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I Really Saw a Ghost by Harry Price

This article on the Rosalie sťance by Harry Price was published posthumously a few days after Price's death in the Australian newspaper The Herald for Saturday April 3rd 1948.  The text follows closely that of the Rosalie chapter in Price's Fifty Years of Psychical Research (Longmans, Green & Co., 1939) in which the story of the sťance was first published.

Harry Price, the famous psychic investigator, who died this week tells here of his most amazing experience.

Harry Price devoted his life to investigating psychic phenomena, but whether he really believed in the supernatural nobody will ever know. 

His fellow members of the magic circle said soon after his death this week that he "bamboozled the public" into believing things in which he himself did not believe, but he has declared in his books that, although he was a sceptic, he was convinced there were forces in existence, about which we knew nothing.

 

Many times have I been asked for my "best ghost story": for the most thrilling and sensational incident in a lifetime's inquiry into the unknown and the unseen.  I have investigated hundreds of alleged haunted houses, sometimes, as at Borley Rectory, with exciting results.  I have attended thousands of sťances, many of them in my own laboratory, in an attempt to pierce the "iron curtain" that separates this world from the next.  I have sat in poltergeist-infested homes, in which objects have been flying about - objects which no human hands could possibly have propelled.  I have seen crude limb-like materialisations form under my eyes when experimenting with the Schneider mediums.  I have shivered as I watched the mercury fall during a sťance, when normally the air should have become warmer.

But only once have I seen what YOU would call a ghost - a solid three-dimensional spirit from, apparently, the other side of that "iron curtain" I have just mentioned.

On November 8, 1937, a few days after I had broadcast a talk on haunted houses, a woman rang me up to tell an extraordinary story.  She explained that she was the wife of a hop broker and had a large house in the South of London.

Some years previously she had met a middle-aged widow who attended the same church.  The widow, a French-woman, had been married to a British officer who was killed in 1916, leaving her with a young daughter, Rosalie.  The widow determined to bring up her child in England, and made her home in London.

*

The child, Rosalie, was never strong.  In 1921, when she was six, she contracted diphtheria and after a few days' illness [she died].  The mother, whom I will call Madame Z. was heart-broken.  She became ill with grief and nearly died.  And then came the miracle.

One night, early in 1925, when Madame Z. was lying awake in bed, she thought she heard her dead child's voice calling "Mother."  She nearly swooned with fear and delight at the thought that her girl had "come back" and was still near her.  She called her daughter by name but there was no reply.

Next night and on many succeeding nights Madame Z. heard that same word "Mother" coming out of the darkness in the same loving, lisping voice that was so dear and so familiar to her.  Gradually, she thought she could see in the dim obscurity of her bedroom the fluorescent outline of her child.  She put her arm out of bed, she said, and her hand was clasped by that of Rosalie. 

After that, the visits became more frequent; the "spirit" more human, and mother and child even talked a little.  That was the story told by the woman who rang me up.  She added that in 1928 she persuaded Madame Z. to visit her home in order to see whether Rosalie could be induced to "appear."

*

The experiments were successful and, in six months the child was materialising, regularly, in the home circle, every Wednesday night.  I was invited to attend one of these sťances.  I was surprised when I was told that I could take charge of the sťance, search the rooms, search the sitters, control anything and everything.  The one condition was that I had to ask permission to do anything during the actual sitting, in order to avoid shock to Rosalie or her mother.  This was reasonable. I accepted.

The sťance was fixed for December 15, 1937.  After I had had supper with the family I began my search of the house, a large detached building.  I examined every room.  I sealed all external doors and windows.  I removed most of the furniture from the sťance-room (the drawing room), examined the bare boards of the floor, sounded the distempered walls and ceiling, blocked up the chimney with newspapers, and finally sprinkled starch powder in front of the fireplace and locked door in order to register any possible foot or hand marks.

Then I sealed the door and windows with adhesive tape and screw-eyes and drew the heavy curtains across the windows.  A mouse could not have entered that room undetected.  We were ready for the sťance.  It was 9.10 p.m. when I finished the job, watched - not without amusement - by the broker and his wife, his daughter, her boy friend, and Madame Z.  With myself, these formed the sitters.

*

I then searched them.  No one was concealing anything.  In the centre of the room I placed six heavy mahogany chairs in a circle.  We sat down.  My host switched off the lights.  The sťance began.

Suddenly, Madame Z. gave a choking sob and murmured "My darling!"  I was warned that Rosalie was present.  At the same moment I sensed that something was before me and that the distressed mother was fondling her child.  Then something brushed my left hand; it felt soft and cool.  I did not move, but asked permission to touch the figure.   Permission was given, and I stretched out my arm, which came into contact with the nude and living body of a little girl, about three feet seven inches tall.

I stroked her cheeks and rested my hand on her chest.  I could feel her heart beating and could hear her breathing.  Then with both hands I felt her hair, long and soft, falling over her shoulders.  By this time most of the sitters were distressed.  The women were sobbing. 

I got permission to examine the child be means of some luminous plates.  I found that Rosalie was a well-formed little girl with dark, intelligent eyes, which gazed into mine without flinching.  I received permission to speak to the figure.  I hesitated, and finally said:

"Where do you live, Rosalie?"  (No answer).

"What do you do there?"  (No answer).

"Do you play with other children?"  (No answer).

"Have you any toys there?"  (No answer).

"Are there any animal pets?"  (No answer).

 

Rosalie simply stared, and did not seem to understand what I was saying.  I asked her a final question: "Rosalie, do you love your mummy?"  I saw her expression change and her eyes light up.  "Yes," she lisped.

*

Rosalie had barely uttered this single word when Madame Z. gave a cry and clasped her "daughter" to her breast.  Our luminous plates were removed and the sťance was over.  Rosalie had gone.  We sat for fifteen minutes, then the light was switched on.  I found all my seals and controls intact.

After thanking my hosts I left - not nearly as sceptical as I was a few hours before.  I was impressed, puzzled, and almost convinced that survival of human personality had been demonstrated.

I asked for another sitting, in my own laboratory, with a different group of observers.  This was promised, but before it could be arranged Madame Z. went to visit her old home in Paris.  This was at the end of August, 1939.  She was apparently engulfed by the war and nothing has been heard of her since.

 

   

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