"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Henry Rider Haggard, via Wikipedia


This account of a tragic case of alleged "animal telepathy" described by the noted writer H. Rider Haggard appeared in the "London Times" for July 21, 1904:


Ditchingham, July 11th.

Perhaps you will think with me that the following circumstances are worthy of record, if only for their scientific interest. It is principally because of this interest that, as such stories should not be told anonymously, after some hesitation I have made up my mind to publish them over my own name, although I am well aware that by so doing I may expose myself to a certain amount of ridicule and disbelief.

On the night of Saturday, July 9, I went to bed about 12:30, and suffered from what I took to be a nightmare. I was awakened by my wife's voice calling to me from her own bed upon the other side of the room. As I awoke, the nightmare itself, which had been long and vivid, faded from my brain. All I could remember of it was a sense of awful oppression and of desperate and terrified struggling for life such as the act of drowning would probably involve. But between the time that I heard my wife's voice and the time that my consciousness answered to it, or so it seemed to me, I had another dream. I dreamed that a black retriever dog, a most amiable and intelligent beast named Bob, which was the property of my eldest daughter, was lying on its side among brushwood, or rough growth of some sort, by water. My own personality in some mysterious way seemed to me to be arising from the body of the dog, which I knew quite surely to be Bob and no other, so much so that my head was against its head, which was lifted up at an unnatural angle. In my vision the dog was trying to speak to me in words, and, failing, transmitted to my mind in an undefined fashion the knowledge that it was dying. Then everything vanished, and I woke to hear my wife asking me why on earth I was making those horrible and weird noises. I replied that I had had a nightmare about a fearful struggle, and that I had dreamed that old Bob was in a dreadful way, and was trying to talk to me and to tell me about it. Finally, seeing that it was still quite dark, I asked what the time was. She said she did not know, and shortly afterwards I went to sleep again and was disturbed no more...

Thinking that the whole thing was nothing more than a disagreeable dream, I made no enquiries about the dog and never learned even that it was missing until that Sunday night, when my little girl, who was in the habit of feeding it, told me so. At breakfast time, I may add, nobody knew that it was gone, as it had been seen late on the previous evening. Then I remembered my dream, and the following day enquiries were set on foot. 
To be brief, on the morning of Thursday, the 14th, my servant, Charles Bedingfield, and I discovered the body of the dog floating in the Waveney against a weir about a mile and a quarter away...

On Friday, the 15th, I was going into Bungay to offer a reward for the discovery of the persons who were supposed to have destroyed the dog in the fashion suggested in Mr. Mullane's first certificate, when at the level crossing on the Bungay road I was hailed by two platelayers, who are named respectively George Arterton and Harry Alger. These men informed me that the dog had been killed by a train, and took me on a trolly down to a certain open-work bridge which crosses the water between Ditchingham and Bungay, where they showed me evidences of its death. This is the sum of their evidence:

It appears that about 7 o'clock upon the Monday morning, very shortly after the first train had passed, in the course of his duties Harry Alger was on the bridge, where he found a dog's collar torn off and broken by the engine (since produced and positively identified as that worn by Bob), coagulated blood, and bits of flesh, of which remnants he cleaned the rails. On search also I personally found portions of black hair from the coat of a dog. On the Monday afternoon and subsequently his mate saw the body of the dog floating in the water beneath the bridge, whence it drifted down to the weir, it having risen with the natural expansion of gases, such as, in this hot weather, might be expected to occur within about 40 hours of death. It would seem that the animal must have been killed by an excursion train that left Ditchingham at 10.25 on Saturday night, returning empty from Harleston a little after 11. This was the last train which ran that night. No trains run on Sunday, and it is practically certain that it cannot have been killed on the Monday morning, for then the blood would have been still fluid. Also men who were working around when the 6.30 train passed must have seen the dog on the line (they were questioned by Alger at the time and had seen nothing), and the engine-driver in broad daylight would also have witnessed and made a report of the accident, of which in a dark night he would probably know nothing. Further, if it was living, the dog would almost certainly have come home during Sunday, and its body would not have risen so quickly from the bottom of the river, or presented the appearance it did on Thursday morning. From traces left upon the piers of the bridge it appears that the animal was knocked or carried along some yards by the train and fell into the brink of the water where reeds grow. Here, if it were still living,—and, although the veterinary thinks that death was practically instantaneous, its life may perhaps have lingered for a few minutes,—it must have suffocated and sunk, undergoing, I imagine, much the same sensations as I did in my dream, and in very similar surroundings to those that I saw therein —namely, amongst a scrubby growth at the edge of water.

Both in a judicial and a private capacity I have been accustomed all my life to the investigation of evidence, and, if we may put aside our familiar friend "the long arm of coincidence," which in this case would surely be strained to dislocation, I confess that that available upon this matter forces me to the following conclusions:

The dog Bob, between whom and myself there existed a mutual attachment, either at the moment of his death, if his existence can conceivably have been prolonged till after 1 in the morning, or, as seems more probable, about three hours after that event, did succeed in calling my attention to its actual or recent plight by placing whatever portion of my being is capable of receiving such impulses when enchained by sleep, into its own terrible position. That subsequently, as that chain of sleep was being broken by the voice of my wife calling me back to a normal condition of our human existence, with some last despairing effort, while that indefinable part of me was being slowly withdrawn from it (It will be remembered that in my dream I seemed to rise from the dog), it spoke to me, first trying to make use of my own tongue, and, failing therein, by some subtle means of communication whereof I have no knowledge telling me that it was dying, for I saw no blood or wounds which would suggest this to my mind.

I recognise, further, that, if its dissolution took place at the moment when I dreamt, this communication must have been a form of that telepathy which is now very generally acknowledged to occur between human beings from time to time and under special circumstances, but which I have never heard of as occurring between a human being and one of the lower animals. If, on the other hand, that dissolution happened, as I believe, over three hours previously—what am I to say? Then it would seem that it must have been some non-bodily but surviving part of the life or of the spirit of the dog which, so soon as my deep sleep gave it an opportunity, reproduced those things in my mind, as they had already occurred, I presume, to advise me of the manner of its end or to bid me farewell.

There is a third possibility which I will quote, although the evidence seems to me to be overwhelmingly against it, and, for the reasons already given, it is inherently most improbable—namely, that the dog was really killed about half-past 6 on the Monday morning, in which case my dream was nothing but a shadow of its forthcoming fate.

Personally, however, I do not for a moment believe this to have been the case, especially as the veterinary's certificate states that the animal's body must have been "over three days " in the water at the time of its discovery.

On the remarkable issues opened up by this occurrence I cannot venture to speak further than to say that,—although it is dangerous to generalise from a particular instance, however striking and well supported by evidence, which is so rarely obtainable in such obscure cases,—it does seem to suggest that there is a more intimate ghostly connection between all members of the animal world, including man, than has hitherto been believed, at any rate by Western peoples; that they may be, in short, all of them different manifestations of some central, informing life, though inhabiting the universe in such various shapes. The matter, however, is one for the consideration of learned people who have made a study of these mysterious questions...Further, I may say that I shall welcome any investigation by competent persons.

H. Rider Haggard.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. Haggard certainly didn't give the impression of a believer in such telepathy, but he was simply putting the facts forward as they occurred, with the possible explanations. I wonder if all pets need to tell someone they know when they are dying, if they are alone at the time. Bob evidently did.

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