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

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead


"But there are many such things in Nature, though we have not the right key to them. We all walk in mysteries. We are surrounded by an atmosphere of which we do not know what is stirring in it, or how it is connected with our own spirit. So much is certain--that in particular cases we can put out the feelers of our soul beyond its bodily limits, and that a presentiment, nay, an actual insight into, the immediate future is accorded to it."--Goethe's "Conversations with Eckermann."

Chapter I. My Own Extraordinary Premonitions.

If clairvoyance partakes of the nature of the camera obscura, by which persons can see at a distance that which is going on beyond the direct range of their vision, it is less easy to suggest an analogy to explain the phenomena of premonition or second sight. Although I have never seen a ghost--for none of my hallucinations are scenic--I may fairly claim to have a place in this census on the ground of the extraordinary premonitions I have had at various times of coming events. The second sight of the Highlander is always scenic; he does not hear so much as he sees. If death is foreshadowed, the circumstances preceding and following the event pass as in dramatic scene before the eyes of the seer. It is much as if the seers had access to a camera obscura which enabled them not only to see that which was occurring at the same moment in various parts of the world, but in its magic mirror could reflect events which have not yet been as if they were already existent.

The phenomena of premonition, combined with the faculties of clairvoyance by which the percipient is able to reproduce the past, make a great breach in our conceptions of both time and space. To the Deity, in the familiar line of the hymn, "future things unfolded lie"; but from time to time future things, sometimes most trivial, sometimes most important, are unfolded to the eye of mortal man. Why or how one does not know. All that he can say is that the vision came and went in obedience to some power over which he had no conscious control. The faculty of foreseeing, which in its higher forms constitutes no small part of a prophet's power, is said to exist among certain families, and to vary according to the locality in which they are living. Men who have second sight in Skye are said to lose it on the mainland. But residence in Skye itself is not sufficient to give the Englishman the faculty once said to be possessed by its natives. In England it is rare, and when it exists it is often mixed up with curious and somewhat bewildering superstitions, signs and omens portending death and disaster, which can hardly be regarded as being more than seventh cousins of the true faculty.

I can make no claim to the proud prerogative of the seer, but upon several occasions I have had some extraordinary premonitions of what was about to happen. I can give no explanation as to how they came, all that I know is they arrived, and when they arrived I recognised them beyond all possibility of mistake. I have had three or four very striking and vivid premonitions in my life which have been fulfilled to the letter. I have others which await fulfilment. Of the latter I will not speak here--although I have them duly recorded--for were I to do so I should be accused of being party to bringing about the fulfilment of my own predictions. Those which have already been fulfilled, although of no general importance to any one else, were of considerable importance to me, as will be seen by the brief outline concerning three of them.