Now, although all stories about visitations of spirits or appearances of apparitions are de facto fibs, manufactured in order to make money, imagined by people distempered in mind or body, or devised by poor frightened fools to cloak their pusillanimity, yet it would be a difficult and thankless task to trace out the origin and expose the folly of all those which are current. So, for once, Science has turned the tables on Ignorance, has assumed aggressive tactics, and attacked the ghostmakers with their own weapons. There is now exhibiting in London an admirable illustration of what Science can do when it condescends to take the field against Imposture. It forms the subject of a lecture at the Polytechnic Institution, in the course of which is displayed a most ingenious contrivance wherewith any amount of very highly-finished ghosts can be produced to order. These Mr. Pepper raises by the aid of a strong light, a mirror, a few lenses, and some smoke. And even an audience, such as in AEsop's time preferred the imitation of a pig to the genuine squeak of a pinched porker, could not refuse the merit of superior ghost making of the scientific device at the Polytechnic; which will do more to upset the lingering faith in the foolish and wicked superstitions about ghosts than a considerable amount of reasoning or argument.
But there is another and a medical aspect of the matter to which Mr. Pepper discreetly alludes in the excellent practical remarks that accompany the exhibition of this new Spectrodrome, as it is called. All medical men know, but few of the public are aware, how wonderfully deceptive are the spectral illusions occasionally experienced by persons physically or mentally out of health. Of these the instances related by Abercrombie and Davy afford well marked illustrations. But it cannot be doubted that there are many unknown cases where persons of weak minds secretly and morbidly cling to a faith in the reality of revelations or visitations which they know not how to account for except by believing them supernatural. To such sufferers the following words, with which Mr. Pepper concludes his lecture, may serve to convey a valuable lesson, and to open the way of escape from much secret misery: -- "The moral of my story, if a lecture may have one, is this: Ghosts, hobgoblins, apparitions, nursery bogeys, if they do happen to come as pictures or spectres on the retina of the eye or mind, are produced by some kind of bodily disease, and are best and most quickly get rid of by calling in the good and skilful aid of the family physician. At the Polytechnic we are anxious to instruct, amuse, and (when we can) do good; and we shall think ourselves fortunate if in bringing these optical spectres before you we have helped to shake that ridiculous belief in ghosts which still lingers in the minds of many sensible persons."
GLOSSOLALIA 5: Copyright © 1996 J. Lehmus. All individual works Copyright © 1996 by their respective authors. All further rights to works belong to the authors and revert to the authors on publication.