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 4 of 8 | page 5 | page 1 | table of contents

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


These spirits of the living lead to the subject of spirits of the dying. No kind of tale is so common as that of dying people appearing at a distance. Hundreds have been conscientiously published. {91b} The belief is prevalent among the Maoris of New Zealand, where the apparition is regarded as a proof of death. {91c} Now there is nothing in savage philosophy to account for this opinion of the Maoris. A man's "spirit" leaves his body in dreams, savages think, and as dreaming is infinitely more common than death, the Maoris should argue that the appearance is that of a man's spirit wandering in his sleep. However, they, like many Europeans, associate a man's apparition with his death. Not being derived from their philosophy, this habit may be deduced from their experience.

As there are, undeniably, many examples of hallucinatory appearances of persons in perfect health and ordinary circumstances, the question has been asked whether there are _more_ cases of an apparition coinciding with death than, according to the doctrine of chances, there ought to be. Out of about 18,000 answers to questions on this subject, has been deduced the conclusion that the deaths do coincide with the apparitions to an extent beyond mere accident. Even if we had an empty hallucination for every case coinciding with death, we could not set the coincidences down to mere chance. As well might we say that if "at the end of an hour's rifle practice at long-distance range, the record shows that for every shot that has hit the bull's eye, another has missed the target, therefore the shots that hit the target did so by accident." {92} But as empty hallucinations are more likely to be forgotten than those which coincide with a death; as exaggeration creeps in, as the collectors of evidence are naturally inclined to select and question people whom they know to have a good story to tell, the evidence connecting apparitions, voices, and so on with deaths is not likely to be received with favour.

One thing must be remembered as affecting the theory that the coincidence between the wraith and the death is purely an accident. Everybody dreams and out of the innumerable dreams of mankind, a few must hit the mark by a fluke. But _hallucinations_ are not nearly so common as dreams. Perhaps, roughly speaking, one person in ten has had what he believes to be a waking hallucination. Therefore, so to speak, compared with dreams, but a small number of shots of this kind are fired. Therefore, bull's eyes (the coincidence between an appearance and a death) are infinitely less likely to be due to chance in the case of waking hallucinations than in the case of dreams, which all mankind are firing off every night of their lives. Stories of these coincidences between appearances and deaths are as common as they are dull. Most people come across them in the circle of their friends. They are all very much alike, and make tedious reading. We give a few which have some picturesque features.


"In the latter part of the autumn of 1878, between half-past three and four in the morning, I was leisurely walking home from the house of a sick friend. A middle-aged woman, apparently a nurse, was slowly following, going in the same direction. We crossed Tavistock Square together, and emerged simultaneously into Tavistock Place. The streets and squares were deserted, the morning bright and calm, my health excellent, nor did I suffer from anxiety or fatigue. A man suddenly appeared, striding up Tavistock Place, coming towards me, and going in a direction opposite to mine. When first seen he was standing exactly in front of my own door (5 Tavistock Place). Young and ghastly pale, he was dressed in evening clothes, evidently made by a foreign tailor. Tall and slim, he walked with long measured strides noiselessly. A tall white hat, covered thickly with black crape, and an eyeglass, completed the costume of this strange form. The moonbeams falling on the corpse-like features revealed a face well known to me, that of a friend and relative. The sole and only person in the street beyond myself and this being was the woman already alluded to. She stopped abruptly, as if spell-bound, then rushing towards the man, she gazed intently and with horror unmistakable on his face, which was now upturned to the heavens and smiling ghastly. She indulged in her strange contemplation but during very few seconds, then with extraordinary and unexpected speed for her weight and age she ran away with a terrific shriek and yell. This woman never have I seen or heard of since, and but for her presence I could have explained the incident: called it, say, subjection of the mental powers to the domination of physical reflex action, and the man's presence could have been termed a false impression on the retina.