Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive By William Dudley Pelley


Chapter XI

INTRODUCE the subject of discarnate e xistence in any mixed company and you are certain to find one individual present who responds positively and not a little pityingly, I dont believe in ghosts! they say it as though it settled the controversy as to whether ghosts had actuality or not. Usually the tone of voice implies, and I do not wish to hear any more about them either. Such people are saying, I have never had any authenticated experienced with souls in a nonmortal condition and had just as soon not have. I would not only be frightened if I did, Id be plain scared out of my senses. All of which are asseverations based on purest ignorance. Undoubtedly we have people somewhere in the United States who do not believe in radio, and I ran across an old mountain woman down in the State o f North Caroline a few tears ago who did not believe in the moving pictures. Come up to Asheville, I invited, and Ill take you to a movie show. You can see that pictures do move, for yourself. No, she repeated, I said that I didnt believe in them. I have long since suppressed any feeling of obligation to convince the I dont believe in Ghosts people that they should change their views. Mature people, I note, rarely quarrel with ignorance. Besides, most of those nonbelievers are probably afflicted with a prenatal fixation. It is not so much discarnation that they fear as the recognitions and admittances that discarnation carries with it. They have plunged into physical materiality as assort of spiritual anesthesia, to forget the terrible obligations of karmic adjustments, consciously. They want to live one day at a time on this place and persuade themselves that things are what they seem, or at least what mankind commonly names them. To admit the facts of discarnation, to witness phenomena attesting to the actuality of lift in more tenuous octaves, would make a perpetual controversy as to the value or reliability of this one. They like to think they are practical-minded, meaning that those who are wiser in such matters are featherheads. What they truly mean is, that the9ir standards will become upset whereby they measure the marvel known as Existence and lest it happen, they will have more peace of mind if you will change the subject. Then again, there is always the terror of confronting a situation with which the beholder has no weapons to cope.

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

It is the old, old panic of meeting the dinosaur without the knotted club.

THROUGHOUT my childhood, I recalled the atmosphere of the weird, with which I heard father tell of phenomena in a house into which he and mother moved when first married, though not the house where I was born. Those were the days when young couples spent most of their engagement period getting their forthcoming home ready and matrimony was the final act enabling them to move in together and inhabit it.

Father at the time was foreman of a shoe factory in Lynn. Mass, attending divinity school nights. He had proposed to mother and been accepted. They rented a modest cottage and proceeded to get it ready for occupancy. Movable rugs were unknown back there in the Eighties; each room was measured and carpets bought, cut and sewed to fit. Newspapers were laid down against the flooring and then the finished carpets tacked along the edges. The only time father had for such work was very early morning, his evenings as aforesaid being taken up with his studies in Boston Seminary. He would arise at four-thirty or five oclock as the world was just getting light, go out to the new home and work on the carpets till seven.

One morning he had let himself into the house and was sitting cross-legged on the floor, sewing carpets in an upper front room, when he distinctly heard footsteps in the empty rooms below. Thinking that perhaps the landlord had come in, he went to the edge of the banisters and called down, Hello! Whos there?

He received no response to his summons. But he heard the footsteps retreating across naked floors, out toward the kitchen.

Going downstairs he passed from room to room, looking in each. No one seemed to be anywhere in the house. He called again. No one could have retired through the back door because he declared that he found it securely locked. He was about to explore the cellar when he gave a start of fright. He was hearing the same foot treads in the rooms above his head. Whoever had gotten into the house must have managed to get above stairs. If there was one thing that my dad possessed, it was plenty of moral courage. I can believe that he did what he says he did: moved cautiously up the flight to ascertain without giving his own presence away, in which room the steps were being made.

Outside the sun was coming up. Street vistas were still filled with mist, with an occasional early laborer going to work afoot, carrying his dinner pail. No noises were perceptible anywhere but those footfalls right there in his new house. In a moment more, father says he heard the footsteps coming from a small bedroom at the back end of the upper hallway. Creeping forward, he threw open its door.

The room was as barren of either furniture or intruders as it was the day the structure was built.

Father at that time was one of those who didnt believe in ghosts. He entered

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

the room and looked all around him. He even pulled open the door of the rooms one closet. Still he found no one.

And while he was debating the origin of the noises, the some uncanny footfalls sounded in the bigger room on the other side of the corridor. And the only way that an intruder could have gotten into that opposite room would have been to pass through the walls. Right there my parent began to get scared Nevertheless he pussyfooted across the corridor and threw open the larger bedrooms door. That room too was blank. Shutting the corridor doors to both rooms, he debated whether he should bolt. But waiting with his hands on both doorknobs to see in which room the footsteps sounded next, he suddenly heard them distinctly in the smaller bedroom. He pushed its door open. Again he could see nothing, and with the morning sun well risen, the compartment was well lighted.

His terrors got the better of him then, and he departed that house with alacrity. Next morning when he returned, he had a companion. But as the next morning, and several began to take courage. Maybe it had only been a freak of the houses acoustics. Saying nothing to mother, in order not to frighten her and spoil her happiness in their new nest, he finally got the carpets laid and the furniture in. they were duly married and began their housekeeping. They heard no more footfalls on the premise, but mother had not been domiciled in the rooms a week before father saw that dome strain was beginning to tell upon her. He was restless and worried. Finally he asked her what was troubling her.

Perhaps youll think Im silly, she answered him, but somethings decidedly wrong with this tenement. How do you mean, wrong? father wanted to know. It only happens at night, after youve gone to your classes, when Im washing supper dishes at the sink in the downstairs pantry. What happens?

Thats just what I cant say. I only wish I could. I hope you wont laugh at me when I tell you that on several occasions Ive had the direct and positive sensation of a strange mans entering and taking his position behind me while Im finishing up my pantry work.

A man! Have you seen him?

No, but Ive felt him.

Father then fessed up what had happened to him while laying the carpets. Lets move out of this place, mother said firmly.

They did move out of the placeinto the house where later I was born. But the mystery continued. Another young married couple with whom they were acquainted, took the place and lived there subsequently. I hear youve moved, mother said to this young woman meeting her of an afternoon. We certainly did, the other replied. I can tell you that Henry Avenue house has a haunt!

Then you discovered him too!

I wouldnt keep on living in the place for a million dollars a week. Why, every

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

evening when Id go to wash the dishes at the pantry sink, someone would come in and stand behind me. Id swear I could hear him breathing!

THIS sort of phenomena would seem to postulate that discarnate bodies possess enough weight to cause floor boards to creak, or to give off sounds of their literal footfalls, even though not opaque enough to be seen by the eye. Flammarion the great astronomer, in his studies into haunted houses in France and Belgium, came to such conclusion. How it is done is beyond determination by present day physics. In his celebrated report on the mysterious happenings in Calvados Castle he relates how the discarnate, operating on the premises, delighted among other spookish pranks to clump through the great rooms of the place with what seemed to be small boards attached to its feetboards twenty inches long and eight to ten inches wide. It seemed to be able to pass through the walls with these freakish appendages, moving from one room to another.

One night the Abbe of Calvados, having undertaken to sleep in one of the bedrooms in aid of Flammarions investigations, heard these prankish f ootsteps coming across the room next his own. The abbe was undertaking to sleep in a fat French featherbed. They made affidavits that the board footfalls not only approached through the wall across from the foot of the bed, but traversed the width of the room and mounted the side bed over footrail. Across the bed they walked within an arms length of the abbes quaking body. Moreover, the obsess feather bolster showed the imprint of the oblong feet as they made their final imprint on the pillow and then passed out through the wall against which the head of the bed was shoved. We can conjecture that the abbe got to the devil out of there as fast as his holy legs permitted him. What we are trying to do, groping about as to why these noises and imprints are perceptible, is to reconcile the physics of this octave with the physics of octaves transcendent to our own. The time may come when we will do it. At present we are only scratching the surface of facts about the physics of our own octave. But as partial explanation of why such phenomena should occur at all, I can fall back on my own strange experience in 1929 in laying one of these locality-bound discarnates.

I WAS typing in my flat on West 53rd Street in New York one August morning when the doorbell rang and I pushed the gadget to admit a lady member of our Manhattan psychical group who had lately taken a job as caretaker of an old mansion up on the Albany Post Road above Ossining. She had taken the job not so much for the money involved as for the sec lusion it gave her to finish a book on which she was working.

I want you to come up to that old house and stay there throughout one night, she begged.

Well, what do you think is wrong with it? I asked.

The place has got a haunt thats a honey, she responded in her usual practical

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

manner of expression. Around midnight some nights, the worst sort of mischief breaks loose up in the third floor, and its now getting so bad that even I cant stand it.

My caller was well versed in most phases of psychical research, so if she maintained that things were bad, they must be very bad indeed.

I might as well tell you, she went on, that the old place is going to wrack and ruin because of the high jinks that go on inside it. The family that formerly occupied it is now living in Europe. When they gave it up and moved abroad, they took all their furniture out and stored it excepting some wicker chairs and a bed that I put on the screened porch overlooking the stretch of lawn to the south. There isnt a stick of furniture anywhere else in the place. There arent even electric lights on in the house; I use an oil study-lamp myself, when I went to work evenings. Whey knew of my interest in psychical phenomena and offered me a free home there for the summer if I wished to stay and keep neighborhood boys from breaking the windows. But Im telling you again, the fumadiddles are too much. Theyre getting on my nerves.

Well, I persisted, specifically what happens?

Racket! Hazel answered. Racket and strange greenish lights! Youd think some midnights that a whole family was kicking wash-boilers over the third floor and down most of the stairs. And then theres a phantom white dog that nearly cost my sister her life last night

Your sister! I cried. Whats she got to do with it?

My married sister came on from Ohio last week to spend her vacation with me. Shes going to become a mother toward the last of November. Last night, just before we retired on the bed on the screened sough porch, she came to me wanting to know who owned the white setter dog that seemed to be racing around the house as though getting evening exercise. I said that I hadnt heard of, or seen, any such creature.

Is your sister psychic? I asked.

No, said Hazel, and fairly scared to death by anything abnormal. Of course, when she showed up to spend her vacation with me, I didnt want to tell her what went on some nights in that house. So I didnt make much comment about the mysterious white dog. Anyhow, we went to bed after carefully locking all the screen doors. I always do that, anyhow, being afraid of tramps so near the railroad and the river. Suddenly about two oclock this morning, Mabel awakened me with the most ungodly shriek. She was sitting up, leaning on an elbow, the bedclothes pu;;ed to her chin and indicating something at the foot of the bed.

The dog? I suggested.

Yesthe dog! The creature was right there inside our solarium sleeping-porch, standing on its hind legs, with his front paws on our bed. What became of if?

Thats what caused Mabel almost to lose her baby. The fool beast sprang down and went with one long graceful leap straight through the screen door,

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

which was shut tight and locked. Mabel has gone back to Ohio. Ive just seen her off at Grand Central. Will you be one of a party from our psychical group to go up there tonight and see what can be made of all the fiddle-faddle? I know it sounds crazy and against all laws of reason. But thats what Im up against, and the thing is getting on my nerves.

WELL, the long and short of it is, that we made up a party with two more persons, one a famous New York magazine editor, got together the food for a basket picnic, and drove up beyond Ossining in the late afternoon.

The old place, built back in the time of mid-Victorian architecture, overlooking a lovely expanse of the Hudson, was entirely surrounded by a grove of elms and maples. It was reached by a private driveway back from the Post Road. The house itself, three stories in height, with a campanile, ran north and south, the lawn stretching from the south wing being entirely banked with frowsy shrubbery which had known no gardeners care for years. Before it got dark, we inspected all the great cavernous rooms and bedchambers. They were, as Hazel had reported, barren of furnishings of any sort. Not even shades hung before the windows and most of the weather-beaten blinds were shut.

In sunset we spread our baskets contents on the lawn and had our picnic meal. After the sun had vanished, the mosquitoes began to bite, s o we withdrew into Hazels sleeping porch and lit the studies lamp. We assumed, of course, that we had five or six hours to wait for the nocturnal phenomena to start. I had lighted my pipe and was tilted back in a hard -bottomed chair against the middle post of one of the window -casings that held screens themselves, grew a bank of ragged lilacs. Suddenly during a lull in our conversation, it seemed that I heard a strained whispering voice. I could have sworn that it came from amidst the lilacs banked against the screen ten inches from my head. Im Scott Hillstone, it addressed me. Scott Hillstone isnt the name that was spoken, but it was a sufficiently unusual name so that I couldnt have called it up at the moment for the sake of deceiving myself.

I held up my hand in a warning to my companions to keep silent. Yes? I said aloud.

I was murdered down here at the foot of the embankment, the labored whispering said next. If Id been able to go on living in my body, I think Id be eighty-eight years old.

Get a pencil! I said quickly to hazel. Take this detail down. Were going to get something! Then I pressed my head against the screen and lilacs. Go ahead, I coaxed. What about it?

Its a long story. Thank God Ive found someone who can hear me while I tell it back before the turn of the century I was in the stock investment business down in New York. I had a crooked partner. He stole one of our clients trust funds and contrived to put the blame on me Can you still hear me? Yes. I can still hear you. What was your partners name?

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

I dont want to tell you that. After all, Ive forgiven him but I went to Sing Sing for two years, being unable to show I wasnt guilty. For two long years I was a convict for something I hadnt done and every day of those two years, I schemed and planned how I was going to get even after I got out Hazel was writing rapidly. I asked, But how were you murdered? Finally the time came for my discharge. They let me out one afternoon about six oclock. When I finally came through the gate, two men who looked like Italian thugs seemed to be awaiting me they asked me if my name was Hillstone I said that it was they asked me if I had known that I was framed on that theft charge and that my partner had done it deliberately. I said that I did and was going to have my vengeance. Then one of them said, weve got plenty grudge against that partner of yours, too. The three of us should put our heads together and find a way to get him thats sure-fire. Suppose we stroll up the railroad tracks and talk it over. These men seemed to be in earnest and I fell into step beside them. We walked northward along the New York Central tracks till we came to a spot just below the embankment on which this house is built. The story was going better now, or I was tuning my ear the better to get the details. Hillstone, if there was indeed such a person, went on Suddenly a fast freight train hove in sight, speeding down the river toward New York. We saw its headlight and stepped aside out of the tracks to let it pass. It was fairly dark by this time. Just as it was about to get abreast of us, I felt a violent push and a frightful shock and somehow I was free on my body. What was left of my body, when the red lamp of the caboose had vanished around the southern curve, was being kicked into the bushes by those scoundrels, who presently darted into the rows of freight-cars standing idle on the sidetracks, and were gone

In other words, said I, to encourage the narrator, those two men must have been in league with your partner.

They were, the weak and ragged whispering continued. Expose him, and he had hired them to make an end to me. So I never showed up at home my wife and family took that for confirmation that I had been guilty, and had no defense to make, and had gone back to a life of crime. Have you got folks living now who might identify you and your report? Yes, my wife is living she was much younger than I was and one of my girls is living but I wouldnt want to disturb her present peace of mind Ive had a long rime to think its my sister to whom I want to get a message about what actually happened. Would you somehow manage to get a message to my sister?

What sort of message?

Shes an old lady now, living in Tucson, Arizona. But on October shell be up in New Englandat Winchester, Mass.for the winter. I wish that youd write her at Winchester, the address Ill tell you, and describe to her just what Ive said to you. I dont want you to write her in Tucson. The people shes living with aren sympathetic and might put her in an institution thinking her crazy, if she began

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

talking suddenly about hearing from her brother. Shes the only one I want to have known that I never did go back to any life of crime. Write her in Winchester after October first. Will you do that? Ive remained around here, around the spot where it happened, an awful long time, just to have someone come along to whom I could talk.

I said: Are you, then, the party whos been making all the racket on these premises of late? Are you the haunt thats mage people abandon this house because what goes on here has gotten them so frightened? I dont make any trouble that I know of, the sad voice responded.

What about this white setter that races around the place in deep twilight or moonlight?

Oh! Now I know what you mean. I guess if theres any upset about the premises, its Mrs. Makarian making it.

And whos Mrs. Makarian?

Shes some sort of foreign lady whose husband used to be in the oriental rug business down in New York. He and she built the house, I understand. And she flies into a terrible rage sometimes; at the way the present owners are letting it go to wrack and ruin. Shes got such a dog.

And small wonder, I returnedHazel still writing frantically and throwing her rapidly-filling sheets on the floorwhen you people whove made the Passing are allowing yourselves to become discernible to those still in their bodies and continually scare them to death. Can you connect with Mrs. Makaeian and talk to her?

Yes, I think so.

All right, well make a bargain with you. This young woman wants to remain here for the rest of the summer and finish her novel without being bothered by Mrs. Makarian her poodle, or any other signs of discarnate activity around the premises. You see Mrs. Makarian and make her understand that the reason present owners are letting this fine old mansion go to ruin is because of her annoying rages, which they heat at times with their physical ears. Tell her to stop the whole of it and tie up her dog. Shell see then, quickly enough, that the property will come back. You do that and well promise to write your sister about this communication.

But after October first!

Yes, after October first. Now where should we address such letter?

Have gave us the name and Hazel recorded it. With a weak Thank you! then, and a promise to be on about better spiritual business, his whispering died away

WE WAITED for ghostly phenomena at midnight. But none came. At two oclock I stretched a hammock out between two of the trees on the side lawn, while the women made themselves comfortable as they could in the solarium. Next day we drove back to Manhattan

By the end of the fortnight I saw Hazel again. She reported that never the

Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

slightest sign of any ghost phenomena had showed or been heard since that nights talk with the murdered stockbroker. Nor had she heard any more whisperings herself.

Quite recently I rode up the Hudson River on the Empire State Express and chanced to glance upward at the old mansion from the window of the Pullman. It was renovated, painted, landscape and gardened, and very much occupied. Apparently the ghostly phenomena had stopped with that night. Now comes the strangest part of the episode.

After October first, Hazel wrote the letter to the sister and directed it to Winchester.

After ten days it was returned to her by the postmaster in that place. Across its face was scribbled a notation in pencilThis addressee deceased in Tucson,

Ariz., around Sept. 1st last!

Scott Hillstone apparently hadnt been aware that his sister was going to make her own Passing in a mere matter of days.