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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Shadow World - Chapter 4
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The Shadow World - Chapter 4 Post by :maxfield Category :Nonfictions Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :1954

Click below to download : The Shadow World - Chapter 4 (Format : PDF)

The Shadow World - Chapter 4

CHAPTER IV

If there is any one thing true in these manifestations of "spirit power," it is that the psychic is the agent for their production. Actively or passively, consciously or unconsciously, she completes the formula--her "odic force" is the final chemical which permits precipitation. Sometimes her will to produce, her wish to serve, hinders rather than helps. Often when she is most persistent nothing happens. Sometimes an aching foot or a disturbing thought cuts off all phenomena. For the best results, apparently, the psychic should be confident, easy of mind, and not too anxious to please.

I approached this sitting at Miller's house with some fear that it might end in disappointment to him and be a source of chagrin to Mrs. Smiley. The house was strange, our attitude intensely critical, and she was very anxious to succeed. It would be remarkable, indeed, if under these conditions she were able to meet us half-way. As we walked up the street together I did my best to reassure her.

"You may trust me fully, Mrs. Smiley," said I; "and Miller, though an inexorable scientist, is a gentleman. I am sure he will not insist on any experiment which will injure your health or give you needless pain. This is but our second sitting, and I, for one, do not expect you to be at your best."

"I _hope we will have good work," she replied, earnestly, "but it is always harder to sit for tests. Tell me about Mrs. Miller. Is she nice? Will I like her?"

"She is very gentle and considerate; you will like her at once. I am sure she will be a help to you."

Her voice was very sincere as she said: "You don't know how anxiously I watch the make-up of my circle. It isn't because I am afraid of sceptics; I have no fear of those who do not believe; but each person brings such diverse influences, and these influences conflict and worry me, and then nothing takes place. I don't want to disappoint you and your friends, and that may hinder me."

The Millers occupied a modest little house far up-town, and were suburban, almost rural, in their manner of living. The chemist himself met us at the door, and, after greeting us cordially, ushered us into his library, which was a small room at the back of the hall. I observed that it had only one door and two windows, rather high up in the east wall--an excellent place for our sitting.

"So this is the den of inquisition," I began; and turning to Mrs. Smiley, I added: "I hope you are not chilled by it."

"Not a bit," she answered, cheerily.

As Mrs. Miller, a quiet little woman (not so far removed from Mrs. Smiley's own type), entered the door and greeted us both, the psychic's face lighted up with pleasure. This argued well for our experiment.

I could see that Miller had made careful preparation along the lines of my suggestion. A plain old table was standing lengthwise of the room, the windows were hung with shawls, and a worn hickory chair stood with arms wide-spread to seize its victim. After surveying the room, Mrs. Smiley turned to me with a note of satisfaction in her voice, and said: "I like this room and this furniture; I feel the right associations here. The air is full of spirit power."

"I am glad your mind is at ease," said I, "for I am anxious for a very conclusive sitting. You tell 'Mitchell' that Miller is decidedly worth converting. I want 'Wilbur' to do his best, for I intend to tighten the bonds on you to-night."

She fearlessly faced me. "I am in your hands, Mr. Garland; do as you like. Mr. Mitchell told me this morning that he would yet convince you of the reality of the spirit world. He is assembling all the forces at his command, and will certainly do everything in his power."

"I am delighted to get that assurance," I responded.

"You are to sit here," said Miller, indicating the hickory chair, which he had placed near the north wall.

She took her seat meekly, placing her hands resignedly on the wings of the chair. "I like this chair," she said, with a smile; "it is so old-fashioned."

"Now," said I, "I am going to ask Mrs. Miller to fasten this long tape about your ankles. We mean to take every precaution in order that you may not involuntarily or subconsciously move your limbs."

Under close scrutiny, Mrs. Miller secured each foot in such wise that the knots came in the middle of the tape, and to make untying them absolutely impossible, I drew the two ends of the long ribbon back under the psychic's chair and tacked them securely to the shelf of a bookcase about two feet from the hind legs. To loosen them was entirely out of our victim's power.

Miller then unreeled a spool of silk twist, and this I tied squarely to the arm of the chair at a point about six feet from the loose end which I intended to hold. I knotted the silk about the psychic's wrists, drawing it to a hard knot each time, and gave the spool to Miller, while retaining the loose end of the thread in my own hands. The psychic could neither touch the tips of her fingers together nor lift her arms an inch from the chair. She was as secure as if bound with a rope, but as an extra precaution I passed the thread beneath the chair-arm and pulled it taut. "This will enable us to feel the lightest movement of her hands," I said to Miller, who had copied my device. "Are you satisfied with the conditions?"

He answered, with some reservation: "They will do. I would like to have light, but that I suppose is impossible."

"No, not impossible," replied Mrs. Smiley, "but the work is always weaker in the light; the voices are stronger in the dark."

Mrs. Miller took her seat exactly opposite Mrs. Smiley. I was at her right. Miller, after turning out the gas, sat opposite me and at the psychic's left.

At first the room was black as ink, but by degrees I (from my position, opposite the window) was able to perceive a faint glow of light through the curtain. Mrs. Smiley's back was near a wall of books, and, the room being narrow, Miller's chair pretty well filled the space between the table and the window behind it. The action of a confederate was excluded by reason of the bolted door. To enter the room by the window was impossible, for the reason that the slightest noise could be heard and the least movement of the curtain would admit the light. Barring the darkness, conditions were all of our own making.

However, we were hardly settled in place when Miller was moved to further precaution. "Mrs. Smiley, I would like to pin over your dress a newspaper, so that any slightest movement of your knees or feet could be heard. Do you object?"

"Not at all," she instantly replied. "I am sure my guides will do anything they can to meet your wishes. You may nail my dress to the floor if you wish."

Miller turned on the light, and together we pinned a large, crisp newspaper over her knees and tacked it securely to the floor in front of her feet. The corners where the pins were inserted were well out of the reach of her tethered hands.

Again the lights were lowered, and at my direction Miller placed his right hand on the psychic's left and touched fingers with Mrs. Miller. I did the same, thus connecting the circle. In this way we sat quietly conversing for some time.

"I want to make it quite plain to you," I said to them all, "that I am trying to follow Crookes's advice, which is to strip away all romance and all superstitious religious ideas from this subject. I am insisting on the normal character of these phenomena. Whatever happens to-night, Mrs. Miller, please do not be alarmed. There is nothing inherently uncanny or unwholesome in these phenomena. No one knows better than your husband the essential mystery of the simplest fact. Materialization, for example, is unusual; but if it happens it cannot be supernatural. Nothing is supernatural. Am I right, Miller?"

"We explain each mystery by a deeper mystery," he replied.

"All depends upon the point of view. I am interested in these obscure phases of human life. If they are real they are natural. To me the spiritistic 'demonstrations' are intensely human and absorbingly interesting as dramatic material, and yet I hope I am sufficiently the scientist to be alive to the significance of these telekinetic happenings, and enough of the realist to remain critical in the midst of the wildest carnival of the invisible forces."

"Don't you believe in them?" asked Mrs. Miller, with a note of surprise in her voice.

I replied, cautiously: "I am at this moment convinced of the reality of _some of these phenomena by reason of my own experiments; but leaving one side my personal investigation, I must believe that Crookes, Maxwell, and Flammarion are competent witnesses. As to spiritualism--well, that is another matter."

"But where does all this lead to if not to spiritualism?" asked Mrs. Miller.

"As to the exact country, no one knows," I answered; "but the best of our experimenters are agreed that the gate opens upon a new field of science. These powers seem to be in advance of us and not a survival, and they may prove of value in the evolution of the race. That is why I want to enlist men like your husband in the work. Mediumship needs just such critical attention as his. Nothing like Maxwell or Richet's thoroughness of method has ever been used by an American physicist, so far as I know. On the contrary, our leading scientific men seem to have let the subject severely alone."

"Why?" asked Mrs. Smiley.

"Partly because of inherited prejudice, and partly because of their allegiance to opposing theories; and finally, I suspect, because they are connected with institutions that would not sanction such work. You can imagine how the physical department of a denominational college would investigate spirit phenomena! It was much the same way in England during the early part of last century, but they are far in advance of us now. The first notable step in the right direction was taken--as perhaps you may know--in 1869, by the Dialectical Society of London, which appointed a committee to look into the subject of spiritualism, with the expectation, no doubt, of being able to stop the spread of the delusion.

"The investigations which followed were under the especial charge of Alfred Russel Wallace; Cromwell Varley, chief of Electrical Engineers and Telegraphers; and Professor Morgan, president of the Mathematical Society. This committee, after careful investigation, reported voluminously to this effect: 'The phenomena exist.... There is a force capable of moving heavy bodies without material contact, which force is in some unknown way dependent upon the presence of human beings.'"

"Which was a long way from saying that spiritism was true," remarked Miller.

"It certainly was sufficiently vague, you would think, to be harmless; but several of the committee refused to join in even this cautious report, insisting that the conclusions ought to be verified by some other scientist. They suggested Sir William Crookes, who was at this time in the early prime of his life and a renowned chemist--just the man for the work. This suggestion was acted upon by Crookes a little later, and his report on this 'psychic force' had a good deal to do with the formation of the now famous Society for Psychical Research."

"I'd hate to be held responsible for that," said Miller, with humorous intent--"of all the collections of 'hants' and witches."

"On the Continent scientific observation had already begun. Count Agenor de Gasparin, of Valleyeres, was one of the first to take up this problem of telekinesis in the modern spirit. He made a long and complicated study of table-tipping in 1853, and published his conclusions in two large volumes in Paris a year later. His experiments were careful and searching, and drew the line squarely between the supernatural and the natural. He said, positively, 'The agency is not supernatural; it is physical, and determined by the will of the sitters,' and may be called the Charles Darwin of the subject. A year later Professor Marc Thury, of Geneva, added his testimony. He also said: 'The phenomena exist, and are mainly due to an unknown fluid, or force, which rushes from the organism of certain people.' To this force he gave the name 'psyscode.' The spirit hypothesis, he was inclined to think, was not impossible or even absurd. He used _absurd in the scientific sense, of course."

"It is the most natural thing in the world to me," said Mrs. Smiley. "I would be desolate without it."

"Some ten years later Flammarion, the renowned French astronomer, began his studies of these unknown forces, and for a long time fought the battle alone in France as Sir William Crookes endured the brunt of the assault in England."

Miller here interposed with a covert sneer in his voice: "Yes, but Flammarion has always had the reputation of being more of the romancer than of the astronomer."

"You scientists do him an injustice," I answered, with some heat, "just as you have all been ignorantly contemptuous of Crookes. I confess I used to share in some small degree your estimate of Flammarion; but if you will read his latest book with attention and with candor, you cannot but be impressed with his wide experience and his patient, persistent search for the truth. I am persuaded that he has been a genuine pioneer all along. I cannot see but that he has examined very critically the scores of psychics who have come under his observation, and his reports are painstaking and cautious. His work must be considered by every student of this subject. It won't do to neglect the words of a man who has seen so much.--But here we go along lines of controversy when we should be sitting in quiet harmony. Let us defer our discussion until after our seance. Have patience, and I believe we can duplicate, if not surpass, the marvellous doings of even Richet and Lombroso. We may be able some day to take flash-light photographs of the cone while it is floating in the air."

"Has that ever been done?" asked Mrs. Miller.

"Oh yes; Flammarion secured photos of a table floating in the air. These pictures show conclusively that the psychic had nothing to do with it--at least, not in any ordinary way. Richet succeeded in fixing the apparition of a helmeted soldier on several plates. Crookes photographed 'Katie King' and her medium once or twice, and Fontenay has succeeded in getting clear-cut images of the 'spirit' hands which play round the head of Paladino. But it must be confessed that in Crookes's pictures there is a lack of finality in the negatives. He never succeeded in getting the faces of both 'Katie' and Miss Cook at the same time--and Richet's photographs have a made-up look."

Passing abruptly to a low, humming song, I made the attempt to put our psychic to sleep. In a few minutes her hands became cold and began to flutter. At last she threw my fingers away as if she found them scorching hot. Miller's hand was similarly repulsed. She then seemed to pass into quiet sleep, and I said: "Withdraw a little, Miller, but keep your silk thread taut."

Almost immediately faint raps came upon the table, and I asked: "Are you there, 'Mitchell'?"

Tap, tap, tap--"_Yes._"

"Are we sitting right?"

Tap, tap, tap--"_Yes_," answered the force, in a grave and deliberate way.

"As to these raps," I remarked, "they are easily simulated, but they have been absolutely proven by several of our best investigators. They have been obtained on a sheet of paper held in the air, on pencils, on a strip of cloth, on an open umbrella--under every possible condition. Maxwell secured them by pinching his own ear or by squeezing the arm of his neighbor. I have heard them on a man's shirt-front. They are the first manifestations of intelligent spirit power, and may be regarded in the light of established fact."

"I wouldn't be hasty about admitting even that," remarked Miller. "In the dark--or in the light--these obscure sounds may seem very ghostly, and yet be due to purely physical causes."

We sat in silence for a few moments, and at last I asked: "Is any spirit present?"

Almost immediately a childish voice came from the direction of the psychic, apparently issuing from her lips. "_Mr. Mitchell would like to have you tie the threads to the legs of the table._"

"Are you 'Maud?'" I asked.

"_Yes, I am Maudie_," she answered. "_Mr. Mitchell wants to try some experiment. He wishes you to tie the threads to the legs of the table._"

I confess I didn't like the looks of this, but as a compromise measure I was willing to grant it. "If you don't object, Miller, we will do as the guides desire."

He hesitated. "It weakens our test. I don't understand the reason for the demand."

"I suggest we yield the point for the present. Perhaps 'they' will permit us to resume the thread a little later. I have found that by apparently meeting the forces half-way at the beginning we often get concessions later which will be of greater value than the tests we have ourselves devised."

Accordingly, I tied my end of the silk twist to the table leg at a distance of about twenty-six inches from the utmost reach of the psychic's hands. Miller did the same with his end. We then resumed our seats, and waited for over an hour.

During this time the psychic was absolutely silent and apparently in deep trance, and I was beginning to feel both disappointed and chagrined. Miller's tone was a bit irritating. I knew exactly what was in his mind. "I've fixed her now," he was exultantly saying to himself. "She can't do a thing; even her request to have the threads tied to the table does not avail her. Accustomed to have everything her own way, she fails the first time any real restraint is applied to her."

I was quite at the end of my confident expectancy, when the psychic began to stir uneasily and "Maudie" spoke complaining of the thread on her mother's right wrist. "_It's so tight it stops the blood_," she said. "_Please loosen the thread a little. You may turn up the light_," added the little voice.

While Miller gave me a light, I loosened the thread on her right wrist, which was very tight; but I tied a second thread about her arm in such wise that I would surely know at the end of the sitting if it had been disturbed. The table, I observed at the time, was more than two feet from her finger-tips. I called Miller's attention to this, and said: "She can't possibly untie these threads, and if she breaks them the sitting is invalidated."

Soon after the light was turned out "Maudie" requested that we all move away from Mrs. Smiley, down to the lower end of the table; and although Miller thought this permitted too much liberty of action on the part of the medium, I urged consent. "There are other sittings coming," I repeated once more.

Mrs. Smiley fell again into deep sleep, but nothing took place for a long time. During this period of waiting I told stories of my experience and the curious folk I had met in search for the true explanation of these singular phenomena.

"Have you ever witnessed any materializations?" asked Mrs. Miller.

"Yes; but none of it was of the sort that I could swear to. I mean that it seemed to me to be either downright trickery or subconscious actions on the part of the psychic, and yet I've seen some very puzzling phantoms. I am persuaded that a great deal of what is called 'fraud' arises from the suggestibility of the psychics. Lombroso speaks of this 'fixed idea' of the mediums, and their persistent, almost insane, attempt to produce the phenomena desired by the circle. You can understand how this would be if there is anything at all in hypnotism. Sometimes it all seems to belong to the realm of hypnotic visions. One medium helps another to build up this unreal world. Early in my career as an investigator I went to Onset Bay, where in July of each year all the spiritualists and 'mejums' of New England used to gather (do yet, I believe), and I shall never forget the singular assemblage of 'slate-writers,' 'spirit artists,' 'spirit photographers,' 'palmists,' and 'psychometrists' whose signs lined the street and pointed along the paths of the camp.

"In its way it was as dramatic a contrast of light and shade, of the real and the unreal, as this otherwise prosaic republic can show. There under the vivid summer sun, beside the glittering sea, men and women met to commune on the incommunicable, to question the voiceless, and to embrace the intangible. It was, indeed, such a revelation of human credulity as might well have overpowered a young novelist. From the warm, pine-scented afternoon air I crept into one of these tiny cabins, and sat with my hands upon a closed slate in order to receive a message from Lincoln or Caesar; I slipped beneath the shelter of a tent to have a sealed letter read by a commonplace person with an Indian accent; and I sat at night in dark little parlors to watch weak men and weeping women embrace very badly designed effigies of their lost darlings."

"Isn't it incredible? Can you imagine any reasonable person believing such things?" asked Miller.

"Millions do," I replied.

"Please go on," entreated Mrs. Miller. "What happened to you?"

"Nothing really worth reporting upon. In that day of utter credulity no tests were possible, but immediately after my return to Boston I had my first entirely satisfactory test of the occult. I went with Mrs. Rose, one of our members, to sit for 'independent slate-writing'--that is to say, writing on the inner surfaces of closed slates. Up to this moment I was profoundly sceptical, but I could not doubt the reality of what happened. I took my own slates--the ordinary hinged school slates; but whether they were my own or not made no difference really, for the final test which I demanded was such that any prepared slates were useless. I'm not going into tiresome detail. I only say that while sitting at the table with both Mrs. Rose's hands and my own resting upon the slates _I dictated certain lines to be drawn upon the inside of the slates."

Miller's voice expressed growing interest. "And this was done?"

"It was done. I had in mind the test which Alfred Russel Wallace had used in a similar case. He dictated several words to be written while holding the slates securely in his own hands. In this instance I asked for the word 'Constantinople' to be written. The psychic smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and replied: 'I'll try, but I don't believe they can spell it.' 'Draw a straight line, then,' said I. 'I'll be content with a single line an inch long.' She laughingly retorted: 'It's hard to draw a straight line.' 'Very well, draw a crooked line. Draw a zigzag--like a stroke of lightning. Draw it in yellow. Draw a circle.' She said no more, but became silent, and we waited without change of position. Remember that I was holding the slate during all this talk. It did not leave my hands."

"What were the conditions? Was it light?" asked Miller.

"It was about two o'clock of an afternoon, and we sat in the bay-window of the parlor. It was perfectly light. No one moved. The psychic sat opposite us, leaning back in a thoughtful pose. Her hands lay in her lap, and she seemed to be merely waiting. At last a tapping came upon the slate, and she brightened up. 'It is done!' she called, exultingly. I opened the slates myself, and _there, drawn in yellow crayon, was a small circle with a zigzag yellow line crossing it exactly as I had dictated_, and under Mrs. Rose's hands in the corner of the slate was a gayly colored bunch of pansies. There were messages also, but I paid very little attention to them. The production of that circle under those conditions overshadowed everything else. It was a definite and complete answer to my doubt. It was, in fact, a 'miracle.' I recall going directly to a meeting of the society and reporting upon this sitting. You will find the bald statement of my experiment in the minutes of the secretary."

Miller was silent for a moment, then asked: "You're sure it was done after you took the slates in hand?"

"I am as certain of it as I am of anything."

"How do you account for it? Of course it was a trick."

"Trickery can't account for that yellow line. The messages could have been written beforehand, but no trick of prepared slates can account for my dictated design. I have had other cases of slate-writing which were almost as inexplicable, and Crookes and Wallace and Zoellner, as you remember, were quite convinced by evidence thus secured. Crookes _saw the pencil at work. I have never witnessed the writing, but I have heard it at work under my hands and I have felt it under my feet. I have had writing on ten separate pages in a closed Manila-pad held between my hands."

Miller seemed to be impressed by these statements. "I have always considered slate-writing a cheap trick, but I don't quite see how that was done--always providing your memory is not at fault."

"I would not place much dependence on my present recollection," I frankly responded, "but I reported on the case at once while my mind was most accurate as to details. Speaking further of these tricks, if you choose to call them such, I have had several failures, where the failure meant as much as a success. I have held two slates with a psychic (while we were both standing) when the creaking and scratching and grinding went on between my hands. I give you my word I was convinced at the moment of holding between my palms a sentient force. I felt as Franklin must have felt when he played with the lightning in the bottle at the tail of his kite. Once I heard the writing going on in a half-opened slate, but I did not see the pencil in motion. Some of these cases of 'direct-writing' are the most convincing of all my experiences. People ask me why I didn't talk with the spirits about heaven and angels. I was not interested in their religious notions. I kept to this one line--I wanted to see a particle of matter move from A to B without a known push or pull. I paid very little attention to 'trance-mediums' like Mrs. Piper; and although I saw a great deal of what is called 'mind-reading' and 'thought-transference,' I did not permit the cart to get before the horse. 'Independent slate-writing' interested me, for the reason that I could put the clamps on it. Materialization, on the contrary, is so staged and arranged for that to prove its genuineness seems impossible at present; but slate-writing under your hand is a different matter."

"I'd like to have it under _my hand," said Miller, grimly.

"You can have it if you'll go after it," I retorted, "and you can have it hard."

Mrs. Miller was deeply interested. "Tell us more. Have you had other messages written in that wonderful way?"

"Yes, many of them. One of the most curious examples of this kind I have ever seen came to me in Chicago. It was a 'new one,' as Howard would say. Old Mr. MacVicker told me one day that there was a woman on the West Side who had a trick of producing independent slate-writing beneath the stem of a goblet of water--"

"Why under a goblet of water?" interrupted Miller.

"As a test. You see, nearly every one who goes to a psychic wants first of all to witness a miracle. Each seeker demands that his particular message shall come hard--that is to say, under conditions impossible to the living. His reasoning is like this: 'The dead are free from the limitations of our life, therefore they should manifest themselves to us as befits their wider knowledge of the laws of the universe, and especially is it their business to outdo the most skilful conjurer! Hence each man insists on locked slates and sealed letters. These the poor psychics are forced to grant. To be just to them, I must say that I have found most mediums fairly willing to meet any reasonable test; in fact, many of them seem perfectly confident of the inscrutable, and venture upon what seems to be the impossible with amazing imperturbability. All they ask is to be treated like human beings. They are seldom afraid of results. Sometimes they bully the forces sadly, and make them work when they don't want to.

"Well, this particular psychic ushered me into her back parlor (which was flooded with sunlight), and asked me to be seated at a small table covered with a strip of cloth. She was a comfortable, plump person, evidently from Kansas, in manner somewhat like the humorous wife of a prosperous village carpenter. I remember that we were rather sympathetic on various political questions. After some remarks on populism and other weighty matters, she filled a goblet with water, and, placing it upon a slate, passed it under the table with her right hand, asking me to put my hand beneath hers."

"There it is!" said Miller, with infinite scorn. "Always in the dark or under the table. No wonder Emerson called it 'a rat-hole philosophy.'"

"Suppose it's all the work of an 'astral' who can't abide the light?" I suggested.

"I know the theory, but I can't allow it."

"Why not? You permit the photographer his dark-room."

Then, with malicious delight in his petulance, I calmly continued: "I put my left hand beneath hers and my right upon the table. I could see her left hand lying in her lap, and as she turned sidewise to the table I was able to keep in view both of her feet. We held the slate so that the top of the goblet lightly touched the under side of the stand. The psychic was all accounted for, except the hand which was resting outspread on the under side of the slate. We sat for several minutes in this way, while she explained that 'they' would probably take words out of our conversation as a test, if I desired it. 'I am here to be shown,' I replied. She laughed at me, and on two different occasions brought the slate from beneath the table with writing under the stem of the goblet. This was all very well, but I said: 'A better test would be to have them write words that I dictate.'

"'I will ask them,' she said. She seemed to listen as if to voices inaudible to me, and at last said: 'They will try it.'

"Again we placed the goblet of water on the clean slate under the table, and while holding it as before, I said: 'Now ask them to write the name "William Dean Howells."'

"Almost immediately there was a decided movement of the slate--or so it seemed to me. A power seemed to wake on the slate, not through the psychic's hand, but independent of it. I heard plainly the scratching of a pencil, at the same time that the psychic's left hand and both of her feet were in full view, and at the same time that her hand was outspread, apparently motionless, upon the under side of the slate. In a few moments the scratching paused, and the psychic, with an embarrassed smile, said: 'They don't know how to spell the middle name.'"

"That is to say, _she was the one who could not spell the name," said Miller.

"That's what I thought at the time, but I helped her out, and a moment later a decided tapping on the top of the table announced the completion of the task.

"As she slowly drew the slate out from under the table I was alert to see what had happened. The glass remained in the middle of the slate as before, with the water undiminished, and under the glass and confining itself to the circle of the stem were the words:


WILLIAM
DEAN
HOWELLS


written as though acknowledging the barrier of the glass where its edge rested upon the slate."

"Wonderful!" exclaimed Mrs. Miller.

"Are you sure the writing was there as she drew the slate out?" queried Miller.

"Yes, I saw the writing as she was removing the goblet; and while with her left hand she drew a little circle around the outer edge of the stem I read the words. Now to say that the psychic wrote this with her finger-nail on the bottom of the slate and then turned the slate over is to me absurd. The glass of water prevented that. And yet she did it in some occult way. The transaction remains unexplained to me. I am perfectly sure she willed it, but _how she caused the writing--the physical change--is quite another problem. Zoellner (I believe it was) secured the print of feet on the inside of a closed slate, and reasoned that only on the theory of a fourth dimension could such phenomena be explained. That reminds me of a sitting I once had with a young man wherein, to utterly confound us, the invisible hands removed his undershirt while his coat-sleeves were nailed to the chair."

"Oh, come now, you don't expect us to believe a miracle like that, even on your serious statement?" remarked Miller.

"I certainly do not," I responded, readily. "I wouldn't believe it on any one's statement. That is the discouraging thing about this whole business; you can't convince any one by any amount of evidence. A man will stand out against Zoellner, Crookes, Lodge, and Myers, discounting all the rest of the great investigators, and then crumple up like a caterpillar at the first touch of The Invisible Hand when it comes to him directly. This same young man gave me the most convincing demonstrations of materialized forms I have ever seen. In his own little home, under the simplest conditions, he commanded forth from a little bedroom a figure which was unmistakably not a mechanism. A lamp was burning in the room, and the young fellow was perfectly visible at the same moment as the phantom which stood and bowed three times."

"What did it look like?"

"It looked like a man's figure swathed in some white drapery. I could not see the face, but it was certainly not a 'dummy.' But come, let us see what the forces can do for us here to-night. I think we will need 'Annie Laurie' to clear the air of debate."

Mrs. Miller began the song, and we all joined in softly.

"Our newspaper is a trusty watch-dog," remarked Miller, significantly.

As he spoke the psychic began to toss and writhe and moan pitifully. Her suffering mounted to a paroxysm at last; then silence fell for a minute or two--absolute stillness; and in this hush the table took life, rose, and slid away toward us as if shoved by a powerful hand.

"So far as my hearing goes, the psychic does not move," I said. "Barring the light, this is a very good demonstration of movement without control. Every movement of the table our way removes it farther from the reach of the psychic."

"I hear nothing from the paper," confessed Miller, "and yet the table is certainly moving."

"I can believe this, because I have proved these movements without contact. In this case Mrs. Smiley cannot reach the table with her knees and her feet secured by tape nailed to the bookcase. You cannot believe she has gotten out of her skin. The newspaper is still on guard, and has uttered no alarm."

"It is very perplexing," Miller admitted; "but anything can happen in the dark."

"I admit it is very easy to deceive our senses, but the silk thread is not to be fooled."

Three times the table was urged in the same direction, each paroxysm of suffering, of moaning, of struggle, on the part of the psychic, being followed a few seconds later by absolute silence. It was in these moments of profound sepulchral hush that the heavy table lurched along the floor. It was a strange and startling fact.

"Why are you doing this?" I asked of the forces. "As a test?"

"_Yes_," the raps replied.

"How do you account for it, Miller?" I asked, with challenge in my voice. "My conviction is that we are confronting a case of telekinesis--not as convincing as Flammarion's, but still inexplicable. If that table has moved an inch, it is the same as if it had moved a foot. You should feel rewarded."

Miller did not reply; and even as he pondered the megaphone, which had been standing on the top of the table, began to rock on its base, and a pencil which lay beside it was fumbled as if by a rat or a kitten. In our state of strained expectancy this sound was very startling indeed.

"What about that, Miller?" I asked, in a tone of exultation. "Who's doing that? Last time you suspected Howard, now here you must suspect the psychic. The movement of that pencil is of enormous significance. How can she possibly reach and handle that cone?"

"She can't, unless she has freed her hands," he admitted. "Let us touch hands." I gave him my left hand, and sitting thus, with all hands accounted for, we entered into communication with the "spirit" that was busy in the centre of the table.

"Are you present, 'Wilbur'?"

_Tap, tap, tap.

"Are you moving the table?"

_Tap, tap, tap.

"To get it out of reach of the psychic?"

_Tap, tap, tap.

Suddenly, with a loud bang, something heavy fell upon the table. Releasing the hands of my fellow-investigators, I felt about for this object and found that a book had been brought and thrown upon the table. A shower of others followed, till twenty-four were piled about the cone. They came whizzing with power, yet with such precision that no head was touched and the cone remained undisturbed. It was as if some roguish poltergeist had suddenly developed in the room.

"Miller, I find this exciting!" said I, after silver fell upon the table. "Suppose we ask 'Wilbur' to fetch some small object whose position you know."

Mrs. Miller then said: "There is a box of candy on a shelf back of Mrs. Smiley. It is quite out of her reach. Can you bring that to me, 'Wilbur'?"

_Tap, tap, tap! was the decided answer, and almost immediately the box was placed on the top of the table and shoved along toward Mrs. Miller.

"That's a good demonstration," I remarked, and 'Wilbur' drummed a sharp tattoo of satisfaction.

At my request he then wrote his name on a pad while Miller waited and listened, his mind too busy with surmise to permit of speech. (He told me afterward that he was perfectly sure the psychic had wrenched free of her tacks and he was wondering how she would contrive to put herself back again.)

Finally I asked: "Are you still with us, 'Wilbur'?"

The force tapped smartly on the tin.

"Now, just to show you that the psychic is not doing this, can't you hold up a book between me and the light? I want to see your hand."

Instantly, and to my profound amazement, a book rose in the air, and I could see _two hands in silhouette plainly and vigorously thumbing the volume, which was held about three feet above the table, and to the psychic's left.

"Miller," I said, excitedly, "I see hands!"

"I do not," he answered; "but I hear a rustling."

Swift on the trail, I called out: "Now, show me your empty hand, 'Wilbur.' I want to see how big it is." A moment later I exclaimed, in profound excitement: "I can see a _large hand against the window, and, strangest part of all, the spread fingers are pointing _toward Mrs. Smiley, the wrist is nearest you and at least six feet from the psychic. It is a man's hand. You are not doing this, Miller?"

"Certainly not!" he answered, curtly.

"This is astonishing! It certainly is a hand and much larger than that of a woman, and _the wrist is toward you_. It is still at least four feet from the psychic. Oh, for a flash-light camera now! I was perfectly certain that this is not the psychic's hand, and yet to admit that it is not is to grant the whole theory of materialization."

At last the shadow disappeared. The book fell. With a ringing scrape the cone rose in the air and the voice of "Wilbur" came from it life-like--almost full-toned, and with a note of humorous exultation running through it. "_I told you I'd astonish you!_" he said. "_Don't get in a hurry; there's more coming._"

For nearly two hours thereafter this "spirit voice" kept us all interested and busy. He was very much alive, and we alternately laughed at his quaint conceits or pondered the implications of his casual remarks. It was precisely as if a rollicking Western, or, rather, Southern, man were speaking to us over the 'phone. I asked: "Who are you? Is 'Wilbur' your surname?"

"_No; my middle name. My family name is Thompson._"

His characterization was perfect. He responded to every question with readiness and perfect aplomb. At times he played jokes on us. He bumped Miller on the head, and touched him on the cheek farthest from the psychic. At my request he covered Mrs. Miller's ear with the large end of the horn, then reversed and nuzzled her temple with the small end. She said it felt like a caress, as if guided by a tender hand. She had become clairvoyant also, and saw many forms about the room. I could see nothing.

"Tell us more about yourself, 'Wilbur'?" I asked. "Who are you? What did you do on the earth?"

"_I was a soldier._"

"In the Civil War?"

"_Yes._"

"On which side?"

"_That's a leading question_," he answered, with some hesitation.

"Oh, come now, the war is over!"

"_I was on the Southern side. I am Jeff. W. Thompson. I was a brigadier-general._"

"Where were you killed?"

"_I was invalided home to Jefferson City, and passed out there._"

"How do you happen to be 'guide' to this little woman?"

He hesitated again. "_I was attracted to her_," he said, and gave no further explanation.

"Mitchell" then came and said: "_We are deeply interested in your experiments, Mr. Garland, and will afford you all the aid in our power. It is hard to meet your tests--hard, I mean, for our medium, but we will assist her to fill the requirements._"

"Thank you. I don't see how any psychic could be more submissive."

Mrs. Miller, deeply impressed by all this, began to inquire concerning those of the invisible host whose names were familiar to her. It was evident that she, at least, was convinced of their reality.

Meanwhile, the movement of the cone interested Miller more than the messages. "How does she do it?" he exclaimed several times. "To touch Mrs. Miller means that the psychic must not only have free use of her hands: she must rise from her chair and pass behind me and the wall."

"The precision of the action is my amazement," I replied. "I've noticed this same thing many times. Apparently, darkness is no barrier to action on the part of these forces. That cone, you will observe, can touch you on the nose, eyelid, or ear, softly, without jar or jolt. It came to me just now like a sentient thing--like something human. Such unerring flight is uncanny. Could any trickster perform in the dark with such precision and gentleness? Of course this is not conclusive as argument, but at the same time it has weight. Whose is the eye that directs this instrument? Can you tell us, 'Wilbur'?"

A chuckle came through the cone. "_I'm doing it._"

"How can you see?"

"_Day and night are all the same to me._"

Miller held up his right hand. "Prove it; touch my knuckles!" he commanded.

After a moment's silent soaring the cone struck his left hand, which was farthest from the psychic, and a voice followed it with laughter, asking: "_What made you jump?_"

Before Miller had recovered from the surprise of this, the table seemed to be grasped and shaken as if by a man of giant strength--and yet the cone and the books did not shift position. Hands patted the pillows on a sofa at Miller's right, and one of these cushions was flung against his chair. The room seemed to swarm with tricksy Pucks. At last the cone took flight again, and moved about freely among the heap of books and over Miller's head, while a variety of voices came successively from it, some of them speaking to Mrs. Miller and some to me. Several of the names given were known to Mrs. Miller, and a few were recognizable by me. They all claimed to be spirits of the dead with messages of good cheer for friends on "the earth-plane," but they were all rather vague and stereotyped. Once I thought I could see the cone passing between me and the window, high above the table. It seemed to float horizontally as if in water. Some of the spirits were too weak to raise the cone--so "Wilbur" said; too weak, even, to whisper.

During all this time the psychic remained in trance--deathly still; but "between the acts" her troubled breathing and low moans could be heard. So far as hearing could define, she was still at the end of the table, where she had been placed at the beginning of the sitting. None of these movements occasioned the slightest rustling of the newspaper. When the cone was moving no sound was heard. The floor was of hard-wood, and, as one's hearing becomes very acute in the darkness, I am certain the psychic did not rise from her chair. She was, for the most part, silent as a dead woman.

The force expended on the table was very great, almost furious, and even if the psychic had been able to extend her foot or release a hand she could not have produced such movement, and if she had done so we could have detected it. Intelligent forces were plainly at work on the table, and writing was going on. So far as I was concerned, I was convinced that the psychic had externalized her power in some occult fashion, and that it was she who was speaking to us. It was as if she were able to _will the cone to rise and then to project her voice into it, all of which seems impossible the moment it is stated.

At length "Wilbur" said: "Good-night." I rose, and Miller, eagerly, expectantly, turned the light slowly on. _Mrs. Smiley sat precisely as we had last seen her. Her eyes were closed, her head leaning against the back of her chair. Her hands were fastened exactly as we had left them, and, strangest thing of all, the table was pushed away from her so that the silk threads were tight.

"Do you see that, Miller?" I exclaimed. "Will you tell me how that final movement was made? 'Wilbur' has given us an unexpected test. Even if she had freed her hands, she could not have tied the threads and returned to her bonds; and if she first returned to her bonds, how could she, then, have pushed the table away? The two things are mutually exclusive. Her feet are nailed to the floor, and the newspaper still on guard. Are we not forced to conclude that the table was moved by some supernormal expenditure of force? Her hands were here, the table there. Does it not seem to you a case of the 'psychic force,' such as Crookes and Richet describe?"

Miller was confounded, but concealed it. "She may have shoved the table with her feet."

"How? Your newspaper is unbroken. Not a tack is disturbed. But suppose she did! How about the books? Did she get the books with her feet? How about the broad hand which I saw? How about the candy-box which was moved from a point seven feet away? How could she slip from her bonds? See these threads, actually sunk into her wrists!" I continued. "No, my conviction is that she has not once moved."

"I cannot admit that."

"You mean you dare not!"

Mrs. Miller was indignant at our delay. "The poor thing! It is a shame! Unfasten her at once! You are torturing her!"

"Wait a few moments," said Miller, inexorably. "I want to make a few notes."

Meanwhile I took the psychic's pulse. It was very slow, faint, and irregular. It was, indeed, only a faint, sluggish throb at long intervals, and each throb was followed only by a feeble fluttering. Her skin was cold, her arms perfectly inert and numb, and she came very slowly back to consciousness. I had a conviction at the moment that she had been out of her body.

While I rubbed her hands and arms, Miller took notes and measurements. There were more than two dozen books on the table, and some of them had come from shelves three feet distant and a little above the psychic's shoulders. It was true she could have reached them with a free arm, but she had no free arm! The pad in the middle of the table was scrawled upon. "Wilbur" was written there, and short messages from "Mr. Mitchell" and other "ghosts." Therefore, it is of no value to say we were collectively hypnotized.

As she came to life, Mrs. Smiley complained of being numb. "My arms are like logs," she said, "and so are my feet. My 'guides' say that if you will put one palm to my forehead and the tips of your fingers at the base of my brain it will help me to liven up."

I did as she requested, and was at once conscious of great heat and turmoil in her head. It appeared to throb as if in receding excitement. I thought of Richet's observations (that in cases of materialization the psychic seemed shrunk and weakened), and narrowly scanned the helpless woman. She seemed at the moment small and bloodless.

"Were you conscious of groaning and gasping?" I asked.

"No, I have no recollection of anything. I am told I do make a great fuss, but I don't know it. Did anything happen?"

"A very great deal happened," I answered.

She smiled in quiet satisfaction.

"I'm glad. Mr. Miller has been good and patient; it would have been a shame to disappoint him. If you will only keep from being too anxious you'll get anything you want."

"That's what 'Mitchell' said."

Mrs. Miller patted her hands. "You must be very tired, poor thing?"

"I do feel weak, but that will soon pass away. What time is it?"

Miller looked at his watch. "Great Scott! It's after one o'clock."

"Absorbing business, isn't it?" said I.

Mrs. Miller invited Mrs. Smiley to stay the remainder of the night and took her away to bed, leaving us to measure and weigh and surmise. It seemed absurd--like a dream; and yet there lay the visible, tangible proofs of the marvel.

"Everything took place within her reach, provided she could have freed her hands," Miller repeated, as he sat in her chair and studied the books on the table.

"Miller," said I, with conviction, "_that woman did not lift her wrists from that chair_!

"I don't see how she did it; but to say she did not, is to admit the preposterous. I wish she had permitted us to hold her hands."

"I don't know of another psychic in America who would have submitted to the test we put upon Mrs. Smiley to-night, but 'Mitchell' has assured me he will go further: he will let us hold her hands and turn on the light. I feel as if the great mystery were almost within our grasp. By the ghost of Euclid! I have the conviction at this moment that we are at the point of proving for ourselves the elongation of the psychic's limbs! Suppose Flammarion is right? Suppose that the psychic can extend her arms beyond their normal proportions? You should be ready to give a year, ten years, to demonstrating a single one of these physical effects. If I am any judge of character, this little woman is as honest and as wholesome as Mrs. Miller herself. It isn't this one performance alone which proves it. It is the implication of a dozen other sittings, almost as convincing as this, that gives me hope of proving something. Let us have our next sitting at Cameron's. It is only fair to readmit them, for we have proven that they had nothing to do with our performance that first night. Let us ask to be permitted to hold the hands and feet of the psychic, and also to take a flash-light picture of the floating cone. We may yet see these ghostly hands in the light of the lamp."

Miller was shaken. I could see that. He sat like one who has been dealt a stunning blow.

"I don't believe it--I can't believe it," he repeated.

"Crookes got some photos of 'Katie King,' and I fully believe that Mrs. Smiley may be developed further. Anyhow, let's test her. Now for a word of theory. This is the way it all appears to me at this time. She seems to enter successively three stages of hypnotic sleep. In the first stage the 'spirits' speak through her own throat--or she impersonates, as Mrs. Harris did. Her second and deeper sleep permits of the movement of the cone--'telekinesis,' 'independent slate-writing,' etc. But in this final deathly trance she has the power of projecting her astral hands, whatever that may mean, and the production of spirit voices. Perhaps she has an astral head--"

"I don't believe a word of it! It is all impossible, monstrous!"

"Well, how will you explain this performance? What about the tacks, the threads, the tapes that bound her? She brought books, shook the table, touched us--How?"

"I don't know; but there must be some perfectly natural way of explaining it. There is no place for the supernatural in my world. She seems a nice, simple little woman, and yet this very simplicity may be a means of throwing us off our guard. I will give a hundred dollars for permission to hold her hands while the cone is moving."

"If you do not believe in tacks, will you believe in the touch of your fingers?"

"If she permits me to hold her and the cone moves I will surrender."

"No, you won't. You think you will, but you won't. Don't deceive yourself. I've been all through it. You _can't believe until some fundamental change takes place in your mind. You must struggle just as Richet did."

"Anyhow, let's turn the screws tighter. Let's devise some other plan to make ourselves doubly certain of her part in the performance."

With this understanding I said good-night, and took my lonely way to my apartment.

It was deliciously fresh and weirdly still in the street, and as I looked up at the glowing stars and down the long, empty street my mind revolted. "Can it be that the good old theory of the permanence of matter is a gross and childish thing? Do the dead tell tales, after all? I wish I could believe it. Perhaps old Tontonava was right. Perhaps if we were all to pray for the happy hunting-grounds at the same moment and in perfect faith, the lost paradise would return builded by the simple power of our thought."

Then Richet's moving confession came to me: "It took me twenty years of patient research to arrive at my present conviction. Nay (to make one last confession), I am not yet absolutely and irremediably convinced. In spite of the astounding phenomena which I have witnessed, I have still a trace of doubt--doubt which is weak, indeed, to-day, but which may, perchance, be stronger to-morrow. Yet such doubts, if they come, will not be due so much to any defect in the actual experiment as to the inexorable strength of prepossession which holds me back from adopting a conclusion which contravenes the habitual and almost unanimous opinion of mankind."

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