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Ancient Ghost Reports


Pliny the Younger

Pliny the Younger

Ghost and haunting reports and encounters that are two thousand years old from a Roman lawyer named Pliny the Younger

Why does mainstream science ignore the ghost phenomenon? Simply because it does not know how to examine it. The tools that scientists use, including the scientific method, do not have the capacity to explore ghosts and hauntings. That must be the reason. How else can we explain the ignoring of phenomena that have been reported for thousands of years? By comparison, comets also have been observed and documented over thousands of years, and scientists have no problem giving credibility to ancient accounts of them because today they, too, can see them, track them with their instruments, even predict their trajectories.

Ghosts, however, elude scientific instrumentation, or we have not yet invented instrumentation that can detect, predict, or explain ghost phenomena. (Some will argue that ghost hunters' tools such as EMF meters, etc. can detect ghosts, but those gadgets by no means provide definitive, unambiguous evidence.)

Yet reports of ghosts and hauntings are as much a part of the human experience as comets are, having been seen, experienced, discussed, and written about over millennia.

Some striking examples come to us from a Roman lawyer named Pliny the Younger, who lived from 61 to 113 A.D. He writes to his friend Licinius Sura about a few ghost encounters of which he has been told, and which compel him to believe in their existence. Note how his descriptions of the phenomena are very like the haunting and poltergeist reports we hear today.

Here, translated from the Latin, is Pliny the Younger's fascinating letter (I have added only the headings):


"To Licinius Sura

"The present recess from business we are now enjoying affords you leisure to give, and me to receive, instruction. I am extremely anxious therefore to know whether you believe in the existence of ghosts, and whether they have a real form, and are a sort of divinities, or only the visionary impressions of a terrified imagination. What particularly inclines me to believe in their existence is a story which I heard of Curtius Rufus.

"When he was in low circumstances and unknown in the world, he attended the governor of Africa into that province. One evening, as he was walking in the public portico, there appeared to him the figure of a woman, of unusual size and of beauty more than human. And as he stood there, terrified and astonished, she told him she was the tutelary power that presided over Africa, and was come to inform him of the future events of his life: that he should go back to Rome, to enjoy high honors there, and return to that province invested with the pro-consular dignity, and there should die.

"Every circumstance of this prediction actually came to pass. It is said further that upon his arrival at Carthage, as he was coming out of the ship, the same figure met him upon the shore. It is certain, at least, that being seized with a fit of illness, though there were no symptoms in his case that led those about him to despair of his life, he instantly gave up all hope of recovery, apparently judging the truth of the future part of the prediction by what had already been fulfilled, and of the approaching misfortune from his former prosperity."


"Now the following story, which I am going to tell you just as I heard it, is it not more frightening than the former, while quite as thought provoking. There was in Athens a large and roomy house, which had such a bad reputation that no one lived there. In the dead of the night a noise, resembling the clashing of iron, was frequently heard, which, if you listened more attentively, sounded like the rattling of chains, distant at first, but approaching nearer by degrees: immediately afterwards a spectre appeared in the form of an old man, of extremely emaciated and squalid appearance, with a long beard and disheveled hair, rattling the chains on his feet and hands.

"The distressed occupants meanwhile passed their wakeful nights under the most dreadful terror imaginable. This, as it broke their rest, ruined their health and brought on distempers, even leading to death. Even in the day time, though the spirit did not appear, yet the impression remained so strong upon their imaginations that it still seemed before their eyes, and kept them in perpetual fear. Eventually the house was entirely abandoned to the ghost, being deemed absolutely uninhabitable. However, in hopes that some tenant might be found who was ignorant of its history, a notice was put up advertising it for rent or for sale."

Next page: A philosopher encounters the ghost

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