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

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead

Chapter IV. Some Historical and Other Cases.

_Goethe's Grandfather._

Goethe, in his Autobiography, records the fact that his maternal grandfather had a premonition of his election to the aldermanic dignity, not unlike that which I had about my premotion to the _Pall Mall_. Goethe writes:--

"We knew well enough that he was often informed, in remarkable dreams, of things which were to happen. For example, he assured his wife, at a time when he was still one of the youngest magistrates, that at the very next vacancy he should be appointed to a seat on the board of aldermen. And when, very soon after, one of the aldermen was struck with a fatal stroke of apoplexy, he ordered that on the day when the choice was to be made by lot the house should be arranged and everything prepared to receive the guests coming to congratulate him on his elevation; and, sure enough, it was for him that the golden ball was drawn which decides the choice of aldermen in Frankfort. The dream which foreshadowed to him this event he confided to his wife as follows: He found himself in session with his colleagues, and everything was going on as usual, when an alderman, the same who afterwards died, descended from his seat, came to my grandfather, politely begged him to take his place, and then left the chamber. Something similar happened on the provost's death. It was usual in such cases to make great haste to fill the vacancy, seeing that there was always ground to fear that the Emperor, who used to nominate the provost, would some day or other reassert his ancient privilege. On this particular occasion the sheriff received orders at midnight to call an extra session for the next morning. When in his rounds the officer reached my grandfather's house, he begged for another bit of candle to replace that which had just burned down in his lantern. 'Give him a whole candle,' said my grandfather to the woman; 'it is for me he is taking all this trouble.' The event justified his words. He was actually chosen provost. And it is worthy of notice that the person who drew in his stead, having the third and last chance, the two silver balls were drawn first, and thus the golden one remained for him at the bottom of the bag." (Quoted by Owen, in "Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World.")

_Miss X.'s Dogcart._

Some people have this gift of seeing in advance very much developed. There is, for instance, Miss X----, of the Psychical Research Society, whose exploits in seeing a dogcart and its passengers half an hour before they really arrived, has taken its place as the classical illustration of this fantastic faculty of intermittent foresight. As the story is so well authenticated, and has become a leading case in the discussion, I reprint the passage in which it occurs from the "Proceedings of the Psychical Research Society."

The narrative is by a friend of the recipient:--

"About eight years ago (April, 1882), X. and I were staying in a country house, in a neighbourhood quite strange to us both. One morning, soon after our arrival, we drove with a party of four or five others in a waggonette to the neighbouring town, and, on our return, as we came in sight of the house, X. remarked to our hostess, 'You have very early visitors; who are your friends?'

"We all turned to find the cause of the question, but could see no one, and as we were still in view of the front door on which Miss X.'s eyes were fixed, we asked her what she could possibly be dreaming of. She then described to us, the more minutely that we all joined in absolute denial of the existence of anything at all, the appearance of a dog-cart standing at the door of the house with a white horse and two men, one of whom had got down and was talking to a terrier; she even commented upon the dress of one of the gentlemen, who was wearing an ulster, she said, a detail which we certainly should not have supposed it possible for her to recognise at such a distance from the spot. As we drove up the drive X. drew attention to the fresh wheel marks, but here also we were all unable to see as she did, and when we arrived at the house and found no sign of cart and visitors, and on inquiry learned that no one had been near in our absence, we naturally treated the whole story as a mistake, caused by X.'s somewhat short sight.

"Shortly after she and I were in an upstairs room in the front of the house, when the sound of wheels was heard, and I went to the window to see what it might be. 'There's your dog-cart, after all!' I exclaimed; for there before the door was the identical dog-cart as X. had described it, correct in every detail, one of the gentlemen--having got down to ring the bell--being at the moment engaged in playing with a small fox-terrier. The visitors were strangers to our friends--officers from the barracks near, who had driven over with an invitation to a ball.

"C. having read over D.'s account, had added, 'This is substantially the same account as I heard from one of the party in the carriage.' Mr. Myers adds, 'I heard C., an old family servant, tell the story independently with the same details.'

"Both D. and I were surprised at her accurate knowledge of the story, which she had not learnt from us, but from another lady present on the occasion." ("Proceedings of the Psychical Research Society," Vol. VI. p. 374.)

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