Can animals see ghosts or spirits where human beings cannot?
Seeing things at night, it appears, is an experience whose thrills not only interest the human nervous system but also agitate the animal.
A great many esteemed psychic researchers have performed experiments in haunted houses with cats and dogs, as well as with other animals, and have often found the animal to have been frightened.
One researcher remembers an occasion at a haunted house in St. James’ Road, Brixton:—
“Again and again dogs have refused to accompany me to a room where ghostly phenomena have been alleged to take place. I remember on one occasion at a reputed haunted house in the St. James’s-Road, I had a huge bulldog with me, the last creature in the world one would suspect of having nerves.”
“I arrived at the house about 10 o’clock at night, and was giving it a thorough examination before settling down to my vigil, when Pat (my dog) sprang back from a half-open door on the top of the landing, snarled, whined, and finally flew downstairs, and, as nothing would induce him to return, I had to go on with my investigations alone.”
“Next day I made inquiries of the owner of the house and was informed that it was in the room that frightened Pat a man had once hanged himself, and that it was the latter’s ghost that was supposed to haunt the premises—a fact quite unknown to me at the time of my visit.”
It is widely believed that some animals are very sensitive to the advent of death. Owls and other night-birds will screech dismally outside a house where somebody dies shortly afterwards, and cats have been known to leave a house suddenly on the eve of a death and not come back to it until several days after the burial.
There is no doubt that the reason for this strange behaviour is that the animals detect the presence of a peculiar type of phantom that has actually been seen by people gifted with second-sight hovering by the bedside of those doomed to die shortly. I could quote many instances in proof of this.
Now what does all this point to? Why, I think without doubt, to animals having souls or spirits. Is it likely that, if such were not the case they would have been brought in closer contact with the unknown than Man, and endowed with a more highly developed psychic faculty!
Italian Psychical Researcher Prof. Ernest Bozzano prefers the term ‘a supernatural psychic perception’ to ghost, and has found sixty-nine cases of sort or another, which he says may easily be doubled. Wherein the beasts of the field, he says, are party to either telepathic hallucinations, to phantasms or spectres, 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 animal experiences 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 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 spectres.
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 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 know scarcely any one in neighbourhood, 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, to 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 behaviour 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.
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 rumour had it that the calf with the 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 stampede, 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 afterwards he refused to go through the wood and the collies went only under protest, plainly showing suspicion and fear.
“The result of all our enquiries,” says Mine. 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 unearthly presence in the wood and that the shrinking from the supernatural which in human beings we call superstition was the cause of their strange behaviour. 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 senses of men.
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 he 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.
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 to 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 endeavours 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 the stairs as if pursued.
Each of Prof Bozzano’s spectres is more marvellous 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 error and amplifications arising from lapse of memory, in spite of all this we shall still have to admit that there are a good number of which the substantially and incontestably genuine character cannot be doubted.
“From all this it results that now and henceforth it is not permissible to deny à 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 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, 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, end 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 show themselves under aspects more conformable to his nature.
However, the time has not yet come for attempting this task. I will therefore 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.
Adapted from a number of articles featured in The Times and The San Francisco Call (1902 – 1906)