Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive By William Dudley Pelley


Chapter VI

I LITTLE realized, as I lay down to sleep that memorable night in May 1928, that I had come to the end of my secular career.

All that I had lived since birth, up to that moment, had been nothing but worldly preparation for that which was to open with the coming of morning. My life was to change, my thinking was to change, and even my mind and its properties were to change. I was to find out the true reasons for my life at all, and proceed henceforth to discharge my Job.

The discarnate experience came and went. I found myself in possession of strange talents and powers. I went through six months of increasing awakening to the realities of life, and the significance of my experience.

But it was not until I consented to write the story of the whole uncanny episode foe the American Magazine, that my career opened definitely into channels that were to lead to … Soulcraft!

My interests in California had called me back there again, and I was living temporarily in Pasadena, when “My Seven Minutes in Eternity” was published throughout the nation.

Over and over again throughout my automatic writing work, the phrase had been used in connection with comment on the story, “Now is the time that was planned from the Beginning”. … But just what was meant I could not then decide.

With the appearance of the magazine, however, on the notion’s newsstands, I was quickly to realize that Kismet had spoken strangely but truly.

I HAD supposed that when that article appeared I would have to run a gauntlet of raillery or skepticism, slander or abuse. I had decided in advance to be prepared for commiseration from those who would think that my head had gone addled. I had an armor of defense-mechanism around myself—an air of indifference to the outcome that I by no means felt inside. My first reactions came from people with whom I had been intimate in business relationship in Pasadena and Hollywood.

Instead of an outburst of skepticism and scoffing, people sought me out with the

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

magazine surreptitiously concealed about their persons, to close my office door mysteriously and ask for confidential interviews while they gave me information.

I began to discover that the same experience had been undergone by my most intimate friends.

Man after man came into my office, apologized for his confession, then launched into details of psychic or discarnate experiences that soon had me wondering “where I had been all my life,” that so many people about me had been undergoing them in s silence that had never permitted me to know there were such things in the world.

I SHALL never forget one experience with such a man late one night in an almost-empty office where we had repaired for a private conversation.

I had gone back to C alifornia this time with the idea of permanently closing up my affairs, disposing of the bungalow home in which the experience had occurred, and returning to New York to make Manhattan my residence. With great difficulty I nipped off the threads of enterprise after enterprise in which I was embroiled, sold the lease on my office, disposed of such effects as I did not mean to transfer to Manhattan, and offered my real estate for sale. The landlord of the building in which my office had been, allowed me an empty room where I had moved a desk and some chairs. I sat in this room one night with a business associate with whom I had been connected for a year without the slightest inkling of knowledge that such matters were even known to him by hearsay. As we sat talking, I felt a strange vibration in my vicinity as though someone had taken a position behind me. My left arm, which had been supersensitized since I came back into my body that night six months before, told me that we were not alone in that office. Glanc ing at my companion, who had been talking until that moment about a business project, I saw his eyes widen and heard his voice sink till it trailed to a whisper.

“What’s the matter?” I said.

“Do you know there’s someone standing behind you?” he asked.

“Yes,” I admitted, wondering how he knew. “Do you mean you can see—?” “—He stand about six-feet two or three, dressed in long white robes… I can’t see his features; they’re so brilliant… he’s got his hand on your left shoulder… now he’s moved it to your right…”

All this time my friend—a solid, substantial businessman—was gaping at empty wall-space behind me, “I’m aware of it,” I assented. “I can feel the hand.” “I see,” Joe faltered, “a n-name … as though in burning letters, just over your head and across his chest. I can see the letters BAR… HAVA… I can’t read the rest—it’s blurred in his brilliance.”

I was puzzled. The name meant nothing then. Latter in New York I was to recall my friend’s second-sight phenomena with startling implication. The “vision” faded and we resumed our talk

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

I WENT over to Hollywood and met a friend with whom I had associated in my film ventures. Of all persons on the West Coast, I expected facetious comment from him. When I walked into his office, he had a copy of the American Magazine lying upon his desk, opened to my article. He looked up with a whimsical smile.

“Thank God, Bill,” said he, laying his opened palm upon the page, “you’ve come to your senses at last.”

“What do you mean, come to my senses?”

“Somehow I always thought you’d awaken someday to certain facts of life. It’s come in one night. You ought to be grateful.”

I had spent this man’s money, worn his clothes, slept in the same bed with him, driven his car, over a three-year period being in the closest business associations with him the while—without even knowing that he was an adept in metaphysics and performed such strange feats as talking with his brother nightly in a distant country by physical thought transference, besides having many experiences out of his body, in which he had seen himself in previous incarnations.

So it went.

Once I had “broken the restraint” or reticence by my article, I found scores of people ready to talk about such matters and attest to the validity of such phenomena. People in file land whom I had supposed would “razz” me until it hurt, would call me on the phone, waylay me in corridors, ask me into corners-to discuss similar experiences of their own and ask interpretation, several of these confidants had seen their relatives pass out of their bodies at death. It was all most unbelievable.

I GAVE away Laska, my police dog, to a friend, dismantled my bungalow, packed my goods for shipment. And yet night on night I was still doing my daily allotment of automatic writing, getting a grounding in metaphysical fundamentals that later was to stagger me again when in New York I came to compare the knowledge in my messages with profound books on the same subjects received by others.

Not only was it wholly unnecessary for me to read occult books written by others, but gradually I discovered that in many cases the wisdom I had been allotted surpassed that which had been compiled by the most erudite metaphysicians. I will return to these later in my story.

FINALLY one night I took another upward step.

With the goods of my household in process of moving, only a few chairs and a table cleared for use amid the crates and boxes, I was seated in a corner of what had been my library dictating my mirror-penmanship aloud to my nurse friend who had come up to assist me in my packing. Late in the clear California twilight, with scarcely a sound to break the crystal stillness, I glanced up at her in puzzled surprise.

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

“These words I’m writing backward … I’m hearing them spoken distinctly to me before my pencil pushes them out on paper!” I cried. “You’re sue?” she asked. “Or is it your imagination?”

“They’re being spoken clearly and distinctly within my head. I don’t need the pencil! I can hear them as plainly as I hear your voice. Take down what I give you as long as it continues.” She started to do so. The voice continued to talk on and on.

Frequently I interrupted it when some word was spoken that I did not understand.

Someone within that room, invisible, was definitely speaking to me, and I was hearing him!

The voice talked on and on, into the hours of early night. In the quarter-century that has passed since these weeks of which I am writing, I suppose five thousand persons have put the question to me, about how it “feels” to get the clairaudient voice inside one’s head? Do I hear it literarily or do both. I hear the communicating voice addressing me “in thought”. But strangely enough, I frequently know when the communicator is chuckling “in thought”. I have been in the midst of a message of gravest import when the room’s telephone has rung. I have excused myself as I might to guests who were present in the flesh. I have carried on a lengthy phone conversation about some business matter; to return to my chair and have the “voice” resume the clairaudient dictation from the middle of a paragraph.

That it is an independent intellectual force operating externally seems attested as well by the fact that on other occasions I have had this thought Voice speak to me in languages other than English—and ancient biblical Aramaic is the only tongue with which I am familiar outside of English. Six to twelve pages of purest Sanskrit was thus “dictated” or “overheard” one evening later in Manhattan—which on being recorded phonetically was quickly and readily translated by Sanskrit scholars who saw the original. I was to spend a prodigious nine years recording the 844 pages of the Golden scripts, and twenty-five years recording the 1,500,000 words of the Great Soulcraft doctrine that now is world-wide in its reading public. Today, up here in 1954, the physical rematerialization of many of these Mentors has long-since corroborated and confirmed what they have so generously conveyed to me. After that night I continued to rely on that clear Inner Ear. To show how accurate it became, this happened: After a fortnight of continued instruction in actual events ahead in my life, many of which have since come true, I found myself complaining because I was being held in California by an escrow that I could not close until I had more money. I felt it absolutely essential to return to Manhattan. But go I could not till the money was raised.

I had stopped sleeping in the bungalow and taken a room in a hotel in Pomona in order to be near some friends who lived there. Each night, after a day spent in closing my Pasadena affairs, I would get into my car and drive the thirty miles to

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

Pomona and bed.

One night I was especially upset at the way things were dragging. Suddenly came the Voice:

“You will have the money within 24 hours and be on the Santa Fee train tomorrow afternoon!”

“More mischief!” I lamented. “There’s not the ghost of a chance of my getting the cash I need within 24 hours. A miracle would have to happen.”

I had a bad half-hour. The Mischief-Makers were appearing again, evidently to hoax me so at a time so important. I abused them. I told them to pack themselves off and get out of my life.

The Voice was insistent, gentle, and patient.

“You will have the money within 24 hours and be on the Santa Fe train tomorrow afternoon!”

My friend and I ended our scripts in dismay. If any such money failed to materialize, I didn’t know what to do thereafter, or what Voice to trust. I locked the bungalow, backed the car from the driveway, took my friend home and started for Pomona.

I had a bad drive down. My life had all gone sixes and sevens. If I were to be hoaxed about this money promise, how could I depend on the other intimations of impending events and my part in them?

By the time I reached Pomona I was flaying myself for being so gullible as to so disrupt my affairs to follow such a Willo’-the-wisp. What had seemed so alluring was as the voice of forty devils sneering and jeering at me. And I was beggaring myself to go on serving them. Or so I thought. Then this happened swiftly: I found a garage for my car and walked over to the hotel. As I came in the door, the night-clerk sang out: “New York’s been trying to get you on the long distance phone ever since 8 o’clock, Mr. Pelley. They’ll call again at 11 o’clock and asked that you be here.”

New York! Who would call me at such an hour from Manhattan?

At 11 o’clock I was in the lobby when the phone-bell rang. It was one of the editors of the American Magazine.

“What are you doing out there all this time?” was the disgruntled demand across the continent. “There’s a mail like Lindbergh’s awaiting your answering here in the office from your Seven-Minutes article.”

I CAN’T go back till I’ve closed an escrow out here that will take a lot of money, I explained.

“How much money?”

I named the sum.

“Is that all that’s holding you? If we have that sum advanced to you by bank draft the first thing in the morning, will you be on the returning Santa Fe train tomorrow afternoon?”

“I will!” I promised.

“California is four hours behind New York in the matter of time. We’ll have our

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

bank transfer you the money so it will be available to you by the time you get out of bed in the morning.”

I fumbled the receiver upon its hook.

At nine-thirty next morning when I got to Pasadena, the sum was on deposit in my bank. I closed my escrow, caught the 2:30 train. The Voice had not hoaxed me. I was heading east, to New York for good.

ON MY arrival in New York after closing my affairs on the western coast, I took a bachelor apartment in the West Fifties and converted it into a combination living quarters and office. I furnished this apartment with the appointments of my California bungalow. I mention these furnishings because of an incident that occurred in connection with them, which I shall describe in a future chapter on Levitation of the Consciousness.

The bigger job that confronted me in that strange spring and summer of 1929 was the answering of the tremendous mail that came to me as a result of publishing “My Seven Minutes in Eternity,” in the American Magazine. Daily I would go over to the offices of the Crowell Publishing Company, on Park Avenue, and bring back armfuls of unopened letters in sheaves of heavy manila envelops. I have never fully counted how many of these there were, for they have been continually arriving over the years that have since intervened. They ran over thirty thousand.

Those letters, which I took away with me, were addressed to me personally. The editors of the American Magazine received an equally appalling burden of mail. The American’s circulation at the time Seven Minutes was printed, was approximately 2,250,000 copies. The great advertisers of the nation figure legitimately that every copy of a standard magazine is read by four to five people before it is finally given away, filed away, or destroyed. Figured on this basis, it may be suggested that “My Seven Minutes in Eternity” was read in that magazine alone by something like ten millions of people. Not all of them took the trouble to write either me or the publishers, expressing themselves upon the article, else I should probably be answering vast quantities of mail even to this day. But enough letters were received so that I kept one, and sometimes two, stenographers busy for nine months, acknowledging or commenting on the astounding epistles that the article prompted.

HAVING read the first letters, I sorted them into classifications. I found that at least 50 percent of them were merely letters of commendation, praising me for my “courage” in penning and printing such an article and attesting to the unspeakable inspiration the article had proven to my correspondents. The majority of these bagged me to go on and tell them more of such experiences; in fact, I understand that request was the burden of almost 90 percent of the mail that went directly to the American’s publishers. To these I gave a more or less formal reply, thanking the writers for their interest and good wishes and

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

promising to let them know when I next published anything further of similar tenor in the nation’s press.

The second great classification came from writers who had undergone similar experiences and wanted me to know about them. Some of these narratives would run to dozens of typewritten pages. Strange psychical experiences, adventures in the levitation of consciousness to distant parts of the earth or into the higher planes, the attested materializations of people who had “passed on”—these began to pile up until I realized that all unwittingly I had the nucleus for a miniature psychical research society in my private files. But what staggered me most of all in these testimony letters was the great number of persons from every walk of life, of every age and of both sexes, who avowed to a similar experience—or similat experiences—at some time in their present lives. And here was the amazing evidence that these correspondents were not fabricating—

In four cases out of five they would not only affirm having gone through exactly the same sensations as I went through in my own discarnate experience, but they would go further and give me details and descriptions about the sublimated planes of consciousness which I knew to be true because I had witnessed them on my own adventure, and yet I had said nothing about them in the article nor mentioned them to a living soul!

HOW DID these people get their information unless they had penetrated to a definite place, as I had claimed to have penetrated to a definite place, and seen or contacted exactly what I recalled having seen or contacted? In only two cases that I recall were there details given in letters that persuaded me the writers were fabricating, or the victims of delusions of grandeur. I recall in particular one astounding sheet of manuscript which I started to read, sent me from an address up in Massachusetts. As I perused the sheet I became increasingly astounded. Whoever had written the text was giving me the most minute descriptions of what I said and did that night on the plane that I reached after quitting my body.

It attested to my personal behavior; it spoke of the specific friends I contacted; it mentioned the mistakes of which I was guilty, in not recognizing certain “dead” friends at once on account of their enhanced personal aspect over that which I had known of them in mortal life.

How did this writer come to be apprised of such definite and truthful details? I

got to the bottom of the sheet and found this footnote:

“The above communication was sent through Mrs. Blank sitting in S …… Mass., on last Thursday evening, by Dr. N …… attesting to the veracity of Mr. Pelley’s published narrative. Dr. N. is spirit and has ‘been over’ since 1925.”

THE THIRD class of correspondents comprised that great army of readers who had recently lost loved ones of their own and wanted more specific details of their survival, their daily lives, customs, and possible abilities to communicate.

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

Some of these begged for more light in way so pitiful that it wrung my heart. They propounded questions to me which I simply had to answer. And yet the answers involved long expositions of cosmic law that would have been magazine articles in themselves. Some of them meant replies that would have taken me a half a day to answer. I simply could not do it. And yet the appeal of them haunted me.

There must be some way of getting this vital information out to people, information that current theology kept people from procuring, telling them that such was “sin” … I meditated on this problem through the balance of that year, trying to explain to the most pathetic cases, in as satisfactory a way as possible, why I had to respond in a manner so circumscribed.

MEANWHILE, this floor of correspondence was running into money that I could not afford. People begging me for advanced information would enclose a two-cent stamp for reply, and apologize profusely for taking up my time. Thereby they assumed they had done their whole duty, and there were many who later wrote abusively, accusing me of fraud, when I failed for purely economic reasons, to give them the satisfaction they sought. If I had really had such an experience, and was poss essed of so much information about the higher planes of life and the fact of survival, why was I not frank and generous with my responses?

I was spending three to five hundred dollars a week even to be courteous to these thousands of inquirers. No matter h ow short a letter I wrote, and I simply could not be short to most of them, the cost of answering was averaging 50c per letter. The American Magazine did not, and would not, help me stand a cent of this expense, although the publishers did make certain advances to me against future deliveries of fiction manuscripts when the demands on my time answering this correspondence withheld me from turning out my usual fiction and thus keeping up with my current expenses. Moreover, the American’s editors emphatically did not want any further articles on this great subject, after perceiving the furor, which the first had stirred up. “It is obvious that we cannot make the American a metaphysical magazine,” they announced, “and that is just what we might do if we continued to publish more articles by you along the some line. Moreover, we know of no corps of trained writers capable of handling such material in addition to yourself, and we must think of our other writers. There are just as good writers as yourself in these United States, and we must play equally with all of them; we cannot afford to let you become indispensable to us. Go back to your fiction and try to forget this whole faux pas in publishing Seven Minutes, as soon as possible!”

BUT THERE was no such thing as “trying to forget the whole faux pas” … for the public would not let me do it. Answering a correspondent’s first letter as politely and exhaustively as I could did not solve the problem. For every one-page letter that I would finally get around to answer, a five-page letter

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

would come back from that same person. Moreover, great numbers of them would pass my replies about, and that would breed more letters. But that was not all.

So titanic was the interest in this question of survival as I had attested to it, that the March issue of the American containing the original version of Seven Minutes disappeared from not only the nation’s newsstands —selling out clean! —But it disappeared from library shelves and cellars and attics where past issues of magazines u sually arrived before reaching the junk-man. Every back-number magazine shop, not only in Manhattan but throughout the country, became suddenly denuded of American Magazines for March, 1929. Uniformly they brought $1.00 a number whenever they could be located. I have known of cases where prices as high as $10.00 were paid for this specific issue. I saw scores of instances where the article was clipped out, pasted together, and carried in a pocketbook until it was ready to fall apart from much handling. So when an American Magazine could not be produced with the article I it, other publishers began to write the editors, or myself, asking permission to reprint the story in their own magazine and thus supply the demand. As I had written the article to get a great truth out to the public, and not to make money—since I could have written a fiction story in the same time and made twice as much money as I got for Seven Minute —permission was freely given for republication.

I had in my library at one time fully twenty publications besides the American that had reprinted the account. This added hundreds of thousands more to the number of readers who had seen the account as it first appeared. These too began writing their quota of letters.

AS A reasonably popular writing-man, I had penalized myself heavily for daring to open up a subject in which the reading public showed such interest. I had been with the American Magazine on and off as contributor since its inception in its present form in 1951. Once before, in September 1917, I had written a bit of literary work for them that had cleaned out all copies on the nation’s newsstands. The Crowell Publishing Company was my “bread and butter” in a manner of speaking.

It is not generally known to the public that writers uniformly go by “families” … there is the Saturday Evening Post group, the Hearst group, the Crowell group. High-priced popular writers acquire such personal relationships with editors from constant contact with them that they follow the legitimate practice of making all first submissions to the editors of the group who publish most of their material and give them greatest favors in the way of exploitation. I had been more or less identified with the Crowell group ever since the regime of the American’s great editor, John Siddell that ended with his death in 1923. But now having written Seven Minutes, it gradually came to me that I had been too successful in stirring up a mare’s nest. One of the American’s editors said publicly at a luncheon one noontime, which I attended at the home of a friend in

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

East 74th Street:

“Publishing Pelley’s Seven Minutes was one of the most disastrous mistake the American ever made. It aroused a demand on the part of the public, which the magazine couldn’t continue to supply. But worse than that, it diverted Pelley from a highly successful writing career. It turned a first-rate popular author into a second-rate metaphysician who has yet to prove himself.” This, remember, was in 1929.

SHORTLY after the publication of Seven Minute, those editorial luminaries on the American who had most to do with getting the original article published, handed in their resignations and left the company. I wrote two fiction stories for the magazine, mostly in the endeavor to discharge the advances made me when I could not work because of the mail that needed answering. Just before the resignation of this editorial regime, I also wrote a short serial for the American, with a slightly mystical motif. When the new editor took charge, I saw him only once and that not by his invitation. He graciously said that he had always liked my material, but that the American intended to conform to new standards of publishing; it was “going in” for sports, business articles, typically American from the metropolitan view point. The story with the small-town, or mystical motif was to be persona non grata.

I have written little since for the American Magazine.

BUT I could not suppress the interest that had been started. Mail, mail, mail! Day after day! Why didn’t I write more for the American? Why didn’t I write more like Seven Minutes for other magazine?

I tried, and the material was consistently refused—excepting in some of the smaller five-and-ten cent store periodicals where my name went unnoticed. Yet something had to be done! It came to me with overwhelming force that under the skin of the average person there was more real interest in this great subject than in all the “sports, business articles, and American from the metropolitan viewpoint” that would find publication in American periodicals in the next twenty years.

Whereupon came astounding directions from psychic sources instructing me to write a novel that should explain to distraught and perplexed people what they so avidly wanted to know.