A real haunted house?
There is hardly a village in any English-speaking country which does not have its haunted house, of which strange sights, sounds and scenes are reported with rumors, and vague enlargements of rumors. In fact, the haunted house may be said to be the one dominant Anglo-Saxon superstition.
A haunting scene in Boston
A large, handsome house in the wealthy Back Bay district of good old Puritan Boston is the scene of the latest real story of real haunts.
In this house, sounds were heard of someone walking about the house or overhead. These sounds were heard after the sleepers in the house became wide awake and turned on the gas. Servants in the house were waked up suddenly feeling “as if someone were tapping upon me,” as they said, and “with creeping feelings going all over me.”
Children in the house awoke screaming. One of the children rushed screaming that a man was waking him up, and asked the nurse why she let the man frighten him so. Another child declared that his nurse had been lying on him.
These were nightly occurrences for two months of the occupancy of the present tenants. Inquiry disclosed the fact that previous tenants had been troubled in the same way, and the servants actually talked of seeing ghosts walking about the house.
Literally, here was a house of which it could truthfully be said, as the poet Fairfax of Queen Elizabeth’s time said, “foul spirits haunt my resting place.” The circumstantial evidence was clear. The little children did not lie. The statement of the domestics was repeated and cumulative. There were not one but several families involved. All agreed: The house was really haunted.
Sending for an expert on haunted houses
The present tenant, however, does not believe in haunts, so he sent for Professor Franz Schneider, Jr, of the department of biology and public health of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He laid the ghosts. He suspected that illuminating gas might be the cause, but it was not. He did find “a viciously defective hot air furnace,” and that the large amount of furnace gas which escaped was sufficient to make the ghosts walk.
As Professor Schneider says in Science, “the inhabitants of the house were bathed in an atmosphere of flue gases,” and he places the chief blame for the ghosts on carbon monoxide, which produces sensations of oppression and other mental disturbances in its acute effects; while in the chronic poisoning from it, anemia, malnutrition, loss of psychic powers and diminished vigor are characteristic.
Professor Schneider sums the case of this really haunted house as follows: “This case should also be of interest to experimental psychologists, and investigators of psychic and spiritualistic manifestations, since the reputation which this house was gaining as being haunted apparently arose in large measure from genuine sensations of apparitions and the like, induced by the breathing during sleep of a tainted atmosphere.”
Could the truth be known with equal scientific precision it would be found that every other haunt that walked, every other ghost that was ever seen has the same explanation in nature, and could be laid as easily as the Boston ghost was laid by mending a defective furnace flue.