Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive By William Dudley Pelley


Chapter II


T’IS my opinion after much observation, that no rational human being becomes a devotee of metaphysics unless he has first undergone some remarkable experience concerning natural phenomena, or has a queer welling-up of positive Cosmic Knowledge from the depths of his subconscious. The last is more vital than most person suspect. And it has but one origin: a definite memory of the past history of the soul, as, life on life, it experienced physical visitations!

I contend there is a substantial reason, why over million persons right here in America are disciples of faiths that make a tenet of recurrent birth. This subject of Continuity would never arise to perplex the human race if man did not carry in his subconscious mind vague recognitions of this life fundamental. His perplexity is really a form of conflict—between his own subconscious knowledge and the fiats of superstition.

For instance, we know that the human body doesn’t survive, but is buried in the ground and subsequently disintegrates—and no one sheds a tear over such disintegration. Why not? –Because it isn’t a cosmic verity. But the survival of the soul is a truth of the Cosmos and therefore it persists as a challenging equation. True, we don’t know all the factors and rules of its solution. But the fact that there is a solution is expressed in the impulse toward determination of the process—the why and therefore of the mystery as a mystery.


I KNOW that in my own life, up to nearly my fortieth year I had alternate periods, oscillating back and forth between doubt of continuity and conviction of it. I recall a bitter day in adolescence after I had read a pamphlet by an avowed atheist who had made out an excellent case for the termination of life with the cessation of the heartbeat. So clever was his logic that for twenty-four hours I existed in despair. I wasn’t old enough to cross-question myself as to why I should feel that awful despair. What difference could it possibly have made to me that losing my identity was something to worry over? Whence came my worry? Why should it have occurred to me to want to survive at all? Such fears must have a sounder basis than mere self-awareness functioning. And after all


Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

just what was self-awareness?

Then in practical day-to-day newspaper work came flashes of vague endurance, which puzzled as they terrified me. I had uncanny presentiments of having lived in a certain place before, knowing features of terrain, feeling a familiarity with certain types of people that I tried to explain as hereditary instincts. Oh, more than all else, in my police reporting I would be called to see souls go out of the flesh by accident or tragedy. And I would behold on their faces a peace that surely betokened knowledge not of earth—an acquiescence to destiny that carried neither fright nor personal concernment.

At another time in my early thirties, I cranked a small cheap automobile in gear, at the top of a hill. It leaped into motion, bearing me down and dragging me 300 feet with my body beneath its chassis. Grimly clutching the refractory crank that had done the mischief, I was confident throughout every inch of those 300 feet that the termination of my life had certainly arrived. Yet, in that supremely tragic moment, all fear deserted me. I found myself saying, “Well, I’ve reached it. Now I’ll see what this ‘dying’ is like.”

And yet, on the other hand, these words were not positive proofs of psychic survival. I did much reading in biography, to see how others had solved the problem. But strangely enough, of Spiritualism and Theosophy I had little acquaintance. Looking back, it seems surpassing strange that when I lay down to sleep on an epochal night in California, and had the experience which has now been read by twenty millions of people, Spiritualism and Theosophy were even the least bit repulsive—the former because of the charlatanry practiced too often beneath its cloak, the latter because the newspapers reported the Theosophists as believing that the Master Christ would return to earth in the body, of a youthful Hindu. Which was doubly repulsive…although again I did not pause to ask why.


MY FIRST introduction to the possible validity of natural phenomena came after World War I. A few weeks before America joined the Allies, I was taken out of my Vermont newspaper office and sent on a war correspondent’s job in the Orient. I left behind me in America, among other relatives, a brother-in-law 22 years old, with whom I had worked in a publishing business. We had been bosom pals, and had often lain together in bed at night discussing between I left for the Far East, however, this thing happened:

Knowing that I would probably be gone many months, on a Sunday afternoon in 1917 a group of friends and relatives made up a motor picnic on the Mohawk Trail outside of North Adams, Mass, as a little farewell outing. Among this group were this brother-in-law and a nurse from Brooklyn City Hospital, whom my brother-in-law had not met until this specific afternoon. I shall call her Nurse Agnes.

This picnic party was destined to be notable, though it passed at the time similar to many other outings, and the next week found me on my way to the Orient. While in Japan, the Siberian Intervention was determined upon and I enlisted in


Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

the only available position –that of Red Triangle secretary with the Japanese troops. I went to Siberia and became an impromptu consular courier, traveling 7,000 miles in that unhappy country during the early days of the Bolshevik regime. Coming down into Japan again, I found mail awaiting me that brought the first intelligence from home in many months. In that mail was a newspaper clipping containing an account of my brother-in-law’s enlistment and subsequent death of the “flu” at Camp Devens. This demise so affected my domestic affairs, that I cut short my trip and took the next eastward steamer. Now my brother-in-law—whom I introduce as Ernest—had married just before starting for Camp Devens, and his premature death left his bride so distraught that she turned to experiments in Spiritualism. The Spiritualism were holding their annual summer encampment at Lake Pleasure, Mass, near by, and she attended several of their sessions and contrived many sittings with trustworthy mediums. On my return to Vermont, she sought me out in quandary. “I’ve heard from Ernest!” she announced. “But I don’t know what to make of it. He ‘came through’ to a medium—apparently—tried to convince me of his existence, and gave me explicit direction for solving financial problems left by his passing. But that wasn’t all! Ernest kept saying over and over, ‘Please thank the nurse of the Mohawk Trail for what she did foe me!’ what nurse could he have meant?”

Now Ernest’s wife had not been with us on that motor picnic and had never met Nurse Agnes. Had Ernest mentioned her, I submit that his widow, Pauline, would have identified her. Still that isn’t the point. Puzzled as to what the connection should have been between a soldier in Camp Devens and a graduate nurse in a Brooklyn hospital, I at once tried to get into communication with our nurse of the picnic. She had vanished! My family dismissed the matter for a time. In fact, a year padded. Then one day in Vermont we got a letter from our missing nurse. She was coming home from the Far East, where she had been in army service, and would presently visit us. The letter was mailed from Vladivostok.

Now I had been in Vladivostok several months before, and it seemed incredible that Nurse Agnes should have been stationed there without my knowing it. All the same, she had done so. Shortly after I had left for the Orient, she had resigned her position with the Brooklyn City Hospital and gone into army service.

Eventually she had been assigned to the contingent of American troops participating in the Intervention. She had arrived there with the American soldiers while I had been “in-country,” and taken up her duties at the military base hospital in Golden Horn Bay.

I had come out when the war closed, gone through to Japan without seeing her, and eventually sailed home. Unique though the situation was, Nurse Agnes had been on that last picnic party on the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts before I left the United States, and she had been back in Vladivostok when I left the Far East for my return trip home.


Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

It was this peculiarity of leaving her behind me at each end of the trip that caused comment in my family for a period. Finally the day came when Nurse Agnes stepped off the train in Vermont, came to the house, and sat down with us fort the evening meal—a meal at which the conversation naturally was concerned with our Siberian experiences.

We talked about the Czechoslovakians, the Bolshevists and the Japanese. Finally we got around to a discussion of the part played by the American soldiers in the war. That brought up a reference to the cruel inroads of influenza among the troops in the draft camps throughout the closing months of 1918. My wife was deeply affected.

“You know, of course,” she remarked to Nurse Agnes, “that the flu got Ernest at Camp Deven. He was among the first of the soldiers to die from it. He never got over to France.” Nurse Agnes had a queer expression on her face. “I ought to know,” she said. “Your brother Ernest died in my arms!” For an instant an electric suspense held about our table. My wife found voice enough to ask, “Were you at Camp Devens?”

Nurse Agnes nodded. “It was my first assignment after leaving Brooklyn Hospital for the army service. I began nursing the boys at Camp Devens and stayed until orders came for my transfer to the Orient.” “And Ernest died in your arms!”

“He was one of my first patients. I remembered him at once. We were all of us on a picnic together, you recall, on the Mohawk Trail the Sunday before you left for the Coast to take ship to Japan.”

Silence came then and lasted so long that Agnes demanded to be told what made it.

“Ernest came to his widowed bride, Pauline,” I answered, “through a trance medium at Lake Pleasant, and told her to thank you for making his last hours comfortable.”

It was then Nurse Agnes’s turn to be jolted…


CONSIDER as a scientific psychical fact, this thing that had happened. Ernest had gone to Camp Devens and died of the flu long after we had quitted the United States. His body buried. Pauline had not given a thought to any special nurse—or nurse—at the base hospital who might have cared foe her husband, until the medium had conveyed that revealing message at Lake Pleasant. She had been too much immersed in her grief to think of much besides her loss. “The Nurse of the Mohawk Trail” meant nothing to her either, I say again, for had she been present on the picnic, or had Ernest mentioned her before he departed for his fatal rendezvous at camp, Pauline would have had no difficulty in placing the nurse mentioned in the medium’s communication. The whole episode had been sealed, however, till Nurse Agnes came home, sat at our table, and unlocked it by her statement. The medium herself had known nothing about Pauline’s visit, in order to prepare herself for giving such a message in advance, for Pauline had gone to Lake Pleasant a lone and capriciously on the


Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

spur of the moment. Here, evidently, was a bona fide and unchallengeable instance of the conscious soul of our soldier-boy getting a message through to his folks after physical demise, about a person whose own testimony was required months later to make it intelligible.

I remember going to bed that night, and for many nights thereafter, trying to figure out how the medium could have rooked Pauline. There had been no connection between the medium and Nurse Agnes, for the latter h ad departed for Vladivostok soon after, and besides, Nurse Agnes had no use for mediums and never consulted them. Certainly she would not consult one in regard to my brother-in-law, who had simply been a deceased soldier whom she had happened to meet once, on a Sunday afternoon picnic. When I had exhausted all explanations having to do with intentional fraud and trickery—my practical mind seeking some solution that had to be strictly material—I finally accepted the more rational causation for the incident: that Ernest must be alive, and existing in a thinking state—a state that contained functioning memory—for him to have mentioned Nurse Agnes at all. Ernest, as a matter of fact, was protagonist of my psychical discoveries, on and off, for the ensuing ten years. He was to bob up again and again in my experiments and experiences, as I shall presently relate. The war nurse, who had closed his eyes in Camp Devens, had come back to the United States and reported her part in the little drama, in 1920.

Five or six years were to pass before I next got proof of another sort confirming his “survival”…


MY NEXT concrete contact with the subject of discarnate intelligence came in 1925 in Springfield, Mass. I had gone to that city to spend a vacation with my married sister, Edna. Among her recent acquisition had been an ouija board. She brought it out one evening and asked me if I had ever seen one work. I pooh-poohed such nonsense till she asked me to sit down opposite her and try my hands upon it.

Immediately with celerity the tripod started moving. We wet through the usual banter—or I did—accusing one another of subconsciously shoving it. But soon the little table commenced to spell out a message that I realized could only have come from Ernest again. He—or at least the planchette—was spelling out a reference to something that had happened up in Vermont between Ernest and myself that Edna did not know about. I said “across the board” to my sister, “Do you think you might be able to work this gadget without my hands upon it?” “Why?” asked Edna.

“Because if this is Ernest operating the planchette, I want to put a question to him absolutely proving his identity without my hands formulating the answer from my subconscious mind.”

“Go ahead,” said Edna, “I’ll try.”

“Ernest,” I addressed the blank atmosphere, “if you’re within sound of my voice and recall our business transactions in Vermont, suppose you spell out the


Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

amount of money that you and I paid Verne Adams at Lake Raponda one Sunday afternoon as option money on lease of a building in Wilmington where we were intending to start a daily newspaper.”

Having delivered myself of this, I sat back in my chair and shoved my hands to the small of my back.

With only Edna’s hands on the gadget, the little wooden pointer shot swiftly about the alphabet and offered the answer:

“Ask me a hard one, Dud! We paid him ten bucks!”

IT WAS exactly the sort of answer that Ernest would have given had he been present in the flesh. Moreover, the sum named was absolutely accurate. Only he and I and the Adams party had known of the transaction. The Adams party was still up in Vermont and Edna scarcely knew of him. Ernest and I had paid down a ten-dollar ball that Sunday to planchette spelled out the sum, I was sitting three to four feet back from the table with my hands behind me. I know there is such a thing as Cryptothesis, or the reading of the mind by vigilant discarnates. But my sister Edna was by no means one of these. She had simply touched her fingers lightly upon the pointer and the pointer had traveled unerringly to the figures.

What was I to think?

Edna took her hands from the board, learned back in her chair and remarked, “You know, when I’m going about my housework during the day, I have the constant feeling that Ernest is going to step out around the corner of a door, or be waiting for me when I go upstairs.”

She leaned forward and laid her fingers again upon the planchette. At once it shot into action. We followed the words it spelled—

“What’s the matter with you, Edna? I’m not interested in scaring you. Don’t you know that I’m your friend?”

After delivery of this quasi-consolation, the planchette wandered about the board’s smooth surface for a time. Suddenly it shot into action again.

“Your Uncle Samuel,” it spelled out, “is tonight lying at the point of death. We think he is about to make the Passing. You will receive a telegram in the morning that he is dead and the funeral set for Tuesday. Better get ready to attend it.”

This was disconcerting. Uncle Samuel—my father’s younger brother and my favorite uncle—lying at the point of death! And a funeral in prospects the first of the week! We looked at each other aghast.

“Well,” I finally remarked, arising, “no matter what happens tomorrow, I’m due to get a disappointment. If the telegram comes, I’ve lost a beloved relative. If it doesn’t come, I’ve lost faith in the evidence that the ‘dead’ are alive and can tell us what’s about to happen in the future.”

I wanted no more of the ouija board that night, however, and we went to troubled slumbers to await the morrow’s developments. Morning came. It brought no telegram.

My Uncle Samuel was not dead.



Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

We did not attend any funeral that Tuesday.

“Aha!” I said to Enda. “Your ouija board is a lot of apple sauce!” “Yes,” she agreed ruefully, “I suppose it is.”

Dismissing the whole episode from my mind as some freak of the subconscious, I went back to my literary labors in New York.

But mark you what happened—

Three months later Enda was visiting in Lynn, Mass, and started telling about the incident of the Ouija message.

“What specific date was it?” my uncle’s wife cried. Enda fixed the date precisely.

“That was exactly the night,” my aunt affirmed, “that Sam was so afflicted with blood-poisoning from a carbuncle on his neck, that we didn’t expect him to live until morning.”

Enda wrote me what she had learned.

“Well,” I thought to myself, “it might easily be explained by mental telepathy!”


STILL I had no real faith in the validity of Spiritism—no satisfying proofs of discarnate consciousness. I tried to “wade through” a book by Sir Oliver Lodge, and tossed it aside as bizarre or banal. I even wrote a facetious —and happily, unpublished—magazine story in which I made a great dramatic wallop out of the possibility that Raymond was alive somewhere in flesh, but couldn communicate with his family because it would blast his father’s high prestige. It was not until the early part of 1928, when I had withdrawn to a little writing-bungalow near the foot of Mt.Lowe in Altadena, California, that the mystic curtain suddenly rolled backward and showed me something of the colossal, beautiful machinery that operates—as I call it—behind physical life. I have told elsewhere how I was writing a book on “The Urge of People” that should try to explain great racial migrations throughout ages past. One day I came suddenly against the question: “What were races?” Why should one group of human beings be black-skinned, and another group yellow? Before morning I would have many answers.

I have told how I went to bed pondering the question, to read until I was drowsy and then drop off to sleep. I have stated that I was in excellent health, not given to any mental depression or addicted to drugs beyond the ordinary smoker’s consumption of nicotine which had been going on for twenty years with no untoward results on my heart or my health. In “My Seven Minutes in Eternity” I have narrated what happened that night. I went out of the physical body—to all intents and purposes. I met Ernest face to face. I met other relatives, I met friend whom I had known in other life cycle and previous states of physical consciousness! And I knew them as familiarly and intimately as I knew those who, like Ernest, had been as close to me as Bill Pelley in this life!

Ultimately I will print later on in this story what my friends on the other side have had to say since about my visit with them that epochal night. But it wasn’t until I had returned into my body, stunned by what I had seen and learned, that I


Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

began to get proofs of continuity and individual survival that should convince others beyond all assailment that earthly life is but a visit in a room, visit in many rooms, life upon life.

If I bear a little but heavily, and to some unpleasantly, on the process of rebirth, life cycle on life cycle in physical bodies, I ask indulgence. What I have seen, what I have been taught, what I have received as bits of mosaic in the great splendorful pattern of cosmic logic, is responsible for my position. Follow through the whole extent of my delineations, however, concerning cycles of rebirth, whatever your creed or personal preferences, and perchance I may be able to alter some of your antagonisms if you have them. And what I have to say may possibly help awaken your own psychic faculties. Of course, as I have often stated, the psychologists, the psychiatrists and the students of psychosis have since gone to great lengths to explain how I merely had a “dream” that California night. But after all is said and done, there should be more than one man’s say-so to convince the skeptics that such an experience was actual and not hallucination. Regardless of how I feel toward the realism of the experience myself, the fact remains that my personal mental or spiritual adventures cannot be checked by others from the mere telling of the story alone.

So it is that I now propose to go further into my personal prods of survival from my own investigations and experiences with others, to show how that California experience was only the commencement of a realization of a vast cosmic fact. And that story begins with my arrival in New York City during the summer of 1928 to consult with some members of the New York Society for Psychical Research about the phenomena I had undergone. I had suddenly found myself plunged out of my depth into a great sea of demonstrable mysticism. Scarcely knowing “what it was all about,” I had found myself prime actor in a stupendous drama of Aggressive Discarnation. Of course I know now “what it was all about”. It was, in a way, my role and brevet to contribute to a vast tidal-wave of enlightenment of the question of occupancy of flesh, and provide a prologue as I was able by means of my prestige in literary craftsmanship to the vast Aquarian Revelation that was slated to visit upon current humanity, altering the concepts of orthodox religion and giving man his correct cue as to what he might be going in the three-dimensional octave and what evolutions of spirit await him when he has mastered the lessons of Mortality. For such had I volunteered to enact my life-role in the first place. The enigma of Ernest and Nurse Agnes, resulting from that picnic on the Mohawk Trail, was the first indication that had come to me in thirty-eight years, however, that perchance this business of “the dead knowing not anything” had been the pronouncement of pompous ignoramuses. Maybe the “dead” were a whole lot more “alive” than we mortals in flesh, down here on the sea-bottom of this ocean of atmosphere. The year 1928 was my wholesale introduction to the certainty of it. I closed my affairs in California and took an apartment in New York.