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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang



Mr. Sparks and Mr. Cleave, young men of twenty and nineteen, were accustomed to "mesmerise" each other in their dormitory at Portsmouth, where they were students of naval engineering. Mr. Sparks simply stared into Mr. Cleave's eyes as he lay on his bed till he "went off". The experiments seemed so curious that witnesses were called, Mr. Darley and Mr. Thurgood. On Friday, 15th January, 1886, Mr. Cleave determined to try to see, when asleep, a young lady at Wandsworth to whom he was in the habit of writing every Sunday. He also intended, if possible, to make _her_ see _him_. On awaking, he said that he had seen her in the dining-room of her house, that she had seemed to grow restless, had looked at him, and then had covered her face with her hands. On Monday he tried again, and he thought he had frightened her, as after looking at him for a few minutes she fell back in her chair in a kind of faint. Her little brother was in the room with her at the time. On Tuesday next the young lady wrote, telling Mr. Cleave that she had been startled by seeing him on Friday evening (this is an error), and again on Monday evening, "much clearer," when she nearly fainted.

All this Mr. Sparks wrote to Mr. Gurney in the same week. He was inviting instructions on hypnotic experiments, and "launched a letter into space," having read something vague about Mr. Gurney's studies in the newspapers. The letter, after some adventures, arrived, and on 15th March Mr. Cleave wrote his account, Mr. Darley and Mr. Thurgood corroborating as to their presence during the trance and as to Mr. Cleave's statement when he awoke. Mr. Cleave added that he made experiments "for five nights running" before seeing the lady. The young lady's letter of 19th January, 1886, is also produced (postmark, Portsmouth, 20th January). But the lady mentions her _first_ vision of Mr. Cleave as on last _Tuesday_ (not Friday), and her second, while she was alone with her little brother, at supper on Monday. "I was so frightened that I nearly fainted."

These are all young people. It may be said that all five were concerned in a complicated hoax on Mr. Gurney. Nor would such a hoax argue any unusual moral obliquity. Surtees of Mainsforth, in other respects an honourable man, took in Sir Walter Scott with forged ballads, and never undeceived his friend. Southey played off a hoax with his book The Doctor. Hogg, Lockhart, and Wilson, with Allan Cunningham and many others, were constantly engaged in such mystifications, and a "ghost-hunter" might seem a fair butt.

But the very discrepancy in Miss ---'s letter is a proof of fairness. Her first vision of Mr. Cleave was on "Tuesday last". Mr. Cleave's first impression of success was on the Friday following.

But he had been making the experiment for five nights previous, including the Tuesday of Miss ---'s letter. Had the affair been a hoax, Miss --- would either have been requested by him to re-write her letter, putting Friday for Tuesday, or what is simpler, Mr. Sparks would have adopted her version and written "Tuesday" in place of "Friday" in his first letter to Mr. Gurney. The young lady, naturally, requested Mr. Cleave not to try his experiment on her again.

A similar case is that of Mrs. Russell, who tried successfully, when awake and in Scotland, to appear to one of her family in Germany. The sister corroborates and says, "Pray don't come appearing to me again". {91a}