The ancient Egyptians had a tradition, that at a far past period men rebelled against the gods, and drove them away. Upon this taking place, the gods fled into Egypt, where they concealed themselves under the form of different animals; and this was the first reason assigned for the worship of inferior creatures. A leading principle in the religion of the ancient Arabians was their belief in fairies or genii. They thought that these genii attended people through life; that every man had two of these waiting on him, the one good and the other evil; that all evil actions were committed at the instigation of the evil spirit in the absence of the good genii, who sometimes went with messages to the celestial regions. The Arabians further believed these genii were continually at war with each other, which, the people considered, accounted for the contending passions in their minds. Their principal genius was Hafedhah, to whom the people, on setting out on a plundering expedition, prayed he would send them a strong genius to assist them.
In the middle ages conjuration was regularly practised in Europe, and devils were supposed to appear under decided forms. A devil would appear either as an angel of light, or as a monster in hideous shape. An anonymous writer, discussing the subject, says: "A devil would appear either like an angel seated in a fiery chariot, or riding on an infernal dragon, and carrying in his right hand a viper, or assuming a lion's head, a goose's feet, and a hare's tail, or putting on a raven's head, and mounted on a strong wolf. Other forms made use of by demons were those of fierce warriors, or old men riding upon crocodiles, with hooks in hand. A human figure would arise, having the wings of a griffin; or sporting three heads, one of them being like that of a toad, the other resembling that of a cat; or defended with huge teeth and horns, and adorned with a sword; or displaying a dog's teeth, and a large raven's head; or mounted upon a pale horse, and exhibiting a serpent's tail; or gloriously crowned, and riding upon a dromedary; or presenting the face of a lion; or bestriding a bear, and grasping a viper. There were also such shapes as those of archers or bowmen. A demoniacal king would ride on a pale horse, assume a leopard's face and griffin's wings; or put on three heads, one of a bull, another of a man, and a third of a ram, with a serpent's tail and the feet of a goose; and in this appearance sit on a dragon, and bear in his hand a lance and flag; or, instead of being thus employed, goad the flanks of a furious bear, and carry on his fist a hawk. Other forms were those of a goodly knight; or of one who bore lance, ensign, and even sceptre; or of a soldier, either riding on a black horse, and surrounded with a flame of fire; or wearing on his head a duke's crown, and mounted on a crocodile; or assuming a lion's face, and, with fiery eyes, spurring on a gigantic charger, or, with the same frightful aspect, appearing in all the pomp of family distinction, on a pale horse; or clad from head to foot in crimson raiment, wearing on his bold front a crown, and sallying forth on a red steed."
To inferior demons was assigned the duty of carrying away condemned souls, and superior benign spirits had the pleasing task of conveying from earth the souls of the blessed.
Toledo, Seville, and Salamanca were great schools of magic. The teachers taught that all knowledge might be obtained by the assistance of fallen angels. These teachers were skilled in the abstract sciences, in alchemy, in the various languages of mankind, and of the lower animals, divinity, magic, and prophecy. They professed to possess the power of controlling the winds and waters, and of influencing the stars. They also pretended to be able to cause earthquakes, spread diseases or cure them, release souls out of purgatory, to influence the passions of the mind, procure the reconciliation of friends or foes, engender discord, and induce mania and melancholy.
The Circassians sprinkled holy water over their friends' graves, and the priests tolled bells near them to keep evil spirits from the bodies. Affectionate relations visited the burying grounds from time to time, to repeat prayers for the repose of the dead, who, they thought, continued to be acquainted with the affairs of the world.
When an Indian became ill, the Brahmin prayed over him; for it was believed that two spirits, one good and the other bad, attended the dying at the hour of death. If the expiring person lived a commendable life, he was conveyed in a flying chariot to a place of happiness; but if he was wicked, the evil spirit carried him before a dread tribunal, to be judged according to his works. Deceased was then sent back to wander on the earth ten days, in the shape of a magpie. For this reason the people always fed a magpie for ten days after the death of a relation, imagining that the bird might possess their friend's soul.
Indians believed in former times, whatever they may do now, that hell was situated at a great distance below the world, and that there was a president in it called Yhamadar. Under him, a secretary named Xitragupten wrote down a man's good and bad actions, and presented his record to the president the instant the deceased's soul came before him. This infernal president was reported to have been very equitable, distributing rewards and punishments according to justice. Some souls were supposed to be sent back to inhabit inferior bodies in this world, while others were tormented in the most cruel manner in the infernal regions. If a dying person laid hold of a cow by the tail, and a Brahmin poured water over his hand, and put a sum of money into it (the hand), the soul would be protected from the power of demons.
In Pegu, copper vessels or bells were used to frighten demons that wanted to disturb the repose of the dead. There the priests pretended to know what was most agreeable and acceptable to evil spirits, and professed to be able to appease their anger. A grand entertainment was sometimes made for the devil, at which the friends of a sick man danced to the sound of vocal and instrumental music. These heathens believed devils had bodies as well as souls, and that, although immortal, they had the same passions as men. They believed, also, that the devils or demons had power to foretell future events, and that all dreams happened in consequence of their promptings. They therefore consulted such devils nearly after the manner the witches of Great Britain were accustomed to do.
When a person in Cochin-China was at the point of death, his male relations surrounded his bed, brandishing their sabres and other warlike weapons, to drive away the demons, which they supposed were hovering around him to seize his soul the instant it was liberated from the body. When a prince died, the priests held a consultation, in order to discover what demon it was that caused the sad event; and when they made the discovery, which they invariably did, they in a solemn manner condemned the evil spirit to everlasting punishment. The inhabitants of the Molucca Islands were under the impression, like other heathens and Christians too, that two angels attended on every person on earth, the one seeking his good, and the other his eternal hurt. The good angel prompted the individual to holy actions, while the malignant one was constantly instigating him to shun the right path. The people worshipped the air under the name of Lanitho, which was subject to another being or spirit named Lanthila, but they had many gods they consulted on all occasions of importance. If it was considered necessary to consult a Nito or god, the people assembled under cloud of night, with tapers burning, and, after pronouncing mysterious words, called on their god to appear. As soon as the prescribed forms were gone through, Nito entered with one of the people, who, while under the demoniacal influence, foretold future events. A few families in that island claimed to have the power of witchcraft vested in them from generation to generation.
Being often afflicted with small-pox, the people conjectured the disease was propagated by an evil genius; and, to frighten the demon from their homes, images were placed on the house-tops. If one accidentally met a funeral or saw a corpse on the road, he returned home in haste. If the unlucky person was a woman carrying a child in her arms, her consternation was great, for it was imagined the soul of the deceased hovered in the air near the corpse, and endeavoured to injure the living, particularly young children. To protect their children from demons, parents tied charmed beads round the infants' necks. Indeed the people lived in constant dread of evil spirits; and, to frustrate their evil intentions, they, in addition to the preventatives already mentioned, always kept consecrated articles under their pillows.
Heathen Devotion in Ceylon—Superstitious Customs among the Schismatic Greeks—Negro Belief in Fetishes or Genii—Charms and Sacred Rings and Belts—Magic taught by the Priests—Dead Persons metamorphosed into Serpents—How the Gaures disposed of their Dead—Modes of discovering whether Souls were Blessed or Damned—Orders of Genii in Madagascar—Devil Worship—Belief of the Caribbees—Brazilian Superstition—Peruvian Tradition—Devil Worship among the American Indians—Demons in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries—Satan in France—Manes, Anima, and Umbra among the Greeks and Romans.
In Ceylon, when the heathens' prayers were not answered, they repaired to the most gloomy parts of their sacred groves, and offered up red cocks to the devil, where they supposed he and his imps and attendants delighted to dwell. And when any of the people were sick, they devoted a red cock to one of their genii. The priest, in offering the cock, made it known that the fowl was given only on condition that the invalid would be cured. It was believed that all the sacrifices offered to these genii were carried by them to heaven, to be presented to Buddha. To discover whether a patient's sickness was caused by a good or evil spirit, a bow of the first little stick that could be found was prepared, and on the bow-string the operator hung a small chisel, and holding the bow by the two extremities, named all the gods and devils he thought of. As soon as the name of the good or evil spirit that caused the disease was pronounced, the bow turned round. By means of bows the natives of Ceylon were also enabled to foretell future events.
Among the schismatic Greeks, an infant, previous to its baptism, was crossed by the priest, who commanded the devil to come out of the child, for it was believed an unclean spirit resided in it before baptism. After baptism, the priest hung a cross of gold, silver, or tin about the child's neck, which, in accordance with usual custom, was worn till death. If at death one was found without his cross, his body was cast into the ground without sacred ceremonies.
The negroes had fetishes or genii similar to the Manitous of the North Americans, and the ancient Fauns or Sylvans of the Romans. To these fetishes the negroes paid great respect. Particular kinds of birds, fishes, and trees were looked upon as fetishes; and certain of them were accounted the guardians of hills, mountains, and streams. Negroes supposed that if one broke off a branch from a sacred tree, he would immediately cause the destruction of their crops. They had stones resembling the Roman terminal-stones. Fetishes were consulted by the people as oracles; and when they appeared in living form to return answers, it was generally as black dogs. Large fetishes were kept for the protection of houses; and the people carried small ones about them, sometimes suspended from their necks, and sometimes concealed under their arm-pits, for their protection. Negro women hung charms round their infants' necks, to protect them from harm. Children four years of age had sacred rings round their legs and arms, to protect them from evil spirits. This was not all: mothers went the length of making their children wear bandages adorned with fetishes, to strengthen the little ones and keep away demons. Thursday was set apart for the worship of fetishes. The priests studied magic, and instructed the people in the art thereof. It was a belief among the negroes, that at death they were metamorphosed into serpents, and for that reason they would not kill or injure one of these reptiles.
Because the Gaures thought decomposed bodies polluted the earth, they did not bury their dead. They had round towers as receptacles for their departed friends, whose bodies were let down to their final resting-place through an aperture in the roof. During the first three days after the body had been laid in the tower, it was thought to be in danger of being carried away by the devil. It therefore became necessary for the friends to keep watch, in order to prevent Satan having an opportunity to torment the soul as it winged its way to the celestial regions. On or before the fourth day the soul was in a place of torment or happiness. On this, the fourth day, the priests prognosticated the future state of the deceased. The discovery was made in this way: the dead body was laid on its back, with the eyes turned towards heaven, and the vultures being permitted to come and feast on the deceased, it was considered a certain sign that the soul had gone to bliss if the right eye was taken out first, but it was an equally sure omen that it had gone to a place of punishment if the left eye was the first devoured. Another mode of ascertaining the state of happiness or misery of a soul was by the movements of a dog near a corpse. If the animal went close to it, then were the relatives convinced the soul was in a state of bliss, but if the dog could not be tempted to go near the body, they despaired of their friend escaping everlasting torment.
The islanders of Madagascar entertained the opinion that there were divers orders of genii or spirits; that some of them directed the motions of the stars and planets, and that others had power over the air, the meteors, the sea, and men. Besides these genii there was another order of spirits, male and female, who married and had offspring. They made known future events to man, and performed superhuman actions, such as are done by Scotch fairies. The natives of Madagascar also believed in the existence of phantoms and ghosts. To protect themselves, their friends, and property from the power of Satan, they, at stated times, with javelins in hand, danced, to the beat of drum, to drive away evil spirits.
The Floridans worshipped the devil in various ways. In the Caribbee Islands the inhabitants had a great variety of omens and superstitions. They thought bats were supernatural creatures, whose duty it was to watch over mortal man during night. These people consulted relics of deceased friends as to things past and future. The Boias, the native medico-priests, had each his particular genii, whom he pretended to summon to his assistance by humming certain words and burning tobacco. These genii were conjured in the night time, at a place without fire or light. The Boias were reported to have possessed the power of killing enemies by means of charms. The Caribbees ascribed diseases to Maboia; and whenever they were desirous of knowing the result of any illness with which they were afflicted, they presented an offering to Maboia, and sent for a Boia in the night, who, on his arrival, ordered the fires to be extinguished. In presence of the patient, he smoked a quantity of tobacco, rubbed another portion of the weed into powder, and blew it up in the air. From certain appearances the priest discovered the cause of the disease, and ascertained what would be the result thereof. If the patient was to die, the priest gave his assurance that the spirits would receive the dying individual into their blessed abode.
The Brazilians had domestic gods, which they consulted; and their priests were fortune-tellers and interpreters of dreams. After a friend died, the relations carried provisions to the grave every day for a short time, under the impression that the nourishment brought would prevent the deceased's spirit from dying.
The Peruvians had a tradition that a man of extraordinary form and character, whose name was Choun, came from the north into their country; that he levelled mountains, filled up valleys, and opened passages for himself through places inaccessible to ordinary man. It is related that this being having been offended by the inhabitants of the plains, changed part of the ground which was fruitful into a sandy desert, forbade the rain to fall, and dried up the plants. Subsequently he had compassion on the erring people, and opened the springs, so that the rivers once more flowed. Choun was worshipped till the appearance of a more mighty god called Pachacamac, who, on his coming, metamorphosed into wild beasts the former inhabitants that had done homage to Choun. The people had superstitious opinions concerning comets and rainbows. They drew predictions from dreams, from signs on earth, and from appearances in the heavens.
In olden times there was a system of devil worship among the American Indians; and almost everywhere, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, demons made themselves seen and felt in nearly every part of the earth. In France, Satan had his witches, imps, and other inferior demons, who carried out his wicked purposes. At Lyons the devil appeared in the shape of a little woman, and, by cunning stratagem, led many persons into serious crimes. In the year 1612 the evil one, in the appearance of a beautiful woman, allured some Paris gentlemen into paths of sin. As a good deal of scandal was the result, the justices and physicians of the city commenced an inquiry, which ended in it being discovered that the apparently beautiful lady was the evil spirit of a woman that had been hanged shortly before. Great excitement prevailed at St. Steven's Church, Mascon, through the devil opening graves, raising the dead, and destroying the vintage.
The Greeks and Romans affirmed that, after the dissolution of the body, every man possessed three different kinds of ghosts or spirits, distinguished by the names of Manes, Anima, and Umbra. The Manes, it was supposed, descended into the infernal regions, the Anima ascended to the skies, and Umbra hovered about the tomb, seemingly unwilling to depart from the body.
Belief in the Existence of Visible Ghosts—Superstition among the People dwelling on the Baltic Shores—A German Legend—Demons in the West of Europe—Love, how plighted in Orkney—The Monster Ymor—Origin of Fairies—The Duergar or Dwarfs—More about Fairies—Brownies in Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland—Nine Classes of Evil Spirits—Vampires—Man's Double or Fetch—Churchyard Ghosts—Souls of Suicides—Burial of Suicides and Murderers at Cross Roads—Luther on Evil Spirits and Witches.
A belief in the existence of visible ghosts on earth was general before and after the middle ages. An old divine of our own country says:—"I look upon it as a special piece of providence, that there are, ever and anon, such fresh examples of apparitions and witchcraft as may rub up and awaken their" [the people's] "benumbed and lethargic minds into a suspicion at least, if not assurance, that there are other intelligent beings besides those clothed in heavy earth or clay. In this, I say, methinks the divine providence does plainly interest the powers of the dark kingdom, permitting wicked men and women, and vagrant spirits of that kingdom, to make leagues or covenants one with another, and to make the confession of witches against their own lives, and the miraculous feats they play, palpable evidence that there are bad spirits" as well as good.
An author, who wrote on second sight, last century, under the name of Theophilus Insulanus, considered all persons were irreligious who entertained a doubt of the reality of apparitions of departed souls.
Another author thought ghosts were mere aerial beings without substance that could pass through walls and other solid bodies at pleasure. Ghosts commonly appeared in the same dress as the persons whose spirits they represented were accustomed to wear when alive, though the ghosts were sometimes clothed in white. The appearance of spirits was generally accompanied by an unaccountable light. Dogs and horses possess the faculty of seeing ghosts.
People living on the Baltic shores have a deity named Putseet, whom they encourage to remain with them, by placing in their barns, every night, tables with bread, butter, cheese, and ale thereon. If the provisions are taken away, good fortune is expected; if left untouched, bad luck is looked for. This spirit assists in thrashing, churning, grinding, and sweeping the house at midnight.
The Northern nations regard spirits of this description as the souls of men who gave themselves up, during life, to illicit pleasures, and therefore were doomed, as a punishment, to wander about the earth for a limited time, to assist mankind.
There is a legend in Germany of an extraordinary nature. Travellers were shown a pair of brass gates, one of which had a crack, caused by the following circumstance:—When a supreme monarch had given orders for the building of a church, the devil came one day and asked what he intended it for, to which the Emperor answered, "For a gaming-house," and Satan went away seemingly well pleased. A few days afterwards the fiend returned, and seeing altars erected, asked what they were for. The Emperor answered, "For gaming-tables," which encouraged the devil to lend his assistance in the completion of the sacred building. Next time Satan made his appearance he brought a pair of large brass gates for the edifice, but happening to see a crucifix, he flung them down with such force that one of the gates was damaged. For many years the gates were objects of curiosity.
In the west of Europe, where superstition prevailed, there were many formidable demons, whose history originated in Celtic, Teutonic, and Eastern fables. In Orkney, even during the last century, lovers met within the sacred circle of stones dedicated to Scandinavian deities, to plight their love. Through a hole in one of the pillars the hands of contracting parties were joined, and the vow made was called the promise of Odin. To violate this vow, rendered the false one infamous in all time coming.
In the body of the giant Ymir several maggots had been generated, which, by order of the gods, partook of both human shape and reason. These little beings, to which reference is also made in pages 88 and 90, possessed the most delicate figures, and always dwelt in subterranean caverns or clefts in the rocks. They were remarkable for their riches, activity, and malevolence, and were probably the modern fairies of the north and west, who are usually described as beings of small stature, and gaily dressed. These creatures, the offspring of worms, possessed the power of making themselves visible and invisible. They multiplied their species, and lived in a style of grandeur that could not be surpassed by the greatest monarch on earth. They were good friends to certain members of the human family, but bitter enemies to others of Adam's posterity. With their elf arrows they could kill or wound man and beast. They carried off children and domestic animals, generally leaving vile creatures resembling the children or animals carried away, so as to prevent the felony being discovered.
Opinions originally entertained in this country relative to the dwarfs have undergone considerable modifications, from the same attributes being assigned to them as to the Persian peris. Fairies were supposed to have brought many blessings to England, sending people pleasant dreams, giving money to them in a mysterious manner, and causing the nation to prosper. In remote times a brownie was attached to the home of every considerable family in Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. Like men, some brownies were tall, and some of small stature. They were industrious and faithful, if well treated in the way the Samogitae did the Putseet. When a brownie once united himself to a family, he seldom deserted it, but continued to serve generation after generation. Burton speaks of nine classes of evil spirits:—First, the false gods of the Gentiles, adored as idols, who gave oracles at Delphos and elsewhere, whose prince was Beelzebub; second, the liars and equivocators, as Apollo, Pythias, and the like; third, the inventors of mischief, as Theutus, in Plato; fourth, malicious, revengeful devils, whose prince was Asmodeus; fifth, coseners, such as belong to magicians and witches, their prince being Satan; sixth, aerial spirits, that corrupted the air, and caused plagues, thunder, fires, and other calamities; seventh, a destroyer, causing wars, tumults, and combustions; eighth, an accusing or calumniating devil, that drove people to despair; and the ninth, tempters in divers shapes, having mammon for their prince. Burton goes further. He asserts that "no place is void, but all full of spirits, devils, or other inhabitants; not so much as a hairbreadth is empty in heaven, earth, or waters above or under the earth. The earth is not so full of flies in summer as it is at all times of invisible devils."
Psellus founded a system of demonology, which had for its basis the natural history and habitation of demons. His first class consisted of fiery devils, that wandered in the regions near the moon, but were prevented from entering that luminary. They displayed their power in blazing stars, in counterfeit suns, moons, and meteoric lights, and prevented foul weather. These demons, we are informed, occasionally resided in the furnaces of Hecla, Etna, or Vesuvius. His second class was made up of aerial devils, that inhabited the atmosphere, caused tempests, thunder, and lightning, rended asunder trees, burned down steeples and houses, struck men and beasts, showered stones, wool, and frogs from the skies; counterfeited in the clouds the battles of armies, raised whirlwinds, fires, and corrupted the air so as to spread disease. The third class was terrestrial devils, such as lares, genii, fauns, satyrs, wood-nymphs, foliots, robin-goodfellows, or trulli. The fourth class was aqueous devils, as the various descriptions of water nymphs. The fifth class consisted of subterranean devils, known by the name of Getuli or Cobals. They preserved treasure in the earth, and prevented it being suddenly revealed; they were also the cause of horrible earthquakes. Psellus's sixth class of devils was named lucifugi. They delighted in darkness, entered into the bowels of men, and tormented those whom they possessed with frenzy and the falling sickness. An opinion prevailed that devils possessed corporeal frames, capable of sensation; that they could feel and be felt; that they could injure and be hurt; that they were nourished with peculiar food; that they did not hurt cattle from malevolence, but through a desire to obtain natural temperate heat and moisture from the animals they killed; that they disliked the sun's rays; and that they attained a great age.
Of all the kinds of demons we have heard of, the most loathsome are the vampires. Horst speaks of a vampire as a "dead body which continues to live in the grave, which it leaves, however, by night for the purpose of sucking the blood of the living, whereby it is nourished and preserved in good condition, instead of becoming decomposed like other dead bodies." Fischer, who believed there were vampires, informs us that the bite of a vampire left no mark upon the person, but that the bite speedily proved fatal, unless counteracted by the injured person eating some of the earth from the vampire's grave, and smearing himself with his blood. These precautions had only a temporary effect, if at all successful; for the bitten victim, sooner or later, became a vampire himself—died and was buried, but continued to follow the examples of old vampires in nourishing themselves, infecting others, and propagating vampirism.
Down to the middle of the last century there was a belief in vampirism in the east of Europe. This form of superstition created much anxiety in the public mind, none knowing when he might be bitten by one of those hated demons, and be thereby transformed into a vampire. Men of science bore testimony in favour of vampirism with seeming truthfulness and ability, worthy of a better subject.
In England every man was supposed to have his "double" or "fetch." The appearance of a fetch created great uneasiness in the mind of the person witnessing the apparition. It was taken as foreboding death or serious calamity to the being represented.
There were also churchyard ghosts in England, whose duty it was to watch bodies over which church rites had not been performed after violent death. In Scotland and England there were peculiar superstitious views concerning the souls of suicides. Authoritative decrees prohibited graveyard gates being opened to permit the bodies of such persons being carried through them for interment. If relations persisted in depositing the remains of a friend who had committed suicide, it was necessary for them to take the dead body over the graveyard wall after sunset. But in most cases the bodies of suicides and murderers were buried at a "cross road," with a stake driven through the corpse, to prevent its ghost rising to frighten or harm innocent people.
The precaution of driving a stake through the body did not always prove effectual, if countless tales related of ghosts being seen in the vicinity of such unhallowed burying-grounds be true. Surprise need not be expressed at such superstition prevailing in a country where faith in witchcraft still lingers, and in which, at no very remote time, the statutes against witches were in full force. The State and the Church believed in the existence of demons and witches.
Luther's opinions on the subject of the agency and operations of evil spirits may be inferred from his Colloquia. "Many devils," he says, "are in woods, in waters, in wildernesses, and in dark poolly places, ready to hurt and prejudice people; some are in the thick black clouds, which cause hail, lightnings, and thunderings, and which poison the air, the pastures, and grounds."
In a conversation on witchcraft, Luther said he had no compassion on witches: he would burn every one of them. He reminded the people, that, according to the old law, the priests threw the first stones at such malefactors. Luther said his mother had undergone infinite annoyance from one of her neighbours who was a witch. This witch could throw a charm upon a child, which would make it cry itself to death. A pastor having punished the witch for some of her wicked tricks, she cast a spell on him by means of some earth he had walked upon. The good man fell sick of a malady, which no remedy could remove, and shortly thereafter died. Luther was satisfied the devil, through his prophets, could, and did, foretell future events; that he (the devil) was so skilled that he could cause death even by the leaf of a tree; that he had more boxes and pots full of poison, wherewith he destroyed men, than all the apothecaries in the world had of healing medicine. The devil, Luther thought, was so crafty that he could deceive our senses. He caused one to think he saw something he saw not, and to hear thunder or a trumpet he heard not. Men, he argued, were possessed by the devil, corporeally and spiritually. Those whom he possessed corporeally were mad people.
Belief and Teaching of the Roman Catholic Church—Instructions to Ecclesiastics in reference to Demons—Swedenborg's Intercourse with Spirits—Marcus Brutus and his Evil Genius—Cassius and Julius Caesar's Ghost at Philippi—Phantom Soldiers and Horses—Plutarch on Spectres—Socrates on the same subject—Archbishop Bruno and the Spectre—A Haunted House—A Child's Ghost—Spectre at Sea—Ghost of a Murdered Man in New South Wales—A Haunted House—A Spectre at Sea.
The belief and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church lead to a conviction that there are many evil spirits who act on men immediately by forming in the imagination representations and phantasies of an evil nature. The subjects of Satan, on whom his tyranny is chiefly exercised, are those who wilfully come under the empire of the prince of darkness, such as magicians, sorcerers, and persons who have renounced their baptism.
In a summary of instructions for the guidance of ecclesiastics, entitled De Instructione Sacerdotum, which appeared about the middle of the seventeenth century, we find in substance the following:—
"Magic is produced by the power of demons. In reality there is no power existing in the magician, for the effects are produced by the devil at the command of the magician. In the first place, demons produce effects by transferring bodies with great rapidity from one place to another. For they have power over all inferior things, natural and artificial, in this respect; and, moreover, they are endowed with wonderful agility, which enables them to pass in an instant from one place to another, however remote. Secondly, demons produce effects by the occult application of natural causes, and by accelerating their actions, for their knowledge is incredible. They understand the nature and properties of everything in the mineral, vegetable, and animal worlds, and they know where everything is. Hence they sometimes produce trees, fruits, and animals in an incredibly short space of time. They often effect cures by the occult use of medicines, or by entering the body and expelling evil humours. Thirdly, they perform prodigies by acting on the senses. The compacts between the demons and magicians are based upon engagements mutually entered into. The magician promises to obey the demon, and the demon, on his part, promises to work for him and at his bidding. The compact is sometimes entered into with great solemnity, with the demon seated on a throne, surrounded by a host of evil spirits, as attendants and witnesses."
Swedenborg entertained the conviction that the world of spirits held communion with certain favoured persons in this life; and up to the period of his death, in the year 1772, he pretended to have intercourse with spirits of celestial origin and those of deceased men. Swedenborg frequently narrated the wonders of other worlds, and particularly those of the infernal regions.
There are endless accounts of spirits appearing to men on earth. Here are a few of them:—Marcus Brutus, one of the murderers of Julius Caesar, being one night in his tent, saw a monstrous figure coming in about the third hour of night. Brutus immediately cried out, "What art thou, a man or a god? and why art thou come hither?" The spectre answered, "I am thy evil genius; thou shalt see me at Philippi." Brutus, with feigned calmness, answered, "I will meet thee there." Disordered, however, in body, and disturbed in mind, Brutus related the affair to Cassius, who, being of the sect of Epicurus, told Brutus that what he supposed he saw was nothing more than mere fancy; that there were no such things as genii or other spirits which could appear to man; that even if they should appear, they could not assume a human shape or voice, and had no power over men. Though Brutus was somewhat encouraged by what Cassius said, he could not entirely overcome his uneasiness. In the midst of the battle of Philippi, Brutus thought he saw Julius Caesar, whom he had assassinated, riding to him at full speed, which so terrified him that he fell upon his own sword. Cassius also fell there under the hand of his freedman Pindarus.
Pausanius writes that, four hundred years after the battle of Marathon, there were heard, in the place where it was fought, the neighing of horses, and the shouts of soldiers animating one another to the fight. Plutarch also speaks of spectres seen and dreadful howlings heard in the public baths, where several citizens of Ch[oe]ronea, his native town, had been murdered. He says that the inhabitants had been obliged to shut up these baths, but that, notwithstanding this precaution, great noises continued to be heard, and dreadful spectres were frequently seen by the neighbours. Plutarch frequently makes mention of spectres and apparitions; particularly he says, that, in the famous battle above alluded to, several soldiers saw the apparition of Theseus fighting for the Greeks and against the Persians.
It is recorded in Socrates, that after the defeat of the Athenian army under the praetor Laches, as he was flying in company with the Athenian general, and came to a place where several roads met, he refused to go the same road that the others took, and the reason being asked him, he answered that his genius, or familiar spirit, who frequently attended him, dissuaded him from it; and the event justified the precaution, for all those who went a different way from him were killed or made prisoners by the enemy's cavalry.
When Bruno, Archbishop of Wirtzburgh, a short time before his sudden death, was sailing with Henry III., he descried a terrific spectre standing upon a rock which overhung the foaming waters, by whom he was thus hailed; "Ho! bishop, I am thy evil genius. Go whither thou choosest, thou art and shalt be mine. I am not now sent for thee, but soon thou shalt see me again."
A house at Athens was haunted by a spirit which roamed through the apartments at night, seemingly dragging a heavy chain after it. Athenodorus, the philosopher, hired the house, with the intention of discovering the cause of so much alarm to the inmates. One night, while pursuing his studies, he was startled by hearing what seemed to be the rattling of chains. On looking up he beheld a spectre enter his apartment and make a sign to him to follow. The philosopher rose and followed the ghost, which went into the courtyard and disappeared. The philosopher marked the spot where the spectre vanished, and on the following day caused a search to be made. The result was that the skeleton of a man in chains was discovered. The bones were publicly burned, and the ghost never again appeared.
A lady, while going along a dreary path one evening to see a sick child, was frightened by a strange sight before her. The mysterious object represented her friend's child dead, and wrapt in its winding sheet, floating up in the air heavenwards. It is almost needless to say that just about that time the sick child died.
Many years ago, when a ship of war was one night off the African coast, the officer on watch became deeply affected in a manner he could not explain, and became partially insensible, and could not rouse himself before a cold hand touched him. He then beheld a white figure walking away. It turned round, and in the face he beheld the features of a brother in England. The spectre, after remaining a few seconds, vanished. On arriving in Great Britain, the officer discovered that his brother died on the very night he saw the apparition.
A ghost story was related for the first time about twenty years ago, of the ghost of a murdered man appearing in the colony of New South Wales. A farmer named Fisher, in the prime of life and unmarried, suddenly disappeared, leaving L4000 worth of property behind him. A neighbour called Smith reported that Fisher had gone to England, and that he was authorized to act for him in all business matters during his absence. The statement was received as a fact; but a strange circumstance changed public opinion. An old man named Ben Weir, who had a small farm near that of Fisher, was returning home one night from Sydney, when he beheld farmer Fisher with a severe wound on the forehead, and blood flowing from it. When Weir got within a few paces of the figure, it disappeared. He could not rightly comprehend the meaning of all this, and did not mention what he had seen, lest his neighbours would say he had been drunk. A few nights afterwards he had occasion to pass the spot where Fisher had appeared, and there again the farmer stood before him as before. Weir could not now remain silent. He went to a justice of the peace and told his tale. At first the justice would not credit his informant, but subsequently he instructed an inquiry to be made. Marks of blood were discovered at the spot where the ghost appeared, and in a pond, a little distance off, Fisher's dead body was found. Smith was consequently arrested, and tried before the late Sir Francis Forbes. His guilt was established, and he was sentenced to death. Before his execution he confessed that he alone had murdered Fisher at the very spot where Weir saw the murdered man's ghost.
An account is given of a house that was haunted at Bow last century. A young girl declared one morning that a cold hand had been laid on her about midnight. This proved to be the hand of death. She sickened, and before many suns went down she lay in her winding sheet. Then followed a series of strange annoyances, which gave rise to the report that the house was haunted. So dreadfully were the inmates frightened, that though the house contained many apartments upstairs and downstairs, they took refuge in a small room on the ground floor. Night and day strange noises were heard, and furniture and other articles were flung about by unseen hands. A gentleman, a friend of the family, hearing of what was going on, engaged to solve the mystery. Entering an apartment upstairs, he observed the furniture moving about the floor, although no living being could be seen. Stones and bricks were thrown through the window; a staff danced round the room; dishes were thrown at his head. He examined every hole and corner, but could not discover any person or thing by which the articles were made to move. Fearing the presence of evil spirits, he hastened out, closing the door after him. It was instantly opened, and chairs, stools, candlesticks, and dishes were hurled after him. The worst had not come. While all the family were standing in amazement, a small boiler with hot water moved from one side of the grate to the other, the poker and tongs stood up and exchanged places, the pots and pans clattered loudly, and a small table was lifted into the air. A witch residing in the neighbourhood being suspected of causing the mischief, a noted wizard undertook to solve the mystery. He ordered the dancing staff to be burned. When it was blazing up, a suspected witch entered in great agony. She asked for a drink of water to quench her burning thirst. Those cognisant of the facts concluded that the perpetrator of the mischief was discovered. She was apprehended, tried, and acquitted for want of sufficient evidence. As she left the court she was heard to mutter, "I shall be revenged." She kept her word. The following night, the annoyance, which had ceased during her incarceration, recommenced with double fury. The inmates of the house, who had previously escaped without bodily injury, were struck by invisible persons, who, as often as they dealt their blows, shouted, "Take that;" while at the same time the furniture was knocked against the walls and broken to pieces. The inmates fled for their lives, and the house was shut up for many years, none daring to occupy the haunted house.
A young man at sea was alarmed, one night, to see an apparition of his mother standing before him. She delivered a message concerning family business. So frightened was he that he could not reply or put any questions to the spirit, although he earnestly desired to speak. After delivering the message, the apparition slowly retired, went over the ship's bulwarks, dropped gently into the sea, and floated away. The last glimpse he had of the unearthly figure was on the crest of a wave near the vessel's stern. On his return home he learned that his mother had died at the time he had seen her ghost. What was more strange, she left a message for him similar to that which the apparition delivered. On his next voyage the young man told his companions that on the previous night he had seen his mother floating in the water like a mermaid, and that she had made a sign for him to come to her. Next night a storm arose; the ship was in great danger, the decks were swept, and the young man was washed away. His last words were, "Mother, I come."
Spiritualism Past and Present—Coffee-house Keeper—Magic taught in Leipsic—Intercourse with and Control over Spirits—Spirit of Marshal Saxe called up—How Spirits were Invoked—Voices of Good and Evil Spirits—A Terrified Company—Mysterious Death of a Magician—Unearthly Huntsman—Prediction and its Fulfilment—An Estate lost at the Gaming Table—A Baron Shot—A Marriage prevented by an Apparition—Strange Sights and Sounds—Murder—Consulting a Witch—Raising the Spirit of a Murdered Man—A Murderer's Fate.
Writers generally supposed to be well informed have said that spiritualism is a system of professed communication with the unseen world, which originated in America about the year 1848. Others have endeavoured to trace the origin of spiritualism to the writings of Swedenborg. Both parties are in error. Long before Swedenborg's time, and anterior to Columbus discovering America, spiritualism in various forms was believed in in Scotland, England, Ireland, all over Europe, and elsewhere. Reginald Scot, in the year 1584, wrote against witchcraft and demonology; but so general was the belief in spiritualism, and so abhorrent were the opinions of Scot, that his book was ordered to be burned by the common hangman. Let those who claim for America the discovery of spiritualism, real or feigned, read 1 Samuel., and they will perceive how much they have been deceived. We may return to spiritualism as looked upon in the present time; meanwhile we shall continue our own course, proving, step by step, the former belief in spiritualism, or what we prefer to call demonology.
A coffee-house keeper in Leipsic, named Schrepfer, studied and taught magic as an art. He boasted of his intercourse with and control over spirits, whose presence, he alleged, could be commanded at any time. Owing to a degrading insult offered him, he left Leipsic, none knew whither, but after a lapse of time he appeared at Dresden, where his magical skill attracted many followers. His reputation reached Prince Charles of Saxony, who had been instrumental in causing the magician to depart from Leipsic; he visited Schrepfer, apologised for what he had done, and requested him to give manifestations of his supernatural art. He accepted the apologies, and exhibited many difficult operations in the science of magic. The prince requested Schrepfer, who had the power of calling before him the ghost of any one, however long dead, to bring up the ghost of Marshal Saxe, Charles's uncle, in the hope that information would be obtained regarding a vast amount of hidden treasure the deceased was supposed to have concealed from his relatives. This was a few years after the Chevalier de Saxe died, yet the magician readily agreed to comply with the request. The place chosen for commanding the spirit to appear was Prince Charles's palace in Dresden. On the appointed night, the prince and a large company of friends assembled in the apartment named for the purpose. Everything being in readiness, the door and windows were secured, that none possessed of mere human strength could effect an entrance. Schrepfer retired into a corner of the room, knelt down, and, with many mysterious ceremonies, invoked the spirits to come to his aid. A considerable time elapsed before they obeyed. While waiting he was under great agitation, being wet with sweat, and bordering on convulsions. At length a loud noise was heard at the windows, followed by other noises of a peculiar description, not easily described. The second sounds Schrepfer announced as the voices of good spirits come to help him. A short time afterwards frightful yelling was heard, which came, he declared, from malignant spirits, whose presence, he affirmed, was also essential. By this time the prince and his friends were filled with horror, wishing that the scene was over; but their courage had to stand more severe tests. Schrepfer continuing his invocations, the door suddenly opened with violence, and something resembling a black globe rolled into the room. It was surrounded with smoke or cloud, in the midst of which appeared to be a human face like the countenance of the Chevalier de Saxe. In a loud and angry voice the form inquired why it was disturbed. Great consternation prevailed among the spectators at such a sight. Charles did not venture to say a word concerning the concealed treasure, neither did his uncle's ghost. Kneeling down, the terrified prince besought the magician to dismiss the apparition, a request easier asked than could be complied with. Nearly an hour elapsed before Schrepfer, by his invocations, succeeded in dismissing the spirit. Just at the moment all thought that it had vanished, the closed door was again burst open, and the hideous form presented itself again to view. General terror prevailed, every one thinking he was about to be snatched away to the place of everlasting torment. None but the magician remained firm. He continued reiterating exorcisms until the apparition finally disappeared. The spectators dispersed, filled with amazement, and satisfied of Schrepfer's supernatural powers. Schrepfer's fame became great: gentlemen resorted to his night meeting to be initiated in his mysteries. For this purpose they accompanied him into a grove near Leipsic; and one night, when he was about to exhibit something more wonderful than his followers had ever seen, his earthly career suddenly terminated. While his disciples waited in great expectation, he retired to a quiet spot to make the requisite invocations. In a few minutes the report of a pistol resounded through the forest; his admirers rushed to the spot, and found him shot through the heart. A few thought he had shot himself; the more superstitious ones however, came to the conclusion that the deed was done by the devil. Whether the unfortunate magician terminated his existence by his own hand remains doubtful, but one thing the most of old people believed—that, having sold himself to the evil spirit, his time was come to go down to the dark abode; and such being the case, it mattered little by what instrument the deed was perpetrated. The demon sent to call Schrepfer hence might have fired the shot, or caused the magician to be his own executioner; yea, the foul fiend could have caused an elf shot or the glance of an evil eye to effect the fatal catastrophe.
Ludovicus Adolisius, lord of Immola, sent one of his secretaries on important business to Ferrara. On the way the secretary met one on horseback, dressed like a huntsman, with a hawk upon his fist, who addressed him by name, and desired him to request his master to meet him (the huntsman) at the place they then were, at the same hour next day, when he would discover things of no mean importance, which concerned his master and his estate. In the apparent huntsman the secretary discovered the apparition of his master's father. The secretary returned and delivered the important message to his lord. His lordship being afraid that evil was intended, sent one of his subordinates to meet the apparition. At the time and place appointed, the spirit appeared in the likeness it had done the previous day. It lamented the son's absence, on account of the strange revelations that would have been made had he come himself. "Return to your master," said the apparition, "and tell him that in twenty-two years, one month, and one day, he will lose the governorship of the city." Like a small cloud the spirit vanished. At the very time predicted, Philip, Duke of Milan, besieged the city, and the water being frozen, he was enabled to pass the moat, and having scaled the walls, surprised the city, and took Ludovicus prisoner.
An Italian of mean birth, named Carlo Stella, ingratiated himself into the good favour of Baron Cattaneo, a nobleman, who unfortunately was over fond of wine and the gaming-table. The former induced the latter to play for no less a stake than the baron's whole estates. The unlucky nobleman lost, and in the moment of excitement made over all his property to the wicked Stella. Next day the baron, remembering what had taken place, went to Stella, and expressed the hope that the conveyance he had given the previous day would be returned. Stella told him that he could not give up the document, for he had destroyed it, looking on the whole proceeding as a farce. A few days afterwards the baron was found shot through the brain, and then Stella produced the document which he pretended had been destroyed. In virtue of the conveyance, the holder of it came into possession of a large sum of money and many acres of land, together with two noble castles, pleasantly situated. Being thus raised into an elevated position, he sought in marriage a lady of rank. He was accepted, and an early day was fixed for the nuptial ceremony. Bride and bridegroom, priest, and rejoicing friends were assembled at the appointed time in the church, and the service was about to begin, when a man stained with blood entered the sacred building. He looked Stella sternly in the face, and then retired. Every one was horror-stricken, but none appeared so much affected as the bridegroom. He fainted, and had to be carried out without the marriage taking place. Next day he seemed better, and arrangements were entered into for having the pair (we cannot say happy pair) united in wedlock in the evening. As formerly, all were assembled, and the priest was about to begin the ceremony, when the lights went out, leaving the company standing in consternation. A dark cloud, which had obscured the moon, passed away, and then her pale rays partially lighted up the edifice. At this instant the bloody figure appeared, walked forward to Stella, whispered in his ear, and then vanished. So disconcerted were all parties that the marriage was again delayed, and ultimately it was resolved, on the part of the lady and her father, that the engagement should be broken off. Stella became troubled, sleep forsook him, horrid sounds reached his ears in the night, and the bloody apparition that had frightened him in the church frequently appeared to his sight. The cause of the strange sights and sounds was known to himself; those around were ignorant whence they proceeded. All may be explained in a few words. Stella had murdered the baron, and the bloody figure was his ghost. Disappointed and humbled, Stella resolved to consult a noted witch, of whom he had heard much. Arriving at her cottage, he handed her a purse of gold, and promised her a greater reward if she would send to the lower world the spirit that disturbed him. The old hag complied, received the money, counted it, spat on it, put it into a weasel-skin purse, and then into her pocket. With much ceremony she put a powder into the fire, which caused a blue flame to arise. In its midst the living form of the murdered baron appeared. The witch tried to reduce the spirit to her power, but the task proved a difficult one, for more than once it was nigh breaking through the circle she had formed. At last her magic charms prevailed, and the spirit descended into the bowels of the earth, exclaiming, "Murderer, we shall soon meet again." Stella's mind was greatly disturbed; he drank deep to drown his care, but peace was far from him. In company he was the gayest of the gay, but when alone in the still hours of night he would groan and start in his sleep, as if endeavouring to escape from some one. Already he seemed to be enduring the torments of internal fire. Drink, drink, more drink, he would call for, and then, mounting his horse, would ride ten or twelve miles without knowing whither he was going. One day he rode farther than usual, all the time his horse going at full speed, while now and again he looked behind him as if pursued. Several people, who witnessed Stella's mad career, feared that evil would happen him before he went much farther. Their fears were not groundless, for before him, where the road took a sharp turn, was a bridge that spanned a deep flowing river; and unless the animal was carefully guided, there was danger of him plunging into the water instead of taking the bridge. Nearer and nearer he approached the dangerous spot, swifter and swifter the horse went, urged on by the spurs that pierced its sides. Excited and more excited the rider became. Both man and beast appeared to be doomed; and so it proved. Over the fence they went, and in a few minutes Stella's body was carried over a fall into a deep boiling pool, out of which it could never be recovered.
Antonio the Rich—Soul sold to the Devil—Dreadful Announcement from a Volcano's Mouth—Three Ghosts—A Thrilling Story—Human Remains found behind a Stove—Mozart apprehensive of Death—A Strange Visitor—Mozart writing a Requiem for himself—The Stranger's Return—Messenger from another World—Mozart's Death—Ghost of a Lady—The White Lady—A Haunted House—Terrified Servants—Iron Cage—Youth starved to Death—Frightful Dreams and Dreadful Sights—Dog frightened by a Spirit—Ghost sinking into the Earth—Deserting a Disturbed House—Duchess of Mazarin—Madam de Beauclair—Compact between the Living and the Dead—A Lady's Death foretold by a Spirit—The Prediction fulfilled.
In the reign of Henry VIII., Mr. Gresham, a London merchant, coming home from Palermo (wherein resided one Antonio, generally called the Rich, who at one time had two kingdoms mortgaged to him), heard a strange voice that filled him with alarm. Antonio had accumulated a vast amount of riches, in ways not altogether in accordance with the eighth commandment. His money was given in loan at shamefully high rates of interest, and both principal and interest were often recovered by oppression. In fact, gold seemed to be his god: for it he appeared to live; for it, his poor neighbours asserted, he had sold his soul to the devil. Mr. Gresham being detained at Strombuli by contrary winds, he, with eight sailors, ascended a burning mountain there. Approaching the crater as near is they could with safety, they heard a hideous noise proceeding from the volcano's mouth, and a voice crying aloud "Dispatch, dispatch, haste, the rich Antonio is coming!" Terrified, the company hastened down the mountain, which, before they reached the level country, vomited out fire. At Palermo Mr. Gresham inquired for Antonio, and was informed that he died at the very time the voice proclaimed from the scorching flames, "Antonio is coming." Mr. Gresham, on his return to England, reported the strange circumstances to the king, who had the facts confirmed by the mariners' oaths. So deeply was Mr. Gresham impressed with what he had heard, that he abandoned commerce, distributed nearly all his riches among his friends and the poor, and spent the remainder of his days in pious works.
A learned professor of moral philosophy in Koenigsberg, when a young man, was presented by William I. of Prussia with a small benefice in the interior of the country, at a considerable distance from Koenigsberg. On taking possession of the parsonage, he slept in the bedroom which had been occupied by his predecessor, then dead. While lying awake in bed one morning, the curtains of his bed being drawn aside, he beheld the figure of a man dressed in a loose gown, standing at a reading desk, whereon lay a large book, the leaves of which he appeared to turn over. On each side of the figure stood a little boy, on whom he now and again looked earnestly. His countenance, pale and disconsolate, indicated distress of mind. At length the figure closed the book, and taking the children, one in each hand, he walked slowly with them across the room, and disappeared behind an iron stove at the farthest end of the apartment. The young parson was deeply affected by the sight, but thought it prudent to divulge nothing at the time concerning the apparitions. In nearly all Lutheran churches of the Prussian dominion, it was customary to procure and hang up in some part of the church the portraits of the pastors who had held the living. On looking, soon after seeing the three figures, at the portraits suspended in one of the aisles, he was astonished to discover in the last-placed picture an exact likeness of the man he had beheld in his bed-chamber. The sexton, with whom he entered into conversation, told him that he remembered several incumbents. "The last one," said he, "we considered as one of the most learned and amiable men who had ever resided among us. His character and benevolence endeared him to all his parishioners; but he was carried off in the midst of his days by a lingering illness, the cause of which has given rise to many unpleasant reports. It is, however, commonly believed that he died of a broken heart." The new incumbent's curiosity being excited, he pressed the sexton to disclose what more he knew of the subject. "Nothing respecting it," answered he, "is absolutely known, but scandal has propagated a story of his having formed a criminal connection with a young woman in the neighbourhood, by whom, it is asserted, he had two sons. As confirmation of the report, I know that there were two children who were seen at the parsonage—boys of about four or five years of age; but they suddenly disappeared, some time before the decease of their supposed father, although to what place they were sent, or what became of them, all are ignorant. It is equally certain that the surmises and unfavourable opinions formed respecting them reached his ears, and precipitated the disorder of which he died." This information recalled to the new pastor's mind, and seemed to give proof, of the existence of all that he had seen. Soon after, when winter approached, it became necessary to light fires in various apartments in the parsonage. Some difficulty was experienced in heating the room in which the figures of the man and two boys had appeared, as the stove not only smoked, but emitted an offensive smell. Having procured the assistance of a tradesman to make an inspection, he discovered in the inside, at the farthest extremity, the bones of two small human bodies, corresponding exactly in size, as well as in other respects, with the description of the two boys who had been seen at the parsonage.
Mozart, the celebrated composer, was extremely apprehensive of death, and at all times he laboured under profound melancholy. The circumstances attending the composition of his last piece were remarkable. One day, when his spirits were unusually depressed, a stranger, of a tall dignified appearance, was introduced. His manners were grave and impressive. He told Mozart that he came to request he would compose a solemn mass, as the requiem for the soul of a friend recently lost, and whose memory he was desirous of commemorating by this solemn service. Mozart undertook the task, and engaged to have it completed in a month. The stranger immediately paid a hundred ducats for the piece, and departed. This visit, somehow, had a serious effect on the mind of Mozart. He brooded over it for some time, then, suddenly calling for writing materials, began to compose with extraordinary ardour. Severe application to his studies brought on fainting fits, and failing health compelled him to suspend his work. "I am writing this requiem for myself," said he abruptly; "it will serve for my funeral service." This impression never left him. At the expiration of the month the mysterious stranger appeared, and demanded the requiem. "I have found it impossible," said Mozart, "to keep my word; the work has interested me more than I had expected, besides I have extended it beyond my first design. I shall require another month to finish it." The stranger made no objection, but, observing that for this additional trouble it was but just to increase the price, laid down fifty ducats more, and promised to return at the time appointed. Astonished at the stranger's proceeding, Mozart ordered a servant to follow the singular person, to find out who he was. The servant, however, lost sight of him, and returned unable to communicate the desired information. Mozart, persuaded that the stranger was a messenger from the other world sent to warn him that his end was fast approaching, applied himself with fresh zeal to the requiem, and, in spite of the exhausted state of his body and mind, completed it before the expiration of the month. On the day named the stranger returned, but Mozart was no more.
The ghost of a lady who died in the fifteenth century from the effects of her husband's cruel treatment, long after her decease haunted the castles of the allied families of Brandenburg, Baden, and Darmstadt, and other places far distant. The ghost was generally called "the White Lady," in consequence of it appearing in white dress and in the veil, through the folds of which a faint light glimmered. She glided hither and thither along the corridors and apartments of castles and palaces. Her appearance gave certain indication that a member of the family at whose residence she showed herself was about to expire. At another part of the country a white lady invariably looked in at the window of a house where a person was dying; and, at a third place, a woman hovered in the air over the abode of one taking leave of earth.
At the commencement of the first French Revolution, Lady Pennyman and her daughters retired to Lisle, where they hired a large house at a small rent. During their residence in this abode, the lady received from her husband, Sir John Pennyman, a draft for a large sum, which she carried to a banker in the town, and requested to have it cashed. She received a considerable portion of the money in silver, and, as she had several calls to make, she requested the banker to send the money in a parcel to her house. The parcel was committed to the care of a porter; and on the lady inquiring whether he understood from her directions the place to which he was to proceed, the man replied that he was perfectly aware of the place described—that it was called the "Haunted House." She paid little attention to his remarks at the time, but a few weeks afterwards his words were recalled to her recollection in a manner that surprised her. The housekeeper came to Lady Pennyman, and said that two of the servants, who had accompanied her ladyship from England, had that morning given warning, and expressed a determination to quit her ladyship's service, on account of being terrified, night after night, by mysterious voices in their apartments. This caused her ladyship, who was a woman of strong nerve and an unbeliever in all that related to ghosts and haunted houses, to sleep in a room evacuated by one of the servants, hoping that, by so doing, her domestics would change their minds and remain. She was greatly surprised to see in the room a large iron cage, and much astonished to hear the legend respecting it. It was related that a late proprietor of the house, a young man of great property, had in his minority been confined in that apartment by an uncle, his guardian, until the privations and divers acts of cruelties he was exposed to ended fatally. Often had the youth been kept for days in the iron cage without food. The unfeeling relative inherited the nephew's wealth, but, like all ill-gotten gear, it did not bring happiness. Frightful dreams and dreadful sights compelled the uncle to leave the mansion, where he had murdered by inches a comely, docile young man, once the comfort of a fond mother and loving father. For a few nights nothing of an alarming nature occurred; she began to hope that confidence would be restored in her household, and that she would be enabled to return in peace to her own proper sleeping apartment. Her expectations were not fulfilled. One night she was awakened by the sound of footsteps in the haunted chamber, generally known as the "cage chamber," while her son, a young man, who had just returned from sea, was annoyed by loud knocking at his bedroom door, and strange figures appearing before him. A friend, hearing of the noises and apparitions, resolved to sleep in the "cage room," that he might ascertain, if possible, who or what it was that disturbed the family. Locking himself and a faithful dog into the "cage chamber," he retired to rest, confident that he was secure against every intruder, whether material or airy. His assurance was of short duration. He had not lain long before his dog leaped into the bed, howling and terrified. The chamber door slowly opened, and a pale, thin, sickly youth came in, walked to the iron cage in the centre of the room, leaned against the iron bars, and, after remaining a short time, retired by the way he entered. The gentleman rose quickly to follow the ghost. On reaching the door, it was fastened on the inside, as he had left it before going to bed. His courage, however, did not fail him, and he continued to watch the retiring figure. The youth descended the stair-case with slow measured steps to the ground floor, when the form sank into the earth. Every one was now convinced that the house was haunted: a panic ensued, which ended in Lady Pennyman and her family abruptly leaving the disturbed habitation.
It is well known that the celebrated Duchess of Mazarin was a favourite of King Charles II., and Madame de Beauclair was a lady admired and beloved by his brother and successor, James II. Between these ladies there was an uncommon friendship. The two beauties were allotted handsome apartments in Stable Yard, St. James's, but, for obvious reasons, they had little conversation with the outer world. It was agreed between the ladies, that she who should be first taken away by death, would return, if possible, and give the survivor an account of what was doing in the other world. This promise was often repeated; and the duchess happening to fall sick, and her life despaired of, Madame de Beauclair reminded her of their agreement. Her Grace replied she might depend upon her performing what she had promised. These last words passed between them not more than an hour before the lady's death. Years passed on, yet not a voice or sign came from the dead. Madame de Beauclair concluded that there was no such thing as existence after death. Probably her mind would have remained unchanged, had not the Duchess of Mazarin at last appeared to her. One evening Madame de Beauclair was sitting alone, when she happened to turn her eyes to a corner of the apartment, and lo! before her stood the form of the departed duchess. The figure moved through the room, approached near the lady, and, looking with great sweetness, said, "Beauclair, between the hours of twelve and one this night you will be with me." Having said this, the spirit vanished. So convinced was Madame de Beauclair, though in excellent health and spirits, that her dissolution was at hand, that she sent for her friends, to whom she gave tokens of friendship, and summoned a clergyman to administer spiritual consolation. All who visited the lady endeavoured to dissuade her from giving way to thoughts which there seemed not the least probability of being verified. "Talk not to me," she said to those who imagined she was labouring under a singular delusion, "with the view of making me believe that my eyes and ears have deceived me: my time is short, and I would not have the small space allowed me to be with you wasted in vain delusion. I know I have seen the Duchess of Mazarin, and am convinced that her words will come true." Twelve o'clock was about to strike, yet, to all appearance, Madame de Beauclair continued in good health. Another attempt, to no purpose, was made to remove all apprehension of early dissolution. The only response that came was, "I am already sick at heart." Her countenance suddenly changed, and before half an hour expired she had entered the world of spirits.
Sir George Villiers' Ghost warning his Son of Danger—Warnings Neglected—Duke of Buckingham Murdered—Apparitions do not lie—Lord Lyttelton and others profaning Christmas—A Troubled Mind—Apparition of a Suicide—Neglected Warning—Deception of Friends—Accusing a Ghost of Falsehood—Approach of the Ominous Hour—Alarm—Lord Lyttelton found Dead at the dreaded time—Death of an old Roman King—Alarming Prodigies—Tales from the Eddas—A Scandinavian Warrior's Ghost—An Icelandic Lady's Ghost—Spectral Appearance—Mysterious Death of a Herdsman—Fear of approaching Calamities—Man beaten to Death by a Ghost—Association of Ghosts—Demon in the shape of a Seal—Apparitions of Drowned Men—Christians not disturbed by Spectres—A Band of Demons thirty strong—Priest exorcising Evil Spirits—Spirits frightened away.
An officer in the king's service at Windsor Castle, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, when a boy, was taken much notice of by Sir George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham's father. The officer, after he had reached manhood, was lying in bed one night, awake and in good health, when he perceived a venerable form draw near his bed. The apparition (for so it turned out to be) asked him if he knew who he was. The frightened gentleman told the apparition that the figure of the deceased Sir George Villiers stood before him. The apparition replied that he was right, and that he (the gentleman) must go and acquaint Sir George's son, that unless he ingratiated himself into the good opinion of the people, he would soon be cut off. Next morning the gentleman began to think his senses had deceived him, and therefore he did not deliver the message. Next night the apparition appeared in a terrible aspect, and told him that, unless he complied with his commands, he could not expect peace of mind. A promise to obey was promptly made. Again the gentleman tried to persuade himself that he had been dreaming, and a second time broke his word. A third night the spectre appeared, reproaching him with breach of promise, and, after again requesting him to deliver the message to the duke, uttered threats of fearful punishment in case of non-compliance. Delay seemed dangerous, so the gentleman hastened to London, where the Court then was, and entrusted Sir Ralph Freeman, who was married to a lady nearly allied to the duke, with the message. Sir Ralph communicated with the duke, who, however, could not receive the messenger, but sent him word that next day he was going to hunt with the king, and that he would meet him at Lambeth Bridge at five o'clock in the morning, where, if the gentleman attended, he would speak to him. Sir Ralph, being satisfied of the importance of having the message correctly delivered, accompanied the gentleman to the appointed place of meeting. The messenger and the duke spoke privately for nearly an hour. Neither Sir Ralph nor his servants could hear what was said, but they observed that several times the duke laboured under great emotion. The duke rode off to meet the king, and the gentleman and Sir Ralph returned together. The man told Sir Ralph that when he mentioned certain facts to the duke, he swore that he could not have come to the knowledge of them except through the devil, for the particulars he disclosed, as a token of him being sent by his deceased father, were profound secrets. The duke returned from the hunting-field before the morning was past, and retired with his mother to her private apartments for two or three hours. On coming out his countenance was troubled. He received other warnings, which were disregarded. The result may be anticipated. His Grace was stabbed on the 23d August 1628 by John Felton, a discontented lieutenant, at Portsmouth. When the news of the duke's murder was brought to his mother, she received it with grief, but without surprise. She had long foreseen what would happen. "Apparitions," she said, "did not lie."
Lord Lyttelton, in the winter of 1778, left the metropolis with a party of loose and dissipated companions to profane the Christmas by riotous debaucheries, at his country house, near Epsom. They had not long abandoned themselves to their desperate orgies, before a sudden gloom came over the party by their host becoming extraordinarily depressed in spirits and dejected of countenance. All his vivacity departed, and he fled from his guests. Urged to make known the cause of his uneasiness, he revealed the secret. He told them, that the previous night, after retiring to bed, and his light extinguished, he heard a noise resembling the fluttering of a bird at his window. Looking to the window, he saw the figure of an unhappy female whom he had betrayed, and who in consequence had committed suicide, standing in the window recess. The form approached the foot of his bed, and, pointing her finger to a dial which stood on the mantel-piece, announced that if he did not take warning and repent, his life and sins would be concluded at the same hour of the third day after the visitation. By a preternatural light in the chamber he observed distinctly everything around him. While the warning spirit was speaking, he saw the time was twelve o'clock. Darkness came, and the apparition disappeared. Lord Lyttelton's companions laughed at his superstitious fears, and endeavoured to convince him that he must have mistaken a dream for a real spiritual visitation. He felt somewhat relieved by what they said, but was not altogether convinced or reassured. The fatal night approached, and, with the connivance of Lord Lyttelton's attendants, the guests put all the clocks in the house an hour and a half too fast. They kept his lordship as lively as possible, but when ten o'clock struck he was silent and depressed; eleven struck, the depression deepened; twelve struck: "Thank God; I am safe!" exclaimed the nobleman: "the ghost was a liar, after all!—some wine—what a fool I was to be cast down by such a circumstance! But," continued he, "it is time for bed; we shall be up early, and out with the hounds to-morrow. By my faith, it is half-past twelve; so good night." He went to his chamber, ignorant that the ominous hour was not yet past. His guests, notwithstanding their avowed unbelief, remained together in fearful dread. They heard the valet descending from his master's room; it was just twelve o'clock. Lord Lyttelton's bell rang violently; the company ran to his apartment, and found the unhappy nobleman lying in bed lifeless, with his countenance terribly convulsed.
Shortly before the death of an old Roman king, several prodigies of an alarming nature appeared. When he first became sick there arose a violent tempest of wind, which blew down the cross from one of the churches. After this followed a terrible earthquake, which shook the whole city. Moreover an old eagle, a domestic of the royal palace, that had lived there many years, took wing the day before the king's sickness began, and flew away no one knew whither; then the bells of the imperial chapel rang thrice of their own accord in the space of twelve hours. Strange apparitions were seen at midnight, some of them hovering in the air, and others of them lurking about the palace court. In particular, a funeral procession, consisting of unearthly beings, was observed one night going along the principal thoroughfare from the palace to the place of sepulchre, where the royal remains were soon afterwards laid.
From the Eddas we learn that when these singular works were written or compiled, a belief must have prevailed of the existence of ghosts, spirits, and demons in various forms. We therefore propose giving a few examples of ghost stories from the Eddas:—After the death of Helge (a Scandinavian warrior), a maid witnessed, in the evening, his ghost, with a numerous train, riding into the cairn where Helge's remains were deposited. The brave damsel inquired whether it was an illusion she saw, to which the ghost replied that it was not. When the maid told Sigrum, Helge's widow, what she had seen, the faithful mourning wife hastened to the cairn, and, on searching it, sure enough there was the shade of her dead husband. It addressed her thus: "Thou, Sigrum, art the cause of Helge lying here, slain by the dew of sorrow. Thou weepest burning tears, maid of the sun-glowing south; but we will drink the precious mead together, though we have lost gladness and lands. Now are the brides closed in the cairns, and the princely maidens laid beside us." Sigrum made a couch in the cairn, and invited the spirit to rest there from all trouble, saying, "Son of the Ylfinga, I will sleep in thy arms as formerly, when my hero lived." To this the ghost replied, "No longer will I say thou art unfaithful, since thou consentest to sleep in the embrace of the dead. And yet thou livest, offspring of kings. Let the pale steed tramp the steeps of the air. In the west must we be, by the bridge Vindhjalen, ere the cock in Walhalla wakes the sons of victory."
Far back in the history of time, the ghost of a lady that died in Iceland, whose deathbed commands were disregarded, returned to punish the living for disregarding her injunctions. The lady's corpse was conveyed to a distant place of sepulchre. As the interment could not take place the first day, the bearers, with their dead burden, reposed in a house over night. At midnight an apparition of the lady glided through the kitchen, and, on the night when the conductors of the funeral returned home, a spectral appearance, resembling a half moon, moved round the mansion in a direction opposite to that of the sun, and continued its revolution until the domestics retired to rest. This apparition appeared every night for a week, and was pronounced by certain wise sages as a presage of pestilence and death. A herdsman at the mansion was, shortly after the lady's death, persecuted by demons, and one morning he was found dead in bed. One Thorer, who himself had predicted that the apparitions were come to give warning of approaching calamities, was the next victim. One evening he was set upon by the shepherd's ghost, and so fearfully beaten that he died in consequence thereof. Evils continued to multiply: Thorer and the herdman's ghost associated themselves together in persecuting the inhabitants, several of whom fell victims to their rage. At times unseen agents upset tables and chairs, flung kitchen utensils about in all directions, and on other occasions a demon in the shape of a seal rose from the earth, to the dismay of a whole household. Thorodd, the master of the family, in crossing a river in a boat, was, along with two of his servants, drowned. Apparitions of the drowned men walked about Thorodd's old residence, but the appearances did not much disturb the people, who were Christians, as they believed that the spectres of such persons as had been favourably received by the goddess Rana were accustomed to show themselves after death. So fast did the demons increase in number that they became a great band of thirty, the exact number of people supposed to have had a period put to their existence by demons. Many fled from the neighbourhood, fearing that, if they remained, they would ere long be dead men, and their spirits infernal demons. Possibly their fears would have been realized, had not a pious priest exorcised the evil spirits. By a plentiful application of holy water and celebration of a solemn mass, they were frightened away, to return no more.
A Mysterious Hunter—Man and Horse supposed to be Devils—Extraordinary Talents of the suspected Hunter—Signs of Uneasiness—Terrible Shrieks—Groans of Despair—Tortured Spirits—Severe Flagellation—Disappearance of the Flagellant—Tales of the Scotch Highlands—Witches in the shape of Hares worried by Dogs—Croaking Raven—Death of a suspected Witch—Resort of Witches and Evil Spirits—Spirits hastening to a Church—Dogs in Pursuit—Black Man with Eyes like Fire—Horse breathing Smoke and Flame—Witch's Ghost and Demons sinking into the Earth.
A strange tale of a mysterious hunter is given in the Letters of Lord Lyttelton, the truth of which, it is said, was attested by gentlemen whose veracity was beyond question. We give an abridged version of the tale:—
In the early part of ————'s life he attended a hunting club at their sports, when a stranger of genteel appearance, and well mounted, joined the chase, and was observed to ride with a degree of courage and address that called forth the utmost astonishment of every one present. The beast he rode was of amazing power; nothing stopped them; the hounds could never escape them; and the huntsman, who was left far behind, swore that the man and his horse were devils from hell. When the sport was over, the company invited this extraordinary person to dinner: he accepted the invitation, and astonished the company as much by the powers of his conversation, and by his elegance of manners, as by his equestrian prowess. He was an orator, a poet, a painter, a musician, a lawyer, and a divine; in short, he was everything, and the magic of his discourse kept the drowsy sportsman awake long after his usual hour. At length, however, wearied nature could be charmed no more, and the company began to steal away by degrees to their repose. On his observing the society diminish, he discovered manifest signs of uneasiness; he therefore gave new force to his spirits, and new charms to his conversation, in order to detain the remaining few some time longer. This had some little effect; but the period could not be long delayed when he was to be conducted to his chamber. The remains of the company retired also; but they had scarce closed their eyes, when the house was alarmed by the most terrible shrieks that were ever heard; several persons were awakened by the noise; but, its continuance being short, they concluded it to proceed from a dog which might be accidentally confined in some part of the house; they very soon, therefore, composed themselves to sleep, but were again soon awakened by shrieks and cries of still greater terror than the former. Alarmed at what they heard, several of them rang their bells, and when the servants came, they declared that the horrid sounds proceeded from the stranger's chamber. Some of the gentlemen immediately arose to inquire into this extraordinary disturbance; and while they were dressing themselves for that purpose, deeper groans of despair, and shriller shrieks of agony, again astonished and terrified them. After knocking some time at the stranger's chamber door, he answered them as one awakened from sleep, declared he had heard no noise, and, rather in an angry tone, desired he might not be again disturbed. Upon this, they returned to their chambers, and had scarce began to communicate their sentiments to each other, when their conversation was interrupted by a renewal of yells, screams, and shrieks, which, from the horror of them, seemed to issue from the throats of damned and tortured spirits. The gentlemen listened attentively, and traced the sounds to the stranger's room, the door of which they instantly burst open, and found him upon his knees in bed, in the act of scourging himself with the most unrelenting severity, his body streaming with blood. On their seizing his hands to stop the strokes, he begged them, in the most ringing tone of voice, as an act of mercy, that they would retire, assuring them that the cause of their disturbance was over, and that in the morning he would acquaint them with the reasons of the terrible cries they had heard, and the melancholy sight they saw. After a repetition of his entreaties, they retired; and in the morning two of them went to his chamber, but he was not there, and, on examining the bed, they found it to be one gore of blood. Upon further inquiry, the groom said that, as soon as it was light, the gentleman came to the stable, booted and spurred, and desired his horse might be immediately saddled, and appeared to be extremely impatient till it was done, when he vaulted into his saddle, and rode out of the yard at full speed. Servants were immediately sent into every part of the surrounding country, but not a single trace of him could be found; such a person had not been seen by any one, nor has he since been heard of.
Tales are related in the Scotch Highlands of witches being mortally worried by dogs while they (the witches) appeared in the likeness of a hare. They are so similar in all essential particulars, that one is inclined to think that they are different versions of the same story. Here, at all events, is one version:—A hunter, one early morning, observed an old woman prowling about a glen in a suspicious manner. Wishing to know what she was about, he watched her movements, and succeeded in getting so near her that he was able to recognise her features. She was a near neighbour of his own, held in good repute by all in the district. Observing him approaching, the old woman walked away quickly, to avoid him recognising her; but, as the hunter was likely to overtake her, she transformed herself into the likeness of a hare, and darted away at great speed. The hunter's dog gave chase, and, after a long run, seized her. At that instant a shriek arose that made the hills echo and re-echo. Hurrying forward to call off his dogs, the hunter came within a few paces of the spot where the struggle was going on, when a raven rose from the ground and flew away, croaking angrily. A pool of blood marked the place, and his two dogs lay dead. On returning home, he learned that the old woman whom he had seen transformed into a hare lay dangerously ill in her house. At night she died. The same night another neighbour of the woman was returning home, whistling to keep up his courage, for he had to pass the old parish church and burying-ground, and walk through a wood, the favourite resort of witches and evil spirits. As the deep shadows of the forest were beginning to conceal the moon from view, he was startled by the appearance of a woman running in the direction of the church. She asked if she could reach it by twelve o'clock. He answered that he thought she could if she ran fast. His impression was that the voice, face, and figure were those of the woman the hunter had surprised in the morning. A little farther on he met two hounds coursing along at great speed. In a few minutes he met a black man riding on a black horse. The horseman inquired whether the traveller had seen a woman, and two dogs pursuing her. On replying in the affirmative, the horseman asked a second question, whether he thought the dogs would overtake her before she went the length of the old church? With a faltering voice he said it was likely they would. The frightened traveller, more dead than alive, observed that the black man had eyes like balls of fire, and that his horse breathed smoke and flame. As swift as his feet could carry him, the pedestrian hastened homeward, trusting that the terrors of the night were past, yet fearing and trembling exceedingly. Having to pass the old woman's house, and seeing a light, he went in, and then learned that she was dead. He had no doubt that the human-like figure he saw running on foot towards the church was the spirit of the departed witch, and that the pursuers were demons. After condoling with the bereaved relations, he took his departure from an abode cursed with the presence of a witch's remains. Scarcely had he crossed the threshold before he observed the black horseman riding swiftly towards the house, with the woman lying across the saddle-bow, and the two dogs following close behind. In an instant, man, woman, horse, and dogs sank into the ground.