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[Stead had often claimed that he would die from either lynching or drowning. Stead published two pieces that gained greater significance in light of his death on the Titanic. On 22 March 1886, he published an article titled "How the Mail Steamer went down in Mid Atlantic by a Survivor", which has a steamer colliding with another ship, resulting in a high loss of life due to an insufficient ratio of lifeboats to passengers. Stead had added: "This is exactly what might take place and will take place if liners are sent to sea short of boats". In 1892, Stead published a story titled "From the Old World to the New", in which a vessel, the Majestic, rescues survivors of another ship that collided with an iceberg.
"One of the premonitions referred to by my Father was fulfilled on that fatal night in April, 1912, when the Titanic struck an iceberg and sunk with 1,600 souls, and his life on this plane ended.
He had known for years and stated the fact to many that he would not die in his bed and that his 'passing' would be sudden and dramatic--that he would, as he put it, 'die in his boots.'" ~ E.W. Stead]
Warnings Of Peril And Death by William Thomas Stead
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It is said that every family has a skeleton in its cupboard. It would be equally true to say that every family has a ghost in its records. Sometimes it is a ghost of the living, sometimes of the dead; but there are few who, if they inquire among their relatives, will not find one or more instances of apparitions, which, however small their evidential credentials, are implicitly accepted as genuine by those who witnessed them. In taking the Census of Hallucinations I made inquiry of an old schoolfellow of mine, who, after I came to Wimbledon, was minister of the Congregational Church in that suburb. He subsequently removed to Portsmouth, where I found him with his father one morning, on the occasion of the laying of the foundationstone of the new Sunday school. On mentioning the subject of the Census of Ghosts, the Rev. Mr, Talbot, senior, mentioned a very remarkable apparition which, unlike most apparitions, appeared in time to save the life of its owner.
How a Double Saved a Life.
The Rev. Mr. Talbot, the father of my late pastor, gave me the following account of the apparition:—
"My mother had an extraordinary power of foreseeing and also of seeing visions. Of her premonitions and dreams I could give you many instances; but as that is not the point at present, I will give you the narrative of her other faculty, that of seeing spiritual or phantasmal forms which were not visible to others. We were sitting at tea one evening when my mother suddenly exclaimed, 'Dear me, Mrs. Lister is coming up the path, with her handkerchief to her eyes as if crying, on her way to the door. What can have brought her out at this time? There seems to be something the matter with her head. I will go to the door and let her in.' So saying, my mother arose and went to the front door, where she firmly expected to find Mrs. Lister. None of the rest of us had seen Mrs. Lister come up the path, but as our attention might have been occupied in another direction we did not think anything of it. To my mother's astonishment, when she reached the door Mrs. Lister was not visible. She came back into the room much disturbed. 'There is something the matter with Mrs. Lister,' she said. 'I am certain there is. Yoke the horse and we will drive over at once to the Listers' house—which stood about one mile from our place—and see what is the matter.'
"My father, knowing from of old that mother had reason for what she said, yoked the horse and drove off with my mother as rapidly as possible to Lister's house. When they arrived there they knocked at the door; there was no answer. Opening the door they found no one downstairs. My mother then went to Mrs. Leister's bedroom and found the unfortunate lady, apparently breathing her last, lying in a pool of blood. Her husband, in a fit of insanity, had severely beaten her and left her for dead, and then went and drowned himself in a pond.
"My father immediately went off for a doctor, who was able to stitch up Mrs. Lister's worst wounds and arrest the bleeding. In the end Mrs. Lister recovered, owing her life entirely to the fortunate circumstance that at the moment of losing consciousness she had apparently been able to project a visual phantasm of herself before the window of our tea-room. She was a friend of my mother's, and no doubt in her dire extremity had longed for her company. This longing in Mrs. Lister, in some way unknown to us, probably produced the appearance which startled my mother and led to her prompt appearance on the scene of the tragedy."
This story was told me by Mr. Talbot, who was then a boy, seated at the table at which his mother witnessed the apparition, and was regarded by him as absolutely true. Evidence in support of it now will be somewhat difficult to get, as almost all the witnesses have passed over to the majority, but I have no reason to doubt the truth of the story.
More Doubles Seeking Help.
The story of Mrs. Lister's double appearing to Mrs. Talbot when in imminent peril of death, however it may be scouted by the sceptics, is at least entirely in accord with many other narratives of the kind.
A member of the Psychical Research Society in Southport sends me the following account of an apparition of a severely wounded man, which bears considerable resemblance to Mr. Talbot's, although its evidential value is nothing like so good. Its importance rests solely in the fact that the apparition appeared as the result, not of death, but of a very serious injury which might have had fatal consequences:—
"Some years ago, a lady named Lt. B. was staying with relations at Beckenham, her husband being away at a shooting party in Essex. On a certain afternoon, when she had, as she says, no especial reason for her husband being recalled to her mind, she was somewhat surprised, on looking out of her bedroom window, to see him, as she imagined, entering the front garden gate. Wondering what could have been the cause of the unexpected arrival, she exclaimed to her sisterin-law, 'Why, there's Tom!' and went downstairs thinking to meet him entering the house. He was nowhere to be seen. Not long afterwards there arrived the news that her husband had been shot accidentally and considerably injured. Directly they met she related to him her curious vision, and on comparing notes it was discovered that it had certainly taken place more or less at the same hour as the accident, the husband declaring that as he fainted away his wife was most distinctly present in his thoughts. There was, unfortunately, no means of exactly fixing the hour, but there was no doubt at the time that the two occurrences— viz. the hallucination and the accident—must have anyhow taken place within a short time of one another, if not simultaneously."
Here we have an incident not unlike that which occurred to Mrs. Talbot—the unexpected apparition of the phantasm or dual body of one who at the moment was in imminent danger of death. Tales of this class are somewhat rare, but when they do occur they indicate conclusively that there is no connection between the apparition of the wraith and the decease of the person to whom it belongs.
Here is another story that is sent me by a correspondent in Belsize Park Gardens, who vouches for the bona fides of the lady on whose authority he tells the tale:—
"A Scotch waitress in my employ, whilst laying the cloth for dinner one day, was startled by perceiving her father's face looking at her through the window. She rushed out of the room and opened the front door, expecting to see him. Greatly surprised at finding no trace of him, after carefully searching the front garden, and looking up and down the road, she came in, and sitting down in the hall nearly fainted with fright. On inquiring for particulars she told me she had distinctly seen her father's face, with a distressed expression upon it, looking earnestly at her. She seemed much troubled, and felt sure something was wrong. A few days after this vision a letter came, saying that her father (a Scotch gamekeeper) had been thrown from a dog-cart and nearly killed. She left my employ to go and nurse him."
Two Doubles Summon a Priest to Their Deathbeds.
The next narrative should rather have come under the head of premonitions, but as the premonition in this case was accompanied by an apparition, I include it in the present chapter. It is, in its way, even more remarkable than Mr. Talbot's story. It is more recent, it is prophetic, and the apparitions of two living men appeared together to predict the day of their death. The narrative rests on the excellent authority of the Rev. Father Fleming, the hard-working Catholic priest of Slindon, in Sussex. I heard of it from one of his parishioners who is a friend of mine, and on applying to Father Fleming, he was kind enough to write out the following account of his strange experience, for the truth of every word of which he is prepared to vouch. In all the wide range of spectral literature I know no story that is quite like this:—
"I was spending my usual vacation in Dublin in the year 1868, I may add very pleasantly, since I was staying at the house of an old friend of my father's, and whilst there was treated with the attention which is claimed by an honoured guest, and with as much kindness and heartiness as if I were a member of his family. I was perfectly comfortable, perfectly at home. As to my professional engagements, I was free for the whole time of my holiday, and could not in any manner admit a scruple or doubt as to the manner in which my work was done in my absence, for a fully qualified and earnest clergyman was supplying for me. Perhaps this preamble is necessary to show that my mind was at rest, and that nothing in the ordinary course of events would have recalled me so suddenly and abruptly to the scene of my labours at Woolwich. I had about a week of my unexpired leave of absence yet to run when what I am about to relate occurred to me. No comment or explanation is offered. It is simply a narrative.
"I had retired to rest at night, my mind perfectly at rest, and slept, as young men do in robust health, until about four o'clock in the morning. It appeared to me about that hour that I was conscious of a knock at the door. Thinking it to be the man-servant who was accustomed to call me in the morning, I at once said, "Come in.' To my surprise there appeared at the foot of the bed two figures, one a man of medium height, fair and well fleshed, the other tall, dark, and spare, both dressed as artisans belonging to Woolwich Arsenal. On asking them what they wanted,
the shorter man replied, 'My name is C__s. I belong to Woolwich. I died on ___ of ___, and you must attend me.'
"Probably the novelty of the situation and feelings attendant upon it, prevented me from noticing that he had used the past tense. The reply which I received to my question from the other man was like in form, 'My name is M__ll, I belong to Woolwich, I died on ___ of ___, and you must attend me.' I then remarked that the past tense had been used, and cried out, 'Stop! You said "died," and the day you mentioned has not come yet?' at which they both smiled, and added, 'We know this very well; it was done to fix your attention, but'—and they seemed to say very earnestly and in a marked manner—you must attend us!" at which they disappeared, leaving me awe-stricken, surprised, and thoroughly aroused from sleep. Whether what I narrate was seen during sleep, or when wholly awake, I do not pretend to say. It appeared to me that I was perfectly awake and perfectly conscious. Of this I had no doubt at the time, and I can scarcely summon up a doubt as to what I heard and saw whilst I am telling it. As I had lighted my lamp, I rose, dressed, and seating myself at a table in the room, read and thought, and, I need hardly say, from time to time prayed, and fervently, until day came. When I was called in the morning, I sent a message to the lady of the house to say that I should not go to the University Chapel to say Mass that morning, and should be present at the usual family breakfast at nine.
"On entering the dining-room my hostess very kindly inquired after my health, naturally surmising that I had omitted Mass from illness, or at least want of rest and consequent indisposition. I merely answered that I had not slept well, and that there was something weighing heavily upon my mind which obliged me to return at once to Woolwich. After the usual regrets and leave-takings, I started by the mid-day boat for England. As the first date mentioned by my visitors gave me time, I travelled by easy stages, and spent more than two days on the road, although I could not remain in Dublin after I had received what appeared to me then, and appears to me still, as a solemn warning.
"On my arrival at Woolwich, as may be easily imagined, my brother clergy were very puzzled at my sudden and unlooked-for return, and concluded that I had lost my reckoning, thinking that I had to resume my duties a week earlier than I was expected to do. The other assistant priest was waiting for my return to start on his vacation—and he did so the very evening of my return. Scarcely, however, had he left the town when the first of my visitors sent in a request for me to go at once to attend him. You may, perhaps, imagine my feelings at that moment. I am sure you cannot realise them as I do even now after the lapse of so many years. Well, I lost no time. I had, in truth, been prepared, except hat and umbrella, from the first hour after my return. I went to consult the books in which all the sick calls were entered and to speak to our aged, respected sacristan who kept them. He remarked at once, 'You do not know this man, father; his children come to our school, but he is, or has always been, considered as a Protestant.' Expressing my surprise, less at the fact than at his statement, I hurried to the bedside of the sufferer. After the first few words of introduction were over he said, 'I sent for you, father, on Friday morning early and they told me that you were away from home, but that you were expected back in a few days, and I said I would wait.' I found the sick man had been stricken down by inflammation of the lungs, and that the doctor gave no hope of his recovery, yet that he would probably linger some days. I applied myself very earnestly indeed to prepare the poor man for death. Again the next day, and every day until he departed this life, did I visit him and spent not minutes but hours by his bedside.
"A few days after the first summons came the second. The man had previously been a stranger to me, but I recognised him by his name and appearance. As I sat by his bedside he told me, as the former had already done, that he had sent for me, had been told that I was absent, and had declared that he would wait for me. Thus far their cases were alike. In each case there was a great wrong to be undone, a conscience to be set right that had erred and erred deeply—and not merely that, it is probable, from the circumstances of their lives, that it was necessary that their spiritual adviser should have been solemnly warned. They made their peace with God, and I have seldom assisted at a deathbed and felt greater consolation than I did in each and both of these. Even now, after the lapse of many years, I cannot help feeling that I received a very solemn warning in Dublin, and am not far wrong in calling it, the Shadow of Death.—T. O. Filming."
A Double From Shipboard.
During my visit to Scotland in the month of October the subject of Ghosts naturally formed the constant topic of conversation, and many stories were told of all degrees of value bearing upon the subject. The following narrative came to me as follows: We had been visiting the Forth Bridge, driving down from Edinburgh in the public conveyance. Shortly before our visit three men had fallen from one of the piers of the bridge and been killed. The question was mooted as to whether or not they would haunt the locality, and from this the conversation naturally turned to apparitions of all kinds.
As we reached Edinburgh on our return a middle-aged passenger who had been seated on a seat in front turned round and said, "What do you make of this story, for the truth of which I can vouch:—A young sailor, whose vessel at that moment was lying at Limerick Harbour, appeared to his father, who at that time was at home with the rest of his family in Dublin. He appeared to him in the early morning. At breakfast his father told the rest of his family that he had seen his son, who had said to him: 'In my locker you will find a Bible in the pocket of my coat. In that Bible you will find a place-keeper which was given me by my sweetheart after I left home, and on it are the words, "Remember me."' That day at noon the young sailor, after making ready dinner for the crew, went up aloft, missed his footing, fell, and was killed. His effects were fastened up in his locker and sent through the Customs House to his father. When they arrived the locker was opened, and exactly as the apparition had described the Bible was found in the pocket of the coat, and in the Bible a place-keeper, which none of the family had seen, on which were the words 'Remember me.'" "But," said I to my fellow passenger, "how do you know that the story is true?" "Because," he said, "the sailor was my brother, and I remember my father telling us about the vision at the breakfast-table."
Unfortunately I did not ask for the name and address of my informant. We were just alighting from the drag, and I contented myself with giving him my name and address, and asking him to write out an account with full particulars, dates, etc. with verification. This he promised to do, but, unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten his promise, and a story which, if fully verified, would be very valuable, can only be mentioned as a sample of the narratives which are reported on every hand if people show any disposition to receive them with interest, or, in fact, with anything but scornful contempt.
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