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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER IV - MOONLIGHT MATERIALIZATIONS

Rude and uninviting as is the Eddy house itself, its surrounding landscape is truly charming. Lying in a valley, it affords from every window the view of grassy slopes, backed by mountain peaks that catch the drifting clouds on days of storm, and on those of sunshine take on rich tints of purple and blue. just back of the house stretches a bottom pasture land, whose sod is so bright a green that I have wished a score of times that one of the Harts, or Smillie, or McEntee, or some other of our landscapists could transfer it with its grazing herd and noble background to canvas. The woods are just beginning to clothe themselves in their royal autumn hues; and from mountain foot to summit, crimson and gold mix with the prevailing mass of green, like jewels embroidered on nature's robe of state. But there appears to be slight evidence that this scenery has exercised an ennobling effect upon the inhabitants, They are usually a prosaic set, and I have vainly watched for any responsive glow when I have called their attention to the natural beauties around us. The Eddys themselves form rather

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an exception to the rule. True, they waste no enthusiasm upon their familiar hills and valley, but the tenderness of their hearts is shown in the gathering of pet pigeons, dogs, parrots, ducks, and chickens, about them, and their innate refinement, by the hours snatched from menial toil, to water and trim their plants and flowers. The neighboring graveyard is a neglected plot of weeds, but their family enclosure is bordered by maples, and the graves are tended by loving hands. The headstone over poor Mrs. Eddy is so characteristic of the altered view of the change called death that a belief in Spiritualism begets, that I give a sketch of it.

English visitors to this place would find abundant relaxation in long walks or mountain climbing, but we Americans avail ourselves little of the privilege. In the depths of the woods the black bear stills prowls ; foxes abound; sables, mink, raccoons, hedgehogs, and occasionally panthers, await the pursuit of the hunter; and speckled trout throng the cold mountain streams to a sufficient extent to afford sport to the votaries of the rod and fly. But the minds of the people who come from far and near to this Vermont homestead, are so bent upon the pursuit of the marvelous, that all day Iona, they sit and talk of last night's circle and past wonderful personal experiences, until one fairly gets a surfeit of the subject.

They are a motley crowd, in sooth Ladies and gentlemen; editors, lawyers, divines and ex-divines; inventors, architects, farmers; pedlers of magnetic salves and mysterious nostrums; long- haired men and short-haired women; the "crowing hens" of Fowler, and the cackling cocks, their fitting mates; women with an idea, and plenty of men

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and women without any to speak of; people of sense and people of nonsense; sickly dreamers who prate of "interiors" and "conditions" and "spheres" as intelligently as a learned pig or a chattering magpie; clairvoyants and "healers", real and bogus; phrenologists, who read bumps without feeling them, under "spirit direction "; mediums for tipping, rapping, and every imaginable form of modern spiritual phenomena; ""apostles" with one and two arms; people from the most distant and widely-separated localities; nice, clever people whom one is glad to meet and sorry to part from; and people who shed a magnetism as disagreeable as dirty water or the perfume of the Fetis-Americanus. They come and go, singly and otherwise; some after a day's stay, convinced that they have been cheated, but the vast majority astounded and perplexed beyond expression by what their eyes have seen and their ears heard.

Through all, the family jog on in the even tenor of their unsystematic way, receiving new-comers with distrust and letting life slide after a happy-go-lucky fashion. Those who stay longest with them have the most confidence in their mediumship, for they discover that their external misanthropy and curtness are the outcome of years of sorrow and injustice, the result of poor education and bad training. More than any man I ever met, William Eddy lives an interior life; and to be in relation, or supposed relation, with the people of the Silent Land, seems as natural to him as it ever was to the ecstatics of the early centuries or the recluses of Brahma.

Among the few favorite localities of the neighborhood are  "Honto's cave" and Santum's grave, of both of

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which the artist has supplied illustrations from sketches taken on the spot.

The term cave is a misnomer in this instance, for the rude apartment by which the sprightly squaw's memory will be perpetuated is, like the "Cave" in Central Park, formed by the leaning of one great fragment of rock against another. It lies in dense shadow at the bottom of a ravine, so shrouded in foliage that the cheerful sunlight scarcely penetrates the spot even at high noon. A clear mountain brook running through it ceaselessly awakens its tiny echoes, and the surface of its rocky walls, is scarred in so curious a manner as to convey the impression that the furrows are the half-effaced inscriptions of some prehistoric people. A path, scarcely practicable for a wider foot than that of the chamois or the mountain goat, runs along one of the steep banks, and the wood resounds with the bubble of the streamlet.

The sketch of the cave was drawn by Mr. Kappes from nature, the figures only being supplied from a published account of a spiritual seance held there on the 24th of May 1874, and the descriptions of eye-witnesses. There were present on the occasion in question, among others the following persons, who may be referred to in corroboration of my story; Mr. Andrew Beebe, Ludlow, Mass. ; Charles Wakefield, Boston; James Little, Lake George, N. Y. ; Mrs. Caroline Goss, Hudson, Wisconsin (West Conson, Horatio wrote it, and perhaps "Hudson" means Madison); Mary E. Jewett and Albert Frost, Rutland, Vt.; and the Eddy family.

The night was warm, and a full moon rode high in the heavens. The company assembled at an early hour, and seated themselves on benches, formed by laying boards

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on convenient bowlders. In the arched mouth of the cave, Messrs. Saley and Frost bad constructed a rude framework of joists, to support a curtain of shawls; green branches were piled in the farther end, so as to form a backing ; and boards, loosely laid across the little brook, made a platform upon which the medium might sit on a camp-stool. In composing his sketch, the artist has been obliged to omit the curtain and most of the bough backing, so as to permit the light to shine through, and show the arrangement of the platform and framing.

The spectators at this weird gathering sat silent for awhile, and the stillness of the forest was broken only by the noise of the brook, the chirp of insects, and the rustle of the leaves as they stirred in the warm wind of spring. Suddenly the curtain was pushed aside, and the form of an Indian, fully accoutred, came out, stepped into the stream, and, stooping, made the motion of drinking some water from his band. All eyes were riveted upon him, when some one suddenly exclaimed: "See! -up there-on the rock ! " and high overhead appeared the giant spirit form of Santum in bold relief against the moonlit sky. Presently an Indian squaw was seen upon the verge of the rocky ledge to the right, peering down upon the startled group. Thus, at one time, three ghostly visitors were in sight, and while the audience gazed, all three disappeared. Then successively appeared at the cave's mouth, Honto, who knelt and made as if drinking from the brook, and several other red squaws and chiefs, each dressed after his or her own fashion, with plumes and beads, and the other braveries these simple aborigines love so well; William Eddy, meanwhile, talking within the cave so as to be heard by all.

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A spirit-voice presently called out that they had been there long enough, and if they would go to the old Indian camp-ground hard by, more wonders would be shown them. The spot indicated is a level plateau not far from the Eddy house, and bears the traces of former councils in a circle of ancient hearths, where, beneath the sod, are to be found the vestiges of fires long since extinguished. Great maples, beeches, and here and there an oak, stand about the camping ground; giant sentinels, beneath whose shade, within the memory of men now living, the relics of once powerful tribes were accustomed to gather from time to time to celebrate their feasts. At one side a flat boulder set on end, marks the spot where Santum (or, perhaps, in view of his frequent appearance before my eyes in his spiritual form, I should say his body) was buried. He might, if one familiar with the classics should suggest it, say to me upon some occasion when we should meet in presence of the right kind of a medium, what Socrates did to his friend Crito, when asked by the latter where and how they should bury him. "Bury me in any way you please, if you can catch me to bury.... Say, rather, Crito, say if you love me, where shall you bury my body."

Santum's tumulus has almost disappeared under the wash of a thousand rains, and a large maple, whose trunk at four feet from the ground measures four feet seven inches in girth, has sent its roots into the chieftain's dust, and, for aught I know, may have incorporated it in the cells and fibres of its own heart. Upon the sketch will be noticed a rude cross chiseled in the stone by one of the Eddy boys.

But, to resume our story:

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Our wonder-seekers having reached the place indicated by the spirit-voice, hastily improvised a "cabinet" by pinning some shawls around the trunks of three trees, and William entered it. After a brief interval, the phantom shape of Achsa Sprague, a mediumistic speaker of some note among the Spiritists, emerged, and in a natural voice, addressed her hearers upon the one absorbing topic for about fifteen minutes; her form and the very play of her features being clearly revealed in the bright moonlight. She was followed by Mrs. Goss' brother, who walked some twenty feet from the  cabinet; and next by an Indian, who ventured a like distance away from his medium, and then swung himself up on the branch of a tree and vanished.

The evening's wonders closed with the appearance of the spirit of the late William White, editor of the Banner of Light, the principal organ to the new creed. Mr. White was dressed in black broad-cloth, and had on a white shirt with studs in the bosom, whereas William wore his usual rough working suit, and brown check shirt without collar or cuffs. In his hand the spirit held a copy of the journal he once edited, which he opened, and showed the characteristic heading that the publication of thirty-five successive volumes has made familiar to thousands of persons.

The next morning Messrs. Saley and Swift revisited the cave to search for foot-prints in the soft earth,. at the places where any mortal climbing the rocks would, of necessity, have trodden, but there were none to be seen. The spectres had materialized themselves on the spots where they had respectively been seen.

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CHAPTER V - PORTENTS AND MARVELS