Rain is responsible for a great deal more than the mere growth of vegetables--it is a controller, if a somewhat capricious controller, of man's destiny. It was mainly, if not entirely, owing to rain that the French lost the Battle of Agincourt; whilst, if I mistake not, Confucius alone knows how many victories have been snatched from the Chinese by the same factor.
It was most certainly rain that drove Leon Hamar to take refuge in a second-hand bookshop; for so deep-rooted was his aversion to any literature saving a financial gazette or the stock and shares column of a daily, that nothing would have induced him to get within touching distance of a book save the risk of a severe wetting. Now, to his unutterable disgust, he found himself surrounded by the things he loathed. Books ancient--very ancient, judging by their bindings--and modern--histories, biographies, novels and magazines--anything from ten dollars to five cents, and all arrayed with most laudable tact according to their bulk and condition. But Hamar was neither to be tempted nor mollified. He frowned at one and all alike, and the colossal edition of Miss Somebody or Other's poems--that by reason of its magnificent cover of crimson and gold occupied a most prominent position--met with the same vindictive reception as the tattered and torn volumes of Whittier stowed away in an obscure corner.
Backing still further into the entrance of the store for a better protection from the rain, which, now falling heavier and heavier, was blown in by the wind, Hamar collided with a stand of books, with the result that one of them fell with a loud bang on the pavement.
A man, evidently the owner of the store, and unmistakably a Jew, instantly appeared. Picking up the book, and wiping it with a dirty handkerchief, he thrust it at Hamar...
Elliott O'Donnell (27 February 1872 - 8 May 1965) was an author known primarily for his books about ghosts. He claimed to have seen a ghost, described as an elemental figure covered with spots, when he was five years old. He also claimed to have been strangled by a mysterious phantom in Dublin.
He was born in Clifton, the son of the Reverend Henry O’Donnell (1827-1873) and Elizabeth Mousley (née Harrison); he had three older siblings, Henry O'Donnell, Helena O'Donnell and Petronella O'Donnell. After the birth of his fourth child the Rev. Henry O'Donnell travelled to Abyssinia while awaiting preferment to a new parish. Here he was said to have been attacked by a gang and robbed and murdered. Elliott O'Donnell claimed descent from Irish chieftains of ancient times, including Niall of the Nine Hostages (the King Arthur of Irish folklore) and Red Hugh, who fought the English in the sixteenth century. O'Donnell was educated at Clifton College in Bristol, England, and later at Queen's Service Academy, Dublin, Ireland.
In later life he became a ghost hunter, but first he traveled in America, working on a range in Oregon and becoming a policeman during the Chicago Railway Strike of 1894. Returning to England, he worked as a schoolmaster and trained for the theatre. In 1905 he married Ada O'Donnell (1870-1937). He served in the British army in World War I, and later acted on stage and in movies.
His first book, written in his spare time, was a psychic thriller titled For Satan's Sake (1904). From this point onward, he became a writer. He wrote several popular novels, including an occult fantasy, The Sorcery Club (1912) but specialized in what were claimed as true stories of ghosts and hauntings. These were immensely popular, but his flamboyant style and amazing stories suggest that he embroidered fact with a romantic flair for fiction. O'Donnell wrote material for numerous magazines, including Hutchinson Story Magazine, The Novel Magazine, The Idler, Weekly Tale-Teller, Hutchinson's Mystery-Story Magazine, Pearson's Magazine, Lilliput and Weird Tales.
As he became known as an authority on the supernatural, he was called upon as a ghost hunter. He also lectured and broadcast (radio and television) on the paranormal in Britain and the United States. In addition to his more than 50 books, he wrote scores of articles and stories for national newspapers and magazines. He claimed "I have investigated, sometimes alone, and sometimes with other people and the press, many cases of reputed hauntings. I believe in ghosts but am not a spiritualist."
Many of O'Donnell's books possess autobiographical sections in which he reveals a desperate struggle to escape early poverty and scrape acquaintance with the wealthy and the influential. These revelations, coupled with both his employment of actors such as C. Aubrey Smith to help stage hauntings, and the fact that he left no notes relating to his studies after his death, suggest that he embellished or perhaps even invented many of his supposed experiences. This is borne out by the fact that virtually every reference book in the field of supernatural fiction accords O'Donnell the status as a fiction writer. Certainly he was never approached by, nor worked with, the Society for Psychical Research.
THE CASE OF A HAUNTED HOUSE IN RED LION SQUARE
I am not a psychometrist--at least not to any great extent. I cannot pick up a small object--say an old ring or coin--and straightway tell you its history, describing all the people and incidents with which it has been associated. Yet, occasionally, odd things are revealed to me through some strange ornament or piece of furniture.
The other day I went to see a friend, who was staying in a flat near Sloane Square, and I was much impressed by a chair that stood on the hearthrug near the fire. Now I am not a connoisseur of chairs; I cannot always ascribe dates to them. I can, of course, tell whether they are oak or mahogany, Chippendale or Sheraton, but that is about all. It was not, however, the make or the shape of this chair that attracted me, it was the impression I had that something very uncanny was seated on it. My friend, noticing that I looked at it very intently, said: "I will tell you something very interesting about that chair. It came from a haunted house in Red Lion Square. I bought it at a sale there, and several people who have sat in it since have had very curious experiences. I won't tell you them till after you've tried it. Sit in it."
"That wouldn't be any good," I answered; "you know I can't psychometrise, especially to order. May I take it home with me for a few nights?"
My friend smilingly assented.
The chair was put in a taxi, and in less than half an hour was safely lodged in my chambers. I was living alone just then, for my wife had been suddenly called away to the country, to the bedside of an aged and ailing relative. I say alone, but I had company--a lady tabby that, apparently abandoned by her lover, persisted in showering her attentions upon me. For hours at a time she would perch on the writing-table in my bedroom, whilst I was at work, and fix me amorously with her big green eyes....
THE DEFINITION AND ORIGIN OF BANSHEES
In a country, such as Ireland, that is characterised by an arrestive and wildly beautiful scenery, it is not at all surprising to find something in the nature of a ghost harmonising with the general atmosphere and surroundings, and that something, apparently so natural to Ireland, is the Banshee.
The name Banshee seems to be a contraction of the Irish Bean Sidhe, which is interpreted by some writers on the subject "A Woman of the Faire Race," whilst by various other writers it is said to signify "The Lady of Death," "The Woman of Sorrow," "The Spirit of the Air," and "The Woman of the Barrow."
It is strictly a family ghost, and most authorities agree that it only haunts families of very ancient Irish lineage. Mr McAnnaly, for instance, remarks (in the chapter on Banshees in his "Irish Wonders"): "The Banshee attends only the old families, and though their descendants, through misfortune, may be brought down from high estate to ranks of peasant farmers, she never leaves nor forgets them till the last member has been gathered to his fathers in the churchyard."...
BYWAYS OF GHOST-LAND
HAUNTED PLACES IN ENGLAND
SCOTTISH GHOST STORIES
THE SORCERY CLUB
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Whether all that constitutes man's spiritual nature, that is to say, ALL his mind, is inseparably amalgamated with the whitish mass of soft matter enclosed in his cranium and called his brain, is a question that must, one supposes, be ever open to debate.
One knows that this whitish substance is the centre of the nervous system and the seat of consciousness and volition, and, from the constant study of character by type or by phrenology, one may even go on to deduce with reason that in this protoplasmic substance--in each of the numerous cells into which it is divided and subdivided--are located the human faculties. Hence, it would seem that one may rationally conclude, that all man's vital force, all that comprises his mind--i.e. the power in him that conceives, remembers, reasons, wills--is so wrapped up in the actual matter of his cerebrum as to be incapable of existing apart from it; and that as a natural sequence thereto, on the dissolution of the brain, the mind and everything pertaining to the mind dies with it--there is no future life because there is nothing left to survive.
Such a condition, if complete annihilation can be so named, is the one and only conclusion to the doctrine that mind--crude, undiagnosed mind--is dependent on matter, a doctrine confirmed by the apparent facts that injury to the cranium is accompanied by unconsciousness and protracted loss of memory, and that the sanity of the individual is entirely contingent upon the state of his cerebral matter--a clot of blood in one of the cerebral veins, or the unhealthy condition of a cell, being in itself sufficient to bring about a complete mental metamorphose, and, in common parlance, to produce madness.
In the deepest of sleeps, too, when there is less blood in the cerebral veins, and the muscles are generally relaxed, and the pulse is slower, and the respiratory movements are fewer in number, consciousness departs, and man apparently lapses into a state of absolute nothingness which materialists, not unreasonably, presume must be akin to death. It would appear, then, that our mental faculties are entirely regulated by, and consequently, entirely dependent on, the material within our brain cells, and that, granted certain conditions of that material, we have consciousness, and that, without those conditions, we have no consciousness--in other words, "our minds cease to exist." Hence, there is no such thing as separate spiritual existence; mind is merely an eventuality of matter, and, when the latter perishes, the former perishes too. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can exist apart from the physical....