The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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Letter to Sura (Book VII – Letter 27)

“Our break allows you to teach, while I learn. I wish I knew if the ghosts do have something of real; if they have a real expression; if they are genies or no more than vain images created by imaginations disturbed by fear. What leads me to believe that there really are true shad- ows is what I was told that happened to Curtius Rufus. When he did not have a name or fortune yet he followed the governor to Africa. One eve- ning Rufus was strolling under a porch when a lady of impressive beauty and elegance presented herself to him and said: “I am Africa. I come to predict what is going to happen to you. You will go to Rome; you will be in charge of the highest positions; then you will return to govern this province, where you will die.”

“It all happened as she had predicted. Some even say that the same figure showed up to him when he left the ship upon arrival at the port of Cartago.” “The truth is that he was taken ill and by judging the future from the good things of the past, and by the misfortune that threatened the good luck he had enjoyed, he soon lost any hope of cure, despite the opinion of his closest ones.”

“Here you have another story, not less remarkable and much more terrible. I will tell you the way I heard it.”

“There was a very large and comfortable house in Athens which was condemned and deserted. In the deepest quietness of the night, noises of chains and shackles were heard - in the beginning it seemed to have come from far away but the noises got gradually closer. Soon the shadow of a somewhat very skinny old man showed up, pale, bearing a long beard, di- sheveled hair, chains in his feet and wrists, which he would violently shake. All that explained the horrible and sleepless nights of the people who lived in the house. The prolonged insomnia brought the disease, and the disease, multiplying the horror, was followed by death; during the day, although the shadow would not appear, the impression it had left would always revive in people’s minds, and the fear it had caused generated new fear.”

“The house was finally abandoned, left to the ghost. It was an- nounced on the market for sale or rent, in the hopes that someone not well informed about the terrible nuisance could be deceived.”

“Athenodorus, the philosopher, came to Athens. He reads the ad for the house and wishes to know the price. The low numbers make him suspicious. He searches for clues. He learned about the story and, far from breaking the deal, he rushed to cut it. He then moves in; comes the af- ternoon and he asks to have his bed moved to the front bedroom; he also wishes to have planchettes, pen and light brought in, and that the remain- ing persons be dislodged to the back of the house.”

“Fearing that his imagination could be taken over by a cold horror, to the point of imagining ghosts, he delivers his mind, his eyes and hands to writing. In the beginning, as evening breaks, a profound quietness falls around the house. All is then broken by the noise of chains and shackles. He does not raise his eyes nor stop writing; he calms down and tries to listen. The noise increases, comes closer and gives the impression that it is at the door. He then looks and sees the shadow, as it was described to him. The ghost was standing, calling him with his finger. He then wastes no time, stands up, takes the lamp and follows the ghost that walks with difficulty, as if pressed by the weight of the chains. Arriving at the internal courtyard, the ghost suddenly disappears, leaving behind our philosopher who then picks leafs and herbs, using them to identify the place where the ghost disappeared. On the very next day he sought the courts, requesting authorization to excavate the place. Once it was done they found bones still attached to chains. Time had eaten the flesh. All remains were care- fully gathered, and a proper public burial carried out; since the last eulo- gies and tributes were duly paid to the deceased, he never showed up again or perturbed the peace of the house.”

“What I have just told you I did so by repeating the word passed on to me by someone else. Here, however, is what I can attest to others from my own faith:”

“I have a freed slave by the name of Marcus, who is not an ignorant man. He was lying in bed with his younger brother when he thought to have seen someone else sitting on his bed, and who had swung a pair of scissors by his head, to the point of cutting his hair over his forehead. In the morning he noticed that he had his hair cut at the top of his head and the hair was spread on the floor around him. Soon after, a similar thing happened to one of my relatives who gave me no doubts about the previ- ous event. One of my young slaves was asleep with his mates, in the rooms that were destined to them. According to their story, two men dressed in white came to the room through the window, cut his hair thin on top, while asleep, and left the same way they had entered. He was found bald head the day after, like the other one, and his hair spread on the floor.”

“Such adventures had no consequences other than having me accused before Domitian, in whose Empire these things took place. Had he out- lived me and I would not have escaped since there was a complaint against me that was found in his briefcase, filed by Carus. From this, one may conjecture that since the habit of the accused was to allow their hair to grow freely out of negligence, those who had cut the hair of my people assured that I was in no danger. I beg you to give all the attention to this subject. It deserves profound meditation and perhaps I am not unworthy of sharing your clarifications. If, as it is in your traditions, you balance the two contrary opinions, make the scale swing in one direction so that I can be spared from such a discomfort. I consult with you about nothing else but this – Farewell.”

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