Saturday, January 30, 2010
From Phantasms of the Living by Edmund Gurney, Frederic Myers, and Frank Podmore, Chapter VI "Transference of Ideas and Mental Pictures."
But in the next example, if we surmise that a sort of waking nightmare of one of the three sisters affected the other two, we cannot at all assign their respective shares in the occurrence. The writer of the narrative is well known as an authoress and practical philanthropist.
"It was on a Saturday night, the end of October, or early in November, 1848, that I was staying at St. M's Vicarage, Leicester. My two sisters were at home, at H., about 14 or 15 miles from Leicester. The room in which I slept was large and low, opening into a broad, low corridor; the nursery was on the same floor; the rest of the family slept on the one below. I had been asleep for some time, and was not consciously dreaming at all. I was awoke instantaneously, not by any sound, but intensely awake, starting up in a panic — not of fear, but of horror, knowing that something horrible was close by. The room was still dimly lighted by the dying-out fire. I suppose it was seeing the room empty made me at once know that whatever it was, it was still outside the door, for I rushed at once to lock it. The impression I had was so vivid that I can only describe it by speaking of 'It' as objective. 'It' was living, not human, not physically dangerous; I think it was malevolent, but the overpowering consciousness I had was horrible; I did not represent it to myself in any shape even, except as an indefinite blackness, like a cloudy pillar, I suppose. The presence seemed to stay outside the door five minutes (but probably it was a much shorter time), and then it simply was not there. Whilst it was there I knew that it was nearly 2 o'clock, and the church bells chimed 2, about ten minutes, as I suppose, after it ceased. Whilst it was there I was very angry with myself for being so absurd; and I remember wondering whether a young German, who was living there as a pupil, a protege of Chauncey Townsend's, could be mesmerising me. He had been telling us about mesmerism and clairvoyance the day before, but I had not the slightest faith in either, at any rate not in C. H. T.'s accuracy of observation.
"I went home on the following Tuesday, and that night, in talking over my visit with my two sisters, I told them what a strange delusion I had had.
"They were both astonished, and related a similar experience each had had on the same Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning, for both agreed their impression at the time had been it was about or near 2. They were sleeping in separate rooms, but next each other.
"R. was awoke in the same sudden manner, with the consciousness that something dreadful or harmful was near, not in her room, but a little way off. Her impression was the same in character, but less vivid than mine.
"E. was awoke suddenly, as I had been, with a sense of intense horror. Some presence, fearful, evil and powerful, was standing close by her side; she was unable to move or cry out; it seemed to her also to be a spiritual presence. Her room was quite dark, so she could see nothing. Her impression was at the time so much more overpowering, and it was so much closer to her, that it seemed to me, on talking it over, to have been the cause of ours. Not one of us for a moment connected it with a ghost. That notion never occurred to us.
"R. and E. had told each other before my return, I believe on the next day. Afterwards we told the strange coincidence to my father and mother. She thought she had also been awoke by a cry, if I remember right, that night; but her recollection was too vague to be relied upon.
"Nothing ever came of it, except that the known date of the commencement of E.'s fatal illness was the Saturday following. But neither she, so far as I know, nor we ever thought of it in this connection. She was very much interested in it afterwards, but not in the slightest degree uneasy or alarmed at it, only eager to find out how the coincidence could be accounted for. I was 28 at the time; E. was just 25."
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