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

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead


_Ansel Bourne and A. J. Brown._

A similar case, although not so violent or chronic in its manifestation, is recorded in Vol. VII. (Part xix.) of the Psychical Research Society's Proceedings, as having occurred on Rhode Island some years ago. An excellent citizen, and a very religious lay preacher, of the name of Ansel Bourne, was the subject:--

On January 17th, 1887, he went from his home in Coventry, R.I., to Providence, in order to get money to pay for a farm which he had arranged to buy, leaving his horse at Greene Station, in a stable, expecting to return the same afternoon from the city. He drew out of the bank 551 dollars, and paid several small bills, after which he went to his nephew's store, 121, Broad Street, and then started to go to his sister's house on Westminster Street. This was the last that was known of his doings at that time. He did not appear at his sister's house, and did not return to Greene.

Nothing was heard of him until March the 14th, when a telegram came from a doctor in Norristown, Philadelphia, stating that he had just been discovered there. He was entirely unconscious of having been absent from home, or of the lapse of time between January 17th and March 14th. He was brought home by his relatives, who, by diligent inquiry were able to make out that Mr. Ansel Bourne, five weeks after leaving Rhode Island, opened a shop in Norristown, and stocked it with toys and confectionery which he purchased in Philadelphia. He called himself A. J. Brown, and lived and did business, and went to meeting, like any ordinary mortal, giving no one any suspicion that he was any other than A. J. Brown.

On the morning of Monday, March 14th, about five o'clock, he heard, he says, an explosion like the report of a gun or a pistol, and, waking, he noticed that there was a ridge in his bed not like the bed he had been accustomed to sleep in. He noticed the electric light opposite his windows. He rose and pulled away the curtains and looked out on the street. He felt very weak, and thought that he had been drugged. His next sensation was that of fear, knowing that he was in a place where he had no business to be. He feared arrest as a burglar, or possibly injury. He says this is the only time in his life he ever feared a policeman.

The last thing he could remember before waking was seeing the Adams express wagons at the corner of Dorrance and Broad Streets, in Providence, on his way from the store of his nephew in Broad Street to his sister's residence in Westminster Street, on January 17th.

The memory of Ansel Bourne retained absolutely nothing of the doings of A. J. Brown, whose life he had lived for nearly two months. Professor William James hypnotised him, and no sooner was he put into the trance and was told to remember what happened January 17th, 1887, than he became A. J. Brown again, and gave a clear and connected narrative of all his doings in the Brown state. He did not remember ever having met Ansel Bourne. Everything, however, in his past life, he said, was "mixed up." He only remembered that he was confused, wanted to get somewhere and have rest. He did not remember how he left Norristown. His mind was confused, and since then it was a blank. He had no memory whatever of his name or of his second marriage and the place of his birth. He remembered, however, the date of his birth, and of his first wife's death, and his trade. But between January 17th, 1887, and March 14th he was not himself but another, and that other one Albert J. Brown, who ceased to exist consciously on March 14th, but who promptly returned four years afterwards, when Ansel Bourne was hypnotised, and showed that he remembered perfectly all that happened to him between these two dates. The confusion of his two memories in his earlier life is puzzling, but it in no way impairs the value of this illustration of the existence of two independent memories--two selfs, so to speak, within a single skin.

The phenomenon is not uncommon, especially with epileptic patients. Every mad-doctor knows cases in which there are what may be described as alternating consciousnesses with alternating memories. But the experiments of the French hypnotists carry us much further. In their hands this Sub-conscious Personality is capable of development, of tuition, and of emancipation. In this little suspected region lies a great resource. For when the Conscious Personality is hopeless, diseased, or demoralised the Unconscious Personality can be employed to renovate and restore the patient, and then when its work is done it can become unconscious once more and practically cease to exist.

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