Page images

the highest credit upon their laborious honesty that, out of 17,000 persons wbom they interrogated, more than 15,000 were found who had never had spiritual intercourse of any kind whatever. Still one retail tradesman too deficient in accuracy, a single coastguardsman too fond of romantic narration, might have produced effects upon our statistics which we tremble to contemplate. It is true that the report shows that occasionally after a remarkable apparition Jiad been discovered, some member of the committee has had an interesting interview with the percipient, who is generally at once recognised as a person of unusual accuracy, and, indeed, of a strongly sceptical turn of mind.

But, then, amongst the gifts of members of the committee we do not expect to find a talent for cross-examination, such as that possessed by Mr. Justice Hawkins or Lord Russell of Killowen. Possibly many of our readers may think that they themselves, by a question or two to the bedmaker and a question or two to Mr. Mamtchitch and his friends, might have done something to lessen the mystery of those wondrous tales. Surely, in not one of these cases (and the samples given are in quality far above the bulk) has the committee arrived at the natural conclusion ? There is nothing new in people fancying they see and hear things which they do not see and hear. There have been many instances where men have, for long periods together, been subject to the most vivid hallucinations, and yet have possessed minds strong enough to recognise them as pure illusions, and to treat them as such. Sir Walter Scott, who knew a good deal about men and women--no bad qualification for the right understanding of ghosts-declared that he would always feel alarmed on behalf of the continued • health of a friend who should conceive himself to have (witnessed such a visitation.'

It is time to sum up the information the committee of the Psychical Research Society have collected on the subject of apparitions, and to comment on the conclusions they have arrived at. It must be remembered that the results of their labours are not to be gathered only from their somewhat guarded 'findings. When a society such as the Psychical Research Society publishes stories, as containing features of particular interest or of great importance, it sends them into the world with a good character, so to speak, as stories which, so far as it can make out, are true. Ghosts, then, in the old popular sense of the word, do, according to these inquirers, appear to living men. They appear most frequently either at the time of or within a short time after death. There is, however, much ground for believing that they also, though more rarely, appear to men long afterwards, even many years after the death and burial of their bodies. There is strong evidence in the behaviour of these ghosts that they still take an interest in mundane affairs. They are usually dressed in very ordinary fashion, in such clothes as they wore during life. They are not strong in prophecy. They communicate, to the extent of exchanging ideas, with living men. As to how far we are to believe that Phinuit and the automatist writers' are intermediaries between the living and the dead we have allowed Professor Lodge to tell us for himself. We find ourselves almost ordered to believe that, at all events, Phinuit and the automatists generally believe themselves to be such intermediaries. Finally, we are asked to accept the investigations we have described as being true scientific investigations, and to receive the conclusions arrived at with the respect with which we should receive the conclusions reached by learned men in other branches of scientific knowledge.

If science' consist in elaborate definition and classification, assuredly Psychical Research’ deserves the name of science. A good deal of subtlety has been shown in this department of the duties of the committee. A whole terminology has been created by which one class of apparitions is differentiated from another.

Perhaps the nature of these terms can be best understood if we apply them to the cases of apparitions with which we have all been familiar from childhood. When Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo in the banqueting scene, the ' percept' was a'visual hallucination,' properly externalised' with reference to the other guests and the chairs. When it was the dagger that he saw before him,' there is far less evidence of externalisation ;' it was 'a dagger of the mind, and we are sure that, in that case, the committee would have rejected the percept' as being a pseudo-hallucination, visible to the eye of the percipient's mind, and not to his actual organs of sight. Yet, surely, it is unnecessary to seek a separate cause for, or to draw a wide distinction between, the two visions. We all remember

' how ere the mightiest Julius fell, The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead

Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets. Here we have an instance of a collective,' bisensory,' 'hallucination,' visual,' and 'auditory.' _ The ghosts were witnessed by a multitude of persons. They were seen to gibber; they were heard to squeak. In the case of Alp the Renegade, * it will be remembered that not only did the apparition appear to and address Alp, but it touched his wrist, which froze to the bone. Here, then, was a 'trisensory hallucination,' visual, auditory,' and “tactile. If only the 'tactile' ghosts who have been reported to the committee had touched some object, either the percipient himself or something else, so as to leave behind some mark or trace of their operations, there would have been some corroboration given to the evidence of the other senses. Of this, however, we find no satisfactory instance. An hallucination is perhaps a more thorough hallucination when three senses rather than one are affected. But the three senses are not three independent witnesses, and the hallucinations do not really differ from each other in kind.

It will be observed that a great distinction prevails between the ghosts of history, of poetry, of romance, and the spirits with which the Psychical Research Society is making us acquainted. The former appear on occasions of great moment to empires, to nations, or at least at crises of supreme importance in the personal lives of those who witness them. When from the Market Cross in Edinburgh, a month before Flodden, the king and the nobility of Scotland were summoned by an unearthly voice before the final judgement seat; when, before the eyes of Fergus McIvor, the Bodach Glas fitted along the Fells of Cumberland, the circumstances were such as to excuse (if we may say so) abnormal behaviour in the spiritual world. In both these cases, moreover, there were predictions which, unlike the predictions of the spirits of the Psychical Research Society, had something in them, and came true; a great point with predictions. Indeed, our very respect for the one class of ghosts almost makes us lose patience with the other. From * Macbeth' and 'Waverley' it is a long step and a downward one to the spiritual experiences of Phinuit' and poor Mr. Mamtchitch. Is it unphilosophical when weighing the amount of truth in these latter narrations to consider with care the intrinsic merits of the tale itself? On the case of Palladia the Committee of the Psychical Research Society largely formed their conclusion that the spirits of the dead are still interested in mundane affairs. Her first appearance was due to the non-repair of her tombstone !

• The Siege of Corinth.'

Why, when she was able to speak good Russian, should she have made use of the cumbrous method of rapping out the alphabet? But, even so, why not say plainly what she wanted ? When, afterwards, she had found her tongue, why not make more use of it? 'Quietude,' indeed! On the third occasion, in which there were indications of collectivity,' she had come to have a look at Mr. Mamtchitch's future bride, whose pillow she pulled at about the same time that she was appearing to Mr. Mamtchitch in another room, with the remark, 'I came; I saw,' in language even more laconic than Cæsar's. We must apologise for putting before our readers so trivial a tale.

Our scientific investigators appear frequently to recognise the tricks that the fancy or the imagination sometimes plays with men's organs of sense. Again and again they tell us that the hallucinations experienced were probably purely

subjective,' baving no cause in anything external to the percipients themselves. The collectivity' of some of the hallucinations and the returns to the Census have, however, convinced them that the explanation is insufficient. We much regret that space forbids our giving a specimen or two of these collective hallucinations. They are much more rare than single hallucinations; but the committee think that they do occur. We doubt whether, with most men, these anecdotes would carry more weight than the cases already quoted.

A question that always presents itself to the mind of our committee is, whether the particular hallucination has been caused by 'telepathy,' i.e. by the transference to the mind of the percipient of a thought actually existing in some other mind.

It is impossible at the end of an article to do full justice to the theories expounded and the evidence collected on this subject by Mr. Myers, the late Mr. Gurney, and Mr. Podmore. Tricks with packs of cards, the guessing of correct numbers, the drawing by one man of diagrams imagined by other men, and supposed not to be communicated to him-performances of this kind depend for their interest upon the implicit confidence placed in the performers. With the best intentions we are unable to give full faith to the doings of a Miss A. or Miss B., even under the closest scrutiny of Messrs. D. E., and F. With members of the Committee of the Psychical Research Society the case is different. They are striving conscientiously after truth. Still there comes to our remembrance that fatal depreciation of a mind on the spot,' as if

a mind in that condition was hardly worthy of searching into these high matters. We reflect upon the appari* tions' of the Psychical Research Society, and we are

almost driven to the conclusion that its committee may be imposed upon. Sometimes, on the other hand, the tale, instead of being too marvellous, is too commonplace. For instance, some thirteen years ago Miss D. set fire accidentally to her curtains. Next morning, on visiting her friend Miss X. (one of the most distinguished percipients of Mr. Podmore's book), she found that Miss x. the previous evening had smelt a strong smell of fire. It was the transference from Miss X. to Miss D. of the former's desire that she should return to her room that led to the discovery of the fire in time to extinguish the flames. The order of events was as follows:--Miss D. unknowingly sets fire to her curtains and leaves the room. Miss X., in another place altogether, smells fire. Telepath-Miss X. to Miss D. Consequent return of Miss D. to her room, but for which the whole place would have been in flames. This is duly recorded in the contents of the chapter on Transference of Ideas and Emotions as “transference of smell.' The case is quoted from vol. vi. of Proceedings;' and yet these number only ten volumes now!

The credibility of telepathy, however, is not our principal subject here, any more than it is that of vol. x. of the Proceedings;' and we do not understand how apparitions such as we have been considering can be explained upon that theory. It must be remembered in this connexion that apparitions of animals, though not so common as those of human beings, are not very rare. Of the twentyfive cases included in the Census no fewer than thirteen were of cats. Mrs. Gordon Jones* hail the strongest aversion to cats,' and had ordered her groom to drown a cat which she had been obliged for a time to keep on the premises on account of mice. This was done, and Mrs. Jones knew it. That very evening the door opened, and in walked the cat into the very presence of Mrs. Jones :

• It was the same cat, but apparently much thinner, and dripping with water-only the expression of the face was changed-the eyes were quite human, and haunted me afterwards ; they looked so sad and pathetic.' . . . Ultimately, the cat began to fade, and I saw nothing more of it.'

It is hard upon the cat not to have been classified with

* Vol. x. p. 127.

« PreviousContinue »