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The Shadow World - Chapter 6 Post by :maxfield Category :Nonfictions Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :2373

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The Shadow World - Chapter 6


The 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 utmost reach. On the table we placed some sheets of paper specially marked and dated, and took our seats as usual.

No one was present at this sitting but Mr. and Mrs. Fowler and myself. Even the faithful Brierly had been unable to share in this, the twenty-ninth experiment. I was delighted to have the circle narrow down, for Fowler was a good investigator and a man of vast experience in psychic matters. Outside interference was absolutely excluded. "Whatever happens to-night, Fowler," I said, "you and I or the spirits must be responsible for it."

We began, as usual, by putting Mrs. Smiley into hypnotic sleep. In a few moments the familiar shuddering action took place. Her palms grew moist. She said she found it difficult to submit to our touch. She asked us to put our fingers above hers, and soon after, in the midst of our singing, her voice ceased, her hands grew heavy as lead, and lay perfectly limp and dead in their bonds.

Again following the guidance of the raps, Fowler and I moved back and sat opposite her, with Mrs. Fowler between us. "Maudie" then spoke from the psychic's lips, asking us to move the table farther away. This I did, leaving it at least twelve inches from the utmost tips of her fingers. "Maudie" then asked us to take up the larger half of the cone and unite it with the smaller part, and lay the entire cone flat across the table.

We did so, marking its position by means of chalk. It was nearly three feet from the utmost extension of the psychic's hands, and yet, almost immediately, tapping came upon the cone keeping time to our singing. Later, sounds were produced like the beating of a kettle-drum. A hammering was then carried on as if within the cone, and "Maudie" spoke, telling us to go down and get supper, as before.

I regretted this necessity very much, for up to this moment all had been clear sailing; the tapping on the cone was inexplicable on the basis of any normal action of the psychic; but to leave her alone, even while so well accounted for, weakened the test.

I said as much to Fowler as we sat at the dinner-table. He admitted his own disappointment. "However," he added, philosophically, "we have to take these things as they offer. We can't construct them."

We discussed the implications of the sittings we had already held. "It isn't one thing only," he reminded me; "it is because of the larger fact that one phenomenon supports another that one comes to believe. Thus far to-night we have _proved that Mrs. Smiley is not concerned with the drumming on the cone, haven't we?"

"Yes; but I want to hold her hands while the drumming takes place. I want to hear her voice at the same time with 'Mitchell's.'"

"We'll get it," he responded, confidently. And a little later we returned to the room where our psychic was sitting, still in deep trance.

After some moments of waiting, "Maudie" said: "Mr. Mitchell says take the table away and put the cone in its place."

We moved the table a short distance to the left, and I put the cone in the centre of the rug where the table had stood, and marked the position of the cone. The psychic then passed through a period of suffering, of effort, but nothing took place. Again "Maudie" spoke, asking us to restore the table and cone to their former positions. "Evidently the experiment designed by 'Mitchell' has failed," I said, "but these failures instruct us."

A convulsive restlessness again seized upon the psychic, and "Maudie" asked us to sing. I hummed softly, in order to hear anything that might take place. A minute clicking sound at once developed, as though some one were lightly beating the cone with a key. These clicks answered our questions. It was "Wilbur" once more. I asked him if he were going to be able to speak to us, and he tapped "_Yes_." Soon after this the cone was swung into the air and "Wilbur's" throaty whisper was heard. I asked him if the psychic could not be awake and speak while he was present, and he answered: "_Yes; we have planned that._"

Even as he spoke Mrs. Smiley passed into what seemed like a struggle for breath and awoke!

"Are you with us, Mrs. Smiley?" asked Fowler.

"Yes. What time is it?"

"About half-past eight. How do you feel?"

"Very numb and cold," she answered, plaintively.

"I don't wonder at that," I remarked. "You've been sitting there for five hours."

"Is anybody present?" she asked, anxiously.

I knew what she meant, and answered: "Yes, 'Wilbur' is here--or was a few moments ago. Are you still with us, 'Wilbur'?"

A rapping on the cone made vigorous answer, and a few seconds later the cone took flight and "Wilbur's" voice resumed general conversation with us. It was noticeable to me all through this sitting, as at others, that neither "Wilbur" nor "Mitchell" nor "Maud" ever addressed the psychic; _they spoke of her, but never to her_.

I requested further tests. "'Wilbur,' I want the privilege of going to the psychic's side. I don't like this long-distance experiment. I want to get closer to these facts--if they are facts."

"_You shall have the privilege_," was the reassuring answer.

"Shall I go now?"

There was no reply through the horn, but a tapping on the table gave a doubtful "_Yes_," and I crept slowly forward and took a seat at Mrs. Smiley's right hand. "I am very close to the ultimate mystery, Mrs. Smiley," I said, as I placed my hand upon her wrist. "Proceed, 'Wilbur.' Let me hear your voice now."

With tense expectation, I put my ear close to the psychic's lips and listened breathlessly. The horn soared into the air and was drummed there, as if to show that it was out of the reach of the psychic, but no voice came from it! This was a disappointment to me, as well as to Fowler, and I banteringly said: "You know this failure is suspicious, Wilbur.' It seems to indicate that Mrs. Smiley is only a wonderful ventriloquist, after all. Can't you prove that she is independent of your voice? Can't you do something decisive at this moment?"

No reply came to this; but while my hand was firmly pressed upon her wrist (both sleeves being nailed to the chair), the loose leaves of the paper in the centre of the table were whisked away to the left. I could follow their flight, and we all heard their deposition on a couch in a corner of the room.

"Fowler," I said, "are you controlling your wife's hands?"

"Yes; we had nothing to do with that noise."

This was another tense moment, for the movement of those papers was very ghostly indeed. We had demonstrated clearly that their movement was supernormal.

"May I come forward?" asked Fowler.

Tap--"_No_," was the decided answer.

I then asked: "'Wilbur,' do you want me to change with Fowler and control Mrs. Fowler's hands?"

An emphatic "_Yes_" was rapped in reply.

"They seem as anxious for a conclusive test as we are," remarked Fowler. "Did you mean you didn't want Mrs. Fowler unaccounted for?"

A perfect fusillade of raps followed: "_Yes, yes, yes._"

Fowler then came forward to Mrs. Smiley's left, while I returned to the table. Taking both of Mrs. Fowler's hands in mine, and setting the toes of my shoes upon hers, I awaited developments. At this moment, while Fowler was pressing the psychic's imprisoned wrists, the cone banged about most furiously, describing wide circles entirely out of Mrs. Smiley's reach. This action was another perfectly convincing test of the psychic's supernormal powers. As the same movement had taken place with _each of us in control of the psychic, each was absolved from any complicity in the matter; but I did not forget my further test. "Mrs. Smiley," I said, "I want Mr. Fowler to return to his seat, and I want to place my hand over your lips--or to muffle you in some way. _I must prove that you have nothing to do with the production of those voices. Will you permit this test?"

"Certainly," she answered, with patient sweetness. "You may gag me in any way you please. I am perfectly sure you can secure the proof you want." Upon this hint I acted. Taking a large kerchief from my pocket, I tied it tightly around her mouth, knotting it at the back, and then, in growing excitement, challenged the ghostly voice: "Now, 'Wilbur,' let's hear from you."

A moment later the voice came from the cone, but apparently very much muffled and blurred. "You are not articulating well," I rather sarcastically observed.

Instantly the voice came out clearly, more sharply than ever before. "_I was fooling you!_" jeered "Wilbur."

We all applauded. "There, that's better," I said. "Your voice improved wonderfully."

"Wilbur" chuckled with glee. "_I've taken a lozenge_," he whimsically retorted, expressing a very human delight in our mystification.

Fowler then said: "Now let's consider this a moment, Garland. Suppose Mrs. Smiley has been able to loosen the gag. How does she handle the cone? We will suppose she is a marvellous ventriloquist. How does she write on the pads on the table, and how does she whisk them away? You see, it isn't the matter of one thing, but of all that has happened."

"Yes, I admit that everything points to an exercise of supernormal force. It really looks, so far as anything in the dark can look, like spirits, but I prefer to think Mrs. Smiley has the power to project her will in some way."

"I don't see how we are going to escape the spirit hypothesis," replied Fowler.

"'Mitchell,'" I said, addressing the phantom, "I want to examine that gag, and I want to hold both hands of the psychic. Will you permit that?"

There was no reply to this, and Fowler offered an explanation: "We had that test at a previous sitting."

I explained to the invisible ones: "'Wilbur,' it is absolutely essential that you should prove to me that your voice is not dependent upon the vocal chords of the psychic. You see the importance of this, do you not, Mrs. Smiley?"

"Indeed, I do," she earnestly answered, her voice sounding very faint and muffled through the kerchief. "I am anxious for the test."

"Very well, then. Now I want you to sing a song, and while you are singing I am going to insist on 'Wilbur's' speaking. Will you do that, 'Wilbur'?" The cone was drummed upon as if in vigorous promise of success.

Mrs. Smiley sang, or rather hummed; but there was no response on the part of the ghostly voices, and a moment later she called, faintly: "The kerchief is slipping down, Mr. Garland."

I rose and went to her side. As I untied the kerchief, she said, plaintively: "I am sorry we didn't get the voices. I am sure we can if we try again. Please try again." And a vigorous drumming on the cone seemed to second her plea.

However, it was getting very late, and I said: "I think we will postpone further experiment to-night. What are your sensations now?"

"I am almost paralyzed, and still deaf, too, but that often happens. My feet are as if they did not exist."

"But your mind is perfectly normal?"

"Yes, it seems to be."

Soon after this I returned to my seat; the cone was lifted high into the air silently, broken apart, and then, with the small end jangling inside the larger one, was carried over the table and back to the floor. It fell with a bang that seemed final and decisive. "That is 'good-bye,'" said Mrs. Smiley.

Upon lighting the gas we found our victim as before, sitting absolutely as we had left her. The table edge was twenty-four inches from her finger-tips. The place where the cone lay, which we had marked with chalk when it was first drummed upon, was thirty-six inches from one hand and forty inches from the other. But the most inexplicable of all--the tangible, permanent record--was the seven sheets of paper which were lying upon a couch six feet from Mrs. Smiley's left hand. _They were all written upon legibly, and pinned together with a black pin, which had been thrust through the writing. "Wilbur" had scrawled his name, Mrs. Fowler's father's name was signed to a message, and there were other signatures unknown to any of us. The pencil was on the carpet, forty inches from Mrs. Smiley's hand. The leaves of paper, at the moment when they were grasped and lifted, were more than forty inches from her finger-tips. How this was done I do not know: but of this I am absolutely sure: the psychic did not remove them from the table by means of her ordinary, material limbs. Barring the failure to disassociate her voice from that of "Wilbur," she had met every demand upon her. Her powers were truly magical. I cannot say I _saw the cone move, but I have proven that the psychic did not surreptitiously touch it or fraudulently write upon the papers during this sitting. I cannot swear that Fowler was controlling his wife's hands while the cone was floating (and while I held the psychic's imprisoned hands), but I _believe he was. In short, barring the one sense of sight--an all-important one, I admit--these happenings were convincing and fitted in with phenomena which I had secured with other psychics.

Nevertheless, I was not satisfied. I wanted Brierly, or some other fifth person, in the room, in order that _both of the psychic's hands could be controlled at the same time that Mrs. Fowler's were secured. So long as a single hand was left free, the doubter would be warranted in questioning our results.

The next two or three sittings were partial failures--so much so that I made no record of them. Possibly, conditions were not strict enough. At any rate, the final and most conclusive sitting came three days later. It was held in Fowler's house. We followed the conditions of the previous sitting very closely--the same room, the same table, the same fastenings as before.

There was present a friend of Fowler's, a young man who was possessed of some psychic power. We will call him Frank. Fowler and I took entire charge of the psychic, and her bonds were even more carefully nailed than before. We began the seance, as before, by putting her to sleep.

Not long after "Maudie" spoke, saying: "_Mr. Mitchell wishes the thread fastened to mama's hands in the way Mr. Garland desires._"

I fastened a strong thread to each wrist as I had done several times before, passing the ends under the chair-arm in such wise that any movement of the psychic would be plainly and instantly detected. We then returned to our seats, and, though conditions seemed favorable, no marked phenomena took place; the cone was lifted, it is true, but we were used to this now, and accepted it as quite commonplace.

At six o'clock the voice of "Maudie" came: "_Please go down to supper. Mr. Mitchell says he will be able to give you what you ask for after you return._"

I did not ask to what he referred, but I had in mind the test to prove the voices independent of the psychic's vocal organs, and at the dinner we discussed methods by which this could be made clear.

"If they will let me put my hand over her mouth," I said to Fowler, "I will be satisfied."

"Do you mean that you will believe in spirits?" he smilingly challenged me.

"Oh, I won't go so far as to promise that, but I confess it would help to prove their existence."

"We may be about to get something more conclusive than that."

"Let us fix our minds on two things: first, to get the writing, or at least movement, with every hand controlled; and, second, the voices, while one of us covers Mrs. Smiley's mouth with a hand."

"Very well," acquiesced Fowler. "But the unexpected is what usually happens in these performances."

We were gone but twenty minutes, so eager were we for our demonstration. We found everything quite as when we left: the psychic was asleep, the fastenings undisturbed. Fowler and I regained our threads and resumed our places at the sides of the table, while Frank and Mrs. Fowler sat close together at the end opposite Mrs. Smiley. I ask the reader to recall that the psychic's ankles were encircled with tape which was nailed to the floor behind her chair. Two bands of tape, after being sewn to her cuffs, had been tacked solidly to the chair, three strong tacks were driven down through the hem of her dress, and, finally, Fowler and I were holding the threads which, after encircling the psychic's wrists, passed under the chair-arm.

And yet, in spite of all these bonds and precautions, the cone was almost immediately lifted, and "Mitchell" spoke through it. In a deep, clear, well-delivered, and decidedly masculine whisper, and with stately periods, he promised the complete co-operation of the spirit world in the great work to which I was devoting myself. He directed his exhortation to me, as usual; and for the benefit of those who think the spirits are always trivial or foolish, I wish to say that "Mitchell's" remarks were dignified and very suggestive. He produced in my mind the distinct impression of a serious man of seventy, ornate of rhetoric, but never vague or wandering in his thought, and he never went outside the circle of Mrs. Smiley's mind.

For fully a quarter of an hour he discussed with me the value of the investigation which we were pursuing. "_I and my band_," he assured me, "_are working as hard from our side as you are from yours, equally intent upon opening up channels of communication between the two worlds_." He solemnly urged me to proceed in this "_grand work_," and at last said, "_Good-bye for the present_," and fell silent.

The cone was then deposited on the table, and "Maud" said: "_If Mr. Garland and Mr. Fowler will go quietly up to mama's side, holding all the time tightly to the threads, 'Mr. Mitchell' will do what Mr. Garland so much desires. Please be very careful not to touch mama until I tell you. Keep as far apart as you can as you go up to her. When you reach my mama's side, you may put one hand on her head and one on her wrist. 'Mr. Mitchell' says please have Frank take Mrs. Fowler's hands, so that every hand in the circle is accounted for._"

I was now very eager and very alert. I felt that at last, after many, many requests and many trials, I was about to secure a clear, complete, and satisfying demonstration. Surely no trickster would permit such rigorous control as that toward which we were now invited. I was sorry that Miller was not present to share with me the satisfaction of the moment. My admiration went out toward this heroic little woman, who was enduring so much pain and suspicion for the sake of science. "She believes in herself," I thought. "If she succeeds, all honor to her."

Slowly we crept to her side, being careful to touch nothing until directed by the voice of "Maud." At last the childish voice said: "_Mr. Garland may put his right hand on top of mama's head and his left hand on her wrist. Mr. Fowler may place his left hand above Mr. Garland's and his right hand on mama's wrist. 'Mr. Mitchell' says he will then see if the voices will not come._"

I then said aloud: "My right hand is on the psychic's head, my left is on her wrist."

Fowler repeated: "My left hand is above Garland's right, which is on the psychic's head, and my own right hand is on the right wrist of the psychic. Now, 'Wilbur,' go ahead."

Our challenge was almost instantly caught up. While thus double-safeguarding the psychic, the cone, which was resting on the table a full yard away, rose with a sharp, metallic, scraping sound, and remained in the air for fully half a minute, during which I called out, sharply: "We are absolutely controlling the psychic; her hands are motionless; Mrs. Fowler, be sure you are holding both of Frank's hands."

"I have both his hands in mine," she answered.

As the cone was gently returned to the carpet Fowler was moved to say: "Garland, that was a supreme test of the psychic. She was absolutely not concerned in any known way with that movement. Save for a curious throbbing, wave-like motion in her scalp, she did not move. If she lifted the horn, it was by the exercise of a force unrecognized by science."

To this I was forced to agree. I here definitely declare that the psychic was not concerned with the flight of the cone in any way known to biology. If she produced the voices, they too must have been examples of supernormal ventriloquism, for they came through the megaphone. Of that I am as certain as one can be of an auditory impression.

A few moments later we returned to our seats, while "Wilbur" and "Mitchell" and several other voices spoke to us. Fowler, now that I had admitted telekinesis, wanted me to go further. "Is the psychic speaking to us," he asked, "or are these voices independent of her?"

"An investigator is never satisfied," I answered. "I must have the voices _through the cone while I am covering the psychic's mouth."

To this "Mitchell" replied: "_We are doing all we can, and we will yet be able to meet every demand you make upon us._"

"I am anxious for conviction," I said. "I want to secure the voice of the psychic and your voice at the same time, 'Mr. Mitchell.' Can you do that for me?"

He seemed to hesitate, and at last said: "_We will try._" I perceived in his tone a certain doubt and indecision. Again we were permitted to hold the psychic's wrists, and, as before, the cone was lifted and drummed upon as if to show its position high in the air; but no voices came. Hidden forces seemed to be struggling for escape beneath our hands; the woman's brain seemed a powerful dynamo. I could not rid myself of a sense that there was an actual externalization of the psychic's nerve force, and with this conviction I could well understand why the command had so often been given not to touch her unbidden. Suppose the poor naked "astral body" were abroad and a strong light were suddenly turned upon it!

Now came on a singularly engrossing game of "hide-and-seek." Convinced that Mrs. Smiley was innocent of any trick in the movement of the horn, I tried every expedient to satisfy myself that "Wilbur's" voice was independent of her own; but I did not succeed. Mrs. Smiley spoke _almost at the same moment but never precisely synchronous with Wilbur's whisper. She answered all my questions perfectly unconcerned and unexcited, lending herself to my experiments. All in vain. At no time did I succeed in getting "Wilbur's" voice at _precisely the same moment with her own, though the whisper, following swiftly on her speech, interjected remarks as if echoing her questions. There was always an approximate interval between her voice and the spirit whisper.

This was to me very significant, and strengthened me in my belief that the entire process, while inexplicable, was, after all, not the work of spirits.

When the gas was lighted we found the cone had been placed on the table, a distance of forty inches from the utmost reach of the psychic's hands. Her feet were twenty-three inches from the nearest leg of the table. We carefully examined the tapes which were sewed to her sleeves. They were tied, and the doubled ends tacked precisely as described so many times, and to remove the tacks we were forced to use a hammer. It is useless to talk of a possible release of her arms during the phenomena of the cone.

As I was about to leave the house that night, Mrs. Smiley said: "I do not feel able to sit any more for the present, Mr. Garland. I feel myself growing weaker, and 'Mitchell' tells me I would better stop for the present. I feel that my power belongs to the world, and I want to do all I can to convince you of the truth of spiritualism, but I feel the strain very greatly."

"I do not wonder at that," I responded, "and I cannot blame you for demanding a rest. No one could have endured more uncomplainingly. You have been a model subject, and we are deeply in your debt. I am sorry Miller was not with us to-night; he would have been convinced of your supernormal power at least. Have no fear of my report; for while I am not convinced of the spirit hypothesis, I have found you honest and patient and very brave. I thank you very sincerely for what you have done."

And in this spirit we parted.(1)


(1) Since these words were written I have _seen the cone move. In the presence of another medium, with no one in the room but myself, I held the psychic's hands what time the horn circled over my head. It shone like a golden rod as it moved. I could see the gleam of light along its entire side. At last it came softly down and laid itself across my shoulder. In order to satisfy myself of its presence, I bent and touched it with my forehead. The touch seemed to disturb conditions, to break the current, for it dropped instantly to the floor. Twice it answered to my request in this manner until my doubts were satisfied. It seemed to move with the swiftness of a dragonfly as silent and horizontal it hung in the air about my head.

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CHAPTER VIICameron's Amateur Psychic Club, which had so nearly disintegrated by reason of the long series of barren sittings, was drawn together again by the news of my startling success at Fowler's house. Cameron at once decided that the members should hear my report, and I was notified to be ready to relate my experiences in full. We met, as before, at Cameron's table, and even before the soup-plates were removed the interrogation began, and by the time the company was in full possession of the facts the coffee and cigars had appeared. "Why didn't these wonders take place in our

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CHAPTER VAt 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