FIRST, MOHAWK TRAIL
TIS 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
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 conflictbetween his own subconscious
knowledge and the fiats of superstition.
For instance, we know that the human body doesnt
survive, but is buried in the ground and subsequently disintegratesand
no one sheds a tear over such disintegration. Why not?
Because it isnt 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 dont
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
processthe 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 wasnt
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 earthan
acquiescence to destiny that carried neither fright nor personal
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, Ive reached
it. Now Ill 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 repulsivethe 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
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 correspondents 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
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
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-laws 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-lawwhom
I introduce as Ernesthad 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. Ive
heard from Ernest! she announced.
But I dont know
what to make of it. He came through
to a mediumapparentlytried
to convince me of his existence, and gave me explicit direction for
solving financial problems left by his passing. But that wasnt
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 Ernests 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 isnt 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
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
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 meala
meal at which the conversation naturally was concerned with our Siberian
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?
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 Agness
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
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 mediums 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 Paulines 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
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
trickerymy practical mind seeking some
solution that had to be strictly materialI
finally accepted the more rational causation for the incident: that
Ernest must be alive, and existing in a thinking statea
state that contained functioning memoryfor
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
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
celerity the tripod started moving. We wet through the usual banteror
I didaccusing 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. Heor
at least the planchettewas 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
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
said Edna, Ill
addressed the blank atmosphere, if youre
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.
myself of this, I sat back in my chair and shoved my hands to the small
of my back.
With only Ednas
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
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 Im
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.
forward and laid her fingers again upon the planchette. At once it shot
into action. We followed the words it spelled
Whats the matter
with you, Edna? Im not interested in scaring
you. Dont you know that Im
After delivery of
this quasi-consolation, the planchette wandered about the boards
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 Samuelmy
fathers younger brother and my favorite unclelying
at the point of death! And a funeral in prospects the first of the week!
We looked at each other aghast.
I finally remarked, arising, no matter what
happens tomorrow, Im due to get a
disappointment. If the telegram comes, Ive
lost a beloved relative. If it doesnt come, Ive
lost faith in the evidence that the dead
are alive and can tell us whats 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 morrows 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 uncles wife cried. Enda fixed the date
That was exactly the night,
my aunt affirmed, that Sam was so afflicted
with blood-poisoning from a carbuncle on his neck, that we didnt
expect him to live until morning.
Enda wrote me what she had learned.
I thought to myself, it might easily be
explained by mental telepathy!
STILL I had no
real faith in the validity of Spiritismno
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,
unpublishedmagazine 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 fathers 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 operatesas
I call itbehind 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 smokers 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 bodyto
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 wasnt 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 mans 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