132. The spontaneous manifestations which have occurred in all times, and the persistence of some spirits in giving ostensible evidence of their presence in certain localities, are the source of the belief in haunted places. The following spirit-answers were elicited by our questions on this subject.
1. Do spirits attach themselves to persons only, or do they also attach themselves to things?
"That depends upon their elevation. Certain spirits may attach themselves to terrestrial objects ; misers, for instance, who have hidden their hoards, and who are not sufficiently dematerialised, may still watch over and guard them."
2. Are there any places for which errant spirits have a predilection ?
"Spirits who are no longer earth-bound go where they find those whom they love, for they are attracted rather by persons than by material things. Some of them may, for a time, retain a preference for certain places; but those who do so are spirits of inferior advancement."
3. Since the attachment of spirits for localities is a sign of inferiority, is it also a proof that they are evil spirits ?
"Assuredly not; a spirit may be but little advanced, and yet not be a bad spirit; is it not so among men?"
4. Is there any foundation for the belief that spirits frequent ruins by preference? "No; spirits go to such places, just as they go every where else; but the lugubrious aspect of certain places strikes the human imagination, and leads you to attribute, to the presence of spirits, what is often merely a natural effect. How often does fear turn the shadow of a tree into a phantom, or mistake the cry of an animal, or the murmuring of the wind, for the wail of a ghost! Spirits like the presence of men, and usually seek out inhabited places rather than solitary ones."
- Nevertheless, knowing what we do of the diversity of character among spirits, may we not suppose that there are misanthropes among them, preferring solitude to society?
"Have I not already answered you on this point, by saying that spirits may seek out desolate places, as well as all other places? If some of them live alone, they do so because it pleases them, but this is no reason why spirits should necessarily prefer ruins ; and, assuredly, there are many more spirits in cities and inhabited dwellings than in solitary places."
5. Popular beliefs have generally a foundation of truth; what is the origin of the belief in haunted places?
"It has grown out of men's instinctive belief in spirit manifestations, a belief that has prevailed in all ages of the world; but, as I said just now, the aspect of lugubrious places strikes the imagination, and men have naturally located, in such places, the beings whom they have regarded as supernatural. This superstitious belief is upheld by the fanciful imaginings of your poets, as well as by the nonsensical stories told to you in the nursery."
6. Spirits who assemble together, have they any preferences in regard to days and hours of meeting?
"No; days and hours are measurements of time for the use of men, and for the needs of corporeal life; spirits have no need of any such measurements, and take very little heed of them."
7. What is the origin of the idea that spirits. come by preference at night?
"The impression produced on the imagination by darkness and silence. All such ideas are superstitions that a rational knowledge of spiritism will destroy. It is the same with respect to the notion, held by some people, that certain days and hours are more propitious than others; the influence of midnight has no existence except in story-books."
- If this be the case, how is it that many spirits announce their arrival and manifestations for midnight, or for certain pre-determined days, as Fridays, for example?
"Such spirits only trifle with your credulity. In the same way, there are spirits who declare themselves to be the devil, or give themselves some other diabolical or fantastic name. Show them that you are not to be taken in by them, and you will hear no more of such absurdities."
8. Do spirits come back by preference to the burial-place of their body?
"The body was but a garment; they care no more for their fleshly envelope, in which they have had to suffer, than the prisoner cares for his chains. The memory of those they love is the only thing they value."
- Are prayers offered up at their graves especially pleas. mg to them, and do they attract them more than prayers would do elsewhere?
"Prayer is an evocation which attracts a spirit, as you know. The more fervent and sincere the prayer, the greater the effect it produces; and therefore, the sight of a venerated tomb may serve to concentrate the thought of him who prays, while the interest attached to it, as to any other treasured relic, being a testimony of affection offered to the spirit, he is always attracted and touched thereby. But, in all such cases, it is the thought which acts on a spirit, and not any material objects; for these have less influence on the spirit who is prayed for than on the person who prays, and whose attention they serve to concentrate and intensify."
9. That being the case, the belief in haunted places would appear to be not absolutely groundless?
"We have told you that there are spirits who are attracted by material things ; such spirits may also be attracted to certain places, and may even take up their abode in them, until the cessation of the circumstances that have attracted them thither."
- What are the circumstances that may attract spirits to a given place?
"Their sympathy with persons who frequent that place, and, in some cases, the desire to communicate with them. Their motives, however, are not always so praiseworthy inferior spirits may desire to revenge themselves on persons against whom they have a grudge. Sojourn in a fixed locality may be, also, a punishment inflicted on them especially if they have committed a crime there, so that the crime may be constantly before their eyes." *
10. Have haunted places, in all cases, been the former habitation of the spirits who haunt them?
"Not in all cases ; if the former inhabitant be an elevated spirit, he will no more hold to his old house than to his old body. Spirits who haunt certain localities, when not attracted to them by sympathy for certain persons, are often only actuated by caprice."
- Can they attach themselves to certain places, in order to act as protectors of particular persons of families?
"Assuredly, if they are good spirits ; but, in that case, they never manifest their presence by disagreeable actions"
11. Is there any truth in the legend of "The White Lady."
"It is as true as are a thousand other facts of a similar nature."
12. Is it rational to dread places that are reputed to be haunted by spirits?
"No; the spirits who haunt certain places, and make disturbances there, do so to amuse themselves at the expense of the credulous and the cowardly, rather than for any evil purpose. Besides, you must not forget that there are spirits everywhere ; and that, wherever you may be, you have them incessantly around you, even in the quietest houses. They only appear to haunt certain habitations because they find, in them, the conditions necessary for manifesting their presence."
13. Is there any method of expelling them?
"Yes; but most frequently what people do for that purpose attracts rather than repels them. The best way of expelling bad spirits is to attract good ones, by doing all the good you can; the bad ones will then go away, for good and evil are incompatible. Be always good, and you will have only good spirits about you."
- Many very good people, however, are greatly annoyed by the persecutions of bad spirits.
"If persons thus annoyed are really good, the annoyance may be a trial to exercise their patience, and to excite them to greater goodness."
14. Can evil spirits be driven from haunted places by exorcisms?
"Have you often seen exorcisms successful? Have you not, on the contrary, often found that they increased the disturbances? Mischievous spirits are often amused at being mistaken for the devil.
"Spirits who come without any evil intention may also manifest their presence by rendering themselves visible, or by noises ; but the noises they make never degenerate into racket. They are often suffering spirits whom you may relieve by praying for them; they are sometimes kindly spirits, who desire to show you that they are near you ; or they may be frivolous spirits, who are only in sport. Since these who disturb you are, almost invariably, spirits in search of amusement, the best thing to do is to laugh at them they will tire of playing pranks, if they see that they neither frighten nor vex you."
From these explanations, we learn that there are spirits who attach themselves to localities, and remain in them by preference, without having any motive for manifesting their presence to us. Any place may be the sojourn of a spirit, either from a preference on his part, or from its having been assigned to him as a temporary abode, without his ever producing a manifestation of any kind; and this, even in the case of those who have led an evil life.
The spirits who attach themselves to localities, or to material things, are never of superior advancement; but although not of high degree, they are not necessarily wicked, nor animated by hostile intentions. Such inmates are sometimes even useful ; for, when they take an interest in the people of the house, they often render them various services.
* See La Revue Spirit, February 1860, Histoire d’un damné.