Frederic William Henry Myers.

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

. (page 9 of 89)
Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 89)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


As I was going to Mr. Reeves' house that afternoon my sister asked me to
tell Mr. Reeves about Russell's death and ask him about the singing. I called
at 1 22 1 California Street about three o'clock that afternoon, and had been
in the parlour some twenty minutes talking with Miss Kavanagh (Mr.
Reeves' niece), when we heard Mr. Reeves' exclamation on the stairs, and I
followed Miss Kavanagh to see what the trouble was. We found Mr. R. sitting
on the stairs in his shirt sleeves and evidently very much frightened. Miss K.
brought him a glass of wine, also a glass of water, but I think he did not touch
either. After a couple of minutes Mr. R. went up to his room, and Miss
Kavanagh asked me to go up and see if he was all right, as she was afraid to
go. I went up and found Mr. Reeves sitting down on a chair near the window
with his legs crossed. He had no coat or vest, collar or necktie on, and the
perspiration seemed to roll off him. He seemed greatly agitated, but in a few
minutes he told me his story, and I left him. In about five minutes he came
downstairs and began to talk about it, and continually said, " It is the strangest
thing; I can't understand it." GOLDWIN S. SPRAGUE.

727. The next case is even more remarkable. It is a deflected fulfil-
ment, occurring two days before death, and probably during sleep ; the
agent has made a promise to one friend, but is only perceptible to
another person who happens to be in that friend's company. We may
compare a case quoted in our last chapter, where a brother, presumably
wishing to appear to his sister, is perceived only by the sister's black nurse
(see section 651). The following is quoted from the "Report on the
Census of Hallucinations " in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. x. p. 284.



727] PHANTASMS OF THE DEAD 49

From COUNTESS EUGENIE KAPNIST.

June 24*6, iSgi.

A Talta, en FeVrier, 1889, nous fimes la connaissance de M. P. et de sa
femme, passant la soiree chez des amis communs qui avaient tenu a nous
r^unir. A cette dpoque, M. P. souffrait de*jk d'une phthisic assez avance'e ;
il venait de perdre, a Pe"tersbourg, son frere, atteint de la meme maladie.
On pria ma sceur de faire un peu de musique, et elle choisit au hasard le
Prelude de Mendelssohn. A mon e'tonnement je vis M. P., que nous ne
connaissions, que de ce soir, aller, tres e'motionne', prendre place aupres du
piano, et suivre avec une espece d'anxi^te" le jeu de ma soeur. Lorsqu'elle
cut fini, il dit que pour quelques instants elle venait de faire ressusciter son
frere, executant absolument de la meme maniere ce morceau, qu'il jouait
frdquemment. Depuis, en voyant ma soeur, il aimait particulierement a causer
avec elle. Je puis certifier ainsi qu'elle une conversation que nous eumes k
une soire'e, au mois de Mars. Nous parlions de la mort, chose fre'quente k
Talta, toujours peuple'e de malades : " Savez-vous," disait-il k ma soeur, " il me
semble toujours que mon esprit est tres proche du votre ; j'ai la certitude de
vous avoir de"jk connue ; nous avons dans la re'alite' une preuve que ce n'est pas
en ce monde ce sera que je vous aurais vue durant quelqu'autre vie pre'ce'dente "
(il e'tait un peu spirite). " Ainsi done, si je meurs avant vous, ce qui-est bien
probable, vu ma maladie, je reviendrai vers vous, si cela m'est possible, et je
vous apparaitrai de facon k ne pas vous effrayer de'sagre'ablement." Ma sceur
lui re"pondit, prenant la chose tres au se"rieux, qu'elle lui rendrait la pareille si
elle mourait la premiere, et j'^tais te"moin de cette promesse mutuelle.

Ndanmoins nous fimes k peine connaissance de maison; nous nous
rencontrions parfois chez des amis communs, et nous le voyions souvent se
promener sur le quai dans un paletot couleur noisette qui excitait notre hilarite"
et qui nous resta dans la me'moire je ne sais plus pourquoi. Au mois de Mai,
nous partions de Talta, et depuis nous eumes tant d'impressions diverses, nous
vimes tant de monde, que jusqu'k Thiver suivant nous oubliames comple'tement
M. P. et sa femme, qui reprdsentaient pour nous des connaissances comme on
en a par centaines dans la vie.

Nous e'tions k Pe'tersbourg. Le il Mars, c'e*tait un lundi de Careme en
1890, nous allames au theatre voir une representation de la troupe des
Meiningner. Je crois qu'on donnait Le Marchand de Venise. Mile. B. e'tait
avec nous, venue de Tsarskoe" k cette occasion. La piece termine*e, nous
n'eumes que le temps de rentrer k la maison changer de toilette, apres quoi
nous accompagnames Mile. B. k la gare. Elle partait avec le dernier train,
qui quitte pour Tsarskoe' Se"lo k I heure de la nuit. Nous Pinstallames en
wagon, et ne 1'y laissames qu'apres la seconde cloche de depart.

Notre domestique allait bien en avant de nous, afin de retrouver notre
voiture, de maniere que, gagnant le perron, nous la trouvames avance'e qui
nous attendait. Ma soeur s'assit la premiere ; moi je la fis attendre, descen-
dant plus doucement les marches de 1'escalier; le domestique tenait la portiere
du landau ouverte. Je montai k demi, sur le marchepied, et soudain je
m'arretai dans cette pose, tellement surprise que je ne compris plus ce qui
m'arrivait. II faisait sombre dans la voiture, et pourtant en face de ma soeur,
la regardant, je vis dans un petit jour gris qu'on cut dit factice, s'e*claircissant
vers le point qui attachait le plus mes yeux, une figure k la silhouette e'mousse'e
diaphane, plut6t qu'inde'cise. Cette vision dura un instant, pendant lequel,

VOL. II. D



50 CHAPTER VII [727

pourtant, mes yeux prirent connaissance des moindres details de ce visage, qui
me sembla connu : des traits assez pointus, une raie un peu de c6te", un nez
prononce', un menton tres maigre a barbe rare et d'un blond fence*. Ce qui me
frappe, lorsque j'y pense a present, c'est d'avoir vu les diffe"rentes couleurs,
malgre" que la lueur grisatre, qui e"clairait a peine 1'inconnu, cut e'te' insuffisante
pour les distinguer dans un cas normal. II dtait sans chapeau, et en meme
temps dans un paletot comme on en porte au sud de couleur plutot claire
noisette. Toute sa personne avait un cachet de grande fatigue et de maigreur.
Le domestique, tres e'tonne' de ne pas me voir monter, arrete'e ainsi sur le
marchepied, crut que j'avais marche' dans ma robe et m'aida a m'asseoir,
pendant que je demandais a ma sceur, en prenant place a cote' d'elle, si c'e'tait
bien notre voiture? A tel point j'avais perdu la tete, ayant senti un vrai
engourdissement de cerveau en voyant cet Stranger installe" en face d'elle, je
ne m'e"tais pas rendu compte que, dans le cas d'une presence re'elle d'un
semblable vis-a-vis, ni ma soeur, ni le valet de pied ne resteraient si calme-
ment a 1'envisager. Lorsque je fus assise, je ne vis plus rien, et je demandais
a ma soeur :" N'as-tu rien vu en face de toi?" "Rien du tout, et quelle
idde as-tu cue de demander, en entrant dans la voiture, si c'e'tait bien la
notre ? " rdpondit-elle en riant. Alors, je lui racontais tout ce qui pre'ce'de,
ddcrivant minutieusement ma vision. " Quelle figure connue," disait-elle, " et
a paletot noisette, cette raie de c6td, ou done 1'avons nous vue ? Pourtant nul
ne ressemble ici a ta description ; " et nous nous creusions la tete sans rien
trouver. Rentre*es a la maison, nous racontames ce fait a notre mere ; ma
description la fit aussi souvenir vaguement d'un visage analogue. Le lende-
main soir (12 Mars) un jeune homme de notre connaissance, M. M. S., vint
nous voir. Je lui re'pe'tais aussi 1'incident qui nous e*tait arrive". Nous en
parlames beaucoup, mais inutilement; je ne pouvais toujours pas appliquer
le nom voulu a la personnalite" de ma vision, tout en me souvenant fort bien
avoir vu un visage tout pareil parmi mes nombreuses connaissances ; mais
ou et a quelle e'poque ? Je ne me souvenais de rien, avec ma mauvaise
me"moire qui me fait souvent de"faut, a ce sujet. Quelques jours plus tard, nous
dtions chez la grandmere de M. M. S. : " Savez vous," nous dit-elle, " quelle
triste nouvelle je viens de recevoir de Talta ? M. P. vient de mourir, mais
on ne me donne pas de details." Ma soeur et moi, nous nous regardames.
A ce nom, la figure pointue et le paletot noisette retrouverent leur possesseur.
Ma sceur reconnut en meme temps que moi, grace a ma description precise.
Lorsque M. M. S. entra, je le priai de chercher dans les vieux journaux la
date exacte de cette mort. Le de"ces e*tait marque 1 au 14 du mois de Mars,
done, deux jours aprh la vision que j'avais cue. J'e'crivis a Talta pour avoir
des renseignements. On me re"pondit qu'il gardait le lit depuis le 24
Novembre et qu'il avait die* depuis dans un tat de faiblesse extreme, mais le
sommeil ne Pavait point quitte*; il dormait si longtemps et si profonde'ment,
m6me durant les dernieres nuits de son existence, que cela faisait espeVer une
amelioration. Nous nous etonnions de ce que j'aie vu M. P., maigre' sa
promesse de se montrer a ma soeur. Mais je dois ajouter ici qu'avant le fait
ddcrit ci-dessus, j'avais e'te voyante un certain nombre de fois, mais cette
vision est bien celle que j'ai distingue'e le plus nettement, avec des details
minutieux, et avec les teintes diverses du visage humain, et meme du
vetement.

COMTESSE EUGENIE KAPNIST.

COMTESSE INA KAPNIST.



729] PHANTASMS OF THE DEAD 51

The second signature is that of the sister who was present at the time.
Mr. Michael Petrovo-Solovovo, who sent us the case, writes :

I have much pleasure in certifying that the fact of Countess Kapnist's
vision was mentioned, among others, to myself before the news of Mr. P.'s
death came to Petersburg. I well remember seeing an announcement of his
demise in the papers.

This case suggests an important practical reflection. When a compact
to appear, if possible, after death is made, it should be understood that
the appearance need not be to the special partner in the compact, but to
any one whom the agent can succeed in impressing. It is likely
enough that many such attempts, which have failed on account of the
surviving friend's lack of appropriate sensitivity, might have succeeded if
the agent had tried to influence some one already known to be capable
of receiving these impressions. I add in 727 A and B two other cases
which may be regarded as deflected fulfilments. See also a case given
in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. v. p. 440, in which a lady, having made a com-
pact with her husband and also with a friend, her phantom is seen after
her death by her husband and daughter and the latter's nurse, collec-
tively ; but not by the friend, who was living elsewhere.

728. Again, we cannot tell how long the spirit may continue the
effort, or, so to say, renew the experiment. In a case recorded in Pro-
ceedings S.P.R., vol. x. p. 378, the compact is fulfilled after a space of
five years. In another case (given in 728 A), there had been no formal
compact ; yet the narrative may find place here. There is an attempt
to express gratitude on an anniversary of death ; and this implies the
same kind of mindful effort as the fulfilment of a definite promise.

I conclude this group by quoting in 728 B another compact case
where the apparition coincides with a funeral, and itself indicates that a
funeral is preparing. This forms a transition to the next group.

729. I have now traced certain post-mortem manifestations which
reveal a recollection of events known at death, and also a persistence of
purpose in carrying out intentions formed before death. In this next
group I shall trace the knowledge of the departed a little further, and shall
discuss some cases where they appear cognisant of the aspect of their
bodies after death, or of the scenes in which those bodies are temporarily
deposited or finally laid. Such knowledge may appear trivial, unworthy
the attention of spirits transported into a higher world. But it is in
accordance with the view of a gradual transference of interests and per-
ceptions, a period of intermediate confusion, such as may follow espe-
cially upon a death of a sudden or violent kind, or perhaps upon a death
which interrupts very strong affections.

Thus we have already (in 717) encountered one striking case of this
type, the scratch on the cheek, perceived by the departed daughter, as
we may conjecture, by reason of the close sympathy which united her to
the mother who was caring for her remains.



52 CHAPTER VII [730

There are also two cases closely resembling each other, though from
percipients in widely different parts of the world, where a clairvoyant
vision seems to be presented of a tranquil death-chamber. One of these
has been quoted in Chapter VI., section 664. In the other (that of Mr.
Hector of Valencia, South Australia, see Phantasms of the Living, vol. i.
P- 353) tne percipient sees in a dream his father dying in the room he
usually occupied, with a candle burning on a chair by his bed ; and the
father is found dead in the morning, with a candle by his bedside in the
position seen in the dream. Perhaps in neither of these cases is there
any sure indication that the dead or dying person was cognisant of his
own body's aspect or surroundings. There may have been a clairvoyant
excursion on the percipient's part, evoked by some ^impulse from the
agent which did not itself develop into distinctness.

730. But in certain cases of violent death there seems to have been
an intention on the deceased person's part to show the condition in which
his body is left. Such was Mrs. Storie's dream, or rather series of visions,
referred to earlier in this chapter. Such, too, was Mrs. Menneer's dream
(429 A), where the additional evidence obtained since our first publica-
tion of the case brings out a special meaning in the severed head, beyond
the mere fact of decapitation. Such was an equally striking dream, which
I have left for quotation in this place, because it forms a link between this
group where post-mortem knowledge of the body's aspect is in ques-
tion and the next following group, which will deal with the still stranger
phenomenon of post-mortem knowledge of dissemination of the news of
death. The case is taken from Proceedings S.P.R., vol. iii. (1885 ) p. 95.

Mr. D., the narrator, did not wish his name to be published, but
Gurney saw him, and talked over the subject with him. Mr. D. narrates
as follows :

I am the owner of a very old mechanical business in Glasgow, with for
twenty years past a branch in London, where I have resided for that period,
and in both of which places my professional reputation is of the highest order.

Some thirty-five years ago I took into my employment a tender, delicate-
looking boy, Robert Mackenzie, who, after some three or four years' service,
suddenly left, as I found out afterwards, through the selfish advice of older
hands, who practised this frightening away systematically to keep wages
from being lowered, a common device, I believe, among workmen in
limited trades. Passing the gate of the great workhouse (Scottict poor-
house) in the Parliamentary Road, a few years afterwards, my eye was
caught by a youth of some eighteen years of age ravenously devouring a
piece of dry bread on the public street, and bearing all the appearance of
being in a chronic state of starvation. Fancying I knew his features, I
asked if his name were not Mackenzie. He at once became much excited,
addressed me by name, and informed me that he had no employment ;
that his father and mother, who formerly supported him, were now both
inmates of the " poorhouse," to which he himself had no claim for admis-
sion, being young and without any bodily disqualification for work, and
that he was literally homeless and starving. The matron, he informed me,



730] PHANTASMS OF THE DEAD 53

gave him daily a piece of dry bread, but durst not, under the rules, give him
regular maintenance. In an agony of grief he deplored his ever leaving me
under evil advice, and on my unexpectedly offering to take him back he burst
into a transport of thanks, such as I cannot describe. Suffice it to say that he
resumed his work, and that, under the circumstances, I did everything in my
power to facilitate his progress. All this was mere matter of course; but the
distinction between it and the common relations of master and servant was this,
that on every occasion of my entering the workshop he never, so far as possible,
took off his eyes from following my movements. Let me look towards him at
any moment, there was the pale, sympathetic face with the large and wistful
eyes, literally yearning towards me, as Smike's did towards Nicholas Nickleby.
I seemed to be " the polar star of his existence," and this intensity of gratitude
never appeared to lessen in degree through lapse of time. Beyond this he
never ventured to express his feelings. His manhood, as it were, his indivi-
duality and self-assertion, seemed to have been crushed out of him by priva-
tions. I was apparently his sole thought and consideration, saving the more
common concerns of daily life.

In 1862 I settled in London, and have never been in Glasgow since. Robert
Mackenzie, and my workmen generally, gradually lost their individuality in my
recollection. About ten to twelve years ago my employees had their annual
soirde and ball. This was always held, year after year, on a Friday evening.
Mackenzie, ever shy and distant as usual, refused to mingle in the festivities,
and begged of my foreman to be permitted to serve at the buffet. All went off
well, and the Saturday was held (more workmen) as a succeeding day of fes-
tival. All this, however, I only learned after what I am now about to relate.
On the Tuesday morning following, immediately before 8 A.M., in my house
on Campden Hill, I had the following manifestation I cannot call it a dream ;
but let me use the common phraseology. I dreamt, but with no vagueness as
in common dreams, no blurring of outline or rapid passages from one thing dis-
connectedly to another, that I was seated at a desk, engaged in a business
conversation with an unknown gentleman, who stood on my right hand.
Towards me, in front, advanced RoberJ Mackenzie, and feeling annoyed, I
addressed him with some asperity, asking him if he did not see that I was
engaged. He retired a short distance with exceeding reluctance, turned again
to approach me, as if most desirous for an immediate colloquy, when I spoke
to him still more sharply as to his want of manners. On this, the person with
whom I was conversing took his leave, and Mackenzie once more came forward.
"What is all this, Robert?" I asked somewhat angrily. " Did you not see I
was engaged ? " " Yes, sir," he replied ; " but I must speak with you at once."
" What about ? " I said ; " what is it that can be so important? " " I wish to
tell you, sir," he answered, "that I am accused of doing a thing I did not
do, and that I want you to know it, and to tell you so, and that you are to
forgive me for what I am blamed for, because I am innocent." Then, " I did
not do the thing they say I did." I said, "What?" getting same answer. I
then naturally asked, " But how can I forgive you if you do not tell me what
you are accused of ? " I can never forget the emphatic manner of his answer
in the Scottish dialect, " Ye'll sune ken " (you'll soon know). This question and
the answer were repeated at least twice I am certain the answer was repeated
thrice, in the most fen-id tone. On that I awoke, and was in that state of
surprise and bewilderment which such a remarkable dream, gud mere dream,
might induce, and was wondering what it all meant, when my wife burst into



54 CHAPTER VII [730

my bedroom, much excited, and holding an open letter in her hand, exclaimed,
" Oh, James, here's a terrible end to the workmen's ball Robert Mackenzie has
committed suicide ! " With now a full conviction of the meaning of the vision,
I at once quietly and firmly said, " No, he has not committed suicide."
" How can you possibly know that ? " " Because he has just been here to
tell me."

I have purposely not mentioned in its proper place, so as not to break the
narrative, that on looking at Mackenzie I was struck by the peculiar appear-
ance of his countenance. It was of an indescribable bluish-pale colour, and on
his forehead appeared spots which seemed like blots of sweat. For this I
could not account, but by the following post my manager reformed me that he
was wrong in writing me of suicide. That on Saturday night, Mackenzie, on
going home, had lifted a small black bottle containing aqua fortis (which he
used for staining the wood of birdcages, made for amusement), believing this
to be whisky, and pouring out a wine-glassful, had drunk it off at a gulp, dying
on the Sunday in great agony. Here then, was the solution of his being
innocent of what he was accused of suicide, seeing that he had inadvertently
drunk aqua fortis, a deadly poison. Still pondering upon the peculiar colour
of his countenance, it struck me to consult some authorities on the symptoms of
poisoning by aqua fortis, and in Mr. J. H. Walsh's " Domestic Medicine and
Surgery," p. 172, I found these words under symptoms of poisoning by sulphuric
acid. ..." The skin covered with a cold sweat ; countenance livid and ex-
pressive of dreadful suffering." . . . " Aquafortis produces the same effect as
sulphuric, the only difference being that the external stains, if any, are yellow
instead of brown." This refers to indication of sulphuric acid, "generally out-
side of the mouth, in the shape of brown spots." Having no desire to
accommodate my facts to this scientific description, I give the quotations freely,
only at the same time stating that previously to reading the passage in Mr.
Walsh's book, I had not the slightest knowledge of these symptoms, and I
consider that they agree fairly and sufficiently with what I saw, viz., a livid
face covered with a remarkable sweat, and having spots (particularly on the
forehead), which, in my dream, I thought great blots of perspiration. It seems
not a little striking that I had no previous knowledge of these symptoms, and
yet should take note of them.

I have little remark to make beyond this, that in speaking of this matter,
to me very affecting and solemn, I have been quite disgusted by sceptics
treating it as a hallucination, in so far as that my dream must have been on
the Wednesday morning, being that after the receipt of my manager's letter
informing me of the supposed suicide. This explanation is too absurd to
require a serious answer. My manager first heard of the death on the Monday
wrote me on that day as above and on the Tuesday wrote again explaining
the true facts. The dream was on the Tuesday morning, immediately before
the 8 A.M. post delivery, hence the thrice emphatic " Ye'll sune ken." I attribute
the whole to Mackenzie's yearning gratitude for being rescued from a deplor-
able state of starvation, and his earnest desire to stand well in my opinion. I
have coloured nothing, and leave my readers to draw their own conclusions.

D.

The following is Mrs. D.'s corroboration :

In regard to the remarkable dream my husband had when Robert
Mackenzie's death took place through inadvertently drinking some aqua fortis,
I beg to inform you of what took place as far as I am concerned.



733] PHANTASMS OF THE DEAD 55

On the Tuesday morning after the occurrence I was downstairs early, and
at 8 o'clock was handed a letter, just received from the postman, and addressed
to Mr. D. Seeing it was from our manager in Glasgow, I opened it, and was
much grieved to find that it was to tell us that Robert Mackenzie had com-
mitted suicide. I ran upstairs to Mr. D.'s bedroom with the letter in my hand,
and in much excitement. I found him apparently just coming out of sleep, and
hastily cried out to him, exactly as he has described to you. I need not go
over the words, which have often been repeated amongst us since, and I can
confirm his narrative regarding them, as given to you, in every particular. The
whole affair gave us a great shock, and put an end to the workmen's balls for
some four or five years. Mr. D.'s dream was a frequent subject of conversation
at the time. I knew Mackenzie well. He was a pale, large-eyed, and earnest-
looking young man, with a great regard for Mr. D., through circumstances.
The next day's post brought us the actual facts.

J.D.

731. Here, too, may be placed two cases those of Dr. Bruce (in
Chapter IV., 426 A) and Miss Hall (see 731 A) where there are successive
pictures of a death and the subsequent arrangement of the body. The
milieux of the percipients, the nature of the deaths, are here again totally
disparate ; yet we seem to see the same unknown laws producing effects



Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 89)