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The Boston Globe

Ideas

A history of American dreams

In 18th and 19th centuries, where did minds wander at night?

In March 1841, Ichabod Cook of Mendon, Mass., a 62-year-old farmer and former member of the state Legislature, wrote down his housekeeper’s dream. He’d been collecting people’s dreams since the mid-1830s, and was convinced that he had a gift for translating them. When his neighbor Cushman told him he’d seen a deceased friend in a vision of the night, for example, and the ghost guaranteed that he would return in three months to “take him back,” Ichabod offered reassurance: “I told him in visions, a day, a week, or a month might mean a year.”

Ichabod’s housekeeper, Anne Maria, was a harder nut to crack. She had already been besieged several times that month. She’d seen a “tall spirit” one night, and was moved to hide “under the feet of an old ox”; she saw a horse grab hold of an innocent girl, then found herself screaming for help, to no avail. This time, “she dreamed somebody told her the world was coming to an end, and she walked out towards a river, and she saw a man coming in a carriage with two red horses, and when he got to the bridge he took the horses out and told them to drive off, and not to be afraid, and they dove down into the water, and brought up three of the beautifulest flowers that she ever saw.”

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