Ghosts That I Have Seen

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Ghosts That I Have Seen is an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in the Daily Mail on 11 june 1927.

Ghosts That I Have Seen

Daily Mail (11 june 1927, p. 9)

No. 1. — The Spectral Friars in an Old English Church.

I have, so far as I know, no psychic gifts myself. There have, however, been occasions when without the aid of a medium I have been sensitive to the unknown.

One instance occurred some three years ago. It was in my bedroom at Crowborough, Sussex. I wakened in the night with the clear consciousness that there was someone in the room and that the presence was not of this world. I was lying with my back to the room, acutely awake, but unable to move. It was physically impossible for me to turn my body and face this visitor. heard measured steps across the room. I was conscious (without seeing it) that someone was bending over me, and then I heard a voice saying in a loud whisper, "Doyle, I come to tell you that I am sorry."

A minute later my disability disappeared and I was able to turn, but all was darkness and perfectly still.

It was no dream; I was perfectly conscious all the time. My visitor gave no name, but I felt that it was an individual to whom I had tried to 'give psychic consolation when he was bereaved. He rejected my advances and died himself shortly afterwards. It may be that he wished to express regret.

I had a second interesting experience last, summer. There was a church in my neighbourhood which had the reputation of being haunted. There are reasons why it would be wrong for ice to indicate it more precisely.

One night my wife and myself, my two sons, my daughter, a friend, and a young London lady who is among our rising poets, set forth to explore the mystery. It was ten o'clock when we presented ourselves at the door of the church, where we were met by an elderly villager, who admitted us and then locked the door behind us.

Swinging a lantern, he led the way to the choir end, where we seated ourselves in the stalls which the ancient monks once occupied.


Opposite me, and dimly lit by the lantern, was the altar, and behind it a black wall, unbroken by any window.

For two hours I had sat in the dark upon icy hard seat and wondered whether cushions were vouchsafed to the monks of old.

And then, quite suddenly, there came that which no scepticism could explain away. It may have been 40 ft. from where I sat to, the altar, and mid-way between, or roughly 20 ft. from me, there was a dull haze of light, a sort of phosphorescent cloud, 1 ft. or so across and about a man's height from the ground.

The light glimmered down and hardened into a definite shape — or I should say shapes, since there were two of them. They were two perfectly clear-cut figures in black and white, with a dim luminosity of their own. The colouring and arrangement gave me a general idea of cassocks and surplices.

Whether they were facing the altar or facing each other was more than I could say, but they were not misty figures but solid objective shapes. For two or three minutes we all gazed spellbound at this amazing spectacle. Then my wife said loudly "Friends, is there anything which we can do to help you?" In an instant they were gone.

I saw no more, but those of our party who sat upon the right said that they could afterwards see a similar figure but somewhat taller — a man alone — who stood on the left of the altar.


I was full of curiosity to know more of the matter, and presently my desire was gratified, for there came into my psychic bookshop in London a gentleman, Mr. Munro, who had had a similar experience some years before in the same place. He was possessed, however, of the great gift of clairvoyance, and his adventure was by daylight, so that it was far more definite.

He was going round the old church when lie was aware of an ancient monk who was walking by his side, and he knew by his own sensations that it was a clairvoyant vision. The man was middle-sized, with a keen, aristocratic, hawk-like face. Mr. Munro remembered how the sunlight gleamed upon the arched bone of his prominent nose. He walked for some time beside Mr. Munro, and he then vanished. What was noticeable was that lie was wearing a gown of a peculiar tint of yellow.

Some little time afterwards my informant was present at Bernard Shaw's play of "Saint Joan." In one act an English monk appears upon the stage. My friend instantly said to his wife " That is the dress. That is what the dead man wore."


There came yet another light upon the matter. It was, strange to say, in an Australian paper which was sent to me. It gave an account of the old church and of the ghosts which haunt it.

The chief spirit, the one with the masterful face, was, according to this narrative, the head of the community in the time of Henry the Eighth. He had hidden some of the treasures of the church to prevent their spoliation, and his spirit was still earthbound on account of his solicitude over these buried relics. His name was given, and it was stated that he had shown himself to many visitors.

If this account be indeed true, then I should think that the spot in front of the altar where we saw first the light and then the two draped figures might very possibly be worth the attention of the explorer.