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

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead

Chapter III. Aimless Doubles.

"On the 23rd of June," says one of his biographers, "he was heard screaming at midnight in the saloon. The Williamses ran in and found him staring on vacancy. He had had a vision of a cloaked figure which came to his bedside and beckoned him to follow. He did so, and when they had reached the sitting-room, the figure lifted the hood of his cloak and disclosed Shelley's own features, and saying, 'Siete soddisfatto?' vanished. This vision is accounted for on the ground that Shelley had been reading a drama attributed to Calderon, named 'El Embozado o El Encapotado,' in which a mysterious personage who had been haunting and thwarting the hero all his life, and is at last about to give him satisfaction in a duel, finally unmasks and proves to be the hero's own wraith. He also asks, 'Art thou satisfied?' and the haunted man dies of horror."

On the 29th of June some friends distinctly saw Shelley walk into a little wood near Lerici, when in fact he was in a wholly different direction. This was related by Byron to Mr. Cowell.

It is difficult to frame any theory that will account for this double apparition, except, of course, the hypothesis of downright lying on the part of the witnesses. But the hypothesis of the duplication of the body in this extraordinary fashion is one which cannot be accepted until the immaterial body is photographed under test conditions at the same time that the material body is under safe custody in another place. Of course, it is well to bear in mind that to all those who profess to know anything of occult lore, and also to those who have the gift of clairvoyance, there is nothing new or strange in the doctrine of the immaterial body. Many clairvoyants declare that they constantly see the apparitions of the living mingling with the apparitions of the dead. They are easily distinguishable. The ghost of a living person is said to be opaque, whereas the ghost of one from whom life has departed is diaphanous as gossamer.

All this, of course, only causes the unbeliever to blaspheme. It is to him every whit as monstrous as the old stories of the witches riding on broomsticks. But the question is not to be settled by blasphemy on one side or credulity on the other. There is something behind these phantasmal apparitions; there is a real substratum of truth, if we could but get at it. There seems to be some faculty latent in the human mind, by which it can in some cases impress upon the eye and ear of a person at almost any distance the image and the voice. We may call it telepathy or what we please. It is a marvellous power, the mere hint of which indefinitely expands the horizon of the imagination. The telephone is but a mere child's toy compared with the gift to transmit not only the sound of the voice but the actual visible image of the speaker for hundreds of miles without any conductor known to man.

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