Books of the Day
EVIDENCE FOR GHOSIS, Dame Edith Lyttelton 330 LITERARY LIVES, Evelyn Waugh ... 331 HISTORY OF EAST LONDON, Pamela Hans ford 7ohnson 332 TWENTY YEARS ON, T. K. Derry ... . . 332 SWIFT THE CHURCHMAN, Yohn Hayward ... 333 POLITICS AND ECONOMICS IN RUSSIA, E. H. Carr 333 THE BOYS' OWN CLAVERHOUSE, 7anet Adam Smith 334 A FORGOTTEN PHILSOPHER, W. T. Wells 334 FICTION, Kate O'Brien ... . . 336
EVIDENCE FOR GHOSTS
By DAME EDITH LYTTELTON IT is tempting when beginning to try to review this inter- esting book of Sir Ernest Bennett's simply to tell one or two of the stories he has collected from various sources and leave it at that. But it would be an idle and easy way out of what is rather a difficult task. I believe no one could read through this book and not feel convinced that apparitions are actually seen, sometimes by two or three people at the same moment, sometimes by several people at intervals of time. Perhaps there are few families one of whose members has not seen or heard, or felt or touched, or even smelled, a ghost at some time or other, and the variety of impressions is one of the difficulties of the matter. If all ghosts were transparent, if all had an apparent motive—or if all had none—if all were visible only, or if all were only heard, we should have more chance of being able to formulate some kind of explana- tion. But unfortunately, on the testimony of even this one volume, it is demonstrated that each of our senses in turn can be affected by what we call ghosts. Sometimes the phantoms remain visible for an appreciable time, as in case 6, when the reflection of a dead man was seen by seven people for some minutes : and case 51, a remarkably well-attested example of the apparition being both seen and heard over a period of seven years by four or five people. Now and then the ghosts are easily identified, while about others there are no clues.
Sir Ernest Bennett, in his summary and conclusions, says, " Perhaps the most satisfactory solution of our problem is that apparitions are in every case caused by telepathic action." He does not shrink from the deduction that tele- pathy from discarnate minds must be included, if the variety of experiences is to be -covered by telepathic theory. The difficulty is that even this assumption, though it might account for a very large number of instances, cannot be stretched to explain all.
The fifth case well illustrates this. I can only give the briefest summary. General Barter, when doing duty at the hill station of Murree in the Punjab, heard on a bridle-track just above the private path which led to his but perched on the hill side " the ring of a horse's hoof as the shoe struck the stones. .. . I could see a tall hat appear, evidently worn by the rider of the animal." He relates how his two dogs gave low frightened whimpers : " On the party came, until almost in front of me. . . . The rider was in full dinner dress, with white waistcoat and wearing a tall chimney-pot hat, and he sat a powerful hill pony . . . in a listless sort of way, the reins hanfing loosely from both hands. . . . A syce led the pony at each side. . . . As they approached, I, knowing they couldn't get to any place other than my own, called out in Hindustani Koi Hae? ' (Who is it?). There was no answer, and on they came till right in front of me, when I said in English, ' Hallo, what the d—1 do you want here? ' Instantly the group came to a halt ; the rider gathering the bridle-reins up with both hands turned his face towards me. . . . I at once recognised the rider as Lieutenant B.," whom General Barter knew to be dead. He goes on to describe how he rushed up the bank, below which he was standing, stumbled, but recovering, stood in the exact spot where the group had been. . . " There wasn't a sign of anything . . . the road stopped at a precipice about twenty yards beyond." He ran along the bridle-track, off which it was impossible to turn, but there was nothing to be seen. Mrs. Barter testifies that during the six weeks of
Apparitions and Haunted Houses. By Sir Ernest Bennett. (Faber and Faber. Los. 6d.)
their stay they several times heard a horse gallop down t path and round the house during the night, but never saw any one.
Sir Ernest Bennett, after remarking on the corroboration which the story possesses, says, " The group and the action which General Barter saw was like a scene reproduced or prolonged from the fevered fancies or memories of the man who had now been some months m the grave."
If it was the dead man's thoughts and dreams which affected General Barter telepathically, how was it that the dogs whimpered, and, still more strange, why did the phantom when challenged come to a halt, and, " gathering the bridle reins up with both hands," turn its face and look down? Did General Barter then become part of Lieutenant B.'s dream or thought? One feels like Alice, when she did not know whether she was in the Red King's dream, er he in hers. Then, if it were really B.'s spirit that appeared, how singular that those of the two syces were accommodating enough to appear also.
In some strange way which we do not understand it may be
that a record is preserved in the air or the vibration of certain spots. Thought can pass from one mind to another without the help of any physical sense, and apparently a past event can be played in certain places over and over again like a record on the gramophone. I am quite aware that I am being fantastic, but not more fantastic than the facts. It is, of course, easier to believe that where emotion is in play the love and thought of a discarnate personality may telepathically affect a sensitive person. Case so, which describes an experience of July 24th, 1932, is a good example. The nurse was in charge of two little girls, whose mother had died three weeks previously.
Two days after the youngest child's birthday, on going to bed the nurse saw a figure standing in the doorway, which she recognised, from the pictures and photographs she had seen, as the mother. " She was dressed in a blue velvet frock (I did not know until afterwards that she had one). Her face was lighted up, I could see the sheen on the velvet and she was smiling beautifully at me." The nurse had never seen any of the dead mother's clothes, but the grandmother testi- fied to her daughter's special fondness for the blue velvet dress.
Cases of phantasms of the living are fairly common, and for these it is naturally much easier to obtain corroboration. Case 90, a comparatively recent one, is an excellent example, and also case 96, of a little girl aged eight, who one morning while still in bed, though it was daylight, saw an old lady come into the room. The child, for her age, could draw well, and when questioned sketched the figure she had seen. A friend recognised it at once, and immediately identified it as Mrs. Smith, who had formerly lived in the house, but said : " It could not have been a ghost, as she is still alive, but bedridden." She added that "Mrs. Smith was obsessed with the house and was always thinking and talking of it, having spent most years of her married life in it " If the living can unconsciously project an image of themselves, it is not in- conceivable that the dead may do so also.
Dr. Matthews, the Dean of St. Paul's, in a foreword writes these words:
" I very much hope that this book will make some impression on two different classes of distinguished men—the scientists and the leaders of religion. The attitude of the 'orthodox' man of science to ' psychic phenomena ' is extraordinary. For the most part, he ignores the existence of the evidence ; when compelled to recognise it he writes it down as a tissue of error and deceit. Yet there are facts which appear to be well attested and which, if true, would throw a new light upon the nature of existence. Tele- pathy alone, without the hypothesis of telepathic communication with the dead, must have quite revolutionary consequences when its implications are thought out."
Those who have been workers in psychical research would. I think, agree with the Dean. Apparitions are only one of the many supernormal occurrences which cannot be accounted for by a purely physical conception of our being. There are very many others. If people would realise more the import- ance of recording any strange experience, mental, visua1 auditory or other, and of obtaining corroboration at once, the evidence would be cumulative and recent. Psychical research is one of the most important inquiries which can engage the human mind, and perhaps specially so at this moment. Sir Ernest Bennett deserves gratitude for the labour he has expended on the compilation of these strange cases.