This kind of evidence is thought good enough on the negative side. It certainly would not be accepted by any sane person for the affirmative side. If what is called psychical research has no other results, at least it enables us to perceive the fallacies which can impose on the credulity of common-sense.
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”.
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 Deja 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”.
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.