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Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell


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Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter

The figures of the man and the dogs were equally vivid in each. Though I could no longer doubt they were nothing mortal, they were altogether unlike what I had imagined ghosts. Like the generality of people who are psychic and who have never had an experience of the superphysical, my conception of a phantasm was a "thing" in white that made ridiculous groanings and still more ridiculous clankings of chains. But here was something different, something that looked--save, perhaps, for the excessive pallor of its cheeks--just like an ordinary man. I knew it was not a man, partly on account of its extraordinary performance--no man, even if running at full speed, could keep up with us like that; partly on account of the unusual nature of the atmosphere--which was altogether indefinable--it brought with it; and also because of my own sensations--my intense horror which could not, I felt certain, have been generated by anything physical.

I cogitated all this in my mind as I gazed at the figure, and in order to make sure it was no hallucination, I shut first one eye and then the other, covering them alternately with the palm of my hand. The figure, however, was still there, still pacing along at our side with the regular swing, swing of the born walker. We kept on in this fashion till we arrived at a rusty iron gate leading, by means of a weed-covered path, to a low, two-storied white house. Here the figures left us, and as it seemed to me vanished at the foot of the garden wall.

"This is the house," Mr. Baldwin panted, pulling up with the greatest difficulty, the horse evincing obvious antipathy to the iron gate. "And these are the keys. I'm afraid you must go in alone, as I dare not leave the animal even for a minute."

"Oh, all right," I said. "I don't mind, now that the ghost, or whatever you like to call it, has gone; I'm myself again."

I jumped down, and threading my way along the bramble-entangled path, reached the front door. On opening it, I hesitated. The big, old-fashioned hall, with the great, frowning staircase leading to the gallery overhead, the many open doors showing nought but bare, deserted boards within, the grim passages, all moonlit and peopled only with queer flickering shadows, suggested much that was terrifying. I fancied I heard noises, noises like stealthy footsteps moving from room to room, and tiptoeing along the passages and down the staircase. Once my heart almost stopped beating as I saw what, at first, I took to be a white face peering at me from a far recess, but which I eventually discovered was only a daub of whitewash; and, once again, my hair all but rose on end, when one of the doors at which I was looking swung open and something came forth. Oh, the horror of that moment, as long as I live I shall never forget it. The something was a cat, just a rather lean but otherwise material, black Tom; yet, in the state my nerves were then, it created almost as much horror as if it had been a ghost. Of course, it was the figure of the walking man that was the cause of all this nervousness; had it not appeared to me I should doubtless have entered the house with the utmost sang-froid, my mind set on nothing but the condition of the walls, drains, etc. As it was, I held back, and it was only after a severe mental struggle I summoned up the courage to leave the doorway and explore. Cautiously, very cautiously, with my heart in my mouth, I moved from room to room, halting every now and then in dreadful suspense as the wind, soughing through across the open land behind the house, blew down the chimneys and set the window-frames jarring. At the commencement of one of the passages I was immeasurably startled to see a dark shape poke forward, and then spring hurriedly back, and was so frightened that I dared not advance to see what it was. Moment after moment sped by, and I still stood there, the cold sweat oozing out all over me, and my eyes fixed in hideous expectation on the blank wall. What was it? What was hiding there? Would it spring out on me if I went to see? At last, urged on by a fascination I found impossible to resist, I crept down the passage, my heart throbbing painfully and my whole being overcome with the most sickly anticipations. As I drew nearer to the spot, it was as much as I could do to breathe, and my respiration came in quick jerks and gasps. Six, five, four, two feet and I was at the dreaded angle. Another step--taken after the most prodigious battle--and--NOTHING sprang out on me. I was confronted only with a large piece of paper that had come loose from the wall, and flapped backwards and forwards each time the breeze from without rustled past it. The reaction after such an agony of suspense was so great, that I leaned against the wall, and laughed till I cried. A noise, from somewhere away in the basement, calling me to myself, I went downstairs and investigated. Again a shock--this time more sudden, more acute. Pressed against the window-pane of one of the front reception-rooms was the face of a man--with corpse-like cheeks and pale, malevolent eyes. I was petrified--every drop of my blood was congealed. My tongue glued to my mouth, my arms hung helpless. I stood in the doorway and stared at it. This went on for what seemed to me an eternity. Then came a revelation. The face was not that of a ghost but of Mr. Baldwin, who, getting alarmed at my long absence, had come to look for me.