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I HAVE few words to add, in summing up the foregoing evidence that the disturbances which give rise to rumors of haunted houses are, in certain cases, actual and unexplained phenomena.
Little comment is needed, or is likely to be useful. There are men so hard-set in their preconceptions on certain points that no evidence can move them. Time and the resistless current of public sentiment alone avail to urge them on. They must wait. And as to those whose ears are still open, whose convictions can still be reached, few, I venture to predict, will put aside, unmoved and incredulous, the mass of proof here brought together. Yet a few considerations, briefly stated, may not be out of place.
The testimony, in most of the examples, is direct and at first hand, given by eye and ear witnesses and placed on record at the time.
It is derived from reputable sources. Can we take exception to the character and standing of such witnesses as Joseph Glanvil, John Wesley, Justinus Kerner? Can we object to the authority of Mackay, a skeptic and a derider? Does not the narrative of Hahn evince in the observer both coolness and candor? As to the Ahrensburg story, it is the daughter of the chief magistrate concerned in its investigation who testifies. And where shall we find, among a multitude of witnesses, better proof of honesty than in the agreement in the depositions at Cideville and at Hydesville ?
The phenomena were such as could be readily observed. Many of them were of a character so palpable and no
OBSERVATIONS ON THE FOREGOING.
torious that for the observers to imagino them was a sheer impossibility. The thundering blows at Mr. Mompesson's shook the house and awoke the neighbors in an adjoining village. The poundings at Madame Hauffe's displaced the rafters and arrested the attention of passers. by in the street. At Epworth, let them make what noises they might, the “dead, hollow note would be clearly heard above them all.” At Hydesville, the house was abandoned by its occupants, and hundreds of the curious assembled, night after night, to test the reality of the knockings which sounded from every part of it.
There was ample opportunity to observe. The occurrences were not single appearances, suddenly presenting themselves, quickly passing away: they were repeated day after day, month after month, sometimes year after year. They could be tested and re-tested. Nor did they produce in the witnesses an evanescent belief, fading away after sober reflection.
Mr. Mompesson, Councilor Hahn, Emily Wesley, when half a lifetime had passed by, retained, and expressed, the same unwavering conviction as at first.
The narratives fail neither in minute detail of circumstance, nor in specifications of person, of time, and of place.
The observers were not influenced by expectancy, nor biased by recital of previous examples. The phenomena, indeed, have been of frequent occurrence; exhibiting an unmistakable family likeness, constituting a class. Yet not in a single instance does this fact appear to have been known to the observers. That which each witnessed he believed to be unexampled. Neither at Tedworth, nor Epworth, nor Slawensik, nor Baldarroch, nor Ahrensburg, nor Cideville, nor Hydesville, do the sufferers seem to have known that others had suffered by similar annoyance before. The more reliable, on that account, is their testimony.
Thereupon the noises became louder and more startling. The children sat up in bed. Mrs. Fox called in her husband. The night being windy, it suggested itself to him that it might be the rattling of the sashes. He tried several, shaking them to see if they were loose. Kate, the youngest girl, happened to remark that as often as her father shook a window-sash the noises seemed to reply. Being a lively child, and in a measure accustomed to what was going on, she turned to where the noise was, snapped her fingers, and called out, “Here, old Splitfoot, do as I do!" The knocking instantly responded.
That was the very commencement. Who can tell where the end will be ?
I do not mean that it was Kate Fox who thus, half in childish jest, first discovered that these mysterious sounds seemed instinct with intelligence. Mr. Mompesson, two hundred years ago, had already observed a similar phenomenon. Glanvil had verified it. So had Wesley and his children. So, we have seen, had others. But in all these cases the matter rested there, and the observation was no further prosecuted. As, previous to the invention of the steam-engine, surdry observers had trodden the very threshold of the discovery and there stopped, little thinking what lay close before them, so, in this case, where the Royal Chaplain, disciple though he was of the inductive philosophy, and where the founder of Methodism, admitting though he did the probabilities of ultramundane interference, were both at fault, a Yankee girl, but nine years old, following up, more in sport than earnest, a chance observation, became the instigator of a movement which, whatever its true character, has had its influence throughout the civilized world. The spark had several times been ignited,—once, at least, two centuries ago; but it had died out each time without effect. It kindled no flame till the middle of the nineteenth century.
OF APPEARANCES COMMONLY CALLED APPARITIONS
The evidence for a future life derived from an occasional appearance of the dead, provided that appearance prove to be an objective phenomenon, and provided we do not misconceive its character, is of the highest grade. If it be important, then, to obtain a valuable contribution to the proofs of the soul's immortality, what more worthy of our attention than the subject of apparitions?
But in proportion to its importance and to its extraordinary character is the urgent propriety that it be scrupulously, even distrustfully, examined, and that its reality be tested with dispassionate care.
For its discussion involves the theory of hallucination; a branch of inquiry which has much engaged, as indeed it ought, the attention of modern physiologists.
That pure hallucinations occur, we cannot rationally doubt; but what are, and what are not, hallucinations, it may be more difficult to determine than superficial observers are wont to imagine.
Hallucination, according to the usual definition, consists of ideas and sensations conveying unreal impressions. It is an example of false testimony (not always credited) apparently given by the senses in a dis. eased or abnormal state of the human organization.
REPORT OF THE MYSTERIOUS NOISES.
as prompt and pertinent as they had been to those of Mrs. Fox. She was struck with awe; and when, in reply to a question about the number of her children, by rapping four, instead of three as she expected, it reminded her of a little daughter, Mary, whom she had recently lost, the mother burst into tears.
But it avails not further to follow out in minute detail the issue of these disturbances, since the particulars have already been given, partly in the shape of formal depositions, in more than one publication,* and since they are not essential to the illustration of this branch of the subject.
It may, however, be satisfactory to the reader that I here subjoin to the above narrative-every particular of which I had from Mrs. Fox, her daughters Margaret and Kate, and her son David--a supplement, containing
* The earliest of these, published in Canandaigua only three weeks after the occurrences of the 31st of March, is a pamphlet of forty pages, entitled “A Report of the Mysterious Noises heard in the house of Mr. John D. Fox, in Hydesville, Arcadia, Wayne County, authenticated by the certificates and confirmed by the statements of the citizens of that place and vicinity.” Canandaigua, published by E. E. Lewis, 1848. It contains twenty-one certificates, chiefly given by the immediate neighbors, including those of Mr. and Mrs. Fox, of their son and daughter-in-law, of Mrs. Redfield, &c. &c., taken chiefly on the 11th and 12th of April. For a copy of the above pamphlet, now very scarce, I am indebted to the family of Mr. Fox, whom I visited in August, 1859, at the house of the son, Mr. David Fox, when I bad an opportunity to visit the small dwelling in which the above-related circumstances took place; descending to its cellar, the alleged scene of dark deeds. The house is now occupied by a farm-laborer, who, Faraday-like, "does not believe in spooks."
A more connected account, followed up by a history of the movement which had birth at Hydesville, is to be found in “Modern Spiritualism : its Facts and Fanaticisms," by E. W. Capron, Boston, 1855, pp. 33 to 56.
Most of the witnesses signing the certificates above referred to offer to confirm their statements, if necessary, under oath; and they almost all expressly declare their conviction that the family had no agency in producing the sounds, that these were not referable to trick or deception or to any known natural cause, usually adding that they were no believers in the supernatural, and had never before heard or witnessed any thing not susceptible of a natural explanation.