Note (a), p. xvi.--"The Psychical Society."
The Psychical Society, as far as the writer is aware has not examined officially the old accounts of the phenomena which it investigates at present. The Catalogue of the Society's Library, however, proves that it does not lack the materials.
Note (b), p. xxx.--"Their speech is a kind of whistling."
That the voice of spirits is a kind of whistling, twittering, or chirping, is a very widely diffused and ancient belief. The ghosts in Homer twitter like bats; in New Caledonia an English settler found that he could scare the natives from a piece of ground by whistling there at night. Mr. Samuel Wesley says, "I followed the noise into almost every room in the house, both by day and by night, with lights and without, and have sat alone for some time, and, when I heard the noise, spoke to it to tell me what it was, but never heard any articulate voice, and only once or twice two or three feeble squeaks, a little louder than the chirping of a bird, and not like the noise of rats, which I have often heard" (Memoirs of the Wesley Family, p. 164). Professor Alexander mentions the "peculiar whistling sound" at some manifestations in Rio Janeiro as "rather frequent " (Proc. S. P. R.,
81 xix. 180). Here children were the mediums; how did they get the idea of the traditional whistle? See also the following note.
Note (c), p. xl.--"Not long after the Spanish conquest of Peru."
The phenomena alluded to here are said to have occurred in 1549. The evidence is a mere report by Cieza de Leon, who does not pretend to have been an eye-witness. But, as Mr. Clements Markham, Cieza's editor, remarks, the phenomena are analogous to those of spiritualism. At the very least, we find a belief in this kind of manifestation at a remote date, and in an outlandish place. Cieza says: 1
"When the Adelantado Belalcazar was governor of the province of Popyan, and when Gomez Hernandez was his lieutenant in the town of Auzerma, there was a chief in a village called Pirsa, almost four leagues from the town, whose brother, a good-looking youth named Tamaraqunga, inspired by God, wished to go to the town of the Christians to receive baptism. But the devils did not wish that he should attain his desire, fearing to lose what seemed secure, so they frightened this Tamaraqunga in such sort that he was unable to do anything. God permitting it, the devils stationed themselves in a place where the chief alone could see them, in the shape of birds called auras. Finding himself so persecuted by the devils, he sent in great haste to a Christian living near, who came at once, and hearing what he wanted, signed him with the sign of the cross. But the devils then frightened him more than ever, appearing in hideous forms, which only were visible to
him. The Christian only saw stones falling from the air and heard whistling. A brother of one Juan Pacheco, citizen of the same town, then holding office in the place of Gomez Hernandez, who had gone to Caramanta, came from Auzerma with another man to visit the Indian chief. They say that Tamaraqunga was much frightened and ill-treated by the devils, who carried him through the air from one place to another in presence of the Christians, he complaining and the devils whistling and shouting. Sometimes when the chief was sitting with a glass of liquor before him, the Christians saw the glass raised up in the air and put down empty, and a short time afterwards the wine was again poured into the cup from the air." Compare what Ibn Batuta, the old Arab traveller, saw at the court of the King of Delhi. The matter is discussed in Colonel Yule's Marco Polo.
This may suffice as a specimen of the manifestations. They continued while the chief was on his way to church; he was lifted into the air, and the Christians had to hold him down. In church the ghostly whistling was heard, and stones fell around, while the chief said that he saw devils standing upside down, and himself was thrown into that unusual posture. The combination of convulsive movements with the other phenomena is that which we have already remarked in the cases of "Mr. H." and the grandson of William Morse. Cieza de Leon says that the chief was not troubled after his baptism. The illusions of the newly-converted, so like those of the early Christian hermits, are described by Callaway in his Zulu Tales.
Note (d), p. 1.
Priestley's explanation of the Epworth disturbances is imposture by the servants, by way of a practical joke.
[paragraph continues] Coleridge, on the other hand, says that "all these stories, and I could produce fifty cases at least equally well authenticated, and, as far as the veracity of the narrators, and the single fact of their having seen and heard such and such sights or sounds, above all rational scepticism, are as much like one another as the symptoms of the same disease in different patients."
It is a pity that Coleridge did not produce his fifty well-authenticated examples. The similarity of the narratives everywhere, all the world over, is exactly what makes them interesting. Coleridge goes on. 'This indeed I take to be the true and only solution--a contagious nervous disease, the acme, or intensest form of which is catalepsy" (Southey's Wesley, vol. i. p. 14, Coleridge's note). If there be such a contagious nervous disease, it is a very remarkable malady, and well worth examining. The Wesleys were not alarmed; they bantered the spirit; they wished they could set him to work; and beyond the trembling of the children when Jeffrey was knocking during their sleep, there is no sign of morbid conditions. A neighbouring clergyman, who was asked to pass a night in the house, saw and heard just what the others heard and saw. 1 The hypothesis of a contagious nervous disease, in which every witness exhibits the same symptoms of illusion in all parts of the world, is a theory which needs a good deal of verification. Where material traces of the disturbances remain, it is absurd to speak of contagious hallucinations. We must fall back on the hypothesis of trickery, or must say with Southey, "Such things may be preternatural, yet not miraculous; they may not be in the ordinary course of nature, yet imply no alteration of its laws." Any theory is more plausible than the idea that Mr. Wesley and Mr. Hoole
were in a state bordering on catalepsy. Believers in hypnotism may think it possible that this, that, and the other persons, if they submitted themselves to hypnotic influences, might have the same hallucinations suggested to them. But there is no evidence, in the Epworth case nor in the Rerrick case, of any such matter. "So far as we yet know, sensory hallucination of several persons together, who are not in a hypnotic state, is a rare phenomenon, and therefore not a probable explanation" (Proc. S. P. R., iv. 62). There is some evidence that epileptic patients suffer from the same illusions--for example, the presence of a woman in a red cloak; and in delirium tremens the "horrors" are usually similar. But that all the persons who enter a given house should be impressed by the same material illusions, as of chairs and tables, and even beds (like Nancy Wesley's) flying about, is a theory more incredible than the hypothesis either of trickery or of abnormal occurrences. When the disturbances always cease on the arrival of a competent witness, then it is not hard to say which theory we ought to choose. For imposture see next note.
Note (e), p. lvii.--"Children at séances."
The phenomena discussed are most frequently connected with children, who may be regarded either as mediums or impostors, conscious or unconscious. In Proc. S. P. R., iv. 25-42, Professor Barrett gives the case of a little girl whom he knew. She had raps wherever she went, even when alone with the Professor, who made her stand with her hands against the wall, at the greatest stretch of her arms, "with the muscles of the legs and arms all in tension." "A brisk pattering of raps" followed Professor Barrett's request. But he also mentions a boy "of juvenile piety," who "for twelve
months deceived his father, a distinguished surgeon, and all his family, by pretended spiritualistic manifestations, which appeared at first sight inexplicable, until the cunning trickery of the lad was discovered." The only difference between these cases is that an "outsider" discovered trickery in one instance and not in the other. This is a very ticklish kind of certainty, and it is plain that children can do a great deal in the way of mere imposture. The state of any young Wesley who might have been caught out is unenviable. Verily Mr. Wesley would not have spared for his crying.
Note (f), p. lxii.--"The pricking of witches."
It is pretty certain that some of these unlucky old women were pricked "in anæsthetic areas."
Note (a1), p. 8.--"These Arrows that fly in the Dark."
The arrows are the ancient flint arrow-heads, which Mr. Kirk later asserts to be too delicate for human artificers. On this matter Isabel Gowdie, the witch, confessed, "As for Elf arrows, the Divell sharpes them with his ain hand, and deliveris them to Elf boys, wha whyttlis and dightis them with a sharp thing lyk a paking needle; bot whan I was in Elfland, I saw them whyttling and dighting them." Isabel described the manner in which witches use this artillery: "We spang them from the naillis of our thoombs," and with these she and her friends shot and slew many men and women. The confessions of Isabel Gowdie are in the third volume of Pitcairn's Scottish Criminal Trials. They contain little or nothing of the "psychical;" all is mere folk-lore, fairy tales, and charms derived from the old Catholic liturgy. The poor woman, having begun to fable, fabled
with manifest enjoyment and considerable power. It seems from her account that each "Covin," or assembly of witches, had a maiden in it, and "without our maiden we could do no great thing." On the other hand, an extraordinary case of an epileptic boy, who was hurled about, and beheld distant occurrences in trance, may be read in Chambers's Domestic Annals of Scotland, iii. 449. Candles used to go out when this boy, a third son of Lord Torpichen, was in the room. The date (1720) and the place (Mid-Lothian) prevented any one from being burned for bewitching him. A fast was proclaimed. The boy recovered, and did good service in the navy. He is said to have been "levitated" frequently."
Note (b1), p. 11.--" Milk thorow a hair-tedder. "
Isabel Gowdie confessed to stealing milk from the cow by magic. "We plait the rope the wrong way, in the Devil's name, and we draw the tether between the cow's hind feet, and out betwixt her forward feet, in the Devil's name, and thereby take with us the cow's milk."
Mr. Kirk, it will be observed, does not connect the Fairy kingdom with that of Satan, as some of his contemporaries were inclined to do.
Note (c1), p. 19.--"The Wreath (wraith) . . . is only exuvious fumes of the Man. . . . exhaled and congealed into a various likeness."
What is this theory of "Men illiterate and unwary in their Observations," but Von Hartmann's doctrine of "the nerve force which issues from the body of the medium, and then proceeds to set up fresh centres of force in all neighbouring objects . . . while it still remains under the control of the medium's unconscious will"? See Mr. Walter Leaf on Hartmann's Der Geisterhypothese des Spiritismus, Proc. S. P. R., xix. 293
It is amusing to find a learned German coinciding in scientific theory with "ignorant and unwary" Highland seers. Both regard the phantasms as manifestations of "nerve-force," "exuvious fumes," and as "neither souls nor counterfeiting spirits."
Note (d1), p. 23.--"Fairy hills."
The hypothesis that the Fairy belief may be a tradition of an ancient race dwelling in subterranean homes, is older than Mr. McRitchie or Sir Walter Scott. In his Scottish Scenery (1803), Dr. Cririe suggests that the germ of the Fairy myth is the existence of dispossessed aboriginals dwelling in subterranean houses, in some places called Picts' houses, covered with artificial mounds. The lights seen near the mounds are lights actually carried by the mound-dwellers. Dr. Cririe works out in some detail "this marvellously absurd supposition," as the Quarterly Review calls it (vol. lix., p. 280).
Note (e1), p. 30.--"Master Greatrake, the Irish Stroaker."
Glanvill, in Essays on Several Important Subjects (1675), prints a letter from an Irish Bishop on Greatrex, the "stroker." He cured diseases "by a sanative contagion." According to the Bishop, Greatrex had an impression that he could do "faith-healing," and found that he could, but whether by virtue of some special power or by "the people's fancy," he knew not. He frequently failed, and his patients had relapses. See his own Account of Strange Cures: in a Letter to Robert Boyle. London, 1666.
82:1 The Travels of Pedro de Cieza de Leon, ch. cxviii.
84:1 Mr. Hoole's account, Memoirs of the Wesleys, p. 91.