1765, July 12: Carolus Linnaeus Hears a Ghost

Carl von Linne, or Carolus Linnaeus [1707-1778], the botanist and scientist that formalized the system for naming and classifying living creatures that we still use today, had written an odd book titled the Nemesis Divina, which collected stories and anecdotes of his life, as well as snippets from scriptures and classic texts, that expressed the his view of the world and how it worked.

        When Linnaeus' son died it was assumed this particular volume had been lost, as all record of it ceased; but it turned up again around sixty years after Linnaeus' death in the bequest made by Dr. Acrele (a friend of the Linnaeus family) to the University of Upsala. So this volume only publically became available around 1848, when parts of it were translated and published, just around a hundred years after Linnaeus' death... and in these snippets there is a very odd event reported.

        According to Linnaeus, his wife woke him as the clock chimed midnight and signaled the roll-over from July 12, 1765, to July 13, because she had heard someone walking in the museum that was a large part of their home on a farm outside of Uppsala, Sweden. Linnaeus heard the footsteps, too... and knew that no one was in the museum, for he had locked it himself and had the key with him. Stranger still, the long and heavy footsteps sounded very familiar.

        A few days later Linnaeus received news that an intimate friend of his, commissioner Carl Clerk, had passed away at around midnight on July 12-13. Linnaeus suddenly realized why the footsteps had sounded familar; when Linnaeus lived in Stolkholm, he used to know when Clerk was approaching him in hallways because of the distinctive sound of Clerk's heavy footed walk...

My Source

        The earliest I've been able to follow this story back (in German, mind you) is to an 1851 article in Flora magazine. This article offers up material taken from the 1848 translation of the Nemesis Divina by Elias Fries, the first set of translations from the then newly discovered volume... so I can't go back further. This is, then, accepted as a translation of what Linnaeus himself wrote on the matter.

        Linnaeus reported several odd events in the Nemesis Divina; to see another one, follow the 'See Also' link below.

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