Cock Lane and Common-Sense eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 347 pages of information about Cock Lane and Common-Sense.
would have said, ‘Thank you very much,’ or the like, but he could not, so his sentiments translated themselves into thumps.  On another occasion, he might have merely shown a light, or he might have sat on Dr. Lee’s chest, ‘pressed unduly on my chest,’ says the learned divine,—­ or pulled his blankets off, as is not unusual.  Such are the peculiarities of spectral aphasia, or rather asemia.  The ghost can make signs, but not the right signs.

Very fortunately for science, we have similar examples of imperfect expression in the living.  Thus Dr. Gibotteau, formerly interne at a hospital in Paris, published, in Annales des Sciences, Psychiques (Oct. and Dec, 1892), his experiments on a hospital nurse, and her experiments on him.  She used to try to send him hallucinations.  Once at 8 p.m. in summer as he stood on a balcony, he saw a curious reflet blanc, ‘a shining shadow’ like that in The Strange Story.  It resembled the reflection of the sun from a window, ’but there was neither sun, nor moon, nor lighted lamps’.  This white shadow was the partial failure of Berthe, the nurse, ’to show herself to me on the balcony’.  In precisely the same way, lights in haunted houses are partial failures of ghosts to appear in form As for the knocks, Dr. Binns, in his Anatomy of Sleep, mentions a gentleman who could push a door at a distance,—­if he could push, he could knock.  Perhaps a rather larger collection of such instances is desirable, still, these cases illustrate our theory.  That theory certainly does drive the cold calm psychical researcher back upon the primitive explanation:  ‘A ghaist’s a ghaist for a’ that!’ We must come to this, we must relapse into savage and superstitious psychology, if once we admit a ‘phantasmogenetic agency.’  But science is in quest of Truth, regardless of consequences.


Cock Lane Ghost discredited.  Popular Theory of Imposture.  Dr. Johnson.  Story of the Ghost.  The Deceased Wife’s Sister.  Beginning of the Phenomena.  Death of Fanny.  Recurrence of Phenomena.  Scratchings.  Parallel Cases.  Ignorance and Malevolence of the Ghost.  Possible Literary Sources.  Investigation.  Imitative Scratchings:  a Failure.  Trial of the Parsonses.  Professor Barrett’s Irish parallel.  Cause undetected.  The Theories of Common-sense.  The St. Maur Affair.  The Amiens Case.  The Sportive Highland Fox.  The Brightling Case.

If one phantom is more discredited than another, it is the Cock Lane ghost.

The ghost has been a proverb for impudent trickery, and stern exposure, yet its history remains a puzzle, and is a good, if vulgar type, of all similar marvels.  The very people who ‘exposed’ the ghost, were well aware that their explanation was worthless, and frankly admitted the fact.  Yet they, no more than we, were prepared to believe that the phenomena were produced by the spiritual part of Miss Fanny

Project Gutenberg
Cock Lane and Common-Sense from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook