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REAL GHOST STORIES (Collected and Edited by William T. Stead) online

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead


"Moreover, the spirit lifted me up and brought me unto the East gate, and, behold, at the door of the gate five-and-twenty men, among whom I saw," etc.--Ezekiel xi. 1.

Chapter I. The Astral Camera.

When I was staying at Orchard Lea, in Windsor Forest, I did most of my writing in a spacious window on the first floor looking out over the garden. It opened French fashion, and thereby occasioned a curious optical illusion, which may perhaps help to shed some light upon the phenomena now under consideration. For when the sun was high in the sky and the French window was set at a certain angle, the whole of the flowers, figures, etc., on my right hand appeared reflected upon the lawn on the left hand as vividly as if they actually existed in duplicate. So real was the illusion that for some hours I was under the impression that a broad yellow gravel path actually stretched across the lawn on my left. It was only when a little dog ran along the spectral path and suddenly vanished into thin air that I discovered the illusion. Nothing could be more complete, more life-like. The real persons who walked up the gravel to the house walked across the spectral gravel, apparently in duplicate. Both could be seen at one and the same time. I instantly thought that they could be photographed, so as to show the duplication produced by the illusion. Unfortunately, although the spectral path was distinctly visible through the glass to the eye, no impression whatever was left on the sensitive plate. My friend writes:--

"I have tried the phantom path, and I am sorry to say it is too phantom to make any impression on the plate. All that you get is the blaze of light from the glass window, some very faint trees, and no path at all. Possibly, with a June sun, it might have been different; but I doubt it, as one is told never to put the camera facing a window. It is having to take through the glass window which is fatal."

This set me thinking. It was a simple optical illusion, no doubt, similar to that which enabled Pepper to produce his ghosts at the Polytechnic. But what was the agency which enabled me to see the figures and flowers, and trees and gravel, all transferred, as by the cunning act of some magician, from the right to the left? Simply a swinging pane of perfectly transparent glass. To those who have neither studied the laws of optics nor seen the phenomenon in question, it must seem impossible that a pellucid window-pane could transfer so faithfully that which happened at one end of the garden to the other as to cause it to be mistaken for reality. Yet there was the phenomenon before my eyes. The dog ran double--the real dog to the right, the spectral dog to the left--and no one could tell at first sight "t'other from which." Now, may it not be that this supplies a suggestion as to the cause of the phenomenon of clairvoyance? Is it not possible that there may exist in Nature some as yet undiscovered analogue to the swinging windowpane which may enable us to see before our eyes here and now events which are transpiring at the other end of the world? In the mysterious, subconscious world in which the clairvoyant lives, may there not be some subtle, sympathetic lens, fashioned out of strong affection or some other relation, which may enable some of us to see that which is quite invisible to the ordinary eye?

_A Surrey Laundry Seen in Cornwall._