asked my wife whether she did not see it. She said nothing, but being much alarmed, she endeavoured to compose me, and sent for the physician. The figure remained some seven or eight minutes, and at length I became a little more calm; and as I was extremely exhausted, I soon after fell into a troubled kind of slumber, which lasted for about half an hour. The vision was ascribed to the great agitation of mind in which I had been, and it was supposed that I should have nothing more to apprehend from that cause; but the violent affection having put my nerves into an unusual state, from this arose further consequences, which require a more detailed description.

“ In the afternoon, a little after four o'clock, the figure which I had seen in the morning again appeared. I was alone when this happened; a circuinstance which, as may be easily conceived, could not be very agreeable. I went therefore, to the apartment of my wife, to whom I related it. But thither also the figure pursued me.

Sometimes it was present, sometimes it vanished; but when seen it was always the same standing figure. A little after six o'clock, several stalk. ing figures also appeared; but they had no connexion with the standing figure. I can assign no other reason for this apparition, than that, though much more composed in my mind, I had not been able so entirely to forget the cause of such deep and distressing vexation, and had reflected on the consequences of it, in order, if possible, to avoid them; and that this happened three hours after dinner, at the time when the digestion just begins.

“ At length I became more composed, with respect to the disagreeable incident which had given rise to the first apparition; but though I had used very excellent medicines, and found myself in other respects perfectly well, yet the apparitions did not diminish; on the contrary, they rather increased in number, and were transformed in the most extraordinary manner.

“ After I had recovered from the first impression of terror, I never felt myself particularly agitated by these apparitions, as I considered them really to be the extraordinary consequences of indisposition. On the contrary, I endeavoured as much as possible to preserve my composure of mind, that I might remain distinctly conscious of what passed within me. I observed those phantoms with great accuracy, and very often reflected on my previous thoughts, with a view to discover some law in the association of ideas, by which exactly these or other figures might present themselves to the ima. gination. Sometimes I thought I had made a discovery, especially in the latter period of my visions; but, on the whole, I could trace no connexion which the various figures, that thus appeared and disappeared to my sight, had with my state of mind, or with my employment, and the other thoughts which engaged my attention. After frequent accurate observations on the subject, having fairly proved and maturely considered it, I could form no other conclusion on the cause and consequence of such apparitions, than that when the nervous system is weak, and at the same time too much excited, or rather deranged, similar figures may appear in such a manner, as if they were actually seen and heard; for these visions in my case, were not the consequence of any known law of reason, of the imagination, or other usual association of ideas; and such also is the case with other men, as far as we can reason from the few examples we know.

“ The figure of the deceased person never appeared to me after this dreadful day: but several other figures showed themselves afterwards very distinctly; sometimes such as I knew, mostly, however, of persons I did not know; and among those known to me, were the semblance of both living and deceased persons, but mostly the former; and I made the observation, that acquaintance with whom I daily conversed, never appeared to me as phantoms; it was always such as were at a distance. When these apparitions had continued some weeks, and I could regard them with the greatest composure, I afterwards endeavoured, at my own pleasure, to call forth phantoms of several acquaintance, whom I for that reason represented to my imagination, in the most lively manner, but in vain; for however accurately I pictured to my mind the figures of such persons, I never once could succeed in my desire of seeing them externally; though I had some short time before seen them as phantoms, and they had, perhaps, afterwards unexpectedly presented themselves to me in every case involuntarily, as if they had been presented externally, like the phenomena in nature, though they certainly had their origin internally; at the same time I was always able to distinguish with the greatest precision, phantoms from phenomena. Indeed I never once erred in this, as I was in general perfectly calin and self-collected on the occasion. I knew extremely well, when it only appeared to me that the door was opened, and a phantom entered, and when the door really was opened, and any person came in.

“ It is also to be noted, that these figures appeared to me at all times, and under the most different circumstances, equally distinct and clear. Whether I was alone or in company, by broad day-light, or in the night-time, in my own, or in my neighbour's house; only when I was at another person's house they were less frequent: and when I walked the street, they very seldom appeared. When I shut my eyes, sometimes the figures disappeared; sometimes they remained, even after I closed them. If they vanished in the former case, on opening my eyes again, nearly the same figures appeared which I had seen before. ·

“ I sometimes conversed with my physician and my wife, concerning the phantoms which at the time hovered round me; for in general the forms appeared oftener in motion than at rest. They did not always continue present; they frequently left me altogether, and again appeared for a short or a longer space of time, singly or more at once; but in general, several appeared together. For the most part, I saw buman figures of both sexes; they commonly passed to and fro as if they had no connexion with each other, like people at a fair when all is bustle, sometimes they appeared to have business with one another. Once or twice I saw among them persons on horseback, and dogs and birds; these figures all appeared to me in their natural size, as distinctly as if they had existed in real life, with the several tints on the uncovered parts of the body, and with all the different kinds and colours of clothes. But I think, however, that the colours were somewhat paler than they are in nature.

“None of the figures had any distinguishing characters; they were neither terrible, ludicrous, nor repulsive; most of them were ordinary in their appearance; some were even agreeable.

“On the whole, the longer I continued in this state, the more did the number of phantoms increase, and apparitions become more frequent. About four weeks after, I began to hear them speak; sometimes the phantoms spoke with one another; but for the most part they addressed themselves to me, and endeavoured to console me in my grief, which still left deep traces in my mind. This speaking I heard most frequently when I was alone, though I sometimes heard it in company, intermixed with the conversation of real persons; frequently in single phrases only, but sometimes even in connected discourse.

“ Though at this time I enjoyed rattur" a good state of health, both in body and mind, and had become so very

familiar with these phantasms, that at last they did not excite the least disagreeable emotion, but, on the contrary, afforded me frequent subjects for amusement and mirth; yet as the disorder greatly increased, and the figures appeared to me for whole days together, and even during the night, if I hap

pened to be awake, I had recourse to several medicines, and was at last again obliged to apply leeches.

“This was performed on the 20th of April, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon. I was alone with the surgeon; but during the operation, the room swarmed with human forms of every description, which crowded fast one on another: this continued till half past four o'clock, exactly the time when the digestion commences. I then observed that the figures began to move slowly; soon afterwards the colours became gradually paler, and every seven minutes they lost more and more of their intensity, without any alteration in the distinct figure in the apparitions. At half past six o'clock all the figures were entirely white, and moved very little, yet the forms appeared perfectly distinct; by degrees they became visibly less plain, without decreasing in number, as had often formerly been the case. The figures did not move off, neither did they vanish, which also had usually happened on other occasions. In this instance they dissolved immediately in air: of some, even whole pieces remained for a length of time, which also by degrees were lost to the eye. At about eight o'clock there did not remain a vestige of any of them, and I have never since experienced any appearance of any kind. Twice or thrice since that time I have felt a propensity, if I may be so allowed to express myself, or a sensation as if I saw something, which in a moment again was gone. I was even surprised by this sensation whilst writing the present account, having, in order to render it more accurate, perused the papers of 1791, and recalled to my memory all the circumstances of that time. So little are we sometimes, even in the greatest composure of mind, masters of our imagination.”

This account ought to be perfectly conclusive, as to the true theory about phenomena of this nature, and ought forever to put a stop to all superstitious delusions in regard to spectral visions and apparitions. A curious query concern

« ForrigeFortsett »