"I had seen him and so had the policeman. The servant had seen him too. There could be no mistake about that.
"I took an early train and reached my suburban home at 10 A.M. I was informed that my brother had died at midnight. But I had seen him at about half past one and the servant had seen him at about 12.30. I did not tell anybody anything at that time. But I did so afterwards. I was not dreaming—because the conversation we had was a pretty long one. The servant and the police constable could not have been mistaken either. But the mystery remains."
This was the exact story of the professor. Here is something else to the point.
* * * * *
A remarkable case of what may be called suicidal telepathy has occurred near Geneva. Mme. Simon, a Swiss widow aged fifty, had been greatly distressed on account of the removal of her sister, who was five years younger, to a hospital. On Monday afternoon a number of persons who had ascended the Saleve, 4299 feet high, by the funicular railway, were horrified to see a woman walk out on to a ledge overlooking a sheer precipice of three hundred feet, and, after carefully wrapping a shawl round her head and face jump into space. The woman was Mme. Simon, says the Times of India, and she was found on the cliffs below in a mangled condition.
At the same time Mme. Simon's sister, who had not seen or communicated with the former for a week, became hysterical saying her sister was dead and that she did not want to survive her. During the temporary absence of the nurse the woman got out of her bed—opened the window and jumped into the road from the first floor. She is seriously injured and her recovery is doubtful.
The news of the death of Mme. Simon was only known at the hospital nine hours later.
The Leader—Allahabad, 12th February 1913.
Much more wonderful than all this is the story of "The Astral Lady" which appeared in one of the English Magazines a few months ago. In that case an English medical gentleman saw the Astral Lady in a first class railway compartment in England. Only accidentally he discovered the body of a lady nearly murdered and concealed under one of the seats. His medical help and artificial respiration and stimulants brought her round, and then the doctor saw the original of the Astral Lady in the recovered girl. Well—well—wonderful things do happen sometimes.
The phenomenon mentioned in this chapter as the professor's experience is not new. Mr. Justice Norman of the Calcutta High Court saw his mother while sitting in court one day and others saw her too. A few hours later his Lordship received a telegram informing him of her death at the moment when he had seen her in court. This was in broad daylight. Unlike the professor the judge did not even know that his mother was ill.
The fact that immediately after death the dead person appears to some one near and dear to him has been vouched for by others whose veracity and intelligence cannot be questioned.
The appearance of Miss Orme after her death at Mussoorie to Miss Mounce-Stephen in Lucknow was related in the Allahabad High Court during the trial of the latter lady for the murder of the former. This is on the record of the case. This case created a good deal of interest at the time.
Similar to what has been described above is the experience of Lord Brougham.
An extract from his memoirs is as follows:—"A most remarkable thing happened to me. So remarkable that I must tell the story from the beginning. After I left the High School (i.e. Edinburgh) I went with G—— my most intimate friend, to attend the classes of the University.
"There was no divinity class, but we frequently in our walks discussed many grave subjects—among others—the Immortality of the soul and a future state. This question and the possibility of the dead appearing to the living were subjects of much speculation, and we actually committed the folly of drawing up an agreement, written with our blood, to the effect that whichever of us died the first should appear to the other and thus solve the doubts we had entertained of the life after death.
"After we had finished our classes at the college, G—— went to India having got an appointment in the Civil Service there. He seldom wrote to me and after the lapse of a few years, I had nearly forgotten his existence. One day I had taken a warm bath, and, while lying in it enjoying the heat, I turned my head round, looking towards the chair on which I had deposited my clothes, as I was about to get out of the bath. On the chair sat G—looking calmly at me. How I got out of the bath I know not, but on recovering my senses I found myself sprawling on the floor. The apparition or whatever it was that had taken the likeness of G—had disappeared. The vision had produced such a shock that I had no inclination to talk about it or to speak about it even to Stewart, but the impression it made upon me was too vivid to be forgotten easily, and so strongly was I affected by it that I have here written down the whole history with the date, 19th December, and all particulars as they are fresh before me now. No doubt I had fallen asleep and that the appearance presented so distinctly before my eyes was a dream I cannot doubt, yet for years I had no communication with G—nor had there been anything to recall him to my recollection. Nothing had taken place concerning our Swedish travel connected with G—or with India or with anything relating to him or to any member of his family. I recollected quickly enough our old discussion and the bargain we had made. I could not discharge from my mind the impression that G—— must have died and his appearance to me was to be received by me as a proof of a future state."
This was on the 19th December 1799.
In October 1862 Lord Brougham added a postscript.
"I have just been copying out from my journal the account of this strange dream.
"Certissima mortis imago, and now to finish the story begun about 60 years ago. Soon after my return to Edinburgh there arrived a letter from India announcing G's death, and that he died on the 19th December 1799."—The Pall Mall Magazine (1914) pp. 183-184.
* * * * *
Another very fine story and one to the point comes from Hyderabad.
A certain Mr. J—— who was an Englishman, after reading the memoirs of Lord Brougham, was so affected that he related the whole story to his confidential Indian servant. We need not mention here what Mr. J's profession was, all that we need say is that he was not very rich and in his profession there was no chance of his getting up one morning to find himself a millionaire.
The master and servant executed a bond written with their blood that he who died first would see the other a rich man.
As it happened the native servant died first, and on his death Mr. J—— who was then a young man retired altogether from his business, which business was not in a very flourishing condition. Within a couple of years he went to England a millionaire. How he came by his money remains a secret. People in England were told that he had earned it in India. He must have done so, but the process of his earning he has kept strictly to himself. Mr. J—— is still alive and quite hale.
A different event in which another friend of mine was concerned was thus described the other day. He had received a telegram to the effect that a very near relation of his was dying in Calcutta and that this dying person was desirous to see him. He started for Calcutta in all haste by the mail. The mail used to leave his station at about 3 P.M. in the afternoon and reach Calcutta early the next morning. It was hot weather and in his first class compartment there was no other passenger. He lay down on one of the sleeping berths and the other one was empty. All the lamps including the night light had been switched off and the compartment was in total darkness, but for the moonlight. The moon beams too did not come into the compartment itself as the moon was nearly overhead.
He had fallen into a disturbed sleep when on waking up he found there was another occupant of the compartment. As thefts had been a common incident on the line specially in first class compartments, my friend switched on the electric light, the button of which was within his reach. This could be done without getting up.
In the glare of the electric light he saw distinctly his dying relation. He thought he was dreaming. He rubbed his eyes and then looked again. The apparition had vanished. He got up and looked out of the window. The train was passing through a station, without stopping. He could read the name of the station clearly. He opened his time table to see that he was still 148 miles from Calcutta.
Then he went to sleep again. In the morning he thought he had been dreaming. But he observed that the railway time table was still open at the place where he must have looked to ascertain the distance.
On reaching Calcutta he was told that his relation had died a few hours ago.
My friend never related this to anybody till he knew that I was writing on the subject. This story, however, after what the professor saw loses its interest; and some suggested that it had better not be written at all. I only write this because this friend of mine—who is also a relation of mine—is a big Government servant and would not have told this story unless it was true.
* * * * *
To the point is the following story which was in the papers about March 1914.
'In 1821 the Argyle Rooms were patronised by the best people, the establishment being then noted for high-class musical entertainments. One evening in March, 1821, a young Miss M. with a party of friends, was at a concert in Argyle Rooms. Suddenly she uttered a cry and hid her face in her hands. She appeared to be suffering so acutely that her friends at once left the building with her and took her home. It was at first difficult to get the young lady to explain the cause of her sudden attack, but at last she confessed that she had been terrified by a horrible sight. While the concert was in progress she had happened to look down at the floor, and there lying at her feet she saw the corpse of a man. The body was covered with a cloth mantle, but the face was exposed, and she distinctly recognised the features of a friend, Sir J.T. On the following morning the family of the young lady received a message informing them that Sir J.T. had been drowned the previous day in Southampton Water through the capsizing of a boat, and that when his body was recovered it was entangled in a boat cloak. The story of the Argyle Rooms apparition is told by Mr. Thomas Raikes in his well-known diary, and he personally vouches for the truth of it.'
* * * * *
In this connection the following cutting from an English paper of March, 1914, will be found very interesting and instructive.
'TALKS' WITH MR. STEAD.
SIR A. TURNER'S PSYCHIC EXPERIENCES.
General Sir Alfred Turner's psychic experiences, which he related to the London Spiritualist Alliance on May 7, in the salon of the Royal Society of British Artists, cover a very wide field, and they date from his early boyhood.
The most interesting and suggestive relate to the re-appearance of Mr. Stead, says the Daily Chronicle. On the Sunday following the sinking of the Titanic, Sir Alfred was visiting a medium when she told him that on the glass of the picture behind his back the head of a man and afterwards 'its' whole form appeared. She described him minutely, and said he was holding a child by the hand. He had no doubt that it was Mr. Stead, and he wrote immediately to Miss Harper, Mr. Stead's private secretary. She replied saying that on the same day she had seen a similar apparition, in which Mr. Stead was holding a child by the hand.
A few days afterwards (continued Sir Alfred) at a private seance the voice of Stead came almost immediately and spoke at length. He told them what had happened in the last minutes of the wreck. All those who were on board when the vessel sank soon passed over, but they had not the slightest notion that they were dead. Stead knew however, and he set to work to try and tell these poor people that they had passed over and that there was at any rate no more physical suffering for them. Shortly afterwards he was joined by other spirits, who took part in the missionary work.
Mr. Stead was asked to show himself to the circle. He said 'Not now, but at Cambridge House.' At the meeting which took place there, not everybody was sympathetic, and the results were poor, except that Mr. Stead came to them in short sharp flashes dressed exactly as he was when on earth.
Since then, said Sir Alfred, he had seen and conversed with Mr. Stead many times. When he had shown himself he had said very little, when he did not appear he said a great deal. On the occasion of his last appearance he said: 'I cannot speak to you. But pursue the truth. It is all truth.'
I am confident, Sir Alfred declared, that Mr. Stead will be of the greatest help to those of us who, on earth, work with him and to others who believe.
THE BOY POSSESSED.
I think it was in 1906 that in one of the principle cities in India the son of a rich man became ill. He had high fever and delirium and in his insensible state he was constantly talking in a language which was some kind of English but which the relatives could not understand.
This boy was reading in one of the lower classes of a school and hardly knew the English language.
When the fever would not abate for 24 hours a doctor was sent for.
The doctor arrived, and went in to see the patient in the sick-room.
The boy was lying on the bed with his eyes closed. It was nearly evening.
As soon as the doctor entered the sick-room the boy shouted "Doctor—I am very hungry, order some food for me."
Of course, the doctor thought that the boy was in his senses. He did not know that the boy had not sufficient knowledge of the English language to express his ideas in that tongue. So the doctor asked his relations when he had taken food last. He was informed that the patient had had nothing to eat for the last 8 or 10 hours.
"What will you like to have?" asked the doctor.
"Roast mutton and plenty of vegetables" said the boy.
By this time the doctor had approached the bed-side, but it was too dark to see whether the eyes of the patient were open or not.
"But you are ill—roast mutton will do you harm" said the doctor.
"No it won't—I know what is good for me" said the patient. At this stage the doctor was informed that the patient did not really know much English and that he was probably in delirium. A suggestion was also made that probably he was possessed by a ghost.
The doctor who had been educated at the Calcutta Medical College did not quite believe the ghost theory. He, however, asked the patient who he was.
In India, I do not know whether this is so in European countries too, lots of people are possessed by ghosts and the ghost speaks through his victim. So generally a question like this is asked by the exorcist "Who are you and why are you troubling the poor patient?" The answer, I am told, is at once given and the ghost says what he wants. Of course, I personally, have never heard a ghost talk. I know a case in which a report was made to me that the wife of a groom of mine had become possessed by a ghost. On being asked what ghost it was the woman was reported to have said "the big ghost of the house across the drain." I ran to the out-houses to find out how much was true but when I reached the stables the woman I was told was not talking. I found her in convulsions.
To return to our story; the doctor asked the patient who he was.
"I am General ——" said the boy.
"Why are you here" asked the doctor.
"I shall tell you that after I have had my roast mutton and the vegetables—" said the boy or rather the ghost.
"But how can we be convinced that you are General ——" asked the doctor.
"Call Captain X—— of the XI Brahmans and he will know," said the ghost, "in the meantime get me the food or I shall kill the patient."
The father of the patient at once began to shout that he would get the mutton and the vegetables. The Doctor in the meantime rushed out to procure some more medical assistance as well as to fetch Captain X of the XI Brahmans.
The few big European officers of the station were also informed and within a couple of hours the sick-room was full of sensible educated gentle men. The mutton was in the meantime ready.
"The mutton is ready" said the doctor.
"Lower it into the well in the compound" said the ghost.
A basket was procured and the mutton and the vegetables were lowered into the well.
But scarcely had the basket gone down 5 yards (the well was 40 feet deep) when somebody from inside the well shouted.
"Take it away—take it away—there is no salt in it."
Those that were responsible for the preparation had to admit their mistake.
The basket was pulled out, some salt was put in, and the basket was lowered down again.
But as the basket went in about 5 or 6 yards somebody from inside the well pulled it down with such force that the man who was lowering it narrowly escaped being dragged in; fortunately he let the rope slip through his hands with the result that though he did not fall into the well his hands were bleeding profusely.
Nothing happened after that and everybody returned to the patient.
After a few minutes silence the patient said:—
"Take away the rope and the basket, why did you not tie the end of the rope to the post."
"Why did you pull it so hard" said one of the persons present.
"I was hungry and in a hurry" said the ghost.
They asked several persons to go down into the well but nobody would. At last a fishing hook was lowered down. The basket, which had at first completely disappeared, was now floating on the surface of the water. It was brought up, quite empty.
Captain X in the meantime had arrived and was taken to the patient. Two high officials of Government (both Europeans) had also arrived.
As soon as the Captain stepped into the sick room the patient (we shall now call him the Ghost) said. "Good evening Captain X, these people will not believe that I am General—and I want to convince them."
The Captain was as surprised as the others had been before.
"You may ask me anything you like Captain X, and I shall try to convince you" said the Ghost.
The Captain stood staring.
"Speak, Captain X,—are you dumb?" said the Ghost.
"I don't understand anything" stammered the Captain.
He was told everything by those present. After hearing it the Captain formulated a question from one of the Military books.
A correct reply was immediately given. Then followed a number of questions by the Captain, the replies to all of which were promptly given by the Ghost.
After this the Ghost said, "If you are all convinced, you may go now, and see me again to-morrow morning."
Everybody quietly withdrew.
The next morning there was a large gathering in the sick room. A number of European officers who had heard the story at the club on the previous evening dropped in. "Introduce each of these new comers to me" said the Ghost.
Captain X introduced each person in solemn form.
"If anybody is curious to know anything I shall tell him" said the Ghost.
A few questions about England—position of buildings,—shops,—streets in London, were asked and correctly answered.
After all the questions the Indian Doctor who had been in attendance asked "Now, General, that we are convinced you are so and so why are you troubling this poor boy?"
"His father is rich" said the Ghost.
"Not very," said the doctor "but what do you want him to do?"
"My tomb at ——pur has been destroyed by a branch of a tree falling upon it, I want that to be properly repaired" said the Ghost.
"I shall get that done immediately" said the father of the patient.
"If you do that within a week I shall trouble your boy no longer" said the Ghost.
The monument was repaired and the boy has been never ill since.
This is the whole story; a portion of it appeared in the papers; and there were several respectable witnesses, though the whole thing is too wonderful.
Inexplicable as it is—it appears that dead persons are a bit jealous of the sanctity of their tombs.
I have heard a story of a boy troubled by a Ghost who had inscribed his name on the tomb of a Mahommedan fakir.
His father had to repair the tomb and had to put an ornamental iron railing round it.
Somehow or other the thing looks like a fairy tale. The readers may have heard stories like this themselves and thought them as mere idle gossip.
I, therefore, reproduce here the whole of a letter as it appeared in "The Leader" of Allahabad, India—on the 15th July, 1913.
The letter is written by a man, who, I think, understands quite well what he is saying.
A SUPERNATURAL PHENOMENON
Sir, It may probably interest your readers to read the account of a supernatural phenomenon that occurred, a few days ago, in the house of B. Rasiklal Mitra, B.A., district surveyor, Hamirpur. He has been living with his family in a bungalow for about a year. It is a good small bungalow, with two central and several side rooms. There is a verandah on the south and an enclosure, which serves the purpose of a court-yard for the ladies, on the north. On the eastern side of this enclosure is the kitchen and on the western, the privy. It has a big compound all round, on the south-west corner of which there is a tomb of some Shahid, known as the tomb of Phulan Shahid.
At about 5 o'clock in the evening on 26th June, 1913, when Mr. Mitra was out in office, it was suddenly noticed that the southern portion of the privy was on fire. People ran for rescue and by their timely assistance it was possible to completely extinguish the fire by means of water which they managed to get at the moment, before the fire could do any real damage. On learning of the fire, the ladies and children, all bewildered, collected in a room, ready to quit the building in case the fire was not checked or took a serious turn. About a square foot of the thatch was burnt. Shortly after this another corner of the house was seen burning. This was in the kitchen. It was not a continuation of the former fire as the latter had been completely extinguished. Not even smoke or a spark was left to kindle. The two places are completely separated from each other being divided by an open court-yard of 30 yards in length and there is no connection between them at all.
There was no fire at the time in the kitchen even, and there were no outsiders besides the ladies and children who were shut up in a room. This too was extinguished without any damage having been done. By this time Mr. Mitra and his several friends turned up on getting the news of the fire in his house. I was one of them. In short the fire broke out in the house at seven different places within an hour or an hour and a half; all these places situated so apart from one another that one was astonished to find how it broke out one after the other without any visible sign of the possibility of a fire from outside. We were all at a loss to account for the breaking out of the fire. To all appearance it broke out each time spontaneously and mysteriously. The fact that fire broke out so often as seven times within the short space of about an hour and a half, each time at a different place without doing any perceptible damage to the thatching of the bungalow or to any other article of the occupant of the house, is a mystery which remains to be solved. After the last breaking out, it was decided that the house must be vacated at once. Mr. Mitra and his family consequently removed to another house of Padri Ahmad Shah about 200 yards distant therefrom. To the great astonishment of all nothing happened after the 'vacation' of the house for the whole night. Next morning Mr. Mitra came with his sister to have his morning meals prepared there, thinking that there was no fire during the night. To his great curiosity he found that the house was ablaze within 10 or 15 minutes of his arrival. They removed at once and everything was again all right. A day or two after he removed to a pucca house within the town, not easy to catch fire. After settling his family in the new house Mr. Mitra went to a town (Moudha) some 21 miles from the head quarters. During the night following his departure, a daughter of Mr. Mitra aged about 10 years saw in dream a boy who called himself Shahid Baba. The girl enquired of him about the reason of the fire breaking in her last residence and was told by him that she would witness curious scenes next morning, after which she would be told the remedy. Morning came and it was not long before fire broke out in the second storey of the new house. This was extinguished as easily as the previous ones and it did not cause any damage. Next came the turn of a dhoti of the girl mentioned above which was hanging in the house. Half of it was completely burnt down before the fire could be extinguished. In succession, the pillow wrapped in a bedding, a sheet of another bedding and lastly the dhoti which the girl was wearing caught fire and were extinguished after they were nearly half destroyed. Mr. Mitra's son aged about 4 months was lying on a cot: as soon as he was lifted up—a portion of the bed on which he was lying was seen burning. Although the pillow was burnt down there was no mark of fire on the bedding. Neither the girl nor the boy received any injury. Most curious of all, the papers enclosed in a box were burnt although the box remained closed. B. Ganesh Prasad, munsif, and the post master hearing of this, went to the house and in their presence a mirzai of the girl which was spread over a cot in the court-yard caught fire spontaneously and was seen burning.
Now the girl went to sleep again. It was now about noon. She again saw the same boy in the dream. She was told this time that if the tomb was whitewashed and a promise to repair it within three months made, the trouble would cease. They were also ordained to return to the house which they had left. This command was soon obeyed by the troubled family which removed immediately after the tomb was whitewashed to the bungalow in which they are now peacefully living without the least disturbance or annoyance of any sort. I leave to your readers to draw their own conclusions according to their own experience of life and to form such opinion as they like.
PERMESHWAR DAYAL AMIST, B.A., July 9. Vakil, High Court
THE EXAMINATION PAPER.
This is a story which I believe. Of course, this is not my personal experience; but it has been repeated by so many men, who should have witnessed the incident, with such wonderful accuracy that I cannot but believe it.
The thing happened at the Calcutta Medical College.
* * * * *
There was a student who had come from Dacca, the Provincial Capital of Eastern Bengal. Let us call him Jogesh.
Jogesh was a handsome young fellow of about 24. He was a married man and his wife's photograph stood in a frame on his table in the hostel. She was a girl hardly 15 years old and Jogesh was evidently very fond of her. Jogesh used to say a lot of things about his wife's attainments which we (I mean the other students of his class) believed, and a lot more which we did not believe. For instance we believed that she could cook a very good dinner, but that is an ordinary accomplishment of the average Bengali girl of her age.
Jogesh also said that she knew some mystic arts by means of which she could hold communion with him every night. Every morning when he came out of his room he used to say that his wife had been to him during the night and told him—this—that—and the other. This, of course, we did not believe, but as Jogesh was so sensitive we never betrayed our scepticism in his presence. But one significant fact happened one day which rather roused our curiosity.
One morning Jogesh came out with a sad expression and told us that his father was ill at home. His wife had informed him at night, he said; at that time we treated the matter with indifference but at about 10 o'clock came a telegram, (which we of course intercepted) intimating that his father was really ill.
The next morning Jogesh charged us with having intercepted his telegram; but we thought that he must have heard about the telegram from one of the students, as there were about half a dozen of us present when the telegram had arrived.
Jogesh's father came round and the matter was forgotten.
Then came the annual University examination.
Jogesh's weak subject was Materia Medica and everybody knew it.
So we suggested that Jogesh should ask his wife what questions would be set, during one of her nightly visits.
After great hesitation Jogesh consented to ask his wife on the night before the examination.
The eventful night came and went. In the morning Jogesh came out and we anxiously inquired what his wife had said.
"She told me the questions" said Jogesh sadly "but she said she would never visit me again here."
The questions were of greater importance and so we wanted to have a look at them. Jogesh had noted these down on the back of a theatre programme (or hand bill—I really forget which) and showed the questions to us. There were eleven of them—all likely questions such as Major —— might ask. To take the questions down and to learn the answers was the work of an hour, and in spite of our scepticism we did it. And we were glad that we did it.
When the paper was distributed, we found that the questions were identically those which we had seen that very morning and the answers to which we had prepared with so much labour only a few hours before.
The matter came to the notice of the authorities who were all European gentlemen. The eleven answer papers were examined and re-examined, and finally Jogesh was sent for by Col. —— the Principal to state how much truth was there in what had been reported, but Jogesh prudently refused to answer the question; and finally the Colonel said that it was all nonsense and that the eleven students knew their Materia Medica very well and that was all. In fact it was the Colonel himself who had taught the subject to his students, and he assured all the eleven students that he was really proud of them. The ten students were however proud of Jogesh and his mystic wife. It was decided that a subscription should be raised and a gold necklace should be presented to Jogesh's wife as a humble token of respect and gratitude of some thankful friends, and this plan was duly executed.
Jogesh is now a full-fledged doctor and so are all the other ten who had got hold of the Materia Medica paper.
After the incident of that night Jogesh's wife had an attack of brain fever and for some time her life was despaired of, and we were all so sorry. But, thank God, she came round after a long and protracted illness, and then we sent her the necklace.
Jogesh told us subsequently that his wife had given him an Indian charm-case with instructions to put it on with a chain round the neck whenever he required her. Immediately he put on the chain, to which this charm-case was attached, round his neck, he felt as if he was in a trance and then his wife came. Whether she came in the flesh or only in spirit Jogesh could not say as he never had the opportunity of touching her so long as she was there, for he could not get up from the bed or the chair or wherever he happened to be. On the last occasion she had entreated him not to press her to tell the questions. He had, however, insisted and so she had dictated to him the examination paper as if from memory. The theatre programme was the only thing within his reach and he had taken down all the questions on that, as he thought he could not rely upon his own memory. Then she had gone away; but before going she had walked up to him, unbuttoned his kurta (native shirt) at the chin, and removed the charm-case from the chain to which it was attached. Then she had vanished and the charm case had vanished too. The chain had, of course, remained on Jogesh's neck. Since that eventful night Jogesh had had no mystic communion with his wife during his stay in Calcutta.
She refused to discuss the subject when Jogesh afterwards met her at Dacca. So the mystery remains unsolved.
* * * * *
Talking of questions and answers reminds me of an incident that took place on one occasion in my presence.
A certain Mohammedan hypnotist once visited us when I was at College.
There was a number of us, all students, in the hostel common-room or library when this man came and introduced himself to us as a professional hypnotist. On being asked whether he could show us anything wonderful and convincing he said he could. He asked us to procure a teapoy with 3 strong legs. This we did. Then he asked two of us to sit round that small table and he also sat down. He asked us to put our hands flat on the table and think of some dead person. We thought of a dead friend of ours. After we had thus been seated for about five minutes there was a rap on the leg of the teapoy. We thought that the hypnotist had kicked the leg on his side.
"The spirit has come" said the hypnotist.
"How should we ascertain?" I asked.
"Ask him some question and he will answer" said the hypnotist.
Then we asked how many from our class would obtain the university degree that year.
"Spirit", said the hypnotist "as the names are mentioned one rap means pass, two mean plucked"; then he addressed the others sitting around "see that I am not kicking at the leg of the teapoy."
Half a dozen of the boys sat down on the floor to watch.
As each name was mentioned there came one rap or two raps as the case might be till the whole list was exhausted.
"We can't ascertain the truth of this until 3 months are over" said I.
"How many rupees have I in my pocket" asked one of the lookers-on.
There came three distinct raps and on examining the purse of the person we found that he had exactly 3 rupees and nothing more.
Then we asked a few more questions and the answers came promptly in. "Yes" and "No" by means of raps.
Then according to the hypnotist's suggestion one student wrote a line from Shakespeare and the ghost was asked what that line was.
"As the plays are named rap once at the name of the play from which the passage has been taken" said the hypnotist, solemnly addressing the Spirit.
"Merchant of Venice"
One loud rap.
"Macbeth" said the hypnotist "now which Act."
One loud rap.
One loud rap.
"Now what about the lines" said the hypnotist.
"Line one—Two—Three ... Thirty nine"
One loud rap
One loud rap
One loud rap
One loud rap
One loud rap
One loud rap
A copy of Shakespeare's Macbeth was at once procured and opened at Act V, Sec. III, line 40.
"Can'st thou not minister to a mind diseased, Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, Raze out the written troubles of the brain, And with some sweet oblivious antidote, Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff, Which weighs upon the heart?"
This was what we read.
The student was then asked to produce his paper and on it was the identical quotation.
Then the hypnotist asked us to remove our hands from the top of the teapoy. The hypnotist did the same thing and said "The Spirit has gone."
We all stared at each other in mute surprise.
Afterwards we organized a big show for the benefit of the hypnotist, and that was a grand success.
Lots of strange phenomena were shown to us which are too numerous to mention. The fellows who had sat on the floor watching whether or not it was the hypnotist who was kicking at the teapoy-leg assured us that he was not.
The strange feats of this man, (hypnotist astrologer and thought-reader all rolled into one) have ever since remained an insoluble mystery.
THE MESSENGER OF DEATH.
We have often been told how some of us receive in an unlooked-for manner an intimation of death some time before that incident does actually occur.
The late Mr. W.T. Stead, for instance, before he sailed for America in the Titanic had made his will and given his friends clearly to understand that he would see England no more.
Others have also had such occult premonitions, so to say, a few days, and sometimes weeks, before their death.
We also know a number of cases in which people have received similar intimation of the approaching death of a near relation or a dear friend who, in most cases, lives at a distance.
There is a well-known family in England (one of the peers of the realm) in whose case previous intimation of death comes in a peculiar form. Generally when the family is at dinner a carriage is heard to drive up to the portico. Everybody thinks it is some absent guest who has arrived late and my lord or my lady gets up to see who it is. Then when the hall door is opened it is seen that there is no carriage at all. This is a sure indication of an impending death in the family.
I know another very peculiar instance. A certain gentleman in Bengal died leaving four sons and a widow. The youngest was about 5 years old. These children used to live with their mother in the family residence under the guardianship of their uncle.
One night the widow had a peculiar dream. It seemed to her that her husband had returned from a long journey for an hour or so and was going away again. Of course, in her dream the lady forgot all about her widowhood.
Before his departure the husband proposed that she should allow him to take one of the sons with him and she might keep the rest.
The widow readily agreed and it was settled that the youngest but one should go with the husband. The boy was called, and he very willingly agreed to go with his father. The mother gave him a last hug and kiss and passed him on to the father who carried him away.
The next moment the widow woke. She remembered every particular of the dream. A cold sweat stood on her forehead when she comprehended what she had done.
The boy died the next morning. When she told me the story she said that the only consolation that she had was that the child was safe with his father. A very poor consolation indeed!
Now this is a peculiar story told in a peculiar fashion; but I know one or two wonderful stories which are more peculiar still.
* * * * *
It is a custom in certain families in Bengal that in connection with the Durga pooja black-male goats are offered as a sacrifice.
In certain other families strictly vegetarian offerings are made.
The mode of sacrificing the goat is well known to some readers, and will not interest those who do not know the custom. The fact remains that millions of goats are sacrificed all over Bengal during the three days of the Durga pooja and on the Shyama pooja night, (i.e. Diwali or Dipavali).
There is however nothing ominous in all this, except when the "sacrificial sword" fails to sever the head of the goat from the trunk at one deadly stroke. As this bodes ill the householder to appease the deity, to whose wrath such failure is imputed, sacrifices another goat then and there and further offers to do penance by sacrificing double the number of goats next year.
But what is more pertinent to the subject I am dealing with is the sacrificing of goats under peculiar circumstances. Thus when an epidemic (such as cholera, small pox and now probably plague) breaks out in a village in Bengal all the principal residents of the place in order to propitiate the deity to whose curse or ire the visitation is supposed to be due, raise a sufficient amount by subscription for worshipping the irate Goddess. The black he-goat that is offered as a sacrifice on such an occasion is not actually slain, but being besmeared with "Sindur" (red oxide of mercury) and generally having one of the ears cropped or bored is let loose, i.e. allowed to roam about until clandestinely passed on to some neighbouring village to which, the goat is credited with the virtue of transferring the epidemic from the village originally infected. The goats thus marked are not looked upon with particular favour in the villages. They are generally not ill-treated by the villagers, and when they eat up the cabbages, etc. all that the poor villagers can do is to curse them and drive them away—but they return as soon as the poor owner of the garden has moved away. Such goats become, in consequence, very bold and give a lot of trouble.
When, therefore, such a billy-goat appears in a village what the villagers generally do is to hire a boat, carry the goat a long distance along the river, say 20 or 25 miles and leave him there. Now the villagers of the place where such a goat is left play the same trick, so it sometimes happens that the goat comes back after a week or so.
Once it so happened that a dedicated goat made his unwelcome appearance in a certain village in Bengal.
The villagers hired a boat and carried him about 20 miles up the river and left him there. The goat came back after a week. Then they left him at a place 20 miles down the river and he came back again. Afterwards they took the goat 50 miles up and down the river but each time the goat returned like the proverbial bad penny.
After trying all kinds of tricks in their attempt to get rid of the goat the villagers became desperate. So a few hot-headed young men of the village in an evil hour decided to kill the goat. Instead of killing the goat quietly (as probably they should have done) and throwing the body into the river, they organised a grand feast and ate the flesh of the dedicated goat.
Within 24 hours of the dinner each one of them who had taken part in it was attacked with cholera of a most virulent type and within another 24 hours every one of them was dead. Medical and scientific experts were called in from Calcutta to explain the cause of the calamity, but no definite results were obtained from these investigations. One thing, however, was certain. There was no poison of any kind in the food.
The cause of the death of about 30 young men remains a mystery.
This was retribution with a vengeance and the writer does not see the justice of the divine providence in this particular case.
* * * * *
In another village the visit of the messenger of death was also marked in a peculiar fashion.
Two men one tall and the other short, the tall man carrying a lantern, are seen to enter the house of one of the villagers; and the next morning there is a death in the house which they entered.
When, for the first time, these two mysterious individuals were seen to enter a house an alarm of thieves was raised. The house was searched but no trace of any stranger was found in the house. The poor villager who had given the alarm was publicly scolded for his folly after the fruitless search, for thinking that thieves would come with a lighted lantern. But that poor man had mentioned the lighted lantern before the search commenced and nobody had thought that fact "absurd" at that time.
Since that date a number of people has seen these messengers of death enter the houses of several persons, and whenever they enter a house a death takes place in that house within the next 24 hours.
Some of the witnesses who have seen these messengers of death are too cautious and too respectable to be disbelieved or doubted. Your humble servant on one occasion passed a long time in this village, but he, fortunately or unfortunately, call it what you please, never saw these fell messengers of death.
* * * * *
In another family in Bengal death of a member is foretold a couple of days before the event in a very peculiar manner.
This is a very rich family having a large residential house with a private temple or chapel attached to it, but the members never pay a penny to the doctor or the chemist either.
In many rich families in Bengal there are private deities the worship of which is conducted by the heads of the families assisted by the family priests. There are generally private temples adjoining the houses or rooms set apart for such idols, and all the members of the family and especially the ladies say their prayers there.
Such a temple remains open during the day and is kept securely closed at night, because nobody should be allowed to disturb the deity at night and also because there is generally a lot of gold and silver articles in the temple which an unorthodox thief may carry away.
Now what I have just mentioned was the custom of the particular house-hold referred to above.
One night a peculiar groan was heard issuing from the temple. All the inmates of the house came to see what the matter was. The key of the temple was with the family priest who was not present. He had probably gone to some other person's house to have a smoke and a chat, and it was an hour before the key could be procured and the door of the temple opened.
Everything was just as it had been left 3 or 4 hours previously. The cause or origin of the groans was never traced or discovered.
The next morning one of the members of the family was suddenly taken ill and died before medical aid could be obtained from Calcutta.
This was about fifty years ago. Since then the members of this family have become rather accustomed to these groans.
If there is a case of real Asiatic cholera or a case of double pneumonia they don't call in a doctor though there is a very capable and learned medical man within a mile.
But if once the groans are heard the person, who gets the smallest pin-prick the next morning, dies; and no medical science has ever done any good.
"The most terrible thing in this connection is the suspense" said one of the members of that family to me once. "As a rule you hear the groans at night and then you have to wait till the morning to ascertain whose turn it is. Generally however you find long before sunrise that somebody has become very ill. If not, you have to wire to all the absent members of the family in the morning to enquire—what you can guess. And you have to await the replies to the telegrams. How the minutes pass between the hearing of the groans till it is actually ascertained who is going to die—need not be described."
"You must have been having an exciting time of it" I asked this young man.
"Generally not, because we find that somebody is ill from before and then we know what is going to happen" said my informant.
"But during your experience of 25 years you must have been very nervous about these groans yourself at times," I asked.
"On two occasions only we had to be nervous because nobody was ill beforehand; but in each case that person died who was the most afraid. I was not nervous on these occasions myself, for some reason or other."
These uncanny groans of the messenger of death have remained a mystery for the last fifty years.
* * * * *
I know another family in which the death of the head of the family is predicted in a very peculiar manner.
There is a big picture of the Goddess Kali in the family. On the night of the Shyama pooja (Dewali) which occurs about the middle of November, this picture is brought out and worshipped.
The picture is a big oil painting of the old Indian School and has a massive solid gold frame. The picture is a beauty—a thing worth seeing.
All the year round it hangs on the eastern wall of the room occupied by the head of the family.
Now the peculiar thing with this family is that no male member of the family dies out of his turn. The eldest male member dies leaving behind everybody else. The next man then becomes the eldest and dies afterwards and so on.
But before the death of the head of the family the warning comes in a peculiar way.
The picture of the goddess is found hanging upside down. One morning when the head of the family comes out of his bed-room and the youngsters go in to make the room tidy, as they call it, (though they generally make the room more untidy and finally leave it to the servants) they find the famous family picture hanging literally topsyturvy (that is with head downwards) and they at once sound the alarm. Then they all know that the head of the family is doomed and will die within a week.
But this fact does not disturb the normal quiet of the family. Because the pater familias is generally very old and infirm and more generally quite prepared to die.
But the fact remains that so long as the warning does not come in this peculiar fashion every member of the house-hold knows that there is no immediate danger.
For instance it is only when this warning comes that all the children who are out of the station are wired for.
Every reader must admit that this is rather weird.
BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
Being the adventures of a gang of swindlers who robbed the rich only.
PRICE SIX ANNAS.
Of all Booksellers, and of Railway Bookstalls.
A.H. WHEELER & CO.
SIXTH EDITION JUST OUT.
Mr. and Mrs. JOHN BROWN AT HOME.
A series of amusing sketches of Station Life in India.
Of all Booksellers, and of Railway Bookstalls.
A.H. WHEELER & CO.