Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The case of Mrs. Goffe is also of remote date, 1691, but is taken from a

From Death-Bed Visions - The Psychical Experiences of the Dying by Sir William Barrett, Chapter 4 Visions seen by the Dying of Living Persons at a Distance - in some cases Reciprocal

The case of Mrs. Goffe is also of remote date, 1691, but is taken from a contemporary report made by the Rev. T. Tilson in a letter he addressed to the famous divine, Richard Baxter, who published it in a book he wrote(1). The case is given in Phantasms of the Living (Vol. II, pp. 558, 559) and the authors state that the narrative cannot be impugned on the ground of any credulity on the part of Baxter, and quote an authority on this point. It will be seen that the incidents in the following narrative are curiously parallel to the preceding case of Mrs. Birkbeck. Though Mr. Tilson's letter which we now quote, is somewhat long, it is better to give his own words rather than an abstract.

(1) See Baxter's "The World of Spirits" (1691), pp. 147-51.

"July 6th, 1691

"Mary, the wife of John Goffe, of Rochester, being afflicted with a long illness, removed to her father's house at West Mulling, which was about nine miles distant from her own; there she died, June 4th, 1691. The day before her departure she grew impatiently desirous to see her two children, whom she had left at home, to the care of a nurse. She prayed her husband to hire a horse, for she must go home to die with her children.

"Between one and two o'clock in the morning she fell into a trance. One widow Turner, who watched with her that night, says that her eyes were open and fixed, and her jaw fallen; she put her hand on her mouth and nostrils, but could perceive no breath; she thought her to be in a fit, and doubted whether she was alive or dead. The next day this dying woman told her mother that she had been at home with her children. 'That is impossible,' said the mother, 'for you have been here in bed all the while.' 'Yes,' replied the other, 'but I was with them last night while I was asleep.'

"The nurse at Rochester, widow Alexander by name, affirms and says she will take her oath of it before a magistrate, and receive the sacrament upon it, that a little before two o'clock that morning she saw the likeness of the said Mary Goffe come out of the next chamber (where the elder child lay in a bed by itself, the door being left open), and stood by her bedside for about a quarter of an hour; the younger child was there lying by her; her eyes moved, and her mouth went, but she said nothing. The nurse, moreover, says that she was perfectly awake; it was then daylight, being one of the longest days in the year. She sat up in her bed, and looked steadfastly upon the apparition; at that time she heard the bridge clock strike two, and a while after said, 'In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what art thou?' Thereupon the appearance removed and went away; she slipped on her clothes and followed, but what became of it she cannot tell. Then, and not before, she began to be grieviously affrighted, and went out of doors, and walked upon the wharf (the house is just by the river-side) for some hours, only going in now and then to look at the children. At five o'clock she went to a neighbour's and knocked at the door, but they would not rise; at six she went again, then they rose and let her in. She related to them all that had passed; they would persuade her she was mistaken, or dreamt; but she confidently affirmed, 'If ever I saw her in all my life, I saw her this night.' [The writer than gives an account of how one of those to whom she related the story confirmed the above narrative.]

"The substance of this statement was related to me by John Carpenter, the father of the deceased, the next day after the burial - July 2. I fully discoursed the matter with the nurse and two neighbours, to whose house she went that morning. Two days after I had it from the mother, the minister that was with her in the evening, and the woman who sat up with her last that night. They all agree in the same story, and every one helps to strengthen the other's testimony. They all appear to be sober, intelligent persons, far enough off from designing to impose a cheat upon the world, or to manage a lie; and what temptation they should lie under for so doing I cannot conceive.