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Comparative Psychical Research


Contents:

A Party at Ragley Castle. The Miraculous Conformist. The Restoration and Scepticism. Experimental Proof of Spiritual Existence. Glanvill. Boyle. More. The Gentleman's Butler. 'Levitation.' Witchcraft. Movements of Objects. The Drummer of Tedworth. Haunted Houses. Rerrick. Glenluce. Ghosts. 'Spectral Evidence.' Continuity and Uniformity of Stories. St. Joseph of Cupertino, his Flights. Modern Instances. Theory of Induced Hallucination. Ibn Batuta. Animated Furniture. From China to Peru. Rapping Spirit at Lyons. The Imposture at Orleans. The Stockwell Mystery. The Demon of Spraiton. Modern Instances. The Wesleys. Theory of Imposture. Conclusion.


In the month of February, 1665, there was assembled at Ragley Castle as curious a party as ever met in an English country-house. The hostess was the Lady Conway, a woman of remarkable talent and character, but wholly devoted to mystical speculations. In the end, unrestrained by the arguments of her clerical allies, she joined the Society of Friends, by the world called Quakers. Lady Conway at the time when her guests gathered at Ragley, as through all her later life, was suffering from violent chronic headache. The party at Ragley was invited to meet her latest medical attendant, an unlicensed practitioner, Mr. Valentine Greatrakes, or Greatorex; his name is spelled in a variety of ways. Mr. Greatrakes was called 'The Irish Stroker' and 'The Miraculous Conformist' by his admirers, for, while it was admitted that Dissenters might frequently possess, or might claim, powers of miracle, the gift, or the pretension, was rare among members of the Established Church. The person of Mr. Greatrakes, if we may believe Dr. Henry Stubbe, physician at Stratford-on-Avon, diffused a pleasing fragrance as of violets. Lord Herbert of Cherbury, it will be remembered, tells the same story about himself in his memoirs. Mr. Greatrakes 'is a man of graceful personage and presence, and if my phantasy betrayed not my judgement,' says Dr. Stubbe, 'I observed in his eyes and meene a vivacitie and spritelinesse that is nothing common'.

This Miraculous Conformist was the younger son of an Irish squire, and a person of some property. After the Restoration--and not before--Greatrakes felt 'a strong and powerful impulse in him to essay' the art of healing by touching, or stroking. He resisted the impulse, till one of his hands having become 'dead' or numb, he healed it by the strokes of the other hand. From that moment Greatrakes practised, and became celebrated; he cured some diseased persons, failed wholly with others, and had partial and temporary success with a third class. The descriptions given by Stubbe, in his letter to the celebrated Robert Boyle, and by Foxcroft, Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, leave little doubt that 'The Irish Stroker' was most successful with hypochondriacal and hysterical patients. He used to chase the disease up and down their bodies, if it did not 'fly out through the interstices of his fingers,' and if he could drive it into an outlying part, and then forth into the wide world, the patient recovered. So Dr. Stubbe reports the method of Greatrakes. {86} He was brought over from Ireland, at a charge of about 155 pounds, to cure Lady Conway's headaches. In this it is confessed that he entirely failed; though he wrought a few miracles of healing among rural invalids. To meet this fragrant and miraculous Conformist, Lady Conway invited men worthy of the privilege, such as the Rev. Joseph Glanvill, F.R.S., the author of Sadducismus Triumphatus, his friend Dr. Henry More, the Cambridge Platonist, and other persons interested in mystical studies. Thus at Ragley there was convened the nucleus of an unofficial but active Society for Psychical Research, as that study existed in the seventeenth century.

The object of this chapter is to compare the motives, methods, and results of Lady Conway's circle, with those of the modern Society for Psychical Research. Both have investigated the reports of abnormal phenomena. Both have collected and published narratives of eye-witnesses. The moderns, however, are much more strict on points of evidence than their predecessors. They are not content to watch, but they introduce 'tests,' generally with the most disenchanting results. The old researchers were animated by the desire to establish the tottering faith of the Restoration, which was endangered by the reaction against Puritanism. Among the fruits of Puritanism, and of that frenzied state of mind which accompanied the Civil War, was a furious persecution of 'witches'. In a rare little book, Select Cases of Conscience, touching Witches and Witchcraft, by John Gaule, 'preacher of the Word at Great Staughton in the county of Huntington' (London, 1646), we find the author not denying the existence of witchcraft, but pleading for calm, learned and judicial investigation. To do this was to take his life in his hand, for Matthew Hopkins, a fanatical miscreant, was ruling in a Reign of Terror through the country. The clergy of the Church of England, as Hutchinson proves in his Treatise of Witchcraft (second edition, London, 1720), had been comparatively cautious in their treatment of the subject. Their record is far from clean, but they had exposed some impostures, chiefly, it is fair to say, where Nonconformists, or Catholics, had detected the witch. With the Restoration the general laxity went so far as to scoff at witchcraft, to deny its existence, and even, in the works of Wagstaff and Webster, to minimise the leading case of the Witch of Endor. Against the 'drollery of Sadducism,' the Psychical Researchers within the English Church, like Glanvill and Henry More, or beyond its pale, like Richard Baxter and many Scotch divines, defended witchcraft and apparitions as outworks of faith in general. The modern Psychical Society, whatever the predisposition of some of its members may be, explores abnormal phenomena, not in the interests of faith, but of knowledge. Again, the old inquirers were dominated by a belief in the devil. They saw witchcraft and demoniacal possession, where the moderns see hysterics and hypnotic conditions.

For us the topic is rather akin to mythology, and 'folk-psychology,' as the Germans call it. We are interested, as will be shown, in a most curious question of evidence, and the value of evidence. It will again appear that the phenomena reported by Glanvill, More, Sinclair, Kirk, Telfair, Bovet, are identical with those examined by Messrs. Gurney, Myers, Kellar (the American professional conjurer), and many others. The differences, though interesting, are rather temporary and accidental than essential.

A few moments of attention to the table talk of the party assembled at Ragley will enable us to understand the aims, the methods, and the ideas of the old informal society. By a lucky accident, fragments of the conversation may be collected from Glanvill's Sadducismus Triumphatus, {88a} and from the correspondence of Glanvill, Henry More, and Robert Boyle. Mr. Boyle, among more tangible researches, devoted himself to collecting anecdotes, about the second sight. These manuscripts are not published in the six huge quarto volumes of Boyle's works; on the other hand, we possess Lord Tarbet's answer to his questions. {88b} Boyle, as his letters show, was a rather chary believer in witchcraft and possession. He referred Glanvill to his kinsman, Lord Orrery, who had enjoyed an experience not very familiar; he had seen a gentleman's butler float in the air!

Now, by a great piece of good fortune, Mr. Greatrakes the fragrant and miraculous, had also been an eye-witness of this miracle, and was able to give Lady Conway and her guests the fullest information. As commonly happened in the seventeenth century, though not in ours, the marvel of the butler was mixed up with ordinary folklore. In the records and researches of the existing Society for Psychical Research, folklore and fairies hold no place. The Conformist, however, had this tale to tell: the butler of a gentleman unnamed, who lived near Lord Orrery's seat in Ireland, fell in, one day, with the good people, or fairies, sitting at a feast. The fairies, therefore, endeavoured to spirit him away, as later they carried off Mr. Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle, in 1692. Lord Orrery, most kindly, gave the butler the security of his castle, where the poor man was kept, 'under police protection,' and watched, in a large room. Among the spectators were Mr, Greatrakes himself, and two bishops, one of whom may have been Jeremy Taylor, an active member of the society. Late in the afternoon, the butler was 'perceived to rise from the ground, whereupon Mr. Greatrix and another lusty man clapt their hands over his shoulders, one of them before, and the other behind, and weighed him down with all their strength, but he was forcibly taken up from them; for a considerable time he was carried in the air to and fro, over their heads, several of the company still running under him, to prevent him receiving hurt if he should fall;' so says Glanvill. Faithorne illustrates this pleasing circumstance by a picture of the company standing out, ready to 'field the butler, whose features display great concern.' {90a}

Now we know that Mr. Greatrakes told this anecdote, at Ragley, first to Mrs. Foxcroft, and then to the company at dinner. Mr. Alfred Wallace, F.R.S., adduces Lord Orrery and Mr. Greatrakes as witnesses of this event in private life. Mr. Wallace, however, forgets to tell the world that the fairies, or good people, were, or were believed to be, the agents. {90b} Fairies still cause levitation in the Highlands. Campbell of Islay knew a doctor, one of whose patients had in vain tried to hold down a friend who was seized and carried to a distance of two miles by the sluagh, the fairy folk. {90c} Glanvill admits that Lord Orrery assured Lady Roydon, one of the party at Ragley, that the Irish tale was true: Henry More had it direct from Mr. Greatrakes.

Here is a palpably absurd legend, but the reader is requested to observe that the phenomenon is said to have occurred in all ages and countries. We can adduce the testimony of modern Australian blacks, of Greek philosophers, of Peruvians just after the conquest by Pizarro, of the authors of Lives of the Saints, of learned New England divines, of living observers in England, India, and America. The phenomenon is technically styled 'levitation,' and in England was regarded as a proof either of witchcraft or of 'possession'; in Italy was a note of sanctity; in modern times is a peculiarity of 'mediumship'; in Australia is a token of magical power; in Zululand of skill in the black art; and, in Ireland and the West Highlands, was attributed to the guile of the fairies. Here are four or five distinct hypotheses. Part of our business, therefore, is to examine and compare the forms of a fable current in many lands, and reported to the circle at Ragley by the Miraculous Conformist.

Mr. Greatrakes did not entertain Lady Conway and her friends with this marvel alone. He had been present at a trial for witchcraft, in Cork, on September 11, 1661. In this affair evidence was led to prove a story as common as that of 'levitation'--namely, the mysterious throwing or falling of stones in a haunted house, or around the person of a patient bewitched. Cardan is expansive about this manifestation. The patient was Mary Longdon, the witch was Florence Newton of Youghal. Glanvill prints the trial from a document which he regards as official, but he did not take the trouble to trace Mr. Aston, the recorder or clerk (as Glanvill surmises), who signed every page of the manuscript. Mr. Alfred Wallace quotes the tale, without citing his authority. The witnesses for the falling of stones round the bewitched girl were the maid herself, and her master, John Pyne, who deposed that she was 'much troubled with little stones that were thrown at her wherever she went, and that, after they had hit her, would fall on the ground, and then vanish, so that none of them could be found'. This peculiarity beset Mr. Stainton Moses, when he was fishing, and must have 'put down' the trout. Objects in the maid's presence, such as Bibles, would 'fly from her,' and she was bewitched, and carried off into odd places, like the butler at Lord Orrery's. Nicholas Pyne gave identical evidence. At Ragley, Mr. Greatrakes declared that he was present at the trial, and that an awl would not penetrate the stool on which the unlucky enchantress was made to stand: a clear proof of guilt.

Here, then, we have the second phenomenon which interested the circle at Ragley; the flying about of stones, of Bibles, and other movements of bodies. Though the whole affair may be called hysterical imposture by Mary Longdon (who vomited pins, and so forth, as was customary), we shall presently trace the reports of similar events, among people of widely remote ages and countries, 'from China to Peru'.

Among the guests at Ragley, as we said, was Dr. Joseph Glanvill, who could also tell strange tales at first hand, and from his own experience. He had investigated the case of the disturbances in Mr. Mompesson's house at Tedworth, which began in March, 1661. These events, so famous among our ancestors, were precisely identical with what is reported by modern newspapers, when there is a 'medium' in a family. The troubles began with rappings on the walls of the house, and on a drum taken by Mr. Mompesson from a vagrant musician. This man seems to have been as much vexed as Parolles by the loss of his drum, and the Psychical Society at Ragley believed him to be a magician, who had bewitched the house of his oppressor. While Mrs. Mompesson was adding an infant to her family the noise ceased, or nearly ceased, just as, at Epworth, in the house of the Rev. Samuel Wesley, it never vexed Mrs. Wesley at her devotions. Later, at Tedworth, 'it followed and vexed the younger children, beating their bedsteads with that violence, that all present expected when they would fall in pieces'. . . . It would lift the children up in their beds. Objects were moved: lights flitted around, and the Rev. Joseph Glanvill could assure Lady Conway that he had been a witness of some of these occurrences. He saw the 'little modest girls in the bed, between seven and eight years old, as I guessed'. He saw their hands outside the bed-clothes, and heard the scratchings above their heads, and felt 'the room and windows shake very sensibly'. When he tapped or scratched a certain number of times, the noise answered, and stopped at the same number. Many more things of this kind Glanvill tells. He denies the truth of a report that an imposture was discovered, but admits that when Charles II. sent gentlemen to stay in the house, nothing unusual occurred. But these researchers stayed only for a single night. He denied that any normal cause of the trouble was ever discovered. Glanvill told similar tales about a house at Welton, near Daventry, in 1658. Stones were thrown, and all the furniture joined in an irregular corroboree. Too late for Lady Conway's party was the similar disturbance at Gast's house of Little Burton June, 1677. Here the careful student will note that 'they saw a hand holding a hammer, which kept on knocking'. This hand is as familiar to the research of the seventeenth as to that of the nineteenth century. We find it again in the celebrated Scotch cases of Rerrick (1695), and of Glenluce, while 'the Rev. James Sharp' (later Archbishop of St. Andrews), vouched for it, in 1659, in a tale told by him to Lauderdale, and by Lauderdale to the Rev. Richard Baxter. {94} Glanvill also contributes a narrative of the very same description about the haunting of Mr. Paschal's house in Soper Lane, London: the evidence is that of Mr. Andrew Paschal, Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge. In this case the trouble began with the arrival and coincided with the stay of a gentlewoman, unnamed, 'who seemed to be principally concerned'. As a rule, in these legends, it is easy to find out who the 'medium' was. The phenomena here were accompanied by 'a cold blast or puff of wind,' which blew on the hand of the Fellow of Queen's College, just as it has often blown, in similar circumstances, on the hands of Mr. Crookes, and of other modern amateurs. It would be tedious to analyse all Glanvill's tales of rappings, and of volatile furniture. We shall see that, before his time, as after it, precisely similar narratives attracted the notice of the curious. Glanvill generally tries to get his stories at first hand and signed by eye-witnesses.

Lady Conway was not behind her guests in personal experiences. Her ladyship was concerned with a good old-fashioned ghost. We say 'old-fashioned' of set purpose, because while modern tales of 'levitation' and flighty furniture, of flying stones, of rappings, of spectral hands, of cold psychical winds, are exactly like the tales of old, a change, an observed change, has come over the ghost of the nineteenth century. Readers of the Proceedings of the Psychical Society will see that the modern ghost is a purposeless creature. He appears nobody knows why; he has no message to deliver, no secret crime to reveal, no appointment to keep, no treasure to disclose, no commissions to be executed, and, as an almost invariable rule, he does not speak, even if you speak to him. The recent inquirers, notably Mr. Myers, remark with some severity on this vague and meaningless conduct of apparitions, and draw speculative conclusions to the effect that the ghost, as the Scotch say, 'is not all there'. But the ghosts of the seventeenth century were positively garrulous. One remarkable specimen indeed behaved, at Valogne, more like a ghost of our time than of his own. {95} But, as a common rule, the ghosts in whom Lady Conway's friends were interested had a purpose: some revealed the spot where a skeleton lay; some urged the payment of a debt, or the performance of a neglected duty. One modern spectre, reported by Mr. Myers, wandered disconsolate till a debt of three shillings and tenpence was defrayed. {96} This is, perhaps, the lowest figure cited as a pretext for appearing. The ghost vouched for by Lady Conway was disturbed about a larger sum, twenty-eight shillings. She, an elderly woman, persecuted by her visits David Hunter, 'neat-herd at the house of the Bishop of Down and Connor, at Portmore, in 1663'. Mr. Hunter did not even know the ghost when she was alive; but she made herself so much at home in his dwelling that 'his little dog would follow her as well as his master'. The ghost, however, was invisible to Mrs. Hunter. When Hunter had at last executed her commission, she asked him to lift her up in his arms. She was not substantial like fair Katie King, when embraced by Mr. Crookes, but 'felt just like a bag of feathers; so she vanished, and he heard most delicate music as she went off over his head'. Lady Conway cross-examined Hunter on the spot, and expressed her belief in his narrative in a letter, dated Lisburn, April 29, 1663. It is true that contemporary sceptics attributed the phenomena to potheen, but, as Lady Conway asks, how could potheen tell Hunter about the ghost's debt, and reveal that the money to discharge it was hidden under her hearthstone?

The scope of the Ragley inquiries may now be understood. It must not be forgotten that witchcraft was a topic of deep interest to these students. They solemnly quote the records of trials in which it is perfectly evident that girls and boys, either in a spirit of wicked mischief, or suffering from hysterical illusions, make grotesque charges against poor old women. The witches always prick, pinch, and torment their victims, being present to them, though invisible to the bystanders. This was called 'spectral evidence'; and the Mathers, during the fanatical outbreaks at Salem, admit that this 'spectral evidence,' unsupported, is of no legal value. Indeed, taken literally, Cotton Mather's cautions on the subject of evidence may almost be called sane and sensible. But the Protestant inquisitors always discovered evidence confirmatory. For example, a girl is screaming out against an invisible witch; a man, to please her, makes a snatch at the empty air where she points, and finds in his hand a fragment of stuff, which again is proved to be torn from the witch's dress. It is easy to see how this trick could be played. Again, a possessed girl cries that a witch is tormenting her with an iron spindle, grasps at the spindle (visible only to her), and, lo, it is in her hand, and is the property of the witch. Here is proof positive! Again, a girl at Stoke Trister, in Somerset, is bewitched by Elizabeth Style, of Bayford, widow. The rector of the parish, the Rev. William Parsons, deposes that the girl, in a fit, pointed to different parts of her body, 'and where she pointed, he perceived a red spot to arise, with a small black in the midst of it, like a small thorn'; and other evidence was given to the same effect. The phenomenon is akin to many which, according to medical and scientific testimony, occur to patients in the hypnotic state. The so-called stigmata of Louise Lateau, and of the shepherd boy put up by the Archbishop of Reims as a substitute for Joan of Arc, are cases in point. But Glanvill, who quotes the record of the trial (January, 1664), holds that witchcraft is proved by the coincidence of the witch's confession that she, the devil, and others made an image of the girl and pierced it with thorns! The confession is a piece of pure folklore: poor old Elizabeth Style merely copies the statements of French and Scotch witches. The devil appeared as a handsome man, and as a black dog! Glanvill denies that she was tortured, or 'watched'--that is, kept awake till her brain reeled. But his own account makes it plain that she was 'watched' after her confession at least, when the devil, under the form of a butterfly, appeared in her cell.

This rampant and mischievous nonsense was dear to the psychical inquirers of the Restoration; it was circulated by Glanvill, a Fellow of the Royal Society; by Henry More; by Sinclair, a professor in the University of Glasgow; by Richard Baxter, that glory of Nonconformity, who revels in the burning of an 'old reading parson'-- that is, a clergyman who read the Homilies, under the Commonwealth. This unlucky old parson was tortured into confession by being 'walked' and 'watched'--that is, kept from sleep till he was delirious. Archbishop Spottiswoode treated Father Ogilvie, S. J., in the same abominable manner, till delirium supervened. Church, Kirk, and Dissent have no right to throw the first stone at each other.

Taking levitation, haunting, disturbances and apparitions, and leaving 'telepathy' or second sight out of the list for the present, he who compares psychical research in the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries finds himself confronted by the problem which everywhere meets the student of institutions and of mythology. The anthropologist knows that, if he takes up a new book of travels in the remotest lands, he will find mention of strange customs perfectly familiar to him in other parts of the ancient and modern world. The mythologist would be surprised if he encountered in Papua or Central Africa, or Sakhalin, a perfectly new myth. These uniformities of myth and custom are explained by the identical workings of the uncivilised intelligence on the same materials, and, in some cases, by borrowing, transmission, imitation.

Now, some features in witchcraft admit of this explanation. Highland crofters, even now, perforate the image of an enemy with pins; broken bottle-ends or sharp stones are put, in Russia and in Australia, in the footprints of a foe, for the purpose of laming him; and there are dozens of such practices, all founded on the theory of sympathy. Like affects like. What harms the effigy hurts the person whose effigy is burned or pricked. All this is perfectly intelligible. But, when we find savage 'birraarks' in Australia, fakirs in India, saints in mediaeval Europe, a gentleman's butler in Ireland, boys in Somerset and Midlothian, a young warrior in Zululand, Miss Nancy Wesley at Epworth in 1716, and Mr. Daniel Home in London in 1856-70, all triumphing over the law of gravitation, all floating in the air, how are we to explain the uniformity of stories palpably ridiculous?

The evidence, it must be observed, is not merely that of savages, or of persons as uneducated and as superstitious as savages. The Australian birraark, who flies away up the tree, we may leave out of account. The saints, St. Francis and St. Theresa, are more puzzling, but miracles were expected from saints. {100a} The levitated boy was attested to in a court of justice, and is designed by Faithorne in an illustration of Glanvill's book. He flew over a garden! But witnesses in such trials were fanciful people. Lord Orrery and Mr. Greatrakes may have seen the butler float in the air-- after dinner. The exploits of the Indian fakirs almost, or quite, overcome the scepticism of Mr. Max Muller, in his Gifford Lectures on Psychological Religion. Living and honourable white men aver that they have seen the feat, examined the performers, and found no explanation; no wires, no trace of imposture. (The writer is acquainted with a well vouched for case, the witness an English officer.) Mr. Kellar, an American professional conjurer, and exposer of spiritualistic pretensions, bears witness, in the North American Review, to a Zulu case of 'levitation,' which actually surpasses the tale of the gentleman's butler in strangeness. Cieza de Leon, in his Travels, translated by Mr. Markham for the Hakluyt Society, brings a similar anecdote from early Peru, in 1549. {100b} Miss Nancy Wesley's case is vouched for (she and the bed she sat on both rose from the floor) by a letter from one of her family to her brother Samuel, printed in Southey's Life of Wesley. Finally, Lord Lindsay and Lord Adare published a statement that they saw Home float out of one window and in at another, in Ashley Place, S.W., on December 16, 1868. Captain Wynne, who was also there, 'wrote to the Medium, to say I was present as a witness'. {101} We need not heap up more examples, drawn from classic Greece, as in the instances of Abaris and Iamblichus. We merely stand speechless in the presence of the wildest of all fables, when it meets us, as identical myths and customs do--not among savages alone, but everywhere, practically speaking, and in connection with barbarous sorcery, with English witchcraft, with the saintliest of mediaeval devotees, with African warriors, with Hindoo fakirs, with a little English girl in a quiet old country parsonage, and with an enigmatic American gentleman. Many living witnesses, of good authority, sign statements about Home's levitation. In one case, a large table, on which stood a man of twelve stone weight rose from the floor, and an eye-witness, a doctor, felt under the castors with his hands.

Of all persons subject to 'levitation,' Saint Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663) was the most notable. The evidence is partly derived from testimonies collected with a view to his canonisation, within two years after his death. There is a full account of his life and adventures in Acta Sanctorum. {102} St. Joseph died, as we saw, in 1663, but the earliest biography of him, in Italian, was not published till fifteen years later, in 1678. Unluckily the compiler of his legend in the Acta Sanctorum was unable to procure this work, by Nutius, which might contain a comparatively slight accretion of myths. The next life is of 1722, and the author made use of the facts collected for Joseph's beatification. There is another life by Pastrovicchi, in 1753. He was canonised in that year, when all the facts were remote by about a century.

Joseph's parents were pauperes sed honesti; his father was a carpenter, his mother a woman of almost virulent virtue, who kept her son in great order. From the age of eight he was subject to cataleptic or epileptic fits and convulsions. After his novitiate he suffered from severe attacks of melancholia. His 'miracles' attracting attention, he was brought before the Inquisition at Naples, as an impostor. He was sent to an obscure and remote monastery, and thence to Assisi, where he was harshly treated, and fell into Bunyan's Slough of Despond, having much conflict with Apollyon.

He was next called to Rome, where cardinals testify that, on hearing sacred names, he would give a yell, and fall into ecstasy. Returning to Assisi he was held in high honour, and converted a Hanoverian Prince. He healed many sick people, and, having fallen into a river, came out quite dry. He could scarcely read, but was inspired with wonderful theological acuteness. He always yelled before falling into an ecstasy, afterwards, he was so much under the dominion of anaesthesia that hot coals, if applied to his body, produced no effect. Then he soared in air, now higher, now lower (a cardinal vouches for six inches), and in aere pendulus haerebat, like the gentleman's butler at Lord Orrery's.

Seventy separate flights, in-doors and out of doors, are recorded. In fact it was well to abstain from good words in conversation with St. Joseph of Cupertino, for he would give a shout, on hearing a pious observation, and fly up, after which social intercourse was out of the question. He was, indeed, prevented by his superiors from appearing at certain sacred functions, because his flights disturbed the proceedings, indeed everything was done by the Church to discourage him, but in vain. He explained his preliminary shout by saying that 'guns also make a noise when they go off,' so the Cardinal de Laurea heard him remark. He was even more fragrant than the Miraculous Conformist, or the late Mr. Stainton Moses, to whose seances scent was marvellously borne by 'spirits'. It must be remembered that contemporary witnesses attest these singular circumstances in the evidence taken two years after his death, for the beatification of Joseph. From Assisi he was sent to various obscure convents, where his miracles were as remarkable as ever. One Christmas Eve, hearing sacred music, he flew up like a bird, from the middle of the church to the high altar, where he floated for a quarter of an hour, yet upset none of the candles. An insane nobleman was brought to him to be healed. Seizing the afflicted prince by the hair of the head, he uttered a shout, and soared up with the patient, who finally came down cured! Once he flew over a pulpit, and once more than eighty yards to a crucifix. This is probably 'a record'. When some men were elevating a cross for a Calvary, and were oppressed by the weight, Joseph uttered a shriek, flew to them, and lightly erected the cross with his own hand. The flight was of about eighty yards. He flew up into a tree once, and perched on a bough, which quivered no more than if he had been a bird. A rather commonplace pious remark uttered in his presence was the cause of this exhibition. Once in church, he flew from his knees, caught a priest, lifted him up, and gyrated, laetissimo raptu, in mid air. In the presence of the Spanish ambassador and many others, he once flew over the heads of the congregation. Once he asked a priest whether the holy elements were kept in a particular place. 'Who knows?' said the priest, whereon Joseph soared over his head, remained kneeling in mid air, and came down only at the request of his ecclesiastical superior. Joseph was clairvoyant, and beheld apparitions, but on the whole (apart from his moral excellence) his flights were his most notable accomplishment. On one occasion he 'casual remarked to a friend,' 'what an infernal smell' (infernails odor), and then nosed out a number of witches and warlocks who were compounding drugs: 'standing at some considerable distance, standing, in fact, in quite another street'.

Iamblichus, in the letter to Porphyry, describes such persons as St. Joseph of Cupertino. 'They have been known to be lifted up into the air. . . . The subject of the afflatus has not felt the application of fire. . . . The more ignorant and mentally imbecile a youth may be, the more freely will the divine power be made manifest.' Joseph was ignorant, and 'enfeebled by vigil and fasts,' so Joseph was 'insensible of the application of fire,' and 'was lifted up into the air'. Yet the cardinals, surgeons, and other witnesses were not thinking of the pagan Iamblichus when they attested the accomplishments of the saint. Whence, then, comes the uniformity of evidence?

The sceptical Calef did not believe in these things, because they are 'miracles,' that is, contrary to experience. But here is experience enough to which they are not contrary.

There are dozens of such depositions, and here it is that the student of testimony and of belief finds himself at a deadlock. Believe the evidence we cannot, yet we cannot doubt the good faith, the veracity of the attesting witnesses. Had we only savage, or ancient and uneducated testimony, we might say that the uniformity of myths of levitation is easily explained. The fancy wants a marvel, it readily provides one by positing the infraction of the most universally obvious law, that of gravitation. Men don't fly; let us say that a man flew, like Abaris on his arrow! This is rudimentary, but then witnesses whose combined testimony would prove almost anything else, declare that they saw the feat performed. Till we can find some explanation of these coincidences of testimony, it is plain that a province in psychology, in the relations between facts as presented to and as represented by mankind, remains to be investigated. Of all persons who have been levitated since St. Joseph, a medium named Eglinton was most subject to this infirmity. In a work, named There is no Death, by Florence Marryat, the author assures us that she has frequently observed the phenomenon. But Mr. Eglinton, after being 'investigated' by the Psychical Society, 'retired,' as Mr. Myers says, 'into private life'. The tales told about him by spiritualists are of the kind usually imparted to a gallant, but proverbially confiding, arm of Her Majesty's service. As for Lord Orrery's butler, and the others, there are the hypotheses that a cloud of honourable and sane witnesses lied; that they were uniformly hallucinated, or hypnotised, by a glamour as extraordinary as the actual miracle would be; or again, that conjuring of an unexampled character could be done, not only by Home, or Eglinton, in a room which may have been prepared, but by Home, by a Zulu, by St. Joseph of Cupertino, and by naked fakirs, in the open air. Of all these theories that of glamour, of hypnotic illusion, is the most specious. Thus, when Ibn Batuta, the old Arabian traveller, tells us that he saw the famous rope-trick performed in India--men climbing a rope thrown into the air, and cutting each other up, while the bodies revive and reunite-- he very candidly adds that his companion, standing by, saw nothing out of the way, and declared that nothing occurred. {107a} This clearly implies that Ibn Batuta was hypnotised, and that his companion was not. But Dr. Carpenter's attempt to prove that one witness saw nothing, while Lord Lindsay and Lord Adare saw Home float out of one window, and in by another, turns out to be erroneous. The third witness, Captain Wynne, confirmed the statement of the other gentlemen.

We now approach the second class of marvels which regaled the circle at Ragley, namely, 'Alleged movements of objects without contact, occurring not in the presence of a paid medium,' and with these we shall examine rappings and mysterious noises. The topic began to attract modern attention when table-turning was fashionable. But in common table-turning there was contact, and Faraday easily demonstrated that there was conscious or unconscious pushing and muscular exertion. In 1871 Mr. Crookes made laboratory experiments with Home, using mechanical tests. {107b} He demonstrated, to his own satisfaction, that in the presence of Home, even when he was not in physical contact with the object, the object moved: e pur si muove. He published a reply to Dr. Carpenter's criticism, and the common-sense of ordinary readers, at least, sees no flaw in Mr. Crookes's method and none in his argument. The experiments of the modern Psychical Society, with paid mediums, produced results, in Mr. Myers's opinion, 'not wholly unsatisfactory,' but far from leading to an affirmative conclusion, if by 'satisfactory' Mr. Myers means 'affirmative'. {108a} The investigations of Mrs. Sidgwick were made under the mediumship of Miss Kate Fox (Mrs. Jencken). This lady began the modern 'spiritualism' when scarcely older than Mr. Mompesson's 'two modest little girls,' and was accompanied by phenomena like those of Tedworth. But, in Mrs. Sidgwick's presence the phenomena were of the most meagre; and the reasoning faculties of the mind decline to accept them as other than perfectly normal. The society tried Mr. Eglinton, who once was 'levitated' in the presence of Mr. Kellar, the American conjurer, who has publicly described feats like those of the gentleman's butler. {108b} But, after his dealings with the society, Mr. Eglinton has left the scene. {108c} The late Mr. Davey also produced results like Mr. Eglinton's by confessed conjuring.

Mr. Myers concludes that 'it does not seem worth while, as a rule, to examine the testimony to physical marvels occurring in the presence of professional mediums'. He therefore collects evidence in the article quoted, for physical marvels occurring where there is no paid medium. Here, as in the business of levitation, the interest of the anthropologist and mythologist lies in the uniformity and identity of narratives from all countries, climates, and ages. Among the earliest rappings with which we chance to be familiar are those reported by Froissart in the case of the spirit Orthon, in the fourteenth century. The tale had become almost a fabliau, but any one who reads the amusing chapter will see that it is based on a belief in disturbances like those familiar to Glanvill and the Misses Fox. Cieza de Leon (1549) in the passage already quoted, where he describes the levitated Cacique of Pirza in Popyan, adds that 'the Christians saw stones falling from the air' (as in the Greatrakes tale of the Youghal witch), and declares that, 'when the chief was sitting with a glass of liquor before him, the Christians saw the glass raised up in the air and put down empty, and a short time afterwards the wine was again poured into the cup from the air'. Mr. Home once equalled this marvel, {109a} and Ibn Batuta reports similar occurrences, earlier, at the court of the King of Delhi. There is another case in Histoire Prodigieuse d'une jeune Fille agitee d'un Esprit fantastique et invisible. {109b} A bourgeois of Bonneval was beset by a rapping rattle of a sprite. 'At dinner, when he would lay his hand on a trencher, it was carried off elsewhere, and the wineglass, when he was about drinking, was snatched from his hand.' So Mr. Wesley's trencher was set spinning on the table, when nobody touched it! In such affairs we may have the origin of the story of the Harpies at the court of Phineus.

In China, Mr. Dennys tells how 'food placed on the table vanished mysteriously, and many of the curious phenomena attributed to ghostly interference took place,' so that the householder was driven from house to house, and finally into a temple, in 1874, and all this after the death of a favourite but aggrieved monkey! {110a} 'Throwing down crockery, trampling on the floor, etc.--such pranks as have attracted attention at home, are not unknown. . . . I must confess that in China, as elsewhere, these occurrences leave a bona fide impression of the marvellous which can neither be explained nor rejected'. {110b}

We have now noted these alleged phenomena, literally 'from China to Peru'. Let us next take an old French case of a noisy sprite in the nunnery of St. Pierre de Lyon. The account is by Adrien de Montalembert, almoner to Francis I. {110c} The Bibliography of this very rare tract is curious and deserves attention. When Lenglet Dufresnoy was compiling, in 1751, his Dissertations sur les Apparitions he reprinted the tract from the Paris quarto of 1528, in black letter. This example had been in the Tellier collection, and Dufresnoy seems to have borrowed it from the Royal Convent of St. Genevieve. Knowing that Cardinal Tencin had some acquaintance with the subject, Dufresnoy wrote to him, and publishes (vol. i. cxli.) his answer, dated October 18, 1751, Lyons. The cardinal replied that, besides the Paris edition of 1528, there was a Rouen reprint, of 1529, by Rolin Gautier, with engravings. Brunet says, that there are engravings in the Paris edition of 1528, perhaps these were absent from the Tellier example. That of Rouen, which Cardinal Tencin collated, was in the Abbey of St. Peter, in Lyons. Some leaves had been thumbed out of existence, and their place was supplied in manuscript. The only difference was in chapter xxviii. where the printed Rouen text may have varied. In the MS. at all events, it is stated that on March 21, the spirit of Sister Alix de Telieux struck thirty-three great strokes on the refectory of her convent, 'mighty and marvellous,' implying that her thirty-three years of purgatory were commuted into thirty-three days. A bright light, scarcely endurable, then appeared, and remained for some eight minutes. The nuns then went into chapel and sang a Te Deum.

At the end of the volume, a later hand added, in manuscript, that the truth of the contemporary record was confirmed by the tradition of the oldest sisters who had received it from eye-witnesses of the earlier generation. The writer says that she had great difficulty in finding the printed copy, but that when young, in 1630, she received the tale from a nun, then aged ninety-four. This nun would be born in 1536, ten years after these events. She got the story from her aunt, a nun, Gabrielle de Beaudeduit, qui etoit de ce tems- la. There is no doubt that the sisters firmly and piously believed in the story, which has the contemporary evidence of Adrien de Montalembert. Dufresnoy learned that a manuscript copy of the tract was in the library of the Jesuits of Lyons. He was unaware of an edition in 12mo of 1580, cited by Brunet.

To come to the story, one of our earliest examples of a 'medium,' and of communications by raps. The nunnery was reformed in 1516. A pretty sister, Alix de Telieux, fled with some of the jewels, lived a 'gay' life, and died wretchedly in 1524. She it was, as is believed, who haunted a sister named Anthoinette de Grolee, a girl of eighteen. The disturbance began with a confused half-dream. The girl fancied that the sign of the cross was made on her brow, and a kiss impressed on her lips, as she wakened one night. She thought this was mere illusion, but presently, when she got up, she heard, 'comme soubs ses pieds frapper aucuns petis coups,' 'rappings,' as if at the depth of four inches underground. This was exactly what occurred to Miss Hetty Wesley, at Epworth, in 1716, and at Rio de Janeiro to a child named 'C.' in Professor Alexander's narrative. {112} Montalembert says, in 1528, 'I have heard these rappings many a time, and, in reply to my questions, so many strokes as I asked for were given'. Montalembert received information (by way of raps) from the 'spirit,' about matters of importance, qui ne pourroient estre cogneus de mortelle creature. 'Certainly,' as he adds, 'people have the best right to believe these things who have seen and heard them.'

The rites of the Church were conferred in the most handsome manner on the body of Sister Alix, which was disinterred and buried in her convent. Exorcisms and interrogations of the spirit were practised. It merely answered questions by rapping 'Yes,' or 'No'. On one occasion Sister Anthoinette was 'levitated'. Finally, the spirit appeared bodily to her, said farewell, and disappeared after making an extraordinary fracas at matins. Montalembert conducted the religious ceremonies. One case of hysteria was developed; the sufferer was a novice. Of course it was attributed to diabolical possession The whole story in its pleasant old French, has an agreeable air of good faith But what interests us is the remarkable analogy between the Lyons rappings and those at Epworth, Tedworth, and countless other cases, old or of yesterday. We can now establish a catena of rappings and pour prendre date, can say that communications were established, through raps, with a so-called 'spirit,' more than three hundred years before the 'Rochester knockings' in America. Very probably wider research would discover instances prior to that of Lyons; indeed, Wierus, in De Praestigiis Daemonum, writes as if the custom was common.

It is usual to explain the raps by a theory that the 'medium' produces them through cracking his, or her, knee-joints. It may thus be argued that Sister Anthoinette discovered this trick, or was taught the trick, and that the tradition of her performance, being widely circulated in Montalembert's quarto, and by oral report, inspired later rappers, such as Miss Kate Fox, Miss 'C.' Davis, Miss Hetty Wesley, the gentlewoman at Mr. Paschal's, Mr. Mompesson's 'modest little girls,' Daniel Home, and Miss Margaret Wilson of Galashiels. Miss Wilson's uncle came one day to Mr. Wilkie, the minister, and told him the devil was at his house, for, said he, 'there is an odd knocking about the bed where my niece lies'. Whereupon the minister went with him, and found it so. 'She, rising from her bed, sat down to supper, and from below there was such a knocking up as bred fear to all that were present. This knocking was just under her chair, where it was not possible for any mortal to knock up.' When Miss Wilson went to bed, and was in a deep sleep, 'her body was so lifted up that many strong men were not able to keep it down'. {114a} The explanation about cracking the knee- joints hardly covers the levitations, or accounts for the tremendous noise which surrounded Sister Anthoinette at matins, or for the bright light, a common spiritualistic phenomenon. Margaret Wilson was about twelve years of age. If it be alleged that little girls have a traditional method of imposture, even that is a curious and interesting fact in human nature.

As regards imposture, there exists a singular record of a legal process in Paris, 1534. {114b}

It may have been observed that the Lyons affair was useful to the Church, as against 'the damnable sect of Lutherans,' because Sister Alix attested the existence of purgatory. No imposture was detected, and no reader of Montalembert can doubt his good faith, nor the sincerity of his kindness and piety. But such a set of circumstances might provoke imitation. Of fraudulent imitation the Franciscans of Orleans were accused, and for this crime they were severely punished. We have the Arrest des Commissaires du Conseil d'Etat du Roi, from MS. 7170, A. of the Bibliotheque du Roi. {115} We have also allusions in the Franciscanus, a satire in Latin hexameter by George Buchanan. Finally, we have versions in Lavaterus, and in Wierus, De Curat. Laes. Maleficio (Amsterdam, 1660, p. 422). Wierus, born 1515, heard the story when with Sleidan at Orleans, some years after the events. He gives the version of Sleidan, a notably Protestant version. Wierus is famous for his spirited and valuable defence of the poor women then so frequently burned as witches. He either does, or pretends to believe in devils, diabolical possession, and exorcism, but the exorcist, to be respectable, must be Protestant. Probably Wierus was not so credulous as he assumes to be, and a point of irony frequently peeps out. The story as told by Sleidan differs from that in the official record. In this document Adam Fumee counsellor of the king, announces that the Franciscans of Orleans have informed the king that they are vexed by a spirit, which gives itself out by signs (rappings), as the wife of Francois de St. Mesmin, Provost of Orleans. They ask the king to take cognisance of the matter. On the other side, St. Mesmin declares that the Franciscans have counterfeited the affair in hope of 'black-mailing' him. The king, therefore, appoints Fumee to inquire into the case. Thirteen friars are lying in prison in Paris, where they have long been 'in great wretchedness and poverty, and perishing of hunger,' a pretty example of the law's delay. A commission is to try the case (November, 1534). The trouble had begun on February 22, 1533 (old style), when Father Pierre d'Arras at five a.m. was called into the dormitory of 'les enfans,'--novices,--with holy water and everything proper. Knocking was going on, and by a system of knocks, the spirit said it wanted its body to be taken out of holy ground, said it was Madame St Mesmin, and was damned for Lutheranism and extravagance! The experiment was repeated before churchmen and laymen, but the lay observers rushed up to the place whence the knocks came where they found nothing. They hid some one there, after which there was no knocking. On a later day, the noises as in Cock Lane and elsewhere, began by scratching. "M. l'Official," the bishop's vicar, 'ouit gratter, qui etoit le commencement de ladite accoutummee tumulte dudit Esprit'. But no replies were given to questions, which the Franciscans attributed to the disturbance of the day before, and the breaking into various places by the people. One Alicourt seems to have been regarded as the 'medium,' and the sounds were heard as in Cock Lane and at Tedworth when he was in bed. Later experiments gave no results, and the friars were severely punished, and obliged to recant their charges against Madame de Mesmin. The case, scratches, raps, false accusations and all, is parallel to that of the mendacious 'Scratching Fanny,' examined by Dr. Johnson and Douglas, Bishop of Salisbury. In that affair the child was driven by threats to make counterfeit noises, but, as to the method of imposture at Orleans, nothing is said in the contemporary legal document.

We now turn to the account by Sleidan, in Wierus. The provost's wife had left directions for a cheap funeral in the Franciscan Church. This economy irritated the Fathers, who only got six pieces of gold, 'having expected much greater plunder'. 'Colimannus' (Colimant), an exorcist named in the process, was the ringleader. They stationed a lad in the roof of the church, who rapped with a piece of wood, and made a great noise 'when they mumbled their prayers at night'. St. Mesmin appealed to the king, the Fathers were imprisoned, and the youth was kept in Fumee's house, and plied with questions. He confessed the trick, and the friars were punished. Of all this confession, and of the mode of imposture, nothing is said in the legal process. From the whole affair came a popular saying, c'est l'esprit d'Orleans, when any fable was told. Buchanan talks of cauta parum pietas in fraude paranda.

The evidence, it may be seen, is not very coherent, and the Franciscans may have been the deceived, not the deceivers. {117} Wierus himself admits that he often heard a brownie in his father's house, which frightened him not a little, and Georgius Pictorius avers that a noisy spirit haunted his uncle's house for thirty years, a very protracted practical joke, if it was a practical joke. {118} This was a stone-throwing demon.

A large book might easily be filled with old stories of mysterious flights of stones, and volatile chairs and tables. The ancient mystics of the Levant were acquainted with the phenomena, as Iamblichus shows. The Eskimo knew them well. Glanvill is rich in examples, the objects flying about in presence of a solitary spectator, who has called at a 'haunted house,' and sometimes the events accompany the presence of a single individual, who may, or may not be a convulsionary or epileptic. Sometimes they befall where no individual is suspected of constitutional electricity or of imposture.

We may select a laughable example from a rare tract. 'An authentic, candid, and circumstantial narrative of the astonishing transactions at Stockwell, in the county of Surrey, on Monday and Tuesday, the 6th and 7th of January, 1772. Published with the consent and approbation of the family and other parties concerned, to authenticate which, the original copy is signed by them. London, 1772, printed for J. Marks, bookseller, in St. Martin's Lane.'

The dramatis personae are old Mrs. Golding, of Stockwell parish, 'a gentlewoman of unblemished honour and character'; Mrs. Pain, her niece, a farmer's wife, 'respected in the parish'; Mary Martin, her servant, previously with Mrs. Golding; Richard Fowler, a labourer, living opposite Mrs. Pain; Sarah Fowler his wife--all these sign the document,--and Ann Robinson, Mrs. Golding's maid, just entered on her service. Ann does not sign.

The trouble began at ten a.m. on January 6, when Mrs. Golding heard a great smash of crockery, an event 'most incident to maids'. The lady went into the kitchen, when plates began to fall from the dresser 'while she was there and nobody near them'. Then a clock tumbled down, so did a lantern, a pan of salt beef cracked, and a carpenter, Rowlidge, suggested that a recent addition of a room above had shaken the foundation of the house. Mrs. Golding rushed into the house of Mr. Gresham, her next neighbour, and fainted. Meanwhile Ann Robinson was 'mistress of herself, though china fall,' and seemed in no hurry to leave the threatened dwelling. The niece of Mrs. Golding, Mrs. Pain, was sent for to Mr. Gresham's, Mrs. Golding was bled, when, lo, 'the blood sprang out of the basin upon the floor, and the basin broke to pieces!' A bottle of rum, of sympathetic character, also burst. Many of Mrs. Golding's more fragile effects had been carried into Mr. Gresham's: the glasses and china first danced, and then fell off the side-board and broke. Mrs. Golding, 'her mind one confused chaos,' next sought refuge at Mr. Mayling's for three-quarters of an hour. Here nothing unusual occurred, but, at Mr. Gresham's (where Ann Robinson was packing the remains of her mistress's portable property) a 'mahogany waiter,' a quadrille box, a jar of pickles and a pot of raspberry jam shared the common doom. 'Their end was pieces.' Mrs. Pain now hospitably conveyed her aunt to her house at Rush Common, 'hoping all was over'. This was about two in the afternoon.

At eight in the evening, the whole row of pewter dishes, bar one, fell from a shelf, rolled about a little, and 'as soon as they were quiet, turned upside down; they were then put upon the dresser, and went through the same a second time'. Then of two eggs, one 'flew off, crossed the kitchen, struck a cat on the head, and then burst in pieces'. A pestle and a mortar presently 'jumped six feet from the floor'. The glass and crockery were now put on the floor, 'he that is down need fear no fall,' but the objects began to dance, and tumble about, and then broke to pieces. A china bowl jumped eight feet but was not broken. However it tried again, and succeeded. Candlesticks, tea-kettles, a tumbler of rum and water, two hams, and a flitch of bacon joined in the corroboree. 'Most of the genteel families around were continually sending to inquire after them, and whether all was over or not.' All this while, Ann was 'walking backwards and forwards', nor could they get her to sit down, except for half an hour, at prayers, 'then all was quiet'. She remarked, with stoicism, 'these things could not be helped'. Fowler came in at ten, but fled in a fright at one in the morning. By five, Mrs. Golding summoned Mrs. Pain, who had gone to bed, 'all the tables, chairs, drawers, etc., were tumbling about'.

They rushed across to Fowler's where, as soon as Ann arrived, the old game went on. Fowler, therefore, like the landlord in the poem, 'did plainly say as how he wished they'd go away,' at the same time asking Mrs. Golding 'whether or not, she had been guilty of some atrocious crime, for which providence was determined to pursue her on this side the grave,' and to break crockery till death put an end to the stupendous Nemesis. 'Having hitherto been esteemed a most deserving person,' Mrs. Golding replied, with some natural warmth, that 'her conscience was quite clear, and she could as well wait the will of providence in her own house as in any other place,' she and the maid went to her abode, and there everything that had previously escaped was broken. 'A nine-gallon cask of beer that was in the cellar, the door being open and nobody near it, turned upside down'; 'a pail of water boiled like a pot'. So Mrs. Golding discharged Miss Ann Robinson and that is all.

At Mrs. Golding's they took up three, and at Mrs. Pain's two pails of the fragments that were left. The signatures follow, appended on January 11.

The tale has a sequel. In 1817 an old Mr. Braidley, who loved his joke, told Hone that he knew Ann, and that she confessed to having done the tricks by aid of horse-hairs, wires and other simple appliances. We have not Mr. Braidley's attested statement, but Ann's character as a Medium is under a cloud. Have all other Mediums secret wires? (Every-day Book, i. 62.)

Ann Robinson, we have seen, was a tranquil and philosophical maiden. Not so was another person who was equally active, ninety years earlier.

Bovet, in his Pandaemonium (1684), gives an account of the Demon of Spraiton, in 1682. His authorities were 'J. G., Esquire,' a near neighbour to the place, the Rector of Barnstaple, and other witnesses. The 'medium' was a young servant man, appropriately named Francis Fey, and employed in the household of Sir Philip Furze. Now, this young man was subject to 'a kind of trance, or extatick fit,' and 'part of his body was, occasionally, somewhat benumbed and seemingly deader than the other'. The nature of Fey's case, physically, is clear. He was a convulsionary, and his head would be found wedged into tight places whence it could hardly be extracted. From such a person the long and highly laughable tale of ghosts (a male ghost and a jealous female ghost) which he told does not much win our acceptance. True, Mrs. Thomasin Gidley, Anne Langdon, and a little child also saw the ghost in various forms. But this was probably mere fancy, or the hallucinations of Fey were infectious. But objects flew about in the young man's presence. 'One of his shoe-strings was observed (without the assistance of any hand) to come of its own accord out of his shoe and fling itself to the other side of the room; the other was crawling after it (!) but a maid espying that, with her hand drew it out, and it clasp'd and curl'd about her hand like a living eel or serpent. A barrel of salt of considerable quantity hath been observed to march from room to room without any human assistance,' and so forth. {122}

It is hardly necessary to add more modern instances. The 'electric girl' Angelique Cottin, who was a rival of Ann Robinson, had her powers well enough attested to arouse the curiosity of Arago. But, when brought from the country to Paris, her power, or her artifice, failed.

It is rather curious that tales of volatile furniture are by no means very common in trials for witchcraft. The popular belief was, and probably still is, that a witch or warlock could throw a spell over an enemy so that his pots, and pans, tables and chairs, would skip around. The disturbances of this variety, in the presbytery at Cideville, in Seine Inferieure (1850), came under the eye of the law, because a certain shepherd injudiciously boasted that he had caused them by his magic art. {123a} The cure, who was the victim, took him at his word, and the shepherd swain lost his situation. He then brought an action for defamation of character, but was non- suited, as it was proved that he had been the fanfaron of his own vices. In Froissart's amusing story of Orthon, that noisy sprite was hounded on by a priest. At Tedworth, the owner of the drum was 'wanted' on a charge of sorcery as the cause of the phenomena. The Wesleys suspected that their house was bewitched. But examples in witch trials are not usual. Mr. Graham Dalyell, however, gives one case, 'the firlote rynning about with the stuff popling,' on the floor of a barn, and one where 'the sive and the wecht dancit throw the hous'. {123b}

A clasped knife opened in the pocket of Christina Shaw, and her glove falling, it was lifted by a hand invisible to several persons present. One is reminded of the nursery rhyme,--'the dish it ran after the spoon'. In the presence of Home, even a bookcase is said to have forgotten itself, and committed the most deplorable excesses. In the article of Mr. Myers, already cited, we find a table which jumps by the bedside of a dying man. {124} A handbag of Miss Power's flies from an arm-chair, and hides under a table; raps are heard; all this when Miss Power is alone. Mr. H. W. Gore Graham sees a table move about. A heavy table of Mr. G. A. Armstrong's rises high in the air. A tea-table 'runs after' Professor Alexander, and 'attempts to hem me in,' this was at Rio de Janeiro, in the Davis family, where raps 'ranged from hardly perceptible ticks up to resounding blows, such as might be struck by a wooden mallet'. A Mr. H. falls into convulsions, during which all sorts of things fly about. All these stories closely correspond to the tales in Increase Mather's Remarkable Providences in New England, in which the phenomena sometimes occur in the presence of an epileptic and convulsed boy, about 1680. To take one classic French case, Segrais declares that a M. Patris was lodged in the Chateau d'Egmont. At dinner-time, he went into the room of a friend, whom he found lost in the utmost astonishment. A huge book, Cardan's De Subtilitate, had flown at him across the room, and the leaves had turned, under invisible fingers! There are plenty of bogles in that book. M. Patris laughed at this tale, and went into the gallery, when a large chair, so heavy that two men could scarcely lift it, shook itself and came at him. He remonstrated, and the chair returned to its usual position. 'This made a deep impression on M. Patris, and contributed in no slight degree to make him a converted character'-- a le faire devenir devot. {125a}

Tales like this, with that odd uniformity of tone and detail which makes them curious, might be collected from old literature to any extent. Thus, among the sounds usually called 'rappings,' Mr. Crookes mentions, as matter within his own experience, 'a cracking like that heard when a frictional machine is at work'. Now, as may be read in Southey's Life of Wesley and in Clarke's Memoirs of the Wesleys, this was the very noise which usually heralded the arrival of 'Jeffrey,' as they called the Epworth 'spirit'. {125b} It has been alleged that the charming and ill-fated Hetty Wesley caused the disturbances. If so (and Dr. Salmon, who supports this thesis, does not even hazard a guess as to the modus operandi), Hetty must have been familiar with almost the whole extent of psychical literature, for she scarcely left a single phenomenon unrepresented. It does not appear that she supplied visible 'hands'. We have seen Glanvill lay stress on the apparition of a hand. In the case of the devil of Glenluce, 'there appeared a naked hand, and an arm from the elbow down, beating upon the floor till the house did shake again'. {126a} At Rerrick, in 1695, 'it knocked upon the chests and boards, as people do at a door'. 'And as I was at prayer,' says the Rev. Alexander Telfair, 'leaning on the side of a bed, I felt something thrusting my arm up, and casting my eyes thitherward, perceived a little white hand, and an arm from the elbow down, but it vanished presently.' {126b} The hands viewed, grasped, and examined by Home's clientele, hands which melted away in their clutch, are innumerable, and the phenomenon, with the 'cold breeze,' is among the most common in modern narratives.

Our only conclusion is that the psychological conditions which begat the ancient narratives produce the new legends. These surprise us by the apparent good faith in marvel and myth of many otherwise credible narrators, and by the coincidence, accidental or designed, with old stories not generally familiar to the modern public. Do impostors and credulous persons deliberately 'get up' the subject in rare old books? Is there a method of imposture handed down by one generation of bad little girls to another? Is there such a thing as persistent identity of hallucination among the sane? This was Coleridge's theory, but it is not without difficulties. These questions are the present results of Comparative Psychological Research.


Andrew Lang