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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 20

First Lecture.—Spirit-Rapping & Ghost Seeing

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First Lecture.—Spirit-Rapping & Ghost Seeing

Before entering on the special subject of my lecture, I beg to make one or two explanations of a personal nature. It may be asked: Why come forward now to lecture, after remaining silent so long, when a public challenge was given to discuss the subject publicly? In answer, I have to state that, while admitting public discussion may, under certain circumstances, be valuable, it is in most cases eminently unsatisfactory. The course of argument and illustration is abruptly interrupted, and the attention of the audience is apt to be distracted from the main points by lively repartee, and jokes and witticisms. Such sallies often carry more weight with a mixed popular audience than solid reasoning, and there is a strong temptation presented to the disputants to frame their speeches so as to gain the applause of the audience at the moment rather than to inform and convince their understanding. Before a select audience, trained to weigh the force of logical arguments, this would not be the case, but such would scarcely be looked for in a popular audience that might assemble to hear a debate on this subject. Moreover, I frankly confess that I expected the general interest in Spiritualism, which appeared eight or ten months ago, and which seemed to have nearly passed away, would not now be revived, at least beyond the natural curiosity to see and hear any new comers of great pretensions, particularly when nothing new was advanced in support of Spiritualism or the doctrines which are usually associated with it. I have been given to understand, however, that a number of individuals in this city have recently been led to attach great importance to Spiritualism, and especially to the doctrines of a strongly negative character generally connected with it, such as the denial of the Trinity, of the Divinity of Christ, of original sin, and of the existence of the Devil and of Hell. I have come forward therefore with the view of assisting, if possible, any who may be in perplexity or darkness in respect to this subject, and have adopted this mode of reaching such, as, in my view, the most suitable, In this I have acted simply on my own responsibility, and I would wish it to be under-stood by all that none of my respected brethren in the ministry are in any degree parties to my action. Some of them, I belive, may not approve of this step; and I would not presume to censure any of them for holding a different opinion, or following a different course. I am sure of this, that whatever appeared to them to be duty they would boldly and readily follow out. I may state that the subject of Spiritualism has not engaged my attention now for the first time, as I have writen articles upon it in the Press at home as far back as seventeen years ago. At the same time, I do not put myself for ward as professing to offer a complete explanation of all the phenomena which have been presented in the name of Spiritualism. The evidence as to the existence of the alleged phenomena has in many cases not been furnished, and the state of scientific enquiry on all these points has not yet been so far advanced as to warrant me in professing myself able to furnish a complete solution of them. The real subject, however, which claims our attention is much more limited. It is to determine, if possible, what may be accepted as unquestionable facts established by sufficient evidence; then to consider whether science, as fairly established, furnishes any adequate explanation of them, and, if not, whether the theory of the Spiritualists can be received as giving the explanation required. This theory is simply that they are caused by page 2 spirits; not, however, spirits of any class, but by the spirits of departed human beings—ghosts. To discover what the facts of Spiritualism are is a task of no little difficulty. In trying to search them out one is strongly reminded of the saying, "There is nothing so deceitful as figures except facts," and of the other—no less true—"There are more false facts than false theories in the world." No doubt the well-known story of the problem submitted to the Royal Society of London may occur to your minds. King Charles sent to enquire how it came to pass that when a live fish was put into a globe of water the weight was not increased by the weight of the fish. Many learned and profound theories were readily started to explain this. At length one philosopher, evidently strong in common sense, proposed, amid loud cries for his presumption and disloyalty in calling in question the king's word, that the fish itself should be tested by the scales. The result was that the weight was found to be the same, whether the fish was dead or alive. It is always the dictate of sound sense first to make sure of the facts, before troubling about the explanation. I have often felt that lecturers on Spiritualism directed far too little attention to these and the evidence on which they rested. A very short and simple method of disposing of this part of the subject has been followed by the Rev. Mr Watt in a letter recently published. Looking at the character of the alleged phenomena, and observing that they are for the most part of a silly and purposeless character, he declares this affords a strong presumption that the phenomena are really the work of some kind of spirits. He says "it is a very significant fact to me that the manifestations are sometimes intensely silly. We are gravely told, when a number are meet at a seance, how the coat has been whisked off one man instantaneously, and on the gas being turned on, is found on the back of his neighbour, whose hands, strange to say, have been bound behind his back all the time. Those who know anything about the doings of the spirits must be aware that they largely consist of practical jokes of this description, militating against the gravity and decorum we naturally associate with the inhabitants of another world. The very grotesqueness and absurdity of the reported marvels of Spiritualism are, I confess, to me a proof of their reality; for I cannot help thinking that men and women in this nineteenth century, to whom an exalted model of supernatural action has been presented in the miracles of Jesus Christ, would be ashamed to select the utterly purposeless and silly displays of power which make up a large proportion of the Spiritualistic manifestations, if they have not actually witnessed them." Would any other person derive such an inference? Do we not infer the nature of causes from the nature of effects? And if, as he admits in this case, the effects consist largely of practical jokes, militating against the gravity and decorum we naturally associate with the inhabitants of another world, surely this should be a very strong presumption that the inhabitants of another world had nothing whatever to do with them, and that the practical jokers might be found among those who had such a propensity, and the opportunity for carrying it into practice in darkened rooms. But he reaches the same conclusion by another process of reasoning, equally fallacious. He says:—"They (the American Spiritualists) court controversy, and exhibit a bonhommie under the vituperation of opponents, which proves to me they are conscious of standing on a solid foundation of facts, and can afford to look down with something like a feeling of amusement on the efforts made by these critics to deny those facts, or explain them away." To my mind, the natural inference to be drawn from the conduct of those referred to would rather be that they hold their theory and the doctrines connected with it in a very light manner. They could not attach great importance and solemnity to their so-called faith if they could derive amusement from sneering and ridicule which might be cast upon it. If we could ascertain that Spiritualists were ready to make themselves martyrs for what they declared to be the truth, and that they persisted in their efforts to extend it through years of self-denying toil, then we might infer that their conviction of the reality of the phenomena was real and strong. I have never observed that earnest Christians could find any amusement in hearing the claims of their divine Saviour ridiculed; or his offering himself as a sacrifice for sin sneered at as of no more efficiency than the offering of the blood of a sheep. Earnest Christians could find no amusement in hearing such blasphemy, and would refuse to countenance those who were guilty of it. And yet they have often shown how deep and strong were their convictions of the reality of Christ's divinity, by the sacrifices they have made in giving their testimony to this fact. It is, however, but justice to Mr Watt to state that although his philosophical Pegasus has carried him through such vagaries, he declares that the argument which has weighed most in his mind in accepting the Spiritualistic phenomena has been the testimony of such men as Judge Edmonds and Robt. Dale Owen, The alleged phenomena, however, are far too numerous and multiform, and, in many cases, obscure, subtle, and evanescent, to be received in the mass on the testimony of any single witness, however sincere and honest he may be. They must be examined in detail, and the evidence presented in support of them must be carefully scrutinised. This has to a certain extent been done by the Dialectical Society of London. Members of that Society devoted months of page 3 enquiry and patient attending of séances to find out the facts. A report stating the results was published. It should be mentioned, however, that this was not sanctioned by the Society as a whole, but only by a minority, yet it might be fairly taken as presenting, so far as it goes, evidence that may be accepted. The framers of the report declared to be established as true—1. "That sounds of a very varied character, apparently proceeding from articles of furniture, the door and walls of the room—the vibrations accompanying such sounds are often distinctly perceptible to the touch—occur without being produced by muscular action or mechanical contrivance. 2. That movements of heavy bodies take place without mechanical contrivance of any kind, or adequate exertion of muscular force by the persons present, and frequently without contact or connection with any person. 3. That these sounds and movements often occur at the time, and in the manner asked for by persons present, and by means of a simple code of signals answer questions, and spell out coherent communications. 4. That the answers and the communications thus obtained are for the most part of a common-place character, but facts are sometimes correctly given which are only known to one of the persons present. 5. That the circumstances under which the phenomena take place are variable, the most prominent fact being that the presence of certain persons seems necessary to their occurrence, and that of others generally adverse; but this difference does not appear to depend on any belief or disbelief concerning the phenomena. 6. That, nevertheless, the occurrence of the phenomena is not insured by the presence or absence of such persons respectively." If, then, we accept these conclusions as true, we must consider whether science can explain them, or whether we must seek their explanation in the ghost theory. There are two elements here which require to be accounted for—the physical rappings and movements of bodies, and the intelligence which is shown in the answers to questions or movements of tables at request. Both, I think, can be amply explained, without the help of any ghost. It has been scientifically demonstrated that the human body is more or less charged with electricity—a fact which was observed before electricity was studied as a science. Cardan relates that the hair of a Carmelite monk emitted sparks whenever it was stroked backwards. From the hair of a young woman mentioned by Faber sparks of fire always fell when it was combed. Cassandra Buri, a Veronese lady, often terrified her maid-servents by brilliant sparks and a crackling noise, which were given forth whenever her body was rubbed or slightly touched by a linen cloth, and a bookseller at Pisa emitted sparks from his back and arms, with a crackling noise, whenever he pulled off a narrow shirt and a piece of cloth which he wore upon his breast. In the case of some individuals this electric power attains a much higher force. I quote the following examples which are well authenticated. In the summer of 1839 two Greek girls came from Smyrna to France, and began to exhibit their powers for a livelihood. On placing themselves at opposite ends of a large table, a cracking sound was emitted, like that of the electric fluid passing over gilt paper. The table thereafter began to shake, and gradually moved away from the elder! to the younger. But when clad in silk, or if the atmosphere chanced to be humid, they had no power to act either on the table or on each other. Speaking of a French medium, whose case was reported to the Paris Academy of Science in 1846, Arago says:—"The principal seat of her power seems to be in her left side. During her paroxysms it is warmer than her right side, and is affected with jerks, unusual movements, and a kind.; of trembling which communicates itself to anyone that touches the parts so affected. She presents, moreover, a peculiar sensibility to the action of the magnet. On approaching its north pole she receives a violent shock, while its south pole produces no effect on her whatever. A sheet of paper, a-pen, or any light body is driven away as by a gust of wind, so soon as she extends her left hand towards it and before she has come near enough to touch it. The moment the table is touched by her hand—or even by a string which she may be holding—it is overthrown. This action produces a strong commotion in her left side, by which she is forcibly drawn to the table. Should she, while in this condition, attempt to sit down, the seat is thrown from under her with prodigious force. One day a chest, on which three men were sitting, was moved in this manner; and on another occasion, a chair held by two strong men was broken in their hands." When a number of people were seated for a considerable time in a close room, it was very natural and probable that electricity should become so accumulated and intensified as to present a sufficient reason for the phenomena declared to have been witnessed by the Dialectical Society, not merely on the table with which their hands are in contact, but likewise on the walls or floor of the room. Such effects may be accounted for, as it has been scientifically demonstrated that electricity is conducted by the air as well as by solid bodies. There, then, is a sufficient cause for the physical part of the phenomena, and so far there is no need for a ghost. But how explain the manifestation of intelligence? If the knocking force proceeds from the highly charged human body or bodies that are present, it is reasonable to suppose that direction in which it may be transmitted may be influenced to some extent by the movements of parts of their bodies under the page 4 control of their will—not necessarily the movements of their hands, nor yet movements of a violent or even noticeable kind, and possibly even without such movements—by the mere influence of will. The effects of electricity proceeding from the bodies of electrical eels—called Gymnotus electricus—in South America, may serve to illustrate this. Humboldt placed both his feet on a fresh Gymnotus, and experienced a more violent shock than he had ever felt from a Leyden jar. When he and another held one of them between them, one holding the head or shoulders, and the other the tail, the one felt the shock and the other did not, and they were led to the conclusion that it could direct its electric strokes where it chose. Further, they found that some Gymnoti which they kept alive killed some other fishes which they introduced into the same vessel of water, without coming, in contact with them. The force with which this can be done was observed by Humboldt in America to stun horses which were driven into the water when they were swimming, so that the horses fell down completely overpowered, and were drowned. Regarding the probability of electrical effects proceeding from the human body, influenced to some extent by the will, I think there is here a clue to the intelligence displayed by the table knockings in answer to questions put. That intelligence, from all the reliable evidence I have been able to obtain, is sufficiently accounted for by the intelligence of one or several of those from whom the knocking force proceeds. The evidence of the Dialectical Society does not advance one step beyond this. The answers, the report states, are usually of a common place character, but sometimes known only to one of the persons present. We must, however, accept of other evidence besides theirs. Let us try then, if this explanation will apply to the well-known story of "the Rochester knockings." Circumstances given by Mrs Harding and by Dale Owen, and many more, need not be questioned. They are briefly these:—The Fox family, residing at Hydesville were disturbed by knockings about their house. After a time it was found they would respond to questions, and they gave correct answers about the names and ages of the children when questioned by Mrs Fox. Questions were further put—Are you a man? are you a spirit? and, what is your name? and so on. Gradually, and after many questionings, and that by different people and on different occasions, a connected story was made out from the answers that this was the ghost of a pedlar named Charles B. Rosma, who had slept in the house four or five years before on a Tuesday night, and had been murdered at 12 o'clock by John C. Bell, a blacksmith, who occupied it, and was that night in the house alone. It was further stated that the body was buried in the cellar 10 feet deep. It appears from the evidence that the knockings had never been heard in the house previous to the time thus indicated, but by all who had since occupied it. It seems to be assumed by Mr Owen that none of the neigh-bours knew anything of' the occurrences mentioned. But this, I think, is a very improbable supposition; for Mr Owen states that the daughter of a neighbour (Lucretia Pulver by name, 15 years of age), was servant at the house at the time when the pedlar came with his pack, and that she spoke to him. This young woman gave her depositions regarding the circumstances after the knockings attracted public attention. She stated that Mrs Bell told her she was acquainted with the pedlar before. Is it then not a very probable thing that she would mention his name to the girl? Lucretia was sent home that clay, as Mrs Bell was going from home, and said she would not require her services longer. The pedlar remained in the house with Mr Bell, but next day he never came, according to expectation, to the house of Lucretia, who had promised to buy a new dress from him. Lucretia was sent for again on Mrs Bell's-return 3 days afterwards, and came and resided there. Then she heard knockings and sounds of footsteps about the house at night, Then sounds as if coming from the cellar. A week after this Lucretia having gone into the cellar, was alarmed by sinking in the soft soil. She asked Mrs Bell what Mr Bell had been doing in the cellar. Mrs Bell said that it might be rat holes, and her husband was occupied a few days afterwards taking down earth to till them up. The tenants who succeeded Mr and Mrs Bell, who had evidently considered it prudent to leave that part of the country, resided in the house a year before they heard knockings, and thereafter they had no peace for them, and shortly afterwards left. How are we to account for the knockings after the pedlar's visit, heard by Lucretia and Mrs Bell, and then for the absence of them during a year after their successors came to the house, and further, for the resumption of the knockings at that time? The most reasonable explanation is that th knockings, in so far as they were real (although no doubt their excited imaginations would exaggerate them, and assign them to their several localities), proceeded from the excited persons who were terrified and haunted by the strong suspicion of foul murder having been committed. The absence of the knockings for a year after their successors entered was probably due to their ignorance of this dark deed. But as they had become better acquainted with their neighbours the secret had evidently been drawn out from Lucretia, and the natural result followed. They became terrified, and through their excited state knockings were produced, which no doubt would be exaggerated in the stillness of night. They did not bear this long, but sought another dwelling where they would find peace. The Fox family next took page 5 possession, and the story of the previous knockings, and the suspicion of the dark deed associated with them, could hardly fail to be speedily known by the new tenants. The usual results followed, and most probably in an intensified degree. From Mr Owen's account, the Fox family were hereditarily gifted, or, as I should rather say, afflicted, with what was called second-sight, and such excitable natures as theirs would manifest the full effects of such a history as pertained to their new dwelling. But Mr Owen brings forward what he no doubt thinks clear proof that the neighbours never did entertain such suspicions of the pedlar's murder. He says that Mr Bell, hearing of the reports that were spread, came to the district and obtained signatures from persons residing there to the number of 44, stating that they never knew anything against his character, and that when he lived among them, they thought him, and still think him, a man of honest and upright character incapable of committing crime. Now what does this prove? It is intended to establish the fact that none of the neighbours bad ever heard a rumour or entertained a suspicion that this Mr Bell had committed murder on the pedlar. He does not tell us if Lucretia signed, or if the successors of Mr Bell in the house signed it, or if the Fox family signed it. Most probably some of them did. As for others, who at the very worst could only know of a dark suspicion attaching to the unfortunate pedlar's visit, very little weight can be attached to their signing such a vague testimonial if they thought it would be of any service. As an evidence of Mr Bell's innocence, it strongly reminds one of the plea set up by an Irishman. When two witnesses swore they saw him steal a horse, he said he could bring fifty who didn't see him do so, and who would swear it it is of little importance to us in the present case whether Mr Hell was innocent or guilty. It is sufficient to shew there is strong evidence for believing that a rumour of such guilt had reached the ears of Bell's successors after they had lived in the house a year, and also had come to the knowledge of the Fox family. The whole connected story, as we stated it, was given gradually at separate times, and no doubt corresponded to the various beliefs which were entertained by the questioners. Mrs Harding says, evidence of the crime was discovered in the cellar, when it was dug into. Mr Owen does not seem clear about this. To us, however, it is of no consequence. The evidence regarding Lucretia, who lived in the neighbourhood apparently during the whole time, affords sufficient reason to believe that the suspicion of the murder was connected with the house. Where then, I ask, is there any room or need for a ghost? One adequate reason will satisfy every philosophical mind. The Dutch Burgomaster, who omitted to receive his royal master with the customary salute of cannon, was prepared to lay before His Highness nineteen good and sufficient reasons in vindication of his conduct. His master, however, was wisely satisfied when he heard the first—that he had no powder. It is surprising that Mr Owen (the narrator of the story) did not clearly see that the responses came in accordance wite the minds of the questioners; for in the very same chapter in which he describes this case, he mentioned that a report was circulated that a pedlar who had suddenly disappeared, was murdered. This report was proved to be utterly false. Yet before the truth was found out by the return of the pedlar, specific information had been obtained by means of raps that the pedlar's dead body would be found at a particular point of a canal. In all cases that have been adduced, it would be found that where there were any means of obtaining full particulars regarding them, the rapping table, like Dame Waddell's teapot, would only give out what had been put in. To give a correct judgment, however, of what may be in the mind of any questioner, is no easy matter, and on this point there is great misapprehension. The amount of knowledge which the mind possessed, many supposed, was just what they were able to recall at the moment, yet on reflection everyone must be convinced that his knowledge was far more extensive; and it was a well-established fact that every thought or expression which the mind had ever received was retained by it, and might be recalled. Only a very small part is reproduced under ordinary circumstances, but in times of special excitement, or concentration of thought, the hidden, stores of memory are brought forth in such abundance, and so distinctly, that the person is amazed. Dr Abercrombie tells of a naval officer who was submerged for a few moments in the water, and was rescued, and that during this brief time he declared he had seen the whole events of his life pass vividly before his mind. Another instance he gives as follows:—"A lady in the last: stage of chronic disease was taken from London to a lodging in the country. Her infant daughter was taken to see her, and shortly afterwards the lady died. The child grew up, without any recollection of her mother, to mature age. She happened to be taken, into the room where her mother died without being told anything about it. She; started on entering it, and when the friend who was with her enquired the reason, she replied, "I have a distinct impression of having been in this room before, and that a lady who lay in that corner, and seemed very ill, leaned over me and wept." These examples will show how memory retains many things which may slumber for years, and suddenly be revived through even the slightest circumstance connected with what was forgotten. Sometimes also what has thus suddenly started into consciousness as suddenly disappears, so that we are at a loss page 6 to know why if arose in the mind at all—until perhaps by careful searching we discover that it is correct. Of the reality of this every one who attends much to the working of his own mind will have frequent proof. The reproduction of thoughts in the mind takes place, according to what philosophers call the laws of association. Nothing in memory will start up into consciousness without being influenced by some thing else which connects it with our present thought. The intermediate thoughts, however, by which it is held in association with that presently before us, may not rise into consciousness, although they have been operative, and have led to the starting up of some long forgotten thought. This furnishes an illustration of one peculiarity of the mind's working, which has been designated by the term Latent Mental Modifications, or more .recently by Dr Carpenter's Unconscious Gerebration.

It will serve to explain such a case as the following given by Owen, which he entitles "Sister Elizabeth." Dr H. saw an apparition while attending Dr Bellow's Church in New York of three female figures. One appeared as his wife, the other as his mother; the third, a young girl between them, he did not recognise, He had a sister Anne, who had died 39 years before, but he settled that the young girl did not resemble her. Next day he called on one of the Foxes. He wrote out a number of female names. Anne was passed by, and the table rapped out the name of Elizabeth, his sister. He declared he never had a sister Elizabeth. He asked if the figure he saw was his sister Elizabeth, and the raps at once answered yes. He afterwards consulted the family register, and found that a sister named Eizabeth had died a few weeks after birth. This had happened during a five years' absence from home, and on being questioned, Dr H. thought it likely that his father would mention the circumstance in one of his letters at the time, but he had forgotten it. This had been most probably suddenly recalled to his mind at the moment when he was intently seeking information—possibly with so much dimness and uncertainty, that he had been unable to assure himself of its correctness until the family register revealed what had been long ago made known to him. The answer I regard as simply a response influenced by his own will, although he had a feeling of doubt as to its correctness. He had already settled that the figure in question could not be his sister Elizabeth. Being between his mother and wife, he would most probably think that she must be another sister, although he forgot that there really was another. The name had no doubt flashed up suddenly yet dimly, when expecting the response. The vastness of the storehouse of memory in every soul is far beyond our conceptions, and as wonderful is the subtlety and apparent caprice which characterise I the mode in which it yields up its treasures. It is in sleep, in the somnambulic state, and in various abnormal conditions, that the extraordinary powers of the memory are most vividly displayed. Instances of this I cannot here take time to present, but they go far to prove that all we have once known is ever retained, and may be at any moment recalled, and probably no circumstances are more favourable for recalling what has been long forgotten than when a susceptible person, eagerly expectant, is making enquiries about it at his wooden oracle. It may, perhaps, be asked by some, Have you not admitted the reality of ghosts in the last-mentioned instance, in which Dr H. saw distinctly three figures, which he recognised as those of his departed relatives? Nothing, surely, can be stronger evidence than seeing them. If seeing is believing, then, surely, nobody can deny. This leads me to the subject of spectral illusions or apparitions which in all ages have been seen, and have ministered most powerfully to the love of the marvellous. Mr Owen admits—and I agree with him,!—that some of the spectral illusions are truly accounted for on well-understood optical principles. For example, the visitor to the top of the Brocken, which is the principal summit of the Hartz Mountains, in the North of Germany, may see about sunrise, when the atmospheric conditions are favourable, the appearance of a giant in the clouds perhaps five or six hundred feet in height. Not, however, equal to the conception of the great Highland giant, Gog Magog Mac Finn MacCoull, whose mouth was 11 miles wide, his teeth 10 miles square.

He would upon his toes upstand,
And take the stars down in his hand,
And set them in a gold garland,
To deck his wifle's hair.

This wonderful spectre, which I was not fortunate enough to see when I was there, is simply explained when it is known to be merely the shadow of the traveller standing! in light clouds with the sun shining brightly upon him, which is reflected from the distant clouds, and of course magnified to enormous proportions. Similar principles explain the Fata Morgana of the Mediterranean, the mirage of the Desert, and occasional figures of ships or cities, or other distant objects, some-times seen in the clouds. These are illusions, considered as to the reality of what is represented, but not illusions as to the objective reality of the images or reflections themselves. With regard to illusions as to images which have no outward existence, but which simply exist in the imagination of the beholder, he is inclined to deny that there are such, unless in the case of persons labouring under disease or persistent hallucinations bordering on insanity. He lays down something like a principle to distinguish those hallucinations which he will admit to be page 7 such from what he regards as being in no j sense an illusion or hallucination, but the veritable appearance of a real ghost. He says there is no authentic instance of hallucination in which several witnesses agreed: about it, and that an illusion or hallucination only deceives the one unhappy individual who is the subject of it.] Now, if he and his admirers would adhere to this principle I think it would cut away the ground from the vast majority of the reputed ghosts with which we are favoured. And certainly it would leave not even the space of a needle's point for I)r H.'s three ghosts to stand upon in Dr Bellow's church. I may safely say that no one else saw them but himself. In most cases this distinction will be practically correct. Yet it is by no means followed out by Mr Owen, nor by those who put so much faith in his narratives. In fact, one of his own stories supplies a very strong illustration that the principle is not correct. He tells of two ladies, mother and daughter, walking in broad daylight, who observed a figure moving towards them. One said to the other, "There's Mr Thomson." They both looked, and recognised the person named. When they came home they mentioned to the husband, who was a medical man, that they had just seen Mr Thomson. He replied "That is impossible, for he has been ill in bed all day, and I have just been visiting him." An ordinary reasoner would conclude that here was the clearest evidence of one of two things. Either a remarkable case of mistaken identity, or a decided example of spectral illusion. The sharp eyes of the ladies seeing close at hand in the daylight a well-known friend, so that they were both certain of his identity, militate against the former alternative; and Mr Owen's acute mind probably never entertained such a thought. The other alternative, however, appears to him no less objectionable. It is clear it was not the man himself; and I think it must be equally clear to every one that it could not be his ghost, for he was still in the body, although he was in bed. Mr Owen, however, manfully sticks to his ghost theory. In fact, his capacity for the marvellous seems to be only equalled by the unfortunate party who had been living for a time at the Cape, and long afterwards, complained of persistent pains in his stomach, which he accounted for by saying he had swallowed a Caffre, and could not get rid of him. Mr Owen has swallowed the ghost theory, and although his mental stomach is often put to straits to digest it, he refuses to part with it under any circumstances. The spectre of a living man therefore seen by two ladies he persists in declaring to have been his ghost, and he explains its presence by supposing that the man had fallen asleep or gone into a trance, and that his ghost had gone out for an airing. One or other of the alternatives named is the only explanation which can to my mind satisfactorily meet the case; but which was the correct one we have not sufficient evidence to prove. To prove that it was a case of mistaken identity we should require either to produce the man who passed along at the time and place, and show that the resemblance to the Mr Thomson named was sufficiently close to account for the impression of the two ladies. If, on the other hand, we had proof that no man in the least resembling him passed that way at the time, I should have no hesitation in declaring it a case of spectral illusion, which can be adequately accounted for by the influence of the imagination. This explanation will probably be regarded by some of you as a mere vague and unsatisfactory-reason, resorted to to get rid of a difficulty—a reason which has no solid, or at least no scientific basis on which to rest. I think, however, I shall show you sufficient reason from facts well-established by science, and many of them quite familiar to your own experience, that may lead you to attach more importance to it than is frequently done. It is clearly and incontrovertibly established that all the organs of sense are also the organs of imagination—that they may be under its control, and exercise their several functions under its influence. On this point hear what Sir David Brewster says—who, I have observed, has been claimed by Spiritists as one of their supporters. He remarks that "when the eye is not exposed to the impressions of external objects, or when it is insensible to these objects in consequence of being engrossed with its own operations, any object of mental contemplation which has either been called up by the memory or created by the imagination will he seen as distinctly as if it had been formed from the virion of a real object. In examining these mental impressions, he adds, I have found that they follow the motions of the eyeball, exactly like the spectral impressions of luminous objects, and that they resemble them also in their apparent immobility when the eyeball is displaced by an internal force. If this result shall be found generally true by others, it will follow that the objects of mental contemplation may be seen as distinctly as external objects, and will occupy the some local position in the axis of vision as if they had been formed by the agency of light." The truth of this, I think, everyone will understand, and admit in re! gard to the state of sleep, You have the! impression of visible objects as distinctly as in the waking state. Moreover, you see them always in such position with regard to yourselves as you would do if you were awake, and in their presence. You never dream that you see objects behind you, or in any position relative to yourselves on which it would be impossible for your eyes to see them, if it were a reality instead of a dream. I have no doubt that theeyes really adjust themselves to the positions of the various objects which imagination has presented to the mind. A fur- page 8 ther proof in support of this view is derived from the fact that those who have been born blind or deprived of sight in infancy are unable to imagine such objects as require sight to perceive them in reality. So it is with all the other organs of sense. The hearing is as much under the control of the imagination as the sight, and those who have been born deaf are unable to imagine or dream about sounds; or, if they do, they will represent them to their minds under the form of objects that are cognizable by the other senses—representing, perhaps, a loud sound under the form of a great cloud, or a sour apple, or a very solid piece of rock. The muscles of expression, as is well known, readily obey the impulses of imagination, so that the mother who is watching her child, and sees at times the beaming smile light up its countenance, says very truly her babe is dreaming. So the organs of speech are frequently found obedient to the imagination during sleep, and have sometimes revealed the secret of the murderer when he little knew of it. And various members of the body of some individuals show, on many occasions—sometimes to the loss and damage of their bedfellows—that they are ready at the call of imagination to follow Hamlet's advice to the players, and 'suit the word to the action and the action to the word.' But it will be said all this may be true in regard to sleep, but it is quite different when a person is awake. Then he can distinguish at once between any impression or influence of his imagination and an equally strong impression or influence from something which is a reality. This is not in all cases so easy as you think. The reason why we can in most cases distinguish between what is an impression of the imagination and what is a reality, is that the impressions of the imagination are usually inconsistent with, and contradicted by, the whole circumstances around us. We have on the one side a single impression derived from the imagination, and on the other a vast number of impressions all consistent with each other, and all opposed to this single impression derived from the imagination, and so we readily distinguish between the one and the other. But when the impression furnished by the imagination is not inconsistent with our surroundings—which sometimes, although rarely, happens—then we may be left in uncertainty. I remember a case of this which, although trivial in itself, furnishes a clear illustration. One day I suddenly called to remembrance an impression that I had made an engagement to meet a friend on a particular evening at his house. On trying to recall the circumstances connected with making the appointment, I could not do it. The impression was then distinct enough, but all the attendant circumstances had gone from me. I considered with myself, could this be an impression received in a dream? I could not recall any attendant circumstances to afford a clue. There was nothing inconsistent or unlikely in the thing itself, nor anything extraordinary in my forgetting the circumstances. I felt quite uncertain, and only after going to the house at the time, arrived at the conclusion that the impression had been received in a dream. What happened to this very limited extent has occurred in another case quoted by Hamilton, to an extent which, if it were at all common, would turn the world upside down. 'A young man had a cataleptic attack, in consequence of which a curious effect was wrought upon his mental constitution. Every night, about six minutes after falling asleep, he began to speak distinctly, and always of the same subject, and he continued from night to night to act the same part. On awaking he had no re-collection of his dreaming thoughts. He played a double part in his existence. By day he was a poor apprentice, by night he was a wealthy senator, the father of a family, and in prosperous circumstances. If during sleep anything concerning his true state were said to him, he declared it was unreal and a dream.' This may show that it is not always so easy for us to distinguish between what is presented by the imagination, and what by outward realities. Impressions made in dreams frequently continue after awaking. Probably you can all remember that when you have had a vivid dream, and have been suddenly awakened, you remain for a time under the full belief that the dream was a reality, and only gradually persuade yourself that it was not. It is the fact that the imagination can and does influence the various organs of sense during our waking hours, as well as during sleep. Neibuhr, the celebrated Danish traveller, when old and blind, said that 'as he lay in bed all visible objects strut about; the pictures of what he had seen in the East continually floated before his mind's eye, so that it was no wonder he could speak of them as if he had seen them yesterday.' Many eminent composers of music first compose their whole piece in their minds and perform it in their imagination, and are able to hear the whole harmony of the music as distinctly as if it were performed by an orchestra. The sense of smell, too, is also subject to the imagination's influence. A lawyer once accompanied a doctor to a post mortem examination of a child who had been murdered. They saw the coffin when they entered, and very speedily the gentleman of the long robe said the body was too far gone; he felt the smell overpowering, and he must at once retire. The doctor's well-seasoned nose, however, did not perceive the odour. On opening the coffin it was found to be empty, and there was no assignable cause for the strong impression on the olfactory nerves of the lawyer, but his page 9 own excited imagination. The sense of touch is also subject in a remarkable degree to the magic spell of imagination. There are, however, illusions to which it is subject that may be accounted for on strictly physiological principles which physicians well understand. If you were visiting a friend whose leg had been amputated a week before, and in the course of your conversation on other topics, you casually ask him how he felt his leg; you must be startled by hearing him reply that he was much annoyed by a constant pain in his big toe. You must start at this, knowing probably that his amputated limb was already buried, or receiving special attention in the dissecting room; and yet his sensations must be easily accounted for on well-known physiological principles. But where there is no such physiological reason, innumerable instances occur daily of false perceptions of touch, which can only be explained by the influence of imagination. Without referring to such extraordinary cases as those in which a person believes that his head is turned the wrong way and dresses himself accordingly, or where he is convinced that some important part of his person is made of glass, which necessitates on his part very extraordinary caution, and fills him with many groundless fears—the sensations of touch, and especially in all parts of the body—except the points of the fingers, and the tip of the tongue, are in very many cases utterly deceptive." Keeping in view those well established principles that show the influence of the imagination to be much more powerful than was generally understood, we might find in them a sufficient explanation of the great mass of cases in which it is alleged ghosts had been seen. When the imagination was strongly excited or very susceptible, it might cause one to see, even in the daylight, objects of its own creation. The simple reason why they did not usually see such so vividly during their waking hours was that the attention was generally distracted by impressions from external objects. If, however, they should sit down in a darkened room, in perfect silence, and with the strong desire and expectation of seeing a ghost, it would not be at all surprising if they should, like so many Spiritists, succeed I have already said that Owen mentions a test for distinguishing between an illusion and a reality, namely—that the reality may be seen by any who are present, while the illusion cannot. If he adopted this principle, he should cast aside as unreliable all the cases of all ged ghosts seen only by one person. But, probably from what he may allege to be corroborative evidence, he accepts visions, though seen only by one, as being actual ghosts. Now there is sufficient evidence to prove that the mere fact of two or more spectators receiving the same impression at the same time, is not proof that the thing seen is an outward reality. Owen gives the case of the two girls being seen by the rest of the family clearly and distinctly at a little distance from their house. The father went towards them to see, but before he reached the place they disappeared. The family also standing outside the house lost sight of the figures about the same time. They found the two girls in the house upstairs, alone, and in their usual state of health. This circumstance might convince anyone that the figures seen outside could not be their ghosts. The girls, Owen says, saw and recognised their own figures as well as the others. What explanation then, does he offer? He maintains they were realities, though he does not profess to give the full explanation. He suggests, however, as a probable solution, that the purpose was to forbode the death of both of the girls, which took place within a year. The purpose of the figures appearing is not the question of main importance: What were these outward realities, as he maintains them to be? Either they were ghosts, according to his view, or they were not. If they were, we have the extraordinary result of persons who had two ghosts—one to serve them in the body, and another for ornament; one to be like Punch's useful poker, and the other to remain always polished and bright. Really to overtake such a reasoner as Mr Owen, and bring him to convictions in accordance with common sense, seems as hopeless as to catch a ghost. To his mind it is not sufficient to find ghosts for the dead, but he claims them for those who are asleep or in a trance, and even for such as are looking with amazement upon what he declares to be themselves. Surely if they believed that this was their own ghost at which they were so amazed, we might well say—

Fool, fool! look at thy brother.
Why shouldn't one fool look at another.

The explanation of this phenomena, so far as the evidence supplied affords indication, is a very simple one. It was a case of optical illusion arising from the peculiar state of the atmosphere. It was the month of October, after a heavy rain, and when the sun was shining brightly. In such a case there would most likely be a good deal of vapour rising from the soil, causing light clouds to form near the ground. The two girls were in the upper part of the house, in some part where the sun shone upon them from the one side of the house, and from which their shadows would be thrown out of the opposite side upon the light vapoury clouds near the ground. The reflection of these shadows would sufficiently explain the whole phenomena, without either ghost or foreboding of any kind. There is a story given by Owen in his "Footfalls" of a totally different kind, which Spiritists, I believe, hold to be a most clear and convincing demonstration of the correctness of their theory. The wife of an officer who had gone to India saw his spectre one night page 10 in a faint-like attitude, with his hands crossed upon his breast. She at once settled in her mind that he must have died that very day, and waited with the utmost anxiety the arrival of the mail. Tidings came that her husband was killed in action that very day on which she saw the spectre—the 14th November. The War Office intimation dated it the 15th November. A friend in London mentioned the circumstance to a lady, who along with her husband had got power in seeing apparitions. She replied, addressing her husband, "That must be the very person I saw the evening when we were talking of India, and you drawing an elephant with a howdah on his back. Mr Wilkinson (the friend)," she said, has described his exact position and appearance—the uniform of a British soldier; his hands pressed across his breast; his form bent forward as if in pain. The figure appeared just behind my husband, and seemed looking over his left shoulder." Through the medium of her husband, they procured communication from him—I suppose by table-rapping—and to the effect that he had been killed in India by a wound in the breast—where else would a lady wound a soldier? This was found to have taken place on the very same evening on which the vision appeared to the officer's wife, and it was afterwards ascertained that the date in the official intimation first sent from the War Office was wrong, and was afterwards corrected. At first sight, all this appears very remarkable; but it does not carry such weight as Mr Owen attaches to it. As to the officer's wife seeing a spectre of her husband at night, this does not by itself appear very extraordinary. Probably enough this had appeared frequently before. But why did she attach so much importance to its appearance on this night? Most probably because she may have had reason to suppose from his last letter that about that date he expected to be where the enemy were. A wife's anxiety will sufficiently explain her fears for his safety after this. If he had escaped, we should have heard nothing about it; but the fact of his dying on that day is held to be a strong evidence that the spectre was his ghost. The corroboration that is brought forward from the appearance of a soldier to another lady does not seem to me to help it much, as her information is very vague, beyond the mere fact that she saw the figure of a soldier on the same evening when they were talking about India, and evidently with considerable interest. In all probability, they may have had some relative, also an officer, about whose safety at this particular time they were also much concerned. If their friend had received a wound instead of the other, and the fact had come to the knowledge of the officer's wife already mentioned, the spectres would have been made very conveniently to do duty as ghosts for him.

The utter vagueness that characterises these narrations, and the faint shadow of coincidence with which ghost seers are commonly satisfied, remind one of the mental idiosyncracies of the child, who is,

By Nature's kindly law,
Pleased with a rattle—tickled with a straw.

I may mention a story, which I have not seen in any of the ghost books, but which I think might afford a much more plausible instance to illustrate the Spiritist's theory. Although I am stating it from recollection extending back 19 years, and cannot give the names and places concerned, still I believe it is authentic, as I heard it related by the late Professor Aytoun, of Edinburgh, in his lectures when dealing with evidence. A number of a ship's crew landed on an island to procure water. On this there was a burning mountain, which, however, does not seem to have been at the time in action. While engaged in procuring water, one of them called the attention of the rest to an extraordinary spectre on the mountain side at some distance from them, crying, "Oh, there's Old Fogie!" this being the familiar soubriquet by which they designated a marine storekeeper in the port from which they hailed, with whom they were all well acquainted. They all at once recognised the identity of the person named, and, eager to satisfy their curiosity, left their water operations and hurried one after the other to see what was the matter. Their astonishment and horror can be easily described, when they saw not only Fogie, but a number of active followers, whom they at once set down in their minds as demons. Up the mountain sides the spectres ran, and as quickly the wondering sailors followed. They continued the pursuit until they observed Old Fogie with his spectral train had reached the crater at the top, when down into its dark depths he quickly disappeared, and all the demons immediately followed. The whole circumstances were narrated when they went on board, and a correct account of them was inserted in the log book, and signed by all the witnesses. When they returned to their own port, they made known the strange apparition they had witnessed at the crater, and they discovered that Old Fogie had died on that same day on which they had seen the spectres. The surviving relatives of this respected storekeeper felt much annoyed by the circulation of such a story regarding him, believing it to be a malicious fabrication. They accordingly brought an action against the captain of the vessel for circulating the story. The log book, however, was produced in Court; the witnesses could also testify to the accuracy of the facts. Judge and jury seemed to be confounded, and dismissed the case as something which no fellow could understand. This story, Professor Aytoun (who was a lawyer as well as a poet) said, was recorded fully in the records of one of page 11 the County Courts, I think, of England. If it does not already figure in any of the Spiritistic books, some Spiritistic lawyer (if such a person can be discovered out of America) will perhaps hunt it out. It presents two important elements, authenticity and a striking coincidence. There is, however, as far as I can discover, no proof of a ghost. The most probable explanation is that it was an optical illusion due to the state of the atmosphere. The figure of Old Fogie was probably the reflection of the shadow of the mate, whose form may have presented some resemblance to the party named. The demons following were probably the half-naked sailors hurrying after the mate in wild glee to see the spectacle. The story was such as sailors would readily form from such materials. The only circumstance in the least noticeable is that this happened on the day old Fogie died, and that seems to me of very little importance. With respect to ghosts appearing in dark rooms belonging to professional mediums, and presenting themselves before individuals whose faculty for being imposed upon had already been tested to the highest degree, little need be said. The records of such performances showed the depth to which persons gifted with an ordinary share of intellignce might allow themselves to sink, while they cherished the delusion that they were advancing truth. A ghost under such circumstances gives proof of its reality by carrying a rose, or by appearing in woollen clothing and inviting his dupe to cut a piece of it off, and so make sure that it is a ghost! If the etiquette of ghost-hunting allowed it, such dupes might easily satisfy themselves that the wearers of woollen clothing, the bearers of roses, and the owners of soft arms and bony fingers were ghosts of a very worldly character. Such should be seized and held fast till a light could be obtained. The intense simplicity of many spiritists appeared strikingly in Mr Owen's recording—as an interesting fact in science—that a certain investigating committee discovered phosphorus on the tips of the fingers of a professional medium. This was gavely noted with the tacit understanding that the phosphorus had been depositee! there by natural exudation from the medium. The more probable explanation of its presence there would occur to all but blinded spiritists—that it was placed in readiness to produce those illuminated arms and faces, which appeared to have carried conviction to the minds of many. It was not necessary that he should be able to explain in detail how every varied effect was produced in dark rooms for the satisfaction of confirmed spiritists. This much was patent to all, namely, that the whole appearance and surroundings of ghost mediums in their dark rooms were such as were most favourable to any kind of imposture they chose to practise. Their childish performances were only relieved from utter insignificance by the dark suspicion, which they naturally prompted, of vile imposture.