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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.

"When Madame B. returned to Havre I naturally questioned her concerning this curious missive. She remembered the first letter very distinctly, but she had not the slightest recollection of the second. I at first thought there must have been an attack of spontaneous somnambulism between the moment when she finished the first letter and the moment when she closed the envelope. But afterwards these unconscious, spontaneous letters became common, and I was better able to study the mode of their production. I was fortunately able to watch Madame B. on one occasion while she went through this curious performance. She was seated at a table, and held in the left hand the piece of knitting at which she had been working. Her face was calm, her eyes looked into space with a certain fixity, but she was not cataleptic, for she was humming a rustic tune; her right hand wrote quickly, and, as it were, surreptitiously. I removed the paper without her noticing me, and then spoke to her; she turned round wide-awake but was surprised to see me, for in her state of distraction she had not noticed my approach. Of the letter which she was writing she knew nothing whatever.

"Léonie II.'s independent action is not entirely confined to writing letters. She observed (apparently) that when her primary self, Léonie I., discovered these letters she (Léonie I.) tore them up. So Léonie II. hit upon a plan of placing them in a photographic album into which Léonie I. could not look without falling into catalepsy (on account of an association of ideas with Dr. Gibert, whose portrait had been in the album). In order to accomplish an act like this Léonie II. has to wait for a moment when Léonie I. is distracted, or, as we say, absent-minded. If she can catch her in this state Léonie II. can direct Léonie I.'s walks, for instance, or start on a long railway journey without baggage, in order to get to Havre as quickly as possible."

In the whole realm of imaginative literature, is there anything to compare to this actual fact of three selves in one body, each struggling to get possession of it? Léonie I., or the Conscious Personality, is in possession normally, but is constantly being ousted by Léonie II., or the Subconscious Personality. It is the old, old case of the wife trying to wear the breeches. But there is a fresh terror beyond. For behind both Léonie I. and Léonie II. stands the mysterious Léonie III.

"The spontaneous acts of the Unconscious Self," says M. Janet, here meaning by _l'inconscient_ the entity to which he has given the name of Léonie III., "may also assume a very reasonable form--a form which, were it better understood, might perhaps serve to explain certain cases of insanity. Mme. B., during her somnambulism (_i.e._ Léonie II.) had had a sort of hysterical crisis; she was restless and noisy and I could not quiet her. Suddenly she stopped and said to me with terror. 'Oh, who is talking to me like that? It frightens me.' 'No one is talking to you.' 'Yes! there on the left!' And she got up and tried to open a wardrobe on her left hand, to see if some one was hidden there. 'What is that you hear?' I asked. 'I hear on the left a voice which repeats, "Enough, enough, be quiet, you are a nuisance."' Assuredly the voice which thus spoke was a reasonable one, for Léonie II. was insupportable; but I had suggested nothing of the kind, and had no idea of inspiring a hallucination of hearing. Another day Léonie II. was quite calm, but obstinately refused to answer a question which I asked. Again she heard with terror the same voice to the left, saying, 'Come, be sensible, you must answer.' Thus the Unconscious sometimes gave her excellent advice."