Frederic William Henry Myers.

Human personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) online

. (page 52 of 89)
Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 52 of 89)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

was born and died in [the house where I saw him]. ... I was not aware that the
portrait of the General was in that room [where I saw it] ; it was the first time
I had been in that room. The misfortune to the poor girl happened in 1847
or 1848.

Mrs. M. then mentions that a respectable local tradesman, hearing of
the incident, remarked : " That is not an uncommon thing to see her
about the place, poor soul ! She was a badly used girl."

Mr. M. writes as follows, under date December 23rd, 1891 :

I have seen my wife's letter in regard to the recognition of Sir X. Y.'s picture

at . Nothing was said by me to her on the subject ; but knowing the

portrait to be a remarkably good likeness I proposed calling at the house
[which was that of a nephew of Sir X. Y.'s], being anxious to see what effect it
would have on my wife. Immediately on entering the room she almost
staggered back, and turned pale, saying looking hard at the picture " Why,
there's the General ! " . . . Being a connection of the family, I knew all about
the people, but my wife was then a stranger, and I had never mentioned such
things to her ; in fact, they had been almost forgotten.

This case may remind us of Gurney's description of a somewhat similar
vision (that quoted in 733 B), a suggesting the survival of a mere image,
what I have termed a veridical after-image, of past events or emotions
with no active counterpart in the present. We are, indeed, always un-
certain as to the degree of the deceased person's active participation in
post-mortem phantasms, as to the relation of such manifestations to the
central current of his continuing individuality. But it is in dealing with
these persistent pictures of a bygone earth-scene that this perplexity
reaches its climax. They may, as I have already said, be the mere
dreams of the dead ; affording no true indication of the point which
the deceased person's knowledge or emotion has really reached.

745 C. In each of the two next cases the interval after death was
considerable, and the percipient was an absolute stranger to the deceased.
This condition must, of course, usually involve the disadvantage that the
identification of the appearance with a particular person can be based
only on the percipient's subsequent description of what he had seen.
But in the case which I shall quote first, this sort of identification was
reinforced by the percipient's recognition of a photograph of the deceased.
The account, taken from Proceedings S.P.R., vol. v. p. 416, comes from
Mr. John E. Husbands, of Melbourne House, Town Hall Square,

September i$tk, 1886.

DEAR SIR, The facts are simply these. I was sleeping in a hotel in
Madeira in January 1885. It was a bright moonlight night. The windows
were open and the blinds up. I felt some one was in my room. On opening
my eyes, I saw a young fellow about twenty-five, dressed in flannels, standing
at the side of my bed and pointing with the first finger of his right hand to the


place I was lying. I lay for some seconds to convince myself of some one
being really there. I then sat up and looked at him. I saw his features so
plainly that I recognised them in a photograph which was shown me some
days after. I asked him what he wanted ; he did not speak, but his eyes and
hand seemed to tell me I was in his place. As he did not answer, I struck out
at him with my fist as I sat up, but did not reach him, and as I was going
to spring out of bed he slowly vanished through the door, which was shut,
keeping his eyes upon me all the time.

Upon inquiry I found that the young fellow who appeared to me died in
that room I was occupying. . . . JOHN E. HUSBANDS.

The following letters are from Miss Falkner, of Church Terrace,
Wisbech, who was resident at the hotel when the above incident

October 8//4, 1886.

The figure that Mr. Husbands saw while in Madeira was that of a young
fellow who died unexpectedly months previously, in the room which Mr.
Husbands was occupying. Curiously enough, Mr. H. had never heard of him
or his death. He told me the story the morning after he had seen the figure,
and I recognised the young fellow from the description. It impressed me
very much, but I did not mention it to him or any one. I loitered about until
I heard Mr. Husbands tell the same tale to my brother; we left Mr. H. and
said simultaneously, " He has seen Mr. D."

No more was said on the subject for days; then I abruptly showed the
photograph. Mr. Husbands said at once, " That is the young fellow who
appeared to me the other night, but he was dressed differently " describing a
dress he often wore " cricket suit (or tennis) fastened at the neck with sailor
knot." I must say that Mr. Husbands is a most practical man, and the very
last one would expect " a spirit " to visit. K. FALKNER.

October zoth, 1886.

I enclose you photograph and an extract from my sister-in-law's letter,
which I received this morning, as it will verify my statement. Mr. Husbands
saw the figure either the 3rd or 4th of February 1885.

The people who had occupied the rooms had never told us if they had seen
anything, so we may conclude they had not. K. FALKNER.

The following is Miss Falkner's copy of the passage in the letter :

" You will see at back of Mr. du F 's photo the date of his decease

[January zgth, 1884]; and if you recollect 'the Motta Marques ' had his rooms
from the February till the May or June of 1884, then Major Money at the
commencement of 1885 season. Mr. Husbands had to take the room on
February 2nd, 1885, as his was wanted. I am clear on all this, and remember
his telling me the incident when he came to see my baby."

Gurney adds :

I have received a full account of this case, vivd voct, from both Mr.
Husbands and Miss Falkner. They are both thoroughly practical, and as far
removed as possible from a superstitious love of marvels ; nor had they any
previous interest in this or any other class of abnormal experiences. So far

VOL. II. 2 B


as I could judge, Mr. Husbands' view of himself is entirely correct that he
is the last person to give a spurious importance to anything that might befall
him, or to allow facts to be distorted by imagination. As will be seen, his
account of his vision preceded any knowledge on his part of the death which
had occurred in the room. He has never had any other hallucination of the

Another case much resembling this, but in which the evidence for
identification of the figure is weaker, is that of Mrs. Lewin, in Proceedings
S.P.R., vol. v. p. 462.

745 D. From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. v. p. 466. In the following
case it is possible that a real person may have been mistaken for an
apparition, but the details, as reported, tell strongly against this view.
The account is given by Mrs. Clerke, 68 Redcliffe Square, S.W.


In the autumn of 1872, I stayed at Sorrento with my two daughters, and
established myself for some months at the Hotel Columella, which stands on
the high road, within half a mile of the town. My suite of apartments con-
sisted of a large drawing-room, ante-room, and three bedrooms ; it was shaped
like the letter U, and each end opened on a large terrace. The hotel was
kept by two men, Rafaelle and Angelo, and the service of the rooms was con-
ducted by their wives, a family arrangement which worked harmoniously for
the guests.

On the evening in question we left the dining-room before the tea was
finished, anxious, after the heat of the day, to enjoy the freshness and beauty
of the terrace. After a few moments, I returned to my bedroom to fetch a
candlestick and a shawl, and so much disliked going that I loitered un-
reasonably after I said I would go. I entered the ante-room and passed
through the long drawing-room, its porcelain tiling echoing my steps with a
sharp creak, till I reached my bedroom door. One side of the door stood open ;
it was a doorway divided in two, or as the French say, d deux battants, and I
resolved not to close it, as I perceived everything had been put in order for
the night

I got my shawl and my candlestick, and was preparing to return through
the drawing-room, when, on turning towards the half-open door, I saw it filled
by the figure of an old woman. She stood motionless, silent, immovable,
framed by the doorway, with an expression of despairing sadness, such as I
had never seen before. I don't know why I was frightened, but some idea of
its being an imbecile or mad woman flashed through my mind, and in an
unreasoning panic I turned from the drawing-room door, with its melancholy
figure, and fled through the bedrooms to the terrace. My daughter, on hearing
of my fright, returned to the rooms, but all was in its wonted stillness ; nothing
was to be seen.

The next morning I spoke to the women of the house of the old woman
who had come to my room, as I thought she might be in some way connected
with the establishment, and they were dismayed at my account of her, and
assured me that there was no one answering the description in the house. I
perceived there was much consternation caused by my narration, but paid little
attention to it at the time.


A fortnight afterwards we had a'visit from the parish priest, a friend of our
landlord, and the spiritual adviser of the family. At a loss for conversation, I
told him of my visitor, who arrived punctually at 8 o'clock, " Fora dti de/unii."
The padre listened to me with the greatest gravity, and said, after a pause :
" Madam, you have accurately described the old mistress of this house, who
died, six months before you came, in the room over yours. The people of the
hotel have been already with me about it ; it has caused them much anxiety
lest you should leave, and they recognised in your description the old padrona,
as she was called."

This explained to me various presents of fruit and special attentions I had
received. Nothing more came of it, and I saw the apparition no more. In
our walks we looked for even some semblance of the dress in which the woman
appeared, but never saw it. Short as my glance towards her was, I could have
painted her likeness had I been an artist. She was pale, of the thick pallor of
age, cold grey eyes, straight nose, thick bands of yellowish grey hair crossing
her forehead. She wore a lace cap with the border closely quilted all round, a
white handkerchief crossed over her chest, and a long white apron. Her face
was expressionless, but fixed and sad. I could not think she had any know-
ledge of where she was, or who stood before her, and certainly, for breaking
through the barrier of the unseen, it was a most objectless visit.

I ought to mention that I had no knowledge of there having been such a
person in existence until her likeness stood at my bedroom door.


In another letter Mrs. Clerke states that as far as she knew, the appari-
tion had not been seen again, but that the women of the house were afraid
afterwards of entering her room alone. She adds :

The peculiarity of it is my literally describing a person whom I had never
seen or known about. Every one was overwhelmed by the portraiture, even a
lady who had seen the old mistress.

Mr. Podmore adds the following notes of an interview with Mrs.

August i$tA, 1884.

Called on Mrs. Clerke to-day. She told me that she had never believed in
ghosts before, and now believed in very few besides her own. She was quite
sure that the description she gave of the figure was detailed enough to be
recognised. Indeed, the dress as she saw it, though like that actually worn
by the old mistress, was not a common one in the district. Mrs. Clerke never
saw one at all like it in Italy. When she saw the figure, the dress struck her
as being like that of an old Irish nurse of hers, and she told her daughter so,
when she rejoined them, adding that the face was quite unlike the nurse's.
Miss Clerke confirmed this statement to me.

Mrs. Clerke admitted that it would have been quite possible for the figure
which she saw, had it been that of a real woman, to have escaped. She is,
however, quite convinced that she saw a ghost ; partly because of the re-
semblance, partly because of the unreasonable terror which seized her when
she saw the figure, for she is not a nervous woman naturally.

There were no noises or other disturbances in the house during their stay.

F. P.

3 88 APPENDICES [747 A

747 A. The next case (taken from the/<?ra/S.P.R., vol. vi. p. 27)
is an instance of a kind of auditory hallucination, the hearing of music,
that seems to occur much more rarely than the hearing of voices. Some
similar cases also associated with deaths were published in Phantasms
of the Living. (See vol. ii. pp. 221 and 223.) The fact that the sounds
were heard collectively suggests at first sight that they may have been
real an explanation which it is always more difficult to exclude in auditory
than in visual cases. But the whole circumstances, when closely examined,
make this explanation an extremely unlikely one.

The following account was given by Miss Home, daughter of the
percipient, in a letter to which Mrs. Home's signature was afterwards
added, so that the account, though written in the third person, is really
a first-hand one.

508 UNION STREET, ABERDEEN, November -zyh, 1890.

It is nearly thirty years ago now, but it is as vividly impressed on her
memory, as if it had happened yesterday.

She was sitting in the dining-room (in a self-contained house), which was
behind the drawing-room, with Jamie, my eldest brother, on her knee, who
was then a baby scarcely two years old. The nurse had gone out for the
afternoon, and there was no one in the house except the maid downstairs.
The doors of the dining-room and drawing-room both happened to be open
at the time. All at once she heard the most divine music, very sad and sweet,
which lasted for about two minutes, then gradually died away. My brother
jumped from mamma's knee, exclaiming " Papa ! papa," and ran through to
the drawing-room. Mamma felt as if she could not move and rang the bell
for the servant, whom she told to go and see who was in the drawing-room.
When she went into the room, she found my brother standing beside the piano
and saying " No papa ! " Why the child should have exclaimed these words
was that papa was very musical, and used often to go straight to the piano
when he came home. Such was the impression on mamma that she noted the
time to a minute, and six weeks after she received a letter saying her sister had
died at the Cape, and the time corresponded exactly to the minute that she
had heard the music. I may tell you that my aunt was a very fine musician.

(Signed) December nth, 1890. [MRS.] ELIZA HORNE.

In answer to further inquiries, Miss Home wrote :

December nth, 1890.

I am sorry to say the note, which mamma took at the time, has been lost,
though she had it for more than twenty years after the event occurred.

The name of my aunt was Mary Sophia Ingles, she died on the 2oth
February 1861, at Durban, Natal. . . . Mamma bids me say that her note
corresponded not only to the hour but to the minute of her sister's death.

This account is followed in the same Journal by another case of a
collective hallucination of music heard a few hours after the funeral of
a musician.

751 A. The following case is in some respects one of the most remark-


able and best authenticated instances of " haunting" on record, although,
as will be seen, the evidence for the identity of the apparition is incon-
clusive. The case was fully described in a paper entitled " Record of a
Haunted House," by Miss R. C. Morton, in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. viii.
pp. 311-332. Besides the account of the principal percipient, MissR. C.
Morton, the paper contains independent first-hand statements from six
other witnesses, a friend, Miss Campbell, a sister and brother of Miss
Morton's who lived in the house, and a married sister who visited there,
and two former servants; also plans of the whole house. For the full
details I must refer the reader to the original paper ; I have space here
only for abbreviated extracts from Miss Morton's account.

An account of the case first came into my hands in December 1884,
and this with Miss Morton's letters to her friend, Miss Campbell, are
the earliest written records. On May ist, 1886, I called upon Captain
Morton at the " haunted house," and afterwards visited him at intervals,
and took notes of what he told me. I also saw Miss Morton and Miss
E. Morton, and the two former servants whose accounts are given in
Miss Morton's paper. The phenomena as seen or heard by all the
witnesses were very uniform in character, even in the numerous instances
where there had been no previous communication between the percipients.
Miss Morton is a lady of scientific training, and was at the time her
account was written, (in April, 1892) preparing to be a physician. The
name "Morton" is substituted for the real family name. With that
exception the names and initials are the true ones.

After describing the house and garden, Miss Morton proceeds :

It was built about the year 1860; the first occupant was Mr. S., an Anglo-
Indian, who lived in it for about sixteen years. During this time, in the month
of August, year uncertain, he lost his wife, to whom he was passionately
attached, and to drown his grief took to drinking. About two years later, Mr.
S. married again. His second wife, a Miss I. H., was in hopes of curing him
of his intemperate habits, but instead she also took to drinking, and their
married life was embittered by constant quarrels, frequently resulting in violent
scenes. The chief subjects of dispute were the management of the children
(two girls, and either one or two boys, all quite young) of the first Mrs. S., and
the possession of her jewellery, to preserve which for her children, Mr. S. had
some of the boards in the small front sitting-room taken up by a local carpenter
and the jewels inserted in the receptacle so formed. Finally, a few months
before Mr. S.'s death, on July i4th, 1876, his wife separated from him and
went to live in Clifton. She was not present at the time of his death, nor,
as far as is known, was she ever at the house afterwards. She died on
September 23rd, 1878.

After Mr. S.'s death the house was bought by Mr. L., an elderly gentleman,
who died rather suddenly within six months of going into it. The house then
remained empty for some years probably four.

During this time there is no direct evidence of haunting, but when inquiry
was made later on much hearsay evidence was brought forward. In April
1882, the house was let by the representatives of the late Mr. L. to Captain

39 o APPENDICES [751 A

Morton, and it is during his tenancy (not yet terminated) that the appearances
recorded have taken place.

The family consists of Captain M. himself ; his wife, who is a great invalid ;
neither of whom saw anything ; a married daughter, Mrs. K., then about
twenty-six, who was only a visitor from time to time, sometimes with, but more
often without, her husband; four unmarried daughters, myself, then aged
nineteen, who was the chief percipient and now give the chief account of the
apparition; E. Morton, then aged eighteen; L. and M. Morton, then fifteen
and thirteen ; two sons, one of sixteen, who was absent during the greater part
of the time when the apparition was seen ; the other, then six years old.

My father took the house in March 1882, none of us having then heard of
anything unusual about the house. We moved in towards the end of April,
and it was not until the following June that I first saw the apparition.

I had gone up to my room, but was not yet in bed, when I heard some one
at the door, and went to it, thinking it might be my mother. On opening the
door, I saw no one ; but on going a few steps along the passage, I saw the
figure of a tall lady, dressed in black, standing at the head of the stairs. After
a few moments she descended the stairs, and I followed for a short distance,
feeling curious what it could be. I had only a small piece of candle, and it
suddenly burnt itself out; and being unable to see more, I went back to
my room.

The figure was that of a tall lady, dressed in black of a soft woollen material,
judging from the slight sound in moving. The face was hidden in a hand-
kerchief held in the right hand. This is all I noticed then; but on further
occasions, when I was able to observe her more closely, I saw the upper part
of the left side of the forehead, and a little of the hair above. Her left hand
was nearly hidden by her sleeve and a fold of her dress. As she held it down
a portion of a widow's cuff was visible on both wrists, so that the whole im-
pression was that of a lady in widow's weeds. There was no cap on the head
but a general effect of blackness suggests a bonnet, with long veil or a hood.

During the next two years from 1882 to 1884 I saw the figure about
half-a-dozen times ; at first at long intervals, and afterwards at shorter, but I
only mentioned these appearances to one friend, who did not speak of them to
any one. During this period, as far as we know, there were only three appear-
ances to any one else.

1. In the summer of 1 882 to my sister, Mrs. K., when the figure was thought
to be that of a Sister of Mercy who had called at the house, and no further
curiosity was aroused. She was coming down the stairs rather late for dinner
at 6.30, it being then quite light, when she saw the figure cross the hall in front
of her, and pass into the drawing-room. She then asked the rest of us, already
seated at dinner, " Who was that Sister of Mercy whom I have just seen going
into the drawing-room?" She was told there was no such person, and a
servant was sent to look; but the drawing-room was empty, and she was sure
no one had come in. Mrs. K. persisted that she had seen a tall figure in black,
with some white about it ; but nothing further was thought of the matter.

2. In the autumn of 1883 it was seen by the housemaid about 10 P.M., she
declaring that some one had got into the house, her description agreeing fairly
with what I had seen; but as on searching no one was found, her story received
no credit.

3. On or about December i8th, 1883, it was seen in the drawing-room by


my brother and another little boy. They were playing outside on the terrace
when they saw the figure in the drawing-room close to the window, and ran in
to see who it could be that was crying so bitterly. They found no one in
the drawing-room, and the parlour-maid told them that no one had come into
the house.

After the first time, I followed the figure several times downstairs into the
drawing-room, where she remained a variable time, generally standing to the
right hand side of the bow window. From the drawing-room she went along
the passage towards the garden door, where she always disappeared.

The first time I spoke to her was on January 29th, 1884. "I opened the
drawing-room door softly and went in, standing just by it. She came in past
me and walked to the sofa and stood still there, so I went up to her and asked
her if I could help her. She moved, and I thought she was going to speak,
but she only gave a slight gasp and moved towards the door. Just by the door
I spoke to her again, but she seemed as if she were quite unable to speak. She
walked into the hall, then by the side door she seemed to disappear as before."
(Quoted from a letter written on January 3ist.) In May and June, 1884, I
tried some experiments, fastening strings with marine glue across the stairs at
different heights from the ground of which I give a more detailed account
later on.

I also attempted to touch her, but she always eluded me. It was not that
there was nothing there to touch, but that she always seemed to be beyond
me, and if followed into a corner, simply disappeared.

During these two years the only noises I heard were those of slight pushes
against my bedroom door, accompanied by footsteps ; and if I looked out on
hearing these sounds, I invariably saw the figure. " Her footstep is very light,
you can hardly hear it, except on the linoleum, and then only like a person
walking softly with thin boots on." (Letter on January 31 st, 1884.) The appear-
ances during the next two months July and August, 1884 became much more
frequent; indeed they were then at their maximum, from which time they seem
gradually to have decreased, until now they seem to have ceased.

Of these two months I have a short record in a set of journal letters written

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 52 of 89)