Thursday, 7 July 2011

MEN, APES, MONKEYS AND THE PARANORMAL

Seance


This wordy but condensed article from Fortean Times deals with paranormal appearances involving apes and monkeys and particularly in seances.

Stan Gooch
 The commemoration of Stan Gooch (1932–2010) mentioned the collective vision of a prehistoric man occurr­ing at a Coventry séance held in the late 1950s, perhaps symbolic of his theories of Neanderthal inheritance that occupied his mind in later years. Describing this manifest­ation in his classic book The Paranormal (1978), Gooch stated: “This was a crouching ape-like shape, which became clearer as the moments passed. I guess it approximated to most people’s idea of what an ancient cave man would look like. Yet one could not make out too much detail – the eyes were hidden, for example. It stood in half shadow, watching us, breathing heavily as if nervous. I must say, though, that I sensed rather than heard the breathing. I could not decide whether our visitor was wearing the skin of some animal, or whether it had a rough coat of hair of its own.” Despite being questioned and invited to join the circle, the figure showed little response and faded away. Reflecting on his later work, Gooch wondered “if it was [a] classic Neanderthal I saw that evening.”



Franek Kluski (second from left)
Remarkable as this story sounds, it is not unique in the annals of spiritualism. The form of a prehistoric man appeared in 1919 at a number in séances involving the Polish medium Franek Kluski (1873–1943). Relatively little has been published in English on the Kluski mediumship, most discussion concentrating upon mysterious casts of hands obtained from bowls of molten wax placed near him during séances; but far more remarkable were numerous materialised apparitions, with some captured on camera at sittings. Like many spiritualist photographs, these pictures are often less than convincing, though Kluski was never detected in fraud. Apparitions included not only the forms of dead persons, but also birds and animals and allegedly a prehistoric apeman, identified as a specimen of Pithecanthropus or ‘Java Man’. This was witnessed over successive months, including by a Dr Okolowicz who described how it developed.

"When told off, it would hide for a time under the table or sit at the feet of the parti­cipants, lightly scratching their legs. It took a lot of effort to break it out of the habit of trying to lick the faces of the participants (and the medium) with an enormous salivating tongue, with participants protesting and requesting it should be dismissed! When staying longer, it would produce a very unpleasant smell, like a dirty cage of a wild animal".

He continues:

"In the autumn of 1919, the apparition became weaker, lacking its previous energy and strength, and at the next séance, on 28 November 1919, it seemed as if only fragments of it appeared in a number of places simultaneously. Thus, the familiar chomping was heard in one corner of the room, but very weak; in another corner could be heard the scratching on the floor, while at yet another location one of the participants felt some hairy mass rub against her leg. Subsequently, the apparition no longer showed itself, in spite of the efforts of participants during the following séances to bring it back by calling and thinking intensely about it. The form weakly manifested at séances in Paris in November and December of 1920, but these appearances were incomparably weaker and shorter than in Warsaw. It made its final appearance at a séance on 26 December 1922".

Beyond these séance room examples, actual apparitions of prehistoric men are notable by their absence. Folklore avers many barrows and standing stones are haunted, but spectres are varied – including White Ladies and Black Dogs, but hardly ever the phantoms of their builders. Stor­ies are common of ill-luck, storms and odd phen­omena pursuing those disturbing ancient burial places, but few are vouched for by archæologists today. The shaggy ghosts of a prehistoric family were reputedly seen near Neolithic earthworks at Lustleigh Cleave on Dartmoor by a friend of folklorist Theo Brown (in Transactions of the Devon Association 1952, cited in “Shug Monkeys and Werewolves” by Jonathan Downes and Richard Freeman, in Fortean Studies vol.5, 1997). Feelings of terror experienced by a walker at Rhossily Bay, Wales, were attributed to energies stirred up by ‘old Stone Men’ in Adventures With Phantoms (1946) by R Thurston Hopkins – but the author is far from reliable. Undoubtedly, the best attested is the Bronze Age Horseman of Bottlebush Down, at Sixpenny Handley, Dorset, seen by Dr RC Clay, a local antiquarian, close by a round barrow. Mentioned in a number of ghost books dealing with Dorset, his sighting was confirmed to me by his grandson, Robert Snow.

Spreading across the wider evolutionary spectrum of primates, it may be noted that apes and monkeys also feature in a scatter­ing of ghost stories, though there may be an overlap with many humanoid-ape entity encounters falling into the territory of cryptozoology, such as the ghostly Bigfoots of Nowata, Oklahoma (see Dennis Hauck: Haunted Places: The National Directory, 2002) and certain supernatural beliefs concerning yetis in the Himalayas.

In England, a ghostly monkey known as Martyn’s Ape has long been said to haunt Athelhampton Hall, near Dorchester, Dorset. An ape features on the family crest of the Martyn family, which may well have sparked the legend, along with the Martyn family motto, “He who looks at Martyn’s Ape, Martyn’s Ape will look at him”, taken from the mediæval euphemism for ‘making an ape’ of rivals or victims, as in Chaucer’s “Pardoner’s Tale” (or in modern slang ‘making a monkey’ of someone). The original Sir William Martyn was a wine merchant and speculation is that his monkey was a pet or business mascot. In one tale, the monkey was the abandoned pet of a hapless Martyn girl who committed suicide, with the monkey starving to death in a locked room. James Wentworth Day, who did much to promote the ghosts of Athelhampton Hall in the 1960s, was disapp­ointed that the ghostly monkey had not appeared for at least two generations. However, on visiting Athelhampton Hall in April 2011, I was told the monkey was supposedly heard rather than seen, with scratching noises behind the wood panelling attributed to him, though the guide emphasised that in such an old property weird noises were only to be expected. (Pers. comm., 26 April 2011; see also accounts by James Wentworth Day in Country Life, 1 Dec 1966 and In Search of Ghosts, 1967).
Shadowy forms and the chattering monkeys supposedly disturbed a Carlton TV crew in 1998 filming in Rectory Lane, Datchworth, Hertfordshire, helping establish the village as the most haunted in the county (See “Chattering monkeys and a dozen ghosts”, Hertfordshire Mercury, 28 Mar 2003). A boat containing a woman and a pet monkey supposedly appears on a lake of several acres near a mansion in Leicestershire, according to Another Grey Ghost Book (1915) by Jessie Adelaide Middleton. The phantom lady was said to have been accidentally shot by her duck-hunting husband, the boat sunk and the monkey drowned. Sometime before 1967, a Mr Beer took photographs at Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon, one of which on being developed showed the unexplained image of a woman in mediæval dress carrying a monkey. Unfortunately Mr Beer gave his photograph to the poet Robert Graves, who was so disturbed by it that he burned it, recalling another mediæval expression, “to lead apes in hell”, a term applied to old maids and women deprived of physical love in the prime of life. (Peter Underwood: Nights in Haunted Houses, 1994).

Perhaps chimpanzees can sense the death of mates – the equivalent of crisis apparitions? Rosalia Abreu, who achieved the first successful breeding of chimpanzees in captivity, recorded several incidents where chimps screamed piteously, seemingly sensing at a distance the death of mates, stating, “It made my flesh creep”. (RM Yerkes: Almost Human, 1926, cited in Lyall Watson: The Romeo Error, 1975).
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