The Phantasmagoria

 

I found this on my hard drive – it’s the beginning of a rather pretentious book I was writing at the time when I was pretentious. I include it because it has many of the themes I’ve written about on this blog. Here goes.

***

This is a book about ghosts and demons, witches and mediums, madness and magick, reality and truth. It is about people who want to contact those on the other side and about things on the other side that want to come to meet us. As the city is haunted by memories of its past and breathes in dreams of its future; so we walk through the present-time but as in doing so, are immersed in our own “dream-time”.

 

The cities in this book are places where I have found the dream-time to be particularly pervasive. A place where dreams and illusions cluster, and where the atmosphere of somwhere else – not outre mer, but outre monde – gets into your body and is hard to clear away. This world and the next are not like oil and water, but rather blood and milk: they mix and are essentially the same.

 

Among the monsters and wonders of this dreamscape, particularly prominent are the cold vampires and the insubstantial ghosts. If I had a penny (perhaps to place one day on my cold closed eyes) for everybody who has asked me whether these things are really real: are really out-there-anyway , in the same way we believe rabbits to be; going about their business even when no one is there to see, I would be rich   

 

I answer that ghosts are real to the people who think they are, which causes the questioner to go away unsatisfied. I have also said “it’s not the place which is haunted but the person who goes there.”  But on reflection, I think the places are haunted too.  

 

People think that a city is just bricks and roads and maybe the people who go to work and live in it. Sceptics would say that this is all there is to life. And people often say to me that they will believe a ghost as soon as they see one with their own eyes. The idea then, is that what you see with your own eyes is real; that only physical things you can touch have any real influence. But even a moment’s reflection will show that this is untrue. Most of the things that influence us have no physical form, nor will they ever: consider interest rates, patriotism, a desire to be important. Many things that begin as ideas will become buildings, cars, paintings or meals in due course; many more ideas will never be physically realised; an unwritten novel, a desire to visit Samarkand, an unborn child. And of course things that are real just as easily become only memories. So we live in a constant flux of things in our world becoming insubstantial, and things from the “dream-time” becoming tangible: the sort of thing a sceptic could run his hands over.

 

A city is haunted by its past. When you walk down a street you see buildings put up hundreds of years before you were born, the pattern of the streets itself will follow the needs and footsteps of those long dead. It is not just physical things; the language you speak, the deeds and thoughts of those who have gone before us also inform and influence everything we do. We are not isolated “billiard balls”; we are processes in flux between past and future, between the physical present and the insubstantial dream-time. As you walk down a London Street, just because you cannot see, hear, taste or touch it, the Blitz is real; the Great Fire is real. It is happening still in the dream-time. Your limited senses give you a limited view of the whirling universe; you see and hear only certain frequencies, your nose and tongue register only certain molecules. You are only aware of that little moving slit of light called the present, which for you contains all and only what is real. But what is the present? Try and stop it and say this is “now” and it is already gone. We might represent it like this:

 

Though we have concepts of the past and future; neither of them can be touched. Our two modes of experience are the material now-time where we concentrate on the road, read a menu, speak to our dog; and the insubstantial dream-time which always surrounds us and which is made up of non-material forms and ideas.

 

For those of you who know the Qabalah, our material world in this now-time is understood as the Sphere of Malkuth – the earth, apparently dense and ‘real’. The swirling Phantasmogoria is Yesod, the sphere of forms and ideas, though which we descend when we are born, and through which we return when we die.

 

I imagined that I had dreamt up the idea of now-time, but Walter Benjamin already described it in his jetzeit.  Once again I am shown that I have nothing of my own; things only pass through me: as if I am a ghost.

 

And just as the city is full of ghostly ideas and plans that may or may not come about, and its streets and houses are haunted by those who once lived there, the presence of those who have never been is also strong. Dracula and Sherlock Holmes have as strong a presence in London as Henry VIII or Jack the Ripper.

 

What I have called the dream-time, Steve Pile in his book Real Cities calls this swirling atmosphere of ghosts and history the Phantasmagoria. For some reason in some places the Phantasmagoria lies thicker than others. Thicker than the leaves in Taur-na-more-na-lome, in fact. Pile also cites the work of Walter Benjamin who wrote a personal memoir evoking the atmosphere of his native Berlin. Benjamin in turn wrote a biography of the French poet Baudelaire who conjured images of a dream ridden Paris. This book is my slight attempt to reproduce what certain European cities feel like to me. I have been drawn to these places because they seemed to be focus points for the Phantasmagoria; places on earth where it stood thicker, harder to shake one’s head clear from, and which consequently had attracted those keen to make contact with the Insubstantial.

 

Another thing is that within the Phantasmagoria our own individual identity is less well defined, but at the same time it is paradoxically central. Walter Benjamin as represented by Steve Pile paints an individual picture of the memories and architectures of feeling of his native Berlin. So he concentrates on places that are important and meaningful to him. In the same way in this book, I have inevitably and shamelessly represented the cities as they feel to me. I have places where my own memories and imaginations come crowding around me. So, a representation of the Phantasmagoria is in that way subjective. But on reflection the ideas and thoughts in our heads are not kept in there as if in a hermetic vessel. The words I speak, the ideas I think have poured into me from my contact with others. Nothing is my own; I may modify it, but the content of my experiences and feelings flows through me as a process. In the same way that certain places have an atmosphere for me, they evoke similar responses from others. Why do people set mysterious and haunted stories in Venice for example? Because the personality of that city evokes them from their creators; and Venice’s personality is felt by every resident, and every visitor in some measure at least. During the day in those Venetian streets, and at night as we sleep in our hotel beds, we swim in the ocean of what Carl Jung called the Collective Unconscious. Emotionally as well as materially, our separateness is revealed again as an illusion.

 

This book contains stories about ghosts and those who have looked for ghosts. We will always return again to our question: but are these creatures real?

 

I cannot answer without equivocation. The existence of ghosts points up a central feature of human experience. We want yes / no, but when we get  these extremities and white do we find them or do we make them up?. Does the head lie in the sculptor’s block of stone ready to be discovered or does he put it there?

Let me set out my thinking about the reality of ghosts. If you are not interested in philosophy, feel free to skip forward to the vampires.

 

Q1. Do ghosts exist?

A1. In the 17th Century Descartes proposed that mind and body are two separate substances. This is known as dualism and is still widely believed among ordinary people: that the soul is of a different substance to the body and departs after death. However, most thinkers have found the problems it throws up insurmountable (for example, if soul and body are wholly different substances, how do they interact?). So, most thinkers believe that there is only one substance which forms all our experience (monism). Science believes this is matter. However, we do seem to have experiences that are outside matter; ideas and thoughts. These mental contents are typically about something, which seems different to material objects. For example, it is difficult to imagine a stone or a chemical is about anything. For a long time science got round the problem of mind by ignoring it. Now neuroscience predicts mind will be explained as arising from the material functioning of the brain, though so far this has mainly consisted of explaining it away.

 

The wonderful 19th Century American psycho-philosopher William James suggested that there was only one substance that was neither mind nor matter but contained both. In this he agreed with the brilliant 17th Century Dutch apostate Jew lens-grinder Baruch Spinoza and the equally brilliant 20th Century American philosopher Thomas Nagel. There is only one substance from which both mind and matter arise. Spinoza called it God. The learned Swiss apostate protestant 20th Century psychologist Carl Jung called it “The Self”.

 

They may want to quibble about my representation of their views, they might not like to be bunched together like this either. But all except Nagel are currently dead, which brings us back to Question 1.

 

My point is this: though matter (the physical objects of the now-time, we observe, eat and caress) and mind (the immaterial objects of the dream-time we think about, imagine and grieve for) seem different but they are not. So, if we say that material objects exists, then so do ghosts.

 

However this has not possibly answered your real question, which might be:

 

Q2. Can ghosts be seen?

A2. Many thousands of people claim to have seen ghosts, and a smaller, but still considerable, number say they have encountered vampires and the Loch Ness monster. Less claim to have been to the Moon.

 

The Scottish philosopher David Hume considered the possibility of miracles. He didn’t think he would believe a report of a miracle. He said, “a wise man apportions his belief according to the evidence”. He said that there are two ways of determining whether something is true, the first is to verify it yourself (delusions and illusions to one side); the second is to believe the testimony of others. He was inclined not to trust the testimony of people about miracles (and I’m guessing ghosts) because there were some many fools and knaves around, who would either delude themselves or lie. He said that miracles were by definition a breach of the laws of nature, so he would need evidence impressive enough to convince him that such a law had been breached.

 

Hume elsewhere pointed out that there was no logical reason for cause and effect. Things just tend to happen in a certain way. So, if we drop an egg onto a stone floor it will break. Mostly. The law of Cause and effect is statistical. Modern physicists are much taken with symmetry in their equations. They have found no mathematical reason why a broken glass should not fly back together again. It just mainly doesn’t. If it did, it would seem to be a miracle because it had broken a law of nature. Except laws of nature (like laws of man or God) are not inviolable. They are only observations of what mostly happens. This is how natural science works. It makes lots of observations, replicates the observations and works out what mainly happens. It then ignores the little odd things that don’t fall in with the majority and calls them anomalies and throws them in the dustbin. It is not a law, merely a tendency. So, ghosts don’t tend to be seen, but it breaks no law of nature when some are seen.  

 

I’m with Hume in thinking there are lots of fools and knaves who will tell you they see ghosts who haven’t. If this doesn’t satisfy you perhaps your question is really:

 

Q3. Can I see ghosts?

A3.  First I must introduce the concept of schizotypy. It is related to the idea of psychosis. Psychotic people believe in the reality of magic, ghosts, occult conspiracies, alien abductions, ESP, thought transference, the existence of gods and devils and suchlike. However it has become clear that many people who would not be diagnosed as psychotic also believe in these things. Psychologists then place people on a continuum that goes from psychotic (mad) to schizotypical (not mad) to imaginative, to creative, to ultimately the boring type of person who sees no magic or wonder at all in anything. People who show a high degree of schizotypy (belief in the possibility of magic, ghosts, aliens, vampires), are therefore edging towards insanity. But they are also more likely to see ghosts. You, or your psychiatrist, can test your own level of schizotypy using the Perceptual Aberration Scale.

 

Psychiatrists would say that people who are psychotic, or schizotypical, suffer from a failure of reality-testing. That is, their brains (in here) fail to test their ideas against reality (out there-anyway). This concept rests upon the idea that there is something out-there-anyway that has one unvarying true form. Now, there must be something out-there (or in-here) or else we could form no conception of it. But we can never objectively know what it is because our minds cannot be objective, they only have our own subjective viewpoint to work on.

 

Going back to the idea of truth being agreement; we can look again at psychosis. As we grow up we learn what is normal. There are no natural laws, just likely probabilities, so we learn what is probable. We also compare our own observations against those of others and come to a level of agreement: the earth is flat, Newton was right, Newton wasn’t right; Jesus died for us; the world is round and made of atoms like tiny billiard balls or solar systems. That level of agreement is truth, and it varies from community to community across time. If you have ideas that a few people share (like about Alien Abduction or Astrology or Evolution) you can get together and that will be true for you. You can then try and go on and persuade others. However, if you have ideas that few people locally share you will become eccentric. If you find those ideas threatening and they make you anxious but you still believe them, then you will become psychotic.

 

Peter Naish makes the point that when we look at something, our brain has to decide which parts of the image on the retina go together to form one object. This is a difficult task especially when “objects” are seen from different perspectives, overlap, cover each other and move. He also notes that most of us avoid picking nettles when picking wildflowers from the hedgerow. So we must know what we’re seeing. We combine incoming visual perceptual information from conceptual information already in the brain. Or so the theory goes. Perceptual and conceptual seem to be combined at some point to identify an object. At the moment no one knows what comes first, percept, or concept. Maybe neither does, because they are two sides of the same coin. There is no coin with only one. The idea that objects out- there- anyway  depend on us to exist is supported by evidence from Balint’s Syndrome. Patients with this can only see one object at a time. Nash notes that a patient lighting a cigarette might find their attention captured by the flame so that they could see nothing out. He quotes a patient who said he could not see the doctor, because his attention had been captured by the doctor’s spectacles, and that was all he could see.

 

Subjective consciousness (that’s you reading this) is a point localised in the space-time-dream stuff. From this point we make our observations through the Stuff. That perspective is our reality (of a, say, stone). Those other subjective consciousnesses (Call them ‘people’ or animals or gods, angels and demons) also have perspectives. If these are similar enough to ours we agree that our point of view through the Stuff represents reality: things as they really are. This gives that the misunderstanding that there really is a stone out there anyway in-itself. But the stone is an extension of us. A line drawn between two points through the Stuff. Our separation from the Stone is an illusion. All is infolded implicate (as per the physicist David Bohm): which unfolds explicate as we observe. There is no out-there-anyway, nor in-here-all-alone but Silence. Not the opposite of noise but never spoken: The Sign of Harpocrates (as per the magician Aleister Crowley). To get an idea of this, imagine the emptiness within the mind of the Stone.

 

Our viewpoint, our life, is then perhaps the descent into matter. The imprisonment of Sophia by Physis. As the Qabalists say in their obscurantist fashion we and the ghosts are here:

 

Above these is the veil of Paroketh. This separates these two spheres from the higher reaches of the Tree. It is said that below the veil there is Time, above it, there is no time. So, ghosts, which occupy the dream-time of Yesod and we who occupy the now-time of Malkuth, are both subject to time.

 

So, if you have a high schizotypy rating and at least half believe in the Qabalah, you too can see ghosts. But why would you want to?

 

Q4. Why do we want to see ghosts?

A4. It seems to me that something can be either familiar or wonderful. Wonderful things like electricity or Christmas presents become ordinary once they are familiar. Given the statistical lack of ghosts, they are unfamiliar: hence wonderful. An evolutionary perspective on this might be that our ancestors, developed curiosity as a useful way of getting them to look into dark corners to find food that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. An astrological perspective might be that the especially curious among us have Mercury prominent in our natal charts. Moving away from these unscientific ideas to Jungian psychology, it might be that ghosts, and dark canal water and dreams of women draped with hissing serpents and the dank tombs of vampires represent that Other, to which we are always drawn; our source, our Self. The Pleroma: the dream-time: the Phantasmagoria. The 18th Century genius Goethe gives us some idea of what I speak of:

 

Mephistopheles. Not glad do I reveal a loftier mystery-
Enthroned sublime in solitude are goddesses;
Around them is no place, a time still less;
To speak of them embarrasses.
They are the Mothers!


Faust [terrified]. Mothers!


Mephistopheles. Do you fear?

Faust. The Mothers! Mothers! Strange the word I hear.

Mephistopheles. Strange is it. Goddesses, to men unknown,
Whom we are loath to name or own.
Deep must you dig to reach their dwelling ever;
You are to blame that now we need their favour.

Faust. Whither the way?

Mephistopheles. No way! To the Unexplorable,
Never to be explored; to the Unimplorable,
Never to be implored. Are in the mood?
There are no locks, no bars are to be riven;
Through solitudes you will be whirled and driven.

So it is to this I am drawn. The ghosts indicate the where magnetic North is; the thickest clustering of the Phantasmagoria. By way of the ghosts I will find the the Mothers. My compass needle flickers and searches them out. Pater dimitte me.

 

But do they (on my wall I have a replica slate plaque of the Threefold Goddess watching me, making me wary of any blasphemy) really exist?  This takes us round in circles.

 

  1. Brodie-Innes, the Scottish lawyer and occultist is reported as saying “Whether the Gods, The Qliphotic forces’ (ie the evil demons of hebrew Qabalah) ‘or even the Secret Chiefs’ (ie the supposed invisible super humans who are believed to direct the activates of authentic magical fraternities) ‘really exist is comparatively unimportant; the point is that the universe behaves as though they do”

 

And behaving as if something is real, usually makes it so. Consider the person with a phobia of crossing bridges. Though statistically they are very unlikely to accidentally fall to their death, they are emotionally convinced they will to the extent that they are in mortal fear of bridges and will avoid them at all costs. Someone with psychosis my be in absolute terror because they know their heart is infested with spiders. No one else believes that is possible, but they cannot be convinced otherwise. And it is not just for those Society deems as being ill. Most people are plagued with irrational thoughts and believe things that many others do not: that someone loves them, that someone does not love them, that they will win the lottery or become a pop idol, that immigrants steal their jobs. The Scottish philosopher David Hume in his On Miracles discussed how people come to believe things are true: they either verify things with their own senses or trust the testimony of others. For example I have never been to Australia, but I believe it exists on the basis of the testimony of others. I believe that Apollo 11 landed on the Moon though many people sincerely believe it to be a hoax. I believe in Einstein’s theories of relativity – not because I can understand the mathematics, but because I trust Einstein’s reputation.


In the same way we must come to our own belief in the creatures of the Phantasmagoria. I have put my case that to be real, something does not need to be visible and able to be touched. If it has a real influence then it is real. Other people, still wedded to the – to me clearly erroneous – idea that solid things are all that exist, may still want that kind of proof for ghosts and vampires. In fact people do claim to have seen them, and we will be presented with this kind of testimony  later in the book. So are these people all liars? My judgement, as with Einstein, is that they are not. They have had some kind of experience that they believe to be as real as any other. Have they been deceived by their senses? Perhaps, but I have spoken to so many of them, so obviously sincere, that I must conclude that something is going on that makes them think they have had physical encounters with creatures of the Phantasmagoria.

 

A more interesting question to me than whether ghosts are real, because as I have demonstrated to my own satisfaction that they are, is why do people care? Why do people keep looking? I think that in essence all of us ghost hunters, vampire seekers, dabblers in magick and psychogeography are really looking for the heart of things. That true Grail or mystic Self that lies we think out there in these haunted cities. We want for a second to look through the mist and see the wonder of reality.

 

The Phantasmagoria is a person. As you look at him, he considers you.

 

I hope that you will visit the places I talk about and realise that the Phantasmagoria is not something I have made up; you can feel the spirits, dead or never born for yourself as you linger in these dark haunted streets. I want you to look into these shadows and see that the shadows are looking back at you.  

 

Chapter 2: Hampstead and Highgate

 

Everything has to begin somewhere and so we begin in London at Hampstead Underground Station. Coming up here, you find yourself in the middle of the old village of Hampstead. Incidentally, this tube station is the deepest on the London Underground network, at 192 feet. Hampstead is now part of the London conurbation but was once a separate village built around wooded hills. It is said that there was a prehistoric burial barrow on the top of Parliament Hill where the ancient British queen Boudica was buried. However when it was excavated in 1894 she was not there. Hampstead has always seemed to have a mysterious atmosphere to me. Perhaps it is because of the nearby Heath which is huge and still wild enough to get lost on. Not somewhere to venture on a dark night. Many writers and poets have made their homes in Hampstead over the years. In many senses it has served as a refuge from London. In 1349, the Abbot of Westminster came with his monks to Hampstead to escape the Black Death. In 1524 a flood was predicted that would overwhelm London and so hordes of people came to the high ground at Hampstead to escape. During the Great Plague in 1665, fleeing Londoners came to Hampstead; so many that according to legend when the lawyers and judges arrived they had to sleep and hold court under the trees at a place known as Judge’s Walk. The streets round here are narrow and go up and down the hills. Wonderful old houses flank them, many of them turning away from the prying eyes of us passers-by; due no doubt to the great wealth of their owners and the natural reticence of the wealthy in England to share their spaces with those who happen to be walking the streets outside.

 

I remember in my twenties, one night coming up to Hampstead to see Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible in Russian. The Hampstead Everyman Cinema is just over the road from the tube station. I was due to meet two girls there. They were Russian linguists and I had agreed somewhat reluctantly to go with them to see the film. It was dark when I emerged and somewhat fantastically it was snowing. I don’t remember it snowing when I’d left central London though it probably was. I stood outside the Tube Station waiting for these girls, neither of whom I loved, watching the snow fall, which had made Hampstead unusually quiet. In my memory I am the only person there standing on that street corner. And then they arrived, both wearing black Russian fur coats and hats. Even though I didn’t love them the whole place was magical. I don’t remember enjoying Ivan the Terrible much.

 

C S Lewis was also inspired by snow at Hampstead. One day he took at walk across the Heath and the scene inspired him to write The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

 

Going left from Hampstead Underground, a little way down the William IV pub. This, London’s oldest gay pub, is reputedly haunted. Apparently a doctor’s wife was murdered here. Presumably the pub was a house at the time, or perhaps they had an argument over a beer. In any case he managed to brick her up in the cellar. Every since that time she has troubled residents of the building by rattling windows and slamming doors. A recent landlord complained that lights go on and off though he put that down to the pub’s age and the state of the wiring. It’s status as a gay bar started in the 1930s apparently to cater for men cruising the nearby Heath. This kind of shadowy activity, where people signal to each other their intentions by signs that others may be oblivious of in order that they can meet once under the cover of darkness and then never meet again, is definitely part of the Phantasmagoria.

 

Nearby is Church Row and the church and the overgrown churchyard of St John. Church Row itself is said to be haunted by a maidservant with ginger hair, seen carrying a carpet bag. This carpet bag is said to contain the remains of a child she was looking after in one of the houses. She killed and dismembered the infant and her ghost is said to be seen at sun up. People also hear her footsteps and it is said that she looks around to see if she is being watched before hauling the bag into the churchyard, where she presumably got rid of the corpse in one of the existing graves.

 

The last time I was at the church it was a beautifully sunny day and a postman was sunbathing on a bench in the middle of the graves, old trees and tall grasses of the churchyard. Ghostly children are said to be seen playing among the graves, though I have never seen them. Nevertheless, the churchyard has an air to it. The paths are overgrown and though it is not exceptionally big, it is big enough to feel disorientated. The graves themselves are romantically old and weatherworn, the sepulchres cracked. Cracked enough that it is easy to imagine a hand reaching out from them. In fact, this churchyard is one of the places thought to have inspired Bram Stoker when he wrote Dracula. It is said that this is the churchyard where Lucy’s vault was. There is a scene here Van Helsing and Dr Seward are preparing to deal with Lucy.  After dining at Jack Straw’s Castle, at ten o’clock, they make their way down to the churchyard, where the Westenra family’s tomb is.

 

“As we went further, we met fewer and fewer people, till at last we were somewhat surprised when we met even the patrol of horse police going their usual suburban round. At last we reached the wall of the churchyard, which we climbed over. With some little difficulty, for it was very dark, and the whole place seemed so strange to us, we found the Westenra tomb. The Professor took the key, opened the creaky door, and standing back, politely, but quite unconsciously, motioned me to precede him”

 

The Coffin was empty. On 29th September, according to Dr Seward’s diary, they returned to deal with the vampire.

29 September, night.–A little before twelve o’clock we three, Arthur, Quincey Morris, and myself, called for the Professor. It was odd to notice that by common consent we had all put on black clothes. Of course, Arthur wore black, for he was in deep mourning, but the rest of us wore it by instinct. We got to the graveyard by half-past one, and strolled about, keeping out of official observation, so that when the gravediggers had completed their task and the sexton under the belief that every one had gone, had locked the gate, we had the place all to ourselves…

… Van Helsing stepped out,and obedient to his gesture, we all advanced too. The four of us ranged in a line before the door of the tomb. Van Helsing raised his lantern and drew the slide. By the concentrated light that fell on Lucy’s face we could see that the lips were crimson with fresh blood, and that the stream had trickled over her chin and stained the purity of her lawn death robe.

Nearby was the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, though an Edinburgh man, he stayed on occasion in London. The place he stayed was  7, Mount Vernon. London is the setting of his most famous story: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.  One night, the lawyer Mr Utterson, goes out searching for the monster Hyde.

It was a wild, cold, seasonable night of March, with a pale moon, lying on her back as though the wind had tilted her, and flying wrack of the most diaphanous and lawny texture.  The wind made talking difficult, and flecked the blood into the face.  Its eemed to have swept the streets unusually bare of passengers,besides; for Mr. Utterson thought he had never seen that part of London so deserted.  He could have wished it otherwise; never in his life had he been conscious of so sharp a wish to see and touch his fellow-creatures; for struggle as he might, there was borne in upon his mind a crushing anticipation of calamity.  The square,when they got there, was full of wind and dust, and the thin trees in the garden were lashing themselves along the railing.

 

And so we make our way onto the Heath. The Heath was infested with wolves until the 13th Century. It is quite extraordinary to find such an expanse of open and apparently wild land within four miles of the centre of such a large city as London. In fact it is surrounded by the city, but manages to be strangely apart. The springs at Hampstead produce water with apparently medicinal properties.  

In Dracula, Lucy from her nearby tomb comes onto the Heath and tempts the local children playing there to go with her. She is the bloofer lady. Stoker was not the only one to set vampire stories on the Heath. In David Stuart Davies’ 1995 book The Tangled Skein,  Sherlock Holmes investigates strange vampire like occurrences on the Heath and is led to meet Count Dracula. Again these two characters who never existed still haunt London. But even before James Rymer in his 1845 ‘penny dreadful’ Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood, had set vampires lurking on the Heath. The vampires emerge from their tombs under the Heath and go hunting in Hampstead Village. They make their way to the churchyard, (surely St John’s?), and there dig up the a newly dead man who is destined to become one of them.

“A death-like stillness now was over the whole scene, and those who had partially exhumed the body stood as still as statues, waiting the event which they looked forward to as certain to ensue.

The clear beauty and intensity of the moonbeams increased each moment, and the whole surrounding landscape was lit up with a perfect flood of soft, silvery light. The old church stood out in fine relief, and every tree, and every wild flower, and every blade of grass in the churchyard, could be seen in its finest and most delicate proportions and construction.

The lid of the coffin was wrenched up on one side to about six inches in height, and that side faced the moon, so that some rays, it was quite clearly to be seen, found their way into that sad receptacle for the dead. A quarter of an hour, however, passed away, and nothing happened.

“Are you certain he is one of us?” whispered Varney.

“Quite, I have known it years past. He had the mark upon him.”

What is the mark? How would we know them? We will discuss this further when we get to Highgate. In the meantime, a walk across the Heath, preferably not at midnight, will take us to the Spaniard’s Inn.

The Spaniard’s was a favourite haunt of Charles Dickens. The inn on Hampstead Lane dates from the 16th Century. It is a weatherboarded house names either after the Spanish Ambassador to James II, or after to Spanish brothers who owned it. It is said that they killed each other in a duel over a woman. Dick Turpin, the famous highwayman, stabled his horse Black Bess (who is fictional) in the toll house opposite. Turpin did exist, but Black Bess did not and once again we see the mix of true and false that is characteristic of the Phantasmagoria. Though Black Bess is as real to most purposes as her master. Reality is not fixed for any of us.

 

The road there was not far from the main route between London and York and the woods of Hampstead would be ideal cover for highwaymen lurking in wait for their rich prey.

In 1780 a party of rioters on their way to destroy the nearby Kenwood House stopped by for a drink at the Spaniard’s. The landlord let the soldiers know who came by and disarmed them. The rioters’ muskets are still displayed in the inn. When I last visited with the group of Americans I am shortly to tell you about, we ate there and then held a séance upstairs in Turpin’s Bar. The rooms still have their wooden floorboards and the crooked walls give the place some atmosphere. Dick Turpin is said to haunt the Spaniard’s, a cloaked figure with a tricorn hat who walks through the bar and disappears into a wall. His horse is supposed to be heard outside.

Our attempted contact with the dead was of mixed success. People felt cold, or hot; one lady thought something unseen had tugged at her sleeve. I would have liked to have had a word with Dick Turpin, whose fashion sense I have long admired, but sadly, it was not to be.

Is it true that the people in our group really felt the burning sensation, the sensation of being touched? This brings us onto the point Pontius Pilate made to Jesus (John 18:38) quid est veritas?

David Hume said that you know what the truth is by either verifying it from our own experience, or believing the testimony of others. Let us leave veryifying the truth from one’s own experience to one side here, because I did not feel a tugging at my sleeve and even if I did I know enough about delusions and illusions not to trust myself.

Hume was an empiricist and like modern empirical science he fell prey to the myth of the material form. Plato believed in the ideal form. That is that behind every imperfect material cat or dog, there was in some divine realm a perfect ideal cat or dog upon which every exemplar was modelled, and fell short of its perfection. This idea has been denied by non-Platonists down the ages. Most modern scientists are definitely not Platonists. (The physicist Steven Hawking famously accused the mathematician Roger Penrose of being a Platonist as if it was a serious intellectual failing.) But most modern scientists commit the equally grave intellectual sin of believing in the perfect material form.

That is, the believe in perfect objectivity: that there is a single true version of the material world that exists independent of any observer, shining and inviolable. The whole enterprise of science is dedicated to uncovering that ‘true’ reality. It is based on a study of facts. Because the observations of one person cannot be trusted, these facts have to be observed and agreed by many people. What is behind this is an attempt to rule out subjectivity.

I am not saying that there is no material reality: a brick dropping on my head would soon refute that. I am saying there is no objective reality without a subjective viewpoint. All subjective viewpoints vary so there can be no definitive objective reality. People recognise this about ideas and dreams but seem to fail to see it is also true for bricks and houses. To believe that there is is a myth which Western Society has swallowed hook line and sinker.. The material and the immaterial are not black and white (and neither are black and white) yes/no switches. The objective and the subjective are a continuum. We can discuss this later in relation to Spinoza and Thomas Nagel if you’re interested. If objective/subjective differ not in kind but only in degree, then  so do reality and truth. Some things are more objectively real and true than others (and their truth is a function of agreement between people) We might start with the brick we mentioned earlier, which is quite objectively real and material, move onto a mathematical idea such as “2”, then something aesthetic such as whether a sunset is beautiful, whether Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and then perhaps the ghostly touch of a hand.

It seems clear to me that without any subjective observer, there cannot be any facts. So where does this leave science? If no one ever sees or notices something, then it does not exist. Of course scientists postulate theoretical entities but then try desperately to observe them because they, like the Church, are literal minded and have been deluded by the Goddess Physis into believing only hard little things you can knock about and touch are true.   

After physicists had postulated more and more bizzare sub-atomic particles and then discovered them, the quantum physicist Nils Bohr is said to have joked that one year someone should get the Nobel Prize for not discovering one. The idea being that the postulated them, then they discovered them. Almost as if the universe were serving up what the observing physicist had ordered. More like magick than science.

It seems to me that truth is not about discovering a ‘real’ and unique reality, if it were historians and scientists would have given up researching and doing experiments quite a while ago. Instead the ‘truth’ is what we agree to be true. For example, we might agree that Apollo 11 never landed on the Moon or that Princess Diana was killed by MI6, and as far as we were concerned that would be the truth. Until someone came along and persuaded us otherwise.

So was that person in our séance truly touched by a ghostly hand? If they believed it (through delusion) and we believed it (because we trusted their testimony), then I suppose they were.  

On the night of the séance, before we had come to the Spaniard’s we had visited Highgate Cemetery. The way between the two places is along Hampstead Lane. It is now pleasant enough, but in the past a dangerous road to travel after dark. There are many historical records of attacks on travellers. These shadowy figures were no doubt corporeal enough, but there are ghosts along this road. Traditionally there is a dark figure on horseback who comes riding out from the bushes threatening to trample walkers to death..

Leon Garfield had the hero of his children’s novel Mr Corbett’s Ghost had his hero come up this way on New Year’s Eve long ago to the house of a black magician. This man was employed to do away with people through sorcery. The apprentice makes a pact to have his cruel master killed, and then repents.

 

Already he could see the top of Hampstead Hill. On either side of him the trees bent and pointed, and high upstairs the tattered clouds flew all in the same direction. The dark wind was going to Hampstead too, and it was in the devil of a hurry.

 

At last, he could see Jack Straw’s Castle: a square-built, glum and lonely inn scare half a mile ahead…

 

Then he sees the house where the bargain will be made.

 

It was a tall, even a genteel house, often glimpsed from the high road from where it looked like a huge undertaker, discreetly waiting among the trees…

 

It was said there was a room at the top of the house where certain transactions took place. The windows of this room were sometimes pointed out, for they could be seen from the high road, staring coldly through the trees.

 

It was rumoured that this room, ordinary enough in all its furnishings, held an item so disagreeable that it chilled the soul.

 

It is said that some people in the depths of madness fear that at the heart of everything, like a great spider, or an unfathomable knot, there is a terrible blackness. Inside it is a universe. If they look at this black hole too long they fear they will learn the secret that holds the world together and in so doing, unravel it.

 

On the day we were to visit Highgate cemetery, we parked up in Pond Square, where the ghost of a partially plucked chicken has often been seen. Neither is it far from the place where Dick Whittington and his cat turned and looked down on London. The cat forever famous as a young woman in tights and boots, encouraged him to walk back down the hill. Similarly, I encouraged my group to walk down Swain’s Lane towards Highgate Cemetery. It was a warm evening in June 2003, around 7 pm. Swain’s Lane is narrow and steep flanked by high walls and trees. It would be easy to believe you were in a country town. As we walked down we saw a gate in the wall on the right hand side. Through the gate you could see a wild place of trees, but the gate was locked. The main entrance is further down on the right. On the left is the East Cemetery. It is here that Karl Marx is buried (as well as George Eliot). I remember in the 1980s in the dying days of the Cold War, that every year Communists would visit Marx’s grave on his birthday – 5th May. In those years I worked for MI5 who historically had been very interested in Communists as they believed they were the biggest threat to the British way of life. Initially I worked in A Branch who amongst other things transcribed telephone taps on British Communists. It was said at the fag end of Communism that every Party meeting had more Special Branch and MI5 agents than real Communists; in fact the British state was keeping the Communist Party going. Later when I worked for K Branch which dealt with counter-espionage we used to observe the Chinese and Russians, and various others go up to Marx’s grave to pay homage but not speak to each other. From what we heard the Russians were equally bored by the whole thing but felt they had to keep on doing it until Gorbachev let them off the hook. In fact, I had never been to the cemetery until that day twenty years later.

 

Though espionage is definitely part of the Phantasmagoria, and certainly my own as I wander London and remember, the main focus at Highgate is vampires. The West cemetery is very overgrown and can only be visited by organised tours and relatives of those buried there. It dates from 1839 when people were keen to get the dead out of central London and built a ring of grand cemetaries around what was then the outskirts. Highgate cemetery was very successful with the Victorians, no doubt partly because of the view down on London. Though the dead might be indifferent to that, it gave them status. Also giving them status were the expensive and and wonderfully gothic enormous funerary monuments. There was even a tunnel under Swains Lane, which presumably still exists. Coffins were lowered hydraulically down to the basement and then travelled under the road via the tunnel, and then up on the other side.  There are about 166,800 people buried at Highgate in 51,600 graves.By the 1960s, the United cemetery Company had run out of money and the cemetery was neglected and became massively overgrown. Not until 1975 was the voluntary Friends of Highgate cemetery (FOHC) formed to begin again to care for the 37 acres. However it was not until the freehold was obtained that the FOHC could begin to do something about the choking brambles and fallen trees that made the West Cemetery an impassable no-man’s land.

 

We had arranged a private tour from the FOHC and were met by our volunteer guide. He was a man in his 30s who had a proper job but whose love was clearly the cemetery. He told us the volunteers either helped clear the ground around the tombs, a massive and ongoing undertaking, or like him, took round visitors. I had made my Americans swear not to tell him we were on a ghost tour of England because the FOHC is inimicably opposed to such things, for understandable reasons, as we shall hear later. In fact it came out that we were, and he in turn, made us swear not to mention it to the lady we were shortly to meet or we would be thrown out. He collected all our video cameras, though still photographs were allowed. In the end he declared himself amazed at the amount of photographs some of our group, notably Kriss Stephens, had taken. You can find these on the Internet. She is a good photographer. Our guide was a normal intelligent and rational person and therefore found our interest in ghosts infantile. Curiously, in my memory at least, he was an albino, with white hair and pink eyes.

 

I should say that the group, being Americans, and used to good service, were astounded throughout our trip around England that the people they paid for tours or food were often rude and unhelpful. They took this very well, I thought, though I was often embarrassed. I tried to explain that this was our way and the rudeness was not personal or because, as some of them suspected, they were American.

 

The lady we met reminded my of our late Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Quite a domineering, narrow minded woman of decidedly conservative attitudes, who gave the impression of being quite well off. Thanks to Ronald Regan and the various Presidents Bush, she warmed towards our transatlantic friends and in an indirect way  way sought donations towards the upkeep of the cemetery. After her welcoming oration, she let us go. I thought our guide seemed relieved.

 

It was still warm and light as we made our way up the hill into the cemetery. The East cemetery is built on hills and is very overgrown. You walk through a tangled wilderness of trees and grass with mournful Victorian tombs, often quite huge, lost and folorn among them. The FOHC have done a fantastic job clearing the paths but still there is an atmosphere of romantic desolation and wilderness. It is possibly one of the most wonderful places I have ever been. Our guide was good, but seemed keen to hurry us along. At times, I tried to gather ones and twos to point out tombs thought to be related to the story of the vampire. Our guide perhaps knew what I was doing, but ignored it. The tour took quite a long time and the light was fading.

 

The most famous part of the cemetery is the Lebanon Circle, which is a sunken circle of quite astounding tombs. In the middle of the circle were Lebanese Cedar Trees. Only one survives. Round the central area is a circle of twenty expensive family tombs. The Circle of Lebanon is approached through an arch of ancient Egyptian design. There is one tomb here which has been concreted up.

 

One of our group, a psychiatric nurse from New York, kept hanging back. I went back and see what she was doing, but whenever she saw me, she straightened up and started walking again. The consensus in our group as we whispered among ourselves while our guide talked of famous pugilists and actors, was that she was either praying or collecting earth. I never found out what she was doing but I guess it was the latter: for use in magick.

 

There is an open area at the north end of the cemetery which abuts the back of St. Michael’s??? church. This terraced area is actually the roof of the terraces which were once part of Ashurst House, a mansion that once stood near this area. In the ground, the roof, are glass windows, which look down into catacombs. Our guide jokingly said, “You will never get to see down there; even I am not allowed in the catacombs.”

 

This of course led us to ask ourselves: why? Was the Mrs Thatcher type woman with the pearls protecting something in there?

 

Our guide was extremely anxious to get us out of the cemetery before it got properly dark. A number of us commented on this. Was it because he didn’t want to be amid the twisting paths once the sun had gone down, a time when the place is left to the birds and beasts?

 

After this we proceeded to our séance at The Spaniard’s convinced that someone was protecting a vampire in the catacombs.

 

It is now time to tell the story of the Highgate Vampire. The two main sources for this are Bishop Sean Manchester, of the Ecclesia Apostolica Jesu Christi, and David Farrant, one time president of the British Occult and Psychic Society. Bishop Manchester’s book The Highgate Vampire was reissued in 1991 by the Gothic Press and is a very good read. David Farrant tells his side of the story through the Internet. It would be fair to say that Bishop Manchester and Mr. Farrant are not friends. Certainly Manchester describes Farrant as

 

“David Farrant, a pathetic figure whose infatuation with the Highgate haunting was to earn him and undeserved notoriety, as we shall see, and send him on a helter-skelter into the abyss of the dark occult.”

Farrant is defended against Manchester by an anonymous ex-member of the Highgate Vampire Society (Farrant’s organisation) thus:

“You say that the esteemed Mr. Farrant is nothing more than a paltry criminal who lives in coal bins and slanders the “Bishop’s” good name any chance he sees fit. However, your comments themselves are rather slanderous. While Mr. Farrant is not a wealthy man, and he has served an unjust prison sentence due to his work, he is far more an important figure in the occult research scene than the self-serving shadowy figure of Sean Manchester”.

But enough of this and onto the vampire. According to Manchester’s book, sightings of the vampire began in 1967. It was around this time that he began to interest himself in the case. David Farrant, apparently separately, was “called in” to investigate the case around 1969. Manchester provides transcripts of letters from the Highgate and Hampstead Express from the late 1960s and early 1970s from readers who had written in after seeing a tall black figure in Swains Lane.

 

The second edition of Bishop Manchester’s book contains a foreword by Devendra P. Varma of Dalhousie University, Canada. The Right Honourable Chevalier Professor Varma (obit. 1994) was honorary vice-president of the Vampire Research Society. He was 71 when he died. Professor Varma, if I may shorten his title, set the scene so well that I would like to quote part of it:.

 

“Here the finest sampling of funerary architecture rose along labyrinthine paths before a prodigal growth of sycamores and wild foliage engulfed the environs and inaugurated an era of ruin, neglect and decay. Overgrown paths and avenues where trees planted as saplings had grown massive and seeded themselves, obscured the panoramic view of the city.

In this verdure of death there remained visible only decaying mausoleums covered by a mattress of tangled scrubs, dilapidated graves split by expanding trunks of sycamores and scattered old masonry lying twisted across .fallen columns or fragments of broken urns.

Tales of a malignant spectre doomed to wander the cemetery precincts when dusk descends, started to circulate and merge with an earlier legend which pre-dated the graveyard. Something evil held sway in Highgate when on cloudy, windswept heights, the rustle in overhanging branches engendered fears of the shadowy unknown; when, in the eerie, haunted cemetery, near a huge vault, drops of blood were discovered. Reports of sinister and strange happenings accumulated, but the mystery of Highgate remained sealed and secret”.

As the music journalist Peter Paphides has said, “Hampstead Cemetery has a way of swallowing up the living as well as the dead.”

 

As well as Manchester’s convincing array of documentation in the form of letters about sightings of the vampire, he also presents letters about the death of animals,  particularly foxes, at Highgate and in neighbouring Waterlow Park. Farrant’s website also claims there were dead foxes at Highgate. When Farrant went into Highgate Cemetery (in 1969?) he witnessed what happens when superstition and credulity get out of hand.

I arrived at the cemetery in the morning and spent several hours there. It was the first time I had been there for over two years and the increase in vandalism was immediately apparent. Vaults had been broken open and coffins quite literally smashed apart. One vault near the top gate (although not visible from outside it) was wide open and one could see the remains of a skeleton where it had been wrenched from a coffin. Another vault on the main pathway had been thus entered and one of the coffins inside, set alight.

Farrant decided to spend the night of 21 December, because of occult reasons, in the cemetery. When he went to scale the north gate, the one we had looked through first, he saw an inhuman dark shape standing a little distance away down the path. This figure was seven feet tall. The figure inexplicably retreated, but it seems that Farrant decided not to go into the cemetery after. And who can blame him?

 

After this Farrant’s British Occult and Psychic Society set up vigils in the cemetery with cameras and tape-recorders. Witnesses were also interviewed. This began in December 1970.

 

Both Farrant and Manchester report that sightings of a tall malevolent figure were reported long before 1967. Particularly on Swains Lane. A girl I used to work with was from Highgate and one day when we ended up driving up Swains Lane, she told me that she and her friends wouldn’t go there after dark. I knew nothing about the vampire at that time. Farrant reports that his research at that time revealed that Satanic Black Masses had been held in the cemetery and particularly in the catacombs. This is rather reminiscent of Huysman’s La-bas which is of course set in Paris. I had always thought that Satanism was more a French thing than British, but it could have happened in Highgate where no doubt many foreigners live.  Interestingly Charles Dickens moved his daughter out of the catacombs after she’d been in there a while, back to the family tomb. I wonder why.

 

Farrant says that one mausoleum, that was empty of coffins had been converted into a temple with inverted pentagrams (the symbolism of the pentagram is very interesting and we shall discuss it further below).  Farrant linked this diabolical evocations with the vampire, conjecturing  that they perhaps bound it to this place. Farrant reports that the Satanic groups wrote him threatening letters, warning him off the place. Interestingly they name Hadit as an entity they revere, and Hadit  is actually part of the terminology of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. The OTO are not in fact Satanists, though they might well use an inverted pentagram as Crowley did, representing the descent of spirit into matter. Farrar is however adamant that the senders were Satanists.

 

Farrant was arrested for his part, trespassing and alleged vandalism at Highgate cemetery but acquitted. He was arrested again in 1974 for conducting nude rituals with his girlfriend over the graves at Highgate. This time he went to gaol.

 

In 1997, David Farrant formed the Highgate Vampire Society. Shortly thereafter, in 2001, he disbanded it. But in 2005, he relaunched the group following an apparent sighting of the vampire – a tall black figure seen in Swains Lane  – in April that year. This sighting is vigorously rejected as a publicity stunt by Bishop Manchester and his followers.

 

Bishop Manchester dates his involvement with the vampire to 1967, predating Farrant by two years. His first involvement was with a girl of Polish descent; a girl called Elizabeth. Her father was from Krakow. She and a friend had seen a vision of corpses coming out of their graves through the North Gate of Highgate. This girl, Elizabeth, was the classic example of a young woman plagued by vampires. She had marks on her neck, spots of blood on her pillow. She became pale and listless and was treated for anaemia. Most worryingly she kept breaking out of the house in the night and making her way to Highgate Cemetery. He found other victims of the vampire, a girl on North Road, who had similar symptoms; also finding herself wandering to the cemetery after dark. The victim Bishop Manchester had the most significant contact with, was the beautiful 22 year old Lusia. Bishop Manchester even painted her portrait.

 

In common with the other victims, Lusia felt herself drawn to the cemetery. Following her Manchester was led to the iron studded door that leads into the catacombs – those catacombs which were part of Ashurst House and had been used for burials by the Cemetery Society before it became defunct. Terrifyingly, Lusia and Manchester heard a “low booming vibration” coming from inside the catacombs. They retreated.

 

On 13th March 1970, Bishop Manchester set out to hunt for the vampire within the catacombs. Before he went in he was interviewed by Thames Television. Things became sinister from that point.

“There was no sun at all on that grey, gloomy winter’s day in the late afternoon. No birds sang. No animals moved about. Only the chill wind had life.”

As he was being interviewed, the sound man reported a strange noise that made recording impossible. The camera director fainted to the ground and at that point an unnatural wind suddenly whipped the trees, sending the interviewer’s notes flying in a whirl of paper and causing the crew’s wires to thrash around. It was as if it were a warning.

 

The interviewers moved from the North Gate and the programme was made. Within two hours hundreds of would be vampire enthusiasts arrived from all over London and the Home Counties. The police had desperate trouble keeping them under control and safe as they scaled the walls and tried to get into the cemetery. Many claimed to see things in the gathering gloom. For his part, Manchester entered the catacombs by rope. Inside, among other things, he found three empty coffins. He lined these with garlic, placed a cross inside them and sprinkled them with holy water. Having denied the vampires their resting place, he climbed back up the rope and left the catacombs.  The crowds remained and at 2 am, the unnatural low booming noise was heard again from under the ground below the cemetery.

 

Five months later in August 1970, the local paper reported that a corpse had been dragged out of its coffin and beheaded. The police at the time suspected it was to do with black magic but the cemetery was regularly being desecrated by would be vampire hunters. The body was found near the place Lusia had led Bishop Manchester. Prompted by this he returned. He was horrified to find that one of the coffins had vanished. He persuaded Lusia to come back to the cemetery. She was strangely led to the tomb in the Circle of Lebanon from which the corpse had been dragged. Bishop Manchester suspected that this was where the third coffin had been moved to. The tomb is now closed up with concrete, but then he managed to break his way in. There were a lot of coffins in that mausoleum: too many. There was one with no nameplate, in far better condition than the others. Inside he found the vampire, bloated, bloody mouthed and with glazed staring eyes. A corpse of apparently no more than three days. Ignoring his instincts to do the right thing, prompted by conventional morality, he hesitated and lowered his stake. Instead he sealed the coffin with garlic and holy water. Outside he began an exorcism. The horrible booming began again as he spoke the ancient sacred words. On his recommendation the entrance to the tomb was bricked up and has never been opened since.

 

However, as Manchester himself reports, the visitations of the vampire did not cease. A patient from a hospital in Surrey was found covered in blood in the Cemetery, his throat opened by something unknown. The drained carcasses of animals were still found.

 

Manchester’s researches revealed that Ashurst House, which had stood on the site, had also had a reputation. In the 18th Century the house had been sold to a mysterious gentleman from the Continent. Afterwards there were reports of strange figures in the area. In 1812 the house became a girls’ school and there were persistent rumours of a tall, grey figure seen hovering in the moonlight above the overgrown garden. In 1830 the house was demolished and the church of St Michael (that angel who vanquishes the Beast in the Book of Revelations) built on the church. The grounds were sold to the London Cemetery Company.

 

In 1973, rumours began to surface that an old house in nearby Hornsey had become the abode of something evil. In there, Manchester found the vampire he thought he had seen the last of when he had its tomb bricked up. This time there were no doubts or distractions. With his companions he lifted the lid of the coffin and readied his wooden stake.  

“’In God’s name strike!’ cried Arthur.

With a mighty blow I drove the sharpened point through the creature’s heart, then shielded my ears as a terrible roar rose from the bowels of hell. This died away as suddenly as it had erupted and we all became still. We witnessed the body-shell cave in and quickly turn filthy brown which soon became a sluggish flow of inhuman slime and viscera in the bottom of the coffin.”  

As far as Bishop Manchester is concerned, that was the end of the vampire

 

Morality. I have been making the point that reality is relative: all things are true and real to a greater or lesser extent (including this statement). That means some things are very true (but not completely so) like saying someone hit by a car going fast will be injured, and some things are not very true at all (but contain a glimmer of it) such as saying the earth is flat. Where does this leave us with morality? Could it be right in some circumstances to desecrate graves and damage a site such as Highgate Cemetery highly regarded for its cultural, aesthetic and natural importance? In some circumstances maybe, but none that I can realistically foresee.

 

If you such for Ethics and Morality on the internet you may come across a site called Ethics, Morality, Evolution, Genetics, Culture and Education. The stringing of such things together gives me a shudder; making me think of eugenics and Nazis. However, the author set out his stall:

 

A basis for proper (moral, ethical) human behavior must be determined without reference to opinion, conjecture, spirituality, imagination, philosophy, political ideology or any other form of dogma since these have no real foundation, are inconsistent, and cannot uniformly satisfy the needs of the human. Real (factual, scientific) knowledge is consistent and has real basis. If the human is to survive, the real knowledge uncovered in the sciences must be used as a basis for a uniform human ethical and moral behavioral system, thereby freeing the human for full attention to species survival.

You will recall that most moral systems have been based on spirituality, philosophy or political ideology, so this is a big, but not unique, proposal. The trouble is to my mind, science is a method not a set of beliefs. Scientific method may uncover facts which lead us to build up a belief system, but science is not a body of facts itself. The scientific method works well and the key to it, as Karl Popper laid out, is that we need to draw up hypotheses and then test them. The key thing about something being scientific is it must be able to be tested. Popper calls this falsifiability. The claims of some so called sciences cannot be tested. These include astrology, psychoanalysis and evolution. It is not that these three fields of knowledge are incorrect or ‘wrong’, just that their claims cannot be tested and therefore they are not scientific. For example, it might be said that men prefer to sit with their backs to a wall facing the door. That could be tested. Then an evolutionary psychologist might hypothesise that this is because men have evolved to be wary of attack. This cannot be tested. It might be true, but it cannot be scientifically shown to be true.

 

Back to the website. Skipping to the end it says:

The ethics and morality of a given human behavior may be evaluated in terms of the effect of the action with respect to the survivability of life, the species and the individual, in that order.

 So, the basis of determining whether something is moral depends on how it helps the survival of the race, I mean species. Who decides what action will help that? As Nils Bohr said, “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”  Does it mean that killing the disabled is moral? I think it does, and that is why I would ditch such morality based on reactionary political ideas masquerading as the clear white light of science. Mary Midgeley’s book Evolution as a Religion is a really worthwhile read on this.

 

Morality for me is an agreement between a community of people. And blow me if good old democracy isn’t the best vehicle for this. So we can make a stand and say the desecration of Highgate Cemetery is wrong and we do have a right as a society to say that those who do defile it should be punished. So, please do visit the Cemetery. But don’t harm it.

 

Chapter 3. Central London

 

Bloomsbury is an area I know well, as I used to work on Gower Street. In my luchtimes, I sometimes went down to the British Museum. If I was to go with you now there are a number of things I would point out based on my personal interests. Firstly the Assyrian sculpture which is awesome. Then I’d take you to the galleries dealing with the Renaissance. Here I’m particularly interested in the artefacts associated with the famous English mathematician, astronomer, cartographer and magician, Dr John Dee. Dr Dee was an adviser of Elizabeth I. He was much possessed with a desire to gain secret knowledge, both, I think to aid his own spiritual development, but also to help further the growth of English power, and perhaps most of all because he wanted to know.  Here at the British Museum are his “shew stone” a crystal ball. Apart from on very few occasions, Dee himself did not see anything, but relied upon a seer to relate to him the doings and words of the spirits with whom they were in contact. This was mainly, and most fruitfully, through Sir Edward Kelly (he was knighted by the Holy Roman Emperor in Prague, not by the English queen). The angels passed to Dee and Kelly a strange language called Enochian, after the Prophet Enoch. You will recall that Enoch was taken up into Heaven without dying. The only man ever given the privilege. It is said that the Enochian language is the key to powerful magick.  Also here at the British Museum is Dee’s arcane wax Sigillum Dei

upon which he crystal ball was placed. It should be said the Dee was a devout, if unorthodox Christian. The Inquisition did invite him to Rome, but he declined, unlike the Italian Mage Giordano Bruno who was burned alive by the Pope’s men.

 

The British Museum is brightly lit and there are lots of Japanese and European teenagers. Not that those things are bad, at one point I was one myself. But they do kill the atmosphere rather.

 

We should go upstairs and see the mummies.

London is full of ghosts, but the best supernatural story hereabouts concerns a mummy’s curse. On the first floor of the British Museum are various rooms devoted to artefacts from ancient Egypt. There are a number of mummies and sarcophagi on display but the one in question is numbered 22542 and listed as a mummy case for an unknown singer to the god Amon Ra. The case is covered in hieroglyphs and has a portrait of a very beautiful young girl.

The story begins in the 1880s when some English tourists in Egypt bought the case in Thebes from a local trader. He didn’t say where he’d got it but grave robbing was very common in those times to supply demand from Westerners keen to have something of Egypt’s history. From the day the mummy case was purchased, accidents started to happen. The new owner was injured in a hunting accident the next day. After that one of the Englishmen in the party mysteriously vanished, never to be seen again. The owner of the mummy case had to have his arm amputated after the accident and believing his bad luck to have come from the mummy case he sold it to a dealer in Cairo. Three people bought it after that and all of them died shortly afterwards, but not before it had been shipped to London. It was bought by a collector, but a friend of the collector was psychic and felt great evil emanating from the coffin. He warned the man to get rid of it or it would kill him. The collector took heed of this and sold it on. The new owner decided to have it photographed professionally, but the photographer unexpectedly died the day afterwards. Once the pictures were developed, instead of the beautiful girl on the case, they showed an ugly old woman – her eyes filled with evil. The owner sold it to a lady and on its first night in the house, all of her pet animals died and every piece of glass was smashed. She herself fell into a strange sleeping sickness that couldn’t be diagnosed by her doctor. When she gave the case away she, just as suddenly, got well again.

The British Museum obtained the case in 1889, and as the porters carried it in, one of them fell and broke his leg and the other died a few days afterwards. The mummy case got certain notoriety and people came from far and wide. However, nobody was able to sketch it accurately. The security men became terrified to patrol the room at night and claimed that they were followed by an invisible and horrible presence. One of them actually saw it – a thing with a wrinkled yellow-green face. A photographer allegedly killed himself after seeing the photographs of the mummy case develop. All together, thirteen people were supposed to have been killed by the cursed mummy case.

J A Brooks recounts that in 1921 two young men took part in a secret exorcism of the case. They said that the spirit had the face of a jellyfish as it leered at them out of the case. They said that the spirit was a guardian of the case that had been evoked by powerful magical hieroglyphs on the mummy case because the body had been defiled. Luckily, the exorcism worked and the evil spirit was banished.

Underneath the British Museum is an old underground station. This station is a ghost itself. It closed to passengers in 1933. Before that there were strong rumours that it was haunted. The ghost was said to be an Ancient Egyptian, dressed appropriately for his time and culture. He used to be seen by late night passengers coming through the walls, apparently from the Museum itself. A newspaper offered a reward to anyone who would spend the night there. However, no one took this up.

The next station along from the British Museum, one that is still operating is Holborn. One night in 1935 two women disappeared from the platform. Scratches and blood trails were found on the walls of the closed station when a search was undertaken to see whether they had walked down the line for some reason. Drivers reported seeing things in the tunnel, but the story was eventually closed down by London Underground. It is possible that the rumour of a tunnel from the Egyptian room to the platform is true. And that London Underground conspired with the Black Magicians who used that for their devilish rituals. Is it not likely that the management of London Underground and that of the British Museum were mostly members of this occult society and that is why they closed the station down in the first place? Perhaps the rumours started because a gang of navvies was entombed here while building the line. One version (in a 1974 film Death Line) had it that they had become a voracious troop of flesh eating zombies who went out at night to hunt along the underground lines.

The virtue of Malkuth is discrimination, which is a useful mental habit when surrounded by the whirling of the Phantasmagoria.

Eventually the story was hushed up as London Underground has always denied the existence of the tunnel from the station to the Egyptian Room.

Just outside the British Museum is Blooms Hotel. This hotel is an elegant town house, part of an 18th Century Terrace, just round the corner from the world famous British Museum. The bedrooms are furnished in the Regency Style and there is a lovely garden terrace and a library for the use of guests. The hotel is approached up a few stairs onto a chequerboard black and white marble porch between stately iron railings. You get the impression you are arriving somewhere rather classy, and the interior decoration bears this out.

A frequent visitor to the Blooms Hotel is an American businesswoman called Sara Reed. On one of her early visits she stayed in Room 1 and as soon as she entered the room she became aware of a presence. She could not see it, but strongly sensed that there was a man sitting in the chair in the room. She felt that he was a thinker and that he was sitting there musing on something or other. She mentioned it to the manager at that time and he confirmed that there was talk of a ghost in the hotel. However, Room 1 is quite new and is part of an extension added to the hotel where the old garden used to be. Sara got the impression that the ghost was somehow sitting in the sunshine, perhaps enjoying a break from a stint in the nearby British Library Reading Room, that famous place frequented by such historical figures as George Bernard Shaw and Karl Marx. The ghost is completely harmless, not overly friendly, actually more or less oblivious to what’s going on around him. Still she doesn’t like leaving anything on the chair, which one again is quite modern, because it’s his chair.

Sara got in touch with a clairvoyant, Paul Hughes who came with her to the hotel. When I spoke to Paul he said that when he walked into the hotel’s bar, he got the feeling of claustrophobia – the place was crowded with spirits. Paul’s theory is that because the building adjoins the British Museum, it almost acts as an exit point for all the spirits of the people and artefacts, Egyptian, Greek, Assyrian, that fill the Museum next door. Perhaps because of its proximity to the British Museum and the obvious attraction of that place to would be students of religion and magic, this part of Bloomsbury does have some interesting shops. The most long standing of them is the Atlantis Bookshop on Museum Street founded in 1922 which is supposed to have its own ghost.

I remember Skoob Books there which also had esoteric and occult stock. It has moved now to nearby Sicilian Arcade. Atlantis is still a favourite London stop off for witches and magicians, as it was in Aleister Crowley’s day. The Great Beast 666 was avoided there by his one time acolyte, the poet Victor Neuberg, after their adventure in the desert where, using the Enochian magic of Dr Dee, Crowley invoked the demon Chorozon and attempted to kill Neuberg. Neuberg, was physically and emotionally drained by the experience so Crowley abandoned him in Algeria. Crowley, though a genius, and an extremely witty writer, was not always compassionate.  This was one of his haunts at one time and he used to drink in the at the Plough on Museum Street. The same street the Atlantis Bookshop is on.

Near here also is St George’s church, between Museum Street and Bury Place. Even before I knew anything about Nicholas Hawksmoor, I felt that the back of this church, dark and sooty with large unkempt trees as it was then, had some kind of aura. In fact in later years I saw that people had chalked magickal sigils on the walls hereabouts as if they too recognised this place as a focus of some kind of energy. The church was shown in Hogarth’s famous sketch ‘Gin Lane’ depicting drunks lolling around outside.  It was built by Nicholas Hawksmoor between 1720 and 1730. Hawksmoor built a series of churches all across London. The novelist Peter Ackroyd in his 1985 book Hawksmoor suggested that these spots radiated some kind of baleful power that drew people to commit crimes and horrors there. It has even been said that Hawksmoor’s churches if plotted out describe a pentagram across the map of London.

The historian Ronald Hutton gives a useful and clear history of the pentagram. Who is to say whether he has the truth, however it does seem that his clear historian’s method and discernment have made these facts less ambiguous and more real, as if his attention to detail has beaten back the mists of Phantasmagoria that usually engulf any treatment of pentagrams.

Hutton says that five pointed stars are found in Egyptian, Roman and Greek art, but that they are probably merely decorative. In the 12th Century Renaissance the form was a symbol of the interplay of mathematics, nature and divinity. The pentagram with its five points replicates the human body (think of that drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci). The pentagram then is the symbol of mankind. The pentagram became associated with Solomon the Wise who bound the 72 wicked demons. In the Middle Ages Magicians keen to free these demons to run errands for them would employ Solomon’s pentagram to threaten and bind them to their will. Though initially used as a Christian symbol, representing the five wounds of Christ, and thus also apotropaic, it began to become more associated with demonism. In the 19th Century the French Magus Alphonse Levi ascribed the traditional elements to each of the points.

So, upright, the pentagram is protective and symbolises Spirit at the top. That is seen traditionally the best way to be and represents in a sense the Spiritual Hierarchy with the good God at the top. Now, the inverted pentagram represents the opposite, Spirit is no longer at the top but is dominated by matter, particularly by the heavy and sensuous earth and the passionate uncontrolled fire. This has been seen as representing the domination of the Devil. However, Crowley saw it as a celebration of the material world. He, and Carl Jung (though not together) believed that Western Christianity had over emphasised the spiritual and denigrated the material, so a turn around was historically necessary. Is this what is behind the growth of Science and Ecology which worship the material world and think little of the spiritual? Jung thought so.

When seen inverted in the symbology of American metal bands, it appears to be a youthful protest against the Christianity they have been brought up with. I was amused by a fan review (“my great list of amazing bands that are awesome”) of the band Arsis which said “For an american melodic death metal band, these guys can sure play. Unfortunately they lack variety in their music (it basically varies between intense and brutal)”  I went on to buy the album on the basis of that review, though perhaps I am getting old and cynical.

But back to Hawksmoor. For a lovely treatment of the pentagram motif see Wolfey’s piece London Khoragraphic.  It seems that Ackroyd was partly inspired to write Hawksmoor by Ian Sinclair’s poem Lud Heat.  

“St George, Bloomsbury, and St Alfege, Greenwich, make up the major pentacle-star [he has already mentioned Christ Church, St George-in-the-East, and St Anne, Limehouse]. The five card is reversed, beggars in snow pass under the lit church window; the judgement is ‘disorder, chaos, ruin, discord, profligacy’. These churches guard or mark, rest upon, two major sources of occult power: The British Museum and Greenwich Observatory. The locked cellar of words, the repository of stolen fires and symbols…”

The image evoked here is that of the Five of Pentacles, the picture that illustrates A. E Waite’s version of the Tarot Pack. Waite himself was of course a key member of the Order of the Golden Dawn which operated in London in the late 19th and early 20th Century of which also Crowley and the poet W. B Yeats were members. (Although they loathed each other.). The five pointed star is drawn over London by Alan Moore in his graphic novel From Hell which is the story of Jack the Ripper. As Wolfey comments.

“as the figure of the pentagram is traced onto central London, its points being the locations significant in From Hell’s version of the Ripper murders of 1888. The sites connected by the points of the pentagram and through which they pass pertain to other histories, to specific events irrelevant to the murder and dismemberment of five prostitutes in the East End of London; an occult figure thus emerges…”

We will have to return to the Ripper later. There was a theory that the idea of the pentagram traced by Hawksmoor’s Churches originated with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, a Victorian society active in Paris and London which taught and practised magic.

Not too far from here, to the east, is Chancery Lane. The young Aleister Crowley rented a flat here at 67/69 when he came down from Cambridge, signing the lease in the name of Count Vladimir Svareff. The flat became a hive of magickal activity. In his biography of Crowley A Magickal Life, Martin Booth recounts

The flat, not surprisingly, contained malevolent as well as benign forces. Crowley recorded leaving the flat one evening with Jones while the air was still vibrant with forces they had conjured up. As they went down to the street, they noticed semi-solid shadows on the stairs. When they returned later, they met a black cat on the stairs, found the door to the flat open, the furniture in disarray and semi-materialised beings marching round the room. It was then, as Crowley recorded in an essay, ‘the fun began! Round and round the big library tramped the devils all the evening, an endless procession; 316 of them we counted, described, named, and put down in a book. It was the most awesome and ghastly experience I had known.’ Visitors to the apartment were said to feel dizzy on entering. When Crowley finally vacated the flat, the removal men were reported to have been overcome. It was some time before the landlord could find a new tenant.

Peter Bushell mentions that at 53 Chancery Lane is the Safe Deposit Company. It was bombed during the Second World War and and the firm’s records were destroyed. That meant that no one knew who owned which box. The company opened them in an attempt to find out and discovered some strange things. According to Bushell

“One box contained nothing but a pair of Victorian knickers labelled ‘my life’s undoing’. A second held a penny and a curl of hair. In a third was a packet of six live  bullets. Written on the front in a faded, crabbed hand were the words: ‘one for each of the directors.’”  

Walking down Chancery Lane you will come to Fleet Street. Beneath the ground here is the lost River Fleet. It rises at a spring up on Hampstead Heath, goes through Highgate and Hampstead ponds and eventually flows into the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge. The lower reaches of the Fleet were a slum area and most of the prisons were here, including Newgate Gaol. Dick Turpin used to live here.

On Fleet Street is the famous old pub The Cheshire Cheese which dates back to 1538 and was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666. It is dimly lit, full of low beams and bare wood. There are blazing fires and the beer is dark and flat. My American guests have always liked it (though not the beer) and we usually have a joke about how it was rebuilt in 1666. I’ve come here because of the atmosphere and because I thought you might be tired after all the walking.

George Augustus Sala described the Cheese as:

“… a little lop-sided, wedged up house, that always reminds you, structurally, of a high-shouldered man with his hands in his pockets. It is full of holes and corners and cupboards and sharp turnings; and in ascending the stairs to the tiny smoking-room you must tread cautiously, if you would not wish to be triped up by plates and dishes, momentarily deposited there by furious waiters. The waiters at the ‘Cheese’ are always furious.”

I must say they have always been nice to me.

Over the road is the Temple. This is now full of lawyers. It is a quiet and atmospheric place. The entrance is through Middle Temple Lane. Peter Bushell describes it as a rather sinister thoroughfare, especially at dusk.” It is haunted, you see. nu the ghost of a long dead barrister who is seen with a bundle of papers under his arm and his gown flying out behind him. Bushell suspects the ghost might be that of Peter Saward, or Peter the Penman a genius at forgery. Though a barrister, his desire for money led him to augment his fees through forgery and fencing stolen goods.

The Temple was also home to a suspect Jack the Ripper. Of course there are many of these, but this one was a barrister called Montagu John Druitt. Previously he had practised as a surgeon. He was said to be a wild-eyed man with an aura of cruelty and sexuality. In 1888 he filled his pockets with stones and jumped into the Thames. The police suspected him for a while of be responsible for  the Ripper Murders.

The area is called the Temple because the complex was the headquarters of the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages. Now everyone knows that the Templars were a secret occult society, despite pretending to be an order of Christian knights like the Hospitallers. Their headquarters in Jerusalem were the ruins of the Temple of Solomon, he who imprisoned the 72 demons through the power of his magic. It is said, by those who know this, that the Templars were ferreting around in the basement of the old Temple where they found some of Solomon’s wisdom. From then on they practised magic and that magic descended in an unbroken line of quasi apostolic succession through the Rosicrucians, Freemasons, the Illuminati, the Golden Dawn, and ultimately to me, through self-help books I have bought on the Internet.

In any case they built a lovely peaceful church here in 1185. It survived more or less intact until hit by German bombers in 1941. The biggest thing then to happen to the church was that it featured in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code as one of the places the hero has to visit to find clues to the Holy Grail.

On page 286, we hear the following truth:

“I’m not surprised,” Teabing said. “The church is hidden now behind much larger buildings. Few people even know it’s there. Eerie old place. The architecture is pagan to the core.”

 

Sophie looked surprised. “Pagan?”

 

“Pantheonically pagan!” Teabing exclaimed. “The church is round. The Templars ignored the traditional Christian cruciform layout and built a perfectly circular church in honor of the sun.” His eyebrows did a devilish dance. “

 

However, I am bored of the Templars. Not so bored however of Spring Heeled Jack, who haunts my imagination. Spring Heeled Jack first appeared in London in the 1837 (though there are reports of a strange leaping creature in London going back at least to 1817). In September 1837 a businessman was surprised by a figure in black who leaped over the tall railings of a cemetery. Later that year, Polly Adams was attacked by a tall thin man enveloped in a black cloak and carrying what looked like a bull’s eye lantern. With one bound he was in front of her and before she had a chance to move he belched blue flames from his mouth into her face.  Jack attacked Mary Stevens in October 1837 on Clapham Common. He grabbed her with metallic arms and began to kiss her face. His mouth was cold and clammy ‘as a corpse’. She screamed and he fled.  The very next day Jack leapt onto a moving carriage, causing the driver to lose control and crash. Jack leapt away unharmed. A few days after this, Jack attacked a woman in Clapham Churchyard. The police found footprints three inches deep as if he had landed from a great height. Curious imprints were found in the marks, as if the attacker had been wearing some kind of compressed springs under his shoes.

 

In February 1838, he attacked Lucy Scales who was walking home with her sister along a dark street in Limehouse. As they passed Green Dragon Alley, a tall cloaked figure bounded out of the shadows at them. He spat blue flames into Lucy’s face to  blind her but as she lay in terror on the ground, Jack turned around and melted back into the shadows.

 

Jane Alsop was attacked in her own house. One night she heard a knocking on the door and a man in a black cloak said that he needed a light as they had caught Spring Heeled Jack in a nearby alley. Jane turned and went to get a candle. When he got the candle he threw off his black cloak. He set the flame against his breast. In the light she says he presented a most hideous and frightful appearance. He vomited forth a quantity of blue flame from his mouth and his eyes resembled balls of red fire.  

 

Jane Alsop said that Jack appeared to wear something like a large helmet and to be wearing clothes of some tight fitting white material. He grabbed her and began tearing at her dress with what his apparently metallic claws. When she screamed her sister came to help her but her sister was so appalled by Jack’s bizarre appearance that she wouldn’t go near him. The third sister then appeared and dragged Jane from the demon’s grip. As this all happened on the doorstep, the sister was able to slam the door shut. Most unlike an ordinary mugger, Jack then proceeded to knock on the door as if to say “I haven’t finished with you yet!”.

 

London went into a panic. Vigilante committees were formed. Among them were the Duke of Wellington, and Admiral Codrington, the former of which set out on horseback every night with his trusty pistols to try and bring Spring-Heeled Jack to justice.

 

Jack was then seen on a church, climbing a spire. After showing his face, Jack leapt into the darkness. He was also said to have been seen in the Tower of London.

 

It was said that Jack had cloven hooves and horns and that he was the son of the Devil. In February 1838 he appeared in Limehouse breathing his characteristic blue flames. Also in 1838 he attacked a prostitute in Bermondsey and threw her into the water. He would escape in huge bounds, earning him his nickname. He was never caught. He was seen around England throughout the 19th Century. In the 290th Century he was seen in Liverpool in 1904, in rural Herefordshire in the 1940s and I met a woman who had seen a man in a tight black suit vomiting blue flame in Dovenby in Cumbria in the 1970s.

 

But who was he: a circus performer; an alien; a time-traveller; a demon? All these shadowy creatures come only rarely into the clear light of day. Is Jack a figure from the Unconscious?  The children of the Unconscious have one thing in common – they cannot be pinned down, they change continually. You may think you dream of a swimming pool to find it becomes a sea then a river, then a snake. So with Spring Heeled Jack, ghosts, electrons, Dark Matter and the like: all are the joking face of Mercurius. Patrick Harpur in The Philosopher’s Secret Fire. p 57 says

 

“If I may recapitulate for a moment: daimons inhabit another, often subterranean world which fleetingly interacts with ours. They are both material and immaterial, both there and not-there – often small, always elusive shape-shifters whose world is characterized by distortions of time and space and, above all, by an intrinsic uncertainty.”

 

Peter Ackroyd mentions the London Stone. It is on Canon Street, opposite the station set behind a grill in the wall  of the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation at number 111. It is two feet high with  two grooves on the uppermost side. Mythology suggests that Britain was founded by Brutus, fleeing from the ruin of Troy. Brutus is said to have left this stone here and as long as it is safe, so too shall London be.  The stone is first mentioned in a 10th Century Anglo-Saxon source. By 1198 it was a tourist attraction. It was moved and embedded in the wall of St Swithin’s Church, which stood on this site, in 1742. The church was destroyed in a German raid in 1941, but the stone was unharmed. I presume the Bank of China was built around it.  Ackroyd notes that in 1540 the rebel Jack Cade went to the London Stone and touched it with his sword to proclaim himself lord of London. It is said that this stone is the heart of London, and even that this stone was the symbolic heart of the Island of Britain from which all measurements were made by the Romans. It is also said to lie on a significant, and mysterious, ley line.

There are a number of things that can be said about this Stone. Firstly, it is clearly an omphalos (Greek for navel) or a magical monument that marks the centre of the world. For the Greeks, the omphalos, often marked by a sacred stone, was a place that offered direct communication with the gods. The important omphalos for the Greeks was Delphi, where the oracle to Apollo operated. Jerusalem functioned as the omphalos of Christendom in the Middle Ages as maps marking it as the centre of the world show. I would guess that the London Stone is pre-Christian, possibly prehistoric. It has parallels with the Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) at Tara, which marked the centre of Ireland and which cried when a true and just king stood on it. A similar stone The Stone of Scone (also Lia Fáil in Gaelic) was used to crown the kings of Scotland. The Clochmabestane on the Solway Firth was an ancient stone used as a meeting place between the Scots and English and the Menneting Stone in the Lake District (probably Cumbric/Welsh maen y twng ‘The Oath Stone’) also seemed to be used for this purpose.

The fact that this sacred symbol is a stone also has its resonances. Jung in Aion refers to the Stone as a symbol of the Self. Jung’s idea of the Stone as representing our innermost reality (or one version of it) derives in part from the Alchemists fascination with the lapis philosophorum ‘The Stone of the Wise’. The lapis (Greek for stone) was said to give eternal life. Jung sees it as representing that non-human part of us, which however is central to our being. This reality is transcendental in that though it is in us and it is from us that we derive our existence the Stone or Self is beyond us and wholly non-human. In that sense it represents that part of us that will live forever. The mystical quest of the Jungian is to incorporate some understanding of this into his or her life, though the Stone is so alien that it is impossible to understand fully it and live. This brings us round to the Prophet Enoch again of course, who is the only man to have been taken up to Heaven without dying. In that sense he was incorporated into the Stone.

I once had a dream of a meteorite falling from heaven and lying, radiating in a desolate forest. It was poisonous but fascinating; wholly alien yet part of me. The paradox is that the Stone is deadly but gives life: it validates and valorizes us here on Earth: hence the symbolism of the rightful king.  Jung sees all these images and processes as being mostly unconscious. We are not aware of them, we might even ridicule them, they are paradoxical and thus incomprehensible, but they go on within us willy-nilly.

To the West of Cannon Street, past St Paul’s is Amen Corner. This area was just outside the walls of the City of London. There was a prison here from the 12th Century. It was rebuilt a number of times. The site was razed during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and both the prison and the Old Bailey court were rebuilt in 1672. It was a foul place with poor water and ventilation. The stench was appalling and the prison was racked by successive outbreaks of gaol fever a particularly virulent form of typhoid. Bullying, robbery and murder were commonplace inside the prison. Henry Fielding considered that Hell must be very much like Newgate Prison. The Press Yard was where prisoners who refused to plead were pressed to death. The Gordon Rioters in 1780 attacked the prison and demanded the the prisoners within be released.

The Old Bailey, the UK’s Central Criminal Court still stands here though the prison itself was demolished in 1902. There was public scaffold outside the Old Bailey which was a family day out until public hanging was stopped in 1868. Prisoners were thereafter hanged within the prison itself.

Nearby is Amen Court, a very pleasant nook with lovely houses where the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral live. At the rear of the court, behind the bushes, there looms a large and ominous dark wall which belonged to Newgate Prison.On the other side of the wall is a narrow passage called  ‘Deadman’s Walk’ which prisoners used on their way to execution. After they were killed they were buried there. It seems that this negative energy might be behind the many sightings of the Black Dog of Newgate. Though called a dog the apparition is generally reported as being shapeless, a dark form of slithering energy that slides around the courtyard accompanied by the foul odour of decay. There is also said to be the sound of dragging footsteps. There is also a story that the Black Dog might date back to the Middle Ages when the prisoners of Newgate began to eat one another. The prisoners picked on a fat man imprisoned for sorcery. However it is said that he conjured a demonic dog with eyes of fire and bloody fangs. It tore the prisoners limb from limb.

 

Given that there were so many fresh corpses at Newgate, the Royal College of Surgeons was originally here too. It was here that William Harvey demonstrated the circulation of blood. Body snatching was of course a big problem until the Anatomy Act of 1832 requisitioned the corpses of paupers. The poor had no peace even in death it seems.

 

Ludgate. Peter Ackroyd, p. 11-13. King Lud. The three sacred mazes at Pentonhill, Tothill, Tower Hill / White Mound. Ravens Hermes Street, Pentonville Road. P18. The London Stone..

 

16 Queensberrry Place, College of Psychic Studies: the human personality survives death.  33 Belgrave Square. Spiritualist Association of GB.

 

You will no doubt find that many of the things mentioned here, if not most of them, strike you as being untrue.

 

Confabulation

 

East End – the Ripper.  St Thomas Operating Theatre. Hampstead. Highgate cemetery.. Tower of London. Hawksmoor. Crowley. Golden Dawn

 


Edinburgh

MacKenzie Poltergeist. Underground City. Old Town. Brodie Innes and the Golden Dawn. Burke and Hare

 

Paris

Versailles. Catacombs. Opera.

 

Bruges

Bruges La Morte

 

Heidelberg

Castle. Students. Witches. Alchemists.

 

Vienna

Klimt, Freud. Stefansdom


Prague

Dee and Kelly. Czech Alchemists. The Prague Ghosts. Kafka. Meyrink

 

Krakow

Wawel. Carmeltie Mummies. Dee and Kelly. Ghosts.

 

Venice

The Palazzo. Ghost stories. Italian Witches. Aradia.  Don’t look now

 

Advertisements

Czech Republic Church Of Ghosts

The Curious Fortean

Ok, so my title might be a little misleading but, please do read on. I came across this whilst on one of my random trips through cyber space and thought it too good not to share with you guys.

The 14th century church of St. George  in the little town of Lukova in the Czech Republic had been in a state of disrepair for many years after the the roof collapsed during a funeral service in 1968 and for the preceding years it had remained largely unused. Not only because of its dangerous sate of disrepair but all because the locals feared that the collapse was some sort of ill omen and henceforth conducted their services and masses outside.

That was until Czech artist Jakub Hadrava  was employed to help transform the future of the church which was built in 1352. Jakubs art has seen tourists flock to view it in…

View original post 122 more words

Dracula Enriched! Chapter 6 – Whitby Visit

 

SONY DSC

In the first week of January, 2nd January to be precise, Sheila and I travelled across England going from the Irish Sea to the North Sea in half a day. The weather was cold and dry and when we got to Whitby it was sunny, but the easterly wind was literally Baltic.

Whitby is a wonderful place full of atmosphere. Jarred Triskalion when he’s talking about the Whitby Conclave of Chaos Magicians that existed in the late 1970s on Cliff Street says that like Glastonbury and London, it has its own special atmosphere.

Whitby is famous for its fish and chips, its Goth and Pirate weekends and its synod. The Synod was a big deal in Dark Age England that happened in 664 where the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria chose to go with the practices of the Roman rather than the Celtic Church.

King Oswy of Northumbria gave Whitby to Abbess Hilda, who was so holy that when the birds fly over her Abbey they dip their wings in respect. The ruins of the Abbey you see, aren’t the Anglo-Saxon ones, but in fact a later Gothic abbey ruined by Henry VIII in 1538.

I think, like Glastonbury, Whitby has something magical about it, recognised in both places by the foundation of a Dark Age monastery, lots of legends, Goths and hippies gathering in numbers.

What Whitby has that Glastonbury doesn’t is Bram Stoker and Dracula  (Glastonbury has John Cowper Powys’s Glastonbury Romance, but that’s not as widely known)

2017-01-03-15-31-15

 

I photographed a tourist information plaque for the above, but if you look where the Dimitry came aground, you can easily see where it was on the photograph I took a couple of days ago.

 

 

Dracula : CHAPTER VI

MINA MURRAY’S JOURNAL

 

2017-01-02-16-05-21

2017-01-03-15-23-03

Above is looking to where the Demeter came aground from the seaward side.

 

24 July. Whitby.

Lucy met me at the station, looking sweeter and  lovelier than ever, and we drove up to the house at the Crescent in which they have rooms. This is a lovely place. The little river, the

Esk, runs through a deep valley, which broadens out as it comes near the harbour. A great viaduct runs across, with high piers, through which the view seems somehow further away than it really is. The valley is beautifully green, and it is so steep that when you are on the high land on either side you look right across it, unless you are near enough to see down. The houses of the old town–the side away from us–are all red-roofed, and seem piled up one over the other anyhow, like the pictures we see of Nuremberg.

whitby-2004-025

Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of “Marmion,” where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits; there is a legend that a white lady is seen in one of the windows.

SONY DSC

Between it and the town there is another church, the parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones. This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbour and all up the bay to where the headland called Kettleness stretches out into the sea. It descends so steeply over the harbour that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed. In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them, through the churchyard; and people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze. I shall come and sit here very often myself and work. Indeed, I am writing now, with my book on my knee, and listening to the talk of three old men who are sitting beside me. They seem to do nothing all day but sit up here and talk.

2017-01-04-11-22-52

The harbour lies below me, with, on the far side, one long granite wall stretching out into the sea, with a curve outwards at the end of it, in the middle of which is a lighthouse. A heavy sea-wall runs along outside of it. On the near side, the sea-wall makes an elbow crooked inversely, and its end too has a lighthouse. Between the two piers there is a narrow opening into the harbour, which then suddenly widens.

SONY DSC

 

It is nice at high water; but when the tide is out it shoals away to nothing[1], and there is merely the stream of the Esk, running between banks of sand, with rocks here and there. Outside the harbour on this side there rises for about half a mile a great reef, the sharp edge of which runs straight out from behind the south lighthouse. At the end of it is a buoy with a bell, which swings in bad weather, and sends in a mournful sound on the wind. They have a legend here that when a ship is lost bells are heard out at sea. I must ask the old man about this; he is coming this way….

He is a funny old man. He must be awfully old, for his face is all gnarled and twisted like the bark of a tree. He tells me that he is nearly a hundred, and that he was a sailor in the Greenland fishing fleet when Waterloo was fought. He is, I am afraid, a very sceptical person, for when I asked him about the bells at sea and the White Lady at the abbey he said very brusquely:–

“I wouldn’t fash masel’ [2]about them, miss. Them things be all wore out. Mind, I don’t say that they never was, but I do say that they wasn’t in my time. They be all very well for comers and trippers, an’ the like, but not for a nice young lady like you. Them feet-folks from York and Leeds that be always eatin’ cured herrin’s[3] an’ drinkin’ tea an’ lookin’ out to buy cheap jet[4] would creed aught. I wonder masel’ who’d be bothered tellin’ lies to them–even the newspapers, which is full of fool-talk[5].”

SONY DSC

I thought he would be a good person to learn interesting things from, so I asked him if he would mind telling me something about the whale-fishing in the old days[6]. He was just settling himself to begin when the clock struck six, whereupon he laboured to get up, and said:–

“I must gang ageeanwards home now, miss. My grand-daughter doesn’t like to be kept waitin’ when the tea is ready, for it takes me time to crammle aboon the grees[7], for there be a many of ’em; an’, miss, I lack belly-timber sairly by the clock.”

He hobbled away, and I could see him hurrying, as well as he could, down the steps. The steps are a great feature on the place. They lead from the town up to the church, there are hundreds of them–I do not know how many-[8]-and they wind up in a delicate curve; the slope is so gentle that a horse could easily walk up and down them. I think they must originally have had something to do with the abbey. I shall go home too. Lucy went out visiting with her mother, and as they were only duty calls, I did not go. They will be home by this.

*       *       *

1 August.

I came up here an hour ago with Lucy, and we had a most interesting talk with my old friend and the two others who always come and join him. He is evidently the Sir Oracle of them, and I should think must have been in his time a most dictatorial person. He will not admit anything, and downfaces everybody. If he can’t out-argue them he bullies them, and then takes their silence for agreement with his views.

Lucy was looking sweetly pretty in her white lawn frock; she has got a beautiful colour since she has been here. I noticed that the old men did not lose any time in coming up and sitting near her when we sat down. She is so sweet with old people; I think they all fell in love with her on the spot. Even my old man succumbed and did not contradict her, but gave me double share instead.

I got him on the subject of the legends, and he went off at once into a sort of sermon. I must try to remember it and put it down:–

“It be all fool-talk, lock, stock, and barrel; that’s what it be, an’ nowt else. These bans an’ wafts an’ boh-ghosts an’ barguests an’ bogles[9] an’ all anent them is only fit to set bairns an’ dizzy women a-belderin’.

They be nowt but air-blebs [A bleb is a blister] They, an’ all grims an’ signs an’ warnin’s, be all invented by parsons an’ illsome beuk-bodies [ Illsome Beuk-Bodies is you and me]  an’ railway touters to skeer an’ scunner hafflin’s, an’ to get folks to do somethin’ that they don’t other incline to. It makes me ireful to think o’ them. Why, it’s them that, not content with printin’ lies on paper an’ preachin’ them out of pulpits, does want to be cuttin’ them on the tombstones. Look here all around you in what airt ye will; all them steans, holdin’ up their heads as well as they can out of their pride, is acant–simply tumblin’ down with the weight o’ the lies wrote on them, ‘Here lies the body’ or ‘Sacred to the memory’ wrote on all of  them, an’ yet in nigh half of them there bean’t no bodies at all; an’ the memories of them bean’t cared a pinch of snuff about, much less sacred.

Lies all of them, nothin’ but lies of one kind or another! My gog, but it’ll be a quare scowderment[10] at the Day of Judgment when they come tumblin’ up in their death-sarks[11], all jouped together an’ tryin’ to drag their tombsteans[12] with them to prove how good they was; some of them trimmlin’ and ditherin’, with their hands that dozzened an’ slippy from lyin’ in the sea that they can’t even keep their grup o’ them.”

I could see from the old fellow’s self-satisfied air and the way in which he looked round for the approval of his cronies that he was “showing off,” so I put in a word to keep him going:–

“Oh, Mr. Swales, you can’t be serious. Surely these tombstones are not all wrong?”

“Yabblins! There may be a poorish few not wrong, savin’ where they make out the people too good; for there be folk that do think a balm-bowl be like the sea, if only it be their own. The whole thing be only lies. Now look you here; you come here a stranger, an’ you see this kirk-garth.[13]

I nodded, for I thought it better to assent, though I did not quite understand his dialect. I knew it had something to do with the church.

He went on: “And you consate that all these steans be aboon folk that be happed here, snod an’ snog?” I assented again. “Then that be just where the lie comes in. Why, there be scores of these lay-beds that be toom as old Dun’s ‘bacca-box on Friday night.” He nudged one of his companions, and they all laughed. “And my gog! how could they be otherwise? Look at that one, the aftest abaft the bier-bank: read it!” I went over and read:–

“Edward Spencelagh, master mariner, murdered by pirates off the coast of Andres, April, 1854, æt.[14] 30.”

When I came back Mr. Swales went on:–

“Who brought him home, I wonder, to hap him here? Murdered off the coast of Andres! an’ you consated his body lay under! Why, I could name ye a dozen whose bones lie in the Greenland seas above”

He pointed northwards–“or where the currents may have drifted them. There be the steans around ye. Ye can, with your young eyes, read the small-print of the lies from here. This Braithwaite Lowrey–I knew his father, lost in the _Lively_ off Greenland in ’20; or Andrew Woodhouse, drowned in the same seas in 1777; or John Paxton, drowned off Cape Farewell a year later; or old John Rawlings, whose grandfather sailed with me, drowned in the Gulf of Finland in ’50. Do ye think that all these men will have to make a rush to Whitby when the trumpet sounds? I have me antherums aboot it! I tell ye that when they got here they’d be jommlin’ an’ jostlin’ one another that way that it ‘ud be like a fight up on the ice in the old days, when we’d be at one another from daylight to dark, an’ tryin’ to tie up our cuts by the light of the aurora borealis.” [15]

This was evidently local pleasantry, for the old man cackled over it, and his cronies joined in with gusto.

“But,” I said, “surely you are not quite correct, for you start on the assumption that all the poor people, or their spirits, will have to take their tombstones with them on the Day of Judgment. Do you think that will be really necessary?”

“Well, what else be they tombstones for? Answer me that, miss!”

“To please their relatives, I suppose.”

“To please their relatives, you suppose!” This he said with intense scorn. “How will it pleasure their relatives to know that lies is wrote over them, and that everybody in the place knows that they be lies?” He pointed to a stone at our feet which had been laid down as a slab, on which the seat was rested, close to the edge of the cliff. “Read the lies on that thruff-stean,[16] he said.

The letters were upside down to me from where I sat, but Lucy was more opposite to them, so she leant over and read:–

“Sacred to the memory of George Canon, who died, in the hope of a glorious resurrection, on July, 29, 1873, falling from the rocks at Kettleness. This tomb was erected by his sorrowing mother to her dearly beloved son. ‘He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.’

“Really, Mr. Swales, I don’t see anything very funny in that!” She spoke her comment very gravely and somewhat severely.

“Ye don’t see aught funny! Ha! ha! But that’s because ye don’t gawm the sorrowin’ mother was a hell-cat that hated him because he was acrewk’d–a regular lamiter he was[17]–an’ he hated her so that he committed suicide in order that she mightn’t get an insurance she put on his life. He blew nigh the top of his head off with an old musket that they had for scarin’ the crows with. ‘Twarn’t for crows then, for it brought the clegs and the dowps to him. That’s the way he fell off the rocks. And, as to hopes of a glorious resurrection, I’ve often heard him say masel’ that he hoped he’d go to hell, for his mother was so pious that she’d be sure to go to heaven, an’ he didn’t want to addle where she was. Now isn’t that stean at any rate”–he hammered it with his stick as he spoke–“a pack of lies? and won’t it make Gabriel keckle[18] when Geordie comes pantin’ up the grees with the tombstean balanced on his hump, and asks it to be took as evidence!”

I did not know what to say, but Lucy turned the conversation as she said, rising up:–

“Oh, why did you tell us of this? It is my favourite seat, and I cannot leave it; and now I find I must go on sitting over the grave of a suicide.”

“That won’t harm ye, my pretty; an’ it may make poor Geordie gladsome to have so trim a lass sittin’ on his lap. That won’t hurt ye. Why, I’ve sat here off an’ on for nigh twenty years past, an’ it hasn’t done me no harm. Don’t ye fash about them as lies under ye, or that doesn’ lie there either[19]! It’ll be time for ye to be getting scart when ye see the tombsteans all run away with, and the place as bare as a stubble-field. There’s the clock, an’ I must gang. My service to ye, ladies!” And off he hobbled.

Lucy and I sat awhile, and it was all so beautiful before us that we took hands as we sat; and she told me all over again about Arthur and their coming marriage. That made me just a little heart-sick, for I haven’t heard from Jonathan for a whole month.

SONY DSC

****

The same day

I came up here alone, for I am very sad. There was no letter for me. I hope there cannot be anything the matter with Jonathan. The clock has just struck nine. I see the lights scattered all over the town, sometimes in rows where the streets are, and sometimes singly; they run right up the Esk and die away in the curve of the valley. To my left the view is cut off by a black line of roof of the old house next the abbey. The sheep and lambs are bleating in the fields away behind me, and there is a clatter of a donkey’s hoofs up the paved road below. The band on the pier is playing a harsh waltz in good time, and further

along the quay there is a Salvation Army meeting in a back street. Neither of the bands hears the other, but up here I hear and see them both. I wonder where Jonathan is and if he is thinking of me[20]! I wish he were here.

 

*** NOTES

[1] I think they must have changed it, because even when it’s low tide, there’s still water in the harbour area and the river channel is not as obvious as it was in Stoker’s time.

[2] Stoker must have been poring over his Yorkshire dialect book. I recognise many of the words because we share them in Cumberland, but some are so old fashioned my grandmother wouldn’t have known them.  “Fashm = worry” is considered Scottish now, but of course Scots and Northern English dialects are both descended from Northumbrian Old English and share vocabulary. In Scots this would be “I wouldnae fash masel”.

[3] Cured Herrings are Kippers!  I got a lungful of smoke from the smokehouse when I was walking past it and it made me cough! Still, they taste nice.

[4] Whitby is famous for its jet and Church Street is lined with jewellers specialising in jet and silver jewellery.

[5] True dat.

[6] There is a pair of crossed whale bones on the West Cliff where the Whitby Ghost Walk starts at 7:30 pm. I’ve been on it before but it was too cold in January to do it again.

[7] I’ve no idea what crammlin about the grees means. Sounds nasty.

[8] Theres’s 199. A big sign at the bottom says it. Dunno how Stoker missed that one.

[9] Boggle, a word in the north of England and Southern Scotland for a spirit.  There is a Boggle Hole near Robin Hood’s Bay just about 7 miles south of Whitby. Apparently in the late 1970s the Whitby Conclave of magicians did magic rituals there.  There’s a youth hostel there now. The two things are not connected I’m sure. Boh-ghosts is related to Boggart – another dialect word. The first element Bog also in Goblin seems to be related to the Slavonic for god – bog, bozh.  A spirit.  Boggle is also a word in my dialect for snot. Bougers, Bugbears. Spirits and Snot.

[10] Surely = scolding.

[11] Sark is an old word for shirt, here shroud.

[12] Stones with palatalisation. Styans.

[13] Church yard. This is most likely Norse rather than English.

[14] Aged.

[15] Bram’s making the point that suicides are buried here.  And we will remember from previous posts that because suicide is a sin, that suicides are potential hosts for vampirism.

[16] A thruff-stean is a through stone and when you are building a dry stone wall you lay it athwart (I’m getting into the swing of archaic words now) that is sideways on, through the wall.

[17] I think he’s gone too far with this.  However, I saw something at Whitby that I’d never seen. There were padlocks on the fence beside the graveyard and also at the foot of the cliff where the path goes onto the pier and some at the end of the pier. I’ve seen padlocks on walls, in Paris and Verona and recently in Krakow to indicate undying love. There were bunches of flowers also and I think people were just remembering their loved ones there. I don’t think they’d died there. When we were at the top, while I was figuring this out, some passers by said that the flowers were to remember those who’d jumped off the cliff into the sea.  I guess some did it but there was an awful lot of flowers there…

[18] Related to “keek” = look, Dutch kyk

[19] He’s foreshadowing Dracula here. I just knows it.

[20] He’s got other things to think about just now way over in Transylvania.

SONY DSC

The Symbolism of The Vampire

7923eafd0cbc8c938381f7b5c427f71f

There is a quote by Ivan Phillips from his 2013 article, saying the figure of the vampire has

…drifted and shifted through the pages of newspapers, travel journals, novels, poems, comics and plays for 300 years.

Yet we have seen that the vampire, or something like it, has haunted European fears for far longer than that. We saw a tale from Germany of mortals being visited as far back as 745 AD and archaeological evidence from England and Ireland going back to the 8th Century.

It seems to me that there could be two explanations for this pervasive fascination and fear of the vampire. The first is that they are real.  And if they are real they are not the hunky sparkly type that teenage girls and some older ladies long to kiss, but awful demonic things that stink of corruption.

Or, they represent some kind of archetype.  I have discussed elsewhere that I’m a convert to the idea of Jungian archetypes.  In a nutshell, these are recurrent motifs and symbols, and in fact behaviours motivated by these symbols, that arise out of instincts coded deep in our DNA.  For example birds builds nests and a baby roots for the nipple, and myself  as a little boy, I was fascinated by the women in my mother’s underwear catalogue without knowing why.  So vampires, a fear of the bloodsucking dead, may represent some kind of archetypical image.

If we look at the symbolism of the vampire, we see that it represents whatever idea the writer of that particular article is predisposed to give it. If he’s a Marxist, then the vampire is a symbol of voracious capitalism, if she’s a teacher of Women’s Studies, it may represent the young girl’s fear  and fascination of the sexuality of the male, if a Freudian, then sex or cigars.

The Hunger

Who ever heard of a fat vampire? I think there is a comic novel about one.  But vampires are generally thin, often skeletal – think of Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu, and we have seen elsewhere that they chew in their graves, chew their shrouds, chew their beards, chew their own flesh and eventually chew their way on out to go and feed from the living.  I think we can say therefore that vampires are pretty hungry.

 Vampire Sex

I think hunger trips over relatively easy into sexual desire, which is also a kind of hunger.  So we see vampires transitioning from dirty dead things to elegant gentlemen in dinner suits, such as Bela Lugosi, to sexy dandies such as Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire, into thoroughly modern moody teenage hunks in the Twilight saga.  We know what hunger those guys are suffering , and we know what fruits you girls intend to give them.

It’s still about corporeal desire.  But of course voracious hunger and gluttony and unbridled sexual desire are things we shun in polite society. We don’t want to see either of these things going on when we go out for a meal.  Yuk.

The vampire’s bite on the jugular is a love bite.

Blood was thought to be the essence of life. After all, when someone bled out, he died.  So, vampires are hungry for life.  Eating food is also hunger for life and eating most food ends another life. I say to my vegetarian daughters that even when they eat plants, they are ending the plants’ life.

Being a vampire represents a hunger for life, but in some way the vampire’s burning hunger can never be quenched.  Ann Rice’s books often talk about the vampire’s hunger and the need to go and get more blood as strong as if he needed crystal meth.

Without wishing to profane the sacrament, we note that in Christianity, the central act is to drink the Saviour’s blood and thus be given eternal life.  I think this is a replaying of the same archetype that we see in the vampire myth in darker form.  In Dracula,  Dracula makes Mina drink his blood saying that she shall become flesh of flesh and blood of his blood.  Again, some echo of the Eucharist perhaps

Other Symbols Related to the Vampire

There are lots of other interesting features that have grown up about vampires. We saw from the archaeology that attempts were made to reduce their mobility. They had bricks stuffed in their mouths to stop them chewing their way out of the coffin.  In some German folklore they had scarfs tied around their mouths for the same reason. They had metal spikes thrust through them and sickles and staples holding them to the ground. They had their legs broken and were bound with rope.

Heads were frequently chopped off and put elsewhere, either between their legs, or removed from the rest of the cadaver.  I guess this is simply so they couldn’t see and find their way around!

They were buried upside down to fool them into going down into the ground instead of coming up into the world.  Related to this is the messing around with their leg bones, putting right in place of left et cetera.  Though this would have the practical effect of hindering their movement, there is also the idea of reversal and doing things backwards, which is also associated with evil.

Vampires cast no reflection. Is this because they are not real, or because they are already reflections of us? You will be familiar with the psychoanalytical concept of projection. Sins, guilt and other despicable things we do make us feel too bad to own them ourselves, so we project them out onto the other guy and say it’s him that is evil.  For example, the tendency to blame foreigners and other groups for all our woes, is a projection.  It is related to the Jungian archetype called the Shadow. This dark figure represents all the wickedness we cannot bear to admit to. The Shadow pops up in our dreams and literature and I guess he’d be the one responsible for all that sex and gluttony.

The idea that they cannot enter without being invited in, is another strange idea. As we know from the films, we peasants can deck our homes with crucifixes (a four armed symbol of completeness according to Jung) and garlic (a preservative against corruption) and the darned critters can’t get in.  But there is something about the protective power of hospitality maybe? Hospitality was a sacred duty to our ancestors, and the rules of hospitality were very strong. For example, you couldn’t kill your sworn enemy if he was your guest.  Of course, once you invite Dracula in, he can do what he wants to you, so maybe it isn’t as simple as the sacredness of hospitality.

Maybe it’s something about being tricked by the monster as Eve was by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. His weasel words and honey tongue (forked as it is) are the very can opener of deceit.  There is a deep distrust in our society of those who polish their words.   Hence this rough draft 😉

My Final Thought.

I noted above that the central motif of the vampire story is a hunger for life.  In a previous post, I compared this with the Buddhist idea that the tragedy of human life is caused by desire.  The craving for individual life creates our hungry ghost.  As long as we crave life we are cursed to dwell in the night. When we give up desire, we can enter into the light.

 

 

 

 

The Kit-Bag by Algernon Blackwood (A Christmas Ghost Story)

snowing-2

 

 

When the words ‘Not Guilty’ sounded through the crowded courtroom thatdark December afternoon, Arthur Wilbraham, the great criminal KC, andleader for the triumphant defence, was represented by his junior; butJohnson, his private secretary, carried the verdict across to hischambers like lightning.

‘It’s what we expected, I think,’ said the barrister, without emotion;’and, personally, I am glad the case is over.’ There was no particular sign of pleasure that his defence of John Turk, the murderer, on a plea of insanity, had been successful, for no doubt he felt, as everybody who had watched the case felt, that no man had ever better deserved the gallows.

‘I’m glad too,’ said Johnson. He had sat in the court for ten days watching the face of the man who had carried out with callous detail one of the most brutal and cold-blooded murders of recent years.

 

Be counsel glanced up at his secretary. They were more than employer andemployed; for family and other reasons, they were friends. ‘Ah, Iremember; yes,’ he said with a kind smile, ‘and you want to get away forChristmas? You’re going to skate and ski in the Alps, aren’t you? If Iwas your age I’d come with you.’

 

Johnson laughed shortly. He was a young man of twenty-six, with adelicate face like a girl’s. ‘I can catch the morning boat now,’ he said;’but that’s not the reason I’m glad the trial is over. I’m glad it’s overbecause I’ve seen the last of that man’s dreadful face. It positivelyhaunted me. Bat white skin, with the black hair brushed low over theforehead, is a thing I shall never forget, and the description of the waythe dismembered body was crammed and packed with lime into that–‘

 

‘Don’t dwell on it, my dear fellow,’ interrupted the other, looking athim curiously out of his keen eyes, ‘don’t think about it. Such pictureshave a trick of coming back when one least wants them.’ He paused amoment. ‘Now go,’ he added presently, ‘and enjoy your holiday. I shallwant all your energy for my Parliamentary work when you get back. Anddon’t break your neck skiing.’

 

Johnson shook hands and took his leave. At the door he turned suddenly.

‘I knew there was something I wanted to ask you,’ he said. ‘Would you mind lending me one of your kit-bags? It’s too late to get one tonight,and I leave in the morning before the shops are open.’

‘Of course; I’ll send Henry over with it to your rooms. You shall have it the moment I get home.’

‘I promise to take great care of it,’ said Johnson gratefully, delighted to think that within thirty hours he would be nearing the brilliant sunshine of the high Alps in winter. But the thought of that criminal court was like an evil dream in his mind.

 

He dined at his club and went on to Bloomsbury, where he occupied the topfloor in one of those old, gaunt houses in which the rooms are large andlofty. The floor below his own was vacant and unfurnished, and below thatwere other lodgers whom he did not know. It was cheerless, and he lookedforward heartily to a change. The night was even more cheerless: it wasmiserable, and few people were about. A cold, sleety rain was drivingdown the streets before the keenest east wind he had ever felt. It howleddismally among the big, gloomy houses of the great squares, and when hereached his rooms he heard it whistling and shouting over the world ofblack roofs beyond his windows.

 

In the hall he met his landlady, shading a candle from the draughts withher thin hand. ‘This come by a man from Mr Wilbr’im’s, sir.’

 

She pointed to what was evidently the kit-bag, and Johnson thanked herand took it upstairs with him. ‘I shall be going abroad in the morningfor ten days, Mrs Monks,’ he said. ‘I’ll leave an address for letters.’

‘And I hope you’ll ‘ave a merry Christmas, sir,’ she said, in a raucous,wheezy voice that suggested spirits, ‘and better weather than this.’

‘I hope so too,’ replied her lodger, shuddering a little as the wind went roaring down the street outside.

When he got upstairs he heard the sleet volleying against the windowpanes. He put his kettle on to make a cup of hot coffee, and then set about putting a few things in order for his absence. ‘And now I must pack–such as my packing is,’ he laughed to himself, and set to work at once.

He liked the packing, for it brought the snow mountains so vividly before him, and made him forget the unpleasant scenes of the past ten days. Besides, it was not elaborate in nature. His friend had lent him the very thing–a stout canvas kit-bag, sack-shaped, with holes round the neck for the brass bar and padlock. It was a bit shapeless, true, and not much to look at, but its capacity was unlimited, and there was no need to pack carefully. He shoved in his waterproof coat, his fur cap and gloves,his skates and climbing boots, his sweaters, snow-boots, and ear-caps;and then on the top of these he piled his woollen shirts and underwear,his thick socks, puttees, and knickerbockers. The dress suit came next,in case the hotel people dressed for dinner, and then, thinking of thebest way to pack his white shirts, he paused a moment to reflect. ‘Bat’s the worst of these kit-bags,’ he mused vaguely, standing in the centre of the sitting-room, where he had come to fetch some string

It was after ten o’clock. A furious gust of wind rattled the windows as though to hurry him up, and he thought with pity of the poor Londoners whose Christmas would be spent in such a climate, whilst he was skimming over snowy slopes in bright sunshine, and dancing in the evening with rosy-checked girls–Ah! that reminded him; he must put in his dancing-pumps and evening socks. He crossed over from his sitting-room to the cupboard on the landing where he kept his linen.

And as he did so he heard someone coming softly up the stairs.

He stood still a moment on the landing to listen. It was Mrs Monks’sstep, he thought; she must he coming up with the last post. But then thesteps ceased suddenly, and he heard no more. They were at least twoflights down, and he came to the conclusion they were too heavy to bethose of his bibulous landlady. No doubt they belonged to a late lodgerwho had mistaken his floor. He went into his bedroom and packed his pumps and dress-shirts as best he could.

Be kit-bag by this time was two-thirds full, and stood upright on its own base like a sack of flour. For the first time he noticed that it was old and dirty, the canvas faded and worn, and that it had obviously been subjected to rather rough treatment. It was not a very nice bag to have sent him–certainly not a new one, or one that his chief valued. He gave the matter a passing thought, and went on with his packing. Once or twice, however, he caught himself wondering who it could have been wandering down below, for Mrs Monks had not come up with letters, and the floor was empty and unfurnished. From time to time, moreover, he was almost certain he heard a soft tread of someone padding about over the bare boards–cautiously, stealthily, as silently as possible–and,further, that the sounds had been lately coming distinctly nearer.

 

For the first time in his life he began to feel a little creepy. Then, asthough to emphasize this feeling, an odd thing happened: as he left thebedroom, having, just packed his recalcitrant white shirts, he noticedthat the top of the kit-bag lopped over towards him with an extraordinaryresemblance to a human face. Be camas fell into a fold like a nose andforehead, and the brass rings for the padlock just filled the position ofthe eyes. A shadow–or was it a travel stain? for he could not tellexactly–looked like hair. It gave him rather a turn, for it was soabsurdly, so outrageously, like the face of John Turk the murderer.

He laughed, and went into the front room, where the light was stronger.

‘That horrid case has got on my mind,’ he thought; ‘I shall be glad of a change of scene and air.’ In the sitting-room, however, he was notpleased to hear again that stealthy tread upon the stairs, and to realizethat it was much closer than before, as well as unmistakably real. Andthis time he got up and went out to see who it could be creeping about onthe upper staircase at so late an hour.

But the sound ceased; there was no one visible on the stairs. He went to the floor below, not without trepidation, and turned on the electric light to make sure that no one was hiding in the empty rooms of the unoccupied suite. There was not a stick of furniture large enough to hidea dog. Then he called over the banisters to Mrs Monks, but there was noanswer, and his voice echoed down into the dark vault of the house, andwas lost in the roar of the gale that howled outside. Everyone was in bed and asleep–everyone except himself and the owner of this soft and stealthy tread.

‘My absurd imagination, I suppose,’ he thought. ‘It must have been thewind after all, although–it seemed so _very_ real and close, I thought.’He went back to his packing. It was by this time getting on towardsmidnight. He drank his coffee up and lit another pipe–the last before turning in.

It is difficult to say exactly at what point fear begins, when the causes of that fear are not plainly before the eyes. Impressions gather on the surface of the mind, film by film, as ice gathers upon the surface of still water, but often so lightly that they claim no definite recognition from the consciousness. Then a point is reached where the accumulatedimpressions become a definite emotion, and the mind realizes thatsomething has happened. With something of a start, Johnson suddenly recognized that he felt nervous–oddly nervous; also, that for some time past the causes of this feeling had been gathering slowly in has mind,but that he had only just reached the point where he was forced to acknowledge them.

It was a singular and curious malaise that had come over him, and he hardly knew what to make of it. He felt as though he were doing somethingthat was strongly objected to by another person, another person,moreover, who had some right to object. It was a most disturbing and disagreeable feeling, not unlike the persistent promptings of conscience:almost, in fact, as if he were doing something he knew to be wrong. Yet,though he searched vigorously and honestly in his mind, he could nowhere lay his finger upon the secret of this growing uneasiness, and it perplexed him. More, it distressed and frightened him.

‘Pure nerves, I suppose,’ he said aloud with a forced laugh. ‘Mountainair will cure all that! Ah,’ he added, still speaking to himself, ‘andthat reminds me–my snow-glasses.’

He was standing by the door of the bedroom during this brief soliloquy,and as he passed quickly towards the sitting-room to fetch them from the cupboard he saw out of the corner of his eye the indistinct outline of a figure standing on the stairs, a few feet from the top. It was someone in a stooping position, with one hand on the banisters, and the face peering up towards the landing. And at the same moment he heard a shuffling footstep. The person who had been creeping about below all this time had at last come up to his own floor. Who in the world could it be? And whatin the name of Heaven did he want?

Johnson caught his breath sharply and stood stock still. Then, after afew seconds’ hesitation, he found his courage, and turned to investigate.Be stairs, he saw to his utter amazement, were empty; there was no one.He felt a series of cold shivers run over him, and something about themuscles of his legs gave a little and grew weak. For the space of several minutes he peered steadily into the shadows that congregated about the top of the staircase where he had seen the figure, and then he walked fast–almost ran, in fact–into the light of the front room; but hardly had he passed inside the doorway when he heard someone come up the stairs behind him with a quick bound and go swiftly into his bedroom. It was a heavy, but at the same time a stealthy footstep–the tread of somebody who did not wish to be seen. And it was at this precise moment that the nervousness he had hitherto experienced leaped the boundary line, and entered the state of fear, almost of acute, unreasoning fear. Before itturned into terror there was a further boundary to cross, and beyond thatagain lay the region of pure horror. Johnson’s position was an unenviable one.

By Jove! That was someone on the stairs, then,’ he muttered, his flesh crawling all over; ‘and whoever it was has now gone into my bedroom.’ His delicate, pale face turned absolutely white, and for some minutes he hardly knew what to think or do. Then he realized intuitively that delayonly set a premium upon fear; and he crossed the landing boldly and wentstraight into the other room, where, a few seconds before, the steps haddisappeared.

‘Who’s there? Is that you, Mrs Monks?’ he called aloud, as he went, and heard the first half of his words echo down the empty stairs, while the second half fell dead against the curtains in a room that apparently held no other human figure than his own.

‘Who’s there?’ he called again, in a voice unnecessarily loud and that only just held firm. ‘What do you want here?’

The curtains swayed very slightly, and, as he saw it, his heart felt as if it almost missed a beat; yet he dashed forward and drew them aside with a rush. A window, streaming with rain, was all that met his gaze. He continued his search, but in vain; the cupboards held nothing but rows of clothes, hanging motionless; and under the bed there was no sign of anyone hiding. He stepped backwards into the middle of the room, and, as he did so, something all but tripped him up. Turning with a sudden springof alarm he saw–the kit-bag.

‘Odd!’ he thought. ‘That’s not where I left it!’ A few moments before ithad surely been on his right, between the bed and the bath; he did notremember having moved it. It was very curious. What in the world was the matter with everything? Were all his senses gone queer? A terrific gust of wind tore at the windows, dashing the sleet against the glass with the force of small gunshot, and then fled away howling dismally over the waste of Bloomsbury roofs. A sudden vision of the Channel next day rose in his mind and recalled him sharply to realities.

There’s no one here at any rate; that’s quite clear!’ he exclaimed aloud.Yet at the time he uttered them he knew perfectly well that his words were not true and that he did not believe them himself. He felt exactly as though someone was hiding close about him, watching all his movements,trying to hinder his packing in some way. ‘And two of my senses,’ he added, keeping up the pretence, ‘have played me the most absurd tricks:the steps I heard and the figure I saw were both entirely imaginary.’

He went hack to the front room, poked the fire into a blaze, and sat down before it to think. What impressed him more than anything else was the fact that the kit-bag was no longer where he had left at. It had beendragged nearer to the door.

What happened afterwards that night happened, of course, to a man already excited by fear, and was perceived by a mind that had not the full and proper control, therefore, of the senses. Outwardly, Johson remained calmand master of himself to the end, pretending to the very last thateverything he witnessed had a natural explanation, or was merelydelusions of his tired nerves. But inwardly, in his very heart, he knew all along that someone had been hiding downstairs in the empty suite when he came in, that this person had watched his opportunity and then stealthily made his way up to the bedroom, and that all he saw and heard afterwards, from the moving of the kit-bag to–well, to the other things this story has to tell–were caused directly by the presence of this invisible person.

And it was here, just when he most desired to keep his mind and thoughts controlled, that the vivid pictures received day after day upon the mental plates exposed in the courtroom of the Old Bailey, came strongly to light and developed themselves in the dark room of his inner vision.Unpleasant, haunting memories have a way of coming to life again just when the mind least desires them–in the silent watches of the night, on sleepless pillows, during the lonely hours spent by sick and dying beds.And so now, in the same way, Johnson saw nothing but the dreadful face of John Turk, the murderer, lowering at him from every corner of his mental field of vision; the white skin, the evil eyes, and the fringe of black hair low over the forehead. All the pictures of those ten days in court crowded back into his mind unbidden, and very vivid.

‘This is all rubbish and nerves,’ he exclaimed at length, springing with sudden energy from his chair. ‘I shall finish my packing and go to bed.I’m overwrought, overtired. No doubt, at this rate I shall hear steps andthings all night!’

But his face was deadly white all the same. He snatched up his field-glasses and walked across to the bedroom, humming a music-hall song as he went–a trifle too loud to be natural; and the instant he crossed the threshold and stood within the room something turned cold about his heart, and he felt that every hair on his head stood up.

The kit-bag lay close in front of him, several feet nearer to the door than he had left it, and just over its crumpled top he saw a head and face slowly sinking down out of sight as though someone were crouching behind it to hide, and at the same moment a sound like a long-drawn sigh was distinctly audible in the still air about him between the gusts of the storm outside.

Johnson had more courage and will-power than the girlish indecision of his face indicated; but at first such a wave of terror came over him that for some seconds he could do nothing but stand and stare. A violent trembling ran down his back and legs, and he was conscious of a foolish,almost a hysterical, impulse to scream aloud. That sigh seemed in his very ear, and the air still quivered with it. It was unmistakably a human sigh.

‘Who’s there?’ he said at length, finding his voice; but thought he meant to speak with loud decision, the tones came out instead in a faint whisper, for he had partly lost the control of his tongue and lips.

He stepped forward, so that he could see all round and over the kit-bag.Of course there was nothing there, nothing but the faded carpet and the bulging canvas sides. He put out his hands and threw open the mouth ofthe sack where it had fallen over, being only three parts full, and thenhe saw for the first time that round the inside, some six inches from thetop, there ran a broad smear of dull crimson. It was an old and faded blood stain. He uttered a scream, and drew hack his hands as if they hadbeen burnt. At the same moment the kit-bag gave a faint, but unmistakable, lurch forward towards the door.

Johnson collapsed backwards, searching with his hands for the support o something solid, and the door, being further behind him than he realized,received his weight just in time to prevent his falling, and shut to with a resounding bang. At the same moment the swinging of his left armaccidentally touched the electric switch, and the light in the room wentout.

It was an awkward and disagreeable predicament, and if Johnson had not been possessed of real pluck he might have done all manner of foolish things. As it was, however, he pulled himself together, and gropedfuriously for the little brass knob to turn the light on again. But the rapid closing of the door had set the coats hanging on it a-swinging, and his fingers became entangled in a confusion of sleeves and pockets, so that it was some moments before he found the switch. And in those few moments of bewilderment and terror two things happened that sent him beyond recall over the boundary into the region of genuine horror–he distinctly heard the kit-bag shuffling heavily across the floor in jerks,and close in front of his face sounded once again the sigh of a human being.

In his anguished efforts to find the brass button on the wall he nearly scraped the nails from his fingers, but even then, in those frenzied moments of alarm–so swift and alert are the impressions of a mind keyed-up by a vivid emotion–he had time to realize that he dreaded there turn of the light, and that it might be better for him to stay hidden in the merciful screen of darkness. It was but the impulse of a moment,however, and before he had time to act upon it he had yielded automatically to the original desire, and the room was flooded again with light.

But the second instinct had been right. It would have been better for himto have stayed in the shelter of the kind darkness. For there, closebefore him, bending over the half-packed kit-bag, clear as life in themerciless glare of the electric light, stood the figure of John Turk, themurderer. Not three feet from him the man stood, the fringe of black hairmarked plainly against the pallor of the forehead, the whole horriblepresentment of the scoundrel, as vivid as he had seen him day after dayin the Old Bailey, when he stood there in the dock, cynical and callous,under the very shadow of the gallows.

In a flash Johnson realized what it all meant: the dirty and much-used bag; the smear of crimson within the top; the dreadful stretched condition of the bulging sides. He remembered how the victim’s body had been stuffed into a canvas bag for burial, the ghastly, dismembered fragments forced with lime into this very bag; and the bag itself produced as evidence–it all came back to him as clear as day…

Very softly and stealthily his hand groped behind him for the handle of the door, but before he could actually turn it the very thing that he most of all dreaded came about, and John Turk lifted his devil’s face and looked at him. At the same moment, that heavy sigh passed through the air of the room, formulated somehow into words: It’s my bag. And I want it.’

Johnson just remembered clawing the door open, and then falling in a heap upon the floor of the landing, as he tried frantically to make his way into the front room.

He remained unconscious for a long time, and it was still dark when he opened his eyes and realized that he was lying, stiff and bruised, on the cold boards. Then the memory of what he had seen rushed back into his mind, and he promptly fainted again. When he woke the second time the wintry dawn was just beginning to peep in at the windows, painting the stairs a cheerless, dismal grey, and he managed to crawl into the front room, and cover himself with an overcoat in the armchair, where at lengthen fell asleep.

A great clamour woke him. He recognized Mrs Monk’s voice, loud and voluble.

‘What! You aren’t been to bed, sir! Are you ill, or has anything ‘appened? And there’s an urgent gentleman to see you, though it ain’t seven o’clock yet, and–‘

‘Who is it?’ he stammered. ‘I’m all right, thanks. Fell asleep in my chair, I suppose.’

‘Someone from Mr Wilb’rim’s, and he says he ought to see you quick before you go abroad, and I told him–‘

‘Show him up, please, at once,’ said Johnson, whose head was whirling, and his mind were still full of dreadful visions.

Mr Wilbraham’s man came in with many apologies, and explained briefly and quickly that an absurd mistake had been made, and that the wrong kit bag had been sent over the night before.

‘Henry somehow got hold of the one that came over from the courtroom, and Mr Wilbraham only discovered it when he saw his own lying in his room, and asked why it had not gone to you,’ the man said.

‘Oh!’ said Johnson stupidly.

‘And he must have brought you the one from the murder case instead, sir, I’m afraid,’ the man continued, without the ghost of an expression on his face. ‘The one John Turk packed the dead both in. Mr Wilbraham’s awful upset about it, sir, and told me to come over first thing this morning with the right one, as you were leaving by the boat.’

He pointed to a clean-looking kit bag on the floor, which he had just brought. ‘And I was to bring the other one back, sir,’ he added casually.

For some minutes, Johnson could not find his voice. At last, he pointed in the direction of his bedroom. ‘Perhaps you would kindly unpack it for me. Just empty the things out on the floor.’

The man disappeared into the other room, and was gone for five minutes. Johnson heard the shifting to and fro of the bag, and the rattle of the skates and boots being unpacked.

‘Thank you, sir,’ the man said, returning with the bag folded over his arm. ‘And can I do anything more to help you, sir?’

‘What is it?’ asked Johnson, seeing that he still had something he wished to say.

The man shuffled and looked mysterious. ‘Beg pardon, sir, but knowing your interest in the Turk case, I thought you’d maybe like to know what’s happened–‘

‘Yes.’

‘John Turk killed himself last night with poison immediately on getting his release, and he left a note for Mr Wilbraham saying as he’d be much obliged if they’d have him put away, same as the woman he murdered, in the old kit-hag.’

‘What time–did he do it?’ asked Johnson.

‘Ten o’clock last night, sir, the warder says.’

 

 

 

 

Between the Lights by E F Benson (A Christmas Ghost Story)

christmas-tree

Between the Lights

The day had been one unceasing fall of snow from sunrise until the gradual withdrawal of the vague white light outside indicated that the sun had set again. But as usual at this hospitable and delightful house of Everard Chandler where I often spent Christmas, and was spending it now, there had been no lack of entertainment, and the hours had passed with a rapidity that had surprised us. A short billiard tournament had filled up the time between breakfast and lunch, with Badminton and the morning papers for those who were temporarily not engaged, while afterwards, the interval till tea-time had been occupied by the majority of the party in a huge game of hide-and-seek all over the house, barring the billiard-room, which was sanctuary for any who desired peace. But few had done that; the enchantment of Christmas, I must suppose, had, like some spell, made children of us again, and it was with palsied terror and trembling misgivings that we had tip-toed up and down the dim passages, from any corner of which some wild screaming form might dart out on us. Then, wearied with exercise and emotion, we had assembled again for tea in the hall, a room of shadows and panels on which the light from the wide open fireplace, where there burned a divine mixture of peat and logs, flickered and grew bright again on the walls. Then, as was proper, ghost-stories, for the narration of which the electric light was put out, so that the listeners might conjecture anything they pleased to be lurking in the corners, succeeded, and we vied with each other in blood, bones, skeletons, armour and shrieks. I had, just given my contribution, and was reflecting with some complacency that probably the worst was now known, when Everard, who had not yet administered to the horror of his guests, spoke. He was sitting opposite me in the full blaze of the fire, looking, after the illness he had gone through during the autumn, still rather pale and delicate. All the same he had been among the boldest and best in the exploration of dark places that afternoon, and the look on his face now rather startled me.

“No, I don’t mind that sort of thing,” he said. “The paraphernalia of ghosts has become somehow rather hackneyed, and when I hear of screams and skeletons I feel I am on familiar ground, and can at least hide my head under the bed-clothes.”

“Ah, but the bed-clothes were twitched away by my skeleton,” said I, in self-defence.

“I know, but I don’t even mind that. Why, there are seven, eight skeletons in this room now, covered with blood and skin and other horrors. No, the nightmares of one’s childhood were the really frightening things, because they were vague. There was the true atmosphere of horror about them because one didn’t know what one feared. Now if one could recapture that–”

Mrs. Chandler got quickly out of her seat.

“Oh, Everard,” she said, “surely you don’t wish to recapture it again. I should have thought once was enough.”

This was enchanting. A chorus of invitation asked him to proceed: the real true ghost-story first-hand, which was what seemed to be indicated, was too precious a thing to lose.

Everard laughed. “No, dear, I don’t want to recapture it again at all,” he said to his wife.

Then to us: “But really the–well, the nightmare perhaps, to which I was referring, is of the vaguest and most unsatisfactory kind. It has no apparatus about it at all. You will probably all say that it was nothing, and wonder why I was frightened. But I was; it frightened me out of my wits. And I only just saw something, without being able to swear what it was, and heard something which might have been a falling stone.”

“Anyhow, tell us about the falling stone,” said I.

There was a stir of movement about the circle round the fire, and the movement was not of purely physical order. It was as if–this is only what I personally felt–it was as if the childish gaiety of the hours we had passed that day was suddenly withdrawn; we had jested on certain subjects, we had played hide-and-seek with all the power of earnestness that was in us. But now–so it seemed to me–there was going to be real hide-and-seek, real terrors were going to lurk in dark corners, or if not real terrors, terrors so convincing as to assume the garb of reality, were going to pounce on us. And Mrs. Chandler’s exclamation as she sat down again, “Oh, Everard, won’t it excite you?” tended in any case to excite us. The room still remained in dubious darkness except for the sudden lights disclosed on the walls by the leaping flames on the hearth, and there was wide field for conjecture as to what might lurk in the dim corners. Everard, moreover, who had been sitting in bright light before, was banished by the extinction of some flaming log into the shadows. A voice alone spoke to us, as he sat back in his low chair, a voice rather slow but very distinct.

“Last year,” he said, “on the twenty-fourth of December, we were down here, as usual, Amy and I, for Christmas. Several of you who are here now were here then. Three or four of you at least.”

I was one of these, but like the others kept silence, for the identification, so it seemed to me, was not asked for. And he went on again without a pause.

“Those of you who were here then,” he said, “and are here now, will remember how very warm it was this day year. You will remember, too, that we played croquet that day on the lawn. It was perhaps a little cold for croquet, and we played it rather in order to be able to say–with sound evidence to back the statement–that we had done so.”

Then he turned and addressed the whole little circle.

“We played ties of half-games,” he said, “just as we have played billiards to-day, and it was certainly as warm on the lawn then as it was in the billiard-room this morning directly after breakfast, while to-day I should not wonder if there was three feet of snow outside. More, probably; listen.”

A sudden draught fluted in the chimney, and the fire flared up as the current of air caught it.

The wind also drove the snow against the windows, and as he said, “Listen,” we heard a soft scurry of the falling flakes against the panes, like the soft tread of many little people who stepped lightly, but with the persistence of multitudes who were flocking to some rendezvous. Hundreds of little feet seemed to be gathering outside; only the glass kept them out. And of the eight skeletons present four or five, anyhow, turned and looked at the windows. These were small-paned, with leaden bars. On the leaden bars little heaps of snow had accumulated, but there was nothing else to be seen.

“Yes, last Christmas Eve was very warm and sunny,” went on Everard. “We had had no frost that autumn, and a temerarious dahlia was still in flower. I have always thought that it must have been mad.”

He paused a moment.

“And I wonder if I were not mad too,” he added.

No one interrupted him; there was something arresting, I must suppose, in what he was saying; it chimed in anyhow with the hide-and-seek, with the suggestions of the lonely snow.

Mrs. Chandler had sat down again, but I heard her stir in her chair. But never was there a gay party so reduced as we had been in the last five minutes. Instead of laughing at ourselves for playing silly games, we were all taking a serious game seriously.

“Anyhow, I was sitting out,” he said to me, “while you and my wife played your half-game of croquet. Then it struck me that it was not so warm as I had supposed, because quite suddenly I shivered. And shivering I looked up. But I did not see you and her playing croquet at all. I saw something which had no relation to you and her–at least I hope not.”

Now the angler lands his fish, the stalker kills his stag, and the speaker holds his audience.

And as the fish is gaffed, and as the stag is shot, so were we held. There was no getting away till he had finished with us.

“You all know the croquet lawn,” he said, “and how it is bounded all round by a flower border with a brick wall behind it, through which, you will remember, there is only one gate.

“Well, I looked up and saw that the lawn–I could for one moment see it was still a lawn–was shrinking, and the walls closing in upon it. As they closed in too, they grew higher, and simultaneously the light began to fade and be sucked from the sky, till it grew quite dark overhead and only a glimmer of light came in through the gate.

“There was, as I told you, a dahlia in flower that day, and as this dreadful darkness and bewilderment came over me, I remember that my eyes sought it in a kind of despair, holding on, as it were, to any familiar object. But it was no longer a dahlia, and for the red of its petals I saw only the red of some feeble firelight. And at that moment the hallucination was complete. I was no longer sitting on the lawn watching croquet, but I was in a low-roofed room, something like a cattle-shed, but round. Close above my head, though I was sitting down, ran rafters from wall to wall. It was nearly dark, but a little light came in from the door opposite to me, which seemed to lead into a passage that communicated with the exterior of the place. Little, however, of the wholesome air came into this dreadful den; the atmosphere was oppressive and foul beyond all telling, it was as if for years it had been the place of some human menagerie, and for those years had been uncleaned and unsweetened by the winds of heaven. Yet that oppressiveness was nothing to the awful horror of the place from the view of the spirit. Some dreadful atmosphere of crime and abomination dwelt heavy in it, its denizens, whoever they were, were scarce human, so it seemed to me, and though men and women, were akin more to the beasts of the field. And in addition there was present to me some sense of the weight of years; I had been taken and thrust down into some epoch of dim antiquity.”

He paused a moment, and the fire on the hearth leaped up for a second and then died down again. But in that gleam I saw that all faces were turned to Everard, and that all wore some look of dreadful expectancy. Certainly I felt it myself, and waited in a sort of shrinking horror for what was coming.

“As I told you,” he continued, “where there had been that unseasonable dahlia, there now burned a dim firelight, and my eyes were drawn there. Shapes were gathered round it; what they were I could not at first see. Then perhaps my eyes got more accustomed to the dusk, or the fire burned better, for I perceived that they were of human form, but very small, for when one rose with a horrible chattering, to his feet, his head was still some inches off the low roof. He was dressed in a sort of shirt that came to his knees, but his arms were bare and covered with hair.

“Then the gesticulation and chattering increased, and I knew that they were talking about me, for they kept pointing in my direction. At that my horror suddenly deepened, for I became aware that I was powerless and could not move hand or foot; a helpless, nightmare impotence had possession of me. I could not lift a finger or turn my head. And in the paralysis of that fear I tried to scream, but not a sound could I utter.

“All this I suppose took place with the instantaneousness of a dream, for at once, and without transition, the whole thing had vanished, and I was back on the lawn again, while the stroke for which my wife was aiming was still unplayed. But my face was dripping with perspiration, and I was trembling all over.

“Now you may all say that I had fallen asleep, and had a sudden nightmare. That may be so; but I was conscious of no sense of sleepiness before, and I was conscious of none afterwards. It was as if someone had held a book before me, whisked the pages open for a second and closed them again.”

Somebody, I don’t know who, got up from his chair with a sudden movement that made me start, and turned on the electric light. I do not mind confessing that I was rather glad of this.

Everard laughed.

“Really I feel like Hamlet in the play-scene,” he said, “and as if there was a guilty uncle present. Shall I go on?”

I don’t think anyone replied, and he went on.

“Well, let us say for the moment that it was not a dream exactly, but a hallucination.

“Whichever it was, in any case it haunted me; for months, I think, it was never quite out of my mind, but lingered somewhere in the dusk of consciousness, sometimes sleeping quietly, so to speak, but sometimes stirring in its sleep. It was no good my telling myself that I was disquieting myself in vain, for it was as if something had actually entered into my very soul, as if some seed of horror had been planted there. And as the weeks went on the seed began to sprout, so that I could no longer even tell myself that that vision had been a moment’s disorderment only. I can’t say that it actually affected my health. I did not, as far as I know, sleep or eat insufficiently, but morning after morning I used to wake, not gradually and through pleasant dozings into full consciousness, but with absolute suddenness, and find myself plunged in an abyss of despair.

“Often too, eating or drinking, I used to pause and wonder if it was worth while.

“Eventually, I told two people about my trouble, hoping that perhaps the mere communication would help matters, hoping also, but very distantly, that though I could not believe at present that digestion or the obscurities of the nervous system were at fault, a doctor by some simple dose might convince me of it. In other words I told my wife, who laughed at me, and my doctor, who laughed also, and assured me that my health was quite unnecessarily robust.

“At the same time he suggested that change of air and scene does wonders for the delusions that exist merely in the imagination. He also told me, in answer to a direct question, that he would stake his reputation on the certainty that I was not going mad.

“Well, we went up to London as usual for the season, and though nothing whatever occurred to remind me in any way of that single moment on Christmas Eve, the reminding was seen to all right, the moment itself took care of that, for instead of fading as is the way of sleeping or waking dreams, it grew every day more vivid, and ate, so to speak, like some corrosive acid into my mind, etching itself there. And to London succeeded Scotland.

“I took last year for the first time a small forest up in Sutherland, called Glen Callan, very remote and wild, but affording excellent stalking. It was not far from the sea, and the gillies used always to warn me to carry a compass on the hill, because sea-mists were liable to come up with frightful rapidity, and there was always a danger of being caught by one, and of having perhaps to wait hours till it cleared again. This at first I always used to do, but, as everyone knows, any precaution that one takes which continues to be unjustified gets gradually relaxed, and at the end of a few weeks, since the weather had been uniformly clear, it was natural that, as often as not, my compass remained at home.

“One day the stalk took me on to a part of my ground that I had seldom been on before, a very high table-land on the limit of my forest, which went down very steeply on one side to a loch that lay below it, and on the other, by gentler gradations, to the river that came from the loch, six miles below which stood the lodge. The wind had necessitated our climbing up–or so my stalker had insisted–not by the easier way, but up the crags from the loch. I had argued the point with him for it seemed to me that it was impossible that the deer could get our scent if we went by the more natural path, but he still held to his opinion; and therefore, since after all this was his part of the job, I yielded. A dreadful climb we had of it, over big boulders with deep holes in between, masked by clumps of heather, so that a wary eye and a prodding stick were necessary for each step if one wished to avoid broken bones. Adders also literally swarmed in the heather; we must have seen a dozen at least on our way up, and adders are a beast for which I have no manner of use. But a couple of hours saw us to the top, only to find that the stalker had been utterly at fault, and that the deer must quite infallibly have got wind of us, if they had remained in the place where we last saw them. That, when we could spy the ground again, we saw had happened; in any case they had gone. The man insisted the wind had changed, a palpably stupid excuse, and I wondered at that moment what other reason he had–for reason I felt sure there must be–for not wishing to take what would clearly now have been a better route. But this piece of bad management did not spoil our luck, for within an hour we had spied more deer, and about two o’clock I got a shot, killing a heavy stag. Then sitting on the heather I ate lunch, and enjoyed a well-earned bask and smoke in the sun. The pony meantime had been saddled with the stag, and was plodding homewards.

“The morning had been extraordinarily warm, with a little wind blowing off the sea, which lay a few miles off sparkling beneath a blue haze, and all morning in spite of our abominable climb I had had an extreme sense of peace, so much so that several times I had probed my mind, so to speak, to find if the horror still lingered there. But I could scarcely get any response from it.

“Never since Christmas had I been so free of fear, and it was with a great sense of repose, both physical and spiritual, that I lay looking up into the blue sky, watching my smoke-whorls curl slowly away into nothingness. But I was not allowed to take my ease long, for Sandy came and begged that I would move. The weather had changed, he said, the wind had shifted again, and he wanted me to be off this high ground and on the path again as soon as possible, because it looked to him as if a sea-mist would presently come up.”

“‘And yon’s a bad place to get down in the mist,’ he added, nodding towards the crags we had come up.

“I looked at the man in amazement, for to our right lay a gentle slope down on to the river, and there was now no possible reason for again tackling those hideous rocks up which we had climbed this morning. More than ever I was sure he had some secret reason for not wishing to go the obvious way. But about one thing he was certainly right, the mist was coming up from the sea, and I felt in my pocket for the compass, and found I had forgotten to bring it.

“Then there followed a curious scene which lost us time that we could really ill afford to waste, I insisting on going down by the way that common sense directed, he imploring me to take his word for it that the crags were the better way. Eventually, I marched off to the easier descent, and told him not to argue any more but follow. What annoyed me about him was that he would only give the most senseless reasons for preferring the crags. There were mossy places, he said, on the way I wished to go, a thing patently false, since the summer had been one spell of unbroken weather; or it was longer, also obviously untrue; or there were so many vipers about.

“But seeing that none of these arguments produced any effect, at last he desisted, and came after me in silence.

“We were not yet half down when the mist was upon us, shooting up from the valley like the broken water of a wave, and in three minutes we were enveloped in a cloud of fog so thick that we could barely see a dozen yards in front of us. It was therefore another cause for self-congratulation that we were not now, as we should otherwise have been, precariously clambering on the face of those crags up which we had come with such difficulty in the morning, and as I rather prided myself on my powers of generalship in the matter of direction, I continued leading, feeling sure that before long we should strike the track by the river. More than all, the absolute freedom from fear elated me; since Christmas I had not known the instinctive joy of that; I felt like a schoolboy home for the holidays. But the mist grew thicker and thicker, and whether it was that real rain-clouds had formed above it, or that it was of an extraordinary density itself, I got wetter in the next hour than I have ever been before or since. The wet seemed to penetrate the skin, and chill the very bones. And still there was no sign of the track for which I was making.

“Behind me, muttering to himself, followed the stalker, but his arguments and protestations were dumb, and it seemed as if he kept close to me, as if afraid.

“Now there are many unpleasant companions in this world; I would not, for instance, care to be on the hill with a drunkard or a maniac, but worse than either, I think, is a frightened man, because his trouble is infectious, and, insensibly. I began to be afraid of being frightened too.

“From that it is but a short step to fear. Other perplexities too beset us. At one time we seemed to be walking on flat ground, at another I felt sure we were climbing again, whereas all the time we ought to have been descending, unless we had missed the way very badly indeed. Also, for the month was October, it was beginning to get dark, and it was with a sense of relief that I remembered that the full moon would rise soon after sunset. But it had grown very much colder, and soon, instead of rain, we found we were walking through a steady fall of snow.

“Things were pretty bad, but then for the moment they seemed to mend, for, far away to the left, I suddenly heard the brawling of the river. It should, it is true, have been straight in front of me and we were perhaps a mile out of our way, but this was better than the blind wandering of the last hour, and turning to the left, I walked towards it. But before I had gone a hundred yards, I heard a sudden choked cry behind me, and just saw Sandy’s form flying as if in terror of pursuit, into the mists. I called to him, but got no reply, and heard only the spurned stones of his running.

“What had frightened him I had no idea, but certainly with his disappearance, the infection of his fear disappeared also, and I went on, I may almost say, with gaiety. On the moment, however, I saw a sudden well-defined blackness in front of me, and before I knew what I was doing I was half stumbling, half walking up a very steep grass slope.

“During the last few minutes the wind had got up, and the driving snow was peculiarly uncomfortable, but there had been a certain consolation in thinking that the wind would soon disperse these mists, and I had nothing more than a moonlight walk home. But as I paused on this slope, I became aware of two things, one, that the blackness in front of me was very close, the other that, whatever it was, it sheltered me from the snow. So I climbed on a dozen yards into its friendly shelter, for it seemed to me to be friendly.

“A wall some twelve feet high crowned the slope, and exactly where I struck it there was a hole in it, or door rather, through which a little light appeared. Wondering at this I pushed on, bending down, for the passage was very low, and in a dozen yards came out on the other side.

“Just as I did this the sky suddenly grew lighter, the wind, I suppose, having dispersed the mists, and the moon, though not yet visible through the flying skirts of cloud, made sufficient illumination.

“I was in a circular enclosure, and above me there projected from the walls some four feet from the ground, broken stones which must have been intended to support a floor. Then simultaneously two things occurred.

“The whole of my nine months’ terror came back to me, for I saw that the vision in the garden was fulfilled, and at the same moment I saw stealing towards me a little figure as of a man, but only about three foot six in height. That my eyes told me; my ears told me that he stumbled on a stone; my nostrils told me that the air I breathed was of an overpowering foulness, and my soul told me that it was sick unto death. I think I tried to scream, but could not; I know I tried to move and could not. And it crept closer.

“Then I suppose the terror which held me spellbound so spurred me that I must move, for next moment I heard a cry break from my lips, and was stumbling through the passage. I made one leap of it down the grass slope, and ran as I hope never to have to run again. What direction I took I did not pause to consider, so long as I put distance between me and that place. Luck, however, favoured me, and before long I struck the track by the river, and an hour afterwards reached the lodge.

“Next day I developed a chill, and as you know pneumonia laid me on my back for six weeks.

“Well, that is my story, and there are many explanations. You may say that I fell asleep on the lawn, and was reminded of that by finding myself, under discouraging circumstances, in an old Picts’ castle, where a sheep or a goat that, like myself, had taken shelter from the storm, was moving about. Yes, there are hundreds of ways in which you may explain it. But the coincidence was an odd one, and those who believe in second sight might find an instance of their hobby in it.”

“And that is all?” I asked.

“Yes, it was nearly too much for me. I think the dressing-bell has sounded.”

Glastonbury Tor Ghost

The Curious Fortean

I know I’ve been writing about ghosts a lot recently but I thought this one had to be documented. A good friend of mine that I do a lot of exploring and investigating with got in touch with me yesterday to tell me that he had had a possible sighting of something whilst walking his dog on the morning of December 7th on the steep slopes of Glastonbury Tor. Being a local he is no stranger to the Tor and the many legends that surround it.

He told me that at around 8:15am he was ascending the Tor with Ben his dog, and about half way up he had to take a rest as he was feeling a little out of breath. Those of you who have ever been up there will understand that its a good trek especially at that time of day. It was then he noticed a…

View original post 247 more words