Frederic William Henry Myers.

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

. (page 6 of 89)
Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 89)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


en bas, dans la cuisine. Voila tout ce que je puis vous dire relativement a cet
incident. W. POTOLOF.

Note by the collector :

S. PETERSBOURG, Le 16/28 Mai, 1891.

Traduit des manuscrits russes de M. et Madame Mamtchitch, et de M.
Potolof. La premiere partie du manuscrit de M. Mamtchitch, jusqu'a la
premiere apparition de Palladia, est abre'ge'e.

J'avais rencontre" M. Mamtchitch plusieurs fois, mais je n'avais aucune ide"e
de ces apparitions constantes de Palladia. M. Mamtchitch a vu aussi d'autres
figures que celle de Palladia, mais je n'ai pas eu le temps d'en faire un
memorandum circonstantiel. A. AKSAKOFF.

Among repeated apparitions this case at present stands almost alone ;
its parallels will be found when we come to deal with the persistent
" controls," or alleged communicating spirits, which influence trance-
utterance or automatic script.

A case bearing some resemblance to Palladia's is given in Proceedings
S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 233, the main difference being that the repeated com-
munications are there made in dream. I add in 714 A another case,
where the deceased person seems to make repeated efforts to impress
on survivors a wish prompted by continued affection.



26 CHAPTER VII [715

715. Less uncommon are the cases where an apparition, occurring
singly and not repeated, indicates a continued knowledge of the affairs
of earth. That knowledge, indeed, runs mainly, as we shall presently see,
in two directions. There is often knowledge of some circumstance con-
nected with the deceased person's own death, as the appearance of his
body after dissolution, or the place of its temporary deposit or final burial.
And there is often knowledge of the impending or actual death of some
friend of the deceased person's. On the view here taken of the gradual
passage from the one environment into the other, both these kinds of
knowledge seem probable enough. I think it likely that some part of the
consciousness after death may for some time be dreamily occupied with
the physical scene. And similarly, when some surviving friend is gradu-
ally verging towards the same dissolution, the fact may be readily per-
ceptible in the spiritual world. When the friend has actually died, the
knowledge which his predecessor may have of his transition is knowledge
appertaining to events of the next world as much as of this.

716. But apart from this information, acquired perhaps on the border-
land between two states, apparitions do sometimes imply a perception of
more definitely terrene events, such as the moral crises (as marriage,
grave quarrels, or impending crimes) of friends left behind on earth. I
quote in 716 A a specimen of this class, a case of impressive warning,
in which the phantom was seen by two persons, one of whom had already
had a less evidential experience.

A word as to the light thrown on each other by these two successive
experiences of the same percipient. The latter experience, as will have
been seen, is strongly evidential. The nature of the warning given is
such that the case would hardly have been communicated to us, even for
anonymous publication, except under a grave sense of its importance.
The former experience lacks, by its nature, coincidental proof. The
daughter knew of her father's death ; she hoped, although uncertainly,
that all was well with him ; and the vision announcing his bliss might
thus have been the creation of her own mind. It was a " vision of con-
solation " of a frequent type a type excluded from our evidential reckon-
ings. Yet I can hardly suppose that of the two visions thus similar the
one was really due to spiritual agency and the other was not. I regard
each as corroborating and lending weight to the other.

I add in 716 B another case of similar type, the message in which,
while felt by the percipient to be convincing and satisfactory, was
held too private to be communicated in detail. It is plain that just in
the cases where the message is most intimately veracious, the greatest
difficulty is likely to be felt as to making it known to strangers.

I have already given a case (in 714) where a departed spirit seems to
show a sympathetic anticipation of a marriage some time before it is
contemplated. In another case, given in 716 C, the percipient, Mrs. V.,
describes a vision of a mother's form suspended, as it were, in a church



717] PHANTASMS OF THE DEAD 27

where her son is undergoing the rite of confirmation. That vision,
indeed, might have been purely subjective, as Mrs. V. was familiar with
the departed mother's aspect; though value is given to it by the fact
that Mrs. V. has had other experiences which included evidential
coincidences.

717. From these instances of knowledge shown by the departed of
events which seem wholly terrene, I pass to knowledge of events which
seem in some sense more nearly concerned with the spirit-world. We
have, as already hinted, a considerable group- of cases where a spirit seems
to be aware of the impending death of a survivor. In some few of those
cases the foreknowledge is entirely inexplicable by any such foresight as
we mortals can imagine. But those cases I shall not cite here ; de-
ferring them until the whole question of the limits of spiritual precogni-
tion comes to be discussed in a later chapter. In the cases to which I
shall now allude the degree of foresight seems not greater than that of
ordinary spectators, except in the case to be first given, where, though
the family did not foresee the death, a physician might, for aught we
know, have been able to anticipate it. However explained, the case is
one of the best-attested, and in itself one of the most remarkable, that
we possess.

The account, which I quote from Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vi. p. 17,
was sent in 1887 to the American Society for Psychical Research by
Mr. F. G., of Boston. Professor Royce and Dr. Hodgson vouch for the
high character and good position of the informants ; and it will be seen
that, besides the percipient himself, his father and brother are first-hand
witnesses as regards the most important point, the effect produced by
a certain symbolic item in the phantom's aspect. Mr. G. writes :

January nth, 1888.

SIR, Replying to the recently published request of your Society for actual
occurrences of psychical phenomena, I respectfully submit the following remark-
able occurrence to the consideration of your distinguished Society, with the
assurance that the event made a more powerful impression on my mind than
the combined incidents of my whole life. I have never mentioned it outside of
my family and a few intimate friends, knowing well that few would believe it, or
else ascribe it to some disordered state of my mind at the time; but I well know
I never was in better health or possessed a clearer head and mind than at
the time it occurred.

In 1867 my only sister, a young lady of eighteen years, died suddenly of
cholera in St. Louis, Mo. My attachment for her was very strong, and the
blow a severe one to me. A year or so after her death the writer became a
commercial traveller, and it was in 1876, while on one of my Western trips, that
the event occurred.

I had " drummed " the city of St Joseph, Mo., and had gone to my room at
the Pacific House to send in my orders, which were unusually large ones, so
that I was in a very happy frame of mind indeed. My thoughts, of course,
were about these orders, knowing how pleased my house would be at my
success. I had not been thinking of my late sister, or in any manner reflecting



28 CHAPTER VII [717

on the past. The hour was high noon, and the sun was shining cheerfully into
my room. While busily smoking a cigar and writing out my orders, I sud-
denly became conscious that some one was sitting on my left, with one arm
resting on the table. Quick as a flash I turned and distinctly saw the form of
my dead sister, and for a brief second or so looked her squarely in the face ;
and so sure was I that it was she, that I sprang forward in delight, calling her
by name, and, as I did so, the apparition instantly vanished. Naturally I was
startled and dumbfounded, almost doubting my senses ; but the cigar in my
mouth, and pen in hand, with the ink still moist on my letter, I satisfied myself
I had not been dreaming and was wide awake. I was near enough to touch
her, had it been a physical possibility, and noted her features, expression, and
details of dress, &c. She appeared as if alive. Her eyes looked kindly and
perfectly natural into mine. Her skin was so life-like that I could see the glow
or moisture on its surface, and, on the whole, there was no change in her
appearance, otherwise than when alive.

Now comes the most remarkable confirmation of my statement, which cannot
be doubted by those who know what I state actually occurred. This visitation,
or whatever you may call it, so impressed me that I took the next train home,
and in the presence of my parents and others I related what had occurred.
My father, a man of rare good sense and very practical, was inclined to ridicule
me, as he saw how earnestly I believed what I stated ; but he, too, was amazed
when later on I told them of a bright red line or scratch on the right-hand side
of my sister's face, which I distinctly had seen. When I mentioned this my
mother rose trembling to her feet and nearly fainted away, and as soon as she
sufficiently recovered her self-possession, with tears streaming down her face,
she exclaimed that I had indeed seen my sister, as no living mortal but herself
was aware of that scratch, which she had accidentally made while doing some
little act of kindness after my sister's death. She said she well remembered how
pained she was to think she should have, unintentionally, marred the features of
her dead daughter, and that unknown to all, how she had carefully obliterated
all traces of the slight scratch with the aid of powder, &c., and that she had
never mentioned it to a human being from that day to this. In proof, neither
my father nor any of our family had detected it, and positively were unaware of
the incident, yet / saw the scratch as bright as if just made. So strangely
impressed was my mother, that even after she had retired to rest she got up and
dressed, came to me and told me she knew at least that I had seen my sister.
A few weeks later my mother died, happy in her belief she would rejoin her
favourite daughter in a better world.

In a further letter Mr. F. G. adds :

There was nothing of a spiritual or ghostly nature in either the form or
dress of my sister, she appearing perfectly natural, and dressed in clothing that
she usually wore in life, and which was familiar to me. From her position at
the table, I could only see her from the waist up, and her appearance and
everything she wore is indelibly photographed in my mind. I even had time to
notice the collar and little breastpin she wore, as well as the comb in her hair,
after the style then worn by young ladies. The dress had no particular associa-
tion for me or my mother, no more so than others she was in the habit of
wearing; but to-day, while I have forgotten all her other dresses, pins, and
combs, I could go to her trunk (which we have just as she left it) and pick out



717] PHANTASMS OF THE DEAD 29

the very dress and ornaments she wore when she appeared to me, so well do I
remember it.

You are correct in understanding that I returned home earlier than I had
intended, as it had such an effect on me that I could hardly think of any
other matter ; in fact, I abandoned a trip that I had barely commenced, and,
ordinarily, would have remained on the road a month longer.

Mr. F. G. again writes to Dr. Hodgson, January 23rd, 1888 :

As per your request, I enclose a letter from my father which is indorsed by
my brother, confirming the statement I made to them of the apparition I had
seen. I will add that my father is one of the oldest and most respected citizens

of St. Louis, Mo., a retired merchant, whose winter residence is at , Ills.,

a few miles out by rail. He is now seventy years of age, but a remarkably
well-preserved gentleman in body and mind, and a very learned man as well.
As I informed you, he is slow to believe things that reason cannot explain.
My brother, who indorses the statement, has resided in Boston for twelve years,

doing business on Street, as per letter-head above, and the last man in

the world to take stock in statements without good proof. The others who
were present (including my mother) are now dead, or were then so young as to
now have but a dim remembrance of the matter.

You will note that my father refers to the " scratch," and it was this that
puzzled all, even himself, and which we have never been able to account for,
further than that in some mysterious way I had actually seen my sister nine
years after death, and had particularly noticed and described to my parents
and family this bright red scratch, and which, beyond all doubt in our minds,
was unknown to a soul save my mother, who had accidentally caused it.

When I made my statement, all, of course, listened and were interested;
but the matter would probably have passed with comments that it was a freak
of memory had not I asked about the scratch, and the instant I mentioned it
my mother was aroused as if she had received an electric shock, as she had
kept it secret from all, and she alone was able to explain it. My mother was a
sincere Christian lady, who was for twenty-five years superintendent of a large
infant class in her church, the Southern Methodist, and a directress in many
charitable institutions, and was highly educated. No lady at the time stood
higher in the city of St. Louis, and she was, besides, a woman of rare good
sense.

I mention these points to give you an insight into the character and standing
of those whose testimony, in such a case, is necessary.

(Signed) F. G.

From Mr. H. G. :

, ILLS., January 2oM, 1888.

DEAR F., Yours of i6th inst. is received. In reply to your questions
relating to your having seen our Annie, while at St. Joseph, Mo., I will state
that I well remember the statement you made to family on your return home.
I remember your stating how she looked in ordinary home dress, and parti-
cularly about the scratch (or red spot) on her face, which you could not account
for, but which was fully explained by your mother. The spot was made while
adjusting something about her head while in the casket, and covered with
powder. All who heard you relate the phenomenal sight thought it was



30 CHAPTER VII [717

true. You well know how sceptical I am about things which reason cannot
explain.

(Signed) H. G. (father).

I was present at the time and indorse the above.

(Signed) K. G. (brother).

The apparent redness of the scratch on the face of the apparition goes
naturally enough with the look of life in the face. The phantom did not
appear as a corpse, but as a blooming girl, and the scratch showed as it
would have shown if made during life.

Dr. Hodgson visited Mr. F. G. later, and sent us the following notes
of his interview :

ST. Louis, Mo., April i6tA, 1890.

In conversation with Mr. F. G., now forty-three years of age, he says that
there was a very special sympathy between his mother, sister, and himself.

When he saw the apparition he was seated at a small table, about two feet
in diameter, and had his left elbow on the table. The scratch which he saw
was on the right side of his sister's nose, about three-fourths of an inch long,
and was a somewhat ragged mark. His home at the time of the incident was
in St. Louis. His mother died within two weeks after the incident. His sister's
face was hardly a foot away from his own. The sun was shining upon it through
the open window. The figure disappeared like an instantaneous evaporation.

Mr. G. has had another experience, but of a somewhat different character.
Last fall the impression persisted for some time of a lady friend of his, and he
could not rid himself for some time of thoughts of her. He found afterwards
that she died at the time of the curious persistence of his impression.

Mr. G. appears to be a first-class witness.

R. HODGSON.

I have ranked this case primd facie as a perception by the spirit of her
mother's approaching death. That coincidence is too marked to be ex-
plained away : the son is brought home in time to see his mother once
more by perhaps the only means which would have succeeded ; and the
mother herself is sustained by the knowledge that her daughter loves and
awaits her. Mr. Podmore l has suggested, on the other hand, that the
daughter's figure was a mere projection from the mother's mind : a con-
ception which has scarcely any analogy to support it ; for the one ancient
case of Wesermann's projection of a female figure to a distance (already
recounted in 668 G) remains, I think, the sole instance where an agent
has generated a hallucinatory figure or group of figures which did not, at
any rate, include his own. I mean that he may spontaneously project a
picture of himself as he is or dreams himself to be situated, perhaps with
other figures round him, but not, so far as our evidence goes, the single
figure of some one other than himself. Whilst not assuming that this rule
can have no exceptions, I see no reason for supposing that it has been
transgressed in the present case. Nay, I think that the very fact that the

1 See " Phantasms of the Dead from another point of view," Proceedings S.P.R.,
vol. vi. p. 291.



719] PHANTASMS OF THE DEAD 31

figure was not that of the corpse with the dull mark on which the mother's
regretful thoughts might dwell, but was that of the girl in health and
happiness, with the symbolic red mark worn simply as a test of identity,
goes far to show that it was not the mother's mind from whence that image
came. As to the spirit's own knowledge of the fate of the body after
death, a subsequent group of cases will, I think, show that this specific
form of post-mortem perception is not unusual (see 730 and 731 A).

I add in Appendices three other cases where the impending death of
a survivor seems to be indicated. 1 In one of them the apparition of a
floating female figure to two officers (717 C) the identification of that
figure as the wife of the dying man is very imperfect. But the appear-
ance of the figure to two persons collectively is well attested, and this is,
at any rate, the explanation most in accordance with analogy.

718. I place next by themselves a small group of cases which have
the interest of uniting the group just recounted, where the spirit anticipates
the friend's departure, with the group next to be considered, where the
spirit welcomes the friend already departed from earth. This class forms
at the same time a natural extension of the clairvoyance of the dying
exemplified in some " reciprocal " cases (e.g. in the case of Miss W., where
a dying aunt has a vision of her little niece who sees an apparition of
her at the same time ; see Phantasms of the Living, vol. ii. p. 253).
Just as the approaching severance of spirit from body there aided the
spirit to project its observation among incarnate spirits at a distance
upon this earth, so here does that same approaching severance enable
the dying person to see spirits who are already in the next world.
It is not very uncommon for dying persons to say, or to indicate when
beyond speech, that they see spirit friends apparently near them. But,
of course, such vision becomes evidential only when the dying person is
unaware that the friend whose spirit he sees has actually departed, or is
just about to depart, from earth. Such a conjuncture must plainly be
rare ; it is even rather surprising that these " Peak in Darien " cases, as
Miss Cobbe has termed them in a small collection which she made
some years ago, should be found at all. We can add to Miss Cobbe's
cases two of fair attestation, which I give in 718 A and B.

719. From this last group, then, there is scarcely a noticeable transi-
tion to the group where departed spirits manifest their knowledge that
some friend who survived them has now passed on into their world. That
such recognition and welcome does in fact take place, later evidence,
drawn especially from trance-utterances, will give good ground to believe.
Only rarely, however, will such welcome taking place as it does in the
spiritual world be reflected by apparitions in this. When so reflected, it
may take different forms, from an actual utterance of sympathy, as from
a known departed friend, down to a mere silent presence, perhaps inex-

1 For some curious parallels to these modern cases from savage beliefs, see
Mr. Andrew Lang's Myth, Ritual, and Religion, vol. i. pp. 105-6.



32 CHAPTER VII [719

plicable except to those who happen to have known some long prede-
ceased friend of the decedent's.

I quote in full one of the most complete cases of this type, which was
brought to us by the Census of Hallucinations {Proceedings S.P.R., vol. x.
pp. 380-82).

From Miss L. Dodson :

September \$tk, 1891.

On June 5th, 1887, a Sunday evening, 1 between eleven and twelve at night,
being awake, my name was called three times. I answered twice, thinking it
was my uncle, " Come in, Uncle George, I am awake," but the third time I
recognised the voice as that of my mother, who had been dead sixteen years.
I said, " Mamma ! " She then came round a screen near my bedside with two
children in her arms, and placed them in my arms and put the bedclothes over
them and said, " Lucy, promise me to take care of them, for their mother is
just dead." I said, "Yes, mamma." She repeated, "Promise me to take care
of them." I replied, "Yes, I promise you ; " and I added, " Oh, mamma, stay
and speak to me, I am so wretched." She replied, " Not yet, my child," then
she seemed to go round the screen again, and I remained, feeling the children
to be still in my arms, and fell asleep. When I awoke there was nothing.
Tuesday morning, June 7th, I received the news of my sister-in-law's death.
She had given birth to a child three weeks before, which I did not know till
after her death.

I was in bed, but not asleep, and the room was lighted by a gaslight in the
street outside. I was out of health, and in anxiety about family troubles. My
age was forty-two. I was quite alone. I mentioned the circumstance to my
uncle the next morning. He thought I was sickening for brain fever. [I have
had other experiences, but] only to the extent of having felt a hand laid on my
head, and sometimes on my hands, at times of great trouble.

LUCY DODSON.

The collector, Mr. C. H. Cope, writes in answer to our questions :

BRUSSELS, October i"jtA, 1891.
I have received replies from Miss Dodson to your inquiries.

(1) "Yes [I was] perfectly awake [at the time]."

(2) "Was she in anxiety about her sister-in-law?" "None whatever; I
did not know a second baby had been born ; in fact, had not the remotest idea
of my sister-in-law's illness."

(3) " Did she think at the time that the words about the children's mother
having just died referred to her sister-in-law ? Had she two children ? " " No,
I was at a total loss to imagine whose children they were."

(4) " I was living in Albany Street, Regent's Park, at the time. My sister-
in-law, as I heard afterwards, was confined at St. Andre" (near Bruges), and
removed to Bruges three days prior to her death. (N.B. She had two
children including the new-born baby.) "

(5) " My late uncle only saw business connections, and having no relations
or personal friends in London, save myself, would not have been likely to
mention the occurrence to any one."

1 We have ascertained that this date was a Sunday.



719] PHANTASMS OF THE DEAD 33

Mr. Cope also sent us a copy of the printed announcement of the
death, which Miss Dodson had received. It was dated, " Bruges, June yth,
1887," and gave the date of death as June 5th. He quotes from Miss
Dodson's letter to him, enclosing it, as follows: "[My friend], Mrs.
Grange, tells me she saw [my sister-in-law] a couple of hours prior to her
death, which took place about nine o'clock on the evening of June 5th,
and it was between eleven and twelve o'clock the same night my mother
brought me the two little children."

Professor Sidgwick writes :

November 23rd, 1892.

I have just had an interesting conversation with Miss Dodson and her
friend, Mrs. Grange.

Miss Dodson told me that she was not thinking of her brother or his wife
at this time, as her mind was absorbed by certain other matters. But the
brother was an object of special concern to her, as her mother on her death-
bed, in 1871, had specially charged her and she had promised to take care



Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 89)