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HISTORIC GHOSTS AND GHOST HUNTERS

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Author Topic: HISTORIC GHOSTS AND GHOST HUNTERS  (Read 934 times)
Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2009, 03:30:47 am »

Exorcising now went on daily, to the disgust of the serious-minded, the mystification of the incredulous, the delight of sensation-mongers, and the baffled fury of Grandier. So far the play, if melodramatic, had not approached the tragic. Sometimes it degenerated to the broadest farce comedy. Thus, on one occasion when the devil was being read out of the mother superior, a crashing sound was heard and a huge black cat tumbled down the chimney and scampered about the room. At once the cry was raised that the devil had taken the form of a cat, a mad chase ensued, and it would have gone hard with **** had not a nun chanced to recognize in it the pet of the convent.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2009, 03:30:59 am »

Still, there were circumstances which tended to inspire conviction in the mind of many. The convulsions of the possessed were undoubtedly genuine, and undoubtedly they manifested phenomena seemingly inexplicable[Pg 8] on any naturalistic basis. A contemporary writer, describing events of a few months later, when several recruits had been added to their ranks, states that some "when comatose became supple like a thin piece of lead, so that their body could be bent in every direction, forward, backward, or sideways, till their head touched the ground," and that others showed no sign of pain when struck, pinched, or pricked. Then, too, they whirled and danced and grimaced and howled in a manner impossible to any one in a perfectly normal state.[A]
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2009, 03:31:27 am »

For a few brief weeks Grandier enjoyed a respite, thanks to the intervention of his friend, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, who threatened to send a physician and priests of his own choice to examine the possessed, a threat of itself sufficient, apparently, to put the devils to flight. But they returned with undiminished vigor upon the arrival in Loudun of a powerful state official who, unfortunately[Pg 9] for Grandier, was a relative of Mother Superior Belfiel's. This official, whose name was Laubardemont, had come to Loudun on a singular mission. Richelieu, the celebrated cardinal statesman, in the pursuit of his policy of strengthening the crown and weakening the nobility, had resolved to level to the ground the fortresses and castles of interior France, and among those marked for destruction was the castle of Loudun. Thither, therefore, he dispatched Laubardemont to see that his orders were faithfully executed.
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« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2009, 03:31:36 am »

Naturally, the cardinal's commissioner became interested in the trouble that had befallen his kinswoman, and the more interested when Mignon hinted to him that there was reason to believe that the suspected wizard was also the author of a recent satire which had set the entire court laughing at Richelieu's expense. What lent plausibility to this charge was the fact that the satire had been universally accredited to a court beauty formerly one of Grandier's parishioners. Also there was the fact that in days gone by, when Richelieu was merely a deacon, he had had a violent quarrel with Grandier over a question of precedence. Putting two and two together,[Pg 10] and knowing that it would result to his own advantage to unearth the real author to the satire, Laubardemont turned a willing ear to the suggestion that the woman in question had allowed her old pastor to shield himself behind her name.
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« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2009, 03:34:40 am »

Back to Paris the commissioner galloped to carry the story to Richelieu. The cardinal's anger knew no bounds. From the King he secured a warrant for Grandier's arrest, and to this he added a decree investing Laubardemont with full inquisitorial powers. Events now moved rapidly. Though forewarned by Parisian friends, Grandier refused to seek safety by flight, and was arrested in spectacular fashion while on his way to say mass. His home was searched, his papers were seized, and he himself was thrown into an improvised dungeon in a house belonging to Mignon. Witnesses in his favor were intimidated, while those willing to testify against him were liberally rewarded. To such lengths did the prosecution go that, discovering a strong undercurrent of popular indignation, Laubardemont actually procured from the King and council a decree prohibiting any appeal from his decisions, and gave[Pg 11] out that, since King and cardinal believed in the enchantment, any one denying it would be held guilty of lese majesty divine and human.
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« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2009, 03:35:46 am »

Under these circumstances Grandier was doomed from the outset. But he made a desperate struggle, and his opponents were driven to sore straits to bolster up their case. The devils persisted in speaking bad Latin, and continually failed to meet tests which they themselves had suggested. Sometimes their failures were only too plainly the result of human intervention.

For instance, the mother superior's devil promised that, on a given night and in the church of the Holy Cross, he would lift Laubardemont's cap from his head and keep it suspended in mid-air while the commissioner intoned a miserere. When the time came for the fulfilment of this promise two of the spectators noticed that Laubardemont had taken care to seat himself at a goodly distance from the other participants. Quietly leaving the church, these amateur detectives made their way to the roof, where they found a man in the act of dropping a long horsehair line, to which was attached a small hook, through a hole directly over the spot where Laubarde[Pg 12]mont was sitting. The culprit fled, and that night another failure was recorded against the devil.
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« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2009, 03:40:54 am »

But such fiascos availed nothing to save Grandier. Neither did it avail him that, before sentence was finally passed, Sister Claire, broken in body and mind, sobbingly affirmed his innocence, protesting that she did not know what she was saying when she accused him; nor that the mother superior, after two hours of agonizing torture self-imposed, fell on her knees before Laubardemont, made a similar admission, and, passing into the convent orchard, tried to hang herself. The commissioner and his colleagues remained obdurate, averring that these confessions were in themselves evidence of witchcraft, since they could be prompted only by the desire of the devils to save their master from his just fate. In August, 1634, Grandier's doom was pronounced. He was to be put to the torture, strangled, and burned. This judgment was carried out to the letter, save that when the executioner approached to strangle him, the ropes binding him to the stake loosened, and he fell forward among the flames, perishing miserably.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #22 on: November 15, 2009, 03:41:10 am »

It only remains to analyze this medieval tragedy in the light of modern knowledge. To the people of his own generation Grandier was either a wizard most foul, or the victim of a dastardly plot in which all concerned in harrying him to his death knowingly participated. These opinions posterity long shared. But now it is quite possible to reach another conclusion. That there was a conspiracy is evident even from the facts set down by those hostile to Grandier. On the other hand, it is as unnecessary as it is incredible to believe that the plotters included every one instrumental in fixing on the unhappy curé the crime of witchcraft.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #23 on: November 15, 2009, 03:41:33 am »

Bearing in mind the discoveries of recent years in the twin fields of physiology and psychology, it seems evident that the conspirators were actually limited in number to Mignon, Barré, Laubardemont, and a few of their intimates. In Laubardemont's case, indeed, there is some reason for supposing that he was more dupe than knave, and is therefore to be placed in the same category as the superstitious monks and townspeople on whom Mignon and Barré so successfully imposed. As to the possessed—the mother superior[Pg 14] and her nuns—they may one and all be included in a third group as the unwitting tools of Mignon's vengeance. In fine, it is not only possible but entirely reasonable to regard Mignon as a seventeenth-century forerunner of Mesmer, Elliotson, Esdaile, Braid, Charcot, and the present day exponents of hypnotism; and the nuns as his helpless "subjects," obeying his every command with the fidelity observable to-day in the patients of the Salpêtrière and other centers of hypnotic practice.
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« Reply #24 on: November 15, 2009, 03:41:51 am »

The justness of this view is borne out by the facts recorded by contemporary annalists, of which only an outline has been given here. The nuns of Loudun were, as has been said, mostly daughters of the nobility, and were thus, in all likelihood, temperamentally unstable, sensitive, high-strung, nervous. The seclusion of their lives, the monotonous routine of their every-day occupations, and the possibilities afforded for dangerous, morbid introspection, could not but have a baneful effect on such natures, leading inevitably to actual insanity or to hysteria. That the possessed were hysterical is abundantly shown by the descriptions their historians give of the[Pg 15] character of their convulsions, contortions, etc., and by the references to the anesthetic, or non-sensitive, spots on their bodies. Now, as we know, the convent at Loudun had been in existence for only a few years before Mignon became its father confessor, and so, we may believe, it fell out that he appeared on the scene precisely when sufficient time had elapsed for environment and heredity to do their deadly work and provoke an epidemic of hysteria.
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« Reply #25 on: November 15, 2009, 03:42:00 am »

In those benighted times such attacks were popularly ascribed to possession by evil spirits. The hysterical nuns, as the chronicles tell us, explained their condition to Mignon by informing him that, shortly before the onset of their trouble, they had been haunted by the ghost of their former confessor, Father Moussaut. Here Mignon found his opportunity. Picture him gently rebuking the unhappy women, admonishing them that such a good man as Father Moussaut would never return to torment those who had been in his charge, and insisting that the source of their woes must be sought elsewhere; in, say, some evil disposed person, hostile to Father Moussaut's successor, and hoping, through thus afflicting them, to[Pg 16] bring the convent into disrepute and in this way strike a deadly blow at its new father confessor. Who might be this evil disposed person? Who, in truth, save Urbain Grandier?
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« Reply #26 on: November 15, 2009, 03:42:14 am »

Picture Mignon, again, observing that his suggestion had taken root in the minds of two of the most emotional and impressionable, the mother superior and Sister Claire. Then would follow a course of lessons designed to aid the suggestion to blossom into open accusation. And presently Mignon would make the discovery that the mother superior and Sister Claire would, when in a hysterical state, blindly obey any command he might make, cease from their convulsions, respond intelligently and at his will to questions put to them, renew their convulsions, lapse even into seeming dementia.
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« Reply #27 on: November 15, 2009, 03:42:28 am »

Doubtless he did not grasp the full significance and possibilities of his discovery—had he done so the devils would not have bungled matters so often, and no embarrassing confessions would have been forthcoming. But he saw clearly enough that he had in his hand a mighty weapon against his rival, and history has recorded the manner and effectiveness with which he used it.
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« Reply #28 on: November 15, 2009, 03:43:36 am »

FOOTNOTES:

[A] Aubin's "Histoire des Diables de Loudun," a book by a writer who scoffed at the idea that the nuns had actually been bewitched. For an account by a contemporary who firmly believed the charges brought against Grandier, consult Niau's "La Veritable Histoire des Diables de Loudun." This latter work is accessible in an English translation by Edmund Goldsmid.
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« Reply #29 on: November 15, 2009, 03:44:55 am »

II

The Drummer of Tedworth

There have been drummers a plenty in all countries and all ages, but there surely has never been the equal of the drummer of Tedworth. His was the distinction to inspire terror the length and breadth of a kingdom, to set a nation by the ears—nay, even to disturb the peace of Church and Crown.

When the Cromwellian wars broke out, he was in his prime, a stout, sturdy Englishman, suffering, as did his fellows, from the misrule of the Stuarts, and ready for any desperate step that might better his fortunes. Volunteering, therefore, under the man of blood and iron, tradition has it that from the first battle to the last his drum was heard inspiring the revolutionists to mighty deeds of valor. The conflict at an end, Charles beheaded, and the Fifth Monarchy men creating chaos in their noisy efforts to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, he lapsed into an obscurity[Pg 18] that endured until the Restoration. Then he reëmerged, not as a veteran living at ease on laurels well won, but as a wandering beggar, roving from shire to shire in quest of alms, which he implored to the accompaniment of fearsome music from his beloved drum.
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