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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Shadow World - Chapter 5
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The Shadow World - Chapter 5 Post by :maxfield Category :Nonfictions Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :928

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The Shadow World - Chapter 5

CHAPTER V

At this point the sittings, which had begun so interestingly, suddenly began to fail of results. The power unaccountably weakened. Miller and several others of the circle believed these failures to be due to the increased rigidity of the restraint we had imposed upon the medium. The next "session" was held in Fowler's down-town office, against the hesitating protest of the psychic, who said: "The atmosphere of the place is not good." By which she meant that the associations of the office, with the hurry and worry of business, were in opposition to the mood necessary for the production of the phenomena.

"The real reason," declared Howard, "is this: we're now getting down to brass tacks in her business."

This was literally true. At Miller's suggestion a strong tape, perhaps half an inch wide, had been passed about the psychic's wrist and tied in a close, square knot, and finally a long brass tack was driven down through both strands of the tape into the chair-arm. This was in reality as secure as a handcuff. Nothing happened this night beyond the movement of the table and some rather weak raps, and we all rose from our seats worn and disappointed.

When we met the next night in the same place, and adjusted the ever-tightening bands upon the psychic, she sat helplessly for three hours. I began to lose confidence in her power to do anything beyond the ordinary. Howard, Mrs. Quigg, and Miss Brush dropped out before the sitting was over. Only Brierly and myself met the psychic at the Camerons' on the following Thursday. Again we sat patiently for long hours, with only the movement of the table and a drumming upon the top in response to our requests. Miller now said: "I would like to have one more sitting in my library, to see if we can duplicate the marvels of our previous seance."

We did not. The table alone moved, but it did this under absolutely test conditions. Over each of the psychic's arms a lady's stocking was drawn, and pinned to her dress at the shoulder. On each hand a luminous pasteboard star was fastened, and her wrists were tied and tacked, as before. Again we nailed her dress to the floor and covered her knees with a newspaper, and Miller and I held threads which were knotted to her wrists. Nevertheless, under these conditions the table moved while no one touched it, but always in a line away from the psychic. At the moment of the sliding of the table I closely watched the luminous stars, and asserted to the others that her hands did not stir. So that this movement, though slight, was genuinely telekinetic.

A very curious incident now cut short our sitting. Miller, who thought the left hand of the psychic was not in place, twitched the string which he held, and immediately Mrs. Smiley began to twist and sigh, and "Maud" complained that her mamma had been injured by the jerking of the thread by Professor Miller, and said that the sitting would have to stop. We lighted up and found the psychic apparently suffering keenly from a severe cramp all through her left side, and a good deal of rubbing was necessary to restore her to anything like a normal condition.

It really seemed like failure for my psychic, and I began to wonder whether the books really did fly from Miller's shelves. I could not suspect the gentle little lady of _conscious deceit, but with a knowledge of the wonderful deceptions of somnambulists and hysterics, I began to doubt. I urged Miller to try one more sitting. He consented, and we met at Brierly's house. Nothing happened during the first two hours, and at ten o'clock, or thereabouts, Miller, Brierly, and Fowler withdrew, leaving me to untie and restore Mrs. Smiley, who was still apparently in deep sleep.

It was evident that the guides had not released the psychic, and "Maudie" soon spoke, asking me to put her mamma into a wooden chair, and to take the cone apart and put the smaller end upon the table. I did as she requested, and drew the psychic's chair and table together. "Wilbur" insisted that I tie the psychic as before, but I replied, rather dejectedly: "Oh no; let things go on as they are."

He insisted, and, with very little faith in the power of the psychic, I did as I was told. I tied her wrists separately and then together, and, drawing both ends of the tape into my left hand, I passed them under the tip of my forefinger in such wise that I could feel any slightest movement of the psychic's hands. The guides asked me to fasten her wrists to the chair, but I replied: "I am satisfied."

Again I was brought face to face with the mystery of mediumship. Sitting thus, with no one present but Mrs. Brierly, a woman to be trusted, the cone was drummed upon and carried about as if by a human hand. It touched my cheek at a distance of two feet from Mrs. Smiley's hands, and "Wilbur's" voice--strong, vital, humorous--came to me, conversing as readily, as sensibly, as any living flesh-and-blood person, _and all the time I held to my tapes, carefully noting that no movement, beyond a slight tremor_, took place in the psychic's arms. Just _before each movement of the cone she shivered convulsively and sighed, but while the cone moved she was deathly still. Each time as the cone left the table it seemed to rock to and fro as though a hand were trying to grasp it, and a moment later it rose with a light spring. My impression was--my _belief at the moment was--that Mrs. Smiley had nothing to do in any ordinary way with the movement of the horn. If there is any virtue in a taut tape and my sense of touch, her arms lay like marble during the precise time the voice was speaking to me. I could detect no connection between herself and the voice.

"Mitchell" assured me that he approved of every test we were putting upon "the instrument," and expressed confidence that she would triumph over Miller. "But the circles have been too often changed," he asserted, "and the places have not been well chosen. All must be unhurried and harmonious," he added, and I replied that I had been discouraged, but that this sitting had given me new interest. "I will be faithful to the end," I assured him.

"Wilbur" and "Mitchell" were perfectly distinct personalities, and appeared to confer and act together. I had a sense of nearness to the solution of the mystery that thrilled me. Here in the circle of my out-stretched arms the incredible was happening. I held Mrs. Brierly's hands, and controlled (by means of my tightly stretched tape) the movements of the psychic, and yet the megaphone was lifted, handled, used as a mouthpiece by "spirits." I felt that if at the moment I had been able to turn on a clear light I could have seen _my ghostly visitors. This final hour's experience revived all my confidence in Mrs. Smiley, and not even another long series of absolute failures could destroy my faith in her honesty or my belief in her occult powers.

My patience was sorely tried by twelve almost perfectly useless sittings, during which everybody dropped away but Mr. and Mrs. Fowler, Dr. Towne, Brierly, and myself. They were not utterly barren sittings, but the phenomena were repetitious or slight and fugitive.

Mr. and Mrs. Fowler were friends of Brierly, and, like him, avowed spiritists, but they both lent their best efforts to make the tests complete and convincing. After trying sittings here and there, we finally settled upon a series of afternoon sessions in Fowler's own house. This was the twenty-sixth sitting of the series, and Cameron's Amateur Psychical Society was practically a memory. I was now going ahead pretty much on my own lines, but with an eye to catching Miller and the Camerons at a successful seance before concluding my search.

Mrs. Smiley was in great distress of mind over the failure of her powers. "I guess I'm no good any more," she said. "I never sit now without a feeling that perhaps my power is gone forever. This Eastern climate is so harsh for me, and I long for my own California. If you will not give up, I will keep trying as long as my guides advise it."

"You have done your part," I said, with intent to console her.

"Please don't give up," she pleaded.

"I am not giving up--on the contrary, I am only beginning to fight," I assured her, paraphrasing General Grant, or some other obstinate person. "I recognize the truth of what you complain about, but I am sure that at Fowler's, in a small, warm, well-aired room, you will feel at home and be secure of interruption."

Mrs. Fowler, a very sensitive, thoughtful, dark-eyed little lady, received us at the appointed hour with quiet cordiality, and suggested that her own room up-stairs would be a comfortable and retired place.

To this I agreed, and we set to work to prepare it for the sitting. Fowler and I assumed control of the psychic, though Brierly insisted that, as the house belonged to Fowler, it would be more convincing if he were not connected with the preparation of the room. "I don't think we need to consider hair-drawn objections," I retorted.

As before, we placed Mrs. Smiley in an arm-chair at one end of a small table; as before, we secured her ankles by looping a long tape about them and nailing the two ends to the floor behind her. Mrs. Fowler introduced an innovation by _sewing the tape to the sleeves of our psychic_. This made slipping out of the tape an impossibility, but, to push security still further, I drove a long brass tack down _through both tape and doubled sleeve_. Not content even with this, Fowler put a second tape about each wrist, to add further security and to take off the strain in case of any unconscious movement. Another tape was carried across Mrs. Smiley's dress about four inches below her knees, and pinned there. Next the ends were drawn tight and tied to the back rung of her chair. By this we intended to prevent any pushing action of the knees. As a final precaution, we nailed her dress to the floor in front with three tacks. The small end of the tin cone was then placed on the table (at the request of the psychic) and the large end deposited upright on the carpet near Fowler. Some sheets of paper and a pencil were laid upon the table. Everything movable was entirely out of the psychic's reach.

It was about three o'clock of the afternoon when, after darkening the windows, we took our seats in a little circle about the table. As usual, I guarded the psychic's right hand, while Fowler sat at her left. Brierly and Mrs. Fowler were opposite Mrs. Smiley. The room was lighter than at any other of our sittings--both on account of the infiltering light of day, and also because an open grate fire in the north wall sent forth an occasional flicker of red flame.

We sat for some time discussing Miller and Harris and their attitude toward the psychic. I remarked:

"To me our failures, some of them at least, have been very instructive, but the gradual falling away of our members makes evident to me how unlikely it is that any official commission will ever settle the claims of spiritualism. As Maxwell has said: 'It is a slow process, and he who cannot bring himself to plod patiently and to wait uncomplainingly for hours at a time will not go far.' I confess that the half-heartedness of our members has disappointed me. I told them at the outset not to expect entertainment, but they did. It _is tiresome to sit night after night and get nothing for one's pains. It seems foolish and vain, but any real investigator accepts all these discomforts as part of the game. Failures are sure to come when the psychic is honest. Only the juggler can produce the same effects. A medium is not a Leyden-jar nor an Edison battery; materialization is not precisely a vaudeville 'stunt.'"

"I don't call the last sitting a failure," said Fowler. "The conditions were strictly test conditions, and yet matter was moved without contact. Of course, the mere movement of a table, or even of the trumpet, seems rather tame, as compared with the doings of 'Katie King'; but, after all, a single genuine case of telekinesis should be of the greatest value to the physicist; and, as for the psychologist, the fact of your friend, Mrs. Thomas, becoming entranced by 'Wilbur' was startling enough, in all conscience."

"I don't think Miller believed in her trance," said I.

"What happened?" asked Brierly, who had not been present at this particular sitting.

I answered: "Mrs. Thomas, a friend of mine, a very efficient, clear-brained person, whom, by-the-way, we had asked to come in order to fully preserve the proprieties, suddenly felt a twitching in her left hand, which was touching mine. This convulsive movement spread to her shoulder, until her whole arm began to thresh about like a flail in a most alarming way. The action became so violent at last that she called upon me for aid. I found it exceedingly difficult to subdue her agitation and silence her rebellious limb, but I did finally succeed. Nor was this all. A few moments later, while helping us in the singing, my friend suddenly stopped singing and began to laugh in a deep, guttural fashion, and presently a voice--the voice of a man, apparently--came from her throat: '_Haw! haw! I've got ye now! I've got ye now!_' It sounded like 'Wilbur.'"

This seemed to amuse Mrs. Smiley. "It was 'Wilbur,'" she said. "He loves to jump in and seize upon some one's vocal chords that way. It's a favorite joke with him."

"What horrible taste!" Mrs. Fowler shudderingly exclaimed.

"Oh, I don't know," remarked Brierly. "It is actually no worse than having your hand controlled."

"To have a spirit inside of one's throat is a little startling, even to me," I admitted, sympathetically. "But there was more of this business. Another member of the circle--a young man--became entranced, and proceeded to impersonate lost souls, 'earth-bound spirits,' in the manner of our friend Mrs. Harris, and wailed and wept and moaned in most grewsome fashion. However, I think Miller considered both of these performances merely cases of hysteria, induced by the darkness and the constraint of sitting about the table. And perhaps he was correct."

"Anything a doctor doesn't understand he calls hysteria," put in Brierly. "I consider these specialists nuisances."

"Well, anyhow, our 'Amateur Spook-spotter Association' seems to have come to an untimely end," said I, regretfully. "Of the original number, only Brierly remains. Wouldn't our deserters be chagrined if we should now proceed to enjoy a really startling session?"

"We will," Mrs. Smiley responded. "I feel the power all about me."

"Good!" cried Fowler. "That is the way you should feel. If you are at ease, the spirits will do the rest."

"Sit back and rest," I said. "We have plenty of time. You've been too anxious. Don't worry."

In the mean while, between the sitting at Miller's house and this present one, I had been reading much on the subject of the trance and of "the externalization of the fluidic double," of which the Continental philosophers have much to say. If not convinced, I was at least under conviction that the liberation of the astral self was possible (if at all) only in the deepest trance, and I now attempted to discover by interrogation of Mrs. Smiley precisely what her own conception of the process was.

"You told me once that you are conscious of leaving your body when in trance," I said. "Do you always have that sensation?"

"Yes, I almost always have a feeling of floating in the air," she answered. "It often seems as if I had risen a few feet above and a little to one side of my material self, to which I am somehow attached. I can see my body and what goes on around it, and yet, somehow, it all seems kind of dim, like a dream. It's hard to tell you just what I mean, but I seem to be in both places at once."

"Do you ever have any perception of a physical connection between yourself and the sitters?"

She seemed to me to answer this a bit reluctantly. "Yes, I sometimes feel as though little shining threads went out from me and those in the circle, and sometimes these threads meet and twine themselves around the cone or the pencil. This means that I draw power from all my sitters."

This was in accord with the accounts of a "cobwebby feeling" which both Maxwell and Flammarion had drawn from their mediums. Maxwell makes much of this curious physical sensation which accompanied certain of M. Meurice's phenomena. Here also seemed to be an unconscious corroboration of Albert de Rochas's experiments in the "externalization of motivity," as he calls it. The "cobwebby feeling" of the fingers might mean an actual raying-out of some subtle form of matter. Indeed, M. Meurice, Maxwell's medium, declared he could see "a sheath of filaments pass from his fingers to the objects of experimentation."

"Tell us about your journeys into the spirit land," I suggested. "You sometimes seem to go far away, do you not?"

Her voice became very wistful as she complied. "Yes, sometimes I seem to go to a far-off, bright world. I don't always want to come back, but there is a little shining white ribbon that unites my spirit with my body and holds me fast. Once when I had resolved never to return, that little band of light began to tug at me, and, although it broke my heart to leave my children, who were there with me, I yielded, and came back to life. It was very cheerful and lovely in that land, and I hated to come back to the cold and cruel earth-plane."

"Can't you tell us about it more particularly?"

"No; it is so different from this plane that I have no words in which to describe it. All I can say is that it seems glorious and happy and very light."

Something in her gentle accent excited Fowler's sympathy. "Mrs. Smiley, you have the blood of the martyrs in you. It takes courage to put one's self into the hands of a cold-blooded scientist like Miller. Even Garland, here, has no pity. He's like a hound on the trail of a fawn. It's all 'material' for him. Now, I am nothing but a mild-mannered editor. I have all the facts I require concerning the spirit world. I am busied with trying to make people happy here on this earth. But these scientific 'sharps' are avid for any fact which sustains the particular theory they happen to hold. Not one in a hundred will go where the facts lead. Their investigation is all a process of self-glorification, wherein each one thinks he must prove all the others liars or weak-minded in order to exalt himself."

To this I could only reply: "I'm not a scientist, though, I must say, I sympathize with the scientific method. And as for my treatment of Mrs. Smiley, I am following exactly the advice of her controls. They assure me that they will take care of her."

"And so they will," responded the devoted little psychic.

By the closest questioning I had never been able to change a single line of her simple faith. She was perfectly certain of the spirit world. She had daily messages from "Wilbur" and her spirit father, partly by voices, but mainly by intuition. Her children hovered over her while she slept. "Mitchell" healed her if she were ill. "Maudie" comforted her loneliest hours. These voices, these hands were an integral part of her world--as necessary and as dear to her as those of her friends in the flesh. As she talked on I experienced a keen pang of regret. "Why disturb her belief in the spirit world?" I asked myself. "Why attempt to reduce her manifestations to natural magic? To rob her of her conviction that 'Maudie' is able to come back to her would leave her poor indeed."

However, as the scientist cannot permit pity to hinder his purpose, I was determined to disassociate the _facts of spiritualism from the _cult of spiritualism. I was not concerned with faith or consolation. I returned to a study of the facts as a part of nature. I was now observing closely the three levels of sleep into which Mrs. Smiley seemed to lower herself at will, or upon the suggestion of those in the circle. I had adopted the theory that in the lighter trance she spoke unconsciously and wrote automatically. In the second, and deeper, trance she became the somnambulist possessed of diabolic cleverness, when, with the higher senses in abeyance, she was able to deceive and to elude all detection. In the third, or death-like, trance, I was ready to admit, for the sake of argument, that she was able, as De Rochas and Maxwell seem to have demonstrated, to exert an unknown form of force beyond the periphery of the body--that is to say, to move objects at a distance and to produce voices from the horn.

To prove that she actually left the body would do much to explain the phenomena, and I was very eager to push toward this demonstration. I had now been her chief inquisitor for nearly thirty sittings, and had developed (apparently) the power to throw her into trance almost instantly. A few moments of monotonous humming, intoned while my hand rested upon hers, generally sufficed to bring the first stage of her trance. As we had been sitting for half an hour, I now proceeded to chant my potent charm, with intent to liberate the "spirits" to their work.

In a few moments she responded to my suggestion. A nervous tremor, now expected and now familiar, developed in her hands. This was followed by a slight, convulsive, straining movement of her arms. Her fingers grew hot, and seemed to quiver with electric energy. Ten minutes later all movement ceased. Her temperature abruptly fell. Her breath grew tranquil, and at last appeared to fail altogether. This was the first stage of her trance. "Take your hand away, Fowler," I said. "We have nothing to do now but wait. The psychic is now in the hands of 'Mitchell.'"

Fowler remarked, with some humor: "I can tell by your tone that you're still unconvinced."

"I'm like the Scotchman--ready for convincement, but I'd like to see the man who could do it."

After a few minutes' silence Mrs. Fowler asked: "What is the most conclusive phenomenon you have ever witnessed, Mr. Garland?"

"That's a little difficult to answer," I replied, slowly, "but at the moment I think the playing of a closed piano, which I once heard, is the most inexplicable of all my experiments."

"What do you mean by 'the playing of a closed piano'?" queried Brierly.

"I'll tell you about it. It happened during the second sitting I ever had with Mrs. Smiley. I was lecturing in her home town at the time, and after the close of my address, and while we were talking together, some one who was aware of Mrs. Smiley's mediumship suggested: 'Let's go somewhere and have a sitting.' The plan pleased me, and, after some banter pro and con, we made up a party of six or eight people, and adjourned to the home of the chairman of the lecture committee, a certain Miss Halsey. I want to emphasize the high character of Miss Halsey, as well as the casual way in which we happened to go to her rooms, for it puts out of the way all question of collusion. There was no premeditation in the act, and Miss Halsey, who was the librarian of the city, and a pronounced disbeliever in spiritistic theories, had never met Mrs. Smiley before.

"The circle was made up about equally of men and women, all of them well-known residents of the town. So far as most of the phenomena resulting from this sitting are concerned, they have very little value, for they took place in the dark and the medium was not closely guarded. It was only toward the end of the sitting, which, by-the-way, took place in Miss Halsey's library and music-room, that the unexpected suddenly happened, the inexplicable came to pass.

"We were gathered about a long table, with Mrs. Smiley at one end sandwiched between the editor of the local paper and myself. Behind me, and just within reach of my hand, stood an upright piano, with its cover down, but not locked. We had heard drumming on the table for some time, and writing had apparently taken place on the pads in the middle of the table. But all this was inconclusive, for the reason that Mrs. Smiley was not fastened as she is now. I took it all with a pinch of salt. My mental reservations must have reached the minds of the 'guides,' for with startling suddenness they left the table and fell upon the top of the piano. After drumming for some time, the invisible fingers seemed to drop to the strings beneath, and a treble note was sounded as if plucked by a strong hand."

"You are sure the piano was closed?"

"I am coming to that. Highly delighted by this immediate response to my request, I said to the 'forces': 'Can't you demonstrate to us that these sounds are not accidental or caused by the jarring of cars in the street? Can't you pluck the bass strings?' Instantly, and with clangor, the lower strings replied. Thereupon I said: 'Can't you play a tune?' To this only a confused jangle made answer. I was unable to secure any orderly succession of notes. 'Can't you keep time while I whistle?' I insisted, with intent to show that intelligence guided these sounds. The 'spirits' twanged three times in the affirmative, and when I began to whistle 'Yankee Doodle' the invisible musician kept perfect time, playing according to my request--now on the treble, now on the bass. Leaning far back in my chair, I placed my hand upon the lid of the closed piano, and called out to the others in the circle: 'The lid of the piano is closed. My hand is upon it. So far as the sense of touch and hearing are concerned, we have here an action absolutely unaccounted for by any scientific law.

"This was at the moment absolutely convincing to me, as to the others, and I promptly reported the case to the American Psychical Society in Boston. Since then I may say I have had many experiments quite as convincing, but never a repetition of this peculiar phenomenon. It is useless to talk about secret wires, or a mouse running up and down the strings, or any other material explanation of this fact. It took place precisely as I relate it, and remains a mystery to this day."

Fowler remained very calm. "Crookes saw in a full light an accordion playing beneath the touch of invisible fingers."

"Yes," I retorted, in protest, "but this action of a closed piano happened in my presence, under my hand, and there is always so much more convincing quality in the miracle which happens in one's own house. But, seriously, that performance on the closed piano remains a profound mystification to me. If it had happened in the medium's house, or in the home of some one who knew her, I might have suspected fraud--but it did not! It happened in the study of one of the most respected women in the city, a student who did not believe in psychic phenomena. Furthermore, my own hand was on the lid of the piano. I was so convinced of Mrs. Smiley's possession of some occult force that I at once wrote to the society, telling them that a study of her phases would, in my judgment, be the most important work its directors could engage upon. This is one of my crack stories, and I wouldn't believe it as related by any one else. However, you may read my report, which I made at the time, if that will be of any satisfaction to you."

"Oh, I don't need it," responded Mr. Fowler. "I was merely trying to find out what your best experiments had been. Have they all been on the physical plane?"

"They are all on the physical plane--that is to say, on one plane for me. Any 'spirit manifestation,' so long as we are what we are, must be an agitation of what we call 'molecules of matter,' and is to that extent physical. I have no patience with those highfilutin teachers who speak of matter as though it were ignoble in some way. Matter to me is as mysterious as spirit."

At this moment a slight movement of the psychic arrested me, and as we listened the silvery sweet voice of "Maudie" issued from the darkness, saying: "_Mr. Mitchell wants Mr. Garland to change places with Mr. Fowler. Be very careful as you move about. Don't joggle mama. It's very dangerous to her._"

As I rose to comply, "Maude" called out: "_Mr. Mitchell wishes the threads fastened to mama's wrists. He wants you and Mr. Fowler to hold them the way you did at Mr. Miller's house._"

Turning up the lights, we tied a strong silk thread to each wrist, and passed the ends under each arm of the chair. Fowler took one of these ends while I retained the other. I then called the attention of Brierly to the fact that the table was seventeen inches from the feet of the psychic, and that the fastenings were unchanged. When his examination was completed, the lights were again turned off, and the circuit of hands restored.

"Maudie" then requested that the pieces of cone be put together and placed on the floor beside the table. Fowler did this, and drew a chalk mark about it, numbering it "Position No. 1." Immediately after his return to his seat the table was strongly pushed away from the psychic. It moved in impulses, an inch or two at a time, until it was certainly six or eight inches farther from the psychic.

It is impossible to conceive how this movement without contact takes place; but, then, what do we know about the action of the magnet on a pile of iron filings? How can a thought in the brain of man contract a set of muscles and lift a cannon-ball? At bottom we do not know how the will, as we call it, crosses the chasm between mind and matter--we don't even know there is a chasm.

"Do you feel any motion in your thread, Fowler?" I asked.

"Nothing but a faint quiver," he replied.

"Neither do I, and yet the table moved."

"The table is crowding against me!" called Mrs. Fowler, in some excitement.

The fact that the table moved toward us and directly away from the psychic was in itself suspicious; but, as a matter of fact, at other sittings we obtained sidewise movements of the table--generally to the left. The present experiment did not stand alone. You must remember also that the table was at this time more than two feet from Mrs. Smiley's toes, her dress was tacked to the floor, and her ankles controlled by a tape whose ends were nailed to the floor four feet behind her chair.

"So far as matter can testify, Mrs. Smiley is not concerned in this movement of the table," I said. "The question is now up to us. Which of us is doing this?"

"I am not," answered Brierly.

"Nor I," declared Fowler.

"Nor I," chimed in Mrs. Fowler.

At this moment the psychic began to stir again. "Look out!" I called, warningly. "Let every hand be accounted for. Some new demonstration is preparing. These periods of suffering are strangely like the pangs of childbirth. I wonder if, after all, Archdeacon Colley was not in the right when he asserted that he had seen the miraculous issue of phantoms. I confess that when I read it first I smiled with the rest, for his description of the process was not very poetic. He declared that he saw a white vapor steam from the side of the psychic, like vapor from a kettle, forming a little cloud, and from this nebulous mass various phantasms appeared, ranging from a little child to a full-grown man. It is curious how exactly similar all the reports of this process are. Crookes speaks of a milky-white vapor which condensed to a form, and Richet and Maxwell describe it as a sort of condensing process. I have seen it myself, but could not believe in the evidence of my own eyes. One can see all kinds of things in the dark."

Peace had again fallen upon our psychic--the peace of exhaustion; as if, her struggles being over, her flesh-free spirit were at large in the room. The silence was profound, yet somehow thrilling with potency.

In this hush the megaphone was lifted slightly and dropped, making us all start. It was as if a feeble hand had tried to manipulate it without success. "Let us keep test conditions," I urged. "Please do not make a movement now without warning me of your intentions. Keep the circuit closed." Here I addressed "Wilbur": "Let's see if you can handle the cone under strictly test conditions. Come now, lift it! Lift it!" I repeated the command with intent to concentrate all will-power of both psychic and sitters upon the thing desired, as Maxwell was accustomed to do in his experiments with Meurice.

Several times the forces strove to carry out my wishes, but could not. Twice the horn rose from the carpet, only to fall back helplessly. Fowler placed it in position each time, marking each new position, while I took note of the convulsive tremor which swept from time to time over the psychic. It was exactly as if she were a dynamo generating some unknown electrical energy, which, after accumulating for a time in her organism (as in a jar), was discharged along the direction of our will, and yet I could not detect any marked synchronism of movement between these impulses and the movement of the horn.

After each fall of the cone she moaned and writhed, _but not till the hush of death came over her did the horn move_. So intense was the silence each time that we could hear the slightest breath, the minutest movement of the tin as it scraped along the rug.

"It is useless to talk of a confederate," I remarked; "it is of no value to refer this action to the hands of the psychic. We must look to subtler causes for this phenomenon. Perhaps Maxwell's theory that some magnetic power is liberated by the contraction of the larger muscles will account for it, but in no other way."

At last the megaphone soared into the air, passed over our heads, and dropped gently upon the table. It did not fall with a bang; on the contrary, it seemed to descend gently--_as if under perfect control of both hand and eye_. And yet I assert there was nothing to indicate that the psychic shared in these movements. She lay as still as a corpse. Nothing but a minute continuous tremor in the thread told that she was still alive. I was enormously impressed by the silence. The darkness seemed athrill with mystery--not the mystery of the discarnate soul, but the mystery of the X-ray. I felt that we were ourselves involved in a production of each and every one of these movements.

"There is no use attempting to deny this fact," I insisted to the other sitters. "Either the psychic is able to control that cone by the exercise of her will over some unknown invisible force, or she has left her body and is now at work, a sentient entity in the air about us. There is the same precision in all this which Lombroso observed. It really seems that the medium has the faculty of using her senses at a distance. To say that she is handling that cone with her ordinary physical limbs is absurd. This single inexplicable moving of a mass of matter from A to B makes the experiments of Crookes and Maxwell very much more vital to me. I shall reread their books with new interest."

This result should have awed me, but it did not. I felt a deep interest, of course, but no bewilderment. My mind was perfectly clear and my senses alert to every sound, every ray of light.

At this moment the psychic again began to twist and turn as if in pain, and at last the little voice of "Maudie" anxiously asked: "_Is Mr. Garland going to take a train at seven o'clock?_"

This query convinced me that deep in the subconscious mind of the psychic lay the knowledge that I had thought of catching this train, and that a sense of my plan was disturbing her and interfering with our experiment. To remove the uneasiness, I replied: "No, I am going to stay; for I think 'Mr. Mitchell' has something very special in store for me. Tell her not to think of it any more. I am in no hurry. I have no appointment elsewhere."

To this "Maudie" replied: "_Mr. Mitchell says, 'Thank you'; he will do the best he can for you. He says go down-stairs now and get your supper. Leave mama just where she is. He will take care of her._"

As we had been sitting for nearly three hours in a dark close room we welcomed this suggestion from our thoughtful guide, although it tended to make the sitting less conclusive. As I followed my hostess down the stairs I shared her remorseful pity of poor Mrs. Smiley, bound and helpless in her inquisitorial seat. "Mitchell" did not ask that she be fed, only that she be covered with a shawl to keep her warm.

"If she is doing this for her own entertainment," I said, "she has singular tastes. If she is doing it to advance the cause of spiritualism, she is a noble creature--though a mistaken devotee, in the eyes of Miller."

Our hostess's uneasiness concerning the psychic made the meal a hurried one. None of us felt very much like eating, and I could see that Fowler was disposed to cut corners. "Well, Garland, what do you intend to do with the facts obtained this afternoon? You have plenty of authority behind which to shelter yourself. Why not admit the truth? So far as I am concerned, I am willing to swear that Mrs. Smiley had no actual hand in the movement of the cone."

To this I replied: "From one point of view, these phenomena are slight; but considered in the light of the manifestation of a totally new force, they are tremendous in their implication, and I must be absolutely sure of them before I assert their truth. The most impressive fact of all is that every phenomenon we obtain coheres with those obtained by Maxwell, Crookes, and Flammarion. It will not do to admit the spirit hypothesis, or grant the objectivity of phantasms, merely because we have proved the movements of a particle of matter from A to B without a known push or a pull, for such admission is far-reaching. If Maxwell is right, these phenomena--even the most complicated of them--are metapsychical, but perfectly normal. For example, he says: 'A movement without contact was forthcoming this afternoon. I placed a table upside down on a linen sheet. M. Meurice and I then put our hands on the sheet, some distance away from the table. The table turned completely over. The movement was performed slowly and gently. It was four o'clock in the afternoon, and the sunlight was streaming in through an open window.' Now here was a perfectly clear case of telekinesis, with no one present but Dr. Maxwell and his friend; but the turning over of the table does not imply the action of spirit hands."

"I don't see why not," responded Mrs. Fowler, "if Dr. Maxwell had mediumistic power."

"It was Meurice who had the power; but it was a physical power, which went out from his organism like heat. He was often ill after his experiments, and felt nausea and a disturbing weakness in the solar plexus, as though his bodily powers had been seriously drawn upon. I have felt this myself--or so it seemed; perhaps I imagined it."

Fowler struck in: "But what will you do with materializations such as Dr. Richet studied at the Villa Carmen in Algiers? What will you do with the photographs of the spectre of the helmeted soldier which he obtained under what he declares were test conditions?"

"But were they? That's the point."

"I am willing to trust a man of Richet's wide knowledge and known skill in experimentation. When he says he saw, touched, and heard the apparition of a man, I am ready to believe that he had taken quite as many precautions as his newspaper critics would have done. He saw a helmeted soldier leave the seance cabinet and walk about. He clasped his hand, he affirmed, and found it warm and jointed (perfectly real), and he secured the breath of this phantom in a tube of baryta so unmistakably that the liquid was chemically changed in accordance with his test. There are thousands of other well-authenticated cases of materialization. I have seen scores of them myself. I am only quoting Richet because I know you believe in his methods."

"I do, indeed; but he may have been deceived, all the same. The failure of all his experiments in Algiers lay in the fact that he was never able to nail his psychic down, as we have done. He was the on-looker, after all--not the experimenter he should have been and wished to be. Really his photographs of the spirit 'B. B.' have not the weight as evidence of the physical manifestation, as the phenomena which we have this evening secured."

Fowler rose. "I have his report in my library. Let me get it."

He returned in a few minutes with a small blue book in his hand, from which he began to read with gusto: "'I saw, as it were, a white luminous ball floating over the floor; then rising straight upward, very rapidly, as though issuing from a trap-door, appeared B. B., born, so to speak, out of the flooring outside the curtain, which had not stirred. He tries, as it seems to me, to come among us, but he has a limping, hesitating gait. At one moment he reels as if about to fall, limping on one leg; then he goes toward the opening of the curtains of the cabinet. Then, without (as I believe) opening the curtains, he sinks down, disappears into the floor.'"

"What are you reading from?" I asked.

"I am reading from the report which Richet made to the Annals of Psychical Science. He goes on to say: 'It appears to me that this experiment is decisive, for the formation of a luminous spot on the ground, which then changes into a living and walking being, cannot seemingly be produced by any trick. On the day after this experiment I minutely examined the flagstones (which made up the floor of the seance room), and also the coach-house and stable immediately under that part of the kiosque.' There was no trap-door, and the cobwebs on the roof of the stable were undisturbed. The photographs of the apparition were taken on five different plates simultaneously, and the figure is the same on each."

"Yes; but those experiments were afterward made of no value by the confession of a coachman, who admitted his complicity in the fraud."

"No; that story is not true. The experiments stand, and Richet still defends both himself and the circle against the charge of fraud."

"But read on," I insisted. "Does he not say that, in spite of all his proof, he will not even hazard an affirmation of the phenomena?"

"Yes, he does say that," admitted Fowler; "but he also says: 'I have thought it my duty to mention these facts in the same way as Sir William Crookes thought it his duty in more difficult times to report the history of "Katie King." I do not believe I have been deceived. I am convinced that I have been present at realities, not deceptions. Certainly I cannot say in what materialization consists. _I am only ready to maintain that there is something profoundly mysterious in it, which will change from top to bottom our ideas on nature and on life._'"

"He apparently was profoundly affected by what he saw," I assented, "and I am perfectly willing to grant that the character of his friends in the circle add value to what he saw. But, after all, the fact of materialization is so tremendous in its implications that even to admit its possibility is to admit more than any man of our day, who has been trained in scientific ways, is willing to be answerable for. However, the most extraordinary story I have ever read is that of Archdeacon Colley, Rector of Stockton, Warwickshire, who declared in a public lecture--and many times since, over his signature--that he saw the miraculous issue of phantoms born directly from the side of a psychic. He declares he saw a winsome little girl emerge--a laughing, golden-haired creature, as alive as any one. I confess that this is too much for me, and yet if a Spanish soldier can be born from a spot of light, anything at all that anybody may imagine can happen.--But let us return to our own psychics."

We found Mrs. Smiley sitting precisely as we left her, and, picking up our thread, Fowler and I located the table and the cone and reassumed our positions. The table, which was quite out of reach of Mrs. Smiley's hands, now stood with its end toward the three of us, sitting in a crescent shape opposite the psychic--a position which produced, so the guides said, one pole of a battery.

Hardly were we seated in our places when the psychic suddenly awoke and spoke in her natural voice, and I for one felt that the sitting was over. I was perfectly certain that nothing could happen out of the ordinary unless the medium were in either one or the other of her states of trance.

I was now both amazed and delighted to find that the cone could be drummed upon and voices delivered through it while Mrs. Smiley, mentally normal, took part in the conversation. My theories were upset. I was completely mystified, though I said nothing of this to Fowler.

Once or twice Mrs. Fowler declared she heard the sound of lips, and at last a voice came to her speaking the name of her father. His voice answered some of her questions correctly, but could not utter the pet name which her father used to call her. This breakdown of the individuality of the phantom voices is very characteristic. This ended the sitting. The voices had not been as strong as we had hoped for, but as we threw on the light we found a number of messages written upon the sheets of paper which Fowler had put in the middle of the table. These messages were lying with the writing wrong side up, so far as the psychic was concerned. Altogether we felt that the results were both significant and encouraging, and we agreed to meet three days later in the same room and under the same conditions.

"What I want to do now is to hold your arms while the horn is in the air, or while the writing is going on," I said to Mrs. Smiley.

And to this she replied: "You may make any test you please. I feel that in this house my powers will return."

"That is a real gain," I said, to encourage her.

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CHAPTER VIThe next sitting was an almost exact duplication of the last so far as the binding (and nailing) of the psychic was concerned, except that we sewed _two bands of tape to her sleeves and _four tacks were used at each wrist. Her feet were tied separately in the middle of a long tape, and the ends brought together, carried back beneath her chair, and tacked to the floor. As before, we placed the large end of the cone on the floor, out of her reach, leaving the smaller end on the table, which we left just out of her
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CHAPTER IVIf 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
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