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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER XIV - THE DARK CIRCLE

WILLIAM'S circle was followed by one of Horatio's "dark- circles," in which what occurs, is in a room totally dark. The preparations for this event consist in hanging shawls or blankets over the four windows nearest the platform, to exclude even starlight, removing the table with its array of musical instruments to a position on the main floor just in front of the railing, and tying Horatio in a chair, placed to the right of the table and in front of the spectators. Upon the extinction of the light, the gruff voice of the sailor-spirit " George Dix " and the piping whisper of the little girl-spirit " Mayflower" are heard greeting us, special mention being often made of favorite acquaintances by the curiously matched copartners in the direction of these striking séances. Dix asserts, that he was drowned at the wreck of the Steamship President, which may or may not be true, but the truth of which is of no consequence in view of what he does and causes to be done.

If any over-zealous inquirer should wish to verify the fact, lie can do so by taking the trouble to examine the shipping papers of the crew of the ill-fated steamship,

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which will no doubt be found in the archives of the Customs Bureau of the Treasury Department. So far as I am personally concerned, Dix might as well call himself Jack Cade or General Washington. More than this, as we are in pitchy darkness, I would not waste time in speaking of him at all, if I thought the things he does could be done by Horatio if he were free to move about as much as he liked.

"Mayflower's" story is that she died of fever, a century ago, while a captive among the Indians of the Maine wilderness. She was the daughter of Italian immigrants, who were murdered on their "clearing" in one of the many Indian raids by which the early settlers on our Canadian frontier were so greatly harassed. This spirit, by some strange law of spiritual intercourse not satisfactorily explained to me, revisits this world as a child of twelve years, and manifests juvenile traits in all that she does. She exhibits the Italian talent for improvisation, hardly missing an opportunity to rattle off her verses upon any subject named impromptu by any person in the audience. She is also an accomplished performer on various instruments, which she plays with rare power and expression. Her nature, judging by her conversation and acts, is simple, innocent, and kindly; her heart is warm and sympathetic, and her chief desire to afford pleasure to those of a refined disposition whom the fame of these circles may have attracted to the place. George Dix, on the other hand, is a manly, powerful spirit, with a grip like a vice, a rollicking, prankish nature, and a hoarse voice, like that of one accustomed to shout in storms from maintop to deck.

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He is a spinner of yarns, not always devoid of a coarser flavor than the customs of mixed assemblages permit; an ingenious fellow, who sings, plays well on the violin, whistles like a Boehm flute, and to keep things lively, is ready to bear a hand at any sort of work, from the moving of ponderous objects and the ringing of bells, to the imitation of almost any sound produced by any of the mechanic arts with which he is familiar. Moreover, he is one of your men of knowledge, and given to the unreserved utterance of opinions; ready at a moment's notice to give you the analysis of electricity or a poetical invocation to the Deity; just as, according to Sydney Smith, Lord John Russell was ready to attempt the command of the Channel Fleet or the operation for lithotomy, with equal alacrity. But George Dix, or George whatsoever may be his name, is a capital good fellow, who has always a hearty grip for an honest man, and a heavy fist for those who deserve to feel its weight. When Dr. B- was here, it was Dix's hand that, in Horatio's lightcircle, beat that worthy over the head with the guitar, causing his precipitate flight and striking terror into his guilty soul; and it was he who one night in a dark-circle pulled a man named Frost by the legs out of his chair to the floor, with a great bump that shook us in our seats. When I say "grip" I mean just that, for this spirit, in addition to shaking hands with me sundry times, once gave me one of the grips of a Master Mason, which for want of space, or another sufficient reason, I will not now describe. Horatio, I may remark, is not a Mason.

Compliments being exchanged, a medley performance begins. There is a dance of a pack of a dozen howling,

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leaping, skylarking Indians, who beat on the drums, rattle the tambourines, blow the horns, ring the heavier bells, and make a din so hideous that one easily fancies himself caught in the melee of a dance of live redskins about starting on the war-path. If Horatio were unbound and using all four of his locomotive and prehensile members, he could not imitate this dance. The creatures yell, and one can hear their stamping on the floor in cadence with their rude music. The dance is preceded by a stillness so dead that, for any sound of life, we might fancy the room empty. A slow beating of the time, a few clangs of the big dinner-bell, a measured beat of the tambourine, and then the time grows faster and faster, until, in a moment, we are in the midst of the hurly-burly. It needed no stretch of imagination to see, even in the Egyptian darkness of the ball, the wild figures circling round and round, for their demonstrations were of so obstreperous a character as to frighten all but habitué's of the coolest temperaments. As an exhibition of pure brute force, if such a term may be applied to the occult power that produces it, this Indian dance probably is unsurpassed in the annals of spiritual manifestations.

Following this episode, upon the evening in question, came a sword-combat, apparently between two persons, for the hacking of the two blades was, it seemed to me, too violent to be done by one man operating in the dark, at the risk of chopping off a finger, or mutilating a wrist. The play of weapons ended in a sudden groan, and the falling of a man's body on the floor at my feet. I certainly thought some one had found his quietus, with some one's else bare bodkin, but a match being struck and a

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candle lighted , the medium was found sitting quietly in his chair, with his bonds undisturbed, and no sign of perspiration on his skin. The floor, however, was littered with musical instruments and bells, and the swords of the unseen combatants were lying along with them. The scenes sketched by the artist in two of the cuts give an idea of the appearance of the room, before the extinction of the candle and upon its relighting.

The medium (or rather the spirit controlling him, for he is supposed to be in an unconscious state, and his organs used by a spirit, which may or may not be true, and which I do not regard as important in the settlement of our problem) then invited me to take measures to satisfy myself that the phenomena were genuine. Accordingly a gentleman present, Mr. George W. Nichols, of John H. Draper & Co., auctioneers, New York City, sat in Horatio Eddy's lap, while I, drawing up my chair in front of him, placed my feet upon Horatio's toes and held Mr. Nichols' hands, thus making it impossible that either of the three should move without each of the others knowing it. Moreover, Horatio could not move if he wished, for his hands were tightly bound to the back of his chair, and even if he could disengage them, he could not move them forward to touch us, or the instruments scattered about; his slightest motion would be instantly detected by the man sitting on his lap. The light was again extinguished and a new performance began. Hands, cold, clammy, and firm, stroked our faces, patted our heads and hands, slapped me on my back and legs, and Mr. Nichols on the parts of his person not leaning against the medium, a pair of lips kissed my cheek, and

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two huge hands tickled me under my arms at one time. Then the accordion, concertina, and tambourine were played all about us, bells were rung, blows given on the floor with the swords, and the guitar, floating through the air or resting upon my head, played one or more familiar airs. Meanwhile every person in the front row of the audience sat with hands joined, which is the same as saying, that no one, even if so disposed, could get to us to do what was done. These manifestations being concluded, light was called for, and we two resumed our seats in the  circle. The artist's sketch shows our relative positions during the test sitting.

The next thing in order was the improvisation of rhymes by Mayflower. The dear child, who came and laid her little hand on mine for an instant, allowed me to name the subject, and then reeled off a score of limping hexameters, hardly worth preservation as specimens of poetry, even if I could have had them reported verbatim; but when she breathed the words through the stops of the harmonicon, with exquisite modulation of the sounds, her golden stairs and silver shores and Heavenly fields seemed almost to come before us as pictures of a fairy land.

Then George Dix's voice announced that  the band, composed of spirits known as Electa, Honto, Santum, Rosa, the Italian girl, French Mary, Mayflower, and himself, would render the piece called "The Storm at Sea". I would have the reader observe that I regard the names given to themselves by the various spirits, as a matter of the smallest possible account. I doubt very much if Santum or either of the other names are of genuine

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Indian origin, but that does not trouble me as much as to know if any spirit from the other world is standing in my presence. That is the question of questions; individual identities are of trivial importance in comparison with that.

I am no musical critic, and so will give place to a competent hand to describe this remarkable performance, which is given in a majority of Horatio's dark-circles. Here is what Mr. Lenzberg says, and any one who has attended a circle at Chittenden need not be informed of the difference between this sort of music and what Horatio favors us with:

Henry S. Olcott, Esq.,

DEAR SIR: At your request I state the following facts I am a musician by profession, and teach the art in Hartford, Ct. I attended a dark-circle at the Eddy house, last evening, at which various solos, duos, trios, and concerted pieces were played by some mysterious performers. The solos were upon the violin, guitar, flute, piccolo, concertina, and mouth harmonicon. The two most surprising features of the performance were : (1) the playing on a guitar as it floated from one side of the room to the other, through the air, a distance of at least fifteen feet (this was not a mere strumming of the strings, but a delicate and artistic playing of a popular air in pianissimo) ; and (2) the execution of the air of  "Home, Sweet Home" on the concertina. The invisible performer managed to get more power, and at the same time preserve as good expression as any person I have ever heard handle the instrument. I noticed the same striking feature as with the guitar playing, viz. : that the musical sound was prolonged, and the swells maintained, through a much greater space laterally, than any mortal performer could cover, and at the same time sustain the same quality of tone. There were no sounds of footsteps, and the instrument was played so close to us that I could feel the wind it made as it passed through the air. I have heard Horatio Eddy, the medium of the dark-circle, play on the violin, and I unhesitatingly say that his style and execution are as totally different from those of the unseen soloist as possible.

The concerted pieces were an imitation of a storm at sea, by the violin, with the accompaniment of the mouth harmonicon, tambourine, concertina, triangle, guitar, and several bells. In the storm, the

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whistling of the wind was made apparently by bowing on the guitar with one hand, and at the same time by sliding the other up and down the fingerboard, producing harmonic notes. The heavy blowing of the gale was imitated by a tremolo on the violin, accompanied by a confusion of sounds from the other instruments. The shock of waves against the ship was forcibly suggested by lifting a heavy table and beating the floor with its legs. There was one sound that could not possibly be imitated by any instrument, viz.: the pumping of water, with the suck of the piston, the gurgle of water in the tube, and its splash, as if running off on deck.

Throughout the whole entertainment, the medium sat in a chair in front of the spectators, with his wrists tied together and to the back of the chair, A light was struck instantly after some of the most remarkable performances, and he was found in the same position and tied in the same manner as at the first. The front row of spectators kept hands joined from first to last, there was but one member of his family present beside himself, who sat next but one to me, and I am positively sure that she had nothing to do with what occurred. Even if she and Horatio had been on the floor, it would have been impossible for both together to do what was done.

The above is as careful and minute an account of the musical part of last night's dark-circle as I can give, and I am ready at any time to substantiate its truth by my oath in a court of justice, if called upon.

I must tell you of one thing that happened, as wonderful as any- thing above related. My little daughter, sitting at the other end of the front row, asked the child-spirit calling herself Mayflower, to kiss me, and immediately I -received kisses upon my mouth and cheek from a pair of smooth, soft lips, which certainly were not Horatio's, for he wears a heavy moustache and goatee. Moreover, the room was so totally dark that no human being could have found the places touched, without feeling for them with his hands, which was not done. MAX LENZNERG,

20 Pleasant Street, Hartford, Conn. CHITTENDEN, October 14th, 1874.

This is a " dark-circle " as it appears to persons favored with only the usual range of senses-a place of pitchy darkness, unlimited by the faintest speck of light, except when little balls of phosphorescence shoot hither and thither through the air, the only senses ordinarily used being those of hearing and feeling.

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But how different must it appear to the inner sight of the clairvoyant, if we admit that their descriptions are not based upon the promptings of an overwrought imagination! I was so fortunate as to meet at the Eddys' a Mrs. Emma F. McCormick, an excellent " test- medium," of Providence, R. L, who kindly gave me a description of the dark-circle that I will try to put into words, as, at least to me, an interesting novelty in spiritual literature.

When the light was extinguished, instead of the cavernous darkness that oppressed our senses, the room became to the clairvoyant suffused with a great light, as though a full moon had suddenly risen upon her vision. The light was steady, not flickering. The walls of the apartment, as transparent as crystal, disclosed a multitude of spirits stretching upward and backward--a great host that no man could number. On every side they thronged-men, women, and children- and gazed at the mortals below and the scene that was being enacted in their hearing. They were all bathed in the light that shone about them, but differed in glory, one from the other. Certain of them hovered over and about the medium, showering sparks of light upon him more brilliant than diamonds, when- ever they approached him within a certain distance. From every side in the air above us, the light, concentrated into a sort of zodiacal canopy, formed a vortex, like a water-spout or thunder-cloud, and then spread out in showers of sparks, whose radius marked the area within which all the " manifestations " occurred. Some spirits were clothed in gauzy vapors of differing

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brightness and colors, some bluish, some grayish, and some pure white, the several tints indicating the moral status of the spirits, pure white being the highest of all. Their countenances shone with a brightness corresponding with that of their raiment, some like the face of Moses when he descended from Sinai, being so glorious that it seemed as if no mortal man could look upon them.

Upon the floor of the circle room the lurid saw a spirit-man with a smooth face, stern and resolute in expression, who controlled and directed the performance. When he approached the rest fell back, as though he carried the power of command in the very essence of his nature. The Indians in the dance were sometimes on the floor, sometimes leaping high up in the air, and one group, apart from the others, laid their heads together and intently regarded some object on the platform, which, from Mrs. McCormick's description of the locality, I judged to be a small spring table-gong that I had procured that day, with which to try certain experiments that I shall describe at the proper time, but of my possession of which she was not aware.

Off in one corner were gathered a band of white men whom she thought were pirates, who had stealthily approached, and looked at the medium as if desirous of getting control of him, but a number of bright spirits, seeing their intention, clustered about him as if to shield him from harm. The color of the light around these pirates was a dark drab, and when the body fell after the sword combat, previously described,

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she seemed to see a dead body carried off by these comrades, who were enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke. Mayflower appeared a girl of fourteen or fifteen, of a fair complexion, dark hair and eyes. She looked as if she were encompassed with a rainbow, and was a bright, beautiful creature, but more attracted to the earth than some of the others in the shining throng. The effect of her music upon the other spirits was very marked. They seemed to enjoy it, and their feelings were indicated by a great increase in the brilliancy of the light about them.

The members of our circle of the evening were each attended by his or her special friends, who showed affection in embraces, loving appeals, the laying of crowns of flowers upon our heads, and of emblematic floral devices of various kinds upon our laps. Some seemed to her to kneel at the knees of their friends, and gaze up into their faces with eager, hungry looks, as if they would force a sense of their presence through the impenetrable walls of flesh in which they were still held captive. We mortals, like our spirit-friends, were also surrounded by our special and peculiar spheres of light, varying in brilliancy, color, and transparency, in degree with our moral elevation. Along the united hands of the front rank ran a chain of electricity or some other fluid, like lightning, reddish-yellow in color, with bubbles of light coming up here and there, and then bursting, and the even flow of the stream interfered with and made to zigzag by the unequal personal magnetic force of the several sitters.

In "The Storm at Sea" she saw Dix holding what seemed a bunch of reeds, that vibrated as a stream of

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electricity or other bright fluid ran through them. When he imitated the pumping of water, it seemed as if he forced two masses of electricity together, handling the subtle agent as if it were a solid substance. She could see him stretching out his hands and gathering it from the air to condense and compact it, as one might gather light snow and form the feathery flakes into a solid ball. He was never idle, but passed from one employment to another with indomitable perseverance, now playing the violin, and anon imitating the whistling of wind or the swash of water, according as the exigencies of the performance seemed to demand.

But, of a sudden, the beatific vision of the clairvoyant is rudely terminated by the lighting of the smoky candle, whose feeble gleam, struggling through the obscurity of the room, replaces the noonday brightness of her opened heavens.

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CHAPTER XV - PHILOSOPHICAL TESTS