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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


All these kinds of things, in fact, are common in our visions between sleeping and waking (illusions hypnagogiques). The singularity is that they are seen by people wide awake in glass balls and so forth. Usually the seer is a person whose ordinary "mental imagery" is particularly vivid. But every "visualiser" is not a crystal seer. A novelist of my acquaintance can "visualise" so well that, having forgotten an address and lost the letter on which it was written, he called up a mental picture of the letter, and so discovered the address. But this very popular writer can see no visions in a crystal ball. Another very popular novelist can see them; little dramas are acted out in the ball for his edification. {58}

These things are as unfamiliar to men of science as Mr. Galton found ordinary mental imagery, pictures in memory, to be. Psychology may or may not include them in her province; they may or may not come to be studied as ordinary dreams are studied. But, like dreams, these crystal visions enter the domain of the ghostly only when they are _veracious_, and contribute information previously unknown as to past, present or future. There are plenty of stories to this effect. To begin with an easy, or comparatively easy, exercise in belief.


I had given a glass ball to a young lady, who believed that she could play the "willing game" successfully without touching the person "willed," and when the person did not even know that "willing" was going on. This lady, Miss Baillie, had scarcely any success with the ball. She lent it to Miss Leslie, who saw a large, square, old- fashioned red sofa covered with muslin, which she found in the next country house she visited. Miss Baillie's brother, a young athlete (at short odds for the amateur golf championship), laughed at these experiments, took the ball into the study, and came back looking "gey gash". He admitted that he had seen a vision, somebody he knew "under a lamp". He would discover during the week whether he saw right or not. This was at 5.30 on a Sunday afternoon. On Tuesday, Mr. Baillie was at a dance in a town some forty miles from his home, and met a Miss Preston. "On Sunday," he said, "about half-past five you were sitting under a standard lamp in a dress I never saw you wear, a blue blouse with lace over the shoulders, pouring out tea for a man in blue serge, whose back was towards me, so that I only saw the tip of his moustache."

"Why, the blinds must have been up," said Miss Preston.

"I was at Dulby," said Mr. Baillie, as he undeniably was. {60a}

This is not a difficult exercise in belief. Miss Preston was not unlikely to be at tea at tea-time.

Nor is the following very hard.


I had given a glass ball to the wife of a friend, whose visions proved so startling and on one occasion so unholy that she ceased to make experiments. One day my friend's secretary, a young student and golfer, took up the ball.

"I see a field I know very well," he said, "but there is a cow in it that I never saw; brown, with white markings, and, this is odd in Scotland, she has a bell hanging from her neck. I'll go and look at the field."

He went and found the cow as described, bell and all. {60b}

In the spring of 1897 I gave a glass ball to a young lady, previously a stranger to me, who was entirely unacquainted with crystal gazing, even by report. She had, however, not infrequent experience of spontaneous visions, which were fulfilled, including a vision of the Derby (Persimmon's year), which enriched her friends. In using the ball she, time after time, succeeded in seeing and correctly describing persons and places familiar to people for whom she "scried," but totally strange to herself. In one case she added a detail quite unknown to the person who consulted her, but which was verified on inquiry. These experiments will probably be published elsewhere. Four people, out of the very small number who tried on these occasions, saw fancy pictures in the ball: two were young ladies, one a man, and one a schoolboy. I must confess that, for the first time, I was impressed by the belief that the lady's veracious visions, however they are to be explained, could not possibly be accounted for by chance coincidence. They were too many (I was aware of five in a few days), too minute, and too remote from the range of ingenious guessing. But "thought transference," tapping the mental wires of another person, would have accounted for every case, with, perhaps, the exception of that in which an unknown detail was added. This confession will, undoubtedly, seem weakly credulous, but not to make it would be unfair and unsportsmanlike. My statement, of course, especially without the details, is not evidence for other people.