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HISTORIC GHOSTS AND GHOST HUNTERS

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Author Topic: HISTORIC GHOSTS AND GHOST HUNTERS  (Read 674 times)
Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #45 on: November 15, 2009, 03:54:57 am »

The need for caution is further emphasized by the important circumstance that of all the phenomena described, only those most susceptible of mundane interpretation were witnessed by Glanvill or Mompesson. All of the more extraordinary—the great body with the red and glaring eyes, the levitated children, etc.—came to the narrator from second or third or fourth hand sources not always clearly indicated, and doubtless uneducated and superstitious persons, such as peasants or servants, whose fears would lend wings to their imagination.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #46 on: November 15, 2009, 03:55:14 am »

Keeping these facts before us, what do we[Pg 29] find? We find that, so far from supporting the supernatural view, the evidence points to a systematic course of fraud and deceit carried out, not by the drummer, not by Mompesson and Glanvill (as many of that generation were unkind enough to suggest), not by the Mompesson servants, but by the Mompesson children, and particularly by the oldest child, a girl of ten.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #47 on: November 15, 2009, 03:55:44 am »

It was about the children that the disturbances centered, it was in their room that the manifestations usually took place, and—what should have served to direct suspicion to them at once—when, in the hope of affording them relief, their father separated them, sending the youngest to lodge with a neighbor and taking the oldest into his own room, it was remarked that the neighbor's house immediately became the scene of demoniac activity, as did the Squire's apartment, which had previously been virtually undisturbed. Here and now developed a phenomenon that places little Miss Mompesson on a par with the celebrated Fox sisters, for her father's bed chamber was turned into a séance room in which messages were rapped out very much as messages have been rapped out ever since the[Pg 30] fateful night in 1848 that saw modern spiritism ushered into the world.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #48 on: November 15, 2009, 03:58:02 am »

Glanvill's personal testimony, the most precise and circumstantial in the entire case, strongly, albeit unwittingly, supports this view of the affair. It appears that he passed only one night in the haunted house, and of his several experiences there is none that cannot be set down to fraud plus imagination, with the children the active agents. Witness the following from his story of what he heard and beheld in the oft-mentioned "children's room":
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #49 on: November 15, 2009, 03:58:18 am »

"At this time it used to haunt the children, and that as soon as they were laid. They went to bed the night I was there about eight of the clock, when a maid servant, coming down from them, told us that it was come.... Mr. Mompesson and I and a gentleman that came with me went up. I heard a strange scratching as I went up the stairs, and when we came into the room I perceived it was just behind the bolster of the children's bed and seemed to be against the tick. It was as loud a scratching as one with long nails could make upon a bolster. There were two modest little girls in the bed, between seven and eight years old, as I guessed. I saw their hands out of[Pg 31] the clothes, and they could not contribute to the noise that was behind their heads. They had been used to it and still[C] had somebody or other in the chamber with them, and therefore seemed not to be much affrighted.
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« Reply #50 on: November 15, 2009, 04:58:46 am »

"I, standing at the bed's head, thrust my hand behind the bolster, directing it to the place whence the noise seemed to come. Whereupon the noise ceased there, and was heard in another part of the bed; but when I had taken out my hand it returned and was heard in the same place as before.[D] I had been told it would imitate noises, and made trial by scratching several times upon the sheet, as five, and seven, and ten, which it followed, and still stopped at my number. I searched under and behind the bed, turned up the clothes to the bed cords, grasped the bolster, sounded the wall behind, and made all the search that possibly I could, to find if there were any trick, contrivance, or common cause of it. The like did my friend, but we could discover nothing.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #51 on: November 15, 2009, 04:59:03 am »

"So that I was then verily persuaded, and am so still, that the noise was made by some demon or spirit."

[Pg 32]

Doubtless his countenance betrayed the receptiveness of his mind, and it is not surprising that the naughty little girls proceeded to work industriously upon his imagination. He speaks of having heard under the bed a panting sound, which, he is certain, caused "a motion so strong that it shook the room and windows very sensibly"; and it also appears that he was induced to believe that he saw something moving in a "linen bag" hanging in the room, which bag, on being emptied, was found to contain nothing animate. Therefore—spirits again! After bidding the children good night and retiring to the room set apart for him, he was wakened from a sound sleep by a tremendous knocking on his door, and to his terrified inquiry, "In the name of God, who is it, and what would you have?" received the not wholly reassuring reply, "Nothing with you." In the morning, when he spoke of the incident and remarked that he supposed a servant must have rapped at the wrong door, he learned to his profound astonishment that "no one of the house lay that way or had business thereabout." This being so, it could not possibly have been anything but a ghost.

[Pg 33]

Thus runs the argument of the superstitious clergyman. And all the while, we may feel tolerably sure, little Miss Mompesson was chuckling inwardly at the panic into which she had thrown the reverend gentleman.
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« Reply #52 on: November 15, 2009, 04:59:20 am »

If it be objected that no girl of ten could successfully execute such a sustained imposture, one need only point to the many instances in which children of equally tender years or little older have since ventured on similar mystifications, with even more startling results. Incredible as it may seem to those who have not looked into the subject, it is a fact that there are boys and girls—especially girls—who take a morbid delight in playing pranks that will astound and perplex their elders. The mere suggestion that Satan or a discarnate spirit is at the bottom of the mischief will then act as a powerful stimulus to the elaboration of even more sensational performances, and the result, if detection does not soon occur, will be a full-fledged "poltergeist," as the crockery-breaking, furniture-throwing ghost is technically called.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #53 on: November 15, 2009, 04:59:35 am »

The singular affair of Hetty Wesley, which we shall take up next, is a case in point. So,[Pg 34] too, is the history of the Fox sisters, who were extremely juvenile when they discovered the possibilities latent in the properly manipulated rap and knock. And the spirits who so maliciously disturbed the peace of good old Dr. Phelps in Stratford, Connecticut, a half century and more ago, unquestionably owed their being to the nimble wit and abnormal fancy of his two step-children, aged sixteen and eleven.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #54 on: November 15, 2009, 04:59:49 am »

It is to be remembered, further, that contemporary conditions were exceptionally favorable to the success of the Tedworth hoax. In all likelihood the children had nothing to do with the first alarm, the alarm that occurred during Mompesson's absence in London; and possibly the second was only a rude practical joke by some village lads who had heard of the first and wished to put the Squire's courage to a test. But once the little Mompessons learned, or suspected, that their father associated the noises with the vagrant drummer, a wide vista of enjoyment would open before their mischief-loving minds. Entering on a career of mystification, they would find the road made easy by the gullibility of those about them; and the chances are that had they[Pg 35] been caught in flagrante delicto they would have put in the plea that fraudulent mediums so frequently offer to-day—"An evil spirit took possession of me." As it was, the superstition of the times—and doubtless the rats and shaky timbers of Mompesson House did their part—was their constant and unfailing support. Everything that happened would be magnified and distorted by the witnesses, either at the moment or in retrospect, until in the end the Rev. Mr. Glanvill, recording honestly enough what he himself had seen, could find material for a history of the most marvelous marvels.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #55 on: November 15, 2009, 05:00:02 am »

In short, the more closely one examines the details of the Tedworth mystery, the more will he find himself in agreement with George Cruikshank's brutally frank opinion:

"All this seems very strange, about this drummer and his drum;
But for myself I really think this drumming ghost was all a hum."
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #56 on: November 15, 2009, 05:00:12 am »

FOOTNOTES:

Glanvill's "Sadducismus Triumphatus," a most instructive and entertaining contribution to the literature of witchcraft. Contemporary opinion of Glanvill is well expressed in Anthony à Wood's statement that "he was a person of more than ordinary parts, of a quick, warm, spruce, and gay fancy, and was more lucky, at least in his own judgment, in his first hints and thoughts of things, than in his after notions, examined and digested by longer and more mature deliberation. He had a very tenacious memory, and was a great master of the English language, expressing himself therein with easy fluency, and in a manly, yet withal a clear style." Glanvill died in 1680 at the early age of forty-four.

[C] Used here in the sense of "always."

[D] The Italics are mine.

[Pg 36]
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #57 on: November 15, 2009, 05:00:29 am »

III

The Haunting of the Wesleys

The Rev. Samuel Wesley is chiefly known to posterity as the father of the famous John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and of the hardly less famous Charles Wesley. But the Rev. Samuel has further claims to remembrance. If he gave to the world John and Charles Wesley, he was also the sire of seventeen other Wesleys, eight of whom, like their celebrated brothers, grew to maturity and attained varying degrees of distinction.

He was himself a man of distinction as preacher, poet, and controversialist. His sermons were sermons in the good, old-fashioned sense of the term. His poems were the despair of the critics, but won him a wide reputation. He was an adept in what Whistler called the gentle art of making enemies. Though more familiar with the inside of a pulpit, he was not unacquainted with the inside of a jail. He raised his numerous progeny[Pg 37] on an income seldom exceeding one thousand dollars a year. And, what is perhaps the most astonishing fact in a career replete with surprises, he was the hero of one of the best authenticated ghost stories on record.

This visitation from the supermundane came as a climax to a series of worldly annoyances that would have upset the equanimity of a very Job—and the Rev. Samuel, in temper at any rate, was the reverse of Job-like. His troubles began in the closing years of the seventeenth century, when he became rector of the established church at Epworth, Lincolnshire, a venerable edifice dating back to the stormy days of Edward II., and as damp as it was old. The story goes that this living was granted him as a reward because he dedicated one of his poems to Queen Mary. But the Queen would seem to have had punishment in mind for him, rather than reward.
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« Reply #58 on: November 15, 2009, 05:01:06 am »

Located in the Isle of Axholme, in the midst of a long stretch of fen country bounded by four rivers, and for a great part under water, Epworth was at that epoch dreariness itself. The Rev. Samuel's spirits must have sunk within him as the carts bearing his already large family and his few household[Pg 38] belongings toiled through quagmire and morass; they must have fallen still farther when he gazed down the one straggling street at the rectory of mud and thatch that was to be his home; and they must have touched the zero mark, zealous High Churchman that he was, with the discovery that his peasant parishioners were Presbyterian-minded folk who hated ritualism as cordially as they hated the Pope.

Whatever his secret sentiments, he lost no time in endeavoring to stamp the imprint of his vigorous personality on Epworth. Forgetful, or unheedful, of the fact that the natives of the Isle of Axholme were notoriously violent and lawless, he began to rule them with a rod of iron. Thus they should think, thus they should do, thus they should go! Above all, the Rev. Samuel never permitted them to forget that in addition to spiritual they owed him temporal obligations. In the matter of tithes—always a sore subject in a community hard put to extract a living from the soil—he was unrelenting.
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« Reply #59 on: November 15, 2009, 05:01:15 am »

Necessity may have driven him; but it was only to be expected that murmurings should arise, and from words the angry islanders[Pg 39] passed to deeds. For a time they contented themselves with burning the rector's barn and trying to burn his house. Then, when he was so indiscreet as to become indebted to one of their number, they clapped him into prison. His speedy release, through the intervention of clerical friends, and his blunt refusal to seek a new sphere of activity, were followed by more barn burning, by the slaughter of his cattle, and finally by a fire that utterly destroyed the rectory and all but cost the lives of several of its inmates, who by that time included the future father of Methodism.

The bravery with which the Rev. Samuel met this crowning disaster, and the energy with which he set about the task of rebuilding his home—not in mud and thatch, but in substantial brick—seem to have shamed the villagers into giving him peace, seem even to have inspired them with a genuine regard for him. He for his part, if we read the difficult pages of his biographers aright, appears to have grown less exacting and more diplomatic. In any event, he was left in quiet to prepare his sermons, write his poems, and assist his devoted wife (who, by the way, he is said to[Pg 40] have deserted for an entire year because of a little difference of opinion respecting the right of William of Orange to the English crown) in the upbringing of their children. Thus his life ran along in comparative smoothness until the momentous advent of the ghost.
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