The Book of Dreams and Ghosts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 292 pages of information about The Book of Dreams and Ghosts.

This vision was a veracious hallucination; it gave intelligence not otherwise known to Mrs. M., and capable of confirmation, therefore the appearances would be called “ghosts”.  The majority of people do not believe in the truth of any such stories of veracious hallucinations, just as they do not believe in veracious dreams.  Mr. Galton, out of all his packets of reports of hallucinations, does not even allude to a veracious example, whether he has records of such a thing or not.  Such reports, however, are ghost stories, “which we now proceed,” or continue, “to narrate”.  The reader will do well to remember that while everything ghostly, and not to be explained by known physical facts, is in the view of science a hallucination, every hallucination is not a ghost for the purposes of story-telling.  The hallucination must, for story-telling purposes, be veracious.

Following our usual method, we naturally begin with the anecdotes least trying to the judicial faculties, and most capable of an ordinary explanation.  Perhaps of all the senses, the sense of touch, though in some ways the surest, is in others the most easily deceived.  Some people who cannot call up a clear mental image of things seen, say a saltcellar, can readily call up a mental revival of the feeling of touching salt.  Again, a slight accidental throb, or leap of a sinew or vein, may feel so like a touch that we turn round to see who touched us.  These familiar facts go far to make the following tale more or less conceivable.


“About twenty years ago,” writes Mrs. Elliot, “I received some letters by post, one of which contained 15 pounds in bank notes.  After reading the letters I went into the kitchen with them in my hands.  I was alone at the time. . . .  Having done with the letters, I made an effort to throw them into the fire, when I distinctly felt my hand arrested in the act.  It was as though another hand were gently laid upon my own, pressing it back.  Much surprised, I looked at my hand and then saw it contained, not the letters I had intended to destroy, but the bank notes, and that the letters were in the other hand.  I was so surprised that I called out, ‘Who’s here?’” {80a}

Nobody will call this “the touch of a vanished hand”.  Part of Mrs. Elliot’s mind knew what she was about, and started an unreal but veracious feeling to warn her.  We shall come to plenty of Hands not so readily disposed of.

Next to touch, the sense most apt to be deceived is hearing.  Every one who has listened anxiously for an approaching carriage, has often heard it come before it came.  In the summer of 1896 the writer, with a lady and another companion, were standing on the veranda at the back of a house in Dumfriesshire, waiting for a cab to take one of them to the station.  They heard a cab arrive and draw up, went round to the front of the house, saw the servant open the door and bring out the luggage, but wheeled vehicle there was none in sound or sight.  Yet all four persons had heard it, probably by dint of expectation.

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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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