The Devil's Dictionary
The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.
He saw a ghost. It occupied—that dismal thing!— The path that he was following. Before he'd time to stop and fly, An earthquake trifled with the eye That saw a ghost. He fell as fall the early good; Unmoved that awful vision stood. The stars that danced before his ken He wildly brushed away, and then He saw a post.
Accounting for the uncommon behavior of ghosts, Heine mentions somebody’s ingenious theory to the effect that they are as much afraid of us as we of them. Not quite, if I may judge from such tables of comparative speed as I am able to compile from memories of my own experience.
There is one insuperable obstacle to a belief in ghosts. A ghost never comes naked: he appears either in a winding-sheet or “in his habit as he lived.” To believe in him, then, is to believe that not only have the dead the power to make themselves visible after there is nothing left of them, but that the same power inheres in textile fabrics. Supposing the products of the loom to have this ability, what object would they have in exercising it? And why does not the apparition of a suit of clothes sometimes walk abroad without a ghost in it? These be riddles of significance. They reach away down and get a convulsive grip on the very tap-root of this flourishing faith.