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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

Witches were much attached to this bird, and were said to often assume its shape after death.

"Magpies," says Mr. William Jones, in his _Credulities, Past and Present_, "are mysterious everywhere. A lady living near Carlstad, in Sweden, grievously offended a farm woman who came into the court of her house asking for food. The woman was told 'to take that magpie hanging upon the wall and eat it.' She took the bird and disappeared, with an evil glance at the lady, who had been so ill-advised as to insult a Finn, whose magical powers, it is well known, far exceed those of the gipsies." (Other authorities corroborate this statement; and I have heard it said that the Finns can surpass even the famous tricks of the Indians.) Mr. Jones, in the same story, says: "Presently the number increased, and the lady, who at first had been amused, became troubled, and tried to drive them away by various devices. All was to no purpose. She could not move without a large company of magpies; and they became at length so daring as to hop on her shoulder." (This reads like hallucination. However, as I have heard of similar cases, in which there has been no doubt as to the objectivity of the phenomena, I see no reason why these magpies should not have been objective too.) "Then she took to her bed in a room with closed shutters, although even this was not an effectual protection, for the magpies kept tapping at the shutters day and night." Mr. Jones adds: "The lady's death is not recorded; but it is fully expected that, die when she may, all the magpies of Wermland will be present at her funeral."

There is a house in Great Russell Street, W.C., where the hauntings take the form of a magpie that taps at one of the windows every morning between two and three, and then appears inside the room, perched on what looks like a huge alpine stick, suspended horizontally in the air, about seven feet from the floor. The moment a sound is made the apparition vanishes. It is thought to be the spirit of a magpie that was done to death in a very cruel manner in that room many years ago. There is a story current to the effect that a lady, when visiting the British Museum one day, happened to pass some slighting remark about one of the Egyptian mummy cases (not the notorious one), and that on quitting the building she felt a sharp peck on her neck. She put up her hand to the injured part, and felt the distinct impression of a bird's claw on it. She could see nothing, however. That night--and for every succeeding night for six weeks--she was awakened at two o'clock by the phantom of an enormous magpie that fluttered over the bed, and was clearly visible to herself and her sister. The phenomenon worried her so that she became ill, and was eventually ordered abroad. She went to Cairo and enjoyed a brief respite; the hauntings, however, began again, and this time became so persistent that she at last lost her reason, and had to be brought home and confined in a private asylum, where she shortly afterwards died. Though I cannot vouch for the truth of this story, I do think it is somewhat risky to make fun of certain of the Egyptian relics in the Museum. They may be haunted by something infinitely more alarming than the ghosts of magpies. There are many sayings respecting the magpie as a harbinger of ill luck. In Lancashire, for example, there is this rhyme:

"One for anger, two for mirth,
Three for a wedding, four for a birth
, Five for rich, six for poor,
Seven for a witch, I dare tell you no more."

From further north comes this couplet:

"Magpie, magpie, chatter and flee,
Turn up thy tail, and good luck fall me."

Rooks, again, are very psychic birds; they always leave their haunts near an old house shortly before a death takes place in it, because their highly developed psychic faculty of scent enables them to detect the advent of the phantom of death, of which they have the greatest horror. A rook is of great service, when investigating haunted houses, as it nearly always gives warning of the appearance of the Unknown by violent flappings of the wings, loud croaking, and other unmistakable symptoms of terror.