Page:Spectropia, or, Surprising spectral illusions.djvu/13

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It is a curious fact that, in this age of scientific research, the absurd follies of spiritualism should find an increase of supporters; but mental epidemics seem at certain seasons to affect our minds, and one of the oldest of these moral afflictions—witchcraft—is once more prevalent in this nineteenth century, under the contemptible forms of spirit-rapping and table-turning. The modern professor of these impostures, like his predecessors in all such disreputable arts, is bent only on raising the contents of the pockets of the most gullible portion of humanity, and not the spirits of the departed, over which, as he well knows, notwithstanding his profane assumption, he can have no power.

One thing we hope in some measure to further in the following pages, is the extinction of the superstitious belief that apparitions are actual spirits, by showing some of the many ways in which our senses may be deceived, and that, in fact, no so-called ghost has ever appeared, without its being referable either to mental or physiological deception, or, in those instances where several persons have seen a spectre at the same time, to natural objects, as in the case mentioned by Dr. Abercrombie, in his work on "The Intellectual Powers:"—"A whole ship's company were thrown into the utmost consternation, by the apparition of a cook who had died a few days before. He was distinctly seen walking ahead of the ship, with a peculiar gait, by which he was distinguished when alive, from having one of his legs shorter than the other. On steering the ship toward the object, it was found to be a piece of floating wreck."

A ghost, according to the general descriptions of those who fancy they have been favoured with a sight of one, appears to be of a pale phosphorescent white, or bluish white colour; usually indistinct, and so transparent that objects are easily seen through it. When moving it glides in a peculiar manner, the legs not being necessary to its locomotion.

All the senses are more or less subject to deception, but the eye is pre-eminently so; especially in the case of individuals who are in ill health, because the sensibility of the retina is then generally much exalted, as is also the imagination.