Timeless Tuesday – November 2014

Tuesday November 25, 2014



Am I the only one that finds the most interesting part about this week’s article, the fact that the writer had to stress that this poor woman shamed herself in front of humanity for all time because of the afterimages of the corpses she had been staring at embedded themselves on her retina?

San Francisco Chronicle edition 09/01/1918

Science Explains How People Really See Ghosts

When the human body lies in the bed it is more likely to see ghosts than at any other time because the body is motionless and the light from windows or lamps apt to strike across the eyeball at the particular angle which makes the afterimages on the retina visible. The retired lady in this picture, not being aware of the perfectly natural physiological laws underlying the picture of the dead person which she has just “seen” goes into a terror and will, as soon as she can move, hop out of bed and go racing downstairs, all in her nightie, to tell the folks that they’ll all have to move away, the house is haunted!


Not all the “Spooks” Are Imaginary, Says Harvard Savant – Sane and Honest People Actually See Phantoms of the Dead, but It Is a Trick of the Eye, a Queer Retention of Impressive Sights by the Delicate Retina, Not a Manifestation of Life From the Beyond


THERE is the real explanation of ghosts. It took science hundreds of years to discover it, but a Harvard savant has run it down at last. It has always been the fashion for learned men to either believe fully in after life, mediums and the like or to deny the whole business, labeling ghosts as lies or creatures of the disordered mind.

Now, however, Dr. P.F. Swindle, research fellow at Harvard, has demonstrated that unimaginative people may actually see ghosts and be perfectly honest in their stories of such sights. What they see is not the product of insanity, neither is it returned spirits. Every instance of perceived “spooks” can be explained physiologically.

Ghosts actually fall upon your sight, but it is a mechanical thing, purely a trick of the eye, and no manifestation of after life.


The human eye is a peculiar instrument, a tremendously delicate mechanism capable of much that the average mind does not grasp or suspect. It sees a thing that interests the mind behind it, fastens upon the thing, stares until a deep impression of it is made upon the retina, moves on to other sights, and then revives the impression suddenly. Dr. Swindle, writing in a recent issue of the American Journal of Psychology, one of the most scholarly of scientific publications, says that the traditional ghost which peoples of all times and races have seen “is only a positive afterimage of long duration which becomes revived by a stimulus of such extreme insignificance that the immediate visual effect produced by it may find no place in the ghost story.”

That is, the deep impression of a certain person made upon the eye recurs long after the time it is made. It appears on the retina of the eye often, but is not seen because actual objects before the eyes make this phantom invisible. However, in the night, or in a dark room, when the familiar chairs, tables, pictures, etc., are hidden from sight, a little light may fall upon the eyeball in such a way that these recurring pictures on the retina may be seen.  Then when the impression made by some person who has died since the impression was made flashes across the mechanism of the eye the owner of the eye thinks he has seen a ghost.

He does not notice that the light from the moon or from a distant lamp has fallen upon his eyeball in a certain angle thus making these automatic pictures visible.  He does not notice the commonplace pictures that precede and follow the picture of the person then dead; he merely realizes that he has seen the image of a deceased friend and goes trembling to tell the story of having seen a ghost.

One way to see ghosts, according to the Harvard scientist, is to shut the eyes in a darkened room and let the light of the distant electric light bulb light up the retina through the closed eyelids. In this way it is not difficult to see clearly objects at which you have stared one hour, two hours, even eight hours, before. The longer you have stared at these objects the more likely they are to be preserved by the delicate retina and brought back to sight.

The principle of this is like the well-known schoolroom trick of staring long at colored cards, then looking away and seeing against a white wall phantom cards of the converse color.

People see ghosts only when they are standing or lying perfectly still. These flashes of past sights coming back upon the retina are unnoticed if the owner of the eye is in motion. The deep impression is made when the eye is held fixedly for some time upon an object.t It comes back when the eye is motionless again.

So long as a person is walking rapidly past a graveyard he sees no ghosts, but if he stops stock still and stares at a tombstone the light may fall so upon his eyes that pictures within his organ of sight become visible. White objects in the night, such as marble slabs, are apt to favor these after images.

“If the man be brave enough,” says Dr. Swindle, “to approach a deserted house where he has been told horrible crimes have been committed he might be expected to glance rather carefully at all the bright objects near him and, furthermore, what is equally important, he might be expected to walk rather timidly and occasionally to stand perfectly still. This latter condition is important, because a positive afterimage of long duration does not appear, or if it has appeared grows weaker or vanishes completely when one makes a sudden pronounced movement. Experimental results indicate that a man might easily keep the ghost away by whistling. He might also put the muscles of his body under tension, perhaps slap his hands together or shake his fists in the air, and make further consistent response by saying “I am not afraid,” and thus reach the house or castle without being intercepted by a ghost.”

The scientist explains, also, why people see visions of dead persons. They stand by the coffin at a funeral, taking long last looks at the dead friend. They stare intently at the white face, holding themselves motionless for the while. The image of the corpse becomes fixed upon their retinas much more strongly than any other object at which they look. Later on this impression comes back, perhaps many months after, in a time when the light and conditions are right for the seeing of these afterimages. The mourner does not think anything of the vision of trivial things, but when the picture of the corpse appears he is convinced that it is something in the air beyond him, a troubled spirit. People weep in such times, shut out the light and fix the image of the corpse all the more firmly.

This explains why people see the ghosts of their fathers, mothers, brothers or sisters more often than the ghosts of more distant relatives. They stand longer looking a the corpses of their own family and make a deeper impression upon their retinas than at the funerals of less intimate friends.

The savant explains why people often say in full belief of their own truthfulness that they have seen the devil.

“Often,” says he, “features are seen well in these afterimages of people, but sometimes the eye regions are too dark, the nostrils too large and the ears too pointed, thus accounting for the devil ghost.”

In such cases the light does not fall across the eyes in the manner best calculated to produce clear “ghosts.” It strikes the retina in a way that illuminates the pictures dimly, and with exaggeration and contortions of features. The see of ghosts perceives a face, but it is too twisted for recognition.

Lying in bed is an especially favorable time for seeing ghosts, for then the lighting conditions are more apt to be propitious. Moonlight falling through ha window is especially likely to hit the eyes in the ghost-seeing way. The room elsewhere being dark makes a splendid background, whereas in the morning the sun striking through at exactly the same angle as the moon would produce no pictures, because the black wall against which the visions became apparent would be dissolved into walls, furniture and the familiar articles of the bedroom, all of which would make the retina picture invisible.

The moon is not essential to these sights. A rift in the clouds at night may let enough light descend to favor the operation of the optical feat. Merely an open window may produce the result.



Tuesday November 18, 2014


I have long been fascinated with how spooks and the spiritualist movement was reported in Victorian times and I would sincerely like to thank everyone that takes the time to read our Timeless Tuesday articles.  I hope I have educated you in some small way that the world of “ghosts” in the media did not start with the advent of paranormal investigation shows on tv. 

Some of the things we have learned in the last year have been really interesting! Among other things, we have been informed why ghost wear clothes,  ghost laying was a big profession in London, why men fear ghosts, that people dedicate their homes to ghosts, the habits and customs of spooks, that ghosts are rentable, that Victorian “photoshop” was very prominent, ghost layers can be sued, ghosts don’t like to be sat on, specters come in colors,  and of course my favorite, people in the 1800s loved to take their guns on a spook hunt!! We have learned an old vocabulary, which includes some wondrous phrases like Phantasmogenic Localities, ghost broken, ghost bearder, and my personal favorite, etheric fluid!! If you have missed any of these exciting articles, just be sure to check out the archives!!

As a side note, I am still considering changing our name to the Scientific Spook Catchers, and coming up with an even better song that Ghostfacers has! (extra points if you know what I’m talking about).

It is a good thing I had the anniversary commentary to write, because I just do not think I could write anything about this week’s article that is any funnier than the headline.





Brooklyn Daily Eagle edition 12/06/1899


A Spiritualistic Séance at Which the Alleged Spirit of Henry Ward Beecher Said Some queer Things That Will Surprise His Friends.

The Kind of Stupid Nonsense That Fools Some Credulous People, This Without Disrespect to Honest Spiritualists.

W. Wines Sergeant, vice president of the New York State Association of Spiritualists, in a published communication, filling a column of this paper, indulges in various comments upon one of my recent contributions, headed “How to Call Up Spooks.” These comments are of no particular consequence and worthy of no consideration, except in so far as they display the temper of a leading Spiritualist and illustrate the inability of one claiming to be animated by loft spiritual motives to discuss serious matters in the manner which he cantingly suggests as follows:

“So, ‘Mul,’ continue in seeking for the truth, but in that seeking do not forget that spiritual things must be spiritually discussed.”

In a spiritual style, all his own, Mr. Sargent refers to what he calls my “puerile argumentations;” with prodigious sarcasm calculated to leave his victim all a-tremble, he says: “ ‘Mul’ is more conversant with delirium tremens than with the processes of trance mediumship”’; and in a final crushing effort, which reveals the dazzling purity of his fancy, he suggests that “Mul” has “a bug on his eyelashes.” There you have a few choice spiritual expressions which reveal with photographic fidelity the inner consciousness of one who says in a saintly way: “We believe in purity and love.”

Under the circumstances I am half inclined to ask” What kind of love do you believe in? But let that question pass as if unasked, for in the light of the following note addressed to the writer of this column by Mr. Sargent, I must decline a controversy with him:

“A personal and confidential word to ‘Mul’ Please do not think I take the pen to champion the object of your attack and personal criticisms in “Spooks from Spookland” or “How to Call Up Spooks.” There is much, as a state organization, we do not countenance on the public platform and yet do not feel it best to publicly criticize. We leave this for others to do W.W.S”

Here you have a person who writes a letter of attack for publication and sends with it what he has no right to consider a “confidential” disclaimer of that which he desires to be printed. To acquiesce in this proposed arrangement would be sanctioning something which savors strongly of deception. For concerning that which I criticized publicly, Mr. Sargent says, behind the door, in virtual acknowledgment of the justice of my criticism: There is much as a state organization we do not countenance on the public platform, and yet we do not feel it best to publicly criticize.”

Why not?

Anything concerning spooks is always read with interest, and so I venture to relate some personal experiences had with them. Here I recall an objection made by an esteemed Spiritualistic friend to my use of the word spooks. As there are others who will probably make the same protest, it may be well to give Webster’s definition of the objectionable word:

“Spook – Danish, spook, spooksel, spookster. German, spok. H. German, spuk. Swedish, spoke – A spirit; a ghost.”

You see the word spook has the same meaning as the word spirit. So much by way of excuse. As to my experiences with spooks: Some months ago I received a letter from a worthy believer in Spiritualism, one who is a recognized national authority in Spiritualist circles, that if I would call at his residence the next evening Miss _____, one of the high priestesses of Spiritualism, would give to me a “sitting,” that is to say, would act as a medium of communication between earthly and spirit lands. The letter came at a time when I was engaged in a careful investigation of the marvelous claims made by believers in Spiritualism, claims made by believers in Spiritualism, claims which have never been verified even in the slightest degree, so far as I am concerned. The letter of invitation was welcomed, for here was furnished an opportunity  to meet two eminent figures in Spiritualism, the man standing as a representative of the highest and most cultured intelligence in his cult, the woman recognized far and wide in the circles of believers as one who lived in daily communication with the spirit world, and to whom had come extraordinary revelations from the spirit world. To her, it had been claimed, the spirits of those long dead had come to guide and direct the living, to tell them of secrets known only to a few who stood on this side of the grave, and those who had passed away. If one could be convinced of the truths of Spiritualism by this man and woman, it seemed to the writer idle to look elsewhere. And so I accepted the invitation to call upon them.

At the “sitting” there were present the medium, Miss ____; a gentleman who was introduced as Dr. ____, from the interior of the state; the leader in Spiritualistic circles who had invited me to attend, and the writer. The medium who was a strongly built woman who looked to be about 35 years of age, and whose strong masculine face and broad, high forehead recalled the face of Henry Ward Beecher. After some desultory conversation, in which I had little to say, the Doctor remarked that he had not seen Miss ___ since she was controlled by the spirit of Mr. Beecher, and on which occasion the latter had made some very interesting remarks. As the Doctor and my host continued to discuss messages from the other world the medium became silent. Finally she closed her eyes, and her arms and face began to twitch. The Doctor and my friend exchanged solemn glances. Something significant was, apparently about to happen. After a few inarticulate sounds escaped from her lips she straightened up in her chair and, moving her head slowly to the right and left alternately, she thrust her fingers through her bangs and brushed them back very much in the same fashion I had seen Mr. Beecher finger his hair on many occasions.

“Does that remind you of any face you have seen?” said my host gravely.

As it was evident that the medium was about to attempt an impersonation of the late Mr. Beecher, not a new feat, as though, bearing in mind what had been said by the Doctor, I answered:

“She reminds me of the later Henry Ward Beecher.”

As if taking a cue from the remark the medium began to speak in slow, measured, deep tones, as Mr. Beecher was accustomed to talk:

“When I was in the flesh I done all I could for my people.”

“He “done” all he could!

Looking becomingly solemn out of deference to my host, a sincere believer, I listened closely as the alleged spook began to tell that he was glad to know that the light was breaking in upon the congregation he had left to the earthly care of another. Then he or it declared that he saw great clouds gathering over this country, signs of a great religious struggle. In deep bass tones he declared that in Roman Catholic cathedrals and churches of this country large quantities of arms were being stored for use in the near future. His closing words were:

“If I was in the flesh again I would become a member of the A. P. A.”

It will be recalled that in life Mr. Beecher was one of the most liberal minded of men, that Father Malone was his intimate friend, and that he was frequently in the company of Roman Catholics, who entertained mutual esteem for each other.

Mr. Beecher’s spook left abruptly. The medium relapsed into silence for a few moments, then my turn came. With closed eyes and facing me the medium said lowly:

“I see the form of an elderly man by my side. He says his name is ____” here she mentioned a part of my father’s name in a way to indicate to me that he had forgotten his full name. I looked more solemn than ever, but said nothing. Slowly and is if feeling her way the medium said:

“He says he is glad that you are doing so and so since he passed away, although you would not take his advice when he was in the flesh.”

I made no response, looked as serious as one could under the circumstances, and then the medium again lapsed into silence. I needed no further evidence that these spooks were frauds. I could not imagine my father forgetting his name. The advice that the medium referred to was such advice as every good father gives to his children. That advice had been given long before his death, and long before he passed away it was a source of great gratification to him calling for frequent mention, that the advice had been taken. He died a peaceful Christian death, falling asleep in my arms, and that my heart was not stirred to indignation by this medium’s use of his name was due to the fact that I then believed, as I now fully believe, he is at rest.

The medium tried me again. Along came the spook of Little Bright Eyes, an Indian maiden, so I was informed. In pigeon English, and with grimaces intended as smiles, the medium – or Bright Eyes – exclaimed:

“Say, didn’t you run away from home when you was a young fellow?”

“Well, I left home when I was young,” I said, with affected embarrassment.

My host and the doctor smiled. Bright Eyes chuckled, and remarked, joyously:

“Well, I know all about why you run away. But I won’t give you away,” And then she was heard no more.

As a matter of fact, I did not run away from home, and my apparent confusion had led Bright Eyes into another error.

I shall not attempt to relate all the other things said by alleged spooks, all the stupidest kind of nonsense. But in closing I may say that upon leaving that house, near midnight, more than ever before was I convinced that all earthly efforts to lift aside the vail drawn between the visible and invisible will fail.


Tuesday November 11, 2014


I just LOVE this week’s article because it has introduced me to the most excellent of phrases.  “Phantasmogenic Localities” just kind of rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?  It makes the term “haunted house” seem extremely boring, almost as boring as the end of the article.



Chicago Tribune edition 10/29/1905


Do Animals See Ghosts


SEEING things at night, it appears, is an experience whose thrills not only interest the human nervous system but also agitate the animal, created a little lower than man.

Ghosts Prof. Ernest Bozzano terms supernatural psychic perceptions, and he has found sixty-nine cases of one sort or another, which he says may easily be doubled, wherein the beasts of the field and fireside are party either to telepathic hallucinations, to “phantasms” or specters, or to “phantasmogenic localities” commonly called haunted houses or regions, in twenty-three of these instances the animals became aware of the uncanny presence before their human companions and therefore could not have received their impressions through any contagion of feeling, or thought transference.

The first proofs of these weird annual experience came from H. Rider Haggard, the novelist, who dreamed that his dog was dying, only to find a day or so later that the nocturnal vision had been enacted in reality an hour or two previous. Bob, his good old retriever, having received a mortal wound from a night train, was thrown into the water among the brushwood where his master had seen him in his dream, and instantly perished. The story was noised abroad widely, rigorously investigated, and documented by Mr. Haggard himself and by the Anglo-American Society for Psychical Research, drew the attention of psychical researchers to the study of possible telepathic transmission between man and animals, and finally, through the investigations of Prof. Bozzano, has brought to light the trials and terrors of canines, felines, equines, and others of the four footed folk in their encounters with spooks and specters.


ct10291905crop2Madam d’Esperance Finds Proof

One of these encounters is reported by Mme. d’Esperance, a distinguished woman, universally known in the field of psychical studies, who in 1896 took up her residence in her present home. “I knew the place well,” she says, “having paid several long visits to it previously, and also knew that it had the reputation of being haunted, but beyond this few of the stories had reached my ears, first because I knew scarcely any one in the neighborhood, and, secondly, because those I did know did not understand my language nor I theirs. Communication was therefore, for some time at least, extremely limited, so that what I saw or fancied I saw was not the result of previous information.”

In her daily walks Mme. d’Esperance generally went through a little wood. A public road runs along one side of the wood and she frequently had noticed that horses shied and were frightened when passing it. This behavior always puzzled her for there was never anything to account for it. Once or twice when accompanied by a couple of canine friends she found them absolutely refusing to enter the wood but laid themselves down with their muzzles between their paws, deaf alike to threats or persuasion. They would joyfully follow her in any other direction, but if she persisted in going through the wood, would break loose from her and scamper off home with every symptom of fear. When this had happened two or three times she mentioned it to a friend, the lady of the manor, who said that such things had happened ever since she could remember, not at all times but at intervals, and not with all horses and dogs.


Flee from ghost Calf

One day Mme. d’Esperance was strolling along the western part of the wood with this friend when before her stood a red brown calf. She uttered a surprised exclamation and the creature ran into the wood. As it darted into the brushwood a curious brightness flashed in its large eyes, giving the impression that they emitted fire. Since then once or twice at long intervals rumor had it that the calf with fiery eyes has been seen by some one and the wood for a time has been carefully avoided by the peasantry.

Nearly every day, accompanied by two or three canine friends, Mme. d’Esperance has walked or driven through the wood, never, however, meeting the mysterious calf until a few weeks ago when she entered the grove with two collies and a terrier which, before entering, laid themselves down and exercised all their persuasions and art to induce her to take another direction. Finding her persistent, they attended her with visible reluctance. They seemed to forget after a while and gamboled on ahead.

Suddenly they rushed back and crouched at her feet while the little terrier sprang into her arms. Almost at the same moment a sound of beating hoofs approached rapidly from behind and before she could move out of the way a herd of roe deer came in full stampeded, galloping past, unheeding both her and the dogs, nearly throwing her down as they passed. She looked around alarmed and saw a red brown calf turn and lose itself in the brushwood. The dogs, which under ordinary circumstances would have given chase to the flying deer, yelped with excitement, crouched, trembling and whining at her feet and the little terrier refused to leave her arms. For several days afterward he refused to go through the wood and the collies went only under protest, plainly showing suspicion and fear.


Animals Knew Calf was Supernatural

“The result of all our inquiries,” says Mme. d’Esperance, “only confirmed our first impression that the calf with the fiery eyes was no ordinary, living, earthly creature. I do not doubt that the strongly intuitive or clairvoyant faculties of the animals made them aware of some unusual or earthly presence in the wood and that the shrinking from the supernatural which in human beings we call superstition was the cause of their strange behavior. Had I been the only person that had seen the mysterious creature it is more than possible I never would have mentioned it, but it has been seen at different times by many persons living on the estate.”

To this Prof. Bozzano agrees, noting that horses, dogs, and deer usually are not frightened at the sight of a harmless calf and that a living calf would not account for the panic of fear often shown by the horses and dogs when to all appearances there was nothing abnormal to the sense of men.


Dogs Fear the Uncanny

In the remarkable account of a haunted house during an occupation by the well known English church dignitary, the extremely different behavior of dogs in the presences of real and phantasmal disturbances is pointed out. When an attempt was made to rob the vicarage the dogs gave prompt alarm and the clergyman was aroused by their fierce barking. During the mysterious noises, however, although these were much louder and more disturbing, they never barked at all but always were found cowering in a state of pitiable terror. They are said to have been more perturbed than any other members of the establishment, and if not shut up below “would make their way to our bedroom door and lie there, crouching and whining, as long as we would allow them.”

In the terrible case of haunting given by one Mrs. S.C. Hall, who was herself familiar with the main facts, the haunted man had not been able to keep a dog for years. One which e brought home when Mrs. Hall became acquainted with him could not be induced to stay in his room day or night after the hauntings began, and soon afterwards he ran away and was lost.


Dog and Cat See Ghost

To this historical case is added a recent and wonderful instance of hauntings in Pennsylvania when the apparition of the white woman appeared to the informant’s brother. The third night he saw the dog crouch and stare and then act as if driven around the room. The man saw nothing but heard a sort of rustle and the poor dog howled and tried to hide and never again would that dog go into that room.

A ghost a cat saw was in a room illuminated by the light of the fire. Puss, otherwise known as “Lady Catherine,” lay with her head upon her young mistress’ arm in a pensive attitude of drowsiness and purring. Of a sudden her purring ceased and she exhibited rapidly increasing signs of uneasiness. Struggling to her feet despite her mistress’s endeavors to soothe her, and spitting vehemently, with back arched and tail swollen, she assumed a mingled attitude of terror and defiance. Looking up, the young woman who held Lady Catherine now perceived with inexpressible horror, a little hideous wrinkled old hag occupying a chair at the opposite corner of the fireplace, stooping forward and steadfastly gazing with eyes piercingly fixed and shining.

The cat, after some most desperate efforts, escaped from her mistress, leaped over tables and chairs and all that came in her way, and repeatedly threw herself with frightful violence first against one and the other of the two closed doors of the room, and becoming every instant more frantic. The mistress had regained her breath and screamed. Her mother ran in immediately, and the cat, on the door opening, literally sprang over her head and for upwards of half an hour ran up and down stairs as if pursued.

Some time afterward it transpired that a former proprietor of the house, a woman, had hanged herself in that room.


Bozzano Declares Ghosts Exist

Each of Prof. Bozzano’s specters is more marvelous than the last and they bring him finally to the conclusion that “Even if we wish to show ourselves particular and strict in the analysis of single cases, even if we wish to exclude a certain number from the total count, and even if we assign due weight to the inevitable errors and amplifications arising from lapse of memory, in spite of all this we shall still have to admit that there are good number of which the substantially and incontestably genuine character cannot be doubted.

“From all this is results that now and henceforth is its not permissible to deny a priori the possibility of the occurrence of psychic perception in animals, and if on the one hand it is incontestably true that from the point of view of the scientific research there is yet a long distance to be traversed before the category of phenomena in question can be considered as definitely gained for science, on the other hand, however, and on the basis of the facts above set forth, it is permissible henceforth to recognize without fear of error that the verdict of future science cannot be other than fully affirmative.”


Animals See More than Man

Animals, besides sharing with man the intermittent exercise of faculties of supernormal psychic perception, show themselves more normally endowed with special psychic faculties unknown to man, such as the so-called instincts of direction and of migration, and the faculty of precognition as regards unforeseen atmospheric disturbances, or the imminence of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.

Although man is destitute of such superior faculties of instinct, nevertheless these same faculties exist in the unexplored recesses of his subconsciousness. In fact, the faculties of telepathy, telaesthesia, lucidity, premonition, and precognition, as manifested in man during physiological sleep or by the effect of induced sleep or somnambulism, correspond to these faculties of animals referred to, although in man they ordinarily who themselves under aspects more conformable to his nature.

“What perplexing psychic problems to solve!” exclaims the professor. “However, the time has not yet come for attempting this task. I will there f ore confine myself to remarking that in the day when we shall come to obtain the scientific proof that the phenomena of supernormal psychic perceptions which occur in human experience are realized in an identical manner with the experience of animals, and complete this proof by the further fact that the higher forms of instinct proper to animals are found to exist in the subconsciousness of man, on that day we shall also have arrived at the demonstration that there is no qualitative difference between the human and the animal psyche.”

Animals, then, see ghosts, and, in seeing them, yield to man another proof that they are his kinsmen.





Tuesday November 4, 2014






I am So very glad to find an article that finally educates me on the difference between a spirit and a spook AND to know that some resent the term!! Going forward I will remember to add a question as to preference when I am investigating!!

New York Times edition 8/23/1891


An eminent Spiritualist has recently protested indignantly against calling a spirit a spook. So far as can be learned, the spirits who are brought from the other world by mediums for purposes of materialization have no personal objection to the name of spook, whatever may be thought of the appellation by the high-strung gentlemen and ladies who serve as the physical and substantial basis of all the spirits that are accustomed to appear as solid bodies at the séances of true believers. When the immaterial becomes material it can hardly expect to be designated in terms which, properly speaking, belong to immateriality alone. It understands this so thoroughly that no materialized spirit ever yet “kicked” when it heard itself called a spook or a ghost. When, after appearing to persons who put faith in it, it has crept silently back into the void and vasty deep, it would have every right to protest that it is a spirit, and no ghost or spook; but when it visits the glimpses of dim lamps and gas jets of low illuminating power and assumes its astral jacket, or when it animates broomsticks and wigs dabbed with phosphorus, it knows that it has so far lowered its dignity as to justify men who call it a spook, since a spook it has made of itself, to its everlasting shame and disgrace. It is dignified to be a spirit; it is shameful to be a spook. Recognizing this fact, what self-respecting spirit who, in a moment of thoughtlessness, had placed himself in the hands of a medium, would have the impertinence to object when a characterizing nickname was given to him?

It is a piece of great affectation on the part of Spiritualists to pretend that their pets are not spooks. It is the leading mark of a spook that he can be seen with the naked eye, as no real spirit was or ever will be seen. When the sheeted dead di squeak and giber in the Roman streets before great CAESAR fell, POMPEY himself, who beaded the procession, was nothing on earth but a spook, although, if he had remained in the Fields Elysain, content to be but the shadow of his former self, he would unquestionably have been a spirit, and entitled to all the respect that men instinctively render to such an entity. But when he, linked arm-in-arm with ROMULUS and REMUS, went ramming around through the alleys and little ways that led to the Forum, with his helmet cocked over one eye and his sandal strings untied, gibbering like an ape and squeaking like the rusty hinges of a shutter, why should he not have been deemed and named a mere spook, and a rather disreputable one at that? It might have wounded his feelings sorely, but, being a wise spirit when he had come to himself, and was once more in full possession of his faculties, he certainly would have seen that he alone was to blame in the matter. He never should have recrossed the Styx and made a spectacle of himself before the Roman rabble. It was probably because of his remorse and shame on account of his ridiculous escapade that his statue subsequently ran blood when the assassinated JULIUS lay cold and still at its base.

Thus, when SOCRATES obeys a medium, returns to flesh, talks fustian, and writes his name and address in cursive Greek that never came into existence till several hundreds of years after his death, he can hardly object if the spirit of PLATO or of XENOPHON turns up its nose at him as a spook and inquires where he got his liquor and why he makes an ass of himself. If SOCRATES will no kick when his dearest friends sneer at him in this way, it is hardly likely that he cares an obolus when mere living earthy beings advise him of the spookiness of his whole nature and its essential unspirituality. It is only the medium who has pulled the sage head and ears out of the abyss who is likely to put in an objection. It hurts him to hear SOCRATES called out of his name and to see him erroneously classified. A spook, nevertheless, the great Greek has become, and his keeper must take the consequences. If he does not like them, all he has to do in order to remedy matters is to shoo the spook back to the place from which it came. If its backbone is a broomstick, and its head the broom, the instrument through which the shooing may be accomplished without delay is not far to seek.

It must be by mixed motives that the eminent Spiritualist whose protest has furnished the text of the present article was driven to deny in round terms that the defunct men and women whom he conjures into life once more are spooks and not spirits. “Spook” is a term that smacks of frivolity, if not the absolute irreverence, on the part of him who employs it. A spook-pusher or a spook-driver is a person as different from a Spiritualistic medium or a psychagogue as a tooth carpenter is different from a practitioner of dental surgery, or a horse doctor from a veterinary surgeon. Besides this, to call an appearance a spook is but too often a preliminary to the shying of malodorous missile weapons at its head, and so closely are spook and medium frequently connected with each other that the missiles are more than likely to miss the spook and lay the medium waste. To the world at large this may all seem to be as it should be, but to sensitive mediums it must be a source of much mental and physical distress.


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