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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER V - PORTENTS AND MARVELS

If a competent person were to collect and arrange in picturesque form all the psychological experiences of the Eddy family, as related by them, the result would be a book of as romantic interest as the story of Zschokke's life. But I hardly think that the mere gift of clairvoyance, to say nothing of absolute mediumship, can be esteemed a great personal blessing. I doubt if man's relations to his own world are not so exacting as to make it the reverse of beneficial, at least to himself, to be in constant and close sympathy with the other. The visions of the lucide are beatific, but do they not make him less satisfied to pursue his homely round of duty upon reawakening ? If one goes from bright sunshine into a cellar his eye feels the darkness more dense than it really is. The place has not changed since he last left it, only his iris is contracted.

This question forces itself upon the thoughtful observer at Chittenden in a peculiar manner. Seeing and hearing so many marvels in connection with this family and its history, the cui bono query will intrude in

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spite of oneself. Granted that all these foreseeings, portents, apparitions, levitations, obsessions, physical phenomena, and materializations have occurred, in what respect have they profited the seers and mediums ? What good have they reaped from them? And if the answer is none, then why should they be made the victims of the visits of good angels or the pranks of evil spirits? These are questions easily asked-any child might ask them-but who can answer ?

Except-and perhaps this is the true solution-that if there is such a thing as a Spirit World; and that that world can get into relations with us ; and that it is the complement and fruit, the outcome and essence, the last distillation of all things and forms and potencies that we know of; and it is essential for man's progress that he should be assured of immortality- then, in such case, people constituted like these Eddys are necessary to the general welfare, and must be content to suffer and even die in the interest of the race. It requires a rare elevation of character to cheerfully endure martyrdom; and if William and Horatio and Mary and Delia and Webster, have grown sensitive, fretful, and morose in the course of all these leaden-footed, sorrow-burdened years, I, for one, cannot blame them. I am just selfish enough to ask Heaven to preserve me from the I like experience!

Now if any of my valued friends among the men of science, here and abroad, should feel disposed to stop reading just at this point, because I seriously discuss these Psychological phenomena as objective and not subjective, it will be a pity ; for if they went to this homestead on a vacation visit, and set to work without fear or favor to

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observe, classify, analyze, and describe what they heard, saw, and felt, they, too, might find themselves flinging their pre-conceived notions behind the grate, and calling things by their right names.

The case-hardened skeptic, driven like me, from his first position of ascribing all these Eddy phenomena to trickery, and anxious to believe anything or everything rather than admit them to be spiritualistic, will ask me to try if they are not electrical, magnetic, mesmeric or odic in their character. Failing all these, he, who probably never before allowed the idea of a personal devil to be mentioned without rebuke, may, as a Rutland editor did the other day in a conversation we held together, say, it is all the work of the Father of Lies himself. This is good sound Catholic doctrine, and an impregnable refuge. Does not Chrysostom say: Quod est in terra in terra maneat si non a diabolo exfossum ? Having this in view, did not Bishop Viviers, in a pastoral letter published in the Roman Catholic Guardian in 1868, remark: " Doubtless there are relations between the intelligence of men and the supernatural world of spirits, but they (i.e. the faithful) should not less certainly be convinced that these experiments are one of the thousand ruses of Satan to cause souls to perish ? "

Now, as to the matter of electricity, that, as I have before observed, has long since been settled in the negative by Professor Hare, Mr. Varley, Mr. Crookes, and others; while the Committee of the London Dialectical Society cover the whole ground by saying that: " No philosophical explanation of them has yet been arrived at." As to animal magnetism, the Society's sub-committee

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No. 2 report that they "have not discovered any conditions identical with those ordinarily deemed necessary to the production of the so-called electro-biological or mesmeric phenomena-but often the reverse." And as to their being the product of odic anterior causes, the great discoverer of Od himself ought to be good authority.

Baron von Reichenbach attended a circle in London, the striking incidents of which he has described; and he adds that he regards " the great influences of Od upon the human spirit as the mere physical side of the matter -the roots by which it adheres firmly to the ground; " and he is thankful to see the day when all his former discoveries show themselves as the portal through which it is possible for him " to go forward into the spiritual department." (Epes Sargent's " Planchette," P. 241)

Where will we land, then, but in the camp of the enemy-in the arms of the Spiritists ? Well, if, like Saul of Tarsus, we are to be knocked off our high horses of prejudice and unbelief, and blinded by the great new light that is to pour upon us from the "gates ajar," let us at least console ourselves that we are only getting back to where our ancestors and the ancestors of the whole race stood from the remotest ages. The Hindoo Vedas, Puranas, Bhagavat-Gita, and Ramayanas; the Chinese

Confucian writings; the Koran; the discourses of the Roman and Grecian sages ; the Egyptian records ; the Persian Zend-Avesta; the Jewish Kabbala; and, lastly, the Christian Bible, attest that a belief in the ministration (If good and evil spirits prevailed among all peoples, in all times. These Eddys hear spirit-voices calling to them in the night-watches, and I myself have heard them

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in the circle-room singing, whispering, and delivering discourses upon their spirit-life. This is strange, no doubt, and hard to believe, but it is no new experience.

Herodotus mentions an Egyptian monarch who returned to earth some time after his physical death and talked to his people; the famous statue of Memnon at Thebes, which gave forth melodious sounds when first struck by the sun's morning rays, was so haunted by the invisibles, that spirit-voices and spirit-music were heard issuing from it for ages. Strabo, AElius Gallus, Demetrius, and others attest this fact.

J. M. Peebles, tells in his scholarly book, of the man Agrippa, of the XVth Century, who was not more remarkable for his knowledge of languages and wide range of scholarship than for his spiritual gifts. When at the Court of John George, Elector of Saxony, with the great Erasmus, he was solicited to call up the spirit of Tully. Arranging his audience (as these Eddys arrange theirs), he caused Tully to appear upon the rostrum, where he repeated his oration for Roscius " with such astonishing animation, exaltation of spirit, and soul-stirring gestures, that all present, like the Romans of old, were ready to pronounce his client innocent of every charge brought against him."

The mere quotation of Bible passages narrating the visits of talking and dumb spirits to men, would make a chapter by itself; so I will merely refer to a few that I find enumerated in a stray volume (Peebles' "Seers of the Ages") loaned me from a neighboring house, at the time these lines were written. They are: Genesis XiX., I ; XViii., 1-2 ; xxxii., xvi., 7 ; Ex. iii. ; I Kings,

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Num.xxii.,31; Sam. xxviii.,14; Job iv.,14-17; Dan. ix-, 21; x., 9-10; x., 18; viii., 15-16; Acts vii., 35; Ezekiel viii., 2; Xi., I. I have recently read over again with singular interest, the passage in Samuel, above cited, as it so well describes the process of materialization of which I have seen so many examples at the Eddys'.

The experiences of these wonderful Eddys, duplicate those of ancient mediums to so minute a degree, that even their dumb animals have been made to speak after the fashion of Balaam's ass. They killed, a while ago, by accident, an old goose which used to get under the windows, some stormy night and say, in sepulchral tones, "God save my poor goslings!" and "Oh, dear! what shall I do?" and sometimes cry out "Murder ! " . Horatio Eddy, in telling me this tough yarn, said that of course he did not believe that the bird's organs of speech were so changed that it could utter words like a Christian, but that" George Dix" or some other jovial spirit "materialized" a voice close to the creature's mouth. William Eddy and several other witnesses assure me that the story is no lie, they having heard the voice not once, but frequently.

My friend, Richard A. Proctor, in one of his astronomical lectures, told us that so far from the expanse of heaven being the abode of peace and quiet, it was the scene of terrific commotion and violence -thus destroying many pretty conceits of the poets. In like manner our notions of the future life are rudely disturbed by the Eddy phenomena and others of like

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character. It is no longer a Valley of Shadows and repose, but a busy scene of domestic occupation ; while the singing and talking phantoms call upon Longfellow to rewrite his "Song of the Silent Land," for it seems a land of speech and song, of music and poetry

"OLand! OLand! For all the broken-hearted, The mildest herald by our fate allotted, Beckons, and with inverted torch doth stand To lead us with a gentle hand Into the land of the great Departed Into the Silent Land."

I have to laugh when I recall Proctor's owly wisdom (see his "Borderland of Science") in explaining away all ghosts, by the discovery that the supposed shade of a certain dear one at his bedside, resolved itself into a student gown and rowing-belt. He is a jolly companion and an honorable fellow, and if he could stop at Chittenden one week with me, I warrant he would not only take a more cheerful view of the other life, but write a new volume; perhaps, with the title "Another World than Ours." And my most valued correspondent, Mr. Charles W. Upham, author of the noble work on Salem Witchcraft, who so complacently argues away all supernatural causes for the phenomena of 1692 by crediting Tituba, Ann Proctor, and the other "Afflicted Children" with a thaumaturgic deftness that would entitle them to rank with the greatest of Chinese jugglers-how amazed would he not be to sit beside me and see not only living materialized spirits, but even evanescent animals and flowers produced!

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This is a bad place for materialists in general, and if Tyndall should come to this country again he had best avoid Chittenden. We had three of the kind there within a week--a lawyer, an artist, and an inventor. When they first came they were as spry with their arguments as though fresh from the reading of Vogt, Moleschott, or Feuerbach; denying, as Epes Sargent expresses it, with the asperity of partisanship, all evidences of a psychical nature in man, and seeming to take it as a personal affront if credited with immortal souls.

But when these intelligent men sat evening after evening and saw an average of a dozen ghosts a night stand in their presence, and show delight at being recognized by their personal friends, and actually heard some of them speak in clear, natural voices, their discomfiture was comical to behold. Tied to the anchorage of years of skepticism, unable to drift away into the open sea that suddenly lay before them-an Atlantic of thought with unknown countries beyond it-their little shallops fell to rocking and pitching them about, until they seemed in direful plight. One, the toughest customer of the three, the inventor, saw several of his family connection and was converted from unbelief; the second, the lawyer, and a man of fine intellectual powers, departed, big with essays against all religions, and halting between two opinions ; the artist is still thinking.

It would be amusing, if it were not pitiful, to see men able to put two grammatical sentences together, writing crude criticisms and propagating falsehoods about the Eddy manifestations, miles away from the place. They must concede some shrewdness and common-sense to

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others, and conceive the possibility that it may be as hard to humbug me as themselves.

I have already said that there are things about the mediums, their antecedents, and their phenomena, to arouse distrust. But let any fair man stay there a week or two, take time to hear both sides of every story, and watch what occurs, and, my word for it, he will carry away food for reflection to last him the rest of his natural life.

It is difficult to understand the hostility of the Church, whose aggressive side is so well shown in the behavior of the Methodist neighbors of the Eddys, to Spiritism, for is it not its keenest and strongest weapon of offence against the materialists? Against a class of profound thinkers, who exclude Faith and demand sensuous proofs of the future existence of man, what argument can be adduced but the fact that our friends actually revisit us after death and talk to us face to face? Is not the spread of materialism the direct consequence of the exclusion of facts which, if true, this modern Spiritism has re-verified, from religious creeds and scientific consideration?

In the early days of the Church the ministration of spirits was unhesitatingly believed by the Fathers, and the Catholic body holds to it to this day. Protestantism apparently made its fatal mistake when it scouted it, and it might have been better for Calvin and Luther if they had honestly confessed that their own personal experiences in this direction were something else than the work of the devil. If modern Spiritualism should prove true, their followers would be in the condition well-defined by Beattie:

"So fares the system-building sage, Who, plodding on from youth to age,

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Has proved all other reasoners fools, And bound all nature by his rules; So fares he in that dreadful hour When injured Truth exerts her power Some new phenomenon to raise, Which, bursting on his frightened gaze, From its proud summit to the ground, Proves the whole edifice unsound."

But let us leave polemics to the doctors and return to our story.

Writers upon the subject that we are now discussing, offer various hypotheses to account for the production of visible spectral forms, by the beings of the other world. Some contend that they are created out of the subtle particles existing in the atmosphere, and have a positive, if evanescent, material existence; while others deny their actuality and attribute their being seen to psychological control of our natural senses of sight, hearing, and touch; in like manner as the mesmerist obliges his patient to see, hear, taste, and feel whatsoever he may call up in his own mind. In my opinion, of course supposing that the tales are not bald fiction, the phenomena may be grouped into two classes-apparitions seen only by one or more sensitives or lucides, and those visible to all without regard to their lucidity; and they should be separately considered.

The experiences of the Eddys are of both kinds. Sometimes a phantom has been seen only by the sick or dying; sometimes by those in health, as forerunners of disaster impending over themselves or others; and sometimes in the materialized condition, so that everybody in the house, believers as well as unbelievers,

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perceived them equally well. The occurrence illustrated in the sketch of the phantom carriage was of this character. On a cold winter night, just before bed-time, the family were gathered in the sittingroom, when they heard the noise of a carriage coming rapidly along the road from the northward. The circumstance was so strange, the ground being covered with snow which would prevent the noise of wheels being heard, that all went to the front windows to look. A full moon,  shining bright on the new-fallen snow, Gave a lustre of mid-day to objects below; --and they saw an old-fashioned, open carriage, drawn by a pair of white horses with plumes on their heads, turn rapidly into the yard and stop.

Rushing to the back door and flinging it open, there stood the equipage before their astonished eyes. On the back seat was a lady, dressed in Scotch plaid and furs, with a feather in her bonnet. She looked kindly at them and bowed, but said nothing. On his high box sat the driver, a thistle cockade in his hat and a capacious coat with a standing collar muffling him to his chin. Every buckle and trapping of the harness was plainly revealed by the moonlight, and even the ornamental scroll-work on the coach-panels.

The family, with characteristic rustic bashfulness, said nothing, waiting for the grand lady to manifest her pleasure. No one doubted for an instant the reality of what they saw, and even the skeptical and hardhearted father moved to the door so as to be ready to do what might be required for the belated traveler.

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But, as all eyes were fixed upon her, she and her equipage began to fade. The garden fence and other objects, previously concealed behind the opaque bodies of the carriage and horses, began to show through, and in a moment the whole thing vanished into the air, leaving the spectators lost in amazement. Old Mr. Eddy at once exclaimed that his wife and her mother had been up to some of their devilish witchcraft again; but they knew that it was a portent of somebody's death. The boys, then only ten or twelve years old, ran for the lantern and searched all over the road and yard for wheel-tracks, but their quest was fruitless. The phantoms had disappeared, without leaving the slightest impression on the snow. Two months later the grandmother died.

Although I dislike to break the sequence of my narrative, I will state, that in a circle one night I held a conversation about this apparition with a spirit-voice, which informed me that the phantom lady was a Scotch ancestress of Mrs. Eddy, who came to warn them of old Mrs. MacComb's death. And since then, at another sťance, Mrs. Eddy herself confirmed the fact.

Portents have occurred before the death of each member of the family, but always entirely different in character from the predecessors, and happening unexpectedly. Mrs. Eddy, the mother of these children, deceased in 1873 after a lingering illness. During the whole time she lay in bed, manifestations of the presence of the departed were frequent. When the surviving children were wearied out with watching, Mrs. Eddy would send them to bed under the pretence that

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she needed quiet, and they, watching secretly, would see their dead sister Miranda's spirit in materialized form, doing the necessary offices for the invalid. They would hear her talking with their mother, and when it was necessary to turn her, the spirit, with the help of other spirits, would do it.

One day, as they sat at dinner, soft strains of music came through the open door, and going outside, they heard sweet airs played at the corner of the house, by an invisible harp and flute, the sound gradually receding and dying away on the air. A week before she breathed her last, her own dead mother, to warn whom the phantom lady came in her unsubstantial coach, appeared in materialized form to them all, bearing a basket of white roses in her hand. She told them that Mrs. Eddy would soon come "over the river " to her, and she was waiting to welcome her on the farther shore. The old lady wore the same dress as in life a brown woolen frock, a round calico cape, a check apron, and a cap on her head; her scissors hung as usual at her side, and no detail was lacking to make her identification complete. She left a message for Horatio, to the effect that many years before, when about starting on a journey, she had hidden a string of gold beads in a snuff-box in the cellar wall; and directed him to find it and give the necklace to his youngest sister to wear for her sake. Search was made, off and on, for several months, and finally the box and contents were discovered by Horatio behind a stone in the north side of the cellar wall. The artist has sketched them, and they accompany this chapter.

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Horatio, just before his mother's decease, was absent from home, and at her request was sent for. Delia went to the table and wrote the letter of recall ; and, leaving it open while searching for an envelope in another room, she found upon her return that a postscript had been added by the spirit of Miranda, and signed with her familiar autograph. The good lady finally closed her eyes upon the scene of so much misery and suffering; but she did not go far away, for before the funeral she materialized in Delia's presence, and directed her to remove the crape they had hung on the door, there being, she said, occasion for rejoicing rather than for mourning.

How she looked on this occasion I can perfectly understand, for I have seen her materialized on several occasions, and heard her speak, as I will more fully describe in a future chapter.

Mr. Owen relates, at pages 328 and 329 of his "Debatable Land," three cases of ghostly wagons and carriages being heard in England and the United States, but they were not precursors of death. Neither was the frightful apparition, related by Mrs. Crowe, in her " Night Side of Nature," page 413, of the horse and cart at Haverhill, Mass., with its fierce-looking driver and the fearful gray-haired woman lashed to the cart, writhing and struggling to get free.

Nor the "Wild Troop of Rodenstein", a spectral robber band, that at certain times swept along the road between the castles of  Rodenstein and Schnellert ; invisible, but making the round shake and the air resound with the noise of their phantom horses and

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carriages, and barking dogs and cracking whips. Nor the herds of ghostly beasts, driven by a spectral herdsman accompanied by his long-haired, black dog, that cross the country in another part of Germany.

These instances serve to show that something, call it spirits or what we will, has the power to call into a temporary but altogether deceptive existence, the forms of animals, carriages and men; and my object in referring to them is to divest the phantom-carriage incident, in the Eddy family history, of much of the air of improbability that it would have if suffered to stand alone without the citation of similar phenomena happening elsewhere.

The discovery of the law by which these things can be made to occur, is among the most interesting of the results that promise to reward the labors of the scientific investigator. When it is demonstrated how motion can be conveyed to the phantasmal imitations of inanimate objects, like a wagon, and life be temporarily imparted to the ghostly shapes of animals, it will evidently be necessary for us to reconstruct our present beliefs as to the nature of force, and the limits of its manifestation.

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CHAPTER VI - MORE PROPHETIC WARNING