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Observations placeholder

Lord Seaforth and the hideous old woman



Type of Spiritual Experience

Invisible input - prophecy

Number of hallucinations: 1


The following was narrated by Colonel John Constantine Stanley, a member of the family.
I think the hallucination was  a visual demonstration of Seaforth's ability to prophecy what would happen to each of the boys.  The hag didn't cause the deaths, she was merely a manufactured image and indicator of who was to die and Seaforth's own composer was using his own prophetic abilities to warn him of what was to happen


A description of the experience

The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer - Alexander Mackenzie 1884

A scarlet-fever epidemic broke out in a school where young Mackenzie, Lord Seaforth, then about twelve, was a boarder. Together with some fifteen or twenty other boys he caught the infection, and all were placed in a large room used as an infirmary ward. Some of those boys became dangerously ill. The attendant nurse had left the room for a few minutes, when she was alarmed by a cry from the dormitory.

She found little Lord Seaforth in a state of great excitement, and this is what he finally told her:

Soon after she had gone out, the door opposite his bed opened and a hideous old woman entered the room.

"She had," in the words of Colonel Stanley, "a wallet full of something hanging from her neck in front of her. She paused on entering, then turned to the bed close to the door, and stared steadily at one of the boys lying in it. She then passed to the foot of the next boy's bed, and, after a moment, stealthily moved up to the head, and taking from her wallet a mallet and peg, drove the peg into his forehead. Young Seaforth said he heard the crash of the bones, though the boy never stirred. She then proceeded round the room, looking at some boys longer than at others. When she came to him, his suspense was awful. He felt he could not resist or even cry out, and he never could forget, in years after, that moment's agony, when he saw her hand reaching down for a nail, and feeling his ears. At last, after a look, she slunk off, and slowly completing the circuit of the room, disappeared noiselessly through the same door by which she had entered. Then, he felt, the spell seemed to be taken off, and uttered the cry which had alarmed the nurse."

The nurse, of course, laughed at the story, but later, when the doctor came and she told him of it, the physician made the boy repeat it to him and he wrote it down.

Within the next few days some of the boys grew worse and a few died. Others recovered easily. Still others, though they recovered, carried ugly sequelae of the disease for the rest of their lives. On comparing his record of young Seaforth's dream the doctor found that those who died were those into whose foreheads young Seaforth had seen the old woman drive a peg; those who recovered entirely were those the old woman had passed by. But those she had appeared to look at intently, or to touch, all carried some ill memento of the disease into their subsequent life.

The source of the experience

Mackenzie, Lord Seaforth

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Scarlet fever