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

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead

Chapter III. Madame B. and Her Three Souls.

Marvellous as the cases cited in the last chapter appear, they are thrown entirely into the shade by the case of Madame B., in which the two personalities not only exist side by side, but in the case of the Sub-conscious self knowingly co-exist, while over or beneath both there is a third personality which is aware of both the other two, and apparently superior to both. The possibilities which this case opens up are bewildering indeed. But it is better to state the case first and discuss it afterwards. Madame B., who is still under Prof. Richet's observations,[3] is one of the favourite subjects of the French hypnotiser. She can be put to sleep at almost any distance, and when hypnotised completely changes her character. There are two well-defined personalities in her, and a third of a more mysterious nature than either of the two first. The normal waking state of the woman is called Léonie I., the hypnotic state Léonie II. The third occult Unconscious Personality of the lowest depth is called Léonie III.

[3] 1891.

"This poor peasant," says Professor Janet, "is in her normal state a serious and somewhat melancholy woman, calm and slow, very gentle and extremely timid. No one would suspect the existence of the person whom she includes within her. Hardly is she entranced when she is metamorphosed; her face is no longer the same; her eyes, indeed, remain closed, but the acuteness of the other senses compensates for the loss of sight. She becomes gay, noisy, and restless to an insupportable degree; she continues good-natured, but she has acquired a singular tendency to irony and bitter jests.... In this state she does not recognise her identity with her waking self. 'That good woman is not I,' she says; 'she is too stupid!'"

Madame B. has been so often hypnotised, and during so many years (for she was hypnotised by other physicians as long ago as 1860), that Léonie II. has by this time acquired a considerable stock of memories which Madame B. does not share. Léonie II., therefore, counts as properly belonging to her own history and not to Madame B.'s all the events which have taken place while Madame B.'s normal self was hypnotised into unconsciousness. It was not always easy at first to understand this partition of past experiences.

"Madame B. in the normal state," says Professor Janet, "has a husband and children. Léonie II., speaking in the somnambulistic trance, attributes the husband to the 'other' (Madame B.), but attributes the children to herself.... At last I learnt that her former mesmerisers, as bold in their practice as certain hypnotisers of to-day, had induced somnambulism at the time of her accouchements. Léonie II., therefore, was quite right in attributing the children to herself; the rule of partition was unbroken, and the somnambulism was characterised by a duplication of the subject's existence" (p. 391).

Still more extraordinary are Léonie II.'s attempts to make use of Léonie I.'s limbs without her knowledge or against her will. She will write postscripts to Léonie I.'s letters, of the nature of which poor Léonie I. is unconscious.

It seems, however, that when once set up this new personality can occasionally assume the initiative, and can say what it wants to say without any prompting. This is curiously illustrated by what may be termed a conjoint epistle addressed to Professor Janet by Madame B. and her secondary self, Léonie II. "She had," he says, "left Havre more than two months when I received from her a very curious letter. On the first page was a short note written in a serious and respectful style. She was unwell, she said--worse on some days than on others--and she signed her true name, Madame B. But over the page began another letter in quite a different style, and which I may quote as a curiosity:--'My dear good sir,--I must tell you that B. really makes me suffer very much; she cannot sleep, she spits blood, she hurts me. I am going to demolish her, she bores me. I am ill also. This is from your devoted Leontine' (the name first given to Léonie II).