Shane Leslie's Ghost Book

Shane Leslie's Ghost Book

Publisher: Tumblar House
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Format: Paperback
Pages: 196
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The object of Shane Leslie's Ghost Book is to collect instances of ghosts, apparitions, and messages from the other twilight world which have come under Catholic cognizance or suggest Catholic interpretations.

This small collection is intended to illustrate occasions between the Catholic Church and the ghostly. They are not necessarily spiritual and even less spiritualistic. Religion colours most of these stories, but some merely have occurred to Catholics or in Catholic surroundings. Whatever prohibitions mark Catholic life, the faithful are not forbidden to see ghosts or to believe in them! Foreword by Charles A. Coulombe.

Read the First Chapter Now

THIS volume is the drift and silt of a life-long interest in ghosts. It is suggestive, not conclusive. Ghosts are illusionary mental rubbish or, if they represent faint links between this world and another, betwixt the dead and the living, they must be of considerable importance.

It carries no scientific value, save to show that religious and ghostly beliefs can get along very well together: that it is not impossible or uncomfortable to study psychical research while occupying a static view of revealed Faith.

As yet it is not possible to decide whether the uncanny, super-sensory, para-normal or ghostly (call it what you will) is really a department of the supernatural or an unknown branch of the invisible Nature around us to be distinguished as præternatural. As the Church requires no motion of Faith for or against ghosts, we incline towards natural explanations, if they can ever be reached.

Certain words of the late Provost of Eton, Montagu James, always sound in my ear, for they were the last and most solemn I ever heard him say. Shortly before his death I asked him what he really thought on the subject, since he had written better ghost stories than any man living. He answered: “Depend upon it! Some of these things are so, but we do not know the rules!”

Nothing wiser could be said about the whole phenomena of ghosts. Until thousands of incidents, apparitions, hallucinations and inexplicable happenings have been collected and classified, we shall never approach any kind of ruling.

It is, therefore, the duty (pious or scientific) of the life-wanderer to recall or, better, record at the time anything queer or uncanny on his way. Either its meaning may be resolved or it may be filed under the heading of what they call at Scotland Yard “unsolved mysteries,” but with this difference that police mysteries have an earthly solution somewhere whereas ghostly events have generally no earthly meaning. We will suggest that sometimes they have a religious reference.

The first chapter is in the nature of an essay touching the whole question of the apparition or signalling of the dead to the living.

Belief or interest in ghosts is built up from a long succession of stories, hints, family odds and ends (chiefly odd), leaving a constant curiosity and sometimes a certain amount of acceptance in the mind.

Without possessing second sight (which I consider a gift like music or mathematics) I have always had a prepossession for the queer and all that raises unanswerable query.

Needless to remark that if everyone remembered or recorded whatever came untowardly in life, the amount of data would add considerably to the advance of psychical research. Some rules might be evolved or even a law governing the connection of the living with what is called the “other world.”

The second chapter deals with psychical phenomena in the history of the Church. There is no getting away from these strange phenomena whether in the lives of saints or of perfectly ordinary people.

The third chapter touches the well-known and over-evidenced type of the uncanny called poltergeists or ghosts that make noises. They have been recorded ad nauseam. They are common in the records and materialistic in most of their symptoms. If they are spiritual at all, they are on a very low level. Father Rickaby the Jesuit compared them to “the little black things on the seashore, made for some purpose. Perhaps the Almighty in excess of creation-energy may have created similar things in the spiritual world.”

Father Herbert Thurston, another Jesuit, devoted much thought and scholarship to the investigation of the poltergeist and three of his cases are recorded in his book on Ghosts and Poltergeists as first-class and first-hand examples, two from Irish sources and one from offices in the City of London (this was rather a famous one known as “Lister Drummond’s Ghost Story.” Lister Drummond was a devout convert).

My own contribution is the last word about a still more famous series of phenomena known as the “Coonian Ghost” which occurred in the county of Fermanagh in Ireland. Over many years recently it caused considerable interest and clergy did their utmost to investigate and to soothe the trouble. Eventually exorcism was declared permissible by the bishop, but the dean, to whom he delegated the office, preferred to leave it to the bishop. As a result, nothing was done and the unfortunate family, plagued by the poltergeists, left Ireland for America. I succeeded in collecting all the vital evidence of all the clergy who took a part in the investigations. As requested, I have omitted their names. It was as clear a case as could be found. There was no explanation and retreat was found the only method to deal with the unapproachable.

The Second Part of the volume is devoted to a collection of ghost stories out of the hundreds I have gathered. I believe that we would get somewhere by specializing all that reaches us out of the uncanny and placing them under careful classification, for instance: 

  • Ghosts and Animals.
  • Ghosts of the Living.
  • Ghosts in Sport.
  • Celtic, Teutonic or Oriental types of Ghost.
  • Religious or anti-Religious Ghosts.

This small collection is intended to illustrate occasions between the Catholic Church and the ghostly. They are not necessarily spiritual and even less spiritualistic. Religion colours most of these stories, but some merely have occurred to Catholics or in Catholic surroundings. Whatever prohibitions mark Catholic life, the faithful are not forbidden to see ghosts or to believe in them!

Some, for those reasons, I have taken mention from old collections, although they are not evidenced or cross-examined in the way the Society for Psychical Research approves. Two collections of Victorian date are rich in Catholic ghost stories: Augustus Hare’s Story of My Life, William Stead’s Real Ghost Stories. One was a raconteur and the other a journalist.

Both books being out of print, I have helped myself freely. Hare was a raconteur of ghost stories in Victorian days in the style of Lord Halifax’s ghost books, and, though undoubtedly he embellished his tales, he was an accurate recorder of facts and gossip as his Diaries have shown. Stead was the unbalanced Nonconformist prophet who out-Americanized American stunts in journalism. His interest in ghosts led him into credulous Spiritualism. He stampeded through the English-speaking world like the ghost of the great man he so nearly was.

With classification in aim I have been anxious to discover if Catholic ghosts yield special types (shall we say species of the genus?).

Apart from phantoms are poltergeists, which can show themselves pro-Catholic or anti-Catholic. Their action is so odd at times that Father Thurston laid down a special type called “ghosts that tease.” Investigators feel that they have a lower sense of humour and enjoy making fun of holy things.

More interesting and more edifying types of occurrence can be briefly indicated: 

  1. When invisible or super-sensuous means are used from the other side to bring contact between the dying and the Last Sacraments.
  2. When by apparition or signs or audible means deceased clergy obtain the saying of Mass (apparently unsaid) or the destruction of secret papers (affecting confessions).
  3. When by sign or sound, visionary or mechanical, the dead obtain prayers from the living.

Type I is illustrated by the famous Oratory Ghost, which has already appeared in Lord Halifax’s collection of ghost stories. In this case the real names and further details are given.

Though it has not always been possible, I have endeavoured to leave aside what is already authorized in the lives of saints or persons of supernatural life. The astonishing life of the Curé d’Ars or the incredible cures at Lourdes are a part of Church records. Both have roused deep interest amongst physicians and psychologists. I may quote from an unpublished letter which Frederic Myers, the founder of the Society for Psychical Research, wrote to a Jesuit scientist (6th June 1889): 

My mind continues to be quite open to any facts or arguments on the matter and (as you will have seen) I absolutely believed the evidence re Louise Lateau at a time when Maudsley etc., were sneering at the lies told by Catholic physicians. I have also a strong belief on the reality of the phenomena accompanying the Curé d’Ars, though I am not clear at all as to the explanation. I do wish that scientifically-minded Catholics like yourself and Mivart (who at one time took a good deal of part in these investigations) would unite with us in discussing any supernormal phenomena which occur within the bosom of the Catholic Church. Of course, we cannot promise to agree but we can promise to listen respectfully, and to discuss without any sort of prejudice and to print any really evidential points.

Since the early days of the S.P.R. there has always been a small Catholic section like the third Marquess of Bute, Father Thurston and the Hon. Everard Feilding anxious to inquire and report. The relations of both Societies, the S.P.R. and the S.E.R. (Sancta Ecclesia Romana) have been similar towards ghosts generally (an attitude of prudent inquiry towards facts but of non-committal to any conclusion).

The S.P.R. was always tolerant and helpful in the days of Victorian materialism, and the mighty names which have figured in the Presidency, from Professor Henry Sidgwick to Lord Balfour, afford an assurance to those who still humbly seek, in the Scriptural phrase, to discern spirits.

To an American friend of mine, George Smalley, Lord Balfour once said: “There is nothing in political life which can be compared to the interest and profound significance of psychical research.” 

So Man, who here seems principal alone,

Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown:

Touches some wheel or verges to some goal.

‘Tis but a part we see and not a whole.


Editorial Reviews

"Shane Leslie's Ghost Book provides what so many of us for so long have been looking for: a book of true ghost stories and supernatural experiences in accord with Catholic orthodoxy." - T.F. Sloan,

"This is a fantastic book to read... just don't read it at night!" - Christine Niles, Church Militant

Shane Leslie:
Shane Laslie

Shane Leslie was a famous diplomat from Ireland, who was a convert from Protestantism to Catholicism in the same year as his friend, G. K. Chesteron. He was also Winston Churchill's First Cousin, their mothers having been sisters. Sir Shane was a scion of a family of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy, settled at Castle Leslie in County Monaghan since time out of mind. He has authored several books and essays including "The Legend of St. Patrick's Purgatory" and "Shane Leslie's Ghost Book."

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