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THE LOST REAPPEARS.
the canal at a designated point, where she would certainly discover the corpse; in obeying which injunction she nearly lost her life. Some months afterward, the alleged victim reappeared: he had departed secretly for Canada, to avoid the importunities of his creditors.*
In the Hydesville case, too, there was some rebutting evidence. The raps had alleged that, though the peddler's wife was dead, his five children lived in Orange County, New York; but all efforts to discover them there were fruitless. Nor does it appear that any man named Rosma was ascertained to have resided there.
It remains to be added that no legal proceedings were ever instituted, either against Mr. Bell, in virtue of the suspicions aroused, or by him against those who expressed such suspicions. He finally left the country.
It is evident that no sufficient case is made out against him. The statements of the earthly witnesses amount to circumstantial evidence only; and upon unsupported ultramundane testimony no dependence can be placed. It may supply hints; it may suggest inquiries; but assurance it cannot give.
The Hydesville narrative, however, as one of unexplained disturbances, like those at Cideville, at Ahrensburg, at Slawensik, at Epworth, and at Tedworth, rests for verification on the reality of the phenomena themselves, not on the accuracy of the extrinsic information alleged to be thereby supplied.
For details, see "Modern Spiritualism," pp. 60 to 62. If we concede the reality of the spirit-rap, and if we assume to judge of ultramundane intentions, we may imagine that the purpose was, by so early and so marked a lesson, to warn men, even from the commencement, against putting implicit faith in spiritual communications.
It is worthy of remark, however, that there is this great difference in these two cases, that the Hydesville communications came by spontaneous agency, uncalled for, unlooked for, while those obtained at Rochester were evoked and expected.
THE STRATFORD DISTURBANCES.
With this case I close the list of these narrations; for to follow up similar examples, since occurring throughout our country,* would lead me, away from my object, into the history of the rise and progress of the Spiritual movement itself.
* As that occurring at Stratford, Connecticut, in the house of the Rev. Dr. Eliakim Phelps, more whimsical, and also more surprising, in many of its modifications, than any of those here related; commencing on the 10th of March, 1850, and continuing, with intervals, a year and nine months; namely, till the 15th of December, 1851. A detailed account of this case will be found in "Modern Spiritualism,” pp. 132 to 171.
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 passersby 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.
WHITHER ULTRA SKEPTICISM LEADS.
There was not only no motive for simulation, but much temptation to conceal what actually occurred. Mr. Mompesson suffered in his name and estate. Mrs. Wesley strictly enjoined her son to impart the narrative to no one. Judge Rousselin found the curate of Cideville profoundly afflicted by his painful position. Mrs. Fox's health (as I learned) suffered seriously from grief. "What have we done," she used to say, "to deserve this?" We can readily conceive that such must have been the feeling. What more mortifying or painful than to be exposed to the suspicion of being either a willful impostor, or else the subject of punishment, from Heaven, for past misdeeds?
Finally, the phenomena were sometimes attested by the official records of public justice. So, during the trial of the drummer, the suit of Captain Molesworth, and the legal proceedings instituted, at Cideville, against the shepherd Thorel. Where shall we seek a higher grade of human evidence?
If such an array of testimony as this, lacking no element of trustworthiness, converging from numerous independent sources, yet concurrent through two centuries, be not entitled to credit, then what dependence can we place on the entire records of history? What becomes of the historical evidence for any past event whatever? If we are to reject, as fable, the narratives here submitted, are we not tacitly indorsing the logic of those who argue that Jesus Christ never lived? Nay, must we not accept as something graver than pleasantry that pamphlet in which a learned and ingenious Churchman sets forth plausible reasons for the belief that rumor, in her most notorious iterations, may be but a lying witness, and that it is doubtful whether Napoleon Buonaparte ever actually existed?*
"Historic Doubts relative to Napoleon Buonaparte," by Archbishop Whateley, 12th ed., London, 1855.