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Human Animals Part 29

A strange bird-ghost is connected with the lake and house of Glasfryn.

On a certain evening, Grassi, which is the phantom's name, forgot to close the well and the waters overflowed and formed a lake. There she wanders at night bemoaning her carelessness. She also visits the house as a tall lady with well-marked features, large, bright eyes and dressed all in white. Another version of the story is that when the water overflowed and the lake was formed, the fairies seized Grassi and changed her into a swan and she continued to live by the waters for more than a century and died still lamenting her lot. Another version runs that the lady was changed into a swan as a punishment for haunting the house.

Holt Castle, in Worcestershire, is said to have been haunted by a mysterious lady in black who walked through a passage which led to the attics, while the cellar was in the possession of a phantom bird, not unlike a raven, which occasionally pounced upon the servants who went to draw beer or cider from the casks there. By flapping his wings, the unholy bird extinguished the candle of the adventuresome human being who invaded his domain, and then vanished, leaving his victim prostrated with fear.

York Castle was the scene in which an extraordinary ghost took animal shape. The story is told in the Memoirs of Sir John Reresby.

"One of my soldiers being on guard about eleven in the night at the gate of Clifford Tower, the very night after a witch had been arraigned, he heard a great noise in the castle; and going to the porch there saw a scroll of paper creep from under the floor, which, as he imagined by moonshine, turned first into the shape of a monkey, and thence assumed the form of a turkeycock, which passed to and fro by him. Surprised at this, he went to the prison and called the under-keeper, who came and saw the 'scroll' dance up and down, and creep under the door, where there was scarce an opening of the thickness of half a crown. This extraordinary story I had from the mouth of both one and the other."

Among the curiously shaped phantoms are those which have an important part of their anatomy lacking, and most common of all are the ghosts, human and animal, that are seen without a head. Indeed the belief in headless spectres, both of equine and canine beings, is remarkably widespread throughout England.

The Rev. Richard Dodge, a Cornish clergyman, who lived near Looe, was an exorcist, and was said to be able "to drive along evil spirits of various shapes, pursuing them with his whip." One day his services were commanded by a Mr. Mills, Rector of Lanreath, who said that labourers had been startled by an apparition of a man in black garb driving a carriage drawn by headless horses. Mr. Dodge met Mr. Mills, but as they saw no apparition, they parted to return to their respective homes. Mr. Dodge's horse grew restive and refused to proceed, so he, thinking something uncanny was about to take place, allowed the animal to return to the spot where he had parted from Mr.

Mills, whom, to his distress, he found lying prostrate on the ground with the spectre and his black coach and headless horses beside him.

Jumping down to assist his friend, Dodge uttered a prayer, and the spectre screaming, "Dodge is come, I must be gone," whipped up the ghost horses and vanished into the night.

Spectre horsemen are common and one is said to haunt Wyecoller Hall.

The ghost is dressed in the costume of the Stuart period, and the trappings of the horse are of uncouth description. On windy nights the horseman is heard dashing up to the Hall. The rider dismounts, makes his way up the stairs into a room on the first landing, whence presently screams and groans issue. Suddenly the horseman reappears and gallops off, the horse appearing wild with rage, its nostrils streaming fire. The tradition is that one of the Cunliffes of Billington, for long the owners of Wyecoller Hall, near Colne, murdered his wife and reappears every year as a spectre horseman in the home of his victim. She is said to have predicted the extinction of the family, a prediction long since fulfilled.

The midnight hunter and his headless hounds are often to be seen in Cornwall, and the Abbot's Way, on Dartmoor, is said to be a favourite spot for their visitations. Sir Francis Drake was supposed to drive a hearse into Plymouth by night, followed by a pack of headless, but nevertheless howling, hounds. On Cheney Downs in the parish of St.

Teath, ghostly hounds said to have belonged to an old squire called Cheney, were often seen and heard, especially in rough weather.

Herne, the ghostly hunter of Windsor Forest, has his counterpart in the _Grand Veneur_ of Fontainebleau. While hunting in his favourite forest, Henry II of France was suddenly startled by the sound of horns, and the cries of huntsmen and the barking of dogs. At first they sounded far away, but soon they came close by. Some of the company in advance of the king "saw a great black man among the bushes," crying in sepulchral tones, "M'attendez-vous?" or "M'entendez-vous?" or "Amendez-vous." The king, startled, inquired of the foresters and peasants what they knew of the apparition. He was informed that they had frequently seen the rider, accompanied by a pack of hounds, which hunted at full cry, but never did any harm.

Dan gives Pierre Matthieu's version of the story and adds, "I know what several authors narrate concerning the hunt of Saint Hubert, which they declare is heard in various parts of the forest. Nor do I ignore what they say of the spectre called the 'Whipper,' which was supposed to appear in the time of Charles IX in the forest of Lyons, and which left the mark of the lash on several people. Nor do I doubt that demons may wander in the forest as well as in the air. But I know well as regards the 'Grand Veneur' nothing is certain, least of all the circumstances in which, according to the reports of the authors, this phantom appears, and the words of which he makes use."[166]

The spectre huntsman chasing the wild doe and the headless hounds in full cry are amongst the many prominent demon superstitions still extant and the chief legends concerning them, with their variants, are mentioned by Charles Hardwick in "Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-lore."[167] The appearance of these and other animal spectres, however, has never been satisfactorily explained, and the question that naturally occurs to the student after reading such stories is whether animals are able to send forth astral or phantasmal doubles in a manner similar to that in which it is believed human beings can project them.

FOOTNOTES:

[155] "Shropshire Folk-lore," pp. 108-9.

[156] "Shropshire Folk-lore," p. 642.

[157] "Notes and Queries," 2nd Series, Vol. X., pp. 192-3.

[158] "Notes and Queries," December 28, 1850, p. 515.

[159] Jackson, G. E., "Shropshire Folk-lore," pp. 108-10.

[160] "Shropshire Folk-lore," pp. 106-7.

[161] "Superstitions et Survivances," 1896, Vol. V, pp. 19-20.

[162] "Real Ghost Stories," pp. 261-75.

[163] Sixth Series, Vol. VII, January 6, 1883, pp. 12-13.

[164] 1881, pp. 377-8.

[165] October 21, 1871.

[166] Dan, "Le Tresor des Merveilles de Fontainebleau."

[167] 1872, pp. 153 _et seq._

CHAPTER XXII

THE PHANTASMAL DOUBLE

According to Adolphe d'Assier, member of the Bordeaux Academy of Sciences, there is no doubt that the existence of the personality in animals as a separate appearance is established, and as it is a replica of the external form of the animal, he regards it as a living and phantasmal image.[168] He cites the following stories in support of his theory.

"Towards the end of 1869, finding myself at Bordeaux, I met one evening a friend who was going to a magnetic _seance_, and asked me to accompany him. I accepted his invitation, desiring to see magnetism at close quarters. The _seance_ presented nothing remarkable. I was, however, struck with one unexpected circumstance. Towards the middle of the evening one of the persons present, having noticed a spider on the floor, crushed it with his foot.

"'Ah!' cried the medium at the same moment, 'I see the spirit of the spider escaping.'

"In the language of mediums, as we know, the word _spirit_ designates that which I have called the posthumous phantom.

"'What is the form of the spirit?' asked the hypnotiser.

"'It has the form of a spider,' answered the medium.'"

This little incident, which recalls the ghost of a flea pictured by William Blake, the artist, and Dr. Reichenbach's dying mouse, led d'Assier to study the question of the duplication of personality among domestic animals. After some investigation he was sure that the medium's vision of a spirit spider was the reality, and he quotes other examples of phantasmal doubles.

On April 18th, 1705, M. Milanges de la Richardiere, son of an advocate to the Parliament of Paris, when riding through Noisy-le-Grand, was surprised when his horse came to a dead stop in the middle of the road. At the same moment he saw a shepherd, of sinister countenance, carrying a crook, and accompanied by two black dogs with short ears.

The man said, "Go home, sir. Your horse will not go forward."

At first the rider laughed, and then finding he could not make his horse advance an inch, he was forced to return, against his will. Some days later he was taken ill, and doctors were called in, who finding that his complaint did not yield to ordinary remedies, began to talk of sorcery. Young Milanges then confessed to his meeting with the strange shepherd and his dogs, and a few days later, to his surprise, when entering his own room, he saw the shepherd sitting in an arm-chair, dressed as he had seen him before, holding the crook still in his hand, and with the two black dogs by his side. In his terror the young man called for his servants, but they could not see the phantom man and animals.

At about ten o'clock the same night, however, the ghostly shepherd flung himself at the young man, who drew a knife from his pocket and made five or six cuts at his adversary's face.

A few days later the shepherd came to the house and confessed that he was a sorcerer and had persecuted M. Milanges. He had transported his double into the young man's chamber, as well as the phantasmal doubles of his black dogs.

The existence of the living phantom, thus being proved to M.

d'Assier's satisfaction, he conceives that a posthumous phantom is merely the continuation, as it were, of the living double. A story of such an animal apparition was given to him by an educated and reliable farmer at St. Croix, Ariege.

"One of my comrades," said the farmer, "was returning home at a late hour of the night. At some distance from his house, which was situated on a lonely farm, he saw an ass browsing in an oat-field by the side of the road. Moved by a feeling of neighbourly interest, natural among farmers, he intended to take the unprofitable guest out of the field, and advanced to seize the ass and lead it to his own stable so that its owner might claim it. The animal allowed him to approach without difficulty and to lead it away without resistance. But at the very door of his stable the ass suddenly disappeared out of his grasp, like a shadow vanishing. In a fright at this uncanny incident, the farmer woke up his brother to tell him what had occurred, and in the morning they went to the oat-field, anxious to see whether much havoc had been done to the crops, but could find no trace of the oats having been touched or trampled upon."

The night was clear and there was no cloud in the sky. The young man, when closely questioned, asserted again and again that he had distinctly seen the ass vanish before his eyes at the door of the stable.

D'Assier's explanation is that the animal's spectre, originating on the same principle as the human spectre, exhibits posthumous manifestations analogous to those observed in the latter cases. The ass of St. Croix was met with at night because, like the posthumous phantom of a human being, he shuns daylight. "He is in an oat-field, pasturing according to the instinctive habit of his race, but in reality browses (as one would naturally infer) but the phantom of grass or grain. He follows his leader whilst they are upon the road, but refuses to enter the stable, which is for him a prison, and vanishes in order to escape it. Here we have the essential features of posthumous manifestations: and if the young man had inquired among his neighbours, he would have learned, in all probability, that some time previously a beast of burden had died and been buried on a neighbouring farm."[169]

A similar story was told by a Customs officer, and is equally authentic.

"One evening when I happened to be on guard, with one of my comrades,"

said the officer, "we perceived not far from the village where I lived, a mule which grazed before us and seemed as though laden. Supposing that he was carrying contraband goods, and that his master had fled on seeing us, we ran after the animal. The mule dashed into a meadow and after having made different bolts to escape us, he entered the village, and here we separated. Whilst my companion continued to follow him, I took a cross road so as to head him off. Seeing himself closely pressed, the animal quickened his pace, and several of the inhabitants were awakened by the noise of his hoofs clattering on the pavement. I got in front of him to the crossing, at the end of the street, through which he was fleeing, and at the moment when, seeing him close to me, I put out my hand to seize his halter, he disappeared like a shade, and I saw nothing but my comrade, who was as amazed as myself."

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