A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book
Edited and Annotated by Mr. X
IN October, 1904, a wolf, belonging to Captain Bains of Shotley Bridge, twelve miles from Newcastle, England, escaped, and soon afterward, killings of sheep were reported from the region of Hexham, about twenty miles from Newcastle.
There seems to be an obvious conclusion.
We have had some experience with conclusions that were said to be obvious.
A story of a wolf in England is worth space, and the London newspapers rejoiced in this wolf story. Most of them did, but there are several that would not pay much attention to a dinosaur-hunt in Hyde Park. Special correspondents were sent to Hexham, Northumberland. Some of them, because of circumstances that we shall note, wrote that there was no wolf, but [157/158] probably a large dog that had turned evil. Most of them wrote that undoubtedly a wolf was ravaging, and was known to have escaped from Shotley Bridge. Something was slaughtering sheep, killing for food, and killing wantonly, sometimes mutilating four or five sheep, and devouring one. An appetite was ravaging, in Northumberland. We have impressions of the capacity of a large and hungry dog, but, upon reading these accounts, one has to think that they were exaggerations, or that the killer must have been more than a wolf. But, according to developments, I'd not say that there was much exaggeration. The killings were so serious that the farmers organised into the Hexham Wolf Committee, offering a reward, and hunting systematically. Every hunt was fruitless, except as material for the special correspondents, who told of continuing depredations, and revelled in special announcements. It was especially announced that, upon Dec. 15th, the Haydon foxhounds, one of the most especial packs in England, would be sent out. These English dogs, of degree so high as to be incredible in all other parts of the world, went forth. It is better for something of high degree not to go forth. Mostly in times of peace arise great military reputations. So long as something is not tested it may be of high renown. But the Haydon foxhounds went forth. They returned with their renown damaged.
This takes us to another of our problems:
Who can blame a celebrity for not smelling an absence?
There are not only wisemen: there are wisedogs, we learn. The Wolf Committee heard of Monarch, "the celebrated bloodhound." This celebrity was sent for, and when he arrived, it was with such a look of sagacity that the sheepfarmers' troubles were supposed to be over. The wisedog was put on what was supposed [158/159] to be the trail of the wolf. But, if there weren't any wolf, who can blame a celebrated bloodhound for not smelling something that wasn't? The wisedog sniffed. Then he sat down. It was impossible to set this dog on the trail of a wolf, though each morning he was taken to a place of fresh slaughter.
Well, then, what else is there in all this? If, locally, one of the most celebrated intellects in England could not solve the problem, it may be that the fault was in taking it up locally.
Throughout my time of gathering material for this book, it was my way to note something, and not to regard it as isolated; and to search widely for other occurrences that might associate with it. So, then, I noted this wolf story, and I settled upon this period, of the winter of 1904-05, with the idea of collecting records of seemingly incongruous occurrences, which, however, might be germs of correlations.
Such as this, for instance -- but what could one of these occurrences have to do with the other ? --
That in this winter of 1904-05, there were two excitements in Northumberland. One was the wolf-hunt, and the other was a revival-craze, which had spread from Wales to England. At the time of the wolf-hunt, there was religious mania in Northumberland. Men and women staggered, as they wept and shouted, bearing reeling lights, in delirious torchlight processions.
If Monarch, the celebrated bloodhound sniffed and sat down, I feel, myself, that the trail cannot be picked up in Hexham.
It was a time of widespread, uncanny occurrences in Great Britain. But in no account of any one uncanny occurrence have I read of any writer's awareness that there were other uncanny occurrences, or more than one or two other uncanny occurrences. There were many, special scares, at this time, in Great Britain. [159/160] There was no general scare. The contagions of popular delusions cannot be lugged in, as a general explanation.
Strange, luminous things, or beings, were appearing in Wales.
In Wales had started one of the most widely hysterical religious revivals of modern times.
A light in the sky -- and a pious screech -- I sniff, but I don't sit down.
A wolf and a light and a screech.
There are elaborate accounts of the luminous things, or beings, in the Proc. S.P.R., vol. 19, and in the first volume of the Occult Review.(1) We are told that, over the piously palpitating principality of Wales, shining things travelled, stopping and descending when they came to a revival meeting, associating in some unknown way with these centres of excitation, especially where Mrs. Mary Jones was the leader. There is a story of one shining thing that persistently followed Mrs. Jones' car, and was not shaken off, when the car turned abruptly from one road to another.
So far as acceptability is concerned, I prefer the accounts by newspaper men. It took considerable to convince them. Writers, sent to Wales, by London newspapers, set out with blithe incredulity. Almost everybody has a hankering for mysteries, but it is likely to be an abstract hankering, and when a mystery comes up in one's own experience, one is likely to treat it in a way that warns everybody else that one is not easily imposed upon. The first reports that were sent back by the Londoners were flippant; but, in the London Daily Mail, Feb. 13, 1905, one of these correspondents describes something like a ball of fire, which he saw in the sky, a brilliant object that was motionless for a while, then disappearing.(2) Later he came upon such an appearance, near the ground, not 500 feet away. He ran toward it, but the thing disappeared. [160/161] Then Bernard Redwood was sent, by the Daily Mail, to investigate. In the Mail, Feb. 13, he writes that there were probably will-o'-the-wisps, helped out by practical jokers. As we very well know, there are no more helpful creatures than practical jokers, but, as inquiry stoppers, will-o'-the-wisps have played out. A conventionalist, telling the story, to-day, would say that they were luminous bats from a chapel belfry, and that a sexton had shot one. Almost every writer who accepted that these things were, thought that in some unknown, or unknowable, way, they were associated with the revival. It is said that they were seen hovering over chapels.
According to my methods, I have often settled upon special periods, gathering data, with the idea of correlating, but I have never come upon any other time in which were reported so many uncanny occurrences.
There were teleportations in a butcher shop, or things were mysteriously flying about, in a butcher shop, in Portmadoc, Wales. The police were called in, and they accused a girl who was employed in the butcher shop. "She made a full confession" (News of the World, Feb. 26).(3) A ghost in Barmouth: no details (Barmouth Advertiser, Jan. 12).(4) Most of the records are mere paragraphs, but the newspapers gave considerable space to reported phenomena in the home of Mr. Howell, at Lampeter, Wales. As told in the London Daily News, Feb. 11, and 13, "mysterious knockings" were heard in this house, and crowds gathered outside.(5) The Bishop of Swansea and Prof. Harris investigated, but could not explain. Crowds in the street became so great that extra police had to be called out to regulate traffic, but nothing was learned. There were youngsters in this house, but they did not confess. Mr. Howell had what is known as "standing," in his community. It's the housemaid, or the girl in the butcher [161/162] shop, with parents who presumably haven't much "standing," who is knocked about, or more gently slugged, or perhaps only slapped on the face, who confesses, or is said to have confessed. Also, as told in the Liverpool Echo, Feb. 15, there was excitement at Rhymney, Wales, and investigations that came to nothing.(6) Tapping sounds had been heard, and strange lights had been seen, in one of the revival-centres, the Salvation Army Barracks. Whether these lights were like the other lights that were appearing in Wales, I cannot say. It was the assertion of the Rev. J. Evans and other investigators, who had spent a night in the Barracks, that they had seen "very bright lights."
In the Southern Daily Echo, Feb. 23, is an account of "mysterious rappings" on a door of a house in Crewe, and of a young woman, in the house who was said to have dropped dead.(7) A physician "pronounced" her dead. But there was an inquest, and the coroner said: "There is not a single sign of death." Nevertheless she was officially dead, and she was buried, anyway. I am too dim in my notions of possible correlations, to go into details, but, along with my suppositions that ordinarily catalepsy is of rare occurrence, I note that I have records of three persons, who, in this period, were aroused from trances, in time to save them from being buried alive. There are data of "strange suicides," that I shall pass over. I have several dozen records of "mysterious fires," in this period.
Slaughter in Northumberland -- farmers, who could, housing their sheep, at night -- others setting up lanterns in their fields. Monarch, the celebrated bloodhound, who could not smell something that perhaps was not, got no more space in the newspapers, and, to a woman, the inhabitants of Hexham stopped sending him chrysanthemums. But faith in celebrities kept up, as it always will keep up, and when the Hungarian [162/163] Wolf Hunter appeared, the only reason that a brass band did not escort him, in showers of torn-up telephone books, is that, away back in this winter, Hexham, like most parts of the other parts of England, was not yet Americanised. It was before the English were educated. The moving pictures were not of much influence then. The Hungarian Wolf Hunter, mounted on a shaggy Hungarian pony, galloped over hills and dales, and, with strange, Hungarian hunting cries, made what I think is called the welkin ring. He might as well have sat down and sniffed. He might as well have been a distinguished General, or Admiral, at the outbreak of a war.
Four sheep were killed at Low Eschelles, and one at Sedham, in one night. Then came the big hunt, of Dec. 20th, which, according to expectations, would be final. The big hunt set out from Hexham: gamekeepers, woodmen, farmers, local sportsmen, and sportsmen from far away. There were men on horseback, and two men in "traps," a man on a bicycle, and a mounted policeman; two women with guns, one of them in a blue walking dress, if that detail's any good to us.
They came wandering back, at the end of the day, not having seen anything to shoot at. Some said that it was because there wasn't anything. Everybody else had something to say about Capt. Bains. The most unpopular person, in the north of England, at this time, was Capt. Bains, of Shotley Bridge. Almost every night, something, presumably Capt. Bains' wolf, even though there was no findable statement that a wolf had been seen, was killing and devouring sheep.
In Brighton, an unknown force, or thing, struck notes on a musical instrument (Daily Mail, Dec. 24).(8) Later, there were stories of "a phantom bicyclist" near Brighton (London Daily Mirror, Feb. 6).(9) In the Jour. S.P.R., 13-259, is published somebody's [163/164] statement that, near the village of Hoe Benham, he had seen something that looked like a large dog turn into a seeming donkey.(10) Strange sounds heard near Bolton, Lancashire -- "nothing but the beating of a rope against a flagstaff." Then it was said that a figure had been seen (Lloyd's Weekly News, Jan. 15).(11) A doorbell was mysteriously ringing, at Blackheath, London: police watching the house, but unable to find out anything (Daily Mirror, Feb. 13).(12) But in not one of these accounts is shown knowledge that, about the same time, other accounts were being published. Look in the publications of the S.P.R., and wonder what the Society was doing. It did investigate two of the cases told of in this chapter, but no awareness is shown of a period of widespread occurrences. Other phenomena, or alleged phenomena -- a ghost at Exeter Deanery: no details, (Daily Mail, Dec. 24).(13) Strange sounds and lights, in a house in Epworth (Liverpool Echo, Jan. 25).(14) People in Bradford though that they saw a figure enter a club house -- police notified -- fruitless search (Weekly Dispatch, Jan. 15).(15) At Edinburgh, Mr. J.E. Newlands, who held the Fulton chair, at the United Free College, saw a "figure" moving beside him (Weekly Dispatch, April 16).(16)
But the outstanding phenomenon of this period was the revival --
Liverpool Echo, Jan. 18 -- "Wales in the Grip of Supernatural Forces!"(17)
This was in allusion to the developing frenzies of the revival, and the accompanying luminous things, or beings, that had been reported. "Supernatural" is a word that has no place in my vocabulary. In my view, it has no meaning, or distinguishment. If there never has been, finally, a natural explanation of anything, everything is, naturally enough, the supernatural.
The grip was a grab by the craze. The excitement was [164/165] combustion, or psycho-electricity, or almost anything except what it was supposed to be, and perhaps when flowing from human batteries there was a force that was of use to the luminous things that hung around. Maybe they fed upon it, and grew, and glowed, brilliant with nourishing ecstasies. See data upon astonishing growths of plants, when receiving other kinds of radio-active nourishment, or stimulation. If a man can go drunk on God, he may usefully pass along his exhilarations to other manifestations of godness.
There were flares where they'd be least expected. In the big stores, in the midst of waiting on customers, shop girls would suddenly, or electrically, start clapping hands and singing. Very likely some of them cut up such capers for the sport of it, and enjoyed keeping hard customers waiting. I notice that, though playing upon widely different motives, popular excitements are recruited and kept going, as if they were homogeneous. There no understanding huge emotional revolts against sin, without considering all the fun there is in them. They are monotony-breakers. Drab, little personalities have a chance to scream themselves vivid. There were confession-addicts who, past possibility of being believed, proclaimed their own wickedness, and then turned to public confessions for their neighbours, until sinful neighbours appealed to the law for protection. In one town, a men went from store to store, "returning" things that he had not stolen. Bands of girls roved the streets, rushing earnestly and mischievously into the more sedate churches, where the excitation was not encouraged, singing and clapping their hands, all of them shouting, and some of them blubbering, and then some of the most sportive ones blubbering, compelled into a temporary uniformity. This clapping of hands, in time with the singing, was almost irresistible: some vibrational reason: power of [165/166] the rhythm to harmonize diverse units; primitive power of the drum-beat. Special trains set out from Liverpool to Welsh meeting-places, with sightseers, who hadn't a concern for the good of their souls; vendors of things that might have a sale; some earnest ones. Handclapping started up, and emotional furies shot through Wales.
There were ghost-scares in the towns of Blyth and Dover. Blyth News, March 14 -- crowds gathered around a school house -- something of a ghostly nature inside -- nothing but the creaking of a partition.(18)
I pick up something else. We wonder how far our neo-mediævalism is going to take us. Perhaps -- though our interpretations will not be the same -- only mediævalism will be the limit. Blyth News, Feb. 28 -- smoke that was seen coming from the windows of a house, in Blyth.(19) Neighbours broke in, and found the body of the occupant, Barbara Bell, aged 77, on the floor. Her body was burned, as if for a long time it had been in the midst of intense flames. It was though that the victim had fallen into the fireplace. "The body was fearfully charred."
Something was slaughtering sheep -- and things in the sky of Wales -- and it may be that there were things, or beings, that acted like fire, consuming the bodies of women. London Daily News, Dec. 17, 1904 -- "Yesterday morning, Mrs. Thomas Cochrane, of Rosehall, Falkirk, widow of a well-known, local gentleman, was found burned to death in her bedroom."(20) No fire in the grate -- "burned almost beyond recognition" -- no outcry -- little, if anything else burned -- body found, "sitting in a chair, surrounded by pillows and cushions." London Daily Mail, Dec. 24 -- inquest on the body of a woman, who had died of the effects of "mysterious burns."(21) "She could give no account of her injuries." An almshouse, late at night -- and something [166/167] burned a woman. Trinity Almshouse, Hull -- story told, in the Hull Daily Mail, Jan. 6.(22) Body covered with burns -- woman still living, when found in the morning -- strange that there had been no outcry -- bed unscorched. The woman, Elizabeth Clark, could tell nothing of her injuries, and she died without giving a clue to the mystery. "There was no fire nor light in the room."
On both sides of the River Tyne, something kept on slaughtering. It crossed the Tyne, having killed on one side, then killing on the other side. At East Dipton, two sheep were devoured, all but the fleece and bones, and the same night two sheep were killed on the other side of the river.
"The Big Game Hunter from India!"
Another celebrity came forth. The Wolf Committee met him at the station. There was a plaid shawl strapped to his back, and the flaps of his hunting cap were considered unprecedented. Almost everybody had confidence in the shawl, or felt that the flaps were authoritative. The devices by which he covered his ears made beholders feel that they were in the presence of Science.
Hexham Herald -- "The right man at last!"
So finally the wolf hunt was taken up scientifically. The ordinary hunts were going on, but the wiseman from India would have nothing to do with them. In his cap, with flaps such as had never before been seen in Northumberland, and with his plaid shawl strapped to his back, he was going from farm to farm, sifting and dating and classifying observations: drawing maps, card-indexing his data. For some situations, this is the best of methods; but something that the methodist-wiseman cannot learn is that a still better method is that of not being so tied to any particular method. It was a serious matter in Hexham. The ravaging [167/168] thing was an alarming pest. There were some common hunters who were unmannerly over all this delay, but the Hexham Herald came out strong for Science -- "The right man in the right place, at last!"
There was, in this period, another series of killings. Upon a farm, near Newcastle, late in the year 1904, something was killing poultry. The depredations were so persistent, and the marauder was so evasive that persons who are said to be superstitious began to talk in a way that is said to be unenlightened.
Then the body of an otter was found.(23)
The killing of poultry stopped.
For a discussion of the conclusion that to any normal logician looks obvious, see the Field, Dec. 3, 1904.(24) Here we learn that otters, though ordinarily living among fish, do sometimes vary their diet. But no data upon persistent killing of poultry, by otters, came out.
This body of an otter was found, lying on a railroad line.
France in the grip of military forces. August, 1914 -- France was invaded, and the people of France knew France was invaded. It is my expression that so they knew, only because it was a conventional recognition. There was no wisemen to say that reported bodies of men moving along roads had nothing to do with mutilated persons appearing in hospitals, and that only by coincidence was there devastation. The wiseman of France did not give only a local explanation to every local occurrence, but of course correlated all, as the manifestations of one invasion. Human eyes have been made to see human invaders.
Wales in the grip of "supernatural forces." People in England paid little attention, at first, but then hysterias mobbed across the border. To those of us who have some failings, and now and then give a thought to correcting them, if possible, but are mostly too busy [168/169] to bother much, cyclones of emotions relating to states that are vaguely known as good and evil, are most mysterious. In the Barmouth Advertiser, April 20, it is said that, in the first three months of this year 1905, there had been admitted to the Denbigh Insane Asylum, 16 patients, whose dementias were attributed to the revival.(25) It is probable that many cases were not reported. In the Liverpool Echo, Nov. 25, are accounts of four insane revivalists, who were under restraint in their own homes.(26) Three cases in one town are told of in this newspaper, of Jan. 10th.(27) The craze spread in England, and in some parts of England it was as intense as anywhere in Wales. At Bromley, a woman wrote a confession of sins, some of which, it was said, she could not have committed, and threw herself under a railroad train. In town after town, police stations were invaded by exhorters. In both England and Wales, bands stood outside theatres, calling upon people not to enter. In the same way they tried to prevent attendance at football games.
Dec. 29 -- "Wolf killed on a railroad line!"
It was at Cumwinton, which is near Carlisle, about thirty miles from Hexham. The body was found on a railroad line -- "Magnificent specimen of male grey wolf -- total length five feet -- measurement from foot to top of shoulder, thirty inches."
Captain Bains, of Shotley Bridge, went immediately to Cumwinton. He looked at the body of the wolf. He said that it was not his wolf.
There was doubt in the newspapers. Everybody is supposed to know his own wolf, but when one's wolf had made material for a host of damage suits, one's recognitions may be dimmed.
This body of a wolf was found, and the killings of sheep stopped.
But Capt. Bains' denial that the wolf was his wolf [169/170] was accepted by the Hexham Wolf Committee. Data were with him. He had reported the escape of his wolf, and the description was on record in the Shotley Bridge police station. Capt. Bains' wolf was, in October, no "magnificent" full-grown specimen, but a cub, four and a half months old. Though nobody had paid any attention to this circumstance, it had been pointed out, in the Hexham Herald, Oct. 15.(28)
The wolf of Cumwinton was not identified, according to my reading of the data. Nobody told of an escape of a grown wolf, though news of this wolf's death was published throughout England. The animal may have come from somewhere far from England. Photographs of the wolf were sold, as picture postal cards. People flocked to Cumwinton. Men in the show business offered to buy the body, but the decision of the railroad company was that the body had not been identified, and belonged to the company. The head was preserved, and was sent to the central office, in Derby.
But what became of the Shotley Bridge wolf?
All that can be said is that it disappeared.
The mystery begins with this statement:
That, in October, 1904, a wolf, belonging to Capt. Bains, of Shotley Bridge, escaped, and that about the same time began a slaughtering of sheep, but that Capt. Bains's wolf had nothing to do with the slaughter.
Or the statement is that there was killing of sheep, in Northumberland, and that then came news of the escape of a wolf, by which the killing of a few sheep might be explained --
But that then there were devourings, which could not be attributed to a wolf-cub.
The wolf-cub disappeared, and there appeared another wolf, this one of a size and strength to which the devourings could be attributed. [170/171]
Somewhere there was science.
If it had not been for Capt. Bains' prompt investigation, the reported differences between these two animals would have been overlooked, or disbelieved, and the story would be simply that a wolf had escaped from Shotley Bridge, had ravaged, and had been killed at Cumwinton. But Capt. Bains did investigate, and his statement that the wolf of Cumwinton was not his wolf was accepted. So then, instead of a satisfactory explanation, there was a new mystery. Where did the wolf of Cumwinton come from?
There is something that is acting to kill off mysteries. Perhaps always, and perhaps not always, it can be understood in commonplace terms. If luminous things that move like flying birds are attracting attention, a Mr. Cannell appears, and says that he has found a luminous owl. In the newspapers, about the middle of February, appeared a story that Capt. Alexander Thompson, of Tacoma, Washington -- and I have looked this up, learning that a Capt. Alexander Thompson did live in Tacoma, about the year 1905 -- was walking along a street in Derby, when he glanced in a taxidermist's window, and there saw the supposed wolf's head.(29) He recognized it not as the head of a wolf, but the head of a malmoot, an Alaskan sleigh dog, half wolf and half dog. This animal, with other malmoots, had been taken to Liverpool, for exhibition, and had escaped in a street in Liverpool. Though I have not been able to find out the date, I have learned that there was such an exhibition, in Liverpool. No date was mentioned by Capt. Thompson. The owners of the malmoot had said nothing, and rather than to advertise, had put up with the loss, because of their fear that there would be damages for sheep-killing. Not in the streets of Liverpool, presumably. No support for this commonplace-ending followed. Nothing [171/172] more upon this subject is findable in Liverpool newspapers.
Liverpool is 120 miles from Hexham.
It is a story of an animal that escaped in Liverpool, and, leaving no trail of slaughtering behind it, went to a distant part of England, exactly to a place where a young wolf was at large, and there slaughtered like a wolf.
I prefer to think that the animal of Cumwinton was not a malmoot.
Derby Mercury, Feb. 22 -- that the animal had been identified as a wolf, by Mr. A.S. Hutchinson, taxidermist to the Manchester Museum of Natural History. Liverpool Echo, Dec. 31 -- that the animal had been identified as a wolf, by a representative of Bostock and Wombell's Circus, who had travelled from Edinburgh to see the body.(30)
Killing of poultry, and the body of an otter on the railroad line -- and the killing of poultry stopped.
Or that there may be occult things, beings and events, and that also there may be something of the nature of an occult police force, which operates to divert human suspicions, and to supply explanations that are good enough for whatever, somewhat of the nature of minds, human beings have -- or that, if there be occult mischief-makers and occult ravagers, they may be of a world also of beings that are acting to check them, and to explain them, not benevolently, but to divert suspicion from themselves, because they, too, may be exploiting life upon this earth, but in ways more subtle, and in orderly, or organised fashion.
We have noticed, in investigating obscure, or occult, phenomena, or alleged phenomena, that sometimes in matters that are now widely supposed to be rank superstitions, orthodox scientists are not so uncompromising in their oppositions, as are those who have not in- [172/173] vestigated. In the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, April, 1894, is an account of a case of "spontaneous combustion of human bodies."(31) The account is by Dr. Adrian Hava, not as observed by him, but as reported by his father. In Science, 10-100, is quoted a paper that was read by Dr. B.H. Hartwell, of Ayer, Mass., before the Massachusetts Medico-Legal Society.(32) It was Dr. Hartwell's statement, that upon May 12th, 1890, while driving through a forest, near Ayer, he had been called, and, going into the wood, saw, in a clearing, the crouched form of a woman. Fire which was not from clothing, was consuming the shoulders, both sides of the abdomen, and both legs. See Dr. Dixon Mann's Forensic Medicine and Toxicology (edition of 1922) p. 216.(33) Here, cases are told of and are accepted as veritable -- such as the case of a woman, consumed so by fire that on the floor of her room there was only a pile of calcined bones left of her. The fire, if in an ordinary sense it was fire, must have been of the intensity of a furnace: but a table cloth, only three feet from the pile of cinders, was unscorched.(34) There are other such records.
I think that our data relate, not to "spontaneous combustion of human bodies," but to things, or beings, that, with a flaming process, consume men and women, but, like werewolves, or alleged werewolves, mostly pick out women. Occurrences of this winter of 1904-05 again. Early in February, in London, a woman, who was sitting asleep, before a fire in a grate, awoke, finding herself flaming. A commonplace explanation would seem to be sufficient: nevertheless it is a story of "mysterious burns," as worded in Lloyd's Weekly News, Feb. 5.(35) A coroner had expressed an inability to understand. In commenting upon the case, the coroner had said that a cinder might have shot from the grate, igniting this woman's clothes, but that she had been [173/174] sitting, facing the fire, and that the burns were on her back.
Upon the morning of Feb. 26th (Hampshire Advertiser, March 4) at Butlock's Heath, near Southampton, neighbours of an old couple, named Kiley, heard a scratching sound.(36) They entered the house, and found it in flames, inside. Kiley was found, burned to death, on the floor. Mrs. Kiley, burned to death, was sitting in a chair, in the same room, "badly charred, but recognisable."
A table was overturned, and a broken lamp was on the floor.
So there seem to be an obvious explanation. But, at the inquest, it was said that an examination of this lamp showed that it could not have caused the fire. The verdict was: "Accidental death, but by what means, they (the jury) were unable to determine."
Both bodies had been fully dressed, "judging by fragments of clothes." This indicates that the Kileys had been burned before their time for going to bed. Hours later, the house was in flames. At the inquest, the mystery was that two persons, neither of whom had cried for help, presumably not asleep in an ordinary sense, should have been burned to death in a fire that did not manifest as a general fire, until hours later.
Something had overturned a table. A lamp was broken.
Again the phenomenon of scene-shifting --
Soon after the killing of poultry ceased, near Newcastle, there were uncanny occurrences upon Binbrook Farm, near Great Grimsby. There is an account, in the Jour. S.P.R., 12-138, by the Rev. A.C. Custance, of Binbrook Rectory.(37) There was no confession, this time, but this time the girl in the case -- the young housemaid again -- was in no condition to be dragged to a [174/175] police station. It will not be easy to think that it was trickery by the girl in this case. The story is that objects were thrown about rooms: that three times, near "a not very good, or big, fire," things burst into flames, and that finally a servant girl was burned, or was attacked by something that burned her. In the Liverpool Echo, Jan. 25, is published a letter from a school teacher of Binbrook, in which it is said that a blanket had been found burning in a room in which there was no fireplace.(38) According to the report by Col. Taylor, to the S.P.R., the first manifestation occurred upon the 31st of December.(39)
Something was killing chickens, in the farm yard, and in the henhouse. All were killed in the same way. A vampirish way? Their throats were torn.
I go to a newspaper for an account of phenomena, at Binbrook. The writer was so far from prejudice in favour of occult phenomena, that he began by saying: "Superstition dies hard." In the Louth and North Lincolnshire News, Jan. 28, he tells of objects that unaccountably fell from shelves in the farmhouse, and of mysterious transportations of objects, "according to allegations."(40) "A story that greatly dismays the unsophisticated is that of the servant girl, who, while sweeping the floor, was badly burned on the back. This is how the farmer relates it: `Our servant girl, whom we had taken from the workhouse, and who had neither kin nor friend in the world that she knows of, was sweeping the kitchen. There was a very small fire in the grate: there was a guard there, so that no one can come within two feet or more of the fire, and she was at the other end of the room, and had not been near. I suddenly came into the kitchen, and there she was, sweeping away, while the back of her dress was afire. She looked around, as I shouted, and, seeing the flames, rushed through the door. She tripped, and I [175/176] smothered the fire out with wet sacks. But she was terribly burned, and she is at the Louth Hospital, now, in terrible pain.'
"This last sentence is very true. Yesterday our representative called at the hospital, and was informed that the girl was burnt extensively on the back, and lies in a critical condition. She adheres to the belief that she was in the middle of the room, when her clothes ignited."
A great deal, in trying to understand this occurrence, depends upon what will be thought of the unseen killing of chickens --
"Out of 250 fowls, Mr. White says that he has only 24 left. They have all been killed in the same weird way. The skin around the neck, from the head to the breast, has been pulled off, and the windpipe drawn from its place and snapped. The fowl house has been watched night and day, and, whenever examined, four or five birds would be found dead."
In London, a woman sat asleep, near a grate, and something, as if taking advantage of this means of commonplace explanation, burned her, behind her. Perhaps a being, of incendiary appetite, had crept up behind her, but I had no data upon which so to speculate. But, if we accept that, at Binbrook Farm, something was savagely killing chickens, we accept that whatever we mean by a being was there. It seems that, in the little time taken by the farmer to put out the fire of the burning girl, she could not have been badly scorched. Then the suggestion is that, unknown to her, something behind her was burning her, and that she was unconscious of her own scorching flesh. All the stories are notable for the absence of outcry, or seeming unconsciousness of victims that something was consuming them.
The town of Market Rasen is near Binbrook Farm. The address of the clergyman who reported, to the [176/177] S.P.R., the fires and the slaughtering of chickens, upon the farm, is "Binbrook Rectory, Market Rasen."(41) Upon Jan. 16th, as told in the Louth and North Lincolnshire News, Jan. 21, there was, in a chicken house, at Market Rasen, a fire in which 57 chickens were consumed.(42) Perhaps a fire in a chicken house is not much of a circumstance to record, but I note that it is said that how this fire started could not be found out.
The girl of Binbrook Farm was taken to the Louth Hospital. In Lloyd's Weekly News, Feb. 5, there is an account of "mysterious burns."(43) It is the case of Ashton Clodd, a man aged 75, who, the week before, had died in the Louth Hospital. It is said that he had fallen into a grate, while putting coals in it, and that, for some reason, probably because of his rheumatism, had been unable to rise, and had been fatally burned. But a witness at the inquest is quoted: "If there was a fire in the fireplace, it was very little."
All around every place that we have noted, the revival was simmering, seething or raging. In Leeds, women, who said that they were directed by visions, stood in the streets, stopping cars, trying to compel passengers to join them. A man in Tunbridge Wells, taking an exhortation literally, chopped his right hand off. "Holy dancers" appeared in London. At Driffield, someone led a procession every night, trundling his coffin ahead of him. And all this in England. And, in England, it is very much the custom to call attention to freaks and extravagances in other parts of the world, or more particularly in one other part of the world, as if only there occurred all the freaks and extravagances. Riots broke out in Liverpool, where the revivalists, with mediaeval enthusiasm, attacked Catholics. The Liverpool City Council censured "certain so-called religious meetings, which create danger to life and property." Also at South-end, there were [177/178] processions of shouters, from which rushed missionaries to slug Catholics, and to sling bricks at houses in which lived Catholics. In the Liverpool Echo, Feb. 6, is quoted a magistrate, who said to a complainant, who, because of differences in a general doctrine of loving one's neighbours, had been assaulted: "When you see one of these processions, you should run away, as you would from a mad bull."(44)
Upon all the occurrences that we have noted was the one enveloping phenomenon of the revival. There is scarcely a place that I have mentioned, in any of the accounts, that was unagitated.
Why is it that youngsters have so much to do with psychic phenomena? I have gone into that subject, according to my notions. Well, then, when a whole nation, or hosts of its people, goes primitive, or gives in to atavism, or reverts religiously, it may be conditions arise that are susceptible to phenomena that are repelled by matured mentality. A hard-headed materialist says, dogmatically: "There are no occult phenomena." Perhaps he is right about this, relatively to himself. But what he says may not apply to children. When, at least to considerable degree, a nation goes childish with mediaevalism, it may bring upon itself an invasion of phenomena that in the middle ages were common, but that were discouraged, or alarmed, and were driven more to concealment, when minds grew up somewhat.
If we accept that there is Teleportation, and that there are occult beings, that is going so far that we may as well consider the notion that, to stop inquiry, a marauding thing, to divert suspicion, teleported from somewhere in Central Europe, a wolf to England: or that there may be something of the nature of an occult police force, which checks mischief and slaughter by the criminals of its kind, and takes teleportative means [178/179] to remove suspicion--often solving one problem, only by making another, but relying upon conventionalisations of human thought to supply cloakery.
The killing of poultry -- the body on the railroad line -- stoppage -- scene-shifting.
The killing of sheep -- the body on the railroad line -- stoppage --
Farm and Home, March 18 -- that hardly had the wolf been killed, at Cumwinton, in the north of England, when farmers, in the south of England, especially in the districts between Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, Kent, began to tell of mysterious attacks upon their flocks.(45) "Sometimes three or four sheep would be found dying in one flock, having in nearly every case been bitten in the shoulder and disembowelled. Many persons had caught sight of the animal, and one man had shot at it. The inhabitants were living in a state or terror, and so, on the first of March, a search party of 60 guns beat the woods, in an endeavour to put an end to the depredations."
A big do? Another malmoot? Nothing?
"This resulted in its being found and dispatched by one of Mr. R.K. Hodgson's gamekeepers, the animal being pronounced, on examination, to be a jackal."
The story of the shooting of a jackal, in Kent, is told in the London newspapers. See the Times, March 2.(46) There is no findable explanation, nor attempted explanation, of how the animal got there. Beyond the mere statement of the shooting, there is not another line upon this extraordinary appearance of an exotic animal in England, findable in any London newspaper. It was in the provincial newspapers that I came upon more of this story.
Blyth News, March 14 -- "The Indian jackal, which was killed recently, near Sevenoaks, Kent, after destroying sheep and game to the value of 100, is [179/180] attracting attention in the shop windows of a Derby taxidermist."(47)
Derby Mercury, March 15 -- that the body of this jackal was upon
exhibition in the studio of Mr. A.S. Hutchinson, London Road, Derby.(48)
1. A.T. Fryer. "Psychological aspects of the Welsh Revival." Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 19 (1905-1907): 80-161, at 96-103, 142-61. Beriah G. Evans. "Merionethshire mysteries." Occult Review, 1 (March, April, June, 1905): 113-20, 179-86, 287-95.
2. "Weird Welsh lights." London Daily Mail, February 13, 1905, p. 5 c. 7.
3. "Ghost in court." News of the World, February 26, 1905, p. 9 c. 7. Correct quote: "...she then made a full confession...."
4. "A ghost." Barmouth and County Advertiser and Visitors' List, January 12, 1905, p.6 c.1. "The lights." Barmouth and County Advertiser and Visitors' List, February 16, 1905, p.6 c.2.
5. "A musical ghost." London Daily News, February 11, 1905, p.9 c.5. "Bishop and a Welsh ghost." London Daily News, February 13, 1905, p.12 c.1.
6. "Ghost haunted Wales." Liverpool Echo, February 15, 1905, p.4 c.7. Correct quote: "...very bright light...."
7. "Young woman's remarkable death." Southern Daily Echo (Southampton), February 23, 1905, p.4 c.2. Knocks, rather than "mysterious rappings," upon the door roused Annie Jinks and her mother; and, when they were repeated, her mother saw the daughter looking out the bedroom window, falling into a faint, and then dying in seconds. Correct quote: "On looking at the body there was not a single sign of death."
8. "Ghost in a deanery." London Daily Mail, December 24, 1904, p. 3 c. 4.
9. "Cyclist ghost." London Daily Mirror, February 6, 1905, p.5 c.4. Correct quote: "cyclist," not bicyclist.
10. Clarissa Miles. "Experiments in thought transference." Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 13 (June 1908): 243-62, at 259.
11. "Prosaic ending to a ghost story." Lloyd's Weekly News, Jan. 15, 1905, p.2 c.2. Correct quote: "Investigation revealed that the noise was caused by a flagstaff rope beating against the pole."
12. "Ghost rings a bell." London Daily Mirror, February 13, 1905, p.4 c.3.
13. London Daily Mail, (December 24, 1904), (Not found here).
14. "Village witchcraft." Liverpool Echo, January 25, 1905, p.5 c.6. "The Lincolnshire witch." Liverpool Echo, January 25, 1905, p.3 c.5.
15. "Joke or ghost?" London Weekly Dispatch, January 15, 1905, p.15 c.4. Only John Jennings, groundsman at the Bradford Football Club, claimed to see the figure wearing a club jersey, later believed to be the ghost of Joe Hawkeridge, who died a few days before.
16. "Professor sees a ghost." London Weekly Dispatch, April 16, 1905, p.3 c.6.
17. "The Welsh revival." Liverpool Echo, January 18, 1905, p.4 c.5.
18. "A ghost in the school." Blyth News & Wansbeck Telegraph, March 14, 1905, p.3 c.2.
19. "The shocking burning fatality at Blyth." Blyth News & Wansbeck Telegraph, February 28, 1905, p.3 c.5.
20. "Scotch lady's shocking death." London Daily News, December 17, 1904, p.12 c.5. Correct quote: "...sitting on a chair surrounded...."
21. London Daily Mail, (December 24, 1904), (Not found here).
22. "Room door burst open." Hull Daily Mail, January 6, 1905, p.3 c.4.
23. This otter was found on November 26, 1904.
24. "The food of otters." Field, 104 (December 3, 1904): 955 c.3.
25. "North Wales Asylum." Barmouth and County Advertiser and Visitors' List, April 20, 1905, p. 7 c. 1-2. "Denbigh Asylum," not Insane Asylum; and, 17 patients, not 16.
26. "The Welsh revival." Liverpool Echo, November 25, 1904, p. 7 c. 5.
27. Liverpool Echo, January 10, 1905.
28. Hexham Herald, (October 15, 1904), (Not found here).
29. "The Northumbrian wolf." Drewry's Derby Mercury, February 22, 1905, p.2 c.6.
30. "The Allendale wolf." Liverpool Echo, December 31, 1904, p.3 c.4.
31. Adrian Hava. "So-called `Spontaneous combustion,' or increased combustibility of the human body, with experiments." New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, 21 (n.10; April 1894): 721-31.
32. "On the 12th of May, 1890, while making a professional call...." Science, o.s., 19 (February 19, 1892): 100-1. For the original article: B.H. Hartwell. "So-called spontaneous combustion." Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 126 (n.6; February 11, 1892): 135-7.
33. John Dixon Mann. Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. London: Charles Griffin and Company, 6th ed., 1922, 216.
34. E.G. Archer. "Spontaneous combustion." British Medical Journal, 1905 v.2 (August 26): 464.
35. "Saturday's inquests." Lloyd's Weekly News, February 5, 1905, p. 3 c. 6. Maria Hall died at the hospital on February 2, 1905. "A strange feature in the case was that the burns were on the deceased's back, and the coroner remarked that he failed to see how that could happen if deceased was sitting facing the fire." Nothing is said about a cinder.
36. "Shocking occurrence at Butlock's Heath." Hampshire Advertiser (Southampton), March 4, 1905, p.4 c.5-6. Mathew Kiley was "badly charred, but still recognisable," (not his wife). Correct quote: "The verdict of the jury was that death was accidentally caused, but by what means they were unable to determine." I find no mention as to why the lamp had not caused the fire, which had been long smouldering; and the smoke which suffocated the Kileys; nor is there mention of "fragments of clothes." Fort does not mention that the discovery of the fire was prompted by a "faint scratching noise" heard by neighbours, "like a cat playing with a marble." The body of a scorched cat was found under a window in their house.
37. "Two poltergeist cases." Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 12 (October 1905): 124-42, at 138.
38. "The Lincolnshire witch." Liverpool Echo, January 25, 1905, p.5 c.6. "Village witchcraft." Liverpool Echo, January 25, 1905, p.3 c.5.
39. "Two poltergeist cases." Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 12 (October 1905): 124-42, at 141. The first manifestation, according to Mrs. White as reported to Col. Taylor, was a milk pan being overturned on the last Friday of December, which is December 30th, 1904, (not the 31st).
40. "Bewitched Binbrook farm." Louth and North Lincolnshire News (Louth), January 28, 1905, p.5 c.3. For an earlier report: "Incredible stories of witchery at Binbrook." Louth and North Lincolnshire News, January 21, 1905, p.5 c.7. "The bewitched Binbrook farm." Louth and North Lincolnshire News, February 11, 1905, p.7 c.7. There is no mention of "according to allegations."
41. "Two poltergeist cases." Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 12 (October 1905): 124-42, at 138.
42. "Market Rasen." Louth and North Lincolnshire News, January 21, 1905, p.8 c.4.
43. Lloyd's Weekly News, (February 5, 1905), (Not found here).
44. Liverpool Echo, (February 6, 1905), (Not found here).
45. "Notes and replies. Sheep worrying in Kent." Farm and Home, March 18, 1905, p.25 c.2. For an earlier report: "The sheep killing wolf." Farm and Home, January 7, 1905, p.465 c.4. Correct quotes: "...found dead and dying...been badly bitten...Many people had caught a glimpse of the animal...on the 1st inst. a search party of some 60 guns...."
46. "Supposed jackal shot." London Times, March 2, 1905, p.10 c.4.
47. Blyth News & Wansbeck Telegraph, (March 14, 1905), (Not found here).
48. "A maurauding jackal on exhibition at Derby." Drewry's Derby Mercury, March 15, 1905, p.2 c.6.
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