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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts

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Apparition from Beyond the Veil
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« Reply #15 on: November 24, 2009, 01:09:38 pm »

In preparing this collection of tales, I owe much to Mr. W. A. Craigie, who translated the stories from the Gaelic and the Icelandic; to Miss Elspeth Campbell, who gives a version of the curious Argyll tradition of Ticonderoga (rhymed by Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson, who put a Cameron where a Campbell should be); to Miss Violet Simpson, who found the Windham MS. about the Duke of Buckingham’s story, and made other researches; and to Miss Goodrich Freer, who pointed out the family version of “The Tyrone Ghost”.
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Apparition from Beyond the Veil
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« Reply #16 on: November 24, 2009, 01:10:07 pm »

CHAPTER I

Arbuthnot on Political Lying.  Begin with “Great Swingeing Falsehoods”.  The Opposite Method to be used in telling Ghost Stones.  Begin with the more Familiar and Credible.  Sleep.  Dreams.  Ghosts are identical with Waking Dreams.  Possibility of being Asleep when we think we are Awake.  Dreams shared by several People.  Story of the Dog Fanti.  The Swithinbank Dream.  Common Features of Ghosts and Dreams.  Mark Twain’s Story.  Theory of Common-sense.  Not Logical.  Fulfilled Dreams.  The Pig in the Palace.  The Mignonette.  Dreams of Reawakened Memory.  The Lost Cheque.  The Ducks’ Eggs.  The Lost Key.  Drama in Dreams.  The Lost Securities.  The Portuguese Gold-piece.  St. Augustine’s Story.  The Two Curmas.  Knowledge acquired in Dreams.  The Assyrian Priest.  The Déjà Vu.  “I have been here before.”  Sir Walter’s Experience.  Explanations.  The Knot in the Shutter.  Transition to Stranger Dreams.

Arbuthnot, in his humorous work on Political Lying, commends the Whigs for occasionally trying the people with “great swingeing falsehoods”.  When these are once got down by the populace, anything may follow without difficulty.  Excellently as this practice has worked in politics (compare the warming-pan lie of 1688), in the telling of ghost stories a different plan has its merits.  Beginning with the common-place and familiar, and therefore credible, with the thin end of the wedge, in fact, a wise narrator will advance to the rather unusual, the extremely rare, the undeniably startling, and so arrive at statements which, without this discreet and gradual initiation, a hasty reader might, justly or unjustly, dismiss as “great swingeing falsehoods”.

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« Reply #17 on: November 24, 2009, 01:10:13 pm »

The nature of things and of men has fortunately made this method at once easy, obvious, and scientific.  Even in the rather fantastic realm of ghosts, the stories fall into regular groups, advancing in difficulty, like exercises in music or in a foreign language.  We therefore start from the easiest Exercises in Belief, or even from those which present no difficulty at all.  The defect of the method is that easy stories are dull reading.  But the student can “skip”.  We begin with common every-night dreams.

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« Reply #18 on: November 24, 2009, 01:10:27 pm »

Sleeping is as natural as waking; dreams are nearly as frequent as every-day sensations, thoughts, and emotions.  But dreams, being familiar, are credible; it is admitted that people do dream; we reach the less credible as we advance to the less familiar.  For, if we think for a moment, the alleged events of ghostdom—apparitions of all sorts—are precisely identical with the every-night phenomena of dreaming, except for the avowed element of sleep in dreams.

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« Reply #19 on: November 24, 2009, 01:10:39 pm »

In dreams, time and space are annihilated, and two severed lovers may be made happy.  In dreams, amidst a grotesque confusion of things remembered and things forgot, we see the events of the past (I have been at Culloden fight and at the siege of Troy); we are present in places remote; we behold the absent; we converse with the dead, and we may even (let us say by chance coincidence) forecast the future.  All these things, except the last, are familiar to everybody who dreams.  It is also certain that similar, but yet more vivid, false experiences may be produced, at the word of the hypnotiser, in persons under the hypnotic sleep.  A hypnotised man will take water for wine, and get drunk on it.
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« Reply #20 on: November 24, 2009, 01:10:53 pm »

Now, the ghostly is nothing but the experience, when men are awake, or apparently awake, of the every-night phenomena of dreaming.  The vision of the absent seen by a waking, or apparently waking, man is called “a wraith”; the waking, or apparently waking, vision of the dead is called “a ghost”.  Yet, as St. Augustine says, the absent man, or the dead man, may know no more of the vision, and may have no more to do with causing it, than have the absent or the dead whom we are perfectly accustomed to see in our dreams.  Moreover, the comparatively rare cases in which two or more waking people are alleged to have seen the same “ghost,” simultaneously or in succession, have their parallel in sleep, where two or more persons simultaneously dream the same dream.  Of this curious fact let us give one example: the names only are altered.

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« Reply #21 on: November 24, 2009, 01:11:13 pm »

THE DOG FANTI
Mrs. Ogilvie of Drumquaigh had a poodle named Fanti.  Her family, or at least those who lived with her, were her son, the laird, and three daughters.  Of these the two younger, at a certain recent date, were paying a short visit to a neighbouring country house.  Mrs. Ogilvie was accustomed to breakfast in her bedroom, not being in the best of health.  One morning Miss Ogilvie came down to breakfast and said to her brother, “I had an odd dream; I dreamed Fanti went mad”.

“Well, that is odd,” said her brother.  “So did I.  We had better not tell mother; it might make her nervous.”

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« Reply #22 on: November 24, 2009, 01:11:28 pm »

Miss Ogilvie went up after breakfast to see the elder lady, who said, “Do turn out Fanti; I dreamed last night that he went mad and bit”.

In the afternoon the two younger sisters came home.

“How did you enjoy yourselves?” one of the others asked.

“We didn’t sleep well.  I was dreaming that Fanti went mad when Mary wakened me, and said she had dreamed Fanti went mad, and turned into a cat, and we threw him into the fire.”

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« Reply #23 on: November 24, 2009, 01:11:46 pm »

Thus, as several people may see the same ghost at once, several people may dream the same dream at once.  As a matter of fact, Fanti lived, sane and harmless, “all the length of all his years”. {4}

Now, this anecdote is credible, certainly is credible by people who know the dreaming family.  It is nothing more than a curiosity of coincidences; and, as Fanti remained a sober, peaceful hound, in face of five dreamers, the absence of fulfilment increases the readiness of belief.  But compare the case of the Swithinbanks.  Mr. Swithinbank, on 20th May, 1883, signed for publication a statement to this effect:—

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« Reply #24 on: November 24, 2009, 01:11:57 pm »

During the Peninsular war his father and his two brothers were quartered at Dover.  Their family were at Bradford.  The brothers slept in various quarters of Dover camp.  One morning they met after parade.  “O William, I have had a queer dream,” said Mr. Swithinbank’s father.  “So have I,” replied the brother, when, to the astonishment of both, the other brother, John, said, “I have had a queer dream as well.  I dreamt that mother was dead.”   “So did I,” said each of the other brothers.  And the mother had died on the night of this dreaming.  Mrs. Hudson, daughter of one of the brothers, heard the story from all three. {5a}

The distribution of the fulfilled is less than that of the unfulfilled dream by three to five.  It has the extra coincidence of the death.  But as it is very common to dream of deaths, some such dreams must occasionally hit the target.

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« Reply #25 on: November 24, 2009, 01:12:09 pm »

Other examples might be given of shared dreams: {5b} they are only mentioned here to prove that all the waking experiences of things ghostly, such as visions of the absent and of the dead, and of the non-existent, are familiar, and may even be common simultaneously to several persons, in sleep.  That men may sleep without being aware of it, even while walking abroad; that we may drift, while we think ourselves awake, into a semi-somnolent state for a period of time perhaps almost imperceptible is certain enough.  Now, the peculiarity of sleep is to expand or contract time, as we may choose to put the case.  Alfred Maury, the well-known writer on Greek religion, dreamed a long, vivid dream of the Reign of Terror, of his own trial before a Revolutionary Tribunal, and of his execution, in the moment of time during which he was awakened by the accidental fall of a rod in the canopy of his bed, which touched him on the neck.  Thus even a prolonged interview with a ghost may conceivably be, in real time, a less than momentary dream occupying an imperceptible tenth of a second of somnolence, the sleeper not realising that he has been asleep.

Mark Twain, who is seriously interested in these subjects, has published an experience illustrative of such possibilities.  He tells his tale at considerable length, but it amounts to this:—

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« Reply #26 on: November 24, 2009, 01:12:27 pm »

MARK TWAIN’S STORY
Mark was smoking his cigar outside the door of his house when he saw a man, a stranger, approaching him.  Suddenly he ceased to be visible!  Mark, who had long desired to see a ghost, rushed into his house to record the phenomenon.  There, seated on a chair in the hall, was the very man, who had come on some business.  As Mark’s negro footman acts, when the bell is rung, on the principle, “Perhaps they won’t persevere,” his master is wholly unable to account for the disappearance of the visitor, whom he never saw passing him or waiting at his door—except on the theory of an unconscious nap.  Now, a disappearance is quite as mystical as an appearance, and much less common.

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« Reply #27 on: November 24, 2009, 01:12:38 pm »

This theory, that apparitions come in an infinitesimal moment of sleep, while a man is conscious of his surroundings and believes himself to be awake was the current explanation of ghosts in the eighteenth century.  Any educated man who “saw a ghost” or “had a hallucination” called it a “dream,” as Lord Brougham and Lord Lyttelton did.  But, if the death of the person seen coincided with his appearance to them, they illogically argued that, out of the innumerable multitude of dreams, some must coincide, accidentally, with facts.  They strove to forget that though dreams in sleep are universal and countless, “dreams” in waking hours are extremely rare—unique, for instance, in Lord Brougham’s own experience.  Therefore, the odds against chance coincidence are very great.

Dreams only form subjects of good dream-stories when the vision coincides with and adequately represents an unknown event in the past, the present, or the future.  We dream, however vividly, of the murder of Rizzio.  Nobody is surprised at that, the incident being familiar to most people, in history and art.  But, if we dreamed of being present at an unchronicled scene in Queen Mary’s life, and if, after the dream was recorded, a document proving its accuracy should be for the first time recovered, then there is matter for a good dream-story. {8}  Again, we dream of an event not to be naturally guessed or known by us, and our dream (which should be recorded before tidings of the fact arrive) tallies with the news of the event when it comes.  Or, finally, we dream of an event (recording the dream), and that event occurs in the future.  In all these cases the actual occurrence of the unknown event is the only addition to the dream’s usual power of crumpling up time and space.

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« Reply #28 on: November 24, 2009, 01:12:51 pm »

As a rule such dreams are only mentioned after the event, and so are not worth noticing.  Very often the dream is forgotten by the dreamer till he hears of or sees the event.  He is then either reminded of his dream by association of ideas or he has never dreamed at all, and his belief that he has dreamed is only a form of false memory, of the common sensation of “having been here before,” which he attributes to an awakened memory of a real dream.  Still more often the dream is unconsciously cooked by the narrator into harmony with facts.

As a rule fulfilled dreams deal with the most trivial affairs, and such as, being usual, may readily occur by chance coincidence.  Indeed it is impossible to set limits to such coincidence, for it would indeed be extraordinary if extraordinary coincidences never occurred.

To take examples:—
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« Reply #29 on: November 24, 2009, 01:13:09 pm »

THE PIG IN THE DINING-ROOM
Mrs. Atlay, wife of a late Bishop of Hereford, dreamed one night that there was a pig in the dining-room of the palace.  She came downstairs, and in the hall told her governess and children of the dream, before family prayers.  When these were over, nobody who was told the story having left the hall in the interval, she went into the dining-room and there was the pig.  It was proved to have escaped from the sty after Mrs. Atlay got up.  Here the dream is of the common grotesque type; millions of such things are dreamed.  The event, the pig in the palace, is unusual, and the coincidence of pig and dream is still more so.  But unusual events must occur, and each has millions of dreams as targets to aim at, so to speak.  It would be surprising if no such target were ever hit.

Here is another case—curious because the dream was forgotten till the corresponding event occurred, but there was a slight discrepancy between event and dream.
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