Tuesday, October 09, 2012



"Candles are very subject to psychic influences. Many years ago, when I was a boy, I was sitting in a room with some very dear friends of mine, when one of them, suddenly turning livid, pointed at the candle, and with eyes starting out of their sockets, screamed, "A winding-sheet! A winding-sheet! See! it is pointing at me!" We were all so frightened by the suddenness of her action, that for some seconds no one spoke, but all sat transfixed with horror, gaping at the candle. "It must be my brother Tom," she continued, "or Jack. Can't you see it?" Then, one after another, we all examined the candle and discovered that what she said was quite true—there was an unmistakable winding-sheet in the wax, and it emphatically pointed in her direction. Nor were her surmisings in vain, for the next morning she received a telegram to say her brother Tom had died suddenly. I am sceptical with regard to some manifestations, but I certainly do believe in this one, and I often regard my candle anxiously, fearing that I may see a winding-sheet in it.
To have three candles lighted at the same time is also an omen of death, and as I have known it to be fulfilled in several cases within my own experience, I cannot help regarding it as one of the most certain.
I am sometimes informed of the advent of the occult in a very startling manner—my candle burns blue. It has done this when I have been sitting alone in my study, at night, writing. I have been busily engaged penning descriptions of the ghosts I and others have seen, when I have been startled by the fact that my paper, originally white, has suddenly become the colour of the sky, and on looking hastily up to discover a reason, have been in no small measure shocked to see my candle burning a bright blue. An occult manifestation of sorts has invariably followed. I am often warned of the near advent of the occult in this same manner when I am investigating in a haunted house—the flame of the candle burns blue before the appearance of the ghost. It is, by the way, an error to think that different types of phantasms can only appear in certain colours—colours that are peculiar to them. I have seen the same phenomenon manifest itself in half a dozen different colours, and blue is as often adopted by the higher types of spirits as by the lower, and is, in fact, common to both. I have little patience with occultists who draw hard and fast lines, and, ignoring everybody else's experiences, presume to diagnose within the narrow limits of their own. No one can as yet say anything for certain with regard to the superphysical, and the statements of the most humble psychic investigator, provided he has had actual experience, and is genuine, are just as worthy of attention as those of the most eminent exponents of theosophy or spiritualism, or of any learned member of the Psychical Research Societies. The occult does not reveal itself to the rich in preference to the poor, and, for manifestation, is not more partial to the Professor of Physics and Law than to the Professor of Nothing—other than keen interest and common sense.


In Wales there are corpse-candles. According to the account of the Rev. Mr Davis in a work by T. Charley entitled The Invisible World, corpse-candles are so called because their light resembles a material candle-light, and might be mistaken for the same, saving that when anyone approaches them they vanish, and presently reappear. If the corpse-candle be small, pale, or bluish, it denotes the death of an infant; if it be big, the death of an adult is foretold; and if there are two, three, or more candle-lights, varying in size, then the deaths are predicted of a corresponding number of infants and adults. "Of late," the Rev. Mr Davis goes on to say (I quote him ad verbum), "my sexton's wife, an aged, understanding woman, saw from her bed a little bluish candle upon her table: within two or three days after comes a fellow in, inquiring for her husband, and, taking something from under his cloak, clapt it down directly upon the table end where she had seen the candle; and what was it but a dead-born child? Another time, the same woman saw such another candle upon the other end of the same table: within a few days later, a weak child, by myself newly christened, was brought into the sexton's house, where presently he died; and when the sexton's wife, who was then abroad, came home, she found the women shrouding the child on that other end of the table where she had seen the candle. On a time, myself and a huntsman coming from our school in England, and being three or four hours benighted ere we could reach home, saw such a light, which, coming from a house we well knew, held its course (but not directly) in the highway to church: shortly after, the eldest son in that house died, and steered the same course.... About thirty-four or thirty-five years since, one Jane Wyatt, my wife's sister, being nurse to Baronet Rud's three eldest children, and (the lady being deceased) the lady of the house going late into a chamber where the maid-servants lay, saw there no less than five of these lights together. It happened awhile after, the chamber being newly plastered, and a great grate of coal-fire therein kindled to hasten the drying up of the plastering, that five of the maid-servants went there to bed as they were wont; but in the morning they were all dead, being suffocated in their sleep with the steam of the newly tempered lime and coal. This was at Llangathen in Carmarthen."
So wrote the Rev. Mr Davis, and in an old number of Frazer's Journal I came across the following account of death-tokens, which, although not exactly corpse-candles, might certainly be classed in the same category.

It ran thus:
"In a wild and retired district in North Wales, the following occurrence took place, to the great astonishment of the mountaineers. We can vouch for the truth of the statement, as many of our own teutu, or clan, were witnesses of the facts. On a dark evening a few weeks ago, some persons, with whom we are well acquainted, were returning to Barmouth on the south or opposite side of the river. As they approached the ferry house at Penthryn, which is directly opposite Barmouth, they observed a light near the house, which they conjectured to be produced by a bonfire, and greatly puzzled they were to discover the reason why it should have been lighted. As they came nearer, however, it vanished; and when they inquired at the house respecting it, they were surprised to learn that not only had the people there displayed no light, but they had not even seen one; nor could they perceive any signs of it on the sands. On reaching Barmouth, the circumstance was mentioned, and the fact corroborated by some of the people there, who had also plainly and distinctly seen the light. It was settled, therefore, by some of the old fishermen that this was a death-token; and, sure enough, the man who kept the ferry at that time was drowned at high water a few nights afterwards, on the very spot where the light was seen. He was landing from the boat, when he fell into the water, and so perished. The same winter the Barmouth people, as well as the inhabitants of the opposite bank, were struck by the appearance of a number of small lights, which were seen dancing in the air at a place called Borthwyn, about half a mile from the town. A great number of people came out to see these lights; and after awhile they all but one disappeared, and this one proceeded slowly towards the water's edge to a little bay where some boats were moored. The men in a sloop which was anchored near the spot saw the light advancing, they saw it also hover for a few seconds over one particular boat, and then totally disappear. Two or three days afterwards, the man to whom that particular boat belonged was drowned in the river, while he was sailing about Barmouth harbour in that very boat."
As the corpse-candle is obviously a phantasm whose invariable custom is to foretell death, it must, I think, be classified with that species of elementals which I have named—for want of a more appropriate title—CLANOGRIAN. Clanogrians embrace every kind of national and family ghost, such as The White Owl of the Arundels, the Drummer of the Airlies, and the Banshee of the O'Neills and O'Donnells.
With regard to the origin of corpse-candles, as of all other clanogrians, one can only speculate. The powers that govern the superphysical world have much in their close keeping that they absolutely refuse to disclose to mortal man. Presuming, however, that corpse-candles and all sorts of family ghosts are analogous, I should say that the former are spirits which have attached themselves to certain localities, either owing to some great crime or crimes having been committed there in the past, or because at some still more remote period the inhabitants of those parts—the Milesians and Nemedhians, the early ancestors of the Irish, dabbled in sorcery.


Who has not seen all manner of pictures in the fire? Who has not seen, or fancied he has seen, a fire-coffin? A fire-coffin is a bit of red-hot coal that pops mysteriously out of the grate in the rude shape of a coffin, and is prophetic of death, not necessarily the death of the beholder, but of someone known to him.

The Death-watch

Though this omen in a room is undoubtedly due to the presence in the woodwork of the wall of a minute beetle of the timber-boring genus ANOBIUM, it is a strange fact that its ticking should only be heard before the death of someone, who, if not living in the house, is connected with someone who does live in it. From this fact, one is led to suppose that this minute beetle has an intuitive knowledge of impending death, as is the case with certain people and also certain animals.
The noise is said to be produced by the beetle raising itself upon its hind legs (see Popular Errors explained, by John Timbs), with the body somewhat inclined, and beating its head with great force and agility upon the plane of position; and its strokes are so powerful as to be heard from some little distance. It usually taps from six to twelve times in succession, then pauses, and then recommences. It is an error to suppose it only ticks in the spring, for I know those who have heard its ticking at other, and indeed, at all times in the year."


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