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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Veracious Waking Hallucinations not recognised by Science; or explained by Coincidence, Imposture, False Memory. A Veracious Hallucination popularly called a Wraith or Ghost. Example of Unveracious Hallucination. The Family Coach. Ghosts' Clothes and other Properties and Practices; how explained. Case of Veracious Hallucination. Riding Home from Mess. Another Case. The Bright Scar. The Vision and the Portrait. Such Stories not usually believed. Cases of Touch: The Restraining Hand. Of Hearing: The Benedictine's Voices; The Voice in the Bath-room. Other "Warnings". The Maoris. The Man at the Lift. Appearances Coincident with Death. Others not Coincident with Anything.

In "crystal-gazing" anybody can make experiments for himself and among such friends as he thinks he can trust. They are hallucinations consciously sought for, and as far as possible, provoked or induced by taking certain simple measures. Unsought, spontaneous waking hallucinations, according to the result of Mr. Galton's researches, though not nearly so common as dreams, are as much facts of _sane_ mental experience. Now every ghost or wraith is a hallucination. You see your wife in the dining-room when she really is in the drawing- room; you see your late great-great-grandfather anywhere. Neither person is really present. The first appearance in popular language is a "wraith"; the second is a "ghost" in ordinary speech. Both are hallucinations.

So far Mr. Galton would go, but mark what follows! Everybody allows the existence of dreams, but comparatively few believe in dream stories of _veracious_ dreams. So every scientific man believes in hallucinations, {68} but few believe in _veracious_ hallucinations. A veracious hallucination is, for our purpose, one which communicates (as veracious dreams do) information not otherwise known, or, at least, not known to the knower to be known. The communication of the knowledge may be done by audible words, with or without an actual apparition, or with an apparition, by words or gestures. Again, if a hallucination of Jones's presence tallies with a great crisis in Jones's life, or with his death, the hallucination is so far veracious in that, at least, it does not seem meaningless. Or if Jones's appearance has some unwonted feature not known to the seer, but afterwards proved to be correct in fact, that is veracious. Next, if several persons successively in the same place, or simultaneously, have a similar hallucination not to be accounted for physically, that is, if not a veracious, a curious hallucination. Once more, if a hallucinatory figure is afterwards recognised in a living person previously unknown, or a portrait previously unseen, that (if the recognition be genuine) is a veracious hallucination. The vulgar call it a wraith of the living, or a ghost of the dead.

Here follow two cases. The first, The Family Coach, {69a} gave no verified intelligence, and would be styled a "subjective hallucination". The second contributed knowledge of facts not previously known to the witness, and so the vulgar would call it a ghost. Both appearances were very rich and full of complicated detail. Indeed, any ghost that wears clothes is a puzzle. Nobody but savages thinks that clothes have ghosts, but Tom Sawyer conjectures that ghosts' clothes "are made of ghost stuff".

As a rule, not very much is seen of a ghost; he is "something of a shadowy being". Yet we very seldom hear of a ghost stark naked; that of Sergeant Davies, murdered in 1749, is one of three or four examples in civilised life. {69b} Hence arises the old question, "How are we to account for the clothes of ghosts?" One obvious reply is that there is no ghost at all, only a hallucination. We do not see people naked, as a rule, in our dreams; and hallucinations, being waking dreams, conform to the same rule. If a ghost opens a door or lifts a curtain in our sight, that, too, is only part of the illusion. The door did not open; the curtain was not lifted. Nay, if the wrist or hand of the seer is burned or withered, as in a crowd of stories, the ghost's hand did not produce the effect. It was produced in the same way as when a hypnotised patient is told that "his hand is burned," his fancy then begets real blisters, or so we are informed, truly or not. The stigmata of St. Francis and others are explained in the same way. {70} How ghosts pull bedclothes off and make objects fly about is another question: in any case the ghosts are not _seen_ in the act.