Ghost Seers
European folklore belief maintains that persons born at a
particular time of the day have the power to see ghosts. For example,
British folklorist T. F. Thiselton Dyer in The Ghost World
(1893), observes
‘‘Thus it is said in Lancashire that children born during twilight
are supposed to have this peculiarity, and to know who of
their acquaintance will next die. Some say that this property belongs
also to those who happen to be born exactly at twelve
o’clock at night, or, as the peasantry say in Somersetshire, ‘a
child born in chime-hours will have the power to see spirits.’
The same belief prevails in Yorkshire, where it is commonly
supposed that children born during the hour after midnight
have the privilege through life of seeing the spirits of the departed.
Mr. Henderson [T. F. Henderson, Notes on the Folk-lore
of the Northern Counties, 1866] says that a Yorkshire lady informed
him she was very near being thus distinguished, but the
clock had not struck twelve when she was born. When a child
she mentioned this circumstance to an old servant, adding that
‘Mamma was sure her birthday was the 23rd, not the 24th, for
she had inquired at the time.’ ‘Ay, Ay,’ said the old woman,
turning to the child’s nurse, ‘mistress would be very anxious
about that, for bairns born after midnight see more things than
other folk.’&43’’
This idea, part of a much larger belief in the significance of
various days in explaining little-understood phenomena such
as luck, prevailed on the Continent. In Denmark, children born
on Sunday had prerogatives far from enviable. The antiquarian
Benjamin Thorpe tells how
‘‘. . . in Fryer there was a woman who was born on a Sunday,
and, like other Sunday children had the faculty of seeing much
that was hidden from others. But, because of this property, she
could not pass by a church at night without seeing a hearse or
a spectre. The gift became a perfect burden to her; she therefore
sought the advice of a man skilled in such matters, who directed
her, whenever she saw a spectre to say, ‘Go to Heaven!’
but when she met a hearse, ‘Hang on!’ Happening sometime
after to meet a hearse, she, through lapse of memory cried out,
‘Go to Heaven!’ and straightway the hearse rose in the air and
vanished. Afterwards, meeting a spectre she said to it, ‘Hang
on!’ when the spectre clung round her neck, hung on her back,
and drove her down into the earth before it. For three days her
shrieks were heard before the spectre would put an end to her
wretched life.’’
It used to be a popular belief in Scotland that those who
were born on Christmas Day or Good Friday had the power to
see spirits and even command them, a superstition to which Sir
Walter Scott alludes in his poem ‘‘Marmion’’ (stanza 22). The
Spaniards attributed the haggard and downcast looks of their
Philip II to the disagreeable visions to which this privilege subjected
Among primitive tribes it was supposed that spirits are visible
to some persons and not to others. The people of the Antilles
used to believe that the dead appeared on the road when
one went alone but not when people went together; among the
Finns the ghosts of the dead were to be seen by the shamans
and not by men generally, unless in dreams. It was also a popular
theory with primitive races that the soul appeared in dreams
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Ghost Seers
to visit the sleeper, and hence it was customary for tribes to
drink various intoxicating substances under the impression
that when thrown into the state of ecstasy they would have
pleasing visions.
On this account certain tribes of the Amazon used narcotic
plants, producing an intoxication lasting 24 hours. During this
period they were said to be subject to extraordinary visions, in
the course of which they acquired information on any subject
they wished.
For a similar reason the inhabitants of northern Brazil,
when anxious to discover some guilty person, administered
narcotic drinks to seers, in whose dreams the criminal made his
appearance. Californian Indians gave children certain intoxicants
to gain from the ensuing vision information about their
enemies. The Darien Indians used the seeds of the Datura sanguines
to produce in children prophetic delirium, during which
they were said to reveal the whereabouts of hidden treasures.
One of the most famous seers in the British Isles was Kenneth
Ore, the Brahan Seer of the Highlands of Scotland. The
faculty of such prophetic vision was generally known in Scotland
as second sight. Other seers favor inducing visions by
such means as crystal gazing.
Campbell, John L., and Trevor H. Hall. Strange Things The
Story of Fr. Allan McDonald, Ada Goodrich Freer, and the Society for
Psychical Research’s Enquiry into Highland Second Sight. London
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968.
Dyer, T. F. Thiselton. The Ghost World. London Ward &
Downey, 1893.
Henderson, William. Notes on the Folk-lore of the Northern
Counties, and the Borders. London, 1866. Reprint, London FolkLore
Society, 1879.
Mackenzie, Alexander. The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer Doinneach
Odhar Fiosaiche. Stirling, Scotland Eneas Mackay, 1935.
Rev. ed., Golspie, Scotland Sutherland Press, 1970. Reprint,
London Constable, 1977.

Previous articleGlossolalia
Next articleGalactites (or Galaricides)