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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER XX - THE DEAD ALIVE

THE moon shone brightly the next evening, and everything out of doors favored a good circle. The air was clear and cool; every undulation of the mountain crests came out sharply against the sapphire sky in the glorious light; the little stream in the distance threaded the meadows, like silver set in emeralds; and, far up the valley, a brilliant aurora-borealis shot its trembling spears of ruddy gold to the zenith, from behind the mountain barrier that shut in the horizon. A more peaceful scene I never viewed, and I turned from it with deep sadness to enter the gloomy circle-room, where, judging from what had been going on the few pre- ceding nights, I had every reason to expect demonstrations of ill-temper and antagonism on the part of both the family and their spirit-guides.

Ten spirits appeared to us, among them a lady-a certain Mrs. Fullmer, who had only died the Friday previous. The relative to whom she came sat beside me, and was dreadfully agitated at the thought that one whom she had seen buried only a few days before, should so soon have

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"burst the cerements of the grave." Poor woman ! she was as little in reality a believer in the immortality of the soul, as most of her fellow church-members; who pour their tears upon the coffin, instead of lifting the eyes of their faith upward, to where the disembodied spirit hangs lovingly over them.

Among the forms to appear, was a man with a long black beard and dark complexion, wearing a turban, a red jacket embroidered with black braid, and inside vest of a flowered pattern, baggy trousers of dark blue or black, a sash around his waist, made of a twisted shawl, and black shoes. A person present, who had been coddled into the belief that he should see Lord Byron at the Eddys', asked the spirit if he were not the great poet, and was answered in the affirmative: the which circum- stance made me recall a certain passage at Proverbs xxvi, 5. The vanity, ignorance, and credulity of mortal spiritualists has been the cause of what Mr. Bagenal Daly would call " a mighty sight of illigant lying," on the part of the spirits. It so consoles your costermonger to think he can "chaff " the shade of Charlemagne !

This spirit (who, I may mention in passing, reappeared at my mental request after he had retired,) had hardly been gone an instant, when there came a light-complexioned, white-haired old man, a Mr. Jonathan Bartlett, taller than the diakka "Lord Byron," and dressed through- out in an American costume. He must have been waiting for his predecessor to retire, for he almost passed him at the door; and the circumstance was noted in my book as another proof in favor of the apparitions being some, thing else than personations by the medium.

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"Michalko " visited us again the next evening, and spoke to Mme. de Blavatsky in the Georgian tongue; and, after two or three more forms had shown themselves, I saw one of the most singular creatures that ever excited the wonder of a "circle." He was a tall, spare negro, black as ink, and dressed in a curious costume, two features of which were very conspicuous. Upon his woolly head he had a coiffure, that would make a sensation on Broadway. I could see an ornamented fillet, or band, and on top of his head four horns with bent tips, something like those of the chamois or some varieties of African antelope, such as the oryx. The points of the two in front were turned backward, and those of the two in rear, forward, while a brass or gilt ball hung suspended from each tip.

Mme. de Blavatsky did not recognize him at first, but he stepped forward a pace or two, and she then saw before her the chief of a party of African jugglers whom she encountered once in Upper Egypt, at a celebration of the feast of "The Ramazan." The magical performances of his party upon that occasion, make one of the most incredible stories in the history of either Magic or Spiritualism, and one feat deserves place in such a book of weird experiences as this. Madame says that, in full sight of a multitude, comprising several hundred Europeans and many thousand Egyptians and Africans, the juggler came out on a bare space of ground, leading a small boy, stark-naked, by the hand, and carrying a huge roll of tape that might be twelve or eighteen inches wide.   After certain ceremonies, he whirled the roll about

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his head several times, and then flung it straight up into the air. Instead of falling back to earth after it had ascended a short distance, it kept on upward, unwind- ing and unwinding interminably from the stick, until it grew to be a mere speck, and finally passed out of sight. The juggler drove the pointed end of the stick into the ground, and then beckoned the boy to approach. Pointing upward, and talking in a strange jargon, he seemed to be ordering the little fellow to ascend the self-suspended tape, which by this time stood straight and stiff, as if it were a board whose end rested against some solid support up in mid-air. The boy bowed compliance, and began climbing, using his hands and feet as little "AllRight" does when climbing Satsuma's balance-pole. The boy went higher and higher until he, too, seemed to pass into the clouds and disappear.

The juggler waited five or ten minutes, and then, pretending to be impatient, shouted up to his assistant as if to order him down. No answer was heard, and no boy appeared ; so, finally, as if carried away with rage, the juggler thrust a naked sword into his breech-clout (the only garment upon his person), and climbed after the boy. Up and up and up, hand over hand, and step by step, he ascended, until the straining eyes of the multitude saw him no more. There was a moment's pause, and then a wild shriek came down from the sky, and a bleeding arm, as if freshly cut from the boy's body, fell with a horrid thud upon the ground. Then came another, then the two legs, one after the other, then the dismembered trunk, and, last of all, the ghastly head, every part streaming with gore and covering the ground.

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A second lad now stepped forward, and, gathering the mutilated fragments of his comrade into a heap, threw a dirty cloth over them and retired. Presently the juggler was seen descending as slowly and cautiously as he had ascended. He reached the ground at last, with his naked sword all dripping with blood. Paying no attention to the remains of his supposed victim, he went to rewinding his tape upon his stick, his audience meanwhile breaking out into cries of impatience and execration. When the tape was all rewound, he wiped his sword, and then, deliberately stepping to the bloody heap, lifted off the ragged quilt, and up rose the little tape-climber as hearty as ever, and bowed and smiled upon the amazed throng as though dismemberment were an after-breakfast pastime to which he had been accustomed from infancy.

I have seen it stated in the papers that the late William H. Seward, ex-Secretary of State, witnessed a similar feat in India, while on his tour around the world. He saw a man climb a bare pole sixty feet high, standing in open air, and when he reached the top he mysteriously disappeared. After a while his feet reappeared, then his legs and body, and then he came down. It is a great pity that some of our enterprising publishers could not induce Mme. de Blavatsky to write out her memoirs, for they abound in such marvels as these. And, be it remembered, the great negro whom I saw at Chittenden was the chief of the very party who performed the marvel of diablerie in Egypt.

But, whoever he was, or wherever he hails from, is it

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possible that William Eddy could get himself up, in his two-by-seven feet, pitch-dark cabinet, to look like this strange creature, without lamp, paint, looking-glass, soap, or water, and only a small black fringed shawl and piece of plaid horse-blanket, taken from serving their purpose as curtains, to be used as costume ?

There are curious stories afloat in Egypt about the powers of the chiefs of this horned juggler's tribe, one of which, recited to me by Madame de B-, is well worth preserving, as a match to the Grecian mythological fable of Europa.

One of them had the reputation of being the greatest sorcerer ever known in that country. By conjurations he could evoke the shape of any person he chose, and make it do his bidding. He was aided by demons, or evil spirits of mighty power, who came and went at his beck and call, as unquestioningly as the genii of the ring and lamp did for the audacious Aladdin.

One day he strolled into the village of Mis-Massia, near the river Nile; and, going from house to house, offered his services to do any little odd job of diablerie that might be required. In Mis-Massia was a pretty maiden, named Esma, who had been abandoned by her sweetheart, Zanoni-Bey, and who asked the conjurer if he could not force the faithless one back to her feet. He said he could, if she could only procure for him a lock of Zanoni's hair, be it never so small a one. Not being able to approach the renegade herself, she sent her little brother, a lad about twelve years of age, on

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the difficult mission. But he, finding his efforts likely, to prove unsuccessful, stepped into a butcher's yard, and cut some hairs from the tail of a black bull that was waiting his turn to be slaughtered, and brought them to his sister, as taken from Zanoni's head. The deception was rendered possible from the fact that the lover's hair was very coarse and black, as much Arab hair is.

Esma, with fear and trembling, delivered the lock to the magician, who began his mystic rites in her presence; thus, at least, showing us that he was no genuine clairvoyant, since he did not discover the cheat. He made his passes and genuflections, sprinkled his powders, and muttered his Arabic charms, until the subservient powers of darkness manifested their presence by shaking the house to its foundations, and the air seemed full of strange and fearful whisperings. After a few more passes, the sorcerer exclaimed the talismanic words which signify that the spell is formed, and handing the lock of hair to the affrighted girl, received his fee, and departed.

Impatiently she waited for night to come, and restore the truant Zanoni to her caresses. She decked herself in her bravest attire, and watched the unprophetic hours pass by, until the midnight call of the muezzin from the neighboring mosque betokened the fateful moment. Suddenly there was a noise like that of distant thunder, the earth shook, the house-door flew open, and there, upon the threshold, she beheld a tall, black figure with horns. Taking it for the conjurer himself, she overwhelmed him with reproaches for his perfidy,

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but in another moment the dark object disclosed itself as the empty skin of a slaughtered bull, standing, erect upon its hind legs. She shrieked in mortal fright, but in vain; the monster, as if carried away with a mad frenzy, precipitated itself upon her, and wrapped her in an embrace of death. Her cries were heard and her struggles witnessed by an old negro servant woman, the only other tenant of the house, who stood awhile, rooted to the floor with terror, and then fell in a dead swoon.

Upon recovering her senses, the morning light shone dimly into the apartment, and there lay the poor Esma, dead and cold, enveloped in the bull's hide. The sorcerer had rehabilitated the spirit of the beast, and endowed it with a mad affection for the love-lorn dam.

This story was told to Mme. de B by Elias Effendi, a dignitary residing at Mis-Massia, who assured her that it was generally believed throughout all that section of country. The adventure occurred only about a year before Mme. de B-'s visit, and the hide of this African Europa's four-legged swain was exhibited to her in attestation of the truth of the narrative.

Mr. Epes Sargent writes me from Boston, under date of December 3rd, 1874, as follows:

" By the way, that curious story of the feat witnessed by Mme. de Blavatsky, where the African juggler throws up a ladder or rope into the sky, is paralleled in a story, which you may find in a record book by George Lunt (Editor of the Boston Courier), giving reminiscences of Newburyport, and other places in New England. He relates an incident of the same kind (in some respects) as occurring somewhere in these parts, many years ago."

I regret to say, that I have not been able to obtain

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access to Mr. Lunt's book in time to use the extract referred to by Mr. Sargent. I cannot imagine how such a thing could have occurred in this country, unless some vagrant Egyptian or Hindoo magician might have wandered this way.

In his voluminous work entitled "Des rapports de l'Homme avec le Demon," (Paris Ed., 1863, Vol. I, p. 15,) M. Bizouard tells us, upon the authority of Cha- bas' "Papyrus Magique Harris," that at the highest antiquity, the arts of magic reached such a pass that spirits manifested themselves in full form, bronze statues were made to move and nod, living persons were made out of menh (an unfamiliar word. Perhaps it means an image of wax or clay, perhaps a plant. The tiny mandragora demon, not larger than a small doll, who attends upon the Egyptian sorcerers, is formed out of a withered plant, at a certain hour of the night, after certain incantations) ; and the bodies of living persons were taken possession of by evil spirits, who used them as habitations as long as they chose. This obsession is identical with what prevailed in the time of Christ, and the expulsion of these demons by him, finds its prototype in the same power exercised, according to these ancient Egyptian papyri, by the good divinity Khans.

The ancient religion of Egypt, which was characterized by magical practices, such as the one related by Madame Blavatsky, fell into decay in the time of Caesar, in consequence of the impoverishment of the country by a succession of internal and external wars, and the falling off in those revenues which had supported

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the priesthood and their temples. Salverte tells us (in his "Sciences Occultes: ou Essai sur la Magic," Paris, 1856, 3d Ed., p. 165-6) that many priests of the inferior orders, driven by necessity, betook themselves to Rome, where, in the public squares, for money, they declared prophecies, healed diseases, and evoked the apparitions of the dead.

Modern Egyptians distinguish two kinds of Magic, which they term Er-Roolhha'-nee and Es-Seelmiya: the former is spiritual magic, which is believed to effect its wonders by the agency of angels and genii, and by the mysterious virtues of certain names of God, and other supernatural means; the latter is natural and deceptive magic; which, it is believed by the less credulous among the Egyptians, finds its chief agents in certain perfumes and drugs, which affect the vision and imagination. (See Lane's " Modern Egyptians," z Vols., London, 1837; which forms part of the series known as "The Library of Entertaining Knowledge.") The true magic is divided into 'il wee (or high), and soofl'ee (or low), the former being a science founded upon the agency of God, of His angels, and good genii, and on other lawful mysteries; to be always employed for good purposes, and only attained and practiced by men of probity, who by tradition, or from books, learn the names of those superhuman agents, and invocations which insure compliance with their desires. The soof'lee, or bad magic, is believed to depend upon the agency of the devil and evil spirits, and unbelieving genii; and to be used for bad purposes, by bad men. " To this branch," says our author, "belongs the science

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called, by the Arabs, es-Sehhr; which is a term they give to wicked enchantment."

The tape and pole climbing tricks above narrated, as well as the enchantment by which poor Esma was deprived of life, in the suffocating embrace of the bull's hide, would, of course, be ascribed to the latter branch of the occult science. Perhaps, the wise men of America might embrace all of William Eddy's apparitions within the same category! This, however, would not be the case in the land of the Pharaohs, for the calling up of the dead is included in the mysteries practised by the professors of il'wee. It appears to make some difference what sort of spirits are evoked, and for what purpose. The thousand and one stories of Scheherezade are filled with descriptions of all these kinds of magic, and the wonderful things done by the exercise of the power of mortals over genii; who of old were subject to the dominion of Solomon, and in later times are the slaves of whomsoever may wear the mystic ring, or rub the rusty lamp.

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CHAPTER XXI - SPIRITUALISM AGAINST RATIONALISM