Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell
VII BIRDS AND THE UNKNOWN
Some years ago, for instance, a great friend of my wife's died, and on the day of the funeral a large bird tried to fly in at the window of the room where the corpse lay; while, shortly afterwards, an exactly similar bird visited the window of my wife's and my room in a house, several hundreds of miles away. If it was only a coincidence, it was a very extraordinary one.
Then again, this spring, just before the death of one of my wife's relatives, a large bird flew violently against the window-pane behind which my wife was sitting--an incident that had never happened to her in that house before.
Undoubtedly, spirits in the guise of birds--most probably they are the phantasms of birds that have actually once lived on the material plane--are the messengers of death.
_A Case of Bird haunting in East Russia_
Some years ago the neighbourhood of Orskaia, in East Russia, was roused by an affair of a very remarkable nature. The body of a handsome young peasant woman, called Marthe Popenkoff, was found in a lonely part of the road, between Orskaia and Orenburg, with the skin of her face and body shockingly torn and lacerated, but without there being any wounds deep enough to cause her death, which the doctor attributed to syncope.
The people of Orskaia, not satisfied with this verdict, declared Marthe had been murdered, and made such a loud clamour that the editor of the local paper at last voiced their sentiments in the _East Russia Chronicle_. It was then that M. Durant, a smart young French engineer, temporarily residing in those parts, became interested in the case, and decided to investigate it thoroughly. With this end in view he wrote to his friend M. Hersant--a keen student of the Occult--in Saratova, to join him, and three days after the despatch of his letter met the latter at the Orskaia railway station. M. Durant retailed the case as they drove to his house.
"It is a remarkable affair, in every way," he said. "The woman was leading a perfectly respectable married life; she was hard-working and industrious, and beyond the fact that she was over-indulgent to her children, does not seem to have had any serious faults. As far as I can ascertain she had no enemies."
"Nor secret lovers?" M. Hersant asked.
"No; she was quite straight."
"And you feel sure she was murdered?"
"I do. Public opinion so strongly favours that view."
"Did you see the marks on the woman?"
"I did, and could make nothing of them. After supper I will take you to see her, in the morgue."
"What--she is still unburied?"
"Yes--but there is nothing unusual about that. In these parts bodies are often kept for ten days--sometimes even longer."
M. Durant was as good as his word; after they had partaken of a somewhat hasty meal, they set out to the morgue, where they made a careful inspection of the poor woman's remains.
M. Hersant examined the marks on the woman's body very closely with his magnifying-glass.
"Ah!" he suddenly exclaimed, bending down and almost touching the corpse with his nose, "Ah!"
"Have you made a discovery?" M. Durant enquired.
"I prefer not to say at present," M. Hersant replied. "I should like to see the spot where this body was found--now."
"We will go there at once," M. Durant rejoined.
The scene of the tragedy was the Orenburg road, at the foot of two little hills; and on either side were the sloping fields, yellow with the nodding corn.
"That is the exact place where she lay," M. Durant said, indicating with his finger a dark patch on a little wooden bridge spanning a stream, within a stone's throw of a tumbledown mill-house, all overgrown with ivy and lichens. M. Hersant looked round and sniffed the air with his nostrils.
"There is an air of loneliness about this spot," he remarked, "that in itself suggests crime. If this were an ordinary murder, one could well imagine the assassin was aided in his diabolical work by the configuration of the land which, shelving as it does, slips down into the narrow valley, so as to preclude any possibility of escape on the part of the victim. The place seems especially designed by Providence as a death-trap. Let us have a look at the interior of this building."
"The police have searched it thoroughly," M. Durant said.
"I've no doubt," M. Hersant replied drily. "No one knows better than I what the thoroughness of the police means."
They entered the premises cautiously, since the roof was in a rickety condition, and any slight concussion might dislodge an avalanche of stones and plaster. While M. Durant stood glancing round him rather impatiently, M. Hersant made a careful scrutiny of the walls.