Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

administering an emetic in his food.' Another case of a young
lafr, who was accompanied by her own apparition, may be ascribed
to the author's own principle of insanity, as she may certainly be

pronounced to have been beside herself.
pa Taking a large skip here, amongst other impediments, over ly-
canthropia

, (in which the patient imagines himself to have become a wolf, ' an impression,' we are told, which has, no doubt, been produced or strengthened by narcotic potions of hyoscyamus and datura stramonium,' query, wolf's bane?) for we find that we cansot leap fair with the author, we find ourselves, amongst accessory causes of delusion, with respect to spectres, followed, as usual, be stories more or less apposite. One of them, that of M. Bezuel M. Desfontaines, is extremely curious. These two, when bers, the eldest, M. Bezuel, being only fifteen, made a compact, which, for greater solemnity, they signed with their blood, engaging that whichever died first should visit the survivor. They were von afterwards separated, and, at the end of two years, the agreeseat was fulfilled by M. Desfontaines, who had been drowned mar Caen, and who appeared, on the succeeding day, to his friend, The circumstances which preceded this visitation are particularly worthy of attention. Bezuel was amusing himself one day in haymaking at a certain M. de Sortoville's, when he was seized with a fanting fit, which was succeeded by a restless night. He experiraced a second fit, in the same meadow, on the following day,

atended with the same consequences. Again on the third day, 2t be while on the hay-stack, he experienced a similar attack, and this mpt was a prelude to the ghost, &c. He tells the story himself.

"I fell into a swoon; one of the footmen perceived it and called out iet te for help. They recovered me a little, but my mind was more disorder

ed than it had been before. I was told that they asked me what ailed
me, and that I answered, “ I have seen what I thought I should never
See." But I neither remember the question nor the answer.

However,
it agrees with what I remember I saw then, a naked man, in half length,
but I knew him not. They helped me to go down the ladder, but, be-
cause I saw Desfontaines at the bottom, I had again a fainting fit: my

between two stairs, and I again lost my senses. They let me down, and set me on a large beam, which served for a seat in the great Place des Capucins

. I sat upon it, and then no longer saw M. de Sor-
torille nor his servants, though they were present; and perceiving Des-
fontaines near the foot of the ladder, who made me a sign to come to
him, I went back upon my seat, as it were to make room for him, and
those who saw me, and whom I did not see, observed that inotion.'

He proceeds to state, that the apparition took him by the arm
and conducted him into a bye lane, where he conversed with him
for nearly three quarters of an hour, and informed him of all the
particulars of his death, which had taken place, as was before

stated,

[ocr errors]

him

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

head got

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

+

stated, on the preceding day. All saw him walk away; and M. de Sortoville and his footboy heard him speaking in the manner of one who was asking and answering questions. All this time, however, his spiritual companion was invisible but to himself. Their intercourse was repeated more than once. That the fainting fits were the cause of this illusion there can be no doubt, and Dr. Ferriar informs us, speaking from his own experience, that the approach of syncope is sometimes attended with a spectral appearance;' but it is seldom that an opportunity can be afforded, as in the present instance, of watching the gradual concoction of a ghost. The appearance of Desfontaines, like the first crude apparition seen by Bezuel, was only a half length, and this mode of seeing spirits by halves appears more general than we should have supposed; for we are told, in another place, that two old ladies, who were inhabitants of antient castles, comparing notes respecting their different residences, one of them averred that hers was haunted by the appearance of the upper part of a human figure, a piece of ivtelligence which was received with great apparent satisfaction by the other, inasmuch as it explained to her why her mausion was visited only by the lower half. It does not appear that they resorted to the obvious expedient of tossing up heads or tails for double or quits. Dr. Ferriar, however, who has served up every variety of spectre, bas, in addition to these semi-goblins, furnished us with an instance of a double phantom, or rather a sort of polypus ghost. We extract the story, which is taken from Lucian, as furnishing a new and amusing theory of the division of labour.

Eucrates says that he became acquainted in Egypt with Pancrates, who had resided twenty years in the subterraneous recesses, where he had learned magic from Ísis herself. '“ At length,” he states, “ he persuaded me to leave all my servants at Memphis, and to follow him alone, telling me that we should not be at a loss for attendants. When we came into any inn, he took a wooden pin, latch, or bolt, and wrapping it in some clothes, when he had repeated a verse over it, he made it walk and appear a man to every one.

This creature went about, prepared supper, laid the cloth, and waited upon us very dexterously. Then, when we had no further occasion for it, by repeating another verse, he turned it into a pin, latch, or bolt, again. He refused to impart the secret of this incantation to me, though very obliging in every thing else. But having hid myself one day in a dark corner, I caught the first verse, which consisted of three syllables. After he had given bis orders to the pin, he went into the market place. Next day; in his absence, I took the pin, dressed it up, and repeating those syllables, ordered it to fetch some water. When it had brought a full jar, I cried

Stop, draw no more water, but be a pin again.” It was in vain, however, that he reiterated the command of as you were, the perverse pin continued his employment till he had nearly tilled the house. à I, not able to ensure this obstinacy. (continues Eucrates,) and fearing

tha

the return of my companion, lest he should be displeased, seized a hatchet and split the pin in two pieces. But each part, taking up a jar, ran to draw more water, so that I had now two servants in place of one.

In the mean time Pancrates returned, and, understanding the matter, changed them into wood again, as they were before the incantation."

and to

The author having, at last, dismissed his shadows, sums up his evidence by the declaration that the facts which he has stated have afforded to himself a satisfactory explanation of all difficulties respecting what he terms spectral appearances; he calls upon the physician and philosopher to examine such cases with accuracy instead of regarding them either with terror or contempt, ascertain their exact relation to the state of the brain and of the external senses;' he observes, that were this done,' the appearance of a ghost would be regarded as of little more consequence than a head-ache,' and finally congratulates himself on having released the reader of history from the embarrassment of rejecting evidence in some of the plainest varratives, or of experiencing uneasy doubts when the solution might be rendered perfectly simple, and thus he reconducts his guests to the entrance of his enchanted castle.

Prosequitur dictis portâque emittit eburna.' We fear that the doctor's nostrum will not turn out the perfect specific he imagines.

Orouz qui craignez tant les esprits,

Et qui les craignez sans y croire,' may, as we have before stated our opinion, be applied to the largest class of those for whom he prescribes. On these all medicine will be thrown away; their morbid propensities must be left to wear themselves out, or if any potion can avail, it is a disease wherein the patient must minister to himself. There is, however, another description of actual, or possible, ghost-seers, who might, perhaps, profit by such a discussion of the subject; but this determined assailant of the world of plantoms has left unattempted the two strongest works, behind which they may intrench themselves. Every one who has experienced a violent nervous attack, or witnessed the effect of it on others, and indeed every one who has had the nightmare in daylight, must, if they think at all

, have found in such causes an explanation of ghosts, and will have easily conceived to themselves a more diseased state of organs, which might represent phantoms more vivid, more precisely tigured, and more permanent than those with which they have been visited. But the difficulties with regard to accepting this, as a general solution of the mystery, are, first, the evidence we have of more persons than one having witnessed these appearances; and, next, that of some event, which

could

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

could not, by natural means, be known at the time, having been thus manifested; a circumstance which appears at once to explain the cause and to attest the truth of such a visitation. These two detences are, however, certainly more assailable from the previous demolition of the outworks which surrounded them.

The great pomt to be considered with regard to the supposed verification of ghosts by the testimony of more than one person is, that if we give the witnesses credit for being honest, it would be going much too far to allow them to be unprejudiced. In the great majority of cases of this description which are in circulation, it is to be observed, that the minds of those who have seen such sights, were prepared for the reception of the wonderful by circumstances either of time, place, or conversation. Men, in this situation, resemble instruments tuned to the same pitch, which, if a note of one be struck, will repeat the sound on a correspouding string. The following story may serve as an illustration. A traveller in the east found himself in a village where there was a great outcry against vanıpires. It may be necessary to premise, that the vampire of spectral history is a dead body which has the privilege of sucking the blood of the living. So universal was the belief that the magistrates granted a general search warrant, and the traveller accompanied a great number of the inhabitants to the church yard for the purpose of putting it into execution. The grave of a person suspected was opened in his presence, and while he saw nothing but a putrid and macerated carcass, the rest beheld, in the same object, freshness of complexion, and corpulence, in short, all the known indicia of the delinquent's profession, and were much inclined to give the dissentient an opportunity of practising it, in his own person, for obstinately maintaining his opinion. Here all the assistants but the stranger were predisposed to belief; but it may be shewn, by another instance, that the imagination of one person will reflect the images represented by that of another, even where it has not been previously wrought upon and prepared for such an impression. A modern poet who, though he has exercised a powerful command over the world of spirits, is certainly free froin superstition, accompanied a friend one evening to a place in Edinburgh, where they sold oysters. They were shewn into an inner room, and sat down to table. Here they were joined, as they believed, by an unknown person, whoin neither of them knew; but it is to be remarked, that his appearance was unaccompanied by any circumstances of terror. He neither swallowed his oysters, shell and all, or did any thing which could subject him to suspicion. They lost sight of him they kuew not how; and on going into the next room and inquiring about their uninvited guest, were assured by those who had remained there during the whole time

they

they were within, that no one had passed through that apartment, which afforded the only means of access to their own. It may, perhaps, be objected to any inference drawn from this anecdote, that the imagination of the two gentlemen in question had probably been warmed with wine. Perhaps so: but le peril monte la téie comme le vin, says Madame de Staël, and fear is as quickly communicated as an electric shock. We may also consider optical deceptions, which have been generally mentioned by Dr. Ferriar amongst the causes of ghost-seeing, as one explanation of these better attested stories; but they are of much too rare occurrence to be admitted as a universal solvent of apparitions.

With respect to the second class of spiritual anecdotes, which includes all accounts of visitations, where some event appears to coincide with the spectacle represented by the imagination, we must recollect that we hear only of those where the result corresponds with its supposed signification; the thousand instances in which it does not, are never communicated. A young man, a writer in India, is surprised by the appearance of his mother (whom he had left in England) bathed in tears. He conceives this to be an intimation of his father's death, communicates what he has seen to a friend, and this person, under the idea of giving him a lesson against credulity in the future disproval of his fears, desires him to make an entry of all the circumstances in his pocket-book. The sensible intention of this friend is disappointed by the verification of the vision. Take, on the other hand, a story which may well weigh against the preceding. Three brothers, out of four, sleeping in the same room, when boys, dream that their father is dangerously ill, or dead, yet nothing had passed which might naturally have suggested to them so painful an idea. His death would have been but one wonder the more, but he long survived the triple omen by which it was apparently figured. The fact is, whimsical combinations are continually taking place, which, when they involve nothing which savours of a ghost, we are content to consider as the effect of what is called chance; if they do, we must cut the knot in one case as well as in the other. Many of these are as much out of the reach of calculation as any story of second sight. We take one as an instance. A short time ago, a seaman, belonging to the Arrogant, died, and the wages due to him were claimed by his brother, named John Carr, living at No. 4, Spicer Street, Shadwell. On inquiry, however, it was found that Mary Carr, his sister, residing at Lowth, in Ireland, had been appointed his executrix. Orders were given for sending her the papers necessary to her receiving whatever might be due; but these were, by some mistake, forwarded to the direction of the first claimant, at No. 4, Spicer Street, Shadwell. In this street there were two Nos. 4,

and

« AnteriorContinuar »