Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sir Francis Bacon’s Ghost Chicken

Sir Francis Bacon was an English philosopher, statesman, and a pioneer of modern scientific thought. Bacon was one of the first to theorize that snow might preserve meat. While conducting an experiment to proof his theory he contracted pneumonia in April of 1626 and died.

Bacon attended Cambridge University and Gray’s Inn where he studied law. He became a member of parliament in 1584. However, Elizabeth didn’t favor him so his career did not take off until James I came into power in 1603. He was knighted in this same year and was appointed to several posts culminating, like his father before him, with keeper of the great seal.

However, Bacon’s real interest lay in science. Bacon went against the standard belief at the time, he disagreed with Aristotle’s’ idea that scientific truth could be reached if “sufficiently clever men discussed a subject long enough, the truth would eventually be discovered.” Bacon argued that truth required evidence from the real world. He published his ideas initially in a book entitled “Novum Organum” in 1620.

Bacon political career continued to rise when he was appointed lord chancellor in 1618, the most powerful position in England. In 1621 he was created viscount St. Albans. But his fortune turned shortly after when parliament charged him with bribery. He admitted his guilt and was fined and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was banished from court and even though the king pardoned him this ended his public life.

After this he continued to write and in 1626 as stated above he tested his theory of “the preservative and insulating properties of snow.”

While living in Pond Square, Highgate Bacon and his good friend Dr. Winterbourne bought a chicken and slaughtered and plucked it. It was a winter morning and bitterly cold—they proceeded to stuff the chicken carcass with snow. Bacon caught a severe chill as a result of his efforts. He was taken to a nearby house and placed in a damp bed where he died a short time later.

Since then there have been frequent reports of the ghost of a white bird, which resembles a plucked chicken, seen racing around Pond Square in frenzied circles all the while flapping its wings. Air raid wardens patrolling Highgate during World War ll saw this ghostly chicken on many occasions. One man actually tried to bag it but the bird disappeared into a brick wall. In 1943 a witness, Terence Long, late one night while crossing the square heard a sound of horse hooves accompanied by the rumble of carriage wheels. Then suddenly he heard a loud shriek and this plucked chicken appeared before him, it raced frantically around and then vanished.

In the 1960s a motorist was stranded in the square when his car broke down. He encountered the same apparition. Then in the 1970s a couple’s passionate tryst was interrupted when the chicken dropped from above and landed next to them. In recent years this featherless chicken has not been seen. Maybe its restless spirit has finally moved on. After all its’ life was given for a noble cause.

Cynics often point to this classic ghost legend as proof that ghosts do not exist. What I find humorous about this is it is a ghost legend meant to be entertaining. If cynics want to make a point they should stick to "True Hauntings."

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