Tree ghosts and Beard Brothers

bbblog1Couple of new posts up this week at Little Grey Pages. We’re back to The Beard Brothers storyline for the long tale of how Brother Eared found the mysterious crystal he wears on his head. But first, the Brothers settle in with a little poker.

I also shared a little excerpt about malevolent tree ghosts on the blog from an old book written by Elliot O’Donnell, a self-proclaimed ghost hunter. Yes, tree ghosts – not ghosts in trees, ghosts of trees.

A miner described an entire phantom forest springing up deep underground:

 “Ghosts,” he said, when I asked him if he had any experiences with the supernatural whilst engaged in his underground work. “Ghosts! Yes, but of a nature you don’t read about in books. Me and my mates, when working in a drift at night, have heard the blowing of the wind and a mighty rustling of leaves, and have found ourselves surrounded on all sides by numerous trees and ferns that have suddenly risen from the ground and formed a regular forest. They have not resembled any trees you see now-a-days, but what you might fancy existed many thousands of years ago. There has been no colour in them, only a uniform whiteness, and they have shone like phosphorous. We have heard, too, all the noises, such as go on daily in forests above-ground—the humming and buzzing of insects, and the chirping of birds; and shafts and galleries have echoed and re-echoed with the sounds, till you would have thought that those away above us must have heard them, too.”

But not everything in O’Donnell’s world is undead. He claims there is another category of strange ghosts, the “neutrarians”:

These neutrarians are spirits that have never inhabited material bodies, and are only to be found in very remote and isolated districts, where the soil has rarely if ever been disturbed. They are invariably antagonistic to all forms of animal life, probably, because, if they were created first, which is quite feasible, they regard man as an interloper, and, probably, also because they covet man’s body and are jealous of him… Neutrarians vary considerably both in appearance, habits and constitution. Whilst some can apparently reveal themselves at will, others can only do so by stealing vitality from human beings or animals… Belonging to [a] species that cannot manifest itself without drawing vitality from some form or other of animal life…

There are only a handful of other mentions of the word “neutrarian” on the internet. Two of them are in O’Donnell’s books, the one linked above and The Banshee:

I myself know of several Banshee hauntings in which the phantom certainly cannot be that of any member of the human race; its features and proportions absolutely negative such a possibility, and I should have no hesitation in affirming that, in these cases, the phantom is what is commonly known as an elemental, or what I have termed in previous of my works, a neutrarian, that is a spirit that has never inhabited any material body, and which belongs to a species entirely distinct from man.

“Neutraria” is an imaginary nation state in the South Pacific, but its Neutrarians are democratic socialists, not grotesque phantasms, unfortunately. I’m assuming that O’Donnell made up the word to describe these beings. Perhaps it’s derivative of neutral or neuter? Neither alive nor dead, incapable of ever being in either state? Maybe it just sounds cool.

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