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Animal Ghosts Or, Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter

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Spirits of the Dead
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« Reply #195 on: November 01, 2009, 03:05:07 am »

Jungle Animals and Psychic Faculties

It is, of course, impossible to say whether animals of the jungle possess psychic faculties, without putting them to the test, and this, for obvious reasons, is extremely difficult. But since I have found that such properties are possessed—in varying degree—by all animals I have tested, it seems only too probable that bears and tigers, and all beasts of prey, are similarly endowed.

It would be interesting to experiment with a beast of prey in a haunted locality; to observe to what extent it would be aware of the advent of the Unknown, and to note its behaviour in the actual presence of the phenomena.
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« Reply #196 on: November 01, 2009, 03:05:33 am »

PART III
BIRDS AND THE UNKNOWN
CHAPTER VII
BIRDS AND THE UNKNOWN

As Edgar Allan Poe has suggested in his immortal poem of "The Raven," there is a strong link between certain species of birds and the Unknown.

We all know that vultures, kites and crows scent dead bodies from a great way off, but we don't all know that these and other kinds of birds possess, in addition, the psychic property of scenting the advent not only of the phantom of death, but of many, if not, indeed, all other spirits. Within my knowledge there have been cases when, before a death in the house, ravens, jackdaws, canaries, magpies, and even parrots, have shown unmistakable signs of uneasiness and distress. The raven has croaked in a high-pitched, abnormal key; the jackdaw and canary have become silent and dejected, from time to time shivering; the magpie even has feigned death; the parrot has shrieked incessantly. Owls, too, are sure predictors of death, and may be heard hooting in the most doleful manner outside the house of anyone doomed to die shortly.

In an article entitled "Psychic Records," the editor of the Occult Review (in the August number, 1905) supplies the following anecdotes of ghosts of birds furnished him by his correspondents.

"In the autumn of 1877 my husband was lying seriously ill with rheumatic fever, and I had sat up several nights. At last the doctors insisted on my going to bed; and very unwillingly I retired to a spare room. While undressing I was surprised to see a very large white bird come from the fireplace, make a hovering circle round me, and finally go to the top of a large double chest of drawers. I was too tired to trouble about it, and thought I would let it remain until morning. The next morning I said to the housemaid:

"'There was a large bird in the spare room last night, which flew to the top of the drawers. See that it is put out.'

"The nurse, who was present, said:
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« Reply #197 on: November 01, 2009, 03:05:51 am »

"'Oh, dear, ma'am, I am afraid that is an omen, and means the master won't live,' and she was confirmed in her opinion by the maid saying she had searched, and there was no trace of any bird.

"I was quite angry, as my husband was decidedly better, had slept through the night, and we thought the crisis had passed. I went to his bedside and found him quietly sleeping, but he never woke, and in about an hour passed quietly away.

"I thought no more of the bird, fancying I must have been mistaken from being overtired.

"Some months after my husband's death my youngest little one was born; he lived for twelve months, and then had an attack of bronchitis. He slept in a cot in my room, and I was undressing one night, when this same large white bird came from his cot, floated round me, and disappeared in the fireplace. At the time I did not for a moment think of it as anything but a strange coincidence, and in no way connected it with baby's illness.

"The next morning I was sitting by the drawing-room fire with baby on my lap. The doctor came in, looked at him, sounded his chest, and pronounced him much better. As he was a friend of the family, he sat down on the other side of the fireplace and was chatting in an ordinary way, when he suddenly jumped up with an exclamation, 'Why, what does this mean?' and took the child from my arms quite dead!

"For two years we saw nothing more of the white bird, and we had moved to another place.
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« Reply #198 on: November 01, 2009, 03:06:04 am »

"One day I was in my room, and my two little girls, aged six and eight, were standing at the window watching a kitten in the garden, when suddenly the youngest cried out:

"'Oh, mamma! Look at that great white bird,' putting her hands as if to catch it, exactly in the way it flies round one.

"I saw nothing, and the elder child said, 'Don't be silly, Jessie; there is no bird.'

"'But there is,' said the child. 'Don't you see? There, look! There it is!'

"I looked at my watch. It was twenty minutes past three.

"Two days after we received the news that a niece of mine had died at twenty minutes past three. The children had never known anything of the former appearances, as we had never talked about it before them. We have seen nothing since of the bird, but have for some years had no death in the family."

So runs the article in the Occult Review, and I can corroborate it with similar experiences that have happened to my friends and to me.

Some years ago, for instance, a great friend of my wife's died, and on the day of the funeral a large bird tried to fly in at the window of the room where the corpse lay; while, shortly afterwards, an exactly similar bird visited the window of my wife's and my room in a house, several hundreds of miles away. If it was only a coincidence, it was a very extraordinary one.

Then again, this spring, just before the death of one of my wife's relatives, a large bird flew violently against the window-pane behind which my wife was sitting—an incident that had never happened to her in that house before.

Undoubtedly, spirits in the guise of birds—most probably they are the phantasms of birds that have actually once lived on the material plane—are the messengers of death.
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« Reply #199 on: November 01, 2009, 03:06:26 am »

A Case of Bird haunting in East Russia

Some years ago the neighbourhood of Orskaia, in East Russia, was roused by an affair of a very remarkable nature. The body of a handsome young peasant woman, called Marthe Popenkoff, was found in a lonely part of the road, between Orskaia and Orenburg, with the skin of her face and body shockingly torn and lacerated, but without there being any wounds deep enough to cause her death, which the doctor attributed to syncope.

The people of Orskaia, not satisfied with this verdict, declared Marthe had been murdered, and made such a loud clamour that the editor of the local paper at last voiced their sentiments in the East Russia Chronicle. It was then that M. Durant, a smart young French engineer, temporarily residing in those parts, became interested in the case, and decided to investigate it thoroughly. With this end in view he wrote to his friend M. Hersant—a keen student of the Occult—in Saratova, to join him, and three days after the despatch of his letter met the latter at the Orskaia railway station. M. Durant retailed the case as they drove to his house.

"It is a remarkable affair, in every way," he said. "The woman was leading a perfectly respectable married life; she was hard-working and industrious, and beyond the fact that she was over-indulgent to her children, does not seem to have had any serious faults. As far as I can ascertain she had no enemies."

"Nor secret lovers?" M. Hersant asked.

"No; she was quite straight."

"And you feel sure she was murdered?"

"I do. Public opinion so strongly favours that view."
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« Reply #200 on: November 01, 2009, 03:06:51 am »

"Did you see the marks on the woman?"

"I did, and could make nothing of them. After supper I will take you to see her, in the morgue."

"What—she is still unburied?"

"Yes—but there is nothing unusual about that. In these parts bodies are often kept for ten days—sometimes even longer."

M. Durant was as good as his word; after they had partaken of a somewhat hasty meal, they set out to the morgue, where they made a careful inspection of the poor woman's remains.

M. Hersant examined the marks on the woman's body very closely with his magnifying-glass.

"Ah!" he suddenly exclaimed, bending down and almost touching the corpse with his nose, "Ah!"

"Have you made a discovery?" M. Durant enquired.

"I prefer not to say at present," M. Hersant replied. "I should like to see the spot where this body was found—now."

"We will go there at once," M. Durant rejoined.
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« Reply #201 on: November 01, 2009, 03:07:06 am »

The scene of the tragedy was the Orenburg road, at the foot of two little hills; and on either side were the sloping fields, yellow with the nodding corn.

"That is the exact place where she lay," M. Durant said, indicating with his finger a dark patch on a little wooden bridge spanning a stream, within a stone's throw of a tumbledown mill-house, all overgrown with ivy and lichens. M. Hersant looked round and sniffed the air with his nostrils.

"There is an air of loneliness about this spot," he remarked, "that in itself suggests crime. If this were an ordinary murder, one could well imagine the assassin was aided in his diabolical work by the configuration of the land which, shelving as it does, slips down into the narrow valley, so as to preclude any possibility of escape on the part of the victim. The place seems especially designed by Providence as a death-trap. Let us have a look at the interior of this building."

"The police have searched it thoroughly," M. Durant said.

"I've no doubt," M. Hersant replied drily. "No one knows better than I what the thoroughness of the police means."

They entered the premises cautiously, since the roof was in a rickety condition, and any slight concussion might dislodge an avalanche of stones and plaster. While M. Durant stood glancing round him rather impatiently, M. Hersant made a careful scrutiny of the walls.

"Humph," he said at last. "As you so rightly observed, Henri, this is a remarkable case. I have finished my investigation for to-night. Let us be going home. To-morrow I should like to visit Marthe's home."
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« Reply #202 on: November 01, 2009, 03:09:37 am »

This conversation took place shortly before midnight; some six hours later all Orskaia was ringing with the news that Marthe Popenkoff's three children had all been found dead in their beds, their faces and bodies lacerated in exactly the same manner as their mother's. There seemed to be no doubt now that Marthe had been murdered, and the populace cried shame on the police; for the assassin was still at large. They agreed that the murderer could be no other than Peter Popenkoff, and the editor of the local paper repeating these statements, Peter Popenkoff was duly charged with the crimes, and arrested. He was pronounced guilty by all excepting M. Hersant; and of course M. Hersant thought him guilty, too; only he liked to think differently from anyone else.

"I don't want to commit myself," was all they could get out of him. "I may have something to say later on."

M. Durant laughed and shrugged his shoulders.

"It, undoubtedly, is Peter Popenkoff," he observed. "I had an idea that he was the culprit all along."

But a day or two later, Peter Popenkoff was found dead in prison with the skin on his face and hands all torn to shreds.

"There! Didn't we say so?" cried the inconsequent mob. "Peter Popenkoff was innocent. One of the police themselves is the murderer."

"Come, you must acknowledge that we are on the right track now—it is one of the police," M. Durant said to his friend.

But M. Hersant only shook his head.

"I acknowledge nothing of the sort," he said. "Come with me to the mill-house to-night, and I will then tell you what I think."

To this proposition M. Durant willingly agreed, and, accompanied by his friend and the village priest, set off. On their arrival, M. Hersant produced a big compass, and on the earth floor of the mill-house drew a large circle, in which he made with white chalk various signs and symbols. He then sat in the middle of it, and bade his two companions stand in the doorway and watch. The night grew darker and darker, and presently into the air stole a something that all three men at once realized was supernatural. M. Hersant coughed nervously, the priest crossed himself, and M. Durant called out, "This is getting ridiculous. These mediæval proceedings are too absurd. Let us go home." The next moment, from the far distance, a church clock began to strike. It was midnight, and an impressive silence fell on the trio. Then there came a noise like the flutterings of wings, a loud, blood-curdling scream, half human and half animal, and a huge black owl, whirling down from the roof of the building, perched in the circle directly in front of M. Hersant.
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« Reply #203 on: November 01, 2009, 03:09:55 am »

"Pray, Father! Pray quickly," M. Hersant whispered. "Pray for the dead, and sprinkle the circle with holy water."

The priest, as well as his trembling limbs would allow, obeyed; whereupon the bird instantly vanished.

"For Heaven's sake," M. Durant gasped, "tell us what it all means."

"Only this," M. Hersant said solemnly, "the phantasm we saw caused the death of the Popenkoff family. It is the spirit of an owl that the children, encouraged by their parents, killed in a most cruel manner. As soon as I examined Marthe's body, I perceived the mutilations were due to a bird; and when I visited this mill on the eve of my arrival, I knew that a bird had once lived here; that it had been captured with lime and murdered, and that it haunted the place."

"How could you know that?" the priest exclaimed in astonishment.

"I am clairvoyant. I saw the bird's ghost as it appeared to us just now. Afterwards I enquired of the Popenkoffs' neighbours, and the information I gathered fully confirmed my suspicions—that the unfortunate bird had been put to death in a most barbarous manner. The deaths of the three children laid to rest any doubt I may have had with regard to the superphysical playing a part in the death of Marthe. Then when her better-half had been served likewise, I was certain that all five pseudo-murders were wholly and solely acts of retribution, and that they were perpetrated—I am inclined to think involuntarily—by the spirit of the owl itself. Accordingly, I decided to hold a séance here—here in its old haunt, and if possible to put an end to the earth-bound condition and wanderings of the soul of the unhappy bird. Thanks to Father Mickledoff we have done so, and there will be no more so-called murders near Orskaia."
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« Reply #204 on: November 01, 2009, 03:10:38 am »

Hauntings by the Phantasms of Birds

One of the most curious cases of hauntings by the phantasms of birds happened towards the end of the eighteenth century in a church not twenty miles from London. The sexton started the rumours, declaring that he had heard strange noises, apparently proceeding from certain vaults containing the tombs of two old and distinguished families. The noises, which generally occurred on Friday nights, most often took the form of mockings, suggesting to some of the listeners—the enaction of a murder, and to others merely the flapping of wings.

The case soon attracted considerable attention, people flocking to the church from all over the country-side, and it was not long before certain persons came forward and declared they had ascertained the cause of the disturbance. The churchwarden, sexton, and his wife and others all swore to seeing a huge crow pecking and clawing at the coffins in the vaults, and flying about the chancel of the church, and perching on the communion rails. When they tried to seize it, it immediately vanished.

An old lady, who came of a family of well-to-do yeomen, and who lived near the church about that time, said that the people in the town had for many years been convinced the church there was haunted by the phantom of a bird, which they believed to be the earth-bound soul of a murderer, who, owing to his wealth, was interred in the churchyard, instead of being buried at the cross-roads with the customary wooden stake driven through the middle of his body. This belief of the yokels received some corroboration from a neighbouring squire, who said he had seen the phantasm, and was quite positive it was the earth-bound soul of a criminal whose family history was known to him, and whose remains lay in the churchyard.

This is all the information that I have been able to gather on the subject, but it is enough to, at least, suggest the church was, at one time, haunted by the phantom of a bird, but whether the earth-bound soul of a murderer taking that guise, or the spirit of an actual dead bird, it is impossible to say.
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« Reply #205 on: November 01, 2009, 03:11:05 am »

The Ghost of an Evil Bird

Henry Spicer, in his Strange Things Amongst Us, tells the story of a Captain Morgan, an honourable and vivacious gentleman, who, arriving in London in 18—, puts up for the night in a large, old-fashioned hotel. The room in which he slept was full of heavy, antique furniture, reminiscent of the days of King George I, one of the worst periods in modern English history for crime. Despite, however, his grimly suggestive surroundings, Captain Morgan quickly got into bed and was soon asleep. He was abruptly awakened by the sound of flapping, and, on looking up, he saw a huge black bird with outstretched wings and fiery red eyes perched on the rail at the foot of the four-poster bed.

The creature flew at him and endeavoured to peck his eyes. Captain Morgan resisted, and after a desperate struggle succeeded in driving it to a sofa in the corner of the room, where it settled down and regarded him with great fear in its eyes. Determined to destroy it, he flung himself on the top of it, when, to his surprise and terror, it immediately crumbled into nothingness. He left the house early next morning, convinced that what he had seen was a ghost, but Mr. Spicer offers no explanation as to how one should classify the phenomenon.

It may have been the earth-bound spirit of the criminal or viciously inclined person who had once lived there, or it may have been the phantom of an actual bird. Either alternative is feasible.

I have heard there is an old house near Poole, in Dorset, and another in Essex, which were formerly haunted by spectral birds, and that as late as 1860 the phantasm of a bird, many times the size of a raven, was so frequently seen by the inmates of a house in Dean Street, Soho, that they eventually grew quite accustomed to it. But bird hauntings are not confined to houses, and are far more often to be met with out of doors; indeed there are very few woods, and moors, and commons that are not subjected to them. I have constantly seen the spirits of all manner of birds in the parks in Dublin and London. Greenwich Park, in particular, is full of them.
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« Reply #206 on: November 01, 2009, 03:11:29 am »

Addendum to Birds and the Unknown

Though their unlovely aspect and solitary mode of life may in some measure account for the prejudice and suspicion with which the owl, crow, raven, and one or two other birds have always been regarded, there are undoubtedly other and more subtle reasons for their unpopularity.

The ancients without exception credited these birds with psychic properties.

"Ignarres bubo dirum mortalibus omen," said Ovid; whilst speaking of the fatal prognostications of the crow Virgil wrote:
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« Reply #207 on: November 01, 2009, 03:12:00 am »

"Saepe sinistra cava praedixit ab ilice cornix."

A number of crows are stated to have fluttered about Cicero's head on the day he was murdered.

Pliny says, "These birds, crows and rooks, all of them keep much prattling, and are full of chat, which most men take for an unlucky sign and presage of ill-fortune."

Ramesay, in his work Elminthologia (1688), writes:

"If a crow fly over the house and croak thrice, how do they fear they, or someone else in the family, shall die."

The bittern is also a bird of ill omen. Alluding to this bird, Bishop Hall once said:

"If a bittern flies over this man's head by night, he will make his will"; whilst Sir Humphry Davy wrote:

"I know a man of very high dignity who was exceedingly moved by omens, and who never went out shooting without a bittern's claw fastened to his button-hole by a riband, which he thought ensured him 'good luck.'"

Ravens and swallows both, at times, prognosticate death. In Lloyd's Stratagems of Jerusalem (1602) he says:

"By swallows lighting upon Pirrhus' tents, and lighting upon the mast of Mar. Antonius' ship, sailing after Cleopatra to Egypt, the soothsayers did prognosticate that Pirrhus should be slaine at Argos in Greece, and Mar. Antonius in Egypt."

He alludes to swallows following Cyrus from Persia to Scythia, from which the "wise men" foretold his death. Ravens followed Alexander the Great from India to Babylon, which was regarded by all who saw them as a fatal sign.

"'Tis not for nought that the raven sings now on my left and, croaking, has once scraped the earth with his feet," wrote Plautus.

Other references to the same bird are as follows:
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« Reply #208 on: November 01, 2009, 03:12:17 am »

"The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements."—(Macbeth.)

"It comes o'er my memory
As doth the raven o'er the infected house,
Boding to all."—(Othello.)

"That tolls
The sick man's passport in her hollow beak,
And in the shadow of the silent night
Doth shake contagion from her sable wings."
(Jew of Malta.)

"Is it not ominous in all countries where crows
and ravens croak upon trees?"—(Hudibras.)

"The boding raven on her cottage sat,
And with hoarse croakings warned us of our fate."
(The Dirge.)

"In Cornwall," writes Mr. Hunt, in his work on popular beliefs, etc., of the West of England, "it is believed that the croaking of a raven over the house bodes evil to some of the family. The following incident, given to me by a really intelligent man, illustrates the feeling:

"'One day our family were much annoyed by the continual croaking of a raven over the house. Some of us believed it to be a token; others derided the idea. But one good lady, our next-door neighbour, said:

"'"Just mark the day, and see if something does not come of it."

"'The day and hour were carefully noted. Months passed away, and unbelievers were loud in their boastings and enquiries after the token. The fifth month arrived, and with it a black-edged letter from Australia, announcing the death of one of the members of the family in that country. On comparing the dates of the death and the raven's croak, they were found to have occurred on the same day.'"

In an old number of Notes and Queries a correspondent relates that in Somersetshire the appearance of a single jackdaw is regarded as a sure prognostication of evil. He goes on to add that the men employed in the quarries in the Avon Gorge, Clifton, Bristol, had more than once noticed a jackdaw perched on the chain that spanned the river, prior to some catastrophe among them.

Dead magpies were once hung over the doorways of haunted houses to keep away ghosts; it being almost universally believed that all phantasms shared the same dread of this bird. Ghosts of magpies themselves are, however, far from uncommon; on Dartmoor and Exmoor, for example, I have seen several of them, generally in the immediate vicinity of bogs or deep holes.
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« Reply #209 on: November 01, 2009, 03:12:40 am »

Witches were much attached to this bird, and were said to often assume its shape after death.

"Magpies," says Mr. William Jones, in his Credulities, Past and Present," are mysterious everywhere. A lady living near Carlstad, in Sweden, grievously offended a farm woman who came into the court of her house asking for food. The woman was told 'to take that magpie hanging upon the wall and eat it.' She took the bird and disappeared, with an evil glance at the lady, who had been so ill-advised as to insult a Finn, whose magical powers, it is well known, far exceed those of the gipsies." (Other authorities corroborate this statement; and I have heard it said that the Finns can surpass even the famous tricks of the Indians.) Mr. Jones, in the same story, says: "Presently the number increased, and the lady, who at first had been amused, became troubled, and tried to drive them away by various devices. All was to no purpose. She could not move without a large company of magpies; and they became at length so daring as to hop on her shoulder." (This reads like hallucination. However, as I have heard of similar cases, in which there has been no doubt as to the objectivity of the phenomena, I see no reason why these magpies should not have been objective too.) "Then she took to her bed in a room with closed shutters, although even this was not an effectual protection, for the magpies kept tapping at the shutters day and night." Mr. Jones adds: "The lady's death is not recorded; but it is fully expected that, die when she may, all the magpies of Wermland will be present at her funeral."

There is a house in Great Russell Street, W.C., where the hauntings take the form of a magpie that taps at one of the windows every morning between two and three, and then appears inside the room, perched on what looks like a huge alpine stick, suspended horizontally in the air, about seven feet from the floor. The moment a sound is made the apparition vanishes. It is thought to be the spirit of a magpie that was done to death in a very cruel manner in that room many years ago. There is a story current to the effect that a lady, when visiting the British Museum one day, happened to pass some slighting remark about one of the Egyptian mummy cases (not the notorious one), and that on quitting the building she felt a sharp peck on her neck. She put up her hand to the injured part, and felt the distinct impression of a bird's claw on it. She could see nothing, however. That night—and for every succeeding night for six weeks—she was awakened at two o'clock by the phantom of an enormous magpie that fluttered over the bed, and was clearly visible to herself and her sister. The phenomenon worried her so that she became ill, and was eventually ordered abroad. She went to Cairo and enjoyed a brief respite; the hauntings, however, began again, and this time became so persistent that she at last lost her reason, and had to be brought home and confined in a private asylum, where she shortly afterwards died. Though I cannot vouch for the truth of this story, I do think it is somewhat risky to make fun of certain of the Egyptian relics in the Museum. They may be haunted by something infinitely more alarming than the ghosts of magpies. There are many sayings respecting the magpie as a harbinger of ill luck. In Lancashire, for example, there is this rhyme:
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