Short, scary ghost stories

short, scary Ghost Stories home | The Book of Dreams and Ghosts | Classic Ghost Stories

WANTED short, scary ghost stories - fiction or factual - for publication on this site.If published, we will be happy to list author's biographical details and a link back to your Web site.Copyright will remain with authors. Send submissions/outlines to abracad.

page 1 of 5 | page 2 | table of contents

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Transition from Dreams to Waking Hallucinations. Popular Scepticism about the Existence of Hallucinations in the Sane. Evidence of Mr. Francis Galton, F.R.S. Scientific Disbelief in ordinary Mental Imagery. Scientific Men who do not see in "the Mind's Eye". Ordinary People who do. Frequency of Waking Hallucinations among Mr. Gallon's friends. Kept Private till asked for by Science. Causes of such Hallucinations unknown. Story of the Diplomatist. Voluntary or Induced Hallucinations. Crystal Gazing. Its Universality. Experience of George Sand. Nature of such Visions. Examples. Novelists. Crystal Visions only "Ghostly" when Veracious. Modern Examples. Under the Lamp. The Cow with the Bell Historical Example. Prophetic Crystal Vision. St. Simon The Regent d'Orleans. The Deathbed of Louis XIV. References for other Cases of Crystal Visions.

From dreams, in sleep or swoon, of a character difficult to believe in we pass by way of "hallucinations" to ghosts. Everybody is ready to admit that dreams do really occur, because almost everybody has dreamed. But everybody is not so ready to admit that sane and sensible men and women can have hallucinations, just because everybody has not been hallucinated.

On this point Mr. Francis Galton, in his Inquiries into Human Faculty (1833), is very instructive. Mr. Galton drew up a short catechism, asking people how clearly or how dimly they saw things "in their mind's eye".

"Think of your breakfast-table," he said; "is your mental picture of it as clearly illuminated and as complete as your actual view of the scene?" Mr. Galton began by questioning friends in the scientific world, F.R.S.'s and other savants. "The earliest results of my inquiry amazed me. . . . The great majority of the men of science to whom I first applied, protested that _mental imagery was unknown to them_, and they looked on me as fanciful and fantastic in supposing that the words 'mental imagery' really expressed what I believed everybody supposed them to mean." One gentleman wrote: "It is only by a figure of speech that I can describe my recollection of a scene as a 'mental image' which I can 'see' with 'my mind's eye'. I do not see it," so he seems to have supposed that nobody else did.

When he made inquiries in general society, Mr. Galton found plenty of people who "saw" mental imagery with every degree of brilliance or dimness, from "quite comparable to the real object" to "I recollect the table, but do not see it"--my own position.

Mr. Galton was next "greatly struck by the frequency of the replies in which my correspondents" (sane and healthy) "described themselves as subject to 'visions'". These varied in degree, "some were so vivid as actually to deceive the judgment". Finally, "a notable proportion of sane persons have had not only visions, but actual hallucinations of sight at one or more periods of their life. I have a considerable packet of instances contributed by my personal friends." Thus one "distinguished authoress" saw "the principal character of one of her novels glide through the door straight up to her. It was about the size of a large doll." Another heard unreal music, and opened the door to hear it better. Another was plagued by voices, which said "Pray," and so forth.

Thus, on scientific evidence, sane and healthy people may, and "in a notable proportion _do_, experience hallucinations". That is to say, they see persons, or hear them, or believe they are touched by them, or all their senses are equally affected at once, when no such persons are really present. This kind of thing is always going on, but "when popular opinion is of a matter-of-fact kind, the seers of visions keep quiet; they do not like to be thought fanciful or mad, and they hide their experiences, which only come to light through inquiries such as those that I have been making".