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HISTORIC GHOSTS AND GHOST HUNTERS

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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #105 on: November 15, 2009, 05:21:04 am »

FOOTNOTES:

[J] The committee's report will be found in the tenth volume of the "Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research."

[K] Translation from the "Journal of the Society for Psychical Research," Vol. IV. p. 218.

[L] I had originally written "impossible," but a critic of my "Riddle of Personality," in which this point was taken up, has convinced me that "absurd" is the better word. The critic in question writes: "what evidence has the author that an apparition of the living is not a spirit? Why may not the spirit of the living person have left his body and appeared to his friend? Such is the view of many people, and it coincides with certain phenomena in dreams." But, to raise only one objection: If the apparition appear at a moment when the person seen is actively engaged elsewhere—it may be in writing a book, or preaching a sermon—what is it that is seen, and what is it that is writing or preaching? Is the "spirit" present in both places at the same time—in the shadowy apparition, and in the living, breathing, busily-occupied human entity? Assuredly, if it be not "impossible" to raise the cry of spirits in such a case, it would at all events seem "absurd" to do so.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #106 on: November 15, 2009, 05:21:21 am »

VII

The Seeress of Prevorst

Modern spiritism, as every student of that fascinating if elusive subject is aware, dates from the closing years of the first half of the nineteenth century. But the celebrated Fox sisters, whose revelations at that time served to crystallize into an organized religious system the idea of the possibility of communication between this world and the world beyond, were by no means the first of spiritistic mediums. Long before their day there were those who professed to have cognizance of things unseen and to act as intermediaries between the living and the dead; and although lost to sight amid the throng of latter-day claimants to similar powers, the achievements of some of these early adventurers into the unknown have not been surpassed by the best performances of the Fox girls and their long line of successors.

Especially is this true of the mediumship of a young German woman, Frederica Hauffe,[Pg 121] who in the course of her short, pitiful, and tragic career is credited with having displayed more varied and picturesque supernatural gifts than the most renowned wonder-worker of to-day. Like many modern mediums she was of humble origin, her birthplace being a forester's hut in the Würtemberg mountain village of Prevorst; and here, among wood-cutters and charcoal-burners, she passed the first years of her life. Even while still a child she seems to have attracted wide-spread attention on account of certain peculiarities of temperament and conduct. It was noticed that though naturally gay and playful she occasionally assumed a strangely intent and serious manner; that in her happiest moments she was subject to unaccountable fits of shuddering and shivering; and that she seemed keenly alive not merely to the sights and sounds of every-day life but to influences unfelt by those about her. This last trait received a sudden and unexpected development when, at the age of twelve or thirteen, she was sent to the neighboring town of Löwenstein to be educated under the care of her grand-parents, a worthy couple named Schmidgall.
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« Reply #107 on: November 15, 2009, 05:22:47 am »

Grandfather Schmidgall was an exceed[Pg 122]ingly superstitious old man, with a singular fondness for visiting solitary and gloomy places, particularly churchyards; and he soon began to take the little girl with him on such strolls. But he discovered, much to his amazement, that though she listened with avidity to the tales he told her of the romantic and mysterious events that had occurred within the somber ruins with which the countryside was liberally endowed, she was reluctant to explore those ruins or wander among the graves where he delighted to resort. At first he was inclined to ascribe her reluctance to weak and sentimental timidity, but he speedily found reason to adopt an altogether different view. He noticed that whenever he took her to graveyards or to churches in which there were graves, her frail form became greatly agitated, and at times she seemed rooted to the ground; and that there were certain places, especially an old kitchen in a nearby castle, which he could not persuade her to enter, and the mere sight of which caused her to quake and tremble. "The child," he told his wife, "feels the presence of the dead, and, mark you, she will end by seeing the dead."

[Pg 123]

He was, therefore, more alarmed than surprised when one midnight, long after he had fancied her in bed and asleep, she ran to his room and informed him that she had just beheld in the hall a tall, dark figure which, sighing heavily, passed her and disappeared in the vestibule. With awe, not unmixed with satisfaction, Schmidgall remembered that he had once seen the self-same apparition; but he prudently endeavored to convince her that she had been dreaming and sent her back to her room, which, thenceforward, he never allowed her to leave at night.

In this way Frederica Hauffe's mediumship began. But several years were to pass before she saw another ghost or gave evidence of possessing supernormal powers other than by occasional dreams of a prophetic and revelatory nature. In the meanwhile she rejoined her parents and moved with them from Prevorst to Oberstenfeld, where, in her nineteenth year, she was married. It was distinctly a marriage of convenience, arranged without regard to her wishes, and the moment the engagement was announced she secluded herself from her friends and passed her days and nights in weeping. For weeks together she[Pg 124] went without sleep, ate scarcely anything, and became thin, pale, and feeble. It was rumored that she had set her affections in another quarter: but her relatives angrily denied this and asserted that once married she would soon become herself again.
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« Reply #108 on: November 15, 2009, 05:23:25 am »

They were mistaken. From her wedding day, which she celebrated by attending the funeral of a venerable clergyman to whom she had been warmly attached, her health broke rapidly. One morning she awoke in a high fever that lasted a fortnight and was followed by convulsive spasms, during which she beheld at the bedside the image of her grandmother Schmidgall, who, it subsequently developed, was at that moment dying in distant Löwenstein. The spasms continuing, despite the application of the customary rude remedies of the time, it was decided to send for a physician with some knowledge of mesmerism, which was then becoming popular in Germany. To the astonishment of those who thronged the sick room, the first touch of his hand on her forehead brought relief. The convulsions ceased, she became calm, and presently she fell asleep. But on awaking she was attacked as before, and try as he[Pg 125] might the physician could not effect a permanent cure. To all his "passes" she responded with gratifying promptitude, only to suffer a relapse the moment she was released from the mesmeric influence.

At this juncture aid was received from a most extraordinary source, according to the story Frederica told her wondering friends. With benign visage and extended hand, the spirit of her grandmother appeared to her for seven successive nights, mesmerized her, and taught her how to mesmerize herself. The results of this visitation, if not altogether fortunate, were at least to some extent curative. There were periods when she was able not merely to leave her bed but to attend to household duties and indulge in long walks and drives. But it was painfully apparent that she was still in a precarious condition.
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« Reply #109 on: November 15, 2009, 05:23:42 am »

From her infancy she had always been powerfully affected by the touch of different metals, and now this phenomenon was intensified a thousand-fold. The placing of a magnet on her forehead caused her features to be contorted as though by a stroke of paralysis; contact with glass and sand made her cataleptic. Once she was found seated on a sand[Pg 126]stone bench, unable to move hand or foot. About this time also she acquired the faculty of crystal-gazing; that is to say, by looking into a bowl of water she could correctly describe scenes transpiring at a distance. More than this, she now declared that behind the persons in whose company she was she perceived ghostly forms, some of which she recognized as dead acquaintances.

Unlike her grandmother, these new visitants from the unknown world did not provide her with the means of regaining her lost health. On the contrary, from the time they first put in their appearance she grew far worse, suffering not so much from convulsive attacks as from an increasing lassitude. She complained that eating was a great tax on her strength, and that rising and walking were out of the question. Unable to comprehend this new turn of affairs, her attendants lost all patience, declared that if she had made up her mind to die she might as well do so as at once, and tried to force her to leave her bed. Finally her parents intervened, and at their request she was brought back to Oberstenfeld.
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« Reply #110 on: November 15, 2009, 05:24:15 am »

Here she found an altogether congenial environment, and for a while showed marked[Pg 127] improvement. Here too, and in a most sensational way, her mediumship blossomed into full fruition. She had been home for only a short time when the family began to be disturbed by mysterious noises for which they could find no cause. A sound like the ringing of glasses was frequently heard, as were footsteps and knockings on the walls. Her father, in particular, asserted that sometimes he felt a strange pressure on his shoulder or his foot. The impression grew that the house, which was part of the ancient, picturesque, and none too well preserved cathedral of Oberstenfeld, was haunted by the spirits of its former occupants.

One night, shortly after retiring to the room which they shared in common, Frederica, her sister, and a maid servant saw a lighted candle, apparently of its own volition, move up and down the table on which it was burning. The sister and the servant saw nothing more; but Frederica the next instant beheld a thin, grayish cloud, which presently resolved into the form of a man, about fifty years old, attired in the costume of a medieval knight. Approaching, this strange apparition gazed steadfastly at her, and in a low but clear tone[Pg 128] urged her to rise and follow it, saying that she alone could loosen its bonds. Overcome with terror, she cried out that she would not follow, then ran across the room and hid herself in the bed where her sister and the servant lay panic-stricken. That night she saw no more of the apparition: but the maid, whom they sent to sleep in the bed she had so hurriedly vacated, declared that the coverings were forcibly drawn off her by an unseen hand.
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« Reply #111 on: November 15, 2009, 05:24:30 am »

The next night the apparition appeared to Frederica again, and to her alone. This time it seemed not sorrowful but angry, and threatened that if she did not rise and follow she would be hurled out of the window. At her bold retort, "In the name of Jesus, do it!" the apparition vanished, to return a few nights later, and after that to show itself to her by day as well as by night.

It now informed her that it was the ghost of a nobleman named Weiler, who had slain his brother and for that crime was condemned to wander ceaselessly until it recovered a certain piece of paper hidden in a vault under the cathedral. On hearing this, she solemnly assured it that by prayer alone could its sins be forgiven and pardon obtained, and[Pg 129] thereupon she set herself to teach it to pray. Ultimately, with a most joyous countenance, the ghost told her that she had indeed led it to its Redeemer and won its release; and at the same time seven tiny spirits—the spirits of the children it had had on earth—appeared in a circle about it and sang melodiously. Nor did they leave her until the protecting apparition of her grandmother interrupted their thanksgivings and bade them be gone.
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« Reply #112 on: November 15, 2009, 05:24:44 am »

Whether or no the happy ghost notified others in kindred plight of the success that had attended her efforts, it is certain that, if the contemporary records are to be accepted, the few short years of life remaining to her were largely occupied in ministering to the wants of distressed spirits. Phantom monks, nobles, peasants, pressed upon her with terrible tales of misdeeds unatoned, and begged her to instruct them in the prayers which were essential to salvation. There was one specially importunate group, the apparitions of a young man, a young woman, and a new-born child wrapped in ghostly rags, which gave her no peace for months. The child, they said, was theirs and had been murdered by them, and the young woman in her turn had been mur[Pg 130]dered by the young man. Naturally, they were in an unhappy frame of mind, and until she was able to send them on their way rejoicing their conduct and language were so extravagant that they appalled her more than did any other of the numerous seekers for grace and rest.
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« Reply #113 on: November 15, 2009, 05:24:54 am »

The dead were not the only ones to whom she ministered. Side by side with the gift of ghost-seeing and ghost-conversing, and with the no less remarkable gift of speaking in an unknown tongue and of setting forth the mysteries of the hereafter, she developed the peculiar faculty of peering into the innermost being of spirits still in the flesh, detecting the obscure causes of disease, and prescribing remedies. Strange to say, her own health remained poor, and gradually she became so feeble that from day to day her death seemed imminent. But her parents were resolved to do all they could for her, and at last bethought themselves of placing her in the hands of the much talked of physician, Justinus Kerner, who lived in the pleasant valley town of Weinsberg and was said to be an adept in every branch of the healing art, notably in the mesmerism which alone appeared to benefit[Pg 131] her. To Kerner, therefore, she was sent; and it is not difficult to imagine the delight with which she exchanged the gloomy mountain forests for the verdant meadows and fragrant vineyards of Weinsberg.
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« Reply #114 on: November 15, 2009, 05:25:06 am »

Kerner, who is better known to the present generation as mystic and poet than as physician, was justly accounted one of the celebrities of the day. Eccentric and visionary, he was yet a man of solid learning and an intense patriot. It was owing to him, as his biographers fondly recall, that Weinsberg's most glorious monument, the well named Weibertrube, was not suffered to fall into utter neglect, but was instead restored to remind all Germans of that distant day, in the long gone twelfth century, when the women of Weinsberg, securing from the conqueror the promise that their lives would be spared, and that they might take with them from the doomed city their most precious belongings, staggered forth under the burden not of jewels and treasure but of their husbands, whom they carried in their arms or on their backs. Thus was a massacre averted, and thus did the name of "Woman's Faithfulness" attach itself to the castle in the shadow of[Pg 132] which Kerner spent his days. But at the time of which we write neither the castle nor poetry held first place in his thoughts; instead, he was absorbed in the practice of his profession. And so, with the ardor of the enthusiast and the sympathy of the true physician, he welcomed to Weinsberg the sufferer of whom he had heard much and of whom he was to become both doctor and biographer.[M]
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« Reply #115 on: November 15, 2009, 05:25:20 am »

It was in November, 1826, that he first met her. She was then twenty-five, and thus had been for six years in a state of almost constant ill health. Her very appearance moved him profoundly. Her fragile body, he relates in the graphic word picture he drew, enveloped her spirit but as a gauzy veil. She was extremely small, with Oriental features and dark-lashed eyes that were at once penetrating and "prophetic." When she spoke his conviction deepened that he was looking on one who belonged more to the world of the dead than to the world of the living; and he speedily became persuaded that she actually[Pg 133] did, as she claimed, commune with the dead.

Less than a month after her arrival at Weinsberg, and being in the trance condition that was now frequent with her, she announced to him that she had been visited by a ghost, which insisted on showing her a sheet of paper covered with figures and begged her to give it to his wife, who was still alive and would understand its significance and the duty devolving upon her of making restitution to the man he had wronged in life.
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« Reply #116 on: November 15, 2009, 05:25:35 am »

Kerner was thunderstruck at recognizing from her description a Weinsberg lawyer who had been dead for some years and was thought to have defrauded a client out of a large sum of money. Eagerly he plied Frederica with questions, among other things asking her to endeavor to locate the paper of which the ghost spoke.

"I see it," said she, dreamily. "It lies in a building which is sixty paces from my bed. In this I see a large and a smaller room. In the latter sits a tall gentleman, who is working at a table. Now he goes out, and now he returns. Beyond these rooms there is one still larger, in which are some chests and a[Pg 134] long table. On the table is a wooden thing—I cannot name it—and on this lie three heaps of paper; and in the center one, about the middle of the heap, lies the sheet which so torments him."
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« Reply #117 on: November 15, 2009, 05:25:51 am »

Knowing that this was an exact account of the office of the local bailiff, Kerner hastened to that functionary with the astonishing news, and was still more astonished when the bailiff told him that he had been occupied precisely as she said. Together they searched among the papers on the table; but could find none in the lawyer's handwriting. Frederica, however, was insistent, adding that one corner of the paper in question was turned down and that it was enclosed in a stout brown envelope. A second search proved that she was right, and on opening the paper it was found to contain not only figures but an explicit reference to a private account book of which the lawyer's widow had denied all knowledge. Still more striking was the fact, according to Kerner's narrative, that when the bailiff, as a test, placed the paper in a certain position on his desk and went to Frederica, pretending that he had it with him, she correctly informed him where it was and read it off to him word by word.

[Pg 135]

Although the sequel was rather unsatisfactory, inasmuch as the widow persisted in asserting that she knew nothing of a private account book and refused to yield a penny to the injured client, Kerner was so impressed by this exhibition of supernatural power that, in order to study his patient more closely, he had her removed from her lodgings to his own house. Thither also, as soon as he learned that their presence seemed to increase her susceptibility to the occult influences by which she was surrounded, he brought her sister and the maid servant of the dancing candle episode.
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« Reply #118 on: November 15, 2009, 05:26:11 am »

Then ensued greater marvels than had ever bewitched the family at Oberstenfeld. Invisible hands threw articles of furniture at the enthusiastic doctor and his friends; ghostly fingers sprinkled lime and gravel on the flooring of his halls and rooms; spirit knuckles beat lively tattoos on walls, tables, chairs, and bedsteads. And all the while ghosts with criminal pasts flocked in and out, seeking consolation and advice. Only once or twice, however, did the physician himself see anything even remotely resembling a ghost. On one occasion a cloudy shape floated past his window; and on another he saw at Frederica's[Pg 136] bedside a pillar of vapor, which she afterward told him was the specter of a tall old man who had visited her twice before.

But if he neither saw the ghosts nor heard them speak, it was sufficiently demonstrated to him that they were really in evidence. The knocking, furniture throwing, and gravel sprinkling were the least of the wonders of which it was permitted him to be a witness. Once, when Frederica was taking an afternoon nap, a spirit that was evidently solicitous for her comfort drew off her boots, and in his presence carried them across the room to where her sister was standing by a window. Again at midnight, after a preliminary knocking on the walls, he observed another spirit, or possibly the same, open a book she had been reading which was lying on her bed.
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« Reply #119 on: November 15, 2009, 05:26:33 am »

Most marvelous of all, when her father died she herself enacted the rôle of ghost, the news of his death being conveyed to her supernaturally and her cry of anguish being supernaturally conveyed back to the room where his corpse lay, in Oberstenfeld, and where it was distinctly heard by the physician who had attended him in his last moments. After this crowning piece of testimony the good[Pg 137] Kerner felt that no doubt of her unheard of powers could remain in the most skeptical mind.

Judge, then, of his dismay and grief when he saw her visibly fading away, daily growing more ethereal of form and feature, more weak in body and spirit. It was his belief that the ghosts were robbing her of her vitality, and earnestly but vainly he strove to banish them. She herself declared, with a tone of indescribable relief, that she knew the end was near, and that she welcomed it, as she longed to attain the quiet of the grave with her father and Grandfather and Grandmother Schmidgall. When Kerner sought to cheer her by the assurance that she yet had many years to live, she silenced him with the tale of a gruesome vision. Three times, she said, there had appeared to her at dead of night a female figure, wrapped in black and standing beside an open and empty coffin, to which it beckoned her. But before she died she wished to see again the mountains of her childhood; and to the mountains Kerner carried her. There, on August 5, 1829, peacefully and happily, to the singing of hymns and the sobbing utterance of prayers, her soul took its flight.
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