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WHEN a late ingenious Physician discovered the elastic fluid, which he termed his-Gas of Paradise, and which he hoped to render a cheap substitute for - inebriating liquors, he claimed the ho1nors due to the inventor of a new plea
-!;.How far mankind would have bene
fited, by the introduction of a fresh mode of intoxication, I leave to the reflection of those sages, whose duty it would have become to appreciate its value,
as an additional source of revenue to the state. But when I consider the delight with which stories of apparitions are received by persons of all ages, and of the most various kinds of knowledge and ability, I cannot help feeling some degree of complacency, in offering to the makers and readers of such stories, a view of the subject, which may, extend their enjoyment far beyond its fori mer limits. It has given me pain to see - the most fearful and ghastly commencements of a tale of horror reduced to mere common events, at the winding up of the book. I have looked, also, with much compassioni, on the pitiful instru: ments of sliding pannels, trap-doors backstairs, war-work figures, smugglers, urobbers, coiners, and other vulgár machinery, which authors of tender consciences have
employed, to avoid the imputation of belief in supernatural occurrences.
So hackneyed, so exhausted had all artificial methods of terror become, that one original genius was compelled to convert a mail-coach, with its lighted lamps, into an apparition.
Now I freely offer, to the manufacturers of ghosts, the privilege of raising them, in as great numbers, and in as horrible a guise as they may think fit, without offending against true philosophy, and even without violating probability. The highest flights of imagination 'may now be indulged, on this subject, although no loop-hole should be left for mortifying explanations, and for those modifications of terror, which completely baulk the reader's curiosity, and disgust him with a second reading.
Another great convenience will be found in
my system; apparitions may be evoked, in open day,--at noon, if the case should be urgent, in the midst of a field, on the surface of water, or in the glare of a patent-lamp, quite as easily, as in the darkness of chaos or old night.' Nay, a person rightly prepared may see ghosts, while seated comfortably library-fire, in as much perfection, as amidst broken tombs, nodding ruins, and awe-inspiring ivy. To those unfortunate persons, who fcel a real dread of apparitions, I hope to offer considerations which will quiet their fears, and will even convert the horrors of solitude into a source of rational amusement. But I must forbear to display all the utility of this treatise, lest my reader should imagine that I am copying Echard's mockpanegyric on his own dialogues.
Take courage, then, good reader, and knock at the portal of
enchanted castle, which will be opened to you, not by a grinning demon, but by a very civil person, in a black velvet cap, with whom you may pass an hour not disagreeably.
Observe, however, that the following treatise is applicable, in its principles, to profane history, and to the delusions of individuals only. If any thing contained in the ensuing pages could be construed into the most indirect reference to theological discussions, the manuscript would have been committed, without mercy, to the flames.
What methods may have been employed by Providence, on extraordinary