Ordinary, normal dreams do not enter into the scope of this chapter; it is only the veridical dream of the supernormal variety which comes within the province of psychical research that we are concerned with.
Such numbers have been recorded that skeptics find it difficult either to deny or explain them by normal or Freudian psychology, and these dreams are in a class by themselves, impossible to account for by any mechanistic scheme or chance-coincidence.
A fairly large number are concerned with deceased persons, usually containing communications from such, and the prima facie explanation is that they are due to the action of the discarnate.
The cases which follow possess a very definite bearing on that point.
The cases in this chapter were easy to collect; though more than a dozen have been quoted and I am not certain that I have included the best available, another compiler would probably select different instances, equally good or better. The Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research contain hundreds of instances; in fact, several books on the subject of dreams of this variety could be published, and there are still many in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research and the Annates des Sciences Psychiques.
Case no. 1
The Perth Case
This case is taken from an extract of a letter sent by the Rev. Charles McKay, a Catholic priest, to the Countess of Shrewsbury:
“In July, 1838, I left Edinburgh to take charge of the Perthshire missions.
On my arrival at Perth, I was called upon by a Presbyterian woman, Anne Simpson, who for more than a week had been in the utmost anxiety to see a priest. (This woman stated that a woman lately dead [date not given] named Maloy, slightly known to Anne Simpson, had ‘appeared to her during the night for several nights’ urging her to go to the priest, who would pay a sum of money, three and tenpence, which the deceased owed to a person not specified.)
“I made inquiry, and found that a woman of that name had died, who had acted as washer-woman and followed the regiment. Following up the inquiry I found a grocer with whom she had dealt, and on asking him if a female named Maloy owed him anything, he turned up his books, and told me that she did owe him three and tenpence. I paid the sum. Subsequently the Presbyterian woman came to me, saying that she was no more troubled.”
Case no. 2
The Sarawak Case
My wife, since deceased, had a brother residing at Sarawak, and at the time to which I refer he was staying with the Rajah, Sir James Brooke.
The following is an extract from the second volume of The Rajah of Sarawak, by Gertrude L. Jacob, page 238:
“Mr. Wellington (my wife’s brother) was killed in a brave attempt to defend Mrs. Middleton and her children. The Chinese, it appears, taking Mr. Wellington for the Rajah’s son, struck off his head.”
And now for the dream. I was awakened one night by my wife, who started from her sleep, terrified by the following dream. She saw her headless brother standing at the foot of the bed, with his head lying on a coffin by his side. I did my best to console my wife, who continued to be much distressed for some considerable time. At length, she fell asleep again to be wakened by a similar dream. In the morning and for several days after, she constantly referred to her dream, and anticipated sad news of her brother.
And now comes the strangest part of the story. When the news reached England, I computed approximately the time and found it coincided with the memorable night to which I have referred.
Case no. 3
The Brixham Case
The facts of this case were vouched for by the Rev. R. B. F. Elrington, Vicar of Lower Brixham, Devonshire, and he certified to the good character of the witnesses concerned:
“In the early spring of 1881, Mrs. Barnes of Brixham, whose husband was at sea, dreamt that his fishing-boat was run into by a steamer. Their boy was with him and she called out in her dream, ‘Save the boy!’ At this moment another son sleeping in the next room to hers, rushed in, crying out, ‘Where’s Father?’ She asked what he meant, when he said he had distinctly heard his father come upstairs, and kick with his heavy boots against the door, as he was in the habit of doing when he returned from sea. The boy’s statement and her own dream so alarmed the woman that early next morning she told Mrs. Strong and other neighbors of her fears.
“News afterwards came that her husband’s vessel had been run into by a steamer, and that he and the boy were drowned.”
Case no. 4
The Wingfield Case
The following is a letter written by Mr. Frederick Wingfield, Belle- Isle-en-Terre, Cotes-du-Nord, December 20, 1883:
“On the night of Thursday, March 25, 1880, I retired to bed after reading till late, as is my habit. I dreamed that I was lying on my sofa reading, when on looking up, I saw distinctly the figure of my brother, Richard Wingfield-Baker, sitting on the chair before me. I dreamed that I spoke to him, but that he simply bent his head in reply, rose and left the room. When I awoke I found myself standing with one foot on the ground by my bedside, and the other on the bed, trying to speak and to pronounce my brother’s name.
“So strong was the impression as to the reality of his presence and so vivid the whole scene as dreamt, that I left my bedroom to search for my brother in the sitting-room. I examined the chair where I had seen him seated, I returned to the bed, tried to fall asleep in the hope of a repetition of the appearance, but my mind was too excited, too painfully disturbed, as I recalled what I had dreamed. I must, however, have fallen asleep towards the morning, but when I awoke, the impression of my dream was as vivid as ever—and, I may add, is to this hour equally strong and clear. My sense of impending evil was so strong that I at once made a note in my memorandum book of this ‘appearance,’ and added the words, ‘God forbid.’
“Three days afterwards I received the news that my brother, Richard Wingfield-Baker, had died on Thursday evening, March 25, 1880, at 8:30 p.m., from the effects of terrible injuries received in a fall, while hunting with the Blackmore Vale hounds.
“I will only add that I have been living in this town some twelve months; that I had not any recent communication with my brother; that I knew him to be in good health, and that he was a perfect horseman. I did not at once communicate this dream to any intimate friend—there was unluckily none here at that very moment—but I did relate the story after the receipt of the news of my brother’s death, and showed the entry in my memorandum book. As evidence, of course, this is worthless; but I give you my word of honor that the circumstances I have related are the positive truth.”
In a subsequent letter Mr. Wingfield wrote: “I have never had any other startling dream of the same nature, nor any dream from which I woke with the same sense of reality and distress, and of which the effect continued long after I was well awake. Nor have I upon any other occasion had a hallucination of the senses.”
Prince Lucinge Faucigny, Mr. Wingfield’s friend, confirmed the foregoing in every detail.
The Times obituary for March 30, 1880, recorded the death of Mr. R. B. Wingfield-Baker, of Orsett Hall, Essex, as having taken place on the 25th. The Essex Independent gave the same date, adding that Mr. Baker breathed his last about nine o’clock.
Case no. 5
The MacKenzie Case
“I am the owner of a very old mechanical business in Glasgow, with for twenty years past a branch in London, where I have resided for that period, and in both of which places my professional reputation is of the highest order.
“Some thirty-five years ago I took into my employment a tender, delicate- looking boy, Robert MacKenzie, who, after some three or four years’ service, suddenly left—as I found out afterwards—through the selfish advice of some older hands who practiced this frightening away systematically to keep wages from being lowered—a common device, I believe, among workmen in limited trades. Passing the gate of the great workhouse (Scottish poorhouse) in the Parliamentary Road a few years afterwards, my eye was caught by a youth eighteen years of age ravenously devouring a piece of dry bread on the public street, and bearing the appearance of being in a chronic state of starvation.
“Fancying I knew his features, I asked him if his name were not MacKenzie. He at once became much excited, addressed me by name, and informed me that he had no employment; that his father and mother, who formerly supported him, were now both inmates of the ‘poorhouse’ — to which he himself had no claim for admission, being young and without any bodily disqualification for work—and that he was literally homeless and starving. The matron, he informed me, gave him daily a piece of dry bread, but dared not, under the rules, give him regular maintenance. In agony of grief he deplored his ever leaving me under evil advice, and on my unexpectedly offering to take him back he burst into a transport of thanks such as I cannot describe.
“Suffice it to say that he resumed his work, and that, under the circumstances, I did everything in my power to facilitate his progress. All this was mere matter of course; but the distinction between it and the common relations of master and servant was this: on every occasion of my entering the workshop he never, as far as possible, stopped following my movements. Let me look towards him at any moment, there was the pale, sympathetic face with large, wistful eyes literally yearning towards me as Smike’s did towards Nicholas Nickleby. I seemed to be ‘the polar star of his existence,’ and this intensity of gratitude never appeared to lessen in degree through lapse of time. Beyond this he never ventured to express his feelings. His manhood, as it were, his individuality and self-assertion, seemed to have been crushed out of him by privations. I was apparently his sole thought and consideration, save the more common concerns of daily life.
“In 1862 I settled in London and have never been in Glasgow since.
Robert MacKenzie, and my workmen generally, gradually lost their individuality in my recollection. About ten to twelve years ago my employees held their annual soiree and ball. This was always held, year after year, on a Friday evening. MacKenzie, ever shy and distant, as usual, refused to mingle in the festivities, and begged of my foreman to be permitted to serve at the buffet. All went off well, and Saturday was held as a succeeding day of festival. All this, however, I only learned after what I am now about to relate.
“On the Tuesday morning following, immediately before 8 a.m., in my house on Campden Hill, I had the following manifestation; I cannot call it a dream, but let me use the common phraseology. I dreamt, but with no vagueness in common dreams, no blurring of outline or rapid passages from one thing disconnectedly to another, that I was seated at my desk, engaged in business conversation with an unknown gentleman who stood on my right hand. Towards me, in front, advanced Robert MacKenzie, and feeling annoyed, I addressed him with some asperity, asking him if he did not see that I was engaged. He retired a short distance with exceeding reluctance, turned again to approach me, as if more desirous of an immediate conversation, when I spoke to him still more sharply as to his want of manners. On this, the person with whom I was conversing took his leave, and MacKenzie once more came forward.
“‘What is all this, Robert?’ I said somewhat angrily. ‘Did you not see I was engaged?”
‘Yes, sir,’ he replied, ‘but I must speak with you at once.’
” ‘What about?’ I said. ‘What is it that can be so important?’”
‘I wish to tell you, sir,’ he answered, ‘that I am accused of doing a thing I did not do, and that I want you to know it, and to tell you so, and that you are to forgive me for what I am blamed, because I am innocent.’
“I said, ‘What?’ getting the same answer.
“I then naturally asked, ‘But how can I forgive you if you do not tell me what you are accused of?’ “I can never forget the emphatic manner of his answer in the Scottish dialect, ‘Ye’ll sune ken.’ (You’ll soon know.)
“This question and the answer were repeated at least twice—I am certain the answer was repeated thrice—in the most fervid tone. On that I awoke, and was in that state of surprise and bewilderment which such a remarkable dream, qua mere dream, might induce, and was wondering what it all meant when my wife burst into my bedroom, much excited, and holding an open letter in her hand, exclaimed, ‘Oh, James, here’s a terrible end to the workmen’s ball! Robert MacKenzie has committed suicide.’
“With now a full conviction of the meaning of the vision, I at once quietly and firmly said, ‘No, he has not committed suicide.’
“‘How can you possibly know that?’
“‘Because he has just been here to tell me.’
“I have purposely not mentioned in its proper place so as not to break the narrative, that on looking at MacKenzie I was struck by the peculiar appearance of his countenance. It was an indescribable pale bluish color, and on his forehead appeared spots which seemed like blots of sweat. For this I could not account, but by the following post my manager informed me that he was wrong in writing of suicide.
“On Saturday night, MacKenzie, on going home, had lifted a small black bottle containing aqua fortis (which he used for staining the wood of bird cages, made for amusement), believing this to be whiskey, and pouring out a wine glassful, had drunk it at a gulp, dying on Sunday in great agony. Here, then; was the solution of his being innocent of what he was accused of—suicide—since he had inadvertently drunk aqua fortis, a deadly poison.
“Still pondering upon the peculiar color of his countenance, it struck me to consult some authorities on the symptoms of poisoning by aqua fortis, and in Mr. J. H. Walsh’s Domestic Medicine and Surgery, page 172, I found these words under symptoms of poisoning by sulphuric acid: ‘Aqua fortis produces the same effect as sulphuric, the only difference being that the external stains, if any, are yellow instead of brown.’ This refers to indication of sulphuric acid, ‘generally outside of the mouth, in the shape of brown spots.’ Having no desire to accommodate my facts to this scientific description, I give the quotations freely, only—at the same time—stating that before reading the passage in Mr. Walsh’s book, I had not the slightest knowledge of these symptoms, and I consider that they agree fairly and sufficiently with what I saw, viz., a livid face covered with a remarkable sweat, and having spots (particularly on the forehead), which, in my dream, I thought great blots of perspiration. It seemed not a little striking that I had no previous knowledge of these symptoms and yet should take note of them.
“I have little remark to make beyond this, that, in speaking of this matter, I have been quite disgusted by skeptics treating it as a hallucination, in so far as my dream must have been on the Wednesday morning after the receipt of my manager’s letter informing me of the supposed suicide. This explanation is too absurd to require a serious answer.
“My manager first heard of the death on Monday—wrote me on that day as above—and (the apparition occurred) on Tuesday morning, immediately before the 8 a.m. post delivery, hence the thrice emphatic, ‘Ye’ll sune ken.’
“I attribute the whole to MacKenzie’s yearning gratitude for being rescued from a deplorable state of starvation, and his desire to stand well in my opinion. I have colored nothing, and leave my readers to draw their own conclusions.”
The wife of the narrator, in a letter to the S.P.R., confirmed that her husband informed her of MacKenzie’s appearance and his statement that he had not committed suicide, as soon as she entered the bedroom on Tuesday morning, before he had read his manager’s letter.
Case no. 6
The von Goertz Case
“During our years in Bessarabia the Countess von Goertz, my paternal grandmother, died. ... I never saw her and knew very little about her, but I always heard that she had a very great affection for my father. This deep feeling between them was evidenced in an interesting and curious manner. One morning, just before receiving the news of her death, my father said to me:
“‘Your grandmother has died.’ In response to my question as to whether he had had a letter, he answered: ‘No, I have had no letter; but I know that she is dead, because last night I had a dream in which she came to me and brought my coffee, saying: “This is the last time that I shall bring you coffee, son, for today I die.” ’
“Of course I tried to comfort my father, and although I was then only a little boy, I advised him not to believe in dreams. He remained, however, convinced that she was dead and asked me to watch for the post. This arrived every morning by special messenger, who brought it from the station eighty miles away. There were three messengers in constant service who had relays of horses along the route, and were thus able to make the journey in twelve hours. The next morning brought no news. Only on the third day did I discover in the mailbag a telegram from the estate in German Poland, where my grandmother had been living. I took out the telegram and carried it to my father. It was an announcement of grandmother’s death at exactly the hour she had appeared to him in his dream.”
Case no. 7
The Rubinstein Case
Lillian Nichia, a pupil of Rubinstein, the great pianist and composer (1829-1894), tells this story of a death compact:
“One wild, blustery night I found myself at dinner with Rubinstein, the weather being terrific even for St. Petersburg (now Leningrad). The winds were howling ‘round the house, and Rubinstein, who liked to ask questions, inquired of me what they represented to my mind. I replied, ‘The moaning of lost souls.’ From this a theological discussion followed.
” ‘There may be a future,’ he said.
” ‘There is a future,’ I cried, ‘a great and beautiful future; if I die first, I shall come to you and prove this.’
“He turned to me with great solemnity. ‘Good, Liloscha, that is a bargain; and I will come to you.’
“Six years later in Paris I woke one night with a cry of agony and despair ringing in my ears, such as I hope may never be duplicated in my lifetime. Rubinstein’s face was close to mine, a countenance distorted by every phase of fear, despair, agony, remorse and anger. I started up, turned on all the lights, and stood for a moment shaking in every limb, till I put fear from me and decided it was merely a dream. I had for the moment completely forgotten our compact.
“News is always late in Paris, and it was Le Petit Journal, published in the afternoon, that had the first account of his sudden death.
“Four years later, Teresa Carreno, who had just come from Russia, and was touring America—I had met her in St. Petersburg frequently at Rubinstein’s dinner-table—told me that Rubinstein died with a cry of agony impossible of description. I knew then that even in death Rubinstein had kept, as he always did, his word.”
Case no. 8
The C— Case
The facts of this case were given to me by a lady whose integrity and good faith I have not the slightest reason to doubt. It occurred within her own household and the young engineer who was lost at sea was her brother. Here is the story in her own words:
“In the spring of 1914, my brother D—, age twenty-one years, decided to sail as an engineer to Canada to gain further experience and see a little bit of the world before settling down to a most promising career for which he had fitted himself by study and hard work.
“Through my father’s influence he obtained an appointment as engineer in a lightship commissioned to Halifax, Canada. This ship, Halifax Lightship No. 19, sailed from Greenock, Scotland, on Friday, April 24, and word was received by us on May 22, from the company, that the ship had safely reached St. John’s, Newfoundland, so that no apprehension was felt regarding D—.
“On Friday, May 22, my mother had a very restless night, during which she heard D— repeatedly calling to her, ‘Ma, Ma,’—his usual manner of addressing her. My mother was certain that something had happened to D— and next morning related her experience to my sister, who was home at that time. My sister put her off by saying that D— must be all right as the ship had reached St. John’s on May 17. Nevertheless, despite my sister’s arguments, my mother maintained that D— had called to her and she feared the worst.
“Later, we were informed from Canada that the ship had reached St. John’s as stated, but had left that port on May 19 to complete her voyage to Halifax. On May 22, at 10 p.m., the ship went on rocks during a storm and foundered with all hands, some bodies never being recovered; my brother’s was one of these. This happened one mile from the shore, but the villagers who saw the distress signals were unable to do anything owing to the storm.
“Any anxiety that was in our minds vanished when we heard that D—‘s ship had arrived at St. John’s; surely he must be safe now.
“Later in the year my mother had another experience. War broke out in August, 1914, and my other brother who had only turned nineteen was called up at once, as he was a member of the R.N.V.R. The night he went away my mother was naturally very upset—her one son missing, presumed drowned, and her other boy now called away—no one knew where.
“Mother says she was not dreaming when D appeared at the foot of the bed (for various reasons Mother was sleeping in the boy’s bedroom that night). He looked at her and said, ‘Don’t worry, Ma, I’ll look after B—.’ This comforted her very much and it may be argued that it is only chance-coincidence, but the fact remains that my brother B— came through the whole war and returned without a scratch.
“He was an engineer officer in the salvage section of the Royal Navy — an extremely dangerous and hazardous branch. Two ships that had been salved and on which he was, were torpedoed, but he escaped on both occasions, despite the fact that he could not swim a stroke.”
Case no. 9
The Chaffin Will Case
We are indebted for the following case to one of our Canadian members, who, having had his attention drawn to it by a newspaper report, instructed a lawyer resident in the state (North Carolina) where the events occurred, to investigate the facts on his behalf. The facts had already been put in evidence in a contested lawsuit, so that they have on two occasions undergone the scrutiny of persons professionally trained to sift and weigh evidence. The lawyer instructed by our Canadian member, Mr. J. McN. Johnson, Attorney-at-Law, of Aberdeen, North Carolina, has forwarded to the Society a very full report, including (1) the original newspaper article, (2) official records of the proceedings in the Superior Court in Davie County, N.C., and (3) a sworn statement by Mr. Johnson as to interviews he had with some of the principal persons in the case, together with sworn statements by two of the persons themselves. What follows is partly an abstract of these documents, and partly quotations from them. The full case can be studied by those who desire to do so at the Society’s rooms.
James L. Chaffin, the testator, was a farmer in Davie County, N.C. He was married and had four sons, in order of age, John A. Chaffin, James Pinkney Chaffin, Marshall A. Chaffin, and Abner Columbus Chaffin.
On November 16, 1905, the testator made a will, duly attested by two witnesses, whereby he gave his farm to his third son, Marshall, whom he appointed sole executor. The widow and three other sons were left unprovided for.
Some years later he appears to have been dissatisfied with this disposition of his property, and on January 16, 1919, he made a new will as follows:
“After reading the 27th chapter of Genesis, I, James L. Chaffin, do make my last will and testament, and here it is. I want, after giving my body a decent burial, my little property to be equally divided between my four children, if they are living at my death, both personal and real estate divided equal; if not living give share to their children. And if she is living, you must all take care of your mammy. Now this is my last will and testament. Witness my hand and seal.
“James L. Chaffin.
This January 16, 1919.”
This second will, though unattested, would, according to the law of North Carolina, be valid as being written throughout by the testator’s own hand, on sufficient evidence being adduced that it was in fact his own handwriting.
The testator, having written out his will, placed it between two pages of an old family Bible, formerly belonging to his father, the Rev. Nathan S. Chaffin, folding the pages over so as to make a sort of pocket. The pages so folded were those containing the 27th chapter of Genesis, which tells how the younger brother Jacob supplanted the elder brother Esau, and won his birthright and his father’s blessing. The sole beneficiary under the first will was, it will be remembered, a younger brother.
The testator never before his death, so far as can be ascertained, mentioned the existence of this second will to anyone, but in the inside pocket of an overcoat belonging to him he stitched up a roll of paper on which he had written the words, “Read the 27th chapter of Genesis in my daddy’s old Bible.”
On September 7, 1921, the testator died as the result of a fall. His third son, Marshall, obtained probate of the first will on September 24 of that year. The mother and the other three brothers did not contest this will, as they knew of no valid reason for doing so.
From this point it will be convenient to follow the words of the sworn statements obtained by Mr. Johnson on his visit to the locality on April 21, 1927.
Extract from Statement of James Pinkney Chaffin, Testator’s Second Son
“In all my life I never heard my father mention having made a will later than the one dated in 1905. I think it was in June of 1925 that I began to have very vivid dreams that my father appeared to me at my bedside but made no verbal communication. Some time later, I think it was the latter part of June, 1925, he appeared at my bedside again, dressed as I had often seen him dressed in life, wearing a black overcoat, which I knew to be his own coat. This time my father’s spirit spoke to me; he took hold of his overcoat this way and pulled it back and said, ‘You will find my will in my overcoat pocket,’ and then disappeared. The next morning I arose fully convinced that my father’s spirit had visited me for the purpose of explaining some mistake. I went to my mother’s, and sought for the overcoat, but found that it was gone. Mother stated that she had given the overcoat to my brother John, who lives in Yadkin County, about twenty miles northwest of my home. I think it was on July 6, which was on the Monday following the events stated in the last paragraph, I went to my brother’s home in Yadkin County and found the coat. On examination of the inside pocket I found the lining had been sewn together. I immediately cut the stitches, and found a little roll of paper tied with a string, which was in my father’s handwriting, and contained only the following words: ‘Read the 27th chapter of Genesis in my daddy’s old Bible.’
“At this point I was so convinced that the mystery was to be cleared up, I was unwilling to go to my mother’s home to examine the Bible without the presence of a witness, and I induced a neighbor, Mr. Thomas Blackwelder, to accompany me, also my daughter and Mr. Blackwelder’s daughter were present. Arriving at mother’s home we had a considerable search before we found the old Bible. At last we did find it in the top bureau drawer in an upstairs room. The book was so dilapidated that when we took it out it fell into three pieces. Mr. Blackwelder picked up the portion containing the Book of Genesis, and turned the leaves until he came to the 27th chapter of Genesis, and there we found two leaves folded together, the left-hand page folded to the right, and the right-hand page folded to the left, forming a pocket, and in this pocket Mr. Blackwelder found the will which has been probated [i.e., was probated in December, 1925].
“During the month of December, 1925, my father again appeared to me about a week before the trial of the case of Chaffin v. Chaffin, and said, ‘Where is my old will?’ and showed considerable temper. I believed from this that I would win the lawsuit, as I did. I told my lawyer about this visitation the next morning.
“Many of my friends do not believe it is possible for the living to hold communication with the dead, but I am convinced that my father actually appeared to me on these several occasions, and I shall believe it to the day of my death.”
Statement of the said Thomas A. Blackwelder
“My name is Thomas A. Blackwelder. I am thirty-eight years old, and the son of H. H. Blackwelder. My house is on a farm in Callihan township, about one mile from the place where James L. Chaffin died in 1921. I think it was on July 6, 1925, that Mr. J. P. Chaffin, the son of James L. Chaffin, and a neighbor of mine, came to my house, and asked me to go with him to his mother’s home, and at the same time stated that his father had appeared to him in a dream and instructed him how he could find his will. Mr. Chaffin told me at the same time that his father had been dead about four years, and had appeared to him in a dream, and made known to him that he should look in the breast-pocket of his old overcoat, and there he would find something of importance. Mr. Chaffin further stated that he had gone to this overcoat and found a strip of paper in his father’s handwriting, and he wanted me to go with him to his mother’s and examine the Bible, and after some time we found it in a bureau drawer in the second story of the house. We took out the Bible, which was quite old, and was in three different pieces. I took one of the three pieces of the book, and Mr. Chaffin took the other two pieces, but it happened that the piece that I had contained the Book of Genesis. I turned the leaves until I came to the 27th chapter, and there we found two leaves folded inward, and there was a paper writing folded in these two leaves which purported to be the last will of James L. Chaffin.”
It appears from Mr. Johnson’s own statement that, in addition to Mr. J. P. Chaffin and Mr. Blackwelder, Mrs. J. P. Chaffin, their fifteen year-old daughter, and the testator’s widow were present when the Bible was found.
Soon after its discovery, the second will was tendered for probate.
The son, Marshall, who had proved the first will, had died within a year of his father’s death; he left a son, R. M. Chaffin, who was made a defendant in the suit to prove the second will, and who, being a minor, appeared by his mother as guardian ad litem and next friend.
The case came up for hearing in December, 1925. A jury was sworn, and the court then adjourned for lunch. When the hearing was continued one of the lawyers announced that during the interval an amicable adjustment of the issues had been arrived at, and that the new will would be admitted to probate without opposition. The following is taken from an official copy of the minutes of the presiding judge:
JUDGMENT BY CONSENT
In Re Will of J. L. Chaffin, Deed.
North Carolina, Davie County. In Superior Court.
December Term, 1925
This case coming on to be heard, and being heard, and the following issues having been submitted to the Jury, “Is the paper writing dated January 16, 1919, and every part thereof the last Will and Testament of the deceased—Jas. L. Chaffin?”
And the Jury having answered said issue Yes, It is now on motion of E. H. Morris, A. H. Price, and J. E. Busby, attorneys for the Plaintiffs, Ordered, Decreed, and Adjudged that the said last Will and Testament of James L. Chaffin, deceased, be recorded in the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court of Davie County in the Book of Wills, and that the will dated November 16, 1905, and probated on September 24, 1921, Will Book No. 2, Page 579, purporting to be the last will and testament of the deceased James L. Chaffin is hereby cancelled, rescinded, annulled and made void.
When the trial commenced, Marshall’s widow and son had been prepared to contest the second will. However, during the luncheon interval they were shown the second will. Ten witnesses were prepared to give evidence that the second will was in the testator’s handwriting, and the widow and the son themselves seem to have admitted this as soon as they saw it. At any rate, they at once withdrew their opposition. The public, which had crowded the court in the hopes of watching a bitter family feud fought out, retired disappointed.
Mr. Johnson in his statement said: “I endeavored with all my skill and ability by cross-examination and otherwise to induce some admission that possibly there was a subconscious knowledge of the will in the old Bible, or of the paper in the coat pocket, that was brought to the fore by the dream: but I utterly failed to shake their faith. The answer was a quiet: ‘No, such an explanation is impossible. We never heard of the existence of the will till the visitation from my father’s spirit.’ Clearly, they none of them had any conscious recollection, at the date of testator’s death, of any mention of a second will, or they would not have allowed the first will to be proved without opposition. Nor was it a matter which, if once mentioned, they were likely to forget, during the short period which intervened between the making of the second will (January, 1919) and the testator’s death (September, 1921). ... I was much impressed with the evident sincerity of these people, who had the appearance of honest, honorable country people, in well-to-do circumstances.”
Case no. 10
The Beede Case
Professor O. R. Libby, of North Dakota University, in forwarding an account of this case to Dr. Walter F. Prince, testified to the character of Judge Beede as follows:
“I have known Judge Beede for about twenty years, and he is a man of unusual intellectual ability. . . . He for a long time served as a missionary among the Indians. . . . Judge Beede has made some remarkable observations among the Indians, and has obtained, apparently, their complete confidence. I believe ethnologists consider his records in many respects unique and valuable.”
This is Judge Beede’s account:
“February 4, 1926, about 7:15 a.m., my wife, whom I had not seen for over ten years, except once, and then at a distance, appeared to me as I lay asleep or partly asleep on a cot in my sleeping-room; and I said (seemed to say), ‘How did you get in with the door locked?’ She said, ‘Oh, I got in, all right.’ Then she said (seemed to say), ‘I have been unhappy here in this world, I have laid it to you. I am out of that error now and am in gladness.’ I said, ‘That’s good . It was in my mind to go on telling her that I would build on to the house another room for her, for at the moment I took the matter to mean that she would come and live with me, as I had asked her to do. But just at that moment there was a terrible banging on the door by a nearly deaf Sioux Indian Congregational minister (I am Episcopalian), who had come to get aid from me on account of the death of a child, and I fully awoke, and Mrs. Beede disappeared. On attempting to rise from the couch I found myself so weak that I could hardly get to the door (from what cause I do not know); and at about 10 a.m., as I was still on the couch, a wire was brought which read,
‘Mama passed on at 7:15 this morning.’ Due to variations of time, it is impossible to say whether the ‘apparition’ was at the moment of death, or shortly before, or shortly after. . . . The communications (talk) seemed to be a sort of flash by which a whole idea was definitely communicated, not words actually spoken, requiring a negligible amount of time. She was dressed as I last saw her ten years before, though she had adopted a quite different mode of dress, as I later learned.”
Case no. 11
The Byfleet Case
“Like Mother, Mrs. Byfleet was psychic, and after I received her motherly welcome, I found that she was very much disturbed. In a dream that night she had seen Jack (her son), who had just left home, walk into her bedroom, as was his custom on homecomings, remove his sailor’s cap and smile at her. She was sure from something in his manner that he was dead.
“As she finished telling me the dream, George Byfleet (her husband) came in and told me that (my) dad had said if I wanted to ride home I was to be in the village by 5 p.m. Hearing that, I suggested that there was just time for a pint of beer, and took the old man to the village pub.
There he confided to me that he had seen the same vision that his wife had, but that he hadn’t mentioned it to her. He had seen Jack come into his room, and was so sure that it was the boy that he had gotten out of bed and followed him downstairs to have the usual glass of whiskey, which was ritual between father and son on homecomings.
“Dad came along punctually and I knew, as soon as I saw him, that he was very much upset. Hardly had old Jack, his horse, pulled up before the pub when Dad burst out, ‘This is a hell of a bloody start for the New Year. The Formidable has been torpedoed.’ Byfleet swallowed his beer and, refusing another, asked us to go home with him. As soon as Mrs. Byfleet heard the evil news, she declared that Jack had gone down with that ship. Dad said, ‘That’s damned nonsense; Jack was told to report to another ship, and you know it.’ Nothing would convince her, though, that Jack hadn’t been killed, for in spite of the fact that he had gone to join another ship, in her dream he had had the letters H.M.S. Formidable on his cap. Her premonition proved true. At the last moment before sailing, Jack Byfleet had volunteered to take the place of a sick comrade on the Formidable, and within two hours the ship had been sunk by mine or torpedo.”
Case no. 12
The Austrian Case
This case, which was brought to the notice of the Society for Psychical Research by an Austrian member of the Society, concerns Baroness X— , an old friend of his. The Baroness had been ill for a long time and died in agony at 11:20 p.m. (Austrian time) on April 29, 1930, in Vienna.
Mrs. F—, then living in Scotland, and who had been on very intimate terms with the Baroness, received a printed notification of the death which merely stated “on the evening of April 29, 1930”—the hour was not mentioned.
When Mrs. F— received this news she immediately wrote to Baron X— on May 5, 1930:
“Now I must tell you a very strange thing happened on the night of April 29. I already knew on that night that the Baroness had died — because she came here and said goodbye to me. It was like this: On Tuesday evening I went to bed feeling very tired about 9 p.m. and fell sound asleep. About 11:15 p.m. I awoke with someone pressing a kiss on my forehead and on looking up I saw the Baroness standing by the side of my bed; she looked as though she desired to say something, or was waiting for me to speak or answer, but I was so startled, not to say afraid, I was speechless, so after gazing at one another for a minute or two the Baroness vanished. Her expression was so sad and inquiring I cannot forget it. What I have just written you is not a hallucination but real fact. I related it to Mr. F— on Wednesday morning and he said, ‘You were dreaming.’ . . . I really saw the Baroness as clearly as I see the paper I am now writing on and I was wide awake.”
On July 7, 1930, Mr. F— wrote to the Society stating that on the morning of April 30 Mrs. F— had said she had seen the Baroness on April 29, and that he had regarded the incident as only a dream, although his wife thought otherwise.
Later, Mrs. F—, when asked how she fixed the time of the vision, replied that soon after the Baroness vanished the hall-clock struck the half-hour and that when she regained her composure and looked at the bedroom clock it showed “the hour to be eleven (i.e., that the hour hand stood between eleven and twelve): therefore the vision was somewhere between 11:15 and 11:30. I fixed it at 11:20.”
It should be observed that at the time of the vision, Austrian and British (summer) time were identical, and that 11:15 mentioned by Mrs. F— before she knew of the death was very close to the actual time of death in Vienna. ,
Case no. 13
The Michigan Boulevard Case
This incident is not quoted in direct support of the survival theory, although evidence on behalf of survival is often obtained by clairvoyance of this type. Strictly speaking, the most that can be claimed in this case is that it shows how a flash of clairvoyance functioned just once, unexpectedly, in the lifetime of Irene Kuhn, an American newspaperwoman who had worked on behalf of American journalism in Europe and China. In the latter country she had met and married a fellow American reporter, Bert L. Kuhn, and when their baby girl was two weeks old, much against her will and mainly to please her husband, she returned, taking the baby with her, to the United States for a holiday, her husband remaining behind in China.
She was walking one December afternoon on Michigan Boulevard, Chicago, when “suddenly and without warning sky, boulevard, people, lake, everything vanished, wiping from my vision as completely and quickly as if I had been struck blind. Before me, as on a motion picture screen in a dark theatre, unrolled a strip of green grass within a fence of iron palings. Three young trees, in spring verdure, stood at one side; beyond the trees and the fence, in the far distance, factory smoke-stacks trailed sooty plumes across the sky. Across from the trees stood a small circle of people, men and women, a mere handful, in black clothes. And coming to a halt on a gravelled road by the grass was a limousine from which alighted two men who turned to offer their hands to a woman in black, emerging now from the car. The woman was I.
“I watched myself being escorted against my will to the group which now parted to receive me. I made no sound, but struggled against the necessity of moving towards them. I took one step and then stood stock-still. Gently the two men urged me forward, a step at a time, until at last I was among the others, and looked at the small hole cut in the grass — a hole not more than two feet square.
“I looked once and turned my back on it, wanting to run away, but held there by some irresistible force. There was a small box which someone, bending over now, was placing in the earth with infinite tenderness— a box so small and light I could hold it in my hand and hardly feel it. What was I doing here? Where was I? Why was I letting someone put this box into the ground—this little box which held something very precious to me? I couldn’t speak or move. These people—who were they? Then I recognized only the faces of my husband’s family, tear-stained and sad. The silence screamed and tore at me. I looked about. All the clan were there. Only he was missing. Then I knew what was in the box, and I crumpled on the grass without a sound.”
When the vision fled she looked so ill, as she supported herself by a lamp post that a passing stranger came forward to assist her. He called a taxi and she was driven to the office of her brother-in-law, who, likewise startled by her appearance, poured out for her a good drink of whiskey.
She soon pulled ‘round, dismissed the incident from her mind—just a piece of too fervid imagination, the outcome of her loneliness—but she did not forget it.
Her holiday was continued until February, when she decided to sail from Vancouver on the Empress of Canada. As soon as she boarded the ship the purser advised her to get in touch with the passenger agent, who, when she approached him, produced a wire from the Kuhn family in Chicago: “Please advise Mrs. Bert L. Kuhn husband dangerously ill, best not sail.”
At the moment the Empress of Canada sailed—without her—she received another wire: “Bert dead.”
She returned to Chicago, where she accepted the offer of a job on the Mirror; meanwhile her husband’s ashes were being sent home to Chicago to rest beside his father’s in the city of his birth.
“And it was on May 30 that, all arrangements having been completed, I went with my two brothers-in-law in a limousine to Rosehill Cemetery, which I had never seen before.
“We drove across the city, through the cemetery gates and came to a stop. The men got out first and waited to help me. I put my foot on the ground, and something held me back. For a second I couldn’t raise my eyes because I knew what I should see. At last I looked. There was the spring grass underfoot. There were the three young trees in fresh leaf; there the fence of iron palings, and the smoke-stacks of the city’s industries far beyond in the distance. My feet were weighted with lead.
I didn’t want to go.
“Bert’s brothers urged me forward gently. I saw the ring of black-clad mourners over to one side, waiting. I stopped.
” ‘You didn’t have to open a full grave, did you?’ I asked.
“‘How do you know?’ asked Paul with astonishment.
” ‘There’s just a little square hole big enough to take the box with Bert’s ashes, isn’t there?’ I pressed on.
“Paul’s face was white beneath his natural tan.
” ‘Yes, that’s right. They said it would be foolish to open a full grave for a small box of ashes. But how did you know?’ he persisted.
“I didn’t answer. I was thinking of that December day on Michigan Boulevard when I had seen into the future, over the bridge of time. . . .”
Lest anyone should imagine that Irene Kuhn was a woman much given to dreams and fancies, a perusal of her book will soon alter that opinion.
Her life, before this incident, although full of adventure and excitement, was lived in a practical fashion, her emotions and feelings always under strict control.