The following is an old but good story. The Rev. Joseph Wilkins died, an aged man, in 1800. He left this narrative, often printed; the date of the adventure is 1754, when Mr. Wilkins, aged twenty-three, was a schoolmaster in Devonshire. The dream was an ordinary dream, and did not announce death, or anything but a journey. Mr. Wilkins dreamed, in Devonshire, that he was going to London. He thought he would go by Gloucestershire and see his people. So he started, arrived at his father’s house, found the front door locked, went in by the back door, went to his parents’ room, saw his father asleep in bed and his mother awake. He said: “Mother, I am going a long journey, and have come to bid you good-bye”. She answered in a fright, “Oh dear son, thou art dead!” Mr. Wilkins wakened, and thought nothing of it. As early as a letter could come, one arrived from his father, addressing him as if he were dead, and desiring him, if by accident alive, or any one into whose hands the letter might fall, to write at once. The father then gave his reasons for alarm. Mrs. Wilkins, being awake one night, heard some one try the front door, enter by the back, then saw her son come into her room and say he was going on a long journey, with the rest of the dialogue. She then woke her husband, who said she had been dreaming, but who was alarmed enough to write the letter. No harm came of it to anybody.
The story would be better if Mr. Wilkins, junior, like Laud, had kept a nocturnal of his dreams, and published his father’s letter, with post-marks.
The story of the lady who often dreamed of a house, and when by chance she found and rented it was recognised as the ghost who had recently haunted it, is good, but is an invention!
A somewhat similar instance is that of the uproar of moving heavy objects, heard by Scott in Abbotsford on the night preceding and the night of the death of his furnisher, Mr. Bullock, in London. The story is given in Lockhart’s Life of Scott, and is too familiar for repetition.
On the whole, accepting one kind of story on the same level as the other kind, the living and absent may unconsciously produce the phenomena of haunted houses just as well as the dead, to whose alleged performances we now advance. Actual appearances, as we have said, are not common, and just as all persons do not hear the sounds, so many do not see the appearance, even when it is visible to others in the same room. As an example, take a very mild and lady-like case of haunting.