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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sir William Barrett-Death-Bed Visions-B [BOOK]


Chapter 4: Visions seen by the Dying of Living Persons at a Distance - in some cases Reciprocal
 - William Barrett -
          WE now come to a somewhat different and large class of cases where the veil which hides the spiritual world is not for a few moments lifted for the dying percipients, but their souls appear to be transported to a different place on earth and they are able to see persons who may be at a remote distance. Such cases are usually called instances of "travelling clairvoyance" and numerous well-attested facts of this kind have been collected inPhantasms of the Living, to which my readers are referred.

There are, however, a few cases which are worthy of special notice, wherein the dying persons appear not only to make themselves visible at a distance, but also inform those around them where they have been, and that they have visited those whom they desired to see.

One of the most remarkable and pathetic of these so-called "reciprocal cases" was related to me by that gifted and venerable Quaker lady, Miss Anna Maria Fox, when we were on a voyage to Canada for the British Association Meeting in 1884. Miss Fox and her sister Caroline were well known to savants in the last generation(1), for their beautiful place "Penjerrick," near Falmouth in Cornwall, was the rendezvous of many eminent scientific and literary men, and nearly fifty years ago I had the privilege of enjoying their hospitality. When narrating the incident, Miss Fox referred me to her relatives, the Birkbecks, for confirmation of it: and this was given me when I made inquiries shortly afterwards.
(1) See "Memoirs of Caroline Fox."

Mr. Myers has given an abridged record of the same case(2), which he obtained from another member of the same family, Mrs. Charles Fox of Falmouth, who had heard the account from one of the percipients.
(2) See "Phantasms of the Living," Vol. II, p. 560.

The incident is nearly two centuries old, but as Mr. Myers says, the Fox family is one which would carefully preserve evidence of this kind. As an illustration of this fact I may state that the narrative which Miss Anna Maria Fox gave me was practically identical with that given by Mrs. Charles Fox, which I now quote:
"In 1739 Mrs. Birkbeck, wife of William Birkbeck, banker, of Settle, and a member of the Society of Friends, was taken ill and died at Cockermouth, while returning from a journey to Scotland, which she had undertaken alone - her husband and three children, aged seven, five, and four years respectively, remaining at Settle. The friends at whose house the death occurred made notes of every circumstance attending Mrs. Birkbeck's last hours, so that the accuracy of the several statements as to time, as well as place, was beyond the doubtfulness of man's memory, or of any even unconscious attempt to bring them into agreement with each other.

"One morning, between seven and eight o'clock, the relation to whom the care of the children at Settle had been entrusted, and who kept a minute journal of all that concerned them, went into their bedroom as usual, and found them all sitting up in their beds in great excitement and delight. 'Mamma has been here!' they cried, and the little one said,' She called "Come, Esther!"' Nothing could make them doubt the fact, and it was carefully noted down, to entertain the mother on her return home. That same morning, as their mother lay on her dying bed at Cockermouth, she said, 'I should be ready to go if I could but see my children.' She then closed her eyes, to reopen them, as they thought, no more. But after ten minutes of perfect stillness she looked up brightly and said, 'I am ready now; I have been with my children'; and then at once peacefully passed away. When the notes taken at the two places were compared, the day, hour, and minutes were the same.
"One of the three children was my grandmother, nee Sarah Birkbeck, afterwards the wife of Dr. Fell, of Ulverston. From her lips I heard the above almost literally as I have repeated it. The eldest was Morris Birkbeck, afterwards of Guildford. Both these lived to old age, and retained to the last so solemn and reverential a remembrance of the circumstance that they rarely would speak of it. Esther, the youngest, died soon after. Her brother and sister heard the child say that her mother called her, but could not speak with any certainty of having themselves heard the words, nor were sensible of more than their mother's standing there and looking on them."
The case of Mrs. Goffe is also of remote date, 1691, but is taken from a contemporary report made by the Rev. T. Tilson in a letter he addressed to the famous divine, Richard Baxter, who published it in a book he wrote(1). The case is given in Phantasms of the Living (Vol. II, pp. 558, 559) and the authors state that the narrative cannot be impugned on the ground of any credulity on the part of Baxter, and quote an authority on this point. It will be seen that the incidents in the following narrative are curiously parallel to the preceding case of Mrs. Birkbeck. Though Mr. Tilson's letter which we now quote, is somewhat long, it is better to give his own words rather than an abstract.
(1) See Baxter's "The World of Spirits" (1691), pp. 147-51.
"July 6th, 1691

"Mary, the wife of John Goffe, of Rochester, being afflicted with a long illness, removed to her father's house at West Mulling, which was about nine miles distant from her own; there she died, June 4th, 1691. The day before her departure she grew impatiently desirous to see her two children, whom she had left at home, to the care of a nurse. She prayed her husband to hire a horse, for she must go home to die with her children.

"Between one and two o'clock in the morning she fell into a trance. One widow Turner, who watched with her that night, says that her eyes were open and fixed, and her jaw fallen; she put her hand on her mouth and nostrils, but could perceive no breath; she thought her to be in a fit, and doubted whether she was alive or dead. The next day this dying woman told her mother that she had been at home with her children. 'That is impossible,' said the mother, 'for you have been here in bed all the while.' 'Yes,' replied the other, 'but I was with them last night while I was asleep.'

"The nurse at Rochester, widow Alexander by name, affirms and says she will take her oath of it before a magistrate, and receive the sacrament upon it, that a little before two o'clock that morning she saw the likeness of the said Mary Goffe come out of the next chamber (where the elder child lay in a bed by itself, the door being left open), and stood by her bedside for about a quarter of an hour; the younger child was there lying by her; her eyes moved, and her mouth went, but she said nothing. The nurse, moreover, says that she was perfectly awake; it was then daylight, being one of the longest days in the year. She sat up in her bed, and looked steadfastly upon the apparition; at that time she heard the bridge clock strike two, and a while after said, 'In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what art thou?' Thereupon the appearance removed and went away; she slipped on her clothes and followed, but what became of it she cannot tell. Then, and not before, she began to be grieviously affrighted, and went out of doors, and walked upon the wharf (the house is just by the river-side) for some hours, only going in now and then to look at the children. At five o'clock she went to a neighbour's and knocked at the door, but they would not rise; at six she went again, then they rose and let her in. She related to them all that had passed; they would persuade her she was mistaken, or dreamt; but she confidently affirmed, 'If ever I saw her in all my life, I saw her this night.' [The writer than gives an account of how one of those to whom she related the story confirmed the above narrative.]

"The substance of this statement was related to me by John Carpenter, the father of the deceased, the next day after the burial - July 2. I fully discoursed the matter with the nurse and two neighbours, to whose house she went that morning. Two days after I had it from the mother, the minister that was with her in the evening, and the woman who sat up with her last that night. They all agree in the same story, and every one helps to strengthen the other's testimony. They all appear to be sober, intelligent persons, far enough off from designing to impose a cheat upon the world, or to manage a lie; and what temptation they should lie under for so doing I cannot conceive.

"(Signed) THOMAS TILSON
The next case, also contributed by Mr. Myers, is an account given by the Ellis family to Mr. Myers, of a vision which their father, Mr. Ellis, who was dying in Kensington, had of his son, Robert, at that time in Australia. The Misses Ellis state:
"On Wednesday, December 29th, 1869, my father, who was dangerously ill at the time, awoke from a sleep, and raising himself up in the bed pointed and looked most intently to one corner of the room and said to us (my sister Mary and me), 'Look I don't you see? it is my poor boy Bob's head!' Then turning to me, he said, 'Norman Town, don't forget, Gulf of Carpentaria.' He then sank back exhausted. This happened about three p.m. We found, after his death, he had entered the address in red ink in his pocket-book - my brother having left Bourke Town and gone to Norman Town - so that the next packet of letters were sent there. My father died on Thursday, Dec. 30th, 1869. When my brother returned from Australia a few years after, he told us that one night, whilst camping out, he had gone to rest and had slept, and he awoke seeing my father's head distinctly in one part of his tent. It made such an impression on him that he went to his mate in the adjoining tent and said, 'I have seen my father; you must come and stay with me.' By the next mail he received my letter telling him of my father's death.

"My brother said it must have been about three a.m. when he saw my father. Would not that correspond with our three p.m.? I always think they must have seen each other at the same time.

(Signed) ALICE ELLIS
"MARY ELLIS"
Mr. Myers states that in conversation with the narrators, he ascertained that Mr. Ellis was not in the least delirious during his last days, and that he was deeply attached to his absent son.

In this case in connexion with the vision of his father seen by Mr. Robert Ellis, it may be interesting to note that another case of apparition, occurring to her husband some years later, is given by Mrs. Robert Ellis. She states that on Tuesday, December 19, 1876, between 6 and 7 p.m., when she and Mr. Ellis were sitting talking together, he suddenly looked over his shoulder with a startled, almost terrified look, and on being asked what was the matter, he said that he had imagined he saw someone coming in at the door. Subsequently he stated that, he distinctly saw the tall dark figure of a man, but could not distinguish his features. He was greatly agitated. Later on a telegram was received, giving news of the sudden death of Mrs. Robert Ellis' brother in Mexico on Tuesday, the 19th December, at seven o'clock in the evening. He and Mr. Robert Ellis had been very great friends.

This case is taken from Phantasms of the Living, Vol. II, p. 253:
"The lady who sends us the following narrative occupies a position of great responsibility, and desires that her name may not be published, but it may be given to inquirers:

"'When I was eight months old, my mother's youngest sister, Mercy Cox, came to reside with us and to take charge of me. My father's position at the Belgian Court as portrait painter obliged him to be much abroad, and I was left almost wholly to the care of my very beautiful aunt. The affection that subsisted between us amounted almost to idolatry, and my poor mother wept many bitter tears when she came home to see how little I cared for anyone else. My aunt took cold, and for three years lingered in decline. I was a quick child and could read well and even play prettily, so that I was her constant companion day and night. Our doctor, Mr. Field, of the Charter House, greatly disapproved of this close contact, and urged my parents to send me quite away. This was a difficult feat to accomplish, the bare mention of the thing throwing my aunt into faintings. At last Mr. Cumberland (the theatrical publisher) suggested that I should join his two daughters, Caroline, aged 16, and Lavinia, younger, at Mrs. Hewetson's, the widow of a clergyman resident at Stourpaine, in Dorsetshire, who only took four young ladies. This was represented to my aunt as something so wonderfully nice and advantageous to me that she consented to part with me. My portrait was painted and placed by her bed, and I remember how constantly she talked to me about our separation. She knew she would be dead before the year of my absence would be ended. She talked to me of this, and of how soon I should forget her; but she vehemently protested that she would come to me there. Sometimes it was to be as an apple-woman for me to buy fruit of, sometimes as a maid wanting a place, always she would know me, but I should not know her, till I cried and implored to know her.

"'I was but nine when they sent me away, and coach travelling was very slow in those days. Letters too were dear, and I very rarely had one. My parents had sickness and troubles, and they believed the reports that I was well and happy, but I was a very miserable, ill-treated little girl. One morning at break of day - it was New Year's Day - I was sleeping beside Lavinia. We two shared one little white tester bed with curtains, while Caroline - upon whom I looked with awe, she being 16, slept in another similar bed at the other end of a long, narrow room, the beds being placed so that the feet faced each other, and two white curtains hung down at the sides of the head. This New Year's morning I was roughly waked by Lavinia shaking me and exclaiming, "Oh, look there! There's your aunt in bed with Caroline." Seeing two persons asleep in the bed I jumped out and ran to the right side of it. There lay my aunt, a little on her right side, fast asleep, with her mouth a little open. I recognized her worked nightgown and cap. I stood bewildered, with a childish sort of wonder as to when she could have come; it must have been after I went to bed at night. Lavinia's cries awakened Caroline, who as soon as she could understand, caught the curtains on each side and pulled them together over her. I tore them open, but only Caroline lay there, almost fainting from fright. This lady, Miss Cumberland, afterwards became Mrs. Part, wife of a celebrated doctor at Camden Terrace [and now deceased].

"'I never talked of what had occurred, but one day after I had returned home, I said to my mother, "Do you know, Mamma, I saw Auntie when I was at school." This led to an explanation, but my mother instead of commenting upon it, went and fetched her mother saying to her, "Listen to what this child says." Young as I was I saw they were greatly shocked, but they would tell me nothing except that when I was older I should know all. The day came when I learned that my dear aunt suffered dreadfully from the noise of St. Bride's bells, ringing in the New Year. My father tried to get them stopped but could not. Towards morning she became insensible; my mother and grandmother seated on either side of her and holding her hands, she awoke and said to my mother, "Now I shall die happy, Anna, I have seen my dear child." They were her last words.

"'(Signed) D. E. W."

"No general register of deaths was kept at the time of the incident here related, and we have exhausted every means to discover a notice of the death, without success. But we have procured a certificate of Mercy Cox's burial, which took place on January 11, 1829. This is quite compatible with the statement that the death was on January 1st (though such an interval, even in winter, is no doubt unusual), as the lady was buried in a family vault, and probably a lead coffin had to be made. January 1st would be, at the very least, a day of very critical illness. As to the date of the apparition, the marked character of New Year's Day decidedly favours the probability that Miss W.'s memory is correct.

"In answer to inquiries, Miss W. says:

"'I was born in 1819. The death of my aunt took place in 1829. Though to my most intimate friends - as Sir Philip Crampton, the late Earl and Countesses 2) of Dunraven - I have often mentioned the event (and to Judge Halliburton), I think I never wrote it fully except for Lord Dunraven and his mother, in 1850, who were very desirous to publish it, but I declined. I think that a great reason I have always had for not talking of it was the awe with which it inspired my mother, and her strict commands that "I should not mention it to anybody." Then, too, I went to school and lost sight of Lavinia Cumberland, and I shrank from the comments of strangers.'

"In conversation Miss W. added that she had never experienced any other hallucination; also that the Cumberland girls had visited her home, and seen her aunt - which accounts for Lavinia's recognition of the figure.

"[We learn through a relative of Miss Lavinia Cumberland that she herself does not recall the incident; but that she remembers hearing her sister speak of a 'ghost case' in which they had both been somehow concerned.]"
The following case Mr. Myers contributes to Phantasms of the Living (Vol. II, p. 305), and he remarks that it is a narrative of whose accuracy there is no reason to doubt, as the narrator, Dr. O. B. Ormsby - who wrote from a place called Murphysborough, Illinois, U.S.A., in 1884 - had been in communication with Mr. Myers, and replied to his questions.

The narrative, which I abridge, is a follows:
In 1862 Dr. Ormsby was acting as Assistant Surgeon to the 18th Illinois Volunteers; the regiment having gone forward to attack Fort Henry, he was left behind in charge of the sick. Among these was a young man called Albert Adams, a sergeant-major, in whom the doctor seems to have been specially interested. He removed him from the hospital and took him into a private house; the adjoining apartment to that occupied by the patient was divided from his room only by a thin partition; this other room was occupied by the doctor's wife.

The man was dying and all the afternoon he could only speak in whispers; his father was sent for, and at 11 p.m. Sergeant Adams to all appearance died. Dr. Ormsby, who was at the time standing beside the father by the bed, states that, thinking the bereaved man might faint in the keenness of his grief, he led him away to a chair in the back part of the room, and himself returned to the bedside, intending to close the eyes of Adams, who he thought had expired. Dr. Ormsby then states: "As I reached the bedside the supposed dead man looked suddenly up in my face, and said, 'Doctor, what day is it?' I told him the day of the month, and he answered, 'That is the day I died.' His father had sprung to the bedside, and Adams turning his eyes on him said, 'Father, our boys have taken Fort Henry, and Charlie (his brother) isn't hurt. I've seen mother and the children, and they are well.'

"He then gave comprehensive directions regarding his funeral, speaking of the corpse as' my body,' and occupying, I should think, as much as five minutes. He then turned towards me and again said, 'Doctor, what day is it?' and I answered him as before. He again repeated, 'That's the day I died,' and instantly was dead. His tones were quite full and distinct, and so loud as to be readily heard in the adjoining room, and were so heard by Mrs. Ormsby.

"(Signed) O. B. ORMSBY, M.D."
In reply to further questions, Dr. Ormsby wrote that he had no opportunity to learn whether what was said about the mother and children was correct, but that he learned afterwards that Fort Henry was taken, and the brother was uninjured.

Chapter 5: Music Heard at the Time of Death by the Dying or by Persons Present at a Death Bed
 - William Barrett -

          AMONG the numerous cases in which music is heard at the time of death, the following incident, well attested by different observers, is quoted from Phantasms of the Living, Vol. II, p. 639:

A master of Eton College, Mr. L., wrote to Mr. Gurney in February, 1884, enclosing a memorandum which was made shortly after the death of his mother, which occurred in 1881.

It appears that at the time of her death there were several persons present in the room, namely, the Matron of Mr. L.'s house (Miss H.), a middle-aged, experienced woman; the doctor in attendance (Dr. G.); a friend of the dying lady (Miss I.); and two other persons (Eliza W. and Charlotte C).

Immediately after Mrs. L.'s death, Miss H. and Charlotte C. left the room to procure something, and shortly after they had left Miss I. heard a sound of "low, soft music, exceedingly sweet, as of three girls' voices." It seemed to come from the street and passed away. Dr. G. also heard it and went to the window to look out. No one could be seen outside in the street. Eliza W. who was in the room also heard a sound as of "very low, sweet singing." Mr. L. himself, who sends the memorandum, heard nothing. The two others who had left the room, Miss H. and Charlotte C., distinctly heard the sound of singing as they were coming upstairs.

Later on, when those present were talking over the matter, they found that each one of them had heard the sound of singing and music - except Mr. L.

It was specially noticeable that the staircase, up which Miss H. and Charlotte C. were coming, was at the back of the house and away from the street. The time of Mrs. L.'s death was about 2 a.m. on July 28, 1881.

In reply to inquiries Miss I. sent the following memorandum which she made immediately after the death of her friend, Mrs. L.; it is as follows:
"July 28th, 1881

Just after dear Mrs. L.'s death between 2 and 3 a.m., I heard a most sweet and singular strain of singing outside the windows; it died away after passing the house. All in the room [except Mr. L.] heard it, and the medical attendant, who was still with us, went to the window, as I did, and looked out, but there was nobody. It was a bright and beautiful night. It was as if several voices were singing in perfect unison a most sweet melody which died away in the distance. Two persons had gone from the room to fetch something and were coming upstairs at the back of the house and heard the singing and stopped, saying, 'What is that singing?' They could not, naturally, have heard any sound from outside the windows in the front of the house from where they were at the back.

"E. I."
Dr. G., who was in attendance upon Mrs. L, writes to Mr. Gurney in 1884, as follows:
"ETON, WINDSOR

I remember the circumstance perfectly. I was sent for about midnight, and remained with Mrs. L until her death about 2.30 a.m. Shortly after we heard a few bars of lovely music, not unlike that from an aeolian harp - and it filled the air for a few seconds. I went to the window and looked out, thinking there must be someone outside, but could see no one though it was quite light and clear. Strangely enough, those outside the room heard the same sounds, as they were coming upstairs quite at the other side of the door [house]."
Mr. Gurney adds a note that as Mr. L., although present at the time of his mother's death, did not share the experience of the others, this is strong evidence that the sounds did not come from any persons singing outside the house, and the other evidence quoted confirms this.

There are, however, many cases in which the dying persons or those near the bedside have heard musical sounds which could not be attributed to any earthly source. These sounds may have their origin, in some cases at least, in the minds of the living.

The following case appears to point to a hallucinatory origin of the music heard. It is an interesting case and worth quoting in an abbreviated form. It is printed in the "S.P.R. Journal," Vol. IV, p. 181.

Here the subject was a deaf mute, John Britton, who was taken dangerously ill with rheumatic fever, which caused his hands and fingers - which were his only means of conversation - to become so swollen that he could not use them, greatly to the distress of his relatives, to whom he could not make known his wants nor his sufferings.

The narrator, Mr. S. Allen, Steward of Haileybury College, and a brother-in-law of John Britton, states that the doctor thinking John could not recover, they had sent for members of his family. He adds that when he and his wife were in a room below John's bedroom, they were greatly surprised to hear music coming from upstairs, and ran up at once to find out what it was. He narrates as follows:
"We found Jack lying on his back with his eyes fixed on the ceiling, and his face lighted up with the brightest of smiles. After a little while Jack awoke and used the words 'Heaven' and 'beautiful' as well as he could by means of his lips and facial expression. As he became more conscious he also told us in the same manner that his brother Tom and his sister Harriet were coming to see him. This we considered very unlikely as they lived some distance off, but shortly afterwards a cab drove up from which they alighted. They had sent no intimation of their coming, nor had anyone else. After Jack's partial recovery, when he was able to write or converse upon his fingers, he told us that he had been allowed to see into Heaven and to hear most beautiful music."
Mr. Allen asks, "How did John know that Tom and Harriet were travelling, and how could he have heard these musical sounds which we also heard?" He remarks that the music could not have come from next door or from the street, and he gives a rough plan of his house to show that it was not in a row, and that the sounds could not be due to any normal cause.

Mrs. Allen confirms her husband's statement, and says that she heard the sounds of singing which came from her brother's bedroom, and that when she entered the bedroom he was in a comatose state and smiling, and his lips were moving as if he were in conversation with someone, but no sound came from them. Mrs. Allen continues, "when he had recovered sufficiently to use his hands he told me more details of what he had seen, and used the words 'beautiful music.' "She adds that her brother died a few years later, and states "the nurse and I were watching in the room, my brother was looking just as he did on the former occasion, smiling, and he said quite distinctly and articulately 'Angels' and 'Home.'"

The Rev. L. S. Milford, a master at Haileybury College, in giving an account of the interview he had with Mr. and Mrs. Allen, states that "Mrs. Allen says the sounds she heard resembled singing-sweet music without distinguishable words-that she went upstairs directly she heard the music, which continued until she reached the bedroom. Mr. Allen's impression is that the sound resembled the full notes of an organ or of an aeolian harp."

The following interesting case is an instance in which the dying person heard the sound of singing and also had a vision of a lady of whose death she was unaware. The case is taken from the "Proceedings S.P.R." for 1885,(1) and is as follows somewhat abridged:
(1) See "Proceedings S.P.R.," Vol. III, pp. 92, 93; also "Human Personality," Vol. II, p. 339.
Mrs. Z., wife of Col. Z. (a well-known Irish gentleman who does not wish his name published), was having some friends to stay with her and asked a Miss X., who was training as a professional singer, to spend a week with her and help to entertain her guests. This she did. Several years later Mrs. Z. became very ill and expected to die; she was, however, perfectly composed and in the full possession of her senses, and was anxious to arrange some business affairs. For this purpose her husband came to her bedside and talked over these matters with her. Suddenly she changed the subject and said to her husband, "Do you hear those voices singing?" Col. Z., who narrates the incident, replied that he did not, and his wife continued, "I have heard them several times to-day, and I am sure they are the angels welcoming me to Heaven, but," she added, "it is strange, there is one voice among them I am sure I know. but I cannot remember whose voice it is." Suddenly she stopped and said, pointing straight over her husband's head, "Why, there she is in the corner of the room; it is Julia X. She is coming on; she is leaning over you; she has her hands up; she is praying. Do look; she is going." Her husband turned round but could see nothing. His wife then said, "She has gone."
These things the Colonel at the time believed to be merely the phantasms of a dying person, but two days afterwards on taking up "The Times" newspaper, he saw recorded in it the death of Julia, who some years previously had married a Mr. Webley. He was so astounded that a day or two after his wife's funeral he went to see Julia's father, and asked if his daughter were really dead. "Yes," he said, "poor thing, she died of puerperal fever, and on the day she died she began singing, and sang on and on till she died."

In a subsequent communication from Colonel Z. the following facts were given:
Mrs. Webley (nee Julia X.) died on February 2,1874.
Mrs. Z. (wife of Colonel Z.) died on February 13, 1874.
Colonel Z. saw notice of Mrs. Webley's death on February 14, 1874.
Mrs. Z. never was subject to hallucinations of any sort.
Mr. Gurney subsequently received a note from Mr. Webley (husband of Julia) in which he stated that beautiful as his wife's voice was, it never had been so exquisitely beautiful as when she sang just before her death.

John Bunyan relates an incident of this kind which is worth quoting, though its evidential value is not very great.

He states:
"Talking of the dying of Christians, I will tell you a story of one that died some time since in our town. The man was a godly old Puritan, for so the godly were called in times past. This man, after a long and godly life, fell sick, of the sickness whereof he died. And as he lay drawing on, the woman that looked to him thought she heard music, and that the sweetest that ever she heard in her life, which also continued until he gave up the ghost. Now, when his soul departed from him the music seemed to withdraw, and to go further and further off from the house, and so it went until the sound was quite gone out of hearing."(1)
(1) See Bunyan's "Works." Edited by George Offor, Vol. III. pp. 653, 654. Glasgow, 1855.

Chapter 6: Visions of the Spirit of a Dying Person Leaving the Body
 - William Barrett -
          THE following case, which is taken from the "S.P.R. Journal" (Vol. XIII, pp. 308-311), was sent to Dr. Hodgson by Dr. Burgess, an Associate of the American S.P.R. The vision was seen only by the husband of the dying woman, and by none of the others present in the room. The doctor who was present, Dr. Renz, testifies that the percipient, Mr. G., "was in a perfectly normal state before and after, and that there were features in the vision that would not have been likely to occur to him."

The percipient, Mr. G., states as follows:
"My wife died at 11.45 p.m. on Friday, May 23rd, 1902. Gathered round the bedside were some of our most intimate friends, the physician in attendance, and two trained nurses. I was seated at the bedside holding my wife's hand... Earlier in the evening, at 6.45, I happened to look towards the door, when I saw floating through the doorway three separate and distinct clouds in strata. Each cloud appeared to be about four feet in length, from six to eight inches in width, the lower one about two feet from the ground, the others at intervals of about six inches... Slowly these clouds approached the bed until they completely enveloped it. Then, gazing through the mist, I beheld standing at the head of my dying wife a woman's figure about three feet in height, transparent, yet like a sheen of brightest gold; a figure so glorious in its appearance that no words can be used fitly to describe it. She was dressed in the Grecian costume, with long, loose and flowing sleeves-upon her head a brilliant crown. In all its splendour and beauty the figure remained motionless with hands uplifted over my wife, seeming to express a welcome with a quiet, glad countenance, with a dignity of calmness and peace. Two figures in white knelt by my wife's side, apparently leaning towards her; other figures hovered about the bed, more or less distinct.

"Above my wife, and connected with a cord proceeding from her forehead, over the left eye, there floated in a horizontal position a nude, white figure, apparently her 'astral body.' At times the suspended figure would lie perfectly quiet, at other times it would shrink in size until it was no larger than perhaps eighteen inches, but always the figure was perfect and distinct...

"This vision, or whatever it may be called, I saw continuously during the five hours preceding the death of my wife. All through those five hours I felt a strange feeling of oppression and weight upon my head and limbs...

"At last the fatal moment arrived; with a gasp, the astral figure struggling, my wife ceased to breathe; she apparently was dead: however, a few seconds later she breathed again, twice, and then all was still. With her last breath and last gasp, as the soul left the body, the cord was severed suddenly and the astral figure vanished. The clouds and the spirit forms disappeared instantly, and, strange to say, all the oppression that weighed upon me was gone; I was myself, cool, calm, and deliberate, able to direct, from the moment of death, the disposition of the body, its preparation for a final resting-place.

"I leave my readers to determine whether I was labouring under a mental delusion caused by anxiety, sorrow and fatigue, or if a glimpse of a spirit world of beauty, happiness, calmness, and peace was granted to my mortal eyes."
The doctor who was present writes as follows:
"From my own observations I can most positively put aside a temporary acute state of hallucinatory insanity during the time of the vision just recorded... I knew Mr. G. well, and I had occasion to know that he never read anything in. the occult line; that everything that was not a proven fact was incompatible with his positive mind - so much so that during his vision (of which I did not know at the time) he asked me frequently if I thought he was going to become insane...

"As soon as Mrs. G. was dead, Mr. G., who for six hours was sitting almost motionless next to her, rose and gave all his orders in such a calm and business-like way that it surprised all who were present. If he had laboured under a hallucination his mind would not have become clear as suddenly as it did. It is now 2 1/2 weeks since the death and the vision. Mr. G. is absolutely normal physically as well as mentally. He has attended to his business as usual, and, besides, fulfilled many extraordinary duties.

"(Signed) C. RENZ"
Many well authenticated cases are on record where the relatives of a person, watching by the death-bed, have seen at the moment of death a cloudy form rising from the body of the deceased and hovering for a time in the room and then passing away.

Lady Mount Temple informed me that something of this kind was noticed by a psychic friend of hers, who was present at the death of Lord Mount Temple. Others present did not see it.

In a letter that has recently been sent me of a late well-known dignitary of the Church (a Dean) in New South Wales, he describes the death of his son a few years ago.

He says that at about 3.30 pm. he and his wife were standing one on each side of the bed and bending over their dying son, when just as his breathing ceased they both saw "something rise as it were from his face like a delicate veil or mist, and slowly pass away." He adds, "We were deeply impressed and remarked, 'How wonderful! Surely that must be the departure of his spirit.' We were not at all distracted so as to be mistaken in what we saw."

The following cases are recorded by Mrs. Joy Snell, in her book, The Ministry of Angels:
"It was about six months after I began work in the hospital that it was revealed to me that the dying often really do see those who have come from the realms of spirit life to welcome them on their entrance into another state of existence.

"The first time that I received this ocular proof was at the death of Laura Stirman, a sweet girl of seventeen, who was a personal friend of mine. She was a victim of consumption. She suffered no pain, but the weariness that comes from extreme weakness and debility was heavy upon her and she yearned for rest.

"A short time before she expired I became aware that two spirit forms were standing by the bedside, one on either side of it. I did not see them enter the room; they were standing by the bedside when they first became visible to me, but I could see them as distinctly as I could any of the human occupants of the room. I recognized their faces as those of two girls who had been the closest friends of the girl who was dying. They had passed away a year before and were then about her own age.

"Just before they appeared the dying girl exclaimed, 'It has grown suddenly dark; I cannot see anything!' But she recognized them immediately. A smile, beautiful to see, lit up her face. She stretched forth her hands and in joyous tones exclaimed, 'Oh, you have come to take me away! I am glad, for I am very tired.'

"As she stretched forth her hands the two angels extended each a hand, one grasping the dying girl's right hand, the other her left hand. Their faces were illumined by a smile more radiantly beautiful even than that of the face of the girl who was so soon to find the rest for which she longed. She did not speak again, but for nearly a minute her hands remained outstretched, grasped by the hands of the angels, and she continued to gaze at them with the glad light in her eyes and the smile on her face.

"Her father, mother, and brother, who had been summoned that they might be present when the end came, began to weep bitterly, for they knew that she was leaving them. From my heart there went up a prayer that they might see what I saw, but they could not.

"The angels seemed to relax their grasp of the girl's hands, which then fell back on the bed. A sigh came from her lips, such as one might give who resigns himself gladly to a much-needed sleep, and in another moment she was what the world calls dead. But that sweet smile with which she had first recognized the angels was still stamped on her features.

"The two angels remained by the bedside during the brief space that elapsed before the spirit form took shape above the body in which physical life had ceased. Then they rose and stood for a few moments one on each side of her, who was now like unto themselves; and three angels went from the room where a short time before there had been only two."

"About a month after the death of Laura Stirman, which I have just related, another friend of mine died in the hospital, a Mr. Campbell, a man of 45. It was pneumonia that carried him off. He was a good and devout man and for him death held no terrors, for he was sure that it was but the transition to a happier, more exalted life than can be lived here. His only regret at dying was that he would leave behind him a dearly-loved wife; but that regret was softened by the assurance that their parting would be only for a time, and that she would join him some day in that other world whither he was going.

"She was sitting by his bed, and, believing as he believed, was awaiting the end with resignation. About an hour before he died he called her by name, and pointing upwards, said, 'Look, L   , there is B   ! He is waiting for me. And now he smiles and holds out his hands to me. Can't you see him?' 'No, dear, I cannot see him,' she replied, 'but I know that he is there because you see him.' B    was their only child who had been taken from them about a year before, when between five and six years of age. I could plainly see the little angel with curly flaxen hair and blue eyes, and garbed in what I call the spirit robe. The face was just that of a winsome child, but etherealized and radiant as no earthly faces ever are.

"The father had been greatly weakened by the ravages of his disease, and the joyful emotion occasioned by seeing his angel child seemed to exhaust what little vitality he had left. He closed his eyes and sank into a placid sleep. He remained in that state for about an hour, the angel child meanwhile staying poised above the bed with an expression of glad expectancy on his radiant face. Occasionally he looked lovingly at his mother.

"The breathing of the dying man grew fainter and fainter until it ceased altogether. Then again I witnessed what had now become a familiar spectacle to me - the formation of the spirit body above the discarded earthly body. When it was complete the angel child grasped the hand of the now angel father, each gazed into the eyes of the other with an expression of the tenderest affection, and with faces aglow with joy and happiness they vanished.

"Later on in the day, the widow (Mrs. Campbell) said to me 'I am very glad my dear husband saw B    before he died; it was natural that B    would come for him to take him to the angels, for they loved each other dearly. I shall now be able to think of them as always together and happy.

And when I receive my summons I know that they will both come for me.'

"After I had left the hospital and had taken up private nursing I was engaged to nurse an old lady (Mrs. Barton, aged 60), who was suffering from a painful internal disease. She was a widow and her only daughter lived with her... The time came when the end was very near. The mother had been for some time unconscious, and the daughter was kneeling by the bedside, weeping, her face buried in her hands. Suddenly two angels became visible to me, standing on either side of the bed. The face of one was that of a man who, when he departed from this life, was apparently about 60 years of age. His beard and hair were iron-grey; but there was stamped on his features that indescribable something indicative of exuberant vitality and vigour, which shines forth from all angel faces I have seen, whether in other respects they present the semblance of youth or old age. The face of the other angel was that of a woman, apparently some ten or fifteen years younger.

"The dying woman opened her eyes, and into them there came that look of glad recognition I have so often observed in those whose spirits are about to be released for ever from their earthly tenements. She stretched forth her two hands. One angel grasped one hand and the other angel the other hand, while their radiant faces were aglow with the joy of welcoming to the better world her whose earthly pilgrimage was finished.

"'Oh, Willie,' she exclaimed, 'you have come to take me home at last, and I am glad, for my sufferings have been hard to bear and I am very tired.' Then she added, 'And you too, Martha!' With the joyous light still in her eyes her hands remained outstretched for perhaps half a minute. Then they seemed to slip from the grasp of the angels. All her sufferings were over.

"The daughter had raised her head at the sound of her mother's voice, and her tear-dimmed eyes seemed to reflect something of the glad surprise depicted on her mother's face.

"'I can doubt no more after this,' she said to me when her mother had breathed her last breath; 'I know that mother saw father and her sister, Aunt Martha. I know that they came to take her to her rest in heaven.'

"Eagerly she listened to me when I told her a little later how I had seen two angels depart with her angel mother. 'I believe it! I believe it!' she cried, 'but, oh, how I wish that I could have seen it too!'"
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