This section is from the book "Faith - Healing. Christian Science And Kindred Phenomena", by James Monroe Buckley. Also available from Amazon: Faith-Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena.
In a certain rectory within forty miles of the city of New York stood an old-fashioned candlestick surrounded by prisms of glass which were pendent from the top. On several occasions the family were awakened by the ringing of these in the night, the effect of which was to terrify the servants and all the inmates of the house, except the wife of the rector, who determined to solve the mystery. For a long time the sounds were not produced except in total darkness, but by gradually introducing the practice of burning a light at night the ringing was finally heard one night when there was a light in the room. The lady of the house then went quietly down to the dining-room and saw a large rat with every expression of pleasure leaping forward and with his fore legs striking the prisms so as to make them ring, evidently taking the keenest delight in the sound thus produced. My informants were the rector and his wife.
In an article on Apparitions written by Andrew Lang, in the second volume of the " Encyclopaedia Britannica," ninth edition, he says:
The writer once met, as he believed, a well-known and learned member of an English university who was really dying at a place more than a hundred miles distant from that in which he was seen. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that the writer did not mistake some other individual for the extremely noticeable person whom he seemed to see, the coincidence between tho subjective impression and the death of the learned professor is, to say the least, curious.
To determine whether or not it was a case of mistaken identity is very important, but no opportunity is given in the passage quoted. If it was a subjective impression, the coincidence would be curious and nothing else; though not more so, as I have shown abundantly, than many coincidences in trifles, and other circumstances absolutely disconnected, and many subjective impressions without coincidences. Mr. Lang, in the article referred to, has written like one who has crammed with the literature of the subject without being at the pains to reason closely upon the alleged facts. He refers to the superstitious horror shown by a dog at the moment of a supposed apparition to his master. That the dog exhibited horror when his owner thought he saw an apparition may be readily believed. All familiar with dogs know that nothing will terrify them more than an appearance of alarm on the part of their masters without visible cause. Of the same nature is the remark concerning the mysterious disturbances at the house of the Wesleys: "The mastiff was more afraid than any of the children." The volatile imaginations of children have never shown great horror of mysteries; they were sustained, too, by confidence in their parents. But the dog heard mysterious noises which naturally greatly agitated him.
Mr. Lang closes his remarks on this part of the subject by naively saying, "The case of Balaam's ass is sufficiently well known." This is not pertinent. Balaam's ass, according to the record, not only saw a supernatural appearance, but engaged in a process of reasoning in which he called up his past life to vindicate himself from abuse, and further engaged in a conversation with his master in the tatter's vernacular. Indeed, he exhibited a cogency of reasoning which, applied to most of the tales adduced to prove the reality of apparitions, would effectually "fay" the ghosts.
Many persons fancy that mysterious noises which will appear to respond to questions, to make raps or answer raps, conclusively prove that they are directed by intelligence. Sometimes they may, and the intelligence is quite likely to be of human origin; but noises of atmospheric, chemical, or electrical origin may furnish astonishing coincidences, as fissures in the rocks are extremely difficult to be distinguished from hieroglyphics. Some years ago an alphabet based on the spiritualistic alphabet was applied to successive gusts of wind of a stormy autumn day, and the coincidences were astonishing. Short sentences of a very significant character at times appeared to respond to the arbitrary standard. In any case the conclusion that a noise the cause of which is not yet understood must be supernatural is a process of reasoning ah ignorantia.
That ghosts do not come to those most interested in them, and seldom or never to any who long for them, has been a matter of note from the earliest times. Wordsworth's words, often quoted, state the conclusion drawn from this in language natural and almost convincing:
'T is falsely said That there was ever intercourse.
Betwixt the living and the dead, For surely then I should have sight Of him I wait for day and night With love and longings infinite.
The ceremonies practised by the Christian Church in the middle ages in the successful exorcising of ghosts are not less striking than the sort of evidence on which the ghosts were accepted. Two or three clergymen are necessary and the ceremony must be performed in Latin, "the language which strikes the most audacious ghost with terror." According to history and tradition the ghost may be laid for any term less than a hundred years, "in any place or body, filled or empty." But what a ghost hates most is the Red Sea. It is related on the most indisputable authority that the ghosts have earnestly besought exorcists not to confine them in that place; nor is any instance given of their escaping before the time!
When we consider the injustice frequently inflicted upon orphans whose estates are squandered by trustees; the concealment or destruction of wills; the ingratitude to destitute benefactors; the diverting of trust funds for benevolent purposes to objects abhorrent to those who with painful toil accumulated them and with confidence in the stability of human laws bequeathed them; the loneliness and despair that fill human hearts; and the gloomy doubts of the reality of a future existence,—all of which would be rendered impossible if actual apparitions took place,—the conclusion gathers almost irresistible force that neither in the manner of the alleged comings nor in the objects for which they come is there any evidence to be found of their reality.
If it be assumed that the testimony of one or of one hundred to a supernatural event is not sufficient to prove that it occurred, the question, " What becomes of the testimony of the Apostles and the five hundred brethren to the resurrection of Christ, and of Stephen to his seeing the heavens open," arises again. It admits of but one answer. If they had nothing to communicate but the assertion that they saw a human being alive who had been dead, it would be necessary to reject it on the ground that it is far more probable that they were deceived than that such a thing occurred.
But this is not the whole case. They present to us the whole body of Christian doctrine, declaring that it was received from that person who predicted that he would rise from the dead, whom they believed they saw, and with whom on various occasions they conversed after his resurrection. If Christianity in its relation to, and effect upon, the moral nature of the thinker does not convince him of the divine origin and consequent truth of the record, I know of no means of doing so.