Tag Archive: ghosts


The Master of the Hunt

According to Sully, Henri IV met the Master of the Hunt in the Fontainebleau Forest.

According to Sully, Henri IV met the Master of the Hunt in the Fontainebleau Forest.

It is the 8 September 1598.  A group of hunters are riding in the Fontainebleau Forest.  At their head is a cavalier who speaks loudly with a rough accent.  His dress is neglected, his big nose reddened, his beard and moustache badly maintained, his fingernails black with dirt, a fairly strong smell emanates from him.  This is King Henri IV of France.

Since morning, the royal hunt has been travelling through the underbrush in pursuit of a stag.  Soon, they will stop in a clearing to eat some little meat patties and empty numerous flasks of Jurancon wine which the King has transported with him in all of his outings.  However, for the moment, they haven’t had anything to drink – and it is important to stress this fact.

Suddenly, the King stops his horse and tells everyone to listen.  All the cavaliers obey.  They then hear, coming from a distant place, which they estimate to be about half a league away, that is to say around two kilometres, the voices of a pack of hounds, cries and sounding of horns…

The King asks his companions if they too can hear hunting horns and hounds.  The Count of Soissons, who has cupped his big hand around his ear, nods and declares that it is astounding.  The King would like to know who it is who dares to hunt at the same time as himself.  Someone suggests that it could be an echo of their own horns.  The King dismisses this explanation:

“Our horns have never sounded any of the airs that we are hearing now…  Listen…”

It is true, the music coming to their ears – of course very muffled by the distance and the forest’s density – does not correspond to any of the airs which have accompanied the group’s hunt since morning.  The King decides to investigate.

He is about to spur his horse when, suddenly, the same sounding of horns, the same cries, the same hound voices explode at twenty paces from him, as if, by some spell, the mysterious hunt had made a prodigious leap through the forest.

Astonished, the King and his friends turn toward the track near them whence the noise of the horns and hounds seems to be coming.  The track is empty.  The King asks if anyone can see anything.  They see only the sun playing on the ferns, through the trees.

And yet, the hunters, the horns, the noisy pack are there, close by.  Calling voices, neighing horses, metallic sounds, like weapons clashing, can be heard.

Suddenly, these sounds, these noises, these fanfares move.  They were coming from the right, now they are coming from the front, then the left, then from behind, then, again, from the right.  Invisible, the phantom hunt slowly circles the King and his companions.  Henri IV is worried.  He orders Soissons to go to see what is happening.

Anxiously, the Count heads his horse towards the place whence the noise is coming and soon returns to say that he sees nothing but, like everyone else, he can hear the hounds and the horns.

At this moment, a big, dark, bearded man with long hair and flaming eyes surges from the underbrush and cries out in a terrible voice:

“You wanted to see me!  Here I am!”

Then he turns toward Henri IV and says:

“Turn over a new leaf!”

And he disappears.

Immediately, there is silence in the forest.  Not one cry, no sound of hounds, no horns, not a hoof beat.  The phantom hunt seems to have evaporated.  The King orders his companions to find the man.

They search the thickets, the bushes, the ferns, they look at trees, clumps of rocks, nothing!  The strange person has also disappeared.  The King decides to question the peasants.

And without a word, almost without a sound, everyone starts off and heads towards Fontainebleau.  All of them seem to feel superstitious fear to the point that no-one dares to break the silence.  Not even the King, who is usually so talkative, so joyful, so prompt to jest.

After half-an-hour of travelling along tracks of moss and Spring ferns, the little troop arrives in a clearing where there are tree fellers and charcoal smokers.  Henri IV calls to them and explains that he has seen a mysterious person surge in front of him like a devil, his eyes full of sparks.  The woodsmen nod their heads and tell him that it is the Master of the Hunt who often hunts around there.  The King wants to know who this Master of the Hunt is.

“It’s a ghost who roams in the forest…  Oh!  He’s apparently not nasty.  We see him from time to time.  But to tell the truth, we don’t like it much…  Once I saw the Master of the Hunt near Franchard.  He came out of the ground, right there, in front of me…  He was two strides away.  He looked at me for a good moment without saying anything.  I didn’t dare move.  Then he laughed out loud and disappeared little by little like smoke…”

The Count of Soissons asks:

“And you say that this Master of the Hunt is a ghost?”

“For sure he’s not a human like us.  It’s the Master of the Hunt!  Or the Black Hunter as he’s sometimes called.  Sometimes, he’s accompanied by a whole invisible hunt.  A hunt that makes the devil of a noise, with dogs, cries, horns…”

The King tells him that that was what they had heard.

“Well then, it’s the Saint Hubert Hunt.”

And the woodsman explains that it is a mysterious hunt composed of ghosts of men and ghosts of dogs who have been haunting the Fontainebleau Forest for a long time.

Most impressed, Henri IV and his companions return to the castle where they recount their adventure.

And the whole French kingdom soon learns and marvels, that the King of France had met a ghost…

***

Many questions have been raised about this story and the craziest suppositions have been made.  First of all, it was thought that an attempt on the King’s life had been made, then that it was a diabolical apparition…  Finally, people with no imagination concluded that the sovereign had been tricked by facetious poachers who had had fun imitating the sound of horns and the voices of hounds.  Henri IV had therefore been the victim of a joke.

***

If it were poachers, why did they tell him to “turn over a new leaf”?

It was said that the dark man who told Henri IV to "turn over a new leaf" was supposed to frighten the King and prevent his marriage to Gabrielle d'Estrees.

It was said that the dark man who told Henri IV to “turn over a new leaf” was supposed to frighten the King and prevent his marriage to Gabrielle d’Estrees.

In April 1599, that is to say eight months after the incident in the Fontainebleau Forest, Gabrielle d’Estrees, whom the King was about to marry, died of poison, and Henri IV took for wife the overweight Marie de Medicis.  Rumours then began.  It was murmured that at Fontainebleau, the King had not been the victim of a bad joke, but of a plot cooked up by a high-placed person.  Which one?  The Papal Legate.

The Papal Legate – who was in Paris at this time – was Alexandre de Medicis, who wanted the King of France to marry his fat cousin.  And it is explained that, to strike the King’s mind and bring him to repudiate Gabrielle, the Legate contacted the famous poachers and gave them the task of setting up the whole thing.  Which is supposedly why the Master of the Hunt was accompanied by a phantom hunt and why he told the King to turn over a new leaf…

***

Although this explanation was accepted by all of the contemporary chroniclers, the story does not end there.  In 1625, in 1647 and in 1672, the Master of the Hunt appears again to stag hunters, still accompanied by his invisible whippers-in and his phantom pack of hounds.  And in 1698, it is Louis XIV himself who sees him.  He would say:

“A person of supernatural appearance surged before me, making my horse rear, and addressed a few words to me.”

Words that the King never repeated.

And that is not all.  In 1897, an English tourist who was riding a bicycle in Fontainebleau Forest, recounted that she had met, near the Croix du Grand-Maitre, a dark man who had surged from a bush and who ran with the lightness of a deer, calling out:

“Yak, Yak, Yak…”

***

These periodical apparitions of frightening men could be simply scruffy, threatening-looking people roaming the forest, whom imagination and the memory of legends transform into supernatural beings.  They could also be hallucinations, “concrete ghosts”, according to one psychoanalyst.  In this case, Freud explains that the hunter is, of course, a sexual symbol because he is hairy!…  Apart from this interpretation, the hypothesis of an hallucination – individual or collective – should perhaps not be rejected for the Master of the Hunt is a character who is found in most Western folklore.  In the North of Europe, for example, he is called the Black Hunter.

***

The invisible hunt is an extremely widespread myth.  In the Blesois, it is the flying hunt of Thibault le Tricheur, in Touraine the Briquette Hunt, the Arquin Hunt or the Menee d’Helquin.  In Berry, it is Rigaud’s Hunt or Baudet’s Hunt;  in Bourbonnais, the Maligne Hunt or the Gayere Hunt;  in Bretagne, the Gallery Hunt;  In the Maine, the Artus Hunt led by the famous King Artus who governed the Bretons in the IVth Century;  in the Orleanais, King Hugon’s Hunt;  in Sweden, Odin’s Hunt;  in Germany, the Wooden Heer.

***

George Sand studied these strange phenomena and collected a few.  Madeleine Bosquet, the author of a work on Normandie romanesque et merveilleuse, published a certain number of witness statements which are rather troubling.

One night when Ronsard was returning home, near Vendome, the poet, who was a bit deaf, heard the sound of a hunt and saw a cavalier appear who wanted to take him up behind him.  Anyone else would have made the sign of the cross to make this vision go away.  Ronsard, who had been a soldier, preferred to draw his sword, and everything disappeared.

But this meeting troubled him to the point that he noted his impressions in a poem, which I shall not try to translate here.

***

The Salon visionary

Maria-Theresa of Austria, Queen of France, spouse of Louis XIV.

In 1697, at Salon-de-Provence, there was a young blacksmith named Francois-Michel, who lived happily with his forge, his anvil, his wife and his four children.  Although he was a relation of Nostradamus on his mother’s side, he had never felt himself drawn to either the bizarreries of occultism or to the prestiges of magic.

He was a tall, ordinary fellow, jovial and smiley, who had conserved a resolute allure after his passage in the Grignan Cavalry Regiment.  Very pious, he sometimes went to pray inside a little chapel situated outside the town, on the road to Marseille.

One evening while he was coming back from his devotions, he found himself, according to Saint-Simon who reports this story, “invested by a great light near a tree”.  Very surprised, he stops and suddenly sees a beautiful, blonde woman appear, dressed in white, with a flaming torch in her hand.

The blacksmith is extremely moved:  he is asking himself if this is the Virgin Mary.

No.  After a moment, the apparition speaks in a gentle voice and introduces itself:

“Francois-Michel, I am Queen Marie-Therese…  I was the spouse of King Louis XIV and I died fourteen years ago…”

Francois-Michel, afraid, wants to flee, but the ghost holds him by the shoulders:

“Don’t be afraid, I do not want to hurt you…  I come to announce, in the name of God, that you must go to Versailles to speak to the King.  To prove to him that your mission is of divine origin, you will tell him this which he is the only one to know:  thirty years ago, he was hunting deer one day when he met a supernatural being who made his horse rear and who asked him to renounce his scandalous life…  Now, listen carefully…”

The blacksmith, half-fainting with fear, nods his head.  The ghost continues in a suave voice:

“I am going to give you the message that you must carry to the King.  But be very careful:  you must communicate it to no-one else.  If you disobey, or if you neglect to go through with your mission, you will be punished by death…  Before you, I have addressed myself to three Salon inhabitants.  The first revealed what I had confided to him to his wife.  He died immediately at her feet.  The second who, he too, revealed my secret, is also dead, as well as the third.  A similar fate is reserved for you if you reveal my words to any other but His Majesty…”

Francois-Michel, who had learnt of the mysterious deaths of three inhabitants of the town, his neighbours, in the preceding days, promises to be discrete.

Then, the Queen’s ghost leans over and tells him in a soft voice what he must say to Louis XIV, in the name of the Lord.

In his youth, Louis XIV had glimpsed a ghost during a hunt in the Fontainebleau forest.

Then it disappears and the blacksmith finds himself alone in the night, beside the tree, asking himself if he had dreamt it or if this spectre, whose perfume is still on his jacket, really did appear to him…

After a long moment of reflection, he returns home, persuaded that he had been the plaything of an illusion and decided to speak to no-one about this adventure.

But two days later, as he is passing by the same spot, the spectre appears again to him and tells him the same thing, before adding:

“Careful, Francois-Michel, I know that you have doubts about me…  How can one doubt the word of a dead person?  You know that dead people don’t lie.  Even more so when that person is a Queen of France…”

No-one had ever told the blacksmith that dead people didn’t lie, but it seems to him that it is quite logical, and he is ashamed of his doubts…  Then, he receives the order to go to tell the Intendant de Provence what he had seen.  The Queen’s spectre says to him:

“You will tell him that I have ordered you to go to Versailles, and I am sure that he will give you what you need to pay for your trip…”

This time, Francois-Michel is convinced.  But Saint-Simon tells us “floating between fear of punishments and the difficulties of the execution”, he hesitates to undertake the arrangements.

Another week goes by, during which he tergiverses with himself.  But one evening when he is passing near the chapel, the Queen appears to him again.  She is not smiling:  her eyes are glittering, her voice is hard, her tone is threatening.

A ghost is already very impressive.  An angry ghost is terrifying.  Francois-Michel trembles and swears that he will obey.

In fact, two days later, he goes to Aix to find Le Bret, the Intendant of the province, who receives him privately.  Francois-Michel tells him that he has met the ghost of Queen Marie-Therese, who had died fourteen years before, and that the Queen has ordered him to go to see the King at Versailles, and that Intendant Le Bret would give him the money for the trip.  The Intendant finds this attempt to extort money from him very amusing and rather ingenious, but a bit silly all the same…

“But I swear that it is all true.  I saw this ghost three times near the Saint-Anne Chapel..  Just like I see you, Monsieur…  It spoke to me.  And I have a mission to accomplish with the King…”

Intendant Le Bret is now convinced that he is dealing with an illumine.  Francois-Michel guesses what he is thinking.

“I’m not crazy, Monsieur l’Intendant, make enquiries about me.”

This tall young man of thirty-six with a clear gaze and flourishing health does not in fact appear to be deranged.  Le Bret is perplexed.

“Give me a few days.  I’ll think about it.”

And, very intrigued by this story, he orders an investigation of Francois-Michel from the Lieutenant-general de Salon, the following day.

A report is soon on his desk.  In it can be read that the blacksmith is a highly respected man in his town, with a healthy body and mind, and is known for his good sense.

So, the Intendant convokes Francois-Michel, makes him repeat all the details of the apparition, and finally – as extraordinary as this may seem – gives him the money necessary for the trip.

On the evening of 9 April 1697, Francois-Michel arrives at Versailles and books into an inn.  He is scarcely inside his bedchamber when, suddenly, the ghost that he knows well, thanks him for having obeyed it and gives him a few pieces of friendly advice for succeeding in his mission.  This time, the ghost is charming!  It tells him:

“You will doubtless have a few difficulties in obtaining a private audience;  but beware of discouragement, and above all do not let anyone know of your secret if you don’t want to die instantaneously…”

To be continued.

Anne Boleyn.

There are other great people roaming through the stately homes of England post mortem.  The very beautiful Lady Hamilton, the great love of Lord Nelson’s life, haunts Number 2 Cambridge Square where she opens locked doors.  There is also the Duke of Buckingham, who loved Anne of Austria.  He has been wandering around Windsor Castle since 1628 when he was assassinated.  George III sometimes pops in for a visit too.  As well as Queen Elizabeth I, with whom a Captain of the Horse Guards one night tried to have a conversation – unsuccessfully however.  But all the others must also be mentioned, the anonymous ones – soldiers, shopkeepers, abbots, actors, bankers – who haunt more modest houses – inns, shops, sacristies, farms, schools…

***

At Hampton Court, this card, said to portray Anne Boleyn's ghost, was sold to tourists...

The French are often astounded at the number of ghosts said to be seen in the British Isles.  Why are there so many there?  Guy Breton says that it is a question of mentality.  When a phenomenon occurs, a Frenchman’s attitude is generally totally different from that of an Englishman.  Because of his rationalism, the Frenchman believes in the reality of things because he sees them.  The Englishman sees them, because he believes in them.

The Englishman could therefore be seen as being a victim of his imagination and his credulity.  This is one interpretation.  However, there is another.  It could be that the Frenchman’s rationalism has snuffed out his aptitude for seeing that which other men – and other animals – perceive perfectly well.

***

On the subject of French scepticism about the existence of ghosts, Guy Breton asks just one question:  how can a ghost which is only an hallucination expose a film placed inside a camera?…

***

Lady Jane Grey, who was proclaimed Queen of England at the death of Edward VI, was decapitated nine days later, aged seventeen, by order of Mary Tudor. Her ghost now haunts the Tower of London.

Henry VIII himself is said to have had the vision of a gigantic, frightening being one stormy night at Windsor Castle.

Anne Boleyn.

Naturally, it is at the Tower of London that Anne Boleyn’s ghost is the most assiduous.  For nearly five centuries, it has even been its principal and most famous lodger.  To the point that its apparitions are mentioned in reglementary fashion on the register of the Tower’s guards.  When you flick through this official document, you notice that the spectre of the young Queen lurks in all the corners of the ancient building.  It is signalled in the White Tower, in the Green Tower, in the King’s House, at Saint Peter of Vincula Chapel, even on the rooves…

During the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries, it seems to have been curiously attracted to decapitations.  Several times, the judges claimed to have seen it prowling around the executioners, at the moment when they were proceeding with a decollation.

Sometimes, it walks surrounded by “people” of its own kind and participates in strange ceremonies, as was reported a few decades ago by an officer at the Tower.  This man was making a round at night when he noticed that the windows of the chapel were lit by a strange light.  Intrigued, he went to get a ladder, climbed up to the window and looked into the nave.  What he saw almost made him fall off the ladder.  Anne Boleyn, resplendant in Tudor embroideries, was leading a procession of ladies and lords who were slowly and silently moving up the centre aisle.  When these people arrived at the choir, the vision gradually evaporated as the light disappeared.

The Tower of London (left) is an officially haunted monument. Guards who abandon their post receive no punishment if they are able to swear on their honour that they had been chased by a ghost.

For other guards, the meeting with Anne Boleyn’s ghost almost had very unfortunate consequences.  One Winter evening in 1933, the guardsman in faction in front of the Tower saw a white form appear before him.  After the usual challenges, the man approached the apparition and saw that it was Anne Boleyn’s headless silhouette.  Terrified, he fled screaming.

This abandon of his post, which should have caused him to be arrested, had an unthinkable conclusion for any country outside Britain.  His superiors noted in their report:

“The post being known to be haunted, the guard has only been reprimanded.”

A young soldier of the Sixtle Rifles, who was in service at the foot of the Bloody Tower, underwent an even more gruelling adventure:  noticing a White Lady approaching him, he charged with fixed bayonet and fell unconscious to the ground after having seen that his weapon had traversed the wandering lady through and through without meeting any resistance.

When he was found lying on the ground, at the changing of the guard, it was thought that he was drunk and he was called to appear before a Court Martial.  There, he described his combat with Anne Boleyn’s ghost.  The military judges listened without a blink, just as they later heard two officers who had come to recount that they too had seen the Queen’s spectre, that same evening.  And the young soldier was acquitted…

Hever Castle in Kent.

Is it the fact of having had its existence implicitly recognized by the British Court Martial that gives assurance to Anne Boleyn’s ghost?  It could be believed so, for it behaved itself, some time ago, so unexpectedly, that the very dignified Society for Psychical Research was astounded.  The members of this honourable company, who had been studying for a long time the deeds and gestures of this headless ghost and knew all its habits, had always had only courteous and even agreeable relations with it.  However, on the evening of 24 December 1979, a photographer working for the S. P. R. went to place himself and his camera loaded with ultra-sensitive film, near the little bridge at Hever Castle where the young Queen was in the habit of appearing every Christmas Eve.

He had been waiting for quite a while when, on the twelfth stroke of midnight, a white, scintillating spot surged from the shadows and gradually took the form of a headless woman.  The young man, delighted, took a photo.  He didn’t have time to take another:  the ghost, at astounding speed, rushed in his direction and passed straight through him.  Very upset, the reporter turned around and saw the form slide over the bridge and disappear.

The next day, he wanted to develop his one and only photograph, but he found, stunned, that the ghost, by traversing his camera, had, in an inexplicable way, completely exposed the film inside it.

***

England is filled with roaming spectres.  It even has a “Ghost Guide” where the one thousand, one hundred and sixty visitors from the After-Life, recognized as authentic by the “Ghost Club”, founded in 1862, are listed.  And it not rare that people announce, in the property section of the Times, that their house, which is for sale, is agreeably haunted.  Which is seen as a characteristic which could interest a possible buyer…

In 1953, a certain Mrs Muriel Ward had the following text inserted:

“For sale XVth Century presbytery in good condition, with a great choice of friendly ghosts.  Price:  7,500 pounds.”

A buyer having presented himself, Mrs Ward added that, among the “friendly ghosts” there was a monk, an elderly lady who came to have breakfast every Christmas and a group of joyful young men from the XVIIth Century surging from a coach every 15 September to organize some festivities in the presbytery…

***

Jane Seymour succeeded Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII's affections. She died after giving birth to the future Edward VI.

Anne Boleyn is not the only famous person whose ghost is seen.  Her brother, Lord Rochford, who was executed two days before the Queen, can also be seen apparently at dusk, near Blickling Hall, passing by on a galloping horse.  Both the cavalier and his horse are decapitated.  Another family ghost:  that of Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father.  He haunts the Norfolk countryside on the anniversary of his daughter’s death, and the good people explain that he is expiating the sin of having attempted nothing to save her…  Then there is Jane Seymour who, curiously haunts Marwell Hall, as we have already seen, with Anne, whom she replaced in the affections and in the bed of Henry VIII.  Then, there is the unfortunate Jane Grey who had been proclaimed Queen of England at the death of Edward VI and who, nine days later, was condemned to be decapitated by order of Mary Tudor.  She was just seventeen.

Since then, her ghost frequents the Tower of London where she died, and its apparitions are generally announced by the English Press.  Certain French newspapers also mention them, as is proven by this article taken from France-Soir on 14 February 1957:

A GHOST DRESSED IN WHITE VISITS TWO SOLDIERS AT THE TOWER OF LONDON

London, 13 February

Two solders of the guard at the Tower of London saw, yesterday morning, a ghost moving at the top of the “Salt Tower”, which is 12 metres high, and one of the darkest and most sinister of this dark and sinister fortress.

The first of them heard, at three o’clock in the morning, an object fall onto the roof of his shelter, at the foot of the Tower.  Courageously, he bounded outside, raised his eyes and “saw a white form between the crenelles”

The second guard, called to look, was incredulous at first, but when he too raised his eyes, he was stunned:  “By devil, you’re right!”

Yesterday was the 403rd anniversary of the execution of Lady Jane Grey.

***

To be continued.

Anne Boleyn’s ghost

Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII of England's second wife.

On 19 May 1536, at nine o’clock in the morning, the Queen of England Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s wife, who had been locked up in the Tower of London on 23 April, charged with adultery and conspiracy, is taken to the scaffold wearing a white silk gown, the neckline of which is cut very low around her neck.  An executioner stands waiting, motionless.  Once she has climbed the last steps, surrounded by her four ladies-in-waiting, the young woman discovers the block, the sabre and an open coffin.  She does not even blink.  With the serenity of the pure, she prays.

The previous day, upon learning that, by the grace of her monstrous spouse, she would be neither hanged, nor burned, but decapitated, she had gently enquired:

“Is the executioner skilled at least?”

Then she had added, touching her neck with her hand:

“It is true that it will not be too difficult for him;  it is so slim!…”

The four ladies-in-waiting approach to assist her.  She pushes them away, smiling, undoes her headdress all studded with pearls, on her own, leaving only the snood which holds her long, black hair.  After which, she kneels and places her head on the block.

Anne Boleyn's execution. When her head had fallen, the Queen's lips were seen to be moving in silent prayer.

As the executioner raises his arm, Anne can be heard to murmur:

“My sweet Jesus, take pity on me!”

Then the sabre falls on the frail neck that had so often been caressed by Henry VIII.

The head bounces and falls into the straw.

The ladies-in-waiting are then stunned to see that the Queen’s lips are still moving in silent prayer.

At this moment, the firing of a cannon makes London shake.  Its purpose is to inform the King, inside his White Hall palace, that his second wife is dead and that he can prepare his marriage to Jane Seymour.

The ladies-in-waiting, in tears, immediately take “with much precious care” the head and gentle body of Anne Boleyn, then they put them in the coffin which is whisked off to Saint Peter of Vincula Chapel where the remains are buried with no religious ceremony.

Henry VIII, who is going to marry Jane Seymour the next day, is then thinking that nothing more would be heard of Anne Boleyn, inhumed “like an anonymous shipwreck” and that even her memory would be effaced from people’s minds.

This shows his ignorance of the maliciousness of ghosts.

A few days before her death, Anne had written a poem in which she compares herself, in strangely premonitory fashion, to a “guiltless ghost”.  And, since 1536, this “guiltless ghost” has not ceased to haunt England.  It is true that, in this country, everyone knows that the innocent are unable to have any rest as long as justice has not been rendered to them.

The first manifestation of Anne’s ghost took place on the night following her execution.  A few people from Norfolk, who later assured that they had been horrified – which can easily be admitted – see a carriage drawn by four decapitated horses drive by.  Inside was the Queen in a white gown, holding her head in her lap.  This appalling carriage arrives at the gates of Blickling Hall, where Anne was born, and disappears suddenly.

From then on, Anne Boleyn’s ghost will never cease to haunt this castle where she had lived as a child, sliding along the corridors, silently climbing the stairs, warming itself by a fireside, traversing walls, travelling through the castle grounds on moonlit nights, making the cords of the psalteries and violas vibrate in the Music Room, or frightening the cats by its unusual light.  To the point that the inhabitants of Blickling Hall will very quickly get used to this “presence” and today no-one feels the least bit frightened by hearing, at night, the famous swishing of the silk gown, not even the most fearful of chambermaids…

The principal characteristic of ghosts is ubiquity.  Anne Boleyn’s ghost appears therefore in many other places.

It is regularly seen at Rockford Hall, in South-East Essex, a castle which, like Blickling Hall, used to belong to Anne’s family.  There, it roams over the lawns during the “twelve days of Christmas”, which is the period that separates the 25 December from Epiphany.  These twelve days were considered, before christianism, in Europe’s primitive societies, as a magical period.  They began at the solstice, which the Ancient peoples situated on 25 December, and ended when the lengthening of the days became clearly noticeable, that is to say, on 6 January.  The Church “christianized” this period by framing it with Christmas and the Festival of the Kings.

Anne’s ghost seems also to like a room in the North-East part of the building known by the name of “Anne’s Nursery”.  Not content with screaming, slamming doors and making diverse other noises, it indulges in lugubrious facetiae.  It is said that bloodstains appear on the floor, on the anniversary of the day of the execution.

This haunted chamber has naturally attracted numerous spiritists.  Some have felt strong emotions there.  The writer Charlotte Mason recounts, for example, that during a meeting held one night in 1928, a black cat suddenly fell down the chimney in a cloud of soot, plunging the participants into indescriptible terror.  Another time, hands surging from the invisible tore ribbons off a little girl whom wisdom should have commanded to leave at home.  Finally, in 1965, the members of an association specialized in contacts with the After-Life were deliciously ill with fear in seeing a headless woman pass among them…

***

Hever Castle in Kent, where Anne Boleyn's ghost appears each Christmas Eve, crossing the bridge over the Eden River on the twelfth stroke of midnight.

Anne Boleyn’s ghost also appears on Christmas Eve at Hever Castle, near Edenbridge, in Kent.  On the twelfth stroke of midnight, it can be seen slowly crossing the bridge over Eden River.  It is there that the young woman’s romance with Henry VIII began.

Anne Boleyn’s ghost is sometimes mischievous.  It seems to take malicious pleasure in frequenting Merwell Hall, in Hampshire, a castle haunted by the ghost of its rival, Jane Seymour.  And some nights, the inhabitants see floating on the lawn the scintillating silhouettes of the two White Ladies.  One with a head and one without…  Jane Seymour, whom Henry VIII married on 20 May 1536, died the following year, on 24 October 1537, after having given birth to the future Edward VI.

To be continued.

The battle of the Shades – part 3

On 17 December 1680, the inhabitants of Ottery, in England, witnessed a celestial combat in which a comet was involved.

Most of these abundant witness reports escape the clinical definition of visual hallucination and everything that we know about mirages.  Here are two other cases of exceptional interest, among the hundreds that have been registered, starting with the combat related in Book II of Maccabees, which took place in the Jerusalem sky when Antiochus was getting ready to make war on Egypt…

The first case, which is one of the best authenticated, concerns a vision which occurred at Keinton in England, at the beginning of 1642…

Regrettably, it is often thought that the older the event, the less credible it is.  This same year, England sees the eruption of a Civil War which is just as well-known to us as the last year of King Louis XIII of France’s reign at the same epoch, or the events of February 1936…

When the Justice of the Peace of the County of Keinton, William Wood, backed up by several honourable people, certifies under oath to have seen a battle of spectres opposing the Puritans and the army of King Charles I of England, there is no apparent reason to doubt his sincerity…

On 23 January 1643, between midnight and one o’clock in the morning, some shepherds, some peasants, and some travellers begin to hear distant drum rolls over Edgehill, then cries of soldiers in agony, and the firing of muskets and cannons.  Gradually, the noises move closer and become so loud that the witnesses, terrified, want to flee.  This is when the furia of the “incorporal soldiers”, as the principal witness puts it, begins to be unleashed on the nearby hills, petrifying the spectators on the spot.  At the head of this first army, the flags of Charles I can easily be distinguished, preceded by several cannons and drummers in amaranth uniforms, beating the charge.  From the other side of the hill, the Puritan battalions surge, preceded by troops of cavalry which swoop onto their adversaries.  Soon, the melee is terrifying, and nobody among the witnesses thinks to flee any more out of fear that these infernal soldiers would turn against them…  After three hours of hand-to-hand combats, the partisans of Charles I, flee…

This event of course creates a sensation throughout the whole county, and the next day, the notables, Church ministers at their head, go to the place of combat, armed with rolls of paper, pens, and of course sprinklers of holy water and manuals of exorcism.

The battle of the ghosts takes place three more times with an even more considerable fracas of weapons, and the talk about this business finally arrives at the King’s ears.  Charles I immediately names a Commission, led by Colonel Lewis Kirke.  One week later, the battle takes place again, and some members of the Commission are even able to recognize several of the spectres, notably Sir Edmond Varney, who had been killed during the historical Battle of Edgehill…  two months earlier.

***

It is not always soldiers that are seen in the sky. Alpinists climbing the Cervin in August 1900 suddenly saw these strange crosses...

If we admit that the witnesses did not just have visual and auditive hallucinations, it is difficult for us to understand the sense of these historical doublings, these hiccoughs of Reason, but also of imagination.  Since they are only the replica of something that has already happened…  It is irritating for our human conception of space-time.  But in the case of the ghostly combats displaced in time, there is something even more troubling…

In the very first days of February 1574, five soldiers of the Bourgeois Guard of Utrecht, who are on guard around midnight, see on the near horizon, the representation of a terrible battle.  A first army, coming from the North-West, has manoeuvred very rapidly to surprise, it seems, another army coming from the South-East and moving slowly in some disorder, as if it were leaving a camp situated well away from the Front.  From this moment, the guards, who are used to seeing Spanish invaders attacking the “patriot” positions of the Count of Nassau, follow the different phases of the battle, notably its epilogue, when they see the army from the North-West regroup one last time and throw itself on the enemy which has formed a square surrounded by a double row of muskets.  The lances of the army from the South-East break like “frail reeds”, the sentinels note when they later make their statements under oath, and the columns are pushed back in disorder.

The Utrecht magistrates take this vision very seriously:  it appears to describe the end of the troop movements, before the great clash which would oppose the Spaniards of Don Luis of Requesens to the Dutch.  The guards’ precisions are so convincing, that the inhabitants of Utrecht have no doubts about the outcome of the decisive battle…  to come.  This unfolds on 13 February at Mook, that is to say, twelve days after the vision.  Count Louis of Nassau, the brother of William of Orange, finds there, with numerous knights, a glorious death.  The American historian Motley, a specialist of this period, is formal:  there are so many similarities between the vision and its realisation twelve days later, that luck cannot be invoked.  But, there again, we could formulate the hypothesis of a different time, which is no longer divided into “before”, “during” and “after”, like the time that we know now, a time relative to the spectators that we are, locked up in a theatre of shadows who, if they could get out, would have the revelation of absolute time, deployed motionlessly, in an eternal present…

***

A few decades ago, a former Commander of the Gendarmerie, Emile Tizane, who consecrated forty years of his life to investigating hauntings, assures in the book that he wrote that the apparitions are today just as numerous as before.  As for ghostly battles, not so long ago, the Defence Minister of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II took the head of an expedition destined to verify the validity of a battle of spectres which unfolds every 23 October at Kineton inside a terrain which is used as an army ammunition depot.

***

Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, has never seen a ghost, but does not necessarily deny that they exist.  He believes, along with Alexis Carrel, that in certain circumstances, Knowledge will one day establish that Man is capable of bending or stretching himself well beyond his apparent limits…

***

Warriors circulating in the sky have been signalled at all epochs and in all countries.

Captain Bennett, a British Member of Parliament and Minister as well as a war correspondent for the Times in 1914-1918, investigated at this period in Crete.  He collected a great number of witness statements which confirm that the phenomenon occurs regularly in this uninhabited site of southern Crete, in just the way that we have described, usually at the end of Spring.  It is so well-known there, that few Cretans disbelieve it…

***

On 17 May 1928, Bennett went to the Drosulite beach and set up a camp there with the help of four military policemen lent by the Governor of the island.  As his means were not unlimited, he was unable to remain there after 30 May…

During these two weeks he saw nothing.  But three days after he had struck camp, the Men of the Dew manifested themselves with exceptional vigour…

To affirm that all the witnesses that Bennett met are liars or suffered hallucinations, would be much more stupid than just to believe in the veracity of the phenomenon.

Several inhabitants from the neighbouring village of Thymi gave him a description very similar to that of Guthrie…

***

Bennett also interviewed a pope who was living alone in a little cottage near the ruined castle.  He answered his questions with a lot of reticence, as much through fear of encouraging the superstitions as of seeing his retreat invaded by the inquisitive.  The good Father had seen the Drosulites several times and had even spoken of them to the Archbishop of Crete.  Who had gone to the beach and seen the reality of the phenomenon.  He confirmed that the “spectres” were parading in arms, and that sometimes even the form of their standards and ensigns was distinctly visible.  That they could be seen from either side of the invariable itinerary which they took, and that they effectively appeared only at the setting or the rising of the sun…

***

It is possible that these apparitions are connected to a natural phenomenon.  However, some observers never see the Drosulites while others, who are watching beside them in the same conditions, see them perfectly…  The Bishop of Rethymo remained for twenty days on the Franco Kastelli beach at the same epoch as the Archbishop, and saw nothing…

***

Louis Pauwels is of the opinion that only those endowed with mediumnic faculties are able to see them, in some circumstances.  If it is only a question of doubles or reflections, where are the originals?  Mirages sometimes reflect objects which are very far away, but which exist in the instant when the light, unequally refracted in the layers of unequally hot air, projects them onto the horizon.  Even supposing that such a troop is marching somewhere on the island or even off it, how can the weapons and the costumes, that all witnesses agree are from Antiquity, be explained?…

***

In the XIVth Century, these ships floating in the clouds frightened the inhabitants of a Breton town for a whole morning.

On 4 June 1928, a Greek officer, very well-known at the time, General Hadjimichalis, who did not live on the island, saw the Drosulites very distinctly.  He had been told about them by a woman who had come to Crete for the harvests and who, when she saw them, at first described them as being harvesters.  Guthrie and his companions also saw them, so the phenomenon cannot be some sort of collective hallucination seen only by the Cretans…

***

Around 1905, one of the Governors of Crete, Mr Psyllakis, who had seen the shades, verified that no folkloric parade or commemoration of a battle in Antiquity was taking place in May or June in any neighbouring town or village…

***

The beach at Franco Kastelli is completely enclaved by the White Mountains which culminate at 2,500 metres.  Mirages have never been seen to be transported over such obstacles…

***

Although this is a very singular phenomenon, it is not unique…  Far from it.  History relates many visions of ghostly troops, at all epochs.

A Conservator of the Bibliotheque nationale, Jean Pierre Seguin, indicated in an article which appeared in Le Monde, in July 1967, they he had at his disposal a good hundred publications mentioning the apparition of armed troops, but also animals, human figures and diverse frightening objects, sometimes projected in the sky.  For example, at Sarlat, on Monday 11 September 1587, two armies, equipped from head to foot, delivered a long battle above the Parish of Carsac.

In 1895, a German magazine which was much-read at the time, the Hausfreund, published the following story supported by numerous proofs and witness statements:  at the beginning of 1795, some things occurred near Ujest in Upper Silesia which were much talked about throughout the whole of Germany.

On 27 January of that year, between 3 and 4 o’clock in the afternoon, around fifty people working in the fields suddenly saw a body of infantry disposed in three ranks and preceded by two officers carrying red flags, marching towards them.  At a certain point, these troops stopped and the first line fired in the direction of the peasants, who did not however hear any noise.  Very thick smoke immediately rose from the ranks and when it disappeared, hussards on horseback had replaced the infantry.  The hussards disappeared just as suddenly as the infantry had appeared.

On 3 February, around 8 o’clock in the morning, 400 peasants this time, again saw, at the same place, the same soldiers.  A “hot-head” leaped on a horse and galloped towards them;  but when he arrived he saw no trace of them, while the spectators who had remained behind, were seeing him in the midst of ghostly soldiers wearing diverse uniforms.  On 15 February, the scene occurred again in front of thirty people.  General von Sass, immediately told of the apparition, then sent a detachment of soldiers to the place.  As soon as these soldiers arrived, the ghostly soldiers, who had disappeared, reappeared.  The officer who was commanding the detachment, spurred his horse and took off in this direction;  immediately, an officer on horseback also rode out from the ranks of the ghosts and went to meet him.  They both saluted each other.  But when the Prussian officer asked the other who he was and what he was doing there, he obtained no answer.  He then seized his pistol and was going to fire, when everything suddenly disappeared.

Perhaps the most inexplicable thing about this is that there was a contact between the living and the spectres…

***

To be continued.

A celestial combat seen by the inhabitants of a Touraine town, in 1480. Wood XVIth Century.

It is early May, and already the African wind is changing Spring in Crete into a furnace.  On a little beach in the island’s North, a mule caravan is moving along, on its way to the White Mountains from whence can be seen, on a clear day, Cythera and even the Peloponnese…  But instead of taking the Eskifu road towards the interior, the head muletier continues along the coast.  Guthrie, an English tourist, calls him to the rear.  The man, who is wearing ample Ottoman clothing, apologizes, saying that he had thought that they wanted to see “the Shades”.  Amused, the Englishman asks him where he thinks that he is going to find any shade in this desert.  The muletier is offended.

“I’m serious.  You can see them in the evening quite near here…  Near the ruins of the castle, Franco Kastelli.  It’s an old Venitian fortress.  Over one hundred years ago, the Greeks and the Turks fought there.  They did it a lot…  And since then, the Shades return every May.”

“And what do these shades do?”

“They fight each other and a lot of them are killed or wounded!”

Guthrie mops his perspiring brow and advises the muletier, whose name is Yami, to take an obviously much-needed rest…  in the shade, of course.

That evening, while camping in a little shepherd’s hut half-way up the Aspra-Vuna, a two thousand metre high mountain, the Englishman, who is accompanied by two friends, pensively watches the sun sinking into the sea.  It’s that indecisive hour when everything which seems banal by day is tinted with strangeness…  On this immemorial land where, since sombre King Minos, a torrent of blood from wars of conquest and insurrections has flowed…  Suddenly, Guthrie says:

“And what if this countryside could reflect through time something of these dramas?…  Tomorrow, if you like, we’ll go to see if there is a shadow performance at the Franco Kastelli theatre!…”

***

The next morning, the English tourists start off before Dawn.  By questioning their guides, they have learnt that the shades also sometimes manifest themselves in the morning, and that some in Crete call them, for this reason, “the Drosulites” or “Men of the Dew”.  Guthrie, who is an engineer and, in these 1930 years, has retained something of the spirit of adventure of the XIXth Century British people, very much hopes to liven up his vacation.  He thinks that, whatever happens, back in his London club, this excursion must furnish some material for an anecdote…  Or, who knows, a declaration to the Science Academy about a phenomenon which, because dew has been mentioned, must be of a meterological or optical nature, and is only an illusion, a mirage, but which he will be the first to observe with the phlegm and rigour of a strong mind…

The little troup is back on the beach which leads to the castle.  The day has not yet dawned, but a light is coming from the East, from the faraway coasts of Syria.  Yami puts his mules to a trot and cries out:

“The castle is down there, in that little gulf!”

This part of the beach is perfectly flat, and less than a kilometre away, parts of the crumbling walls of the old fortress with its damaged tower can be seen.  Our travellers agree that the simple topography of the place will render any trickery impossible and that even if any phenomenon did occur inside the ruins, they would have no difficulty in seeing what it was close up…

They sit down in the warm sand and drink the coffee that Yami pours for them from a thermos.  Then Guthrie and one of his two companions advance about one hundred metres towards the citadelle.  The third Englishman, who has remained behind, is finding that the night has been very short.  He is also asking himself what he is doing here waiting for the improbable to happen.  He wraps himself in a blanket and lights his pipe…

This battle between a regiment of Napoleon and an English regiment was very distinctly seen in the sky by British citizens at the end of the XIXth Century. The combat lasted nearly an hour.

Yami, who is finishing unpacking the mules, suddenly hears him call out:

“Hey!…  Hey, there!…  Yes, there!  I can see them!  The shades are coming towards us!”

He has leapt to his feet and is making wild signs to his companions who do not seem to have seen anything.  As he  continues to gesticulate, they hurry back.  Yami has prudently taken his mules towards the sea…

“It’s unbelievable!  I can’t see them any more now!…  But I’m sure I didn’t dream it!”

Back together again, the three men intently scrutinize the ruins.

“There they are!  They’re back again!…  You have to crouch down to see them…”

Guthrie murmurs:

“My God!  It’s a veritable army on the march!”

Three hundred metres in front of them, coming from the East, they distinctly see armed men advancing in a long line.  Guthrie says:

“They’re certainly not the Greeks and the Turks Yami talked about.  They look more like Roman legionaries!”

“Or Persians!”

suggests one of his companions.  The younger of the two anxiously asks:

“Do you think that we risk anything?”

Guthrie replies:

“Of course not!  It’s surely only a mirage…  See, when we stand up, the legs of the “Shades” seem to evaporate!”

The elder of his two companions replies:

“I’ve seen lots of mirages in Africa, but never anything like this!  You can clearly see their helmets and their chainmail…  and some of them are a lot bigger than others!”

Guthrie says:

“It’s strange!  There are only foot soldiers…  Now they are going straight for the ruins!  Dawn isn’t far off…  look!  You can see the spears glittering…  It’s really crazy!  I must absolutely see this close up.  Yami!…”

The Crete guide has gathered his mules who are moving nervously.  He cries out:

“In the name of Saint Panasia, let us leave!  The Shades are a bad omen!”

“Right…  I’ll go on foot!  Try not to let me out of your sight!”

His companions want to stop him, but the engineer has already taken off running.  Five minutes have gone by since the beginning of the apparition and the little group that has remained near the sea, watches, petrified, as the Englishman goes towards the head of the column which is now less than one hundred metres from the castle.  A few seconds later, the witnesses see him traverse the column and go towards the heights which surround the fortress on the mountains side.

Guthrie is 400 metres from them now, but his companions still clearly see him transparently through the fantastic troop, whose progression had in no way been disturbed when the Englishman opened a passage through it.

Still through the column, they again see him waving his arms, moving forward, moving back, and making signs to them to make them understand that he is seeing the phenomenon too, from the side on which he is.

Only a quarter of an hour has passed.  Those who are contemplating, fascinated, this incredible spectacle, have to crouch down again to continue to see it.  Already, the legs and trunks of the spectres have become invisible again…  Soon the only thing left of the warriors of the shadows, is a flash of light on a sword or a shield.  Shadows returned to the shadows, evaporated like the dew in the rising sun…

***

To be continued.

This soldier has just been killed. He will think that he is still alive for a little while.

The next part of Johnson’s message came a few days later:

O. K., it’s working.  I’m fine.  I would so much like to finish my story.  Good, well, as I was saying, Sandy appeared inspired, I can’t find another word, and suddenly, he’s the one who seems to be our leader;  on his side, the Captain was conscienciously obeying his orders.  As the forms around me gradually became more distinct, I was losing contact with the living;  the dead were looking more real to me.  Then there was the attack from the Boschs who seized the gun, but we weren’t touched.  A German went through us, without appearing either to see us, or hear us, unlike us who even had the smell of his sweat in our nostrils.  This smell suddenly appeared so repugnant to me, although it was familiar, that I felt almost ill.  Then I saw that Sandy and the Captain had moved away.  I got Jock up and said to him:

“Above all, let’s not lose those two, otherwise we’ve had it.”

Jock agreed, but once we were standing, I discovered that we couldn’t keep our feet on the ground.  It was laughable and it was difficult for us to advance.  Jock and I were sort of floating.  I proposed:

“What if we hold hands to stay on the ground”,

with the result that we floated even more.  It took us ages to catch up with Sandy and the Captain.  They weren’t paying any attention to us anyway, as they were totally occupied with someone who had joined them.  The stranger was not wearing a uniform and, for a few seconds, I asked myself how a civilian had been able to get here.  He looked Arab.  When he turned toward me and looked at me, I felt as if I had been re-created by him.  I kneeled and murmured:

“Christ”

with all the respect of a child.

“No, not Christ, but one of his messengers”

said the man before whom I was bowed.

“He wants you.”

He wanted me!

“But why?”

I asked in a wobbly voice.  He raised his eyes toward the others, but as for me, I saw nothing more than a glorious light.  It filled my head and burned something that was holding me in this place.  Then the voice made itself heard again:

“By your sacrifice, you have reached the crown of fortitude.”

Then I don’t remember anything.  That was my last moment on Earth.  I would like certain fellows to know how we go.  It’s marvellous.

I’m tired now and I can’t finish.  Thank you.

Johnson.

***

The cover of Lord Dowding's book.

We cannot talk about these messages as if they were ordinary texts.  The means by which they have come to us (automatic writing) is not accepted by everybody and their readers are divided into two categories:  those who snigger and those who are troubled.  The first declare that these “communications” come from Mrs Gascoigne’s subconscious.  And they could be right.  The others, on the other hand, think that they are prodigious documents on what awaits us in the immediate After-Life.  And it could be that they are not wrong…

***

These texts were published by the most famous person in the Royal Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding (of whom it has been said that he was the Churchill of the Air) in a work entitled Many Mansions.

***

All those who met Mrs Gascoigne and her daughter affirmed that they were very intelligent, cultured and full of common sense.

***

It is possible that they were prone to fabulation.  But knowing that they were in good mental health, that they did not make a business of their activity, that they sought neither publicity, nor notoriety, we could ask with what aim they would have invented all this.

***

It is true that many people are animated by pulsions which remain incomprehensible to common mortals…  But if we accept this hypothesis, there remains to explain how these two women, who lived in England, could have had knowledge of things which had often unfolded thousands of kilometres from their home and of which there was confirmation sometimes long after the war.

***

Without knowing it, Group Captain Peter Townsend, here in his Spitfire, must have followed flight patterns and combat methods which came from the After-Life.

Lord Dowding absolutely believed all that Mrs Gascoigne and her daughter recounted.  It must be said that he had himself been in contact with pilots who had died during the Battle of Britain…

Lord Dowding openly talked about it.  He even wrote a book on the subject, prefaced works dealing with spiritism and confessed in an interview that he had been helped in his combat against Germany by British pilots who had been killed by the Luftwaffe.

Lord Dowding declared to the journalist Jean Potter in 1963 [I have translated back to English from the French version, so a few words might differ]:

“I entered into contact more than twenty times with pilots who had died during the Battle of Britain.  They recounted to me how they had been brought down and I drew lessons from their stories to give advice to my fighter crews.  I was able to avoid the death of a lot of my men in this way.  This is what contributed to the final victory!”

***

Messerschmitt pilots would have been astonished to learn that their RAF adversaries were guided by ghosts.

Lord Dowding had these dialogues with dead pilots through the intermediary of the wife of a Wimbledon doctor, who was a medium.  The messages that he obtained through her, offer numerous points of similarity with those received by Mrs Gascoigne and her daughter.

“Thanks to my conversations with my invisible correspondents, I was able to get an idea of the life that they led in the After-Life.  Death came so suddenly that they didn’t know how it had happened.  Still in a state close to the Earth, wandering between a physical state and an astral state, they didn’t realize that they were dead.  For these poor boys, the situation was terrible.  They saw people in the streets, tried to stop them, but the passers-by continued to walk in the midst of them.”

And he added:

“Ghosts that the Earth retains try to obtain help to liberate themselves from the Earth.  This is why they try to communicate by all means available to them”…

With the aim of helping them, Lord Dowding created a little circle of spiritists, but was himself unable to hear or see anything whatsoever.  On the other hand, the female medium saw the dead who came to them and described them to him.

“Our first task was to talk to them as if they were alive.”

And he adds with humour:

“How can you tell a boy:   I’m sorry old man, but you’re dead?”…

***

Lord Dowding tells us, speaking about those who came, attracted by his medium:

“After a while, they had the impression that we were disappearing.  They asked:  ‘Why are you glowing with a little shimmering light?’  This was a good sign.  It meant that they were going away from the Earth and that they had stopped seeing our physical bodies, to see only our astral bodies.  Our task had ended.”

Sometimes, Lord Dowding was obliged to use subterfuge so that the pilots understood their new state.

“I asked them to give me a slap on the back.  Of course, their hand passed through me and they started to understand…”

***

Lord Dowding and his medium were able to identify some of their correspondents.  The young woman described the uniforms, the badges, the insignia which corresponded to those of the pilots of missing aeroplanes.  She also gave details about their physical appearance, indicated the colour of their hair and their eyes and left out no distinctive sign.  All of these precisions were later verified and all were recognized to be exact.

***

Sometimes the “ghosts” gave their names, and the medium carefully noted them.  Which allowed Lord Dowding to know before everybody else that one of his bombers had been shot down and that the seven members of its crew had just died in Germany.

***

Suspecting that certain people in his entourage might think that he was a bit “strange”, he declared one day with humour:

“It’s not so bad to be a bit ‘cracked’;  sometimes, it lets the light in”…

***

This soldier has just been killed. He will think that he is still alive for a little while.

Extract from a message from a soldier killed during a skirmish in Libya

I wanted a drink so badly!  But for some reason, I couldn’t manage it.  However, I wanted it so much that I finally succeeded.  This will make you laugh.  But never in my life had I wanted something so much as that whisky and soda.  And it just appeared, like magic;  the soda sparkling and limpid!  I poured myself a glass and drank until I was no longer thirsty!  To start with, the whisky seemed good to me, but after a little while, I only wanted to taste the soda, pure and limpid.  My wish came true.  I hadn’t yet realized that my wishes were generating events.

29 January 1943.

***

Another message from Libya

O. K. it’s working.  I’m happy.  I’ve been trying to thank you for a long time, but it was impossible to make myself heard by you.

We arrived in Spring.  I came from Snodsbury.  I’ll give you my name later, but you probably wouldn’t remember me.  We were all separated and I was sent to Egypt.  It was something!  I never would have believed that I was going to go through all this.  You know what I mean.  I didn’t know that dying was like this.  I thought that everything was totally over and finished.  Sometimes it was so hard that I didn’t see how I could still hang on.  And then suddenly, it stopped – and I felt as fresh as anything.  The instant before I was exhausted and hot;  terribly hot, and thirsty, with a horrible headache.  The sound of the battle was literally tearing me to pieces.  Then, suddenly, I was feeling great, as cool and rested as anything.  I was watching what was happening and hearing the noise, but I wasn’t affected by it.  I couldn’t believe that I’d bought it.  I saw my body with holes everywhere, and I still didn’t believe it.  It seems to me that I tried to drag it away from the gun, but I couldn’t extract it from the mass formed by those who had fallen all around me, and even on me.  We had well and truly taken a direct hit.

The others weren’t there;  that seemed odd to me.  There was no-one.  Then I saw our Captain.  He came to me, and I made a sign in the direction of my body.  It took his breath away for an instant, then he declared:

“Oh well, I suppose that there is nothing more to say.  Funny planet, Johnson.  And I presume that it’s better to continue.”

I answered:

“Yes Sir, but what do we do now?”

“Load the gun of course you idiot”,

he said, just like before.  I obeyed him, but as strong as I felt, I couldn’t move the shells.  It wasn’t that they were very heavy, but I couldn’t hold them.  I said this to my Captain who came to help me.  He didn’t stop swearing.  We tried together, but did it move?  Not an inch.  We were there, two strong fellows, trying as hard as we could to lift a little anti-aircraft shell, and we couldn’t manage it.  In the end, I sat down and started to laugh.  I said:

“Well, have you ever heard of two dead chaps firing a gun?”

He was red with anger.

“Absolutely, and, not only that, we’re going to succeed.  We’re in good enough form, aren’t we?  Come on.”

I kept quiet once more, thinking that he had gone mad and it was better not to ruffle his feathers.  We tried again and I began to see, not the efforts we were making with our hands, you understand, but the Captain himself.  His tenacity was such that he seemed to project a force.  In my eyes, he was like what you imagine a radio station relay to be (if it’s possible to see one, that is), and the answer was going through, not his fingers, but through his whole body.

Lots of people with indistinct forms joined us and worked with us.  I can’t say that the gun was fired as such, but projectiles were launched from it.  The ‘planes that were flying back and forth above us suddenly started to lose speed, return to their base or crash.  I was stunned.  I’d never seen anything like it in my life.  In appearance there was no sound, the firing was silent.  We all however felt the gun’s recoil.  This encouraged us for what followed.  It was the weirdest experience.  This is when I saw Jock approaching.  He too had received bullets, but he hadn’t been with us until now.  Having recognized the Captain and me, he stood to attention.  The Captain was too busy to pay any attention to him, but Jock had always been a talker.  I hurried to shut him up:

“Wait a minute, my boy, the dead people in the gang are in the process of inventing a new operational tactic.  Come and join us then and try not to give up along the way.”

I stayed near Jock and got him to watch what the Captain was doing.

The Captain was a great fellow for sure.  His will seemed to retreat before nothing.  I was preparing to move when he glared at me, and said:

“Keep still and think – for the love of God, think with all your might, that’s what you have to do now.  We have our intelligence and our willpower, and if the three of us join forces we’ll manage to fire and protect our boys’ anti-aircraft shelter.  Don’t you see the men who are helping us?”

That’s when I saw Sandy, who had been killed last Thursday.  He was standing in the water which was up to his waist and was making funny movements with his arms.  I looked at his eyes.  They really were Sandy’s eyes, but they were different, bright like stars.  He seemed inspired, if you can say that…

I don’t think that I can finish this story today.  Can I stop now and come back?  I liked telling it to you a lot.  You understand, it’s my first real adventure.  Thank you.

Johnson.

***

To be continued.

%d bloggers like this: