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

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead


I was never a moment in doubt. I knew I was going to gaol from the moment Rebecca Jarrett broke down in the witness-box. This may be said to be nothing extraordinary; but what was extraordinary was that I had the most absolute conviction that I was going to gaol for two months. I was told by those who considered themselves in a position to speak with authority that I was perfectly safe, that I should not be imprisoned, and that I should make preparations to go abroad for a holiday as soon as the trial was over.

To all such representations I always replied by asserting with the most implicit confidence that I was certain to go to gaol, and that my sentence would be two months. When, however, on November, 10th, 1885, I stood in the dock to receive sentence, and received from the judge a sentence of three months, I was very considerably taken aback. I remember distinctly that I had to remember where I was in order to restrain the almost irresistible impulse to interrupt the judge and say, "I beg your pardon, my lord, you have made a mistake, the sentence ought to have been _two_ months." But mark what followed. When I had been duly confined in Coldbath-on-the-Fields Prison, I looked at the little card which is fastened on the door of every cell giving the name of the prisoner, his offence, and the duration of his sentence. I found to my great relief that my presentiment had not been wrong after all. I had, it is true, been sentenced to three months' imprisonment, but the sentence was dated from the first day of the sessions. Our trial had been a very long one, and there had been other cases before it. The consequence was that the judge's sentence was as near two months as he possibly could have passed. My actual sojourn in gaol was two months and seven days. Had he sentenced me to two months' imprisonment I should only have been in gaol one month and seven days.

These three presentiments were quite unmistakable, and were not in the least to be confounded with the ordinary uneasy forebodings which come and go like clouds in a summer sky. Of the premonitions which still remain unfulfilled I will say nothing, excepting that they govern my action, and more or less colour the whole of my life. No person can have had three or four premonitions such as those which I have described without feeling that such premonitions are the only certainties of the future. They will be fulfilled, no matter how incredible they may appear; and amid the endless shifting circumstances of our life, these fixed points, towards which we are inevitably tending, help to give steadiness to a career, and a feeling of security to which the majority of men are strangers.[8] Premonitions are distinct from dreams, although many times they are communicated in sleep. Whether in the sleeping or waking stage there are times when mortal men gain, as it were, chance glimpses behind the veil which conceals the future. Sometimes this premonition takes the shape of a deep indwelling consciousness, based not on reason or on observation, that for us awaits some great work to be done, which we know but dimly, but which is, nevertheless, the one reality of life.

[8] One of the premonitions referred to by my Father was fulfilled on that fatal night in April, 1912, when the Titanic struck an iceberg and sunk with 1,600 souls, and his life on this plane ended.

He had known for years and stated the fact to many that he would not die in his bed and that his "passing" would be sudden and dramatic--that he would, as he put it, "die in his boots."

As to the actual cause or place of his "passing" he had no premonition--but rather inclined to the idea that he would be kicked to death in the streets by an angry mob whilst defending some unpopular cause. E. W. Stead.

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