Strange encounters between humans and a wide variety of otherworldly entities have been reported throughout history. These entities include ‘gods’, angels, ghosts, demons, fairies, gnomes, monsters, aliens, etc. Such encounters range from benign and uplifting to hostile and harmful. Some may involve visions or hallucinations but, as many of the cases presented below show, others appear to take place in our physical reality. In the latter cases, the entities are physically visible and sometimes tangible but their weird behaviour suggests that they are paranormal entities, who manifest briefly before fading back into the ‘twilight zone’.
‘Spirit’ materializations have often been reported since the resurgence of spiritualism in the second half of the 19th century. A.R. Wallace, co-developer with Darwin of the theory of natural selection, described these manifestations as follows:
These are either luminous appearances, sparks, stars, globes of light, luminous clouds, etc.; or hands, faces, or entire human figures, generally covered with flowing drapery, except a portion of the face and hands. The human forms are often capable of moving solid objects, and are both visible and tangible to all present.
He believed that such phenomena embodied ‘truths of the most vital importance to human progress’.1
In the presence of the celebrated medium Daniel Dunglas Home, materialized hands could be touched and were seen to lift and carry objects. A newspaper editor shook hands with a materialized hand that ended at the wrist, describing it as ‘tolerably well and symmetrically made, though not perfect’, ‘soft and slightly warm’. A bell was brought to a journalist by a disembodied hand, but when he tried to hold the hand it melted away, leaving only the bell. At a session with the medium Kate Fox, a luminous hand came from the upper part of the room and, after hovering near the prominent scientist William Crookes for a few seconds, took a pencil from his hand, wrote on a sheet of paper, threw the pencil down, and then rose into the air, gradually fading into darkness. At a seance with Charles Williams in 1873, a large hand materialized which psychic researcher Frederic Myers seized and held in his; he felt it diminish in size until it was no bigger than a baby’s, before it melted away altogether.2 H.P. Blavatsky argued that the ‘spirit’-hand or phantom-hand was often an extrusion from the medium’s astral body, usually happening unconsciously, when the medium was in a trance.3
The most famous full-form materialization was a white-robed, white-veiled, barefoot figure calling herself Katie King. After the medium Florence Cook, dressed in black, had been securely tied up in a ‘cabinet’ (a niche with a curtain in front of it) and had gone into a trance, Katie would emerge from the cabinet and walk about the seance room, conversing with those present. She felt warm to the touch, and seemed just like a flesh-and-blood human. Immediately after an appearance, Florence would be found still tied up, with the knots of the ropes still sealed. In 1874 a scientist conducted a test in which wires were attached to Florence and a low electric current was passed through her body, so that even a movement of her hands would register on the galvanometer. But the current was not interrupted throughout the seance, in which Katie materialized and moved round the seance room. William Crookes was another scientist who investigated this phenomenon and concluded that it was genuine. He took 44 pictures of Katie, and saw both Katie and Florence together on several occasions. However, he was already convinced that Katie was not Florence in disguise, as Katie was six inches taller than Florence, her ears were unpierced, in contrast to Florence’s, and her fingers were longer and her face larger than Florence’s.4
Fig. 2.1. Left: Having entered into a trance, Florence Cook has slumped over the arm of a chair. The towering ectoplasm shape behind her is just beginning to compress into the materialized form of Katie King. Right: Katie King, fully materialized.5
In December 1873 a man tried to seize Katie during a seance, and a scuffle followed in which the man lost part of his beard. To escape his clutches, Katie partly dematerialized and slipped away to the cabinet. When the curtains were opened, Florence was found still tied up with the knots sealed and no white material of the kind Katie had been wearing could be found. The only proven instance of cheating came in January 1880 when the materialization was seized and really was Florence. However, the person responsible for securing Florence admitted that he had arranged with others that he would not secure her properly. Florence’s supporters argued that this was a case of unconscious fraud.6 This certainly occurred with the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino; when in trance she was known to cheat whenever she could, clumsily ‘levitating’ tables with her feet, but her remarkable phenomena continued to occur even under rigorous test conditions, amazing dozens of eminent European scientists over a 20-year period.
Impressive materializations were also produced by Horatio and William Eddy, two mediums living in the township of Chittenden, Vermont. Form after form would emerge from the cabinet, each ‘quite different in sex, gait, costume, complexion, length and arrangement of hair, height and breadth of body, and apparent age’. After an hour or so the session was brought to a close and the medium reappeared ‘with haggard eyes and apparently much exhausted’. These manifestations were investigated in 1874 by H.S. Olcott, who helped to found the Theosophical Society the following year. He had served as a field officer for the Union in the Civil War, and because of his reputation for integrity was given the rank of Colonel and assigned the task of uprooting fraud and corruption in the army and navy. Olcott witnessed some 300 or 400 ‘spirit’ forms during his stay with the Eddy mediums and could find no evidence of fraud. He said that, when touched, the apparitions were as substantial as any human being in the flesh, but that their temperature was invariably lower than his own, and their skin was covered with a clammy sweat.7
Dr George Beard of New York was convinced that the manifestations were simply the result of one of the Eddy brothers dressing up. Posing as a ‘simple-minded spiritualist’, he went to Chittenden secretly determined to expose them. However, during Horatio Eddy’s seance, while the sitters were holding the medium’s hands, a rogue guitar struck Beard repeatedly on the head, causing him so much pain that he jumped up and knocked down the curtains. After the sitting had resumed, all sorts of musical instruments were thrown over the curtain at him; a bell thrown with some force hit him in the face, after which he decided to return to New York. Beard had brought with him a powerful battery, whose current no mortal would have been able to withstand. Olcott connected the materialized form of a Hindu girl, Honto, to it, but it seemed only to amuse her. Beard, however, proceeded to denounce all materializing seances as ‘stupendous frauds’, and declared that Olcott’s testimony couldn’t be trusted as he had been immersed in the ‘humbug’ for too long and also wore glasses!8
Francis Monck had been the first medium not only to produce materialized forms but also to remain in full view while doing so. Spirit forms would grow out of his side: at first faces, then a fully-formed figure, nebulous at first but growing more solid as it issued from the medium until eventually it left him and appeared as a separate person, a couple of feet away but bound to him by a slender attachment of gossamer. Monck was tested several times with good results but, as with certain other mediums whose powers were not fully under their control, he resorted to deliberate deception on at least one occasion; conjurors’ devices were found in his possession and sceptics dismissed all his earlier materializations as fraudulent.9
During the early decades of the 20th century, Marthe Béraud (‘Eva C.’) produced materializations in full view of investigators, after she had been put into a hypnotic trance. A soft, somewhat elastic substance named ectoplasm emanated from various parts of her body – especially her mouth, ears, vagina, and nipples. The ectoplasm would quickly organize itself into the shape of a hand or head, on which a face might appear, sometimes in miniature. It would then solidify into a sort of paste, dry to the touch, before retracting into the medium’s body or simply disappearing. Sometimes the materializations looked like flat images, but in other cases they were perfect. Charles Richet, a French physiologist (later Nobel Prize winner) and psychic investigator, described seeing a full form rise from the floor:
At first it was only a white, opaque spot like a handkerchief lying on the ground before the curtain, then this handkerchief quickly assumed the form of a human head level with the floor and a few moments later it rose up in a straight line and became a small man enveloped in a kind of white burnous [long circular cloak with hood], who took two or three halting steps in front of the curtain and then sank to the floor and disappeared as if through a trap-door. But there was no trap-door.
Since sceptics suggested Marthe might be swallowing muslin and regurgitating it, her hair, armpits, nose, mouth, and knees were examined before a seance, and sometimes her vagina and rectum too. She was also given an emetic. Even after syrup of bilberries was administered, the forms extruded from her mouth were absolutely white. Over a period of 20 years she was never detected in any attempt at trickery.10
Fig. 2.2. Left: Eva C. producing ectoplasm, 13 March 1911. Her left hand is being held by Dr Charles Richet and her right by Prof. Schrenck-Notzing. The latter’s book Phenomena of Materialisation contains some 225 photographs of ectoplasmic materializations – all performed under strict test conditions. Right: An ectoplasmic face exuding from the neck of Eva C., 30 December 1911.11
By the mid-1920s, Eva’s powers were deserting her. But by this time a Brazilian medium, Carlos Mirabelli, was demonstrating even more spectacular materializations.
Mirabelli’s full-form materializations were of deceased individuals known to the witnesses: something which had often been reported from spiritualist seances, but ordinarily in dark or very poorly lit rooms, whereas Mirabelli’s appeared in full light, and in test conditions, before numerous investigators appointed to examine the claims. In the course of more than a hundred sessions, more than half of which were productive, Mirabelli performed in a locked and sealed room, tied up in a chair; and he materialized, among others, the child of one of the investigators, dressed in her burial clothes, and a bishop who had been drowned in a shipwreck. They did not merely appear and fade away again; they were able to converse with the investigators, and to touch and be touched; a doctor present was able to feel the girl’s pulse. These materializations were attested by scores of academics, prominent politicians, doctors and others, none of whom could offer any explanation other than that they were genuine; nor has any sceptic since been able to discover any evidence from the many witnesses still living to suggest that Mirabelli was involved in what would have been the most spectacular conjuring trick ever devised.12
Fig. 2.3. The look of alarm on the part of Dr Carlos de Castro (right) is accounted for by the fact that a deceased poet (centre) has just materialized between him and the entranced Mirabelli (left), in the course of a test seance at the Cesare Lombroso Academy of Psychic Studies.13
Materializations are still occasionally reported in spiritualist journals but they are no longer the object of serious investigation as most parapsychologists find the subject too hot to handle!
W.Q. Judge, a founder-member of the Theosophical Society,
mentions three possible explanations of ‘spirit’ materializations:
1) The medium’s astral body is exuded, and gradually collects particles extracted from the air and the bodies of those present at the seance until it becomes visible. It may resemble the medium or assume the appearance of a dead person whose image is present on the astral plane.
2) The ‘astral shell’ of a deceased person, i.e. the decaying ethereal form that served as the vehicle of their lower mind, and which is therefore devoid of conscience and the higher intellectual and spiritual faculties, becomes visible and even tangible when the condition of air and ether is such as to alter the vibration of its molecules to the necessary degree.
3) An unseen mass of chemical, electrical, and magnetic matter is collected from the atmosphere, the medium, or other people present, and a picture of any desired person, living or dead, is reflected on it out of the astral light.
Dimness of light is generally preferred for such manifestations because a bright light disturbs the astral substance and makes the projection more difficult.14
In materializations and other seance-room phenomena, the medium and other sitters are often ‘vampirized’ to some extent by the astral entities involved, as the necessary elements are drawn from their bodies, depleting their vitality. Blavatsky calls mediumship ‘one of the most dangerous of abnormal nervous diseases’, and contrasts it with adeptship, which signifies full voluntary control over psychic powers and forces.15
Most apparitions on record are of the living rather than the dead. Only a minority are visual; most involve sensing a presence, hearing thumps, moaning, and other strange noises, or smelling unexplained odours. Apparitions are usually seen only once, but some are repeatedly seen haunting the same location. R.E. Guiley writes:
Some apparitions seem real and corporeal, with definable form and features, and, if human, with clothing. Other apparitions are fuzzy, luminous, transparent, wispy and ill-defined; some are little more than streaks, blobs or patches of light.
Apparitions appear and disappear suddenly and sometimes just fade away. They both move through walls and objects and walk around them. They can cast shadows and be reflected in mirrors. ... Some are accompanied by sounds, smells, sensations of cold and movement of real objects in the percipient’s environment. In some cases, percipients attempt to touch apparitions; most find their hands go through them, but in a few cases, contact has been made with a substance that feels like a flimsy garment.1
Some apparitions communicate verbally and seem to possess a certain degree of intelligence, while others do not respond to attempts at communication and display only a limited range of gestures and movements. For instance, they may call the percipient’s attention to a fatal wound on the ghostly body. Sometimes there is no interaction at all, and the percipient merely witnesses an ethereal repeat of events that once took place at the scene in question. There are reports of animal ghosts, and people have also seen ghosts of inanimate objects, such as spectral ships glowing at sea (e.g. ‘The Flying Dutchman’). In addition, phantom armies have been seen fighting in the sky. For instance, on Christmas Eve 1642, two months after the battle of Edge Hill during England’s Civil War, a kind of replay of the battle was seen in the skies above the battlefield, complete with sound effects. The reenactment was repeated on several subsequent occasions, though it varied each time. The king had a royal commission look into the case, and the investigators saw the spectacle for themselves. Ghostly replays of battlefield scenes tend to fade over time, though many continue for centuries.2
Over 80% of apparitions seem to manifest themselves for a purpose. The persons whose apparition is seen may communicate their own crisis (e.g. that they are dying or have just died), usually to their loved ones or others with whom they have close emotional ties. Crisis apparitions appear to people both in dreams and when they are awake. Most apparitions of the dead appear to comfort the grieving or communicate information about the estate or unfinished business of the deceased. For instance, after his death, Dante appeared to his son and guided him to where he had hidden the last cantos of his Divine Comedy. Apparitions of the dead may also appear years later to loved ones in times of crisis. Sometimes angelic beings, religious figures, luminosities, and dead loved ones are reported by the dying shortly before death. Haunting apparitions usually have emotional ties to the site concerned, possibly resulting from violent or sudden death.
Many unexplained luminosities at haunted sites have been captured on film.3 Sometimes cameras fail to register what witnesses see, suggesting that the ghost was not seen with normal vision. This is also implied by the fact that sometimes one person sees a ghost while another person present does not. There are also occasions when cameras record a ghost even though the photographer was not aware of anything when the picture was taken.
Fig. 3.1. This famous photo was taken by two Canadian tourists on 19 June 1966 at Queen’s House on the Thames. Although nothing had been noticed at the time, two cowled ghostly figures can be seen on the developed photo (the two hands visible on the stair rail are both left hands).
Very strong, sharply fluctuating magnetic fields have been detected in places where people see ghosts. They tend to move from place to place and vary from the size of a basketball to that of a baseball. The electrical component of these fields is usually a DC field, like those emitted by living organisms, rather than the AC field typical of an electrical circuit. Sudden temperature drops (‘cold spots’) have also been measured, along with elevated levels of radioactivity.4
Sceptics have suggested that people who see ghosts may be suffering hallucinations induced by freakish electromagnetic phenomena. But even if certain ghostly experiences are hallucinatory, it is implausible that an ordinary random electromagnetic field would induce similar hallucinations in different people on different occasions, as would have to happen in places apparently haunted by the same ghost.
W.Q. Judge divides apparitions into two general classes: 1) the astral shells of the dead or astral images, either actually visible to the eye or the result of vibration within thrown out to the eye and thus making the person think he sees a physical form; 2) the astral-mental form (mayavi-rupa, or thought-body) of living persons, often projected unintentionally and therefore only partially conscious.5 When conditions are right, any astral images or thought-forms from the collective imagination can manifest visibly and even tangibly through the agency of elemental and other ethereal entities.
Apparitions of people who are about to die or have just died are fairly common. For instance, in a letter to the famous 19th-century French astronomer and psychical researcher Camille Flammarion, the Princess de Montarcy recalled that her grandmother had always said that if they were not together when she was dying, she would let her know she was dead. One evening at 9 o’clock the princess’s dog jumped up on her bed, ‘howling as if he were being killed’. At the foot of her bed the princess saw the apparition of her grandmother, who threw her a kiss and disappeared. The following morning, a telegram informed her that her grandmother had died between 8 and 9 the previous evening.6
In another case from the 19th century, the figure of a young soldier, in hospital dress, appeared before the captain of his company, and requested that his pay be forwarded to his mother, whose address he then gave. The captain made a note of the request, whereupon the man vanished. After making inquiries, the captain found that the soldier had died the previous day. H.P. Blavatsky says that the intense thought and anxiety felt by the soldier in his dying moments could easily create an astral form to achieve a certain object. The astral soul is the exact ethereal likeness of the body, though not of its temporary garments. However, the soldier would have imagined talking to his captain dressed, rather than naked, and his desire faithfully reproduced the scene planned beforehand.7
In August 1864, May Clerke was reading on a verandah in Barbados while a native nurse was pushing her little girl in a pram. When Clerke got up to go into the house, the nurse asked who the gentleman was who had just been talking to her. Clerke replied that no one had been with her. The nurse was adamant and said that the gentleman was very tall and very pale. Clerke became annoyed when the nurse said she had been rude to ignore the man, who seemed very anxious to get her attention. A few days later Clerke learned that her brother had died in Tobago at the time of the apparition.8
In general, theosophy rejects the idea that the actual spirits of the dead can appear after death. This is because the higher human soul, or reincarnating soul, usually separates from the lower human soul, or astral soul, soon after death. It then sinks into a peaceful dreamlike state of consciousness in the higher astral realms, leaving behind a decaying astral corpse or shell (kama-rupa, or ‘desire-body’), largely devoid of reason – and this is what mediums usually mistake for the ‘spirits’ of the dead. However, the spirit-soul may genuinely be present directly preceding or following physical death, especially if death came suddenly.
Encounters with ‘angels’ (from the Greek angelos, ‘messenger’) continue to the present day. G. de Purucker says that appearances of angels are often connected with the witness’s own inner self and are an externalization of his or her thoughts. Some involve the appearance of highly evolved humans such as mahatmas or their chelas, who can travel at will in their subtle body and make themselves seen whenever it is appropriate to do so. In rare cases nirmanakayas may appear – i.e. spiritually evolved humans belonging to the brotherhood of adepts, who choose to live in the earth’s auric atmosphere, without a physical body. In extremely rare cases certain advanced, ethereal beings from higher planes who are closely linked with the human race may appear visibly to people in an unusual state of consciousness, and the visioner’s imagination may endow them with wings or dress them in unusual garments.9
Angels are usually sensed, or heard by clairaudience, but occasionally they manifest as apparitions in brilliant white robes or as balls of brilliant white light. They often appear as real persons in a ‘mysterious stranger’ encounter.
These encounters occur when a person is in a dilemma and needs quick action. A mysterious person suddenly appears out of nowhere and provides a solution. Mysterious strangers can be male or female of any race. Most often, they are male – usually a fresh-looking, clean-cut youth. They are invariably well-dressed, polite and knowledgeable about the crisis at hand. They often are calm but can be forceful, and know just what to do. They speak, though sparingly. They are convincingly real as flesh-and-blood humans; however, once the problem has been solved, the mysterious strangers vanish abruptly. It is their abrupt and strange disappearance that makes people question whether they have been aided by mortals or angels.10
The 16th-century Italian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, for instance, was about to hang himself in prison when a luminous angelic youth appeared and hurled him to the ground.11 In the 1950s a German woman climbing alone in the Bavarian Alps found herself in danger; it was growing dark and she realized she had strayed from the path. Suddenly she saw a big ball of light, which condensed into the shape of a tall, rather Chinese-looking gentleman. At the time the apparition did not astonish her but seemed quite natural. The gentleman bowed to her, spoke a few reassuring words, and led her back to the tourist path. Then he turned into a ball of light that vanished. He acted like a guardian angel – perhaps a manifestation of her own higher self.12 The phenomenon of a figure materializing from a small luminous source or ball of light is quite common.
Fig. 3.2. Ball of light and oriental gentleman encountered in the Bavarian Alps.13
The following ‘crisis apparition’ raises intriguing questions about the physical reality and identity of some ghostly figures.
In the summer of 1895, veteran sailor Captain Joshua Slocum was completing the first leg of the voyage which earned him his place in history as the first person to sail alone round the world. Between the Azores and Gibraltar his rugged but tiny sloop Spray ran into squalls. At the same time, Slocum was suffering from severe stomach cramps which so demoralized him that he went below, not taking in his sails as he knew he should, and threw himself on the cabin floor in agony. He lost track of how long he lay there, for he became delirious.
When Slocum came to, he realized this his sloop was plunging into a heavy sea. Looking out of the companionway, to his amazement he saw a tall man at the helm. His rigid hand, grasping the spokes of the wheel, held them as in a vise. He was dressed like a foreign sailor, with a large red cap over his left ear, and sporting shaggy black whiskers. Slocum wondered if this alarming personage, the very image of a pirate, had boarded his boat and planned to cut his throat.
The sailor seemed to read his thoughts, for he doffed his cap to Slocum, saying, with the ghost of a smile ‘Señor, I have come to do you no harm. I am one of Columbus’s crew, the pilot of the Pinta, come to aid you. Lie quiet, señor captain, and I will guide your ship tonight. You have a calentura [fever] but you will be all right tomorrow ... You did wrong to mix cheese with plums.’
Next day Slocum found that the Spray was still heading as he had left her, and felt that ‘Columbus himself could not have held her more exactly on her course.’ That night he received a second visit from the Spanish sailor, but this time it was in a dream. He explained that he would like to sail with Slocum on his voyage, for the love of adventure alone. Then, doffing his cap, he disappeared as mysteriously as he had arrived.
Slocum woke with the feeling that he had been in the presence of a friend and a seaman of vast experience. And though he recognized his second sighting as a dream, he also realized that the first had been something altogether different. Besides, what dream could hold a vessel on course through a violent sea?14
Fig. 3.3. Ghost encountered at sea, July 1895.15
Numerous visions or apparitions of the Virgin Mary have been reported over the centuries. At Guadalupe, Mexico, in 1531, ‘Mary’ appeared five times to Juan Diego, a middle-aged Aztec convert to Catholicism. On one occasion the apparition told Juan to pick flowers. Although it was a cold time of year, he found a garden of roses at a site where no flowers had grown before. The flowers were a species not grown in Mexico at that time. He was told to wrap the flowers in his cape and take them to the bishop. It was then found that a beautiful image of the Immaculate Conception had been imprinted on the cape, in a style not in the Maya-Toltec-Aztec tradition. The cape was made from a coarse fabric of cactus fibre and had a maximum lifespan of about 30 years, but both the cape and the ‘painting’ have lasted to the present day, and are on display in the church shrine built at Mary’s request.16
The appearance of Mary seems to vary in accordance with witnesses’ cultural and ethnic backgrounds. For example, the image of the Virgin on the Guadalupe cape clearly resembles an Amerindian, not a Jewish girl. Michael Grosso suggests that Marian visions may be ‘expressions of the Goddess image, an archetypal pattern of great antiquity and psychological power’ and that ‘the cult of Mary gives a familiar psychic vehicle for the collective imagination to work through’.17 It is noteworthy that the hill where Jan Diego saw Mary was formerly consecrated to the Aztec goddess Teotenantzin, ‘Mother of God’.
At Fatima, Portugal, in 1917 Mary appeared repeatedly to three children (aged 7, 9 and 10), again at a place of ancient goddess worship – this time of Isis.18 The two girls saw a young lady and heard her speak; the boy saw her but did not hear her speak. The children said the lady was dressed in white and stood above a small tree. Before their meetings with Mary, the children also had encounters with an ‘angel’. At the time of the first encounter they were tending their sheep at a rocky knoll not far from their home. They heard a rumble, like a powerful wind (as often reported in UFO encounters), and saw a dazzling globe of light gliding slowly towards them from across the valley. As it approached, it gradually turned into a brilliantly shining young man, who seemed about 14 years old and identified himself as the angel of peace. After asking them to recite a prayer, he faded away.
The meetings with Mary occurred on the 13th of the month for six successive months, as Mary had promised at the first encounter. The children suffered paralysis during the meetings, as happens in some UFO encounters. Revelations were made to the three children in the presence of a large crowd of onlookers, which increased greatly from month to month. The actual visions of Mary were seen only by the three children, but during the revelations related phenomena occurred that were witnessed by a large number of people. These phenomena included the appearance of a glowing globe-shaped object and the occurrence of a shower of rose petals that vanished on touching the ground. (Showers of flower petals are often mentioned in Vedic accounts of celestial visitations.)
One of the children asked Mary to perform a miracle for the public at large, and Mary promised to do so on 13 October. On this date, some 70,000 people congregated in anticipation of the miracle. The day was overcast and rainy, and the crowd huddled under umbrellas amidst a sea of mud. Suddenly the clouds parted and an astonishing solar display began to unfold. The sun’s disc spun round in a mad whirl, taking on all the colours of the rainbow. It then appeared to plunge to the earth, giving off heat, and moving in a zigzag fashion (as UFOs are often reported to do). Some people in the crowd feared it was a signal of the end of the world, and panicked. Fear then gave way to awe as the sun returned to normal in the sky. The ‘miracle of the sun’ was witnessed by a large number of people from an area measuring about 20 by 30 miles, and lasted an estimated 10 minutes. Many onlookers afterwards found that their wet clothing was now completely dry. Photographers at the event documented the unusually fast change from wet to dry weather, but not the phenomenon of the rotating sun.
This sort of collective illusion is reminiscent of the way Indian fakirs can cause tigers and elephants to appear before a multitude of spectators. The fact that what the spectators see does not take place in our physical reality is proved by photography. This is illustrated by a performance of the famous Indian rope trick that was captured on film. Two psychologists together with several hundred other people
saw a fakir throw a coil of rope into the air, watched a small boy climb the rope and disappear. They describe how dismembered parts of the boy came tumbling horribly down to the ground, how the fakir gathered these up in a basket, climbed the rope himself and came back down smiling, with the intact child. Others in the crowd are said to have agreed with most of the details of what happened, but a film record which begins with the rope being thrown into the air, shows nothing but the fakir and his assistant standing motionless beside it throughout the rest of the performance. The rope did not stay in the air and the boy never climbed it. The crowd, it seems, was party to a collective delusion.19
The fakir was apparently able to project his own mental images into the mental spheres of the audience.
During the Fatima apparitions, Mary revealed that her purpose was to impress upon people the need for prayer, repentance, and mortification. As a result, many souls would be saved, Russia would be converted, and another world war averted! While clearly serving to strengthen the Catholic faith, Marian manifestations do at least challenge church patriarchy.
The manifestations could be generated by a coalescence of archetypal goddess imagery with the powerful thought-forms associated with the Virgin Mary cult. However, the events do not seem to be purely spontaneous; the fact that ‘Mary’ predicted her successive appearances at Fatima in advance and thousands of people saw the solar display at the prearranged time points to the involvement of a directing agency. Given the backward nature of key Catholic teachings, from original sin to forgiveness of sins through belief in Christ, this is most likely an inferior entity, though a powerful one.
In the summer of 1692, at Cape Ann, Massachusetts, Ebenezer Babson was returning home late one night when he saw two men step out of his house and dash into a cornfield. His wife and children insisted that no intruders had been in the house. Babson grabbed his gun, went outside, and spotted the two men again. As they escaped to a nearby swamp, one was overheard saying to the other, ‘The man of the house is now come; else we might have taken the house.’ Babson subsequently had further encounters with the mysterious strangers, whom he suspected of being French-Canadian scouts in league with hostile Indians. On 14 July the entire garrison saw half a dozen of the strangers.
A pursuit party, with Babson in the lead, got within gunshot range. Babson fired on them, and three fell to the ground, only to rise to their feet with no apparent signs of injury. As they fled, one turned to fire on Babson; the bullet narrowly missed him and lodged in a tree, from which its intended victim subsequently retrieved it. A few minutes later the garrison group trapped one of the strangers. Babson shot him, and the man dropped. But when Babson and his companions rushed to the spot, no one was there. Several days later two scouts from the garrison observed 11 of the strange men as they performed what looked like peculiar incantations. Richard Dolliver fired on them, causing them to scatter.
Soon the entire Cape was in uproar, and 60 armed men came from Ipswich to reinforce the garrison. As sightings continued, the strangers were accused of beating on barns, throwing stones, and other acts. Babson experienced one of the last sightings. Seeing three of the strangers, he dived behind a bush and waited in ambush – only to have his gun misfire. The strangers gave him a disdainful glance and walked on.1
Soon afterwards the mysterious strangers were seen no more. By now people had begun to suspect that they might be ‘demons’.
There is no shortage of reports of people being attacked by otherworldly entities – some of which remained invisible throughout the assault. For instance, on 20 May 1950 a woman was walking along a path near the Loire River in central France when suddenly she found herself in a brilliant, blinding light and felt paralyzed. She then saw two huge black hands appear in front of her, with quivering fingers. Her head was violently squeezed by the cold hands and pulled back against a very hard chest, which felt like iron. She heard her aggressor laugh, and was hurt by a blow to her back, as if from a metallic object. She was pulled backwards through the bushes to a small pasture, where the entity let go of her.
After a while, the woman felt strong enough to get to her feet. Then she saw and heard the brambles scratching the empty space, and the grass being pressed as if under the feet of some invisible being. She took to the path again. Her legs were lacerated by the brambles and bleeding, she felt a strange sensation of nervous exhaustion, as if she had been electrified, she had a sickening, metallic, bitter taste in her mouth, and her muscles did not obey her. She felt something like a bar over her shoulders, and a painful heat in her back. The attack had lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, and she felt as if she had entered ‘an unreal world’.
Suddenly she head a great noise and saw the trees bending as if under a sudden storm, and was nearly thrown down. There was a strong, blinding white light. She had the feeling something flew through the air very fast, but saw nothing. She finally reached a lock-keeper’s house, whose residents said they had seen a light from their house. They tended to the scratches on the woman, and could see large red bars on her face where the attackers’ fingers had been. An official investigation by the local police substantiated the physical traces on the ground.
The woman had witnessed an unusual phenomenon the evening before the attack. She observed a ‘kind of shooting star’, which stopped abruptly, then appeared to go up and stay among the stars for a while. Next it grew bigger and began a kind of swinging motion, its light going on and off. Suddenly it left on a curved trajectory, and reached the horizon at very high speed.2
In August 1975 about 20 people in and around Gilroy, California, saw unexplained red and white lights in the sky on successive nights. On 10 August, a lighted object followed and badly frightened 12-year-old Imelda Victor and another woman as they were driving to the girl’s house; the girl’s mother also saw the object, which had ‘four large landing gear-like arms coming out of it’. On 15 September Mrs Victor, who was a doctor, woke up to find two beings in silvery suits standing near her. She felt very calm. They asked her telepathically to go with them, and she found herself floating up into a hovering UFO. Inside she had a sensation of intense beauty, but was then blinded by a white light and woke up in bed. On 15 May 1978 Mrs Victor was at the house of one of her elderly patients when she was suddenly thrown violently to the floor and severely beaten by an invisible entity for several minutes. The elderly patient saw her turning and spinning on the floor, hitting obstacles in her path. She suffered multiple bruises, a sliver of wood punctured a vein, and she broke a leg. She had to spend six days in hospital.3
As Jacques Vallee points out, ‘The literature of religious miracles and the lives of mystics abounds with well-documented accounts of physical manifestations, including beatings, that are usually classified as possession phenomena or manifestations of so-called evil powers, although they generally do not cause permanent harm to the person.’4 For instance, Marie-Thérèse Noblet, a French nun and missionary who lived in the early 20th century, developed classic stigmata when in a state of religious ecstasy and was also beaten by invisible agents and suffered bruises, some of the incidents being witnessed by her church superiors.
Padre Pio da Pietrelcina (1887-1968), who was canonized in 2002, led a life full of paranormal happenings, including stigmata, magical cures, bilocation, and encounters with madonnas, guardian angels, and shape-shifting diabolic apparitions. The latter appeared to him as huge black cats, as naked women dancing lasciviously, as an invisible entity that spat in his face and tortured him with deafening noises, and as an executioner who whipped him. After a night spent wrestling with demons, the monks found the padre unconscious on the floor beside his bed, covered with welts and bruises. After another attack, he was found on the floor bleeding from the head and was unable to appear in public for five days. On a subsequent occasion, the bones in his arms and legs were broken.5
Fig. 4.1. Padre Pio, magnet for the occult.
Michael Grosso relates that a woman with a photographic memory once described to him how she watched a bar of blue flames form a circle around her bed while she was being sexually assaulted by a diabolic personage (see the next section for further accounts of sexual attacks). Grosso says that demonic phenomena are clearly real in some sense, but that he is not sure ‘whether they are variations of poltergeist phenomena, emanations of the dark side of ourselves (the Shadow in Jungian terms), or possibly derived from external sources’.6
In the early 1960s, a woman living on a farm near Gallipolis, Ohio, with two children complained of ‘tall men in white coveralls’ butchering her cattle; they removed the brains and other organs but there was never any blood. She had seen the men running away and jumping over high fences, and had also sighted luminous spheres at treetop level around her home. Strange lights, looking like lanterns being waved back and forth, had been seen in the area for decades. In addition, her telephone began to behave strangely, she saw strange figures in the house, and heard heavy footsteps and other weird sounds.7
The following dramatic incident took place on 12 October 1963. Just before dawn, Eugenio Douglas was driving his truck between Monte Maiz and Isla Verde in Argentina. Suddenly he saw a blinding light on the road ahead. He stopped at the side of the road and got out, but the light had disappeared. Through the rain he could now see a circular metallic craft, about 35 feet high. An opening became visible, making a second area of light, less intense, and three figures appeared. They looked like men, but were wearing strange headdresses with things like antennae attached, and were over 12 feet tall. As soon as the figures saw him, a ray of red light flashed to the spot where he stood and burned him. Grabbing a revolver, he fired at the entities and ran off towards Monte Maiz.
The burning red light followed him as far as the village, where it interfered with the street lights, turning them violet and green. He could smell a pungent gas. He ran to the nearest house and shouted for help. The owner had died the previous night, but his family, gathered around the body, reported that at the same time as they heard Douglas’s call, the candles in the room and the electric lights in the house turned green, and the same strange smell was noticed. When they opened the door they saw that the street lights had changed colour. Douglas was taken to the police station, where the burns on his face and hands were clearly seen. A doctor stated that the burns could have been caused by ultraviolet radiation. The police had received a number of calls about the lights’ colour change. When villagers went to the site where the truck was still parked, they found large footprints nearly 12 inches long.8
One variety of phantom attack involves the throwing or dropping of stones by some invisible assailant. For instance, for a period of three weeks in March 1922, rocks sporadically fell on the roof of a grain warehouse in Chico, California. Despite massive police and volunteer searches no one was ever seen tossing the stones. Such phenomena go back a long way:
As early as A.D. 530, for example, the physician to King Theodoric of the Ostrogoths was said to have fallen victim to a diabolic infestation: showers of stones fell constantly on his roof. In a 1934 West Indies case, a resident of the house at which the stones were aimed recorded, ‘The stones continued falling for more than a month, day and night. Sometimes stones would fall inside the house even when it was closed.’
In many cases the stones are reported to fall with a slowness which defies the law of gravity, and they feel warm to the touch if retrieved soon after their fall. In an incident that occurred near the start of the last century, a Dutch traveller in Sumatra reported a prolonged fall of small black stones inside a hut one night. They fell with abnormal slowness yet hit the ground with a loud bang as if they had descended swiftly. He tried to catch them but without success as they changed direction in mid-flight. The stones seemed to fall straight through the thatch roof but without leaving any holes.9
Phantom dogs are another type of attacker. Tales of meetings with huge, shaggy, fiery-eyed phantom dogs abound in England and Wales. The dogs are often black, but may also be white, gray, or yellow. According to folklore, they may be encountered by travellers on a dark road and either guide them to safety or menace them, or their appearance may presage the death of the witness. They have glowing eyes, sometimes appear from nowhere, and often vanish abruptly.
In 1904-05 there was a religious revival in North Wales during which many paranormal incidents occurred. Most were associated with Mary Jones, a farmer’s wife whose preaching was a key feature of the revival. The manifestations usually took the form of lights, hovering in the air above the chapels where she was preaching, and were seen as divine signs. But one night she had a more sinister experience. Returning home from one of her mission meetings, she was dropped off by her driver at the head of a lane leading to her farm. She told the driver that her brother always came to meet her when she was late, and pointed to the figure of a man dimly seen approaching up the lane. But when the car drove off, she realized it was not her brother at all. Uneasy, she began singing softly one of the revival hymns. Suddenly the man stopped, turned upon her, and became transformed into an enormous black dog, which ran from bank to bank across the road in front of her as though to prevent her advance. She thought it was the devil himself, ‘angered at my assault upon his kingdom’. As she prayed, the dog rushed growling into a solid hillock. A similar incident was reported a few weeks later in a neighbouring mining town.10
In the early 1920s, a young man in Wisconsin saw something with shining eyes, and the face of a dog; in the darkness he thought he could vaguely make out a dark black body. When he saw it again a week later in the same location near his home, he kicked at it, only to find his foot inside its mouth as if it had been anticipating the action. When he screamed, the creature vanished. On 25 October 1969, something looking like a Great Dane stepped in front of a moving car in Okehampton, England. Before the driver could stop, the car passed through the animal, which then disappeared.11
In 1972 a farmer struck with an iron poker at a black dog invading his Dartmoor house one winter night. There was a burst of light, a crash of breaking glass, and the phantom vanished. The man then found a complete electrical failure in the house (as in many UFO close encounters), every window broken, and the roofs of the house and outbuildings badly damaged.12 UFO literature contains a small number of reports in which black dogs are linked, directly or circumstantially, with flying saucers. For instance, several youths claimed to have spotted 10 big, black hairy dogs run from a landed UFO and through a cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.
Giant cats or pumas have been reported all over Britain, the US, and in other parts of western Europe. The Beast of Exmoor, for example, is usually described as a huge, jet-black cat, eight feet long from nose to tail, though about one in five witnesses report a tan- or fawn-coloured pumalike creature. No one has ever managed to shoot an anomalous feline. Their tracks are often described as being like a cat’s except that the claws show. This is curious because real panthers have retractile claws which do not show in their prints. Deer, sheep, and cattle are sometimes found slaughtered in the same areas, with huge claw marks on their sides. One woman even claimed that a ‘puma’ struck her in the face with its two front paws as she was walking through a wooded area in Hampshire.
Attempts to explain away all such sightings as misidentifications, delusions, and hoaxes have not been successful. Jerome Clark mentions the theory that they are ‘materialized psychic projections or intruders from parallel worlds’, but notes that, unlike black dog encounters, overtly paranormal elements are virtually absent from unusual cat sightings.13
Reports of phantom sexual molesters and demon lovers are found in every culture and in every age. In the modern space era many people say they have been abducted and sexually abused by ‘aliens’ – but it makes more sense to look first to ‘inner space’ rather than outer space for the origin of the entities involved.1 In ancient fairy lore, and folklore in general, there are many tales of sexual liaisons with otherworldly beings. And in the Middle Ages there were numerous reports of demonic possession and sexual exploits with male and female ‘demons’ (incubi and succubi). Although sexual interaction with such entities tends to take the form of an assault, it is sometimes deliberately sought after; for instance, some spiritualist mediums have boasted of having ‘spirit’ husbands and wives.
In 1967 a 39-year-old widow and her three young children moved into a house in Pretoria, South Africa, and immediately noticed an eerie quality. Mysterious crosses were found chalked on the doors and a piece of pork was found hanging on a nail in the main bedroom. One day the widow returned home to find a man dressed in grey sitting on the front porch. When she asked what he wanted, he stood up and walked into the house through the locked door. That night he materialized in her bedroom. She described him as covered with long hair, and having long, curved fingernails. He tried to pull the covers off the bed in order to have sex with her but she resisted him. The phantom relentlessly continued his sexual advances in the weeks that followed, until the woman could no longer tolerate another night in the house. Her two sons had seen nothing but her three-year-old daughter had cried, ‘Mama, I’m scared. He’ll bite me!’ The woman tried keeping the lights on at night but this did not discourage the ghostly attacker. Once he switched the lights off and whispered to her, ‘Be careful, I’m going to murder you!’ In response to her pleas for help, the city council found her a new house, following which the ethereal gropings came to end.2
Around 1969, a woman in Wisconsin was drifting off to sleep one night when she felt something pulling at her bedclothes and tugging at her leg. She opened her eyes to see a hideous, hairy creature, grinning lustfully at her and pulling her slowly across the bed. She felt paralyzed and was unable to cry out. She thought to herself very intensely, ‘God save me!’ There was a brilliant flash of light at the ceiling, and the creature disappeared. Another young woman reported that she was falling asleep one night with a book in her hand when she sensed something come into the room. It picked her up and tossed into the air so that she landed on the other side of the bed. The door to the bathroom slammed shut and she lay on the bed physically and emotionally drained and very frightened until she regained enough strength to get up.3
A young woman from Oklahoma described how one night she was lying naked on her stomach on her bed doing her nails when something invisible but very strong grabbed her by the ankles, turned her over onto her back and tried to force her legs apart. After several minutes of struggle the pressure ceased. Next the foot of the mattress went down as if someone was sitting on it. Then it went up and there was a sound of footsteps approaching the head of the bed. The woman looked up to see the figure of a man standing there, with a zombie-like face. The hideous creature smiled and reached out a hand as if to touch her. Finally she found herself able to speak again and screamed at it to get out of her room. It disappeared and never returned.4
Several sane, sober UFO witnesses have received visits from bedroom apparitions immediately after (or sometimes immediately before) a UFO sighting.5 For instance, a young woman who had had a close sighting of an identified flying object was dozing off on her bed one night when she heard footsteps coming up the stairs. She lay there in fear as the footsteps came closer and closer. They stopped beside her bed and as the bedclothes were torn off her body she wanted to scream but was unable to do so. She lay paralyzed as the entity lifted her nightgown and penetrated her. Another woman told how she had seen a UFO and had established mental contact with one of the crewmen on board. Later the spaceman had begun to materialize in her bedroom at night and make love to her, often leaving her with round burn marks on her thighs and stomach.6
New Zealand author John Stuart told of a sexual assault on his young research assistant, Barbara, after they had seen a grotesque, misshapen entity while investigating a UFO report. When Barbara returned home she immediately noticed a foul odour. She undressed and bathed, but had the impression that she was being watched. She was about to put on her pyjamas when an invisible entity touched her on the shoulder and she found herself unable to move. For two and a half hours the invisible but solid entity had its way with her body. The next day she found herself covered in scratches from the contact with the rough-skinned creature, and her ribs bore two small brown marks. She lost her enthusiasm for UFO research and moved to another city. A few weeks later John Stuart himself came face-to-face with the creature. Its body was vaguely human, greyish in colour, with stinking flesh hanging in folds. Its slack mouth was dribbling and when its lips began to move there was no sound. The creature told him telepathically that 13 of them had encircled Barbara on the night she had been attacked but only three had taken part in raping her.7
Encounters with phantom lovers are not always described as negative experiences. One female medium related that she had a ‘spirit’ lover when she was much younger, but now regretted it because sexual intercourse had been so blissful that no mortal man was now able satisfy her, including her present husband. A self-declared male witch said that through incantation and ritual he had succeeded in conjuring up a beautiful succubus, but when he installed mirrors all around the room he discovered it was really a hideous reptilian creature, and had great difficulty getting rid of it.8
According to H.P. Blavatsky and her adept teachers, succubi and incubi are often the astral corpses or shells of discarnate humans.9 The astral souls of humans of a particularly lustful and malicious nature (known as ‘elementaries’) may be conscious after death, especially if their lives have been cut short. Largely devoid of intelligence, they follow their animal instincts and try to cling to material life by vampirizing the living. Such ‘demons’ can become tangible and visible by attracting matter from the surrounding atmosphere, from the body of the victim if the latter is a medium, or from any other person in whom there is little cohesion of the lower elements, sometimes as a result of disease. Some ethereal attackers might be generated by the victim’s own intense imagination, or they may be sorcerers or black magicians, i.e. people who have acquired occult powers such as the ability to project their astral forms, but use such powers for evil ends.10
Franz Hartmann relates a case in which a young man killed himself after a married woman had rebuffed his passionate advances. After his death, his astral form became attracted to her, and as she was of a mediumistic temperament, he was able to partly materialize. It required a prolonged effort of will on her part and a course of treatment before she finally managed to rid herself of the incubus.11
While some phantom attacks seem to involve partially materialized astral entities, others may take place entirely on the astral/mental level but still induce physical marks on victims’ bodies. ‘Hallucinatory’ experiences, which are particularly likely to occur in a state of consciousness between sleeping and waking, are not necessarily entirely subjective and generated purely by our own brains and unconscious minds. In the case of bedroom assaults, ethereal entities may sometimes be attracted by the intense sexual desires or frustrated longings of their victims, and feed off their emotional and psychic energy.
Phantom travellers are ghosts of humans and animals which haunt travel routes, stations, and vehicles, and are universal in folklore and legend. Some appear real while other hauntings involve only sounds, lights, sensations, and smells.
In one case, a man, Colonel Ewart, secured a compartment by himself on the train from Carlisle to London. He dozed off but later awoke feeling stiff and strange, and noticed that a woman in black was sitting opposite him. Her face was obscured by a black veil, and she seemed to be looking at something on her lap, though nothing was visible. Ewart spoke to her but she did not respond. She began to rock back and forth and sing a soft lullaby, though there was no child with her. Suddenly the train screeched and crashed into something. Ewart was knocked unconscious by a flying suitcase. When he came to, he left the train and learned that the accident was not serious. He then remembered the woman in black and returned to the compartment, but she was nowhere to be found. Ewart was told that no one had entered his compartment after him.
Months later, a railway official told Ewart that the woman was a ghost who haunted the line. According to legend, she and her bridegroom had been travelling on the train when he stuck his head too far out the window and was decapitated by a wire. The headless body fell into the young woman’s lap. When the train arrived in London, she was found sitting in the compartment, holding the corpse and singing a lullaby to it. She never regained her sanity and died several months later.
Other hauntings and phantom traveller legends centre around railways, underground stations, and airports. At the Darlington rail station in Durham, England, the ghosts of a man and a black retriever have been seen in the porter’s cellar. The ghost is said to be a man who had owned a black retriever and committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train. The phantom dog reportedly bit an old porter but left no bite marks.
There are several reports of phantom travellers at Heathrow Airport. One is a gentleman in a dark suit and bowler hat who has haunted the airport since 1948 when a plane crashed on landing in heavy fog, killing all 22 people on board. While rescue workers were digging through the wreckage, they were interrupted by the man, who appeared suddenly out of the fog and said, ‘Excuse me. Have you found my briefcase?’ Since then, the ghost has been seen numerous times at the airport, walking along the runway where the crash occurred. The man is believed to have been a victim of the tragedy.1
The vicinity of Elmore, Ohio, is said to be haunted by a headless motorcyclist who appears each year on the anniversary of his fatal motorcycle accident, which occurred just after the end of the First World War. He had lost control of his motorcycle on a bend just before a bridge and had hurtled into a ravine. The man was decapitated and the headlight was shorn off his bike.
His phantom appears only as a speeding headlight which races down the road and vanishes halfway over the bridge. Legend has it that the phantom can be summoned on the death anniversary by blinking car lights and honking the horn three times each.
In 1968, two men tried to record the phantom on film and audiotape. They summoned the phantom twice. The third time, one of them stood in the middle of the bridge, and was found by his friend beaten up and lying in a ditch. He said he had no recall of what happened.
Nothing showed up on the movie film, but a strange light registered on the still film, and their audiotape recorded some odd, high-pitched noises.2
Phantom hitchhikers are another common type of phantom traveller. For example, on 31 March 1978 a South African Army Corporal stopped his motorbike near Uniondale to offer an attractive young woman a lift. He gave her a spare helmet and an earphone so she could listen to the radio. A few miles down the road, the corporal noticed that his passenger was missing. He rode back to look for her but she was nowhere to be found. Moreover, his spare helmet was strapped in its usual place and the spare earplug was in his own ear. He later learned that the 22-year-old woman he thought he had picked up had been killed in a nearby car accident 10 years earlier. Others have reported similar experiences in the area. In one case the young woman suddenly disappeared from the backseat of a car.3
We can only speculate on the extent to which events such as this take place in our physical reality, and to what extent on the astral or mental plane. In the above case, would video equipment have recorded the man stopping his motorcycle and speaking to the woman? Would a video camera mounted on his bike have recorded the woman suddenly disappearing, the earplug reinserting itself in the driver’s ear, and the spare helmet returning to its usual place? It seems more likely that this particular experience was a hallucination, though one that might have been induced by the earthbound astral soul of the dead woman.
The following phantom hitchhiker incident occurred at Palavas-des-Flots, France, on 20 May 1980. The hitchhiker in this case seems to have been physically tangible, at least temporarily. Just before midnight, two couples were returning from a day at the beach in their Renault when the driver spotted a woman standing by the roadside. He stopped to pick her up and she settled in snugly between the two women in the back. The driver told the woman where they were headed but she said nothing and simply nodded her head. The car continued on its way, then just as they were approaching a sharp bend, the woman cried out: ‘Look out for the turn! You are risking your life!’ The driver slowed the car and safely turned the bend, when suddenly he heard cries coming from the backseat – the hitchhiker had disappeared. A subsequent investigation of the scene of the incident revealed nothing. As Evans and Huyghe remark, ‘One wonders if the apparition did not, in fact, save the two couples from having an accident.’4
Phantom travellers on foot may suddenly appear standing in the middle of the road. Drivers of vehicles may swerve to avoid hitting them, sometimes causing an accident with their own vehicle or they may think they have struck the person, but when they stop and inspect the area, there is no sign of anyone or any damage to the vehicle.
The following ‘spectral jaywalker’ incident occurred at about midnight on 8 November 1992. Ian Sharpe was driving along a highway in Kent, England, when a young woman ran in front of his car. Sharpe had no time to avoid her, and her eyes locked with his as the car struck the woman and rolled over her. Sharpe stopped his car and got out, shaking with fear. However, there was no body to be found, and his car showed no sign of damage. He reported the incident to the nearest police station and was told the legend of the ghost that haunts that stretch of road. Exactly two weeks later, the same event happened to another driver. In other incidents in the area, however, the apparitions have had a different appearance: a 1974 accident involved a 10-year-old girl, while sightings in 1993 involved an old woman.5
Phantom vehicles are ghostly vehicles that suddenly appear on the road, usually travelling at high speed. They appear to be real, and drivers of other vehicles in their approaching paths swerve violently to avoid a collision, sometimes colliding with something else, resulting in injury or death. Some phantom vehicles are associated with sites where murders or tragic incidents have occurred, or sites reputed to be otherwise haunted.
On the night of 15 June 1934, a young man driving his car in the North Kensington area of London suddenly found himself on a collision course with a bus. The young man swerved but collided with another car and was killed. The bus was allegedly a phantom vehicle which continues to be reported over the years, and has caused other accidents. Other drivers have had minor accidents trying to avoid the bus, said by at least one witness to be driverless.
At Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery near the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve near Chicago, an area where numerous hauntings have been reported, phantom cars have mystified and terrified various witnesses at dusk and at night. Phantom cars and trucks which suddenly disappear have been reported along or near the Midlothian Turnpike, which runs past the cemetery. Drivers have reported that their own cars have been struck by speeding phantom cars which appeared out of nowhere; some even hear the sounds of splintering glass and crumpling metal. But when they get out to inspect the damage, there is no sign of an impact and no sign of the other car. There are no legends of accidents or tragedies that help to explain the phantom cars at this site.6
Visitors from the Twilight Zone: Part 2
Visitors from the Twilight Zone: Contents
Vampires and the living dead
The ghost of Troutbeck
Life beyond death: evidence for survival