Tuesday, 1 May 2012


Brutus and a Ghostly Vision

The Greek historian and writer Plutarch famously reported that Brutus experienced a vision of a ghost a few months before the battle of Philippi in 42 BC . `One night he saw a huge and shadowy form appearing in front of him; when he calmly asked, "What and whence art thou?" it answered "Thy evil spirit, Brutus: I shall see thee at Philippi." He again met the ghost the night before the battle`. This episode is one of the most famous in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.

Emperor Constantine`s Vision

The Byzantine Emperor, Constantine the Great, converted to Christianity after a vision before the famous Battle of the Milvian Bridge, having seen a chi-rho in the sky, and thence the motto In Hoc Signo Vinces, telling him he would be victorious with the sign of the cross. The chi-rho was adopted on a banner, the labarum, upheld on a vexillum, which resembled a Christian cross, and in time the motto became associated with the Cross all over Europe.

The Ghostly Appearances of George Washington

General McClellan
When 1862 dawned, few realised how dire the situation was for the Republic during the Civil War.

General George Brinton McClellan went to Washington, D.C., to take over command of the United States Army.

At 2 a.m. on the third night after his arrival, he was working over his maps and studying the reports of the scouts when a feeling of intense weariness caused him to lean his head on his folded arms on the table where he fell asleep.

About ten minutes later the locked door was suddenly thrown open, someone strode right up to him and in a voice of power and authority said: "General McClellan, do you sleep at your post? Rouse you, or ere it can be prevented, the foe will be in Washington."

In his published article General McClellan described his strange feelings.... He seemed suspended in infinite space and the voice came from a hollow distance all about him....The furnishings and walls of the room had vanished leaving only the table covered with maps before him. But he found himself gazing upon a living map of America including the entire area from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean.

George Washington and his White Horse

 The Ghost of Washington at Gettysburg

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,  was once the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. It is also the home of a mysterious ghost that has haunted the battlefield of Gettysburg for generations.

While the soldiers were in Gettysburg, many reported that they had seen a ghost roaming the fields. Most of these reports were from the men of the 20th Maine (a Union regiment).

Colonel John Pittenger of the Union (North) Army was sent on a mission to discover who the ghost of was in July of 1863.
 Colonel Pittenger and General Hunt had a discussion about the ghost. General Hunt explained that during the battle, a man, dressed in Revolutionary clothes, came galloping onto the field on a white horse. General Hunt said that he clearly saw the face of the man. It was, according to him, the ghost of George Washington!

 But he had been dead for years, could it really have been General Washington, the first President of the United States, that had helped them win the battle of Little Roundtop?

Though Pittenger did not believe this and was nervous about turning in a report about a George Washington ghost, Hunt swore that he and all the other men at the battle would go to there grave believing that General, President, George Washington had helped them win the war at Gettysburg.

The Angel of Mons

The Angels of Mons
The phenomenon that was the 'angels of Mons' was experienced by British troops retreating in the aftermath of the Battle of Mons on the Western Front in August 1914.

Numerous soldiers claimed to have seen visions in the sky of St. George surrounded by angels, horsemen and cavalry.

The visions, which were subsequently charitably attributed to the extreme tiredness of the British troops, most of whom had not slept in days, actually originated in a short story published by the journalist Arthur Machen (an author of occult fiction) in the London Evening News at the close of the month following the battle, entitled The Bowmen.

The Ghostly Cavalry

Uhlan Cavalry
At last, in that grey winter of 1918, the guns in France and Flanders fell silent and an eerie stillness dwelt on the battlefields where the dead lay unburied in sodden trenches... Together with Corporal Barr, James Wentworth Day – who would later become a famous writer and broadcaster – went picking up post and rations. They started back to the camp at about three-thirty. It was far from dark. On his right, Wentworth Day saw a fantastic wood of larch and birch, with thin trees, torn and twisted into grotesque shapes by shell blast: ‘It was a Hans Andersen wood of Arthur Rackham trees through whose sun-reddened trunks we could see cloud-masses lit with a Cuyp-like glow.’

Suddenly, as they splashed through the sunset pools of that deserted road, German cavalry swept out of that ‘spectral wood’. A dozen or more German Uhlans ‘in those queer high-topped hats which they had worn in the dead days of 1914’ charged and up the slope to meet them, Wentworth Day saw some French dragoons in their brass cuirasses, sabres upswung, plumes dancing from their helmets. They also charged to meet the Germans with their slender lances... but then the vision passed and there was no clash of mounted men, only the empty land and a thin wood of silver in the setting sun.

‘Did you see anything?’ Wentworth Day glanced at Corporal Barr, who looked white and uneasy.

‘Aye... something mighty queer,’ the Corporal said.

They reached camp, oddly shy of talking too much. The next day, at Neuve Eglise, ‘that skeleton of a village on the spine of the Ravelsberg’, Wentworth Day asked a peasant about the wood.

‘Ah! M'sieu, that wood is a very sad wood, you know! It is on the frontier... a wood of dead men! In the wars of Napoleon, in the war of 1870, in this Great War... the cavalry of France and Germany have always met each other by that wood...’
And the man showed Wentworth Day the graves of the cavalry of all these wars in the tiny churchyard...

The Spectres of Crécy

The Battle of Crécy

A Colonel Shepheard, who was a staff colonel during the First World War, told Wentworth Day another strange story.
He was travelling in a car from Hazebrouck to Wimereux, together with a French captain as interpreter and aide. They dined and slept at Wimereux and the colonel dreamed he was riding the same road again, in the same car and trough the same villages. But this time, the car slowed down and stopped in one of these villages. And there, out of the earth on each side of the road, rose up the hooded, cloaked figures of silent men, thousands of them, and every man was staring fixedly at him - sadly, pitifully, endlessly... Their cloaks were grey, almost luminous, with a fine, silvery bloom on them like moths' wings. When he touched one, it came off on his fingers in a soft dust..

Slowly, they all sank back into the ground... The next morning at breakfast, Colonel Shepheard told his French aide of his dream. The officer listened to him without saying a word.

‘You know the name of that village near where your car stopped?’ the French officer asked him when he finished his story.
Colonel Shepheard described him the village he had seen twice: once in reality, once in his dream. And the French officer nodded: ‘Sure... It was Crécy indeed!... You have seen in your dream the archers who died on Crécy field in 1346, sir!’

Many of these reports perhaps could be argued and dismissed as mere war propaganda - in a time of crisis heroes from the past rally to the flag to support their nation. Not unlike the story of Sir Francis Drake`s Drum which allegedly beats when England faces great peril. 

Regardless, there are many such tales - some of whom were created as a morale booster, whilst others were warnings or omen`s to troops preparing for battle. The list is endless, and these stories will no doubt continue into the future too.

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