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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER XVII - A CHAPTER OF MARVELS

WHILE the portions of this narrative tool appeared in the Daily Graphic were running through the columns of that paper, I receive so many letters of encouragement from all parts of the country, from total strangers, and so many kind things were said, in so many journals of all classes, that as the end of that series approached, I naturally felt a profound regret at parting with my public.

This feeling is, I believe, common to all authors deeply interested in their work, and on good terns with their readers; but when one is discussing so serious a matter as the re-appearance and re-union of those who have been parted by death, the topic enlists the author's sympathies in a degree exceeding all others. He feels that he has the same reason for getting at the truth as any one of his readers, for one law overrules all alike, and one destiny must be shared in common.

These numerous tokens of regard that I have received have not only stimulated me in the work in hand, but also afforded a marked proof of the deep interest that

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prevails in the subject we have been discussing. I wish from the bottom of my heart that I could give to the bereaved ones who have appealed to me, that consolation which they so eagerly crave; that I could allay their doubts and encourage their hopes; but my whole usefulness as an investigator would be destroyed by my assuming the part of propagandist.

When I refer again to the notes upon my table--from mothers imploring me for comfort in affliction that seems irremediable; from pious daughters, mourning the loss of parents; from parted lovers who feel a blessed assurance that the sting of death and grave's victory will have passed away, if I can only demonstrate the genuineness of these phenomena, a sense of the deep and heavy responsibility resting upon me, to weigh every apparent fact, and challenge every phenomenon, until the truth be discovered, comes over me.

Let me illustrate by giving an extract from a letter from a stranger lady, which stands as the type of a whole class. Observe its tender feeling, its loving anxiety of tone, its reliance upon my opinion whether there is balm in Gilead for the wounded heart within her breast.

" I make no apology for addressing you, save this : I am a mother mourning the loss of an only child ;-hungering and thirsting for an echo from the voice that always had a welcome for " Mamma;'- longing for the familiar touch of little hands that have been quiet for one whole year.

May I ask if you think the Eddy family would allow me to visit their place-in fact, to become a boarder in their house for a week, or perhaps longer ?

And do you think my little girl could really come to me there ? It seems to me that I could be almost happy once more, if I could see, for one brief moment, my little, brown-haired, brown-eyed darling, just as she was before her last illness.

Dear Colonel Olcott, will you not write me how to proceed in the matter?  I think I can speak for the whole army of mourning mothers. They will, someday, "arise and call you blessed."'

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Poor, dear lady! what can I say to such an appeal, except that my researches promise not to end in disappointment; that there is reason to believe that it is possible for her to see her child again; that I have seen several other mothers weeping with joy, in the circle-room, at the sight of their beloved ones, whom they thought shut out from their sight forever; by the earth that was packed above their coffin-lids.

I know I have never assumed the office of teacher, and that on the contrary I have ever disclaimed being anything more than a collector of facts and observer of phenomena-leaving every one to form his or her opinions as they choose; but here are scores of people among my correspondents, representing, no doubt, hundreds of others, who rely upon my facts to do that very thing. So, I must tread cautiously.

The spirits whose appearances have been thus far described were either Indians, or whites of American or European lineage. Up to the 2nd of October, I had never seen one of any other nationality, but on that evening there appeared an Arab, who was an old friend of a lady well known in magazine literature as "Aunt Sue." He was of short stature, slight and wiry build, and his very salaam to the lady, when recognized, was in marked contrast with the constrained bows of the Indians, and the more or less ungraceful salutations of the whites. His name is Yusef. He was dressed in a white tunic, gathered at the waist by a sash, and the skirt ornamented with three equidistant bands of red, of the same width. On

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his head was the national fez, and in his sash was thrust a weapon of some kind, which I could not see distinctly. A number of questions propounded to him were answered by respectful bows, and his parting obeisance was of that deferential, but at the same time self-respecting, character that is peculiar to the people of the Orient.

Five Indians -"Black Swan's Mother," "Bright Star," "Daybreak," "White Feather " (who wore so long a plume in his hair that it was bent by the doorcasing as he bowed his head to pass through), and "Santum"- had preceded him, following Mrs. Eddy, whose address I referred to in the chapter preceding this, and one, " Swift Cloud," came after, so that a most favorable opportunity was afforded to note the contrast between his manners and deportment and those of our aborigines. The sťance was closed, as usual, by old Mr. Brown, who had some talk with his son about a new house he was erecting, and then departed. But, returning after a moment, he addressed a woman present, who, it appeared, had come under a false name, and whose spirit-daughter had appeared to her the evening before, and asked: "Was that child,  your daughter ? " The mother said it was.

 "What is her other name? " asked the inquisitive spirit. The woman hesitated a moment, and then faltered out "Smith." " Well," said he, " I hope she may never feel as if she had to deny her name," and was gone. This thing happened several times during my visit, so it will be as well for persons who are ashamed to give their right names to stay away from Chittenden.

In the dark-circle of this same evening I had another volunteer exhibition of spirit-power that ought to puzzle

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skeptics less self-complacent than our muscular-contractionists. My weighing-scales were standing on the platform, at the right of the cabinet, where the experiment with Honto was tried. We had had some music from Mayflower and the spirit-band of unusual sweetness, and the little girl-whom I never can mention without a feeling of affection, so child-like and lovable is her nature -had made a ludicrous failure with her rhyming improvisations upon "Music," "Pictures," and "War and Peace," when Dix said that if we would all remain quiet for a few minutes and the violinist would play something, he would try to organize an extra strong "battery." His directions were followed, and for a while no sound was heard except the dolorous rasp of the instrument. Little Mayflower passed along the front row and laid her guitar on each one's lap, and presently we had an Indian dance such as I described in a previous chapter.

Then I knew, from a rattling and banging of my plat- form-scale, that something new was about to happen. It was moved along the whole length of the platform with such a noise that I thought to myself I would have a pretty bill of damages to pay the next morning, but the thought was hardly formed before George Dix, with a laugh, said: " Don't worry, Mr. Olcott ; I won't hurt your scales; " and he fell to whistling and tugging at the dead weight, like a jolly stevedore working among a cargo of cotton. The scale reached the steps, and then went bumping down to the floor of the room, and was rolled to a point near the medium's chair, where it stopped. We heard some one step upon the platform and the beam kick against the pad, as though a heavy weight were on

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it. George said, " I guess I'll see how much I weigh;" and then, after running the poise along the notches and changing one counterpoise weight for another, reported 163 pounds. I asked him how tall he was, and he replied 5 feet 8 inches. We then heard Mayflower's voice, saying, "Now weigh me, George," and his answer, "All right: get on; " and another and lighter person was heard to mount the platform, and the noise of weighing, with another change of counterpoise weights, was followed by a call for a light. This being struck, Mr. Poole, of New Jersey, and Mr. Wilkins, of Vermont, who had acted as a committee on our behalf to tie Horatio, first examined the ropes, and found him just as he had been left, and then stepped to the scale with the candle, and announced the beam as marking forty pounds. But the medium, speaking in the voice of a spirit known as "French Mary," said, "No; it is thirty-eight pounds; " which, upon a second and closer look, with the candle held nearer, they found to be so. Now, if any one chooses to say that the medium knew the weight because he had handled it himself, it will be necessary for him to account for :

1.. The fact that after the weighing he was bound as tightly and identically the same as he was by the committee before the room was darkened; and,

2.. How, supposing that he could unbind and re-bind himself, which I deny, he could run the poise along the scale-beam in a pitchy dark room to a certain notch, and be able to correct an unexpected error of the committee. The experiment was to me very interesting as furnishing evidence either of the great force at the

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command of the spirits, as well as their ability to see in the dark, or, of someone's being able, instantly upon the lighting of the candle, to convey the correct reading of the figures to the mind of the medium. The following diagram will show the route traveled by the scales; the entire distance was 33 ft. 6 inches.

The following night's sťance was to my mind the most satisfactory, as a test, of any held during my visit in one respect, viz.: that it proved that neither the hall upstairs, nor the hollow platform, nor the cabinet floor, nor that mysterious window, that has so troubled the souls of many superficial "skeptics," had anything to do with the manifestations. Just before the usual hour of assembly, finding the Eddy boys in an unusually tractable mood, I proposed that for once we should hold our sitting in the reception-room, where we were gathered about the stove. This being assented to with- out hesitancy, the old shawl that hangs over the cabinet door was brought down, the rough mattress, and some working clothes upon the wall of a dark closet under the stairs, were removed, and we were ready to begin the sťance.

The reader will understand the position of affairs by glancing over the following ground-plan :

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A Is the sitting or reception room : B is a small dark bedroom, running under the stairs that lead to the second story; C is the front hall; E, steps leading to cellar; F, William Eddy's bedroom, opening only into the dining-room (G) ; H, the door from sitting-room to dining-room.

The room or closet B measures 9 feet 2 inches by 5 feet 3 inches, with a ceiling 8 feet high-narrow quarters for a person to sleep in, and, with the door shut, a place that ought to be fatal to any pair of lungs that had ever been accustomed to a breath of fresh air. And yet this is where "Joe," the pugnacious but musical farm-hand, whom every visitor will recollect, takes his nightly repose. There is no window here, at any rate, to awaken the suspicions of the wary psychologist, or demand of me a covering of sealed mosquito-netting; and I conclude that if the spirits should show themselves there, the fact would go a long way towards making out my case.

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Just before the shawl was hung, William insisted on my coming into the den to examine it in any way I pleased, but as I had already breathed its fetid atmosphere on another occasion, when I measured it and sounded its walls and floor, I wished to decline. He would take no denial, however, and so, lamp in hand, I went in and made a general survey. There was nothing to be seen but the bare floor and walls; and, running my hands over William's clothing under the laughing pretext of magnetizing him, I enabled myself to assure the reader that he had nothing concealed about his person. The shawl-curtain was arranged and we then took our seats in an arc that stretched from the halldoor to that leading into the dining-room. My post was in the crown of the arc, right opposite, and not more than eight or nine feet from the "cabinet" door. The lamp was placed on a shelf in the chimney, at the south-east corner of the room and gave a very fair light.

We had not long to wait, for, after the lapse of a very few minutes, the shawl was lifted and out jumped Honto, as lively as a squirrel. She was dressed in a light suit throughout, with a scarf about her waist, and her hair hanging loose down her back. She stepped to the dining-room door, lifted the latch and threw it open; then began capering about in her usual way, as if she were in fine spirits. Shawl after shawl she twitched from old Mrs. Cleveland's and Mr. Pritchard's feet and shoulders ; astonishing them as much each time as Hermann does the victim he entraps into "assisting" him in his magical entertainments. Then she stepped to the right of the

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cabinet door, and stood just opposite me, looking intently upon the floor, by the mop-board. There was nothing to be seen at first but the bare planks, but, presto! as I watched, I suddenly saw a heap of something black, as it might be a piece of a woman's dress or a quantity of black netting. She stretched out her hand, and daintily picked it up with thumb and forefinger, held it open, and it was one of her shawls! Thus, within a few feet of my nose, she exhibited the whole process of materializing fabrics, and left me in a very pleased mood, as may be imagined.

In the report of the London Dialectical Society on Spiritualism, at page 328, in the testimony of Miss Anna Blackwell before the committee, occurs the following :

Under the second head (that is to say, the command of the spirits of the " fluids " and " forces " that make up the totality of planetary existence) may be classed the evanescent appearance of hands, faces, birds, animals, flowers, &c., which are produced by a condensation out of the atmosphere, of the material elements of these pseudo- formations, to which, by the application of the electro-vital force in modes not yet known to us, spirits are able to impart a temporary vitality, but which, having no soul, are without consciousness or lasting coherence, and dissolve into their original elements on the cessation of the currents that determined their formation. Lady D---assures me that a "magnificent white flower, as large as a dinner plate, and with long purple stamens," suddenly appeared on a chair close beside her, one evening, as she sat in her drawing-room in company with Mr. Home; it remained visible to them both for about two minutes, when "it melted into the air." At page 332, in describing the apparition of a dark-haired man, who passed into the solid wall in her presence, she adds :

Spirits say that the compact matter of our sphere of Relation, is as imperceptible, for them, as the fluidic matter of their sphere is for us, and that they only become cognizant of it, and able to act upon it, through our minds and organisms.

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Honto was followed by old Mrs. Pritchard, who was dressed, as usual, in her grayish frock, and white apron and kerchief, and who had some pleasant words for her son.

Then appeared a charming young woman carrying a child, who was recognized by her sister as Mrs. Josephine Dow, late of Chittenden township. She died twenty four years ago at the age of nineteen. Her robe was pure white and flowing, gathered in at the waist by a string, so that the folds of the upper part lay over it after a very classical fashion. Her auburn hair fell in a mass over her shoulders, and as she stood there petting the child, I thought I had never seen a prettier sight in all my visit. She stepped back into the cabinet, whereupon the voice of Mrs. Eaton said: "Mr. Olcott, this is the subject we have selected for the artist's picture. The spirit will now return without the child, so that Mr. Kappes may take a good look at her" - and back she came, alone, and stood at the right of the curtain, with her right arm crossed over her waist and her left hanging by her side, looking the artist full in the face. Mrs. Eaton said that the spirit came back alone because it took so much extra power to materialize the baby, that the spirit herself was made too weak to stop out long enough to give us a thorough view of her own form. Blake, the Irish painter, used to see spirits invisible to all other eyes, sitting to him for their portraits in his studio when he was alone, but did any one ever hear before of a materialized spirit coming for the purpose to an artist, in the presence of a mixed company of fifteen persons?

After the "Madonna and Child," (as I felt like christening

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our models,) we saw the spirit of William Packard, late of Albany, and grandson of old Mrs. Pritchard, who seemed so disposed to make friends with the artist that, at that gentleman's request, he moved quite far along the wall to the right, where his figure was thrown into high relief by the light-colored paper hangings. His face was round, and he wore a long black moustache. His costume comprised a dark sack-coat and dark pantaloons,  a single-breasted vest, and white shirt with collar, quite different from William's, who wore his ordinary checked gingham shirt, without collar or cuffs.

We were then delighted to see the mysterious Mrs. Eaton herself, whose shrill voice we had so often heard issue from the cabinet upstairs. She was a little, old, wrinkled woman, in an old-fashioned muslin mob-cap with a ribbon about the crown, a grayish dress, and a check woolen shoulder-shawl, with its points crossed over her bosom. She advanced two or three feet from the curtain, and looking at me, said that she had seen our picture of "The Phantom Carriage," and could suggest no improvement, as it was true to nature. I expressed my pleasure at seeing her in person, hearing her speak, and seeing her lips move, for it was now unquestionable that the voice up-stairs was hers and not the medium's. She said that it was for that very purpose she had materialized herself, and that the spirit-band controlling these manifestations had desired the change for that evening to the lower room. She and they knew how anxious I was for such tests as would satisfy myself and the world, of the genuineness of the phenomena, and desired to further my wishes; but they, like ourselves, were subject to the

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conditions around them, and where a circle was constantly changing, and never the same two evenings in succession, they could not do all that either I demanded or they wished.

After her, came out an old, gentlemanly-looking man, with a fine, intellectual head. His silver locks were brushed from either ear towards his crest, as if to conceal his baldness. He was dressed in a well-cut black coat, buttoned up high, and pantaloons to match. He spoke in a low voice in answer to a question from his relative present, who afterwards informed me that he formerly lived at Davenport, N. Y., where he died thirty-nine years ago, at the advanced age of eighty-two years.

Our next visitor was Augusta , a child of fourteen, who was clothed in a white dress, and sweetly smiled and recognized her mother, who sat next to me.

The last form to appear, was Jeremiah McCready, late of Cayuga County, N. Y., whose materialization was very strong and satisfactory; and this brought to a close, a most remarkable and satisfactory evening's entertainment.

I can hardly express the relief I experienced at the result of this seance. Convinced as I had long been of the good faith of William Eddy; satisfied as my reason was that it was a physical impossibility for the man to simulate such a variety of forms-making himself at one moment a patriarch of eighty or a tottering grandmother, and the next, a babe in arms or a toddling child of three or four years; now a giant Indian chief or a dancing squaw, and anon, a roving spears- man of the plain of Ararat or a bronze-faced fellah from the foot of the Pyramids; twisting his inflexible tongue

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around the gutturals, nasals, and sibilants of numerous languages, that certainly nobody outside of the Oriental Society or some occasional Dominie Sampson had mastered; convinced, I say, as I was upon all these points-that ventilating window, hollow platform, and seven-by-two cabinet forced themselves oftener than I liked between my mental vision and the bald facts.

I confess to a feeling closely akin to astonishment when Honto, the self-same copper-colored squaw, the pipe-smoking, shawl-weaving, dancing, laughing Honto, stepped out and confronted me. It seemed that it would be next to impossible for enough of the spiritual matter-essence to filter through that plastered wall, for these cunning electro-platers to make a covering withal for their filmy shapes. But there she was, sure enough, in full form-with no detail of her dress lacking, no lock of her massive suit of hair gone; her figure as plump, her motions as supple, her attitudes as wildly statuesque as ever before. When she had passed away from our sight, I awaited the coming of the next spirit with eager attention, for even then, it seemed to me that it could not be possible for another to materialize itself. Honto was the familiar spirit of the medium, or somehow attached to and, as it were, enameled upon the family, so that she could do impossibilities that no one else from the other world could.

But, in the midst of my doubts and mistrust, there came the gray-white apparition of old Mrs. Pritchard, the very starch in her apron and cap seeming as if it were crisp from the laundry. Then, I think, the conviction formed itself that, no matter how many

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"skeptics" came battering against these granitic facts, no matter what array of "exposers" might blow their tin-horns and penny-trumpets, that Jericho would stand. Then I said to myself, that if William Eddy were caught fifty times playing at materialization, with "cork-soles," "ragged-blankets," and upstanding hair, upon some evening when conditions were unpropitious, the genuine phenomena of this one seance could not be obliterated from my memory.

One of the most eminent scholars in this country, and one who has made a study of legerdemain, among other things, shows his ingrained skepticism of all spiritualistic matters by insisting, despite all my careful examination of the walls and floor of the cabinets up and down stairs, that the figures are personations by confederates. He tells me that he waits patiently for the exposure that, in his opinion, will surely come; as surely as it did in Philadelphia, and as, he maintains, it will in London. He makes no more account of Mr. Crookes', and my observations, than he did of Mr. Owen's, regarding us all as equally superficial. Well, I am content to be placed in the stocks, in such good company.

In William's dark hole of a cabinet there was not a bit of woolen, silk, or cotton rag, the size of a finger- stall, nor a moccasin or string of beads; not a wig nor even a stick of black pomade, much less a wash- bowl, water or towels; and about his person, as I had discovered by my innocent ruse, there were none of these things; and yet there had appeared---but the story is already told and I need not repeat.

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Two features of this occasion will arrest the attention of scientific minds, viz : the appearance and disappearance of the baby, and the instantaneous formation of Honto and shawl. There could be no mistake about the child--no questions of rag-wrapped legs or fondled pillows. The figure stood too near me and in too good a light to admit of such deceptions being practiced. It was a living, moving child, which, with its right thumb in its mouth, nestled its little head in the neck of its bearer, and passed its chubby left arm about her neck. For the instant it was as palpable and, no doubt, as material a being as any baby now lying in its mother's arms. Made from the imponderable atoms floating in the foul air of that chamber, it was resolved into nothing in an instant of time, leaving no trace of its evanescent existence behind. And the shawl! in what spirit- home, by what hearth, or under what vine-trellised porch (for Mayflower's rhymes teem with allusions to her house and garden, her pets and domestic companions ) was its yarn spun, its knots tied, and its strands tinted? Whose busy fingers plied the needles, or whose hand guided the ghostly loom by which its meshes were formed? Mystery of mysteries! What Cedipus can solve the riddle? And how long must we wait for an answer?

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CHAPTER XVIII - SPIRITS FROM FAR CATHAY