes, near Carnac, which ran
thus: 'Am in great difficulty--Ghosts--Come.--KRANTZ.'

"Of course Krantz is not the real name of my friend, but it is one that
answers the purpose admirably in telegrams and on post-cards; and of
course he well knew what he was about when he said 'Come.' Not only I
but everyone has confidence in Krantz, and I was absolutely certain that
when he demanded my presence, the money I should spend on the journey
would not be spent in vain.

"Apart from psychical investigation, I study every phase of human
nature, and am at present, among other things, engaged on a work of
criminology based on impressions derived from face-to-face communication
with notorious criminals.

"The morning I received Krantz's summons was the morning I had set aside
for a special study of S---- M----, whose case has recently commanded so
much public attention; but the moment I read the wire, I changed my
plans, without either hesitation or compunction. Krantz was Krantz, and
his dictum could not be disobeyed.

"Tearing down la rue Saint Denis, and narrowly avoiding collision with a
lady who lives in la rue Saint François, and will persist in wearing
hats and heels that outrage alike every sense of decency and good form,
I hustled into the station, and, rushing down the steps, just succeeded
in catching the Carnac train. After a journey which, for slowness, most
assuredly holds the record, I arrived, boiling over with indignation, at
Armennes, where Krantz met me. After luncheon he led the way to his
study, and, as soon as the servant who handed us coffee had left the
room, began his explanation of the telegram.

"'As you know, Trobas,' he observed, 'it's not all bliss to be a
landlord. Up to the present I have been singularly fortunate, inasmuch
as I have never experienced any difficulty in getting tenants for my
houses. Now, however, there has been a sudden and most alarming change,
and I have just received no less than a dozen notices from tenants
desirous of giving up their habitations at once. Here they are!' And he
handed me a bundle of letters, for the most part written in the
scrawling hand of the illiterate. 'If you look,' he went on, 'you will
see that none of them give any reason for leaving. It is merely--"We
CANNOT POSSIBLY stay here any longer," or "We MUST give up possession
IMMEDIATELY," which they have done, and in every instance before the
quarter was up. Being naturally greatly astonished and perturbed, I made
careful inquiries, and, at length--for the North Country rustic is most
reticent and difficult to "draw"--succeeded in extracting from three of
them the reason for the general exodus. The houses are all HAUNTED!
There was nothing amiss with them, they informed me, till about three
weeks ago, when they all heard all sorts of alarming noises--crashes as
if every atom of crockery they possessed was being broken; bangs on the
panels of doors; hideous groans; diabolical laughs; and blood-curdling
screams. Nor was that all; some of them vowed they had seen
things--horrible hairy hands, with claw-like nails and knotted joints,
that came out of dark corners and grabbed at them; naked feet with
enormous filthy toes; and faces--HORRIBLE faces that peeped at them over
the banisters or through the windows; and sooner than stand any more of
it--sooner than have their wives and bairns frightened out of their
senses, they would sacrifice a quarter's rent and go. "We are sorry, Mr
Krantz," they said in conclusion, "for you have been a most considerate
landlord, but stay we cannot."' Here my friend paused.

"'And have you no explanation of these hauntings?' I asked.

"Krantz shook his head. 'No!' he said, 'the whole thing is a most
profound mystery to me. At first I attributed it to practical jokers,
people dressed up; but a couple of nights' vigil in the haunted district
soon dissipated that theory.'

"'You say district,' I remarked. 'Are the houses close together--in the
same road or valley?'

"'In a valley,' Krantz responded--'the Valley of Dolmen. It is ten miles
from here.'

"'Dolmen!' I murmured, 'why Dolmen?'

"'Because,' Krantz explained, 'in the centre of the valley is a hill, on
the top of which is a Druids' circle.'

"'How far are the houses off the hill?' I queried.

"'Various distances,' Krantz replied; 'one or two very close to the base
of it, and others further away.'

"'But within a radius of a few miles?'

"Krantz nodded. 'Oh yes,' he answered. 'The valley itself is small. I
intend taking you there to-night. I thought we would watch outside one
of the houses.'

"'If you don't mind,' I said, 'I would rather not. Anyway not to-night.
Tell me how to get there and I will go alone.'

"Krantz smiled. 'You are a strange creature, Trobas,' he said, 'the
strangest in the world. I sometimes wonder if you are an elemental. At
all events, you occupy a category all to yourself. Of course go alone,
if you would rather. I shall be far happier here, and if you can find a
satisfactory solution to the mystery and put an end to the hauntings, I
shall be eternally grateful. When will you start, and what will you
take with you?'

"'If that clock of yours is right, Krantz,' I exclaimed, pointing to a
gun-metal timepiece on the mantelshelf, 'in half an hour. As the night
promises to be cold, let me have some strong brandy-and-water, a dozen
oatmeal biscuits, a thick rug, and a lantern. Nothing else!'

"Krantz carried out my instructions to the letter. His motor took me to
Dolmen Valley, and at eight o'clock I began the ascent of the hill. On
reaching the summit, I uttered an exclamation. 'Someone has been
excavating, and quite recently!'

"It was precisely what I had anticipated. Some weeks previously, a
member of the Lyons literary club, to which I belong, had informed me
that a party of geologist friends of his had been visiting the cromlechs
of Brittany, and had committed the most barbarous depredations there.
Hence, the moment Krantz mentioned the 'Druidical circle,' I associated
the spot with the visit of the geologists; and knowing only too well
that disturbances of ancient burial grounds almost always lead to occult
manifestations, I decided to view the place at once.

"That I had not erred in my associations was now only too apparent.
Abominable depredations HAD been committed,--doubtless, by the people to
whom I have alluded--and, unless I was grossly mistaken, herein lay the
clue to the hauntings.

"The air being icy, I had to wrap both my rug and my overcoat tightly
round me to prevent myself from freezing, and every now and then I got
up and stamped my feet violently on the hard ground to restore the
circulation.

"So far there had been nothing in the atmosphere to warn me of the
presence of the superphysical, but, precisely at eleven o'clock, I
detected the sudden amalgamation, with the ether, of that enigmatical,
indefinable SOMETHING, to which I have so frequently alluded in my past
adventures. And now began that period of suspense which 'takes it out of
me' even more than the encounter with the phenomenon itself. Over and
over again I asked myself the hackneyed, but none the less thrilling
question, 'What form will it take? Will it be simply a phantasm of a
dead Celt, or some peculiarly grotesque and awful elemental[1] attracted
to the spot by human remains?'

[1] Either a barrowvian or vagrarian. Vide _Haunted Houses of London_
(published by Eveleigh Nash) and _Ghostly Phenomena_ (published by
Werner Laurie).

"Minute after minute passed, and nothing happened. It is curious, how at
night, especially when the moon is visible, the landscape seems to
undergo a complete metamorphosis. Objects not merely increase in size,
but vary in shape, and become possessed of an animation suggestive of
all sorts of lurking, secretive possibilities. It was so now. The
boulders in front and around me, presented the appearance of grotesque
beasts, whose hidden eyes I could feel following my every movement with
sly interest. The one solitary fir adorning the plateau was a tree no
longer but an ogre, _pro tempus_, concealing the grim terrors of its
spectral body beneath its tightly folded limbs. The stones of the
circle opposite were ghoulish, hump-backed things that crouched and
squatted in all kinds of fantastic attitudes and tried to read my
thoughts. The shadows, too, that, swarming from the silent tarns and
meadows, ascended with noiseless footsteps the rugged sides of the hill,
and, taking cover of even the smallest obstacles, stalked me with
unremitting persistency, were no mere common shadows, but intangible,
pulpy things that breathed the spirit of the Great Unknown. Yet nothing
specified came to frighten me. The stillness was so emphatic that each
time I moved, the creaking of my clothes and limbs created echoes. I
yawned, and from on all sides of me came a dozen other yawns. I sighed,
and the very earth beneath me swayed with exaggerated sympathy.

"The silence irritated me. I grew angry; I coughed, laughed, whistled;
and from afar off, from the distant lees, and streams, and spinneys,
came a repetition of the noises.

"Then the blackest of clouds creeping slowly over the moor crushed the
sheen out of the valley and smothered everything in sable darkness. The
silence of death supervened, and my anger turned to fear. Around me
there was now--NOTHING--only a void. Black ether and space! Space! a
sanctuary from fear, and yet composed of fear itself. It was the space,
the nameless, bottomless SOMETHING spreading limitless all around me,
that, filling me with vague apprehensions, confused me with its terrors.
What was it? Whence came it? I threw out my arms and Something,
Something which I intuitively knew to be there, but which I cannot
explain, receded. I drew them in again, and the same SOMETHING instantly
oppressed me with its close--its very close proximity.

"I gasped for breath and tried to move my arms again--I could not. A
sudden rigor held me spellbound, and fixed my eyes on the darkness
directly ahead of me. Then, from somewhere in my rear, came a
laugh--hoarse, malignant, and bestial, and I was conscious that the
SOMETHING had materialised and was creeping stealthily towards me.
Nearer, nearer and nearer it came, and all the time I wondered what,
WHAT in the name of God it was like! My anticipations became unbearable,
the pulsations of my heart and the feverish throbbing of my temples
warning me that, if the climax were postponed much longer, I should
either die where I sat, or go mad. That I did neither, was due to a
divine inspiration which made me suddenly think of a device that I had
once seen on a Druidical stone in Brittany--the sun, a hand with the
index and little fingers pointing downwards, and a sprig of mistletoe.
The instant I saw them in my mind's eye, the cords that held me
paralytic slackened.

"I sprang up, and there, within a yard of where I had sat, was a
figure--the luminous nude figure of a creature, half man and half ape.
Standing some six feet high, it had a clumsy, thick-set body, covered in
places with coarse, bristly hair, arms of abnormal length and girth,
legs swelling with huge muscles and much bowed, and a very large and
long dark head. The face was DREADFUL!--it was the face of something
long since dead; and out of the mass of peeling, yellow skin and
mouldering tissues gleamed two lurid and wholly malevolent eyes. Our
glances met, and, as they did so, a smile of hellish glee suffused its
countenance. Then, crouching down in cat-like fashion on its disgusting
hands, it made ready to spring. Again the device of the sun and
mistletoe arose before me. My fingers instinctively closed on my pocket
flashlight. I pressed the button and, as the brilliant, white ray shot
forth, the satanical object before me VANISHED. Then I turned tail, and
never ceased running till I had arrived at the spot on the high-road
where Krantz's motor awaited me.

       *       *       *       *       *

"After breakfast next morning, Krantz listened to my account of the
midnight adventure in respectful silence.

"'Then!' he said, when I had finished, 'you attribute the hauntings in
the valley to the excavations of the geologist Leblanc and his party, at
the cromlech six weeks ago?'

"'Entirely,' I replied.

"'And you think, if Leblanc and Cie were persuaded to restore and
re-inter the remains they found and carted away, that the disturbances
would cease?'

"'I am sure of it!' I said.

"'Then,' Krantz exclaimed, banging his clenched fist on the table, 'I
will approach them on the subject at once!'

"He did so, and, after much correspondence, eventually received per
goods train, a Tate's sugar cube-box, containing a number of bones of
the missing link pattern, which he at once had taken to the Druids'
circle. As soon as they were buried and the marks of the recent
excavations obliterated, the hauntings in the houses ceased."


_Boggle Chairs_

"Killington Grange," near Northampton, was once haunted, so my friend Mr
Pope informs me, by a chair, and the following is Mr Pope's own
experience of the hauntings, as nearly as possible as he related it to
me:--

"Some years ago, shortly before Christmas, I received an invitation from
my old friend, William Achrow.

"'Killington Grange,
'Northampton.

"'DEAR POPE' (he wrote)--'My wife and I are entertaining a few guests
here this Christmas, and are most anxious to include you among them.

"'When I tell you that Sir Charles and Lady Kirlby are coming, and that
we can offer you something startling in the way of a ghost, you will, I
know, need no further inducement to join our party.--Yours, etc.,

"'W. ACHROW.'

"Achrow was a cunning fellow; he knew I would go a thousand miles to
meet the Kirlbys, who had been my greatest friends in Ireland, and that
ghosts invariably drew me like magnets. At that time I was a bachelor; I
had no one to think about but myself, and as I felt pretty sure of a
fresh theatrical engagement in the early spring, I was happily careless
with regard to expenditure--and to people of limited incomes like
myself, staying in country houses means expenditure, a great deal more
expenditure than a week or so at an ordinary hotel.

"However, as I have observed, I felt pretty secure just then; I could
afford a couple of 'fivers,' and would gladly get rid of them to see
once more my dear old friends, Sir Charles and Lady K----. Accordingly,
I accepted Achrow's invitation, and the afternoon of December 23rd saw
me snugly ensconced in a first-class compartment _en route_ for Castle
Street, Northampton. Now, although I am, not unnaturally, perhaps,
prejudiced in favour of Ireland and everything that is Irish, I must say
I do not think the Emerald Isle shows her best in winter, when the banks
of fair Killarney are shorn of their vivid colouring, and the whole
country from north to south, and east to west, is carpeted with mud. No,
the palm of wintry beauty must assuredly be given to the English
Midlands--the Midlands with their stolid and richly variegated
woodlands, and their pretty undulating meadows, clad in fleecy garments
of the purest, softest, and most glittering snow. It was a typical
Midland Christmas when I got to Northampton and took my place in the
luxurious closed carriage Achrow had sent to meet me.

"Killington Grange lies at the extremity of the village. It stands in
its own grounds of some hundred or so acres, and is approached by a long
avenue that winds its way from the lodge gates through endless rows of
giant oaks and elms, and slender, silver birches. On either side, to
the rear of the trees, lay broad stretches of undulating pasture land,
that in one place terminated in the banks of a large lake, now
glittering with ice and wrapped in the silence of death.

"The crunching of the carriage wheels on gravel, the termination of the
trees, and a great blaze of light announced the close proximity of the
house, and in a few seconds I was standing on the threshold of an
imposing entrance.

"A footman took my valise, and before I had crossed the spacious hall, I
was met by my host and kind old friends, whose combined and hearty
greetings were a happy forecast of what was to come. Indeed, at a
merrier dinner party I have never sat down, though in God's truth I have
dined in all kinds of places, and with all sorts of people: with
Princesses of the Royal blood, aflame with all the hauteur of their
race; with earls and counts; with blood-thirsty anarchists; with bishops
and Salvationists, miners and policemen, Dagos and Indians (Red and
Brown); with Japs, Russians, and Poles; and, in short, with the _élite_
and the rag-tag and bobtail of all climes. But, as I have already said,
I had seldom if ever enjoyed a dinner as I enjoyed this one.

"Possibly the reason was not far to find--there was little or no
formality; we were all old friends; we had one cause in common--love of
Ireland; we hadn't met for years, and we knew not if we should ever meet
again, for our paths in life were not likely to converge.

"But Christmas is no season for prigs and dullards, and, possibly, this
rare enjoyment was, in no small measure, due to the delightful snugness
and, at the same time, artistic nature of our surroundings, and to the
excellence, the surpassing excellence of the vintage, which made our
hearts mellow and our tongues loose.

"Long did our host, Sir Charles, and I sit over the dessert table, after
the ladies had left us, filling and refilling our glasses; and it was
close on ten before we repaired to the drawing-room.

"'Lady Kirlby,' I said, seating myself next her on a divan, 'I want to
hear about the ghost. Up to the present I confess I have been so taken
up with more material and, may I add'--casting a well-measured glance of
admiration at her beautifully moulded features and lovely eyes--lovely,
in spite of the cruel hand of time which had streaked her chestnut hair
with grey--'infinitely more pleasing subjects, that I have not even
thought about the superphysical. William, however, informs me that there
is a ghost here--he has, of course, told you.'

"But at this very psychological moment Mrs Achrow interrupted: 'Now, no
secrets, you two,' she said laughingly, leaning over the back of the
divan and tapping Lady Kirlby playfully on the arm. 'There must be no
mention of ghosts till it is close on bedtime, and the lights are low.'

"Lady Kirlby gave me a pitying look, but it was of no avail; the word of
our hostess was paramount, and I did not learn what was in store for me
until it was too late to retreat. At half-past eleven William Achrow
turned out the gas, and when we were all seated round the fire, he
suggested we should each relate in turn, the most thrilling ghost tale
we had ever heard. The idea, being approved of generally, was carried
out, and when we had been thrilled, as assuredly we had never been
thrilled before, William coolly proclaimed that he had put me in the
haunted room.

"'I am sure,' he said, amid a roar of the most unfeeling laughter, in
which all but the tender-hearted Lady Kirlby joined, 'that your nerves
are now in the most suitable state for psychical investigation, and that
it won't be your fault if you don't see the ghost. And a very horrible
one it is, at least so I am told, though I cannot say I have ever seen
it myself. No! I won't tell you anything about it now--I want to hear
your version of it first.'

"With a few more delicate insinuations, made, as he candidly confessed,
in the fervent hope of frightening me still more, on the stroke of
midnight my friend conducted me to my quarters. 'You will have it all to
yourself,' he said, as we traversed a tremendously long and gloomy
corridor that connected the two wings of the house, 'for all the rooms
on this side are at present unoccupied, and those immediately next to
yours haven't been slept in for years--there is something about them
that doesn't appeal to my guests. What it is I can't say--I leave that
to you. Here we are!' and, as he spoke, he threw open a door. A current
of icy cold air slammed it to and blew out my light, and as I groped for
the door-handle, I heard my host's footsteps retreating hurriedly down
the corridor, whilst he wished me a rather nervous good-night.

"Relighting my candle and shutting the window--Achrow is one of those
open-air fiends who never had a bronchial cold in his life, and expects
everyone else to be equally immune--I found myself in a room that was
well calculated to strike even the most hardened ghost-hunter with awe.

"It was coffin-shaped, large, narrow, and lofty; and floor, panelling,
and furniture were of the blackest oak.

"The bedstead, a four-poster of the most funereal type, stood near the
fireplace, from which a couple of thick pine logs sent out a ruddy
glare; and directly opposite the foot of the bed, with its back to the
wall, stood an ebony chair, which, although in a position that should
have necessitated its receiving a generous share of the fire's rays, was
nevertheless shrouded in such darkness that I could only discern its
front legs--a phenomenon that did not strike me as being peculiar till
afterwards.

"Between the chair and the ingle, was a bay window overlooking one angle
of the lawn, a side path connecting the back premises of the house with
the drive, and a dense growth of evergreens, poplars, limes, and copper
beeches, the branches of which were now weighed down beneath layer upon
layer of snow.

"The room, as I have stated, was long, but I did not realise how long
until I was in the act of getting into bed, when my eyes struggled in
vain to reach the remote corners of the chamber and the recesses of the
vaulted and fretted ceiling, which were fast presenting the startling
appearance of being overhung with an impenetrable pall, such a pall as
forms the gloomy coverlet of a hearse; the similarity being increased by
waving plume-like shadows that suddenly appeared--from God knows
where!--on the floor and wall.

"That the room was genuinely haunted I had not now the slightest doubt,
for the atmosphere was charged to the very utmost with superphysical
impressions--the impressions of a monstrous hearse, with all the sickly
paraphernalia of black flowing drapery and scented pine wood.

"I was annoyed with William Achrow. I had wanted to see him; I had
wanted to meet the Kirlbys; but a ghost--no! Honestly, candidly--no! I
had not slept well for nights, and after the good things I had eaten at
dinner and that excellent vintage, I had been looking forward to a
sound, an unusually sound sleep. Now, however, my hopes were dashed on
the head--the room was haunted--haunted by something gloomily, damnably
evil, evil with an evilness that could only have originated in hell.
Such were my impressions when I got into bed. Contrary to my
expectations, I soon fell asleep. I was awakened by a creak, the loud
but unmistakable creak of a chair. Now, the creaking of furniture is no
uncommon thing. There are few of us who have not at some time or other
heard an empty chair creak, and attributed that creaking either to
expansion of the wood through heat, or to some other equally physical
cause. But are we always right? May not that creaking be sometimes due
to an invisible presence in the chair? Why not? The laws that govern
the superphysical are not known to us at present. We only know from our
own experiences and from the compiled testimony of various reputable
Research Societies that there is a superphysical, and that the
superphysical is a fact which is acknowledged by several of the greatest
scientists of the day.

"But to continue. The creaking of a chair roused me from my sleep. I sat
up in bed, and as my eyes wandered involuntarily to the ebony chair to
which I have already alluded, I again heard the creaking.

"My sense of hearing now became painfully acute, and, impelled by a
fascination I could not resist, I held my breath and listened. As I did
so, I distinctly heard the sound of stealthy respiration. Either the
chair or something in it was breathing, breathing with a subtle
gentleness.

"The fire had now burned low; only a glimmer, the very faintest
perceptible glimmer, came from the logs; hence I had to depend for my
vision on the soft white glow that stole in through the trellised
window-panes.

"The chair creaked again, and at the back of it, and at a distance of
about four feet from the ground, I encountered the steady glare of two
long, pale, and wholly evil eyes, that regarded me with a malevolency
that held me spellbound; my terror being augmented by my failure to
detect any other features saving the eyes, and only a vague Something
which I took for a body.

"I remained in a sitting posture for many minutes without being able to
remove my gaze, and when I did look away, I instinctively felt that the
eyes were still regarding me, and that the Something, of which the eyes
were a part, was waiting for an opportunity to creep from its
hiding-place and pounce upon me.

"This is, I think, what would have happened had it not been for the very
opportune arrival of the Killington Waits, who, bursting out with a
terrific and discordant version of 'The Mistletoe Bough,' which, by the
way, is somewhat inexplicably regarded as appropriate to the festive
season, effectually broke the superphysical spell, and when I looked
again at the chair, the eyes had gone.

"Feeling quite secure now, I lay down, and, in spite of the many
interruptions, managed to secure a tolerably good night's sleep.

"At breakfast everyone was most anxious to know if I had seen the ghost,
but I held my tongue. The spirit of adventure had been rekindled in me,
my sporting instinct had returned, and I was ready and eager to see the
phenomena again; but until I had done so, and had put it to one or two
tests, I decided to say nothing about it.

"The day passed pleasantly--how could it be otherwise in William
Achrow's admirably appointed household?--and the night found me once
again alone in my sepulchral bed-chamber.

"This time I did not get into bed, but took my seat in an easy-chair by
the fire (which I took care was well replenished with fuel), my face
turned in the direction of the spot where the eyes had appeared. The
weather was inclined to be boisterous, and frequent gusts of wind,
rumbling and moaning through the long and gloomy aisle of the avenue,
plundered the trees of the loose-hanging snow and hurled it in fleecy
clouds against the walls and windows.

"I had been sitting there about an hour when I suddenly felt I was no
longer alone; a peculiarly cold tremor, that was not, I feel sure, due
to any actual fall in the temperature of the room, ran through me, and
my teeth chattered. As on the previous occasion, however, my senses were
abnormally alive, and as I watched--instinct guiding my eyes to the
ebony chair--I heard a creak, and the sound of Something breathing. The
antagonistic Presence was once again there. I essayed to speak, to
repeat the form of address I had constantly rehearsed, to say and do
something that would tempt the unknown into some form of communication.
I could do nothing. I was lip-bound, powerless to move; and then from
out of the superphysical darkness there gleamed the eyes, lidless,
lurid, bestial. A shape was there, too: a shape which, although still
vague, dreadfully so, was nevertheless more pronounced than on the
former occasion, and I felt that it only needed time, time and an
enforced, an involuntary amount of scrutiny on my part, to see that
shape materialise into something satanical and definite.

"I waited--I was obliged to wait--when, even as before--Heaven be
praised!--the arrival of the gallant waits, (I say, gallant, for the
night had fast become a white inferno) loosened my fetters, and as I
sprang towards the chair, the eyes vanished.

"I then got into bed and slept heavily till the morning.

"To their great disappointment, the clamorous breakfasters learned
nothing--I kept the adventure rigidly to myself, and that night,
Christmas night, found me, for the third time, listening for the sounds
from the mysterious, the hideously, hellishly mysterious, high-backed,
ebony chair.

"There had been a severe storm during the day, and the wind had howled
with cyclonic force around the house; but there was silence now, an
almost preternatural silence; and the lawn, lavishly bestrewn with huge
heaps of driven snow, and broken, twisted branches, presented the
appearance of a titanic battlefield. In marked contrast to the disturbed
condition of the ground, the sky was singularly serene, and broad beams
of phosphorescent light poured in through the diamond window-panes on to
the bed, in which I was sitting, bolt upright.

"One o'clock struck, and ere the hollow-sounding vibrations had ceased,
the vague form once again appeared behind the chair, and the malignant,
evil eyes met mine in a diabolical stare; whilst, as before, on trying
to speak or move, I found myself tongue-tied and paralysed. As the
moments slowly glided away, the shape of the Thing became more and more
distinct; a dark and sexless face appeared, surmounted with a straggling
mass of black hair, the ends of which melted away into mist. I saw no
trunk, but I descried two long and bony arms, ebony as the chair, with
crooked, spidery, misty fingers. As I watched its development with
increasing horror, hoping and praying for the arrival of the
never-again-to-be-despised waits, I suddenly realised with a fresh grip
of terror that the chair had moved out of the corner, and that the Thing
behind it was slowly creeping towards me.

"As it approached, the outlines of its face and limbs became clearer. I
knew that it was something repulsively, diabolically grotesque, but
whether the phantasm of man, or woman, or hellish elemental, I couldn't
for the life of me say; and this uncertainty, making my fear all the
more poignant, added to my already sublime sufferings, those of the
damned.

"It passed the chair on which my dress-shirt flashed whiter than the
snow in the moonlight; it passed the tomb-like structure constituting
the foot-board of the bed; and as in my frantic madness I strained and
strained at the cruel cords that held me paralytic, it crept on to the
counterpane and wriggled noiselessly towards me.

"Even then, though its long, pale eyes were close to mine, and the ends
of its tangled hair curled around me, and its icy corpse-tainted breath
scoured my cheeks, even then--I could not see its body nor give it a
name.

"Clawing at my throat with its sable fingers, it thrust me backwards,
and I sank gasping, retching, choking on to the pillow, where I
underwent all the excruciating torments of strangulation; strangulation
by something tangible, yet intangible, something that could create
sensation without being itself sensitive; something detestably,
abominably wicked and wholly hostile, madly hostile in its attitude
towards mankind.

"What I suffered is indescribable, and it was to me interminable. Days,
months, years, seemed to pass, and I was still being suffocated, still
feeling the inexorable crunch of those fingers, still peering into the
livid depths of those gloating, fiendish eyes. And then--then, as I was
on the eve of abandoning all hope, a thousand and one tumultuous noises
buzzed in my ears, my eyes swam blood, and I lost consciousness. When I
recovered, the dawn was breaking and all evidences of the superphysical
had disappeared.

"I did not tell Achrow what I had experienced, but expressed, instead,
the greatest astonishment that anyone should have thought the room was
haunted. 'Haunted indeed!' I said. 'Nonsense! If anything haunts it, it
is the ghost of some philanthropist, for I never slept sounder in my
life. I am, as you know, William, extremely sensitive to the
superphysical, but in this instance, I can assure you, I was
disappointed, greatly disappointed, so much so that I am going home at
once; it would be mere waste of my valuable time to stay any longer in
the vain hope of investigating, when there is NOTHING to investigate.
How came you to get hold of such a crazy idea?'

"'Well,' William replied, a puzzled expression on his face, 'you noticed
an ebony chair in the room?'

"I nodded.

"'I bought it in Bruges, and there are two stories current in connection
with it. The one is to the effect that a very wicked monk, named
Gaboni, died in it (and, indeed, the man who sold me the chair was
actually afraid to keep it any longer in his house, as he assured me
Gaboni's spirit had amalgamated with the wood); and the other story,
which I learned from a different source, namely, from someone who, on
finding out where I bought the chair, told me he knew the whole history
of it, is to the effect that it was of comparatively modern make, and
had been designed by W----, the famous nineteenth-century Belgian
painter, who specialised, as you may know, in the most weird and
fantastic subjects. W---- kept the chair in his studio, and my informant
half laughingly, half seriously remarked that no doubt the chair was
thoroughly saturated with the wave-thoughts from W----'s luridly fertile
brain. Of course, I do not know which story is true, or if, indeed,
either story is true, but the fact remains that, up to now, everyone who
has slept in the room with that chair has complained of having had the
most unpleasant sensations. I own that after all that was told me, I was
afraid to experiment with it myself, but after your experience, or
rather lack of experience, I shall not hesitate to have it in my own
bedroom. Both my wife and I have always admired it--it is such a
uniquely beautiful piece of furniture.'

"Of course I agreed with my friend, and, after congratulating him most
effusively on his good luck in having been able to secure so unique a
treasure, I again thanked him for his hospitality and bade him
good-bye."



INDEX


Adventure in Chicago, 143-145.
  of Hans and Carl with a were-wolf, 121-129.
  with pixies near Bray, 71.

Æneas, story of, 69-70.

All-Hallows E'en, 158-159.

_Anglo-Saxon Church, The_, 158.

Arundels, White Owl of the, 137, 139, 151.

Ash trees, 74-75.

Aspens, 73.

Assam, haunted tree in, 64-67.

Assiut, 42.

Attendant spirits, 142-145.

Automatic writing, 190.


Baldearg, the, 178.

Banshee, the, 137, 147-149.

Barrowvians, 78, 220-230.

Bay of the Departed, 205.

Bears, phantasms of, 79.

Birthmarks, 178.

Bloody Hand of Ulster, 176.

Blue hand, phantasm of a, 79.

Boggle chairs, 230-243.

_Book of Days_, 90.

Brampton, haunted ash tree of, 74.

_British Goblins_, Book of, 91, 151.

Buddhas, 210-220.


Candles, warnings by, 132.

Castle on Dinas, 78.

Cats, phantasms of, 97-108.

Charley, T., 134.

Charms and checks against ghosts, 192-197.

Childermass Day, 160.

Ching Kang and the Fox-woman, story of, 129-131.

Clairvoyance, 189.

Clanogrians, 37, 137.

Complex hauntings and occult bestialities, 80.

Complex hauntings by phantasms of one person, 81.

Corpse-candles, 134-137.

Count Daniel O'Donnell, 167.

Crystal-gazing, 166-167.


D., Lady, 7.

Dalmatian dog, phantasm of, 83.

Davis, Rev. Mr, 135.

De B., Mrs, 6.

Dean Combe Ghost, 89.

Death warnings, 132-140.

Death-Watch, 138.

Demon of Stockwell, 48.
  of Tedworth, 48.

Dogs, spirits of, 79, 81, 83-91.

Dowsers, 76.

Drummer of the Airlies, 137-150.

Dyer's _Ghost World_, 89.


Earl of Lincoln and the ash tree, 75.

Elementals, 5.

Ellyllon, the, 151.

English family ghosts, 150.

Ennemoser, works by Jos., 110.

Epworth, hauntings at, 48.

Evil eye, the, 168-170.

Exorcism, 195-196.

Eye, phantasm of, 82.


Fire-coffins, 138.

Forbes du Barry, Mrs, 86.

Fortune-telling, 161.

Fox-women, 119-131.

_Frazer's Journal_, 135.


Gabriel's hounds, 91.

Ghost of Black Lion Lane, 48.

Gluttony, 29.

Grandfather clocks, hauntings by, 35.

Gwyllgi, the, 91.


Hacon, Rev. Henry, 42.

Hand of Glory, 176.

Hands, 162-164.

Hartz mountains, vampirism in the, 114-115.

Haunted trees, 60-70.
    in Caucasus, 68.
    in Slavonic mythology, 68.
  seas, 198-206.

Hauntings on Wicklow nets, 83-85.

Headless dogs, 85, 87-88.

History of magic, 112.

Horses, phantasms of, 79, 108.

Howard, phantasm of Lady, 89.

Hunt, works of Mr, 205-206.

Hydromancy, 165.


Idiots and vampirism, 113-114.

Intuition, 187-188.


Land's End, 6.

Looking-glasses, 157.

Luck of Edenhall, 168.

Lyons family, 168.


Mandrake, the, 76.

Manias, 28-34.
  for buttons, 38.
  of manual workers, 30.
  of women for dogs, 33.

Mauthe dog, the, 90.

Mermaids, 141.

Midsummer eve, 161.

Mines, hauntings of, 58.

Monomaniac musician, 33.

Mummy of Met-Om-Karema, haunted, 42-46.


Nature's devil signals, 179.

New year's eve, 160, 166.

_News from the Invisible World_, 134.

North, recitations of Miss Lilian, 86.

Numbers, climacteric, 177.


Oak chests, haunted, 38.

Obsession and possession, 28.

Occult hooligans, 47-55.

Occult in shadows, 21.

Owls, 139.


Palm tree, 77.

Palmistry, 162.

Paul, vampirism of Arnauld, 110.

Phantasms of living, 184-186.
  of pigs, 108.
  of sailors, 81.
  of wild animals, 108.

Phantom rowers, 150.
  ships, 198-201.
  white hares, 151.
  world, 110.

Pixies, 70.

Plutarch's account of satyrs, 67.

Poltergeists, 47-50.
  and Professor Schuppart, 48-50.
  in Norwood, 50.

Polydorus, story of, 70.

Poor in Hyde Park, 25.

Pre-existence, 179-184.

Premature burial, 2-18.

Primitive trees, visions of, 56-57.

Projection, 184-186.

Psychic days, 158.
  faculty, 186.

Pyromancy, 165.


"Radiant Boy of Corby," the, 151.

Ravens, 140.

River ghosts, 206-207.

Romances of West of England, 205-206.


St Blaise's Day, 160.

St Catherine's Day, 161.

St Lawrence's Day, 161.

St Mark's Day, 161.

St Martin's Day, 160.

Sargasso Sea, 201-205.

Satyrs and fawns, 67.

Scottish ghosts, 149-150.

Séances, 191-192.

Second sight, 187.

Seventh son, the, 177.

Shadow on the Downs, the, 22-23.
  in Hyde Park, 26.
  of a tree, 24.

Shuck, the, 90.

Sinclair, Miss, 63.

Sirens, 207-209.

Soames, work of Mr, 158.

South's tale of a vampire, Mrs, 116-121.

Spells, 159-161.

Spilling salt, 157.

Stuker, the, 90.

Suggestion, 186.

Superstitions and fortunes, 153.

Sycamore, the, 77.

Sylvan horrors, 56-79.


Table-turning, 191-192.

Talismans and amulets, 167.

Telepathy, 186.

Thirteen at table, 153-157.

Timbs, John, 74, 138, 161.

"Trash," 90.

Tree of life, the, 77.

Trees, haunted, 60-70.

Tristam and Yseult, legend of, 69.


"Unknown depths," the, 20.


Vampires, 110-121.


Wandering Jew, the, 141-142.

Welsh ghosts, 151.

Were-wolves, 121-129.

Wirt Sikes, work by, 91, 151.

Witches, 171-175.

Worthing, 22, 86-88.


X., phantasm of murderer, 91-97.


"Yellow Boy," the, 151.



[Transcriber's Note:


The following corrections were made:

p. 23: extra comma removed (after "time" in "but the next time I visited
the spot")

p. 32: sensualty to sensuality (sensuality sometimes venial)

p. 34: thought germ to thought-germ to match other instances (how
extraordinary the thought-germ)

p. 34: later-day to latter-day (even latter-day)

p. 67: extra comma removed (after "degree" in "in the slightest degree
what the monstrosity meant")

p. 88: Du to du to match other instances (Mrs du Barry)

p. 90: Haviland to Harland (Harland and Wilkinson)

p. 91: Wyhr to Wybr (Cwn y Wybr), to match cited source

p. 110: missing period added (Jos. Ennemoser)

pp. 110, 112, and 244 (Index): Ennemoses to Ennemoser

p. 116: pretentions to pretensions (hypocritical pretensions)

p. 129: Thanking to Thinking (Thinking that the animal was ill)

p. 140: syrens to sirens (nymphs, sirens, and pixies)

p. 154: ont he to on the (on the couch)

p. 176: he to the (badge of the O'Neills)

p. 222: added missing single close quote (Here they are!')

p. 224: double close quote to single close quote (one of the houses.')

p. 225: had to has ('Someone has been excavating, and quite recently!')

p. 245: missing periods added after several Index entries (Gluttony,
29.; Haunted Trees ... in Caucasus, 68.)

On page 110, the author refers to Jos. Ennemoser as the author of _The
Phantom World_. In fact, the cited passage comes from a work by
Augustine Calmet, which was translated into English by William Howitt as
_The Phantom World_; Ennemoser quotes from it in his book _The History
of Magic_. This error has not been corrected.

Irregularities in hyphenation and capitalization have not been
corrected. Antiquated or misspelled place names have been left as in the
original.

For the plain text version, oe ligatures have been changed to oe.]





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