THE DEPARTED DO RETURN
THERE has been, of
course, more deception, charlatanry, and downright humbuggery practiced
in the name of Spiritism in seeking to convince grieving people that
their loved ones are alive and under certain conditions can be restored
to them for a bit, than any other form of film-flam that human rascality
can devise. People who are attracted by Spiritism at all, seem to be
sharply divided into two classes: the utterly credulous and gullible who
are poignantly over ready to rationalize the faintest forms of
supernaturalityand mind you, I said
supernaturality and not substanceand the
die-hard skeptics who start out on the premise that every mediumistic
person is a fraud, that there are no such things as communicating or
manifesting spirits. Very, very finely drawn and qualified is the group
of persons between these two whose members have become convinced without
emotionalism either way that both communication and manifestation are
facts and who pursue their unique avocation on the theory that while
there are probably more fraudulent mediums than honest ones, people with
the true mediumistic attribute should by no means be made to pay for the
wiles of the renegades. Because anyone who would try to hoax a grieving
mortal soul on this side, for gain of any sort, is just thata
renegadeand nothing less.
The field of the explores into Spiritism presents the picture of the
proverbial sandwich, with the austere and inconvincible skeptics on the
top, the credulous on the bottom, and in between, the meat of the
balanced, restrained, discriminating investigators who approach each new
sιance from the stand point of,
Lets find out what
this new medium can do that adds to our store of wisdom in these
matters. If the person is fraudulent, sooner or later his hocus-pocus
will find him out.
Condemning the medium in advance, however, is entering the sιance
room with a closed mind and merely inhibits our own education and
enlightenment. Besides, after exploring in the psychical field over a
matter of years, the rational and unbiased investigator develops a sort
of instinct as to the presence of fraud. Truly great mediums, worthy to
be termed such, do not fiddle around with self-banging tambourines,
mysterious raps coming from the wainscoting or the
Why I Believe the Dead
levitation of tables that hang themselves upon the
What value would such childish
antics have to a group of scientific men who may have reason to concede
that the so-called dead
do return to life but who are far more interested in finding out what
truly motivates the phenomena at the sitting of a capable, sincere and
utterly bona fide medium? Mind you, I dont
say that the mediums whose work is confined to such phenomena are
thereby frauds. Far from it, I mean that the dispassionate investigator
is mainly interested in those mediums whose capabilities extend to the
tangible materializing of those who have made the Passing out of flesh,
in such manner that the latter can be identified.
The confirmed skeptic screeches
at once: There has never been such an
identification made, and whosoever says there has been, is a fraud
himself. However, to close this volume of my
own supernatural experiences, I want to embark on the series of great
adventures I have had since 1939 with one medium of outstanding and bona
fide talents, who has become an institution in the national Soulcraft
To write promiscuously of my contact with this or that
mediums work over ten years of psychical
observation, and chart what results were gotten here or not gotten
there, would be unfair to my mediumistic friends in general. It would
make it appear that I was disparaging certain mediums and ballyhooing
others. And I am neither disparaging nor ballyhooing in this volume. I
am setting down the high lights of the altogether weird experiences that
have come to me since 1928, convincing me that not only is death a
misnomer but that is just as much radiant activityalthough
in a higher frequency of matteramong our
friends, as there ever is in this frequency we call the physical.
I am telling you how it has
been with me. Like my Seven Minutes in Eternity experience, I dont
ask you to accredit it if you choose not to do so.
I believe the dead are alive and functioning, and under certain
conditions may function again on this plane, because of such phenomena
as I first saw, heard, and touched in a Manhattan sιance room of a
Sunday night of the year in question.
First, to paint in a bit of background
I HAD a close friend, executive in a New York
publishing house, who from time to time had donated sizable sums of
money that my metaphysical writings might be distributed and help others
as he had been helped by them. This man, incidentally, was not a
In the early part of the 1939 winter he had gone to
visit relatives in Toronto, Ontario. Meeting there an elderly gentleman
of recognized clairaudient powers, he was disconcerted to be advised
your father and mother are anxious to get in audible touch with you.
They want you to go to an address in a city in southern Florida and
inform whomsoever answers the doorbell that you have come to make
Why I Believe the
Dead Are Alive
your mother. They will understand and take charge
It was my publisher-friends
confidence in the integrity of his informant that started him off on the
odd adventure. He motored down to Miami, not informing me of his trip
and determined to discover how he could receive word in Miami from a
maternal parent who had died in Canada in 1923. It was to be the
beginning of the greatest psychical experience of his life, incidentally
my own as well. He found the address given him in Toronto, without
difficulty, and performed as directed.
THREE days later I got a lengthy letter from my
friend. He was utterly stupefied with what had happened to him. At an
afternoon private sιance he had every reason
to believe that he had talked long and audibly with his deceased father
and a brother, discussing matters that had only been known to him and to
them when they had been alive.
Among the things which his father had referred to in
the direct voice were my friends
contributions to my own work and how happy it had made all his relatives
in the Higher Octave.
References had been constant
throughout to family incidents, episodes and vicissitudes which none but
the bona fide spirit of his dad could have knownand
the same thing went for the mother. The ensuing Sunday night, my friend
had attended a sιance in the mediums
small church where
she had gone into a complete trance.
Suddenly out from the cabinet had walked his mothera
portly woman of some seventy-odd years when he had last seen her in
life. She was dressed in a quaint beaded blouse waist and skirt that he
recalled having purchased for her in Manhattan the last time she had
gone there on a visit before her Passing. My friendand
henceforth in what is described I shall call him Georgehad
once been a pattern-maker and designer of womens
wear, so he had more than the usual male eye for a peculiar blouse him
in the outfit exactly as he had known her in life, he exclaimed at the
my son, said his mother whimsically,
I put it onor so
you might call itpurposely so youd
have no difficulty in recognizing me.
IF IT could be said the medium was tricking all
this, then it has to be admitted that she was a particularly clever
trickster, with s knowledge of Georges family
life and affairs that paralleled his own
For ten minutes his fully materialized mother had
talked with him, especially about the settlement of her estate among a
brood of a dozen children, and how each one had taken his share of her
bequest, what he had done with the money and how he should be helped at
the current moment. Not a name was miscalled. There was no fumbling for
cues by the mother.
Next his sister emerged
from the same cabinet. She even wore the same style spectacles that had
helped her vision in life. My friend asked her if she still had need of
glasses in her higher-octave existence. Oh,
no, she answered, I
Why I Believe the Dead
wore a pair of these things because you mightnt
recognize me without. She then discussed
likewise the most intimate details of the family life in Toronto when
they had been boys and girls. The thing that impressed George most about
his sisters identity was a characteristic
little motion made with her right hand when talking, impressing a point
or gaining attention. Every little trick of speech which had
distinguished her in the body was evidenced as she gave him counsel in
regard to helping another sister and her husband who were in business
difficulties of some sort up in Canada because of the war.
GEORGE was so
flabbergasted at such a demonstration that he wrote he was coming north
to get me at Indianapolis and motor me through to New York, where the
same medium was due to visit in a couple of weeks. I
want you to witness this mediums work and
tell me what you think of it, he wrote.
I found out after the sιances
that she scarcely knows who you are. I think I can a rrange to slip you
into her Sunday night sitting without any publicity, and lets
see what happens. If any of your relatives come
through who know as much about your affairs
as my relatives
knew about mine, then weve just got to accept
that the claim of nobodys ever having
returned to earth from beyond the grave is purest tommyrot.
Well, more of my political persecution in Carolina was
afoot and I was required to go down to Buncombe County that next week
for a court hearing. So George came to Indianapolis and got me, drove me
to Asheville, and when the ordeal there was over, took me up to New York
THE MEDIUM was Bertie Lilly Candler.
She was a handsome woman of some forty years, with a
head of lovely auburn hair and sincere blue eyes. Later I was to learn
that she had been raised in the Methodist denomination in Atlanta, Ga.,
and had begun to exercise her phenomenal powers following the death of
her brother Howard, after she had married and started living in
Cincinnati, Ohio. She was accompanied in this New York visit by he
husband Edward, who superintended her sιance
work. My friend George had cleverly arranged the day before I saw the
phenomena I am about to describe, that he was to arrive
with a friend at
the borrowed studio where Miss Candleras she
is professionally knownwas to go into her
trance, and that we were to be slipped into reserved chairs after the
other spectators had assembled and just before the lights were dimmed,
that any possible notoriety attendant upon myself might in nowise
embarrass either medium or hostess.
Twenty persons were
gathered at 8:15 when George and I pushed the bell of an apartment on
the twelfth floor of a residence skyscraper overlooking the Hudson
River. We were admitted just as the hostess was requesting a group of
women present to accompany the medium into an adjacent room while she
divested herself of her usual clothes and donned her sιance
robea plain gown of olive satin. This to
forestall any late charge of fraud, or of taking into the
Why I Believe the Dead
cabinet with her anything
that might be extraneous to unassisted phenomena. The room in which the
sitting was being held was about twelve feet wide by twenty feet long.
The length of it ran east and west in the building. At the western end
was a small angular platform, containing a rostrum and a studio piano,
raised fifteen inches from the main flooring. This flooring was carpeted
with what appeared to be a heavy dark green Brussels rug.
We entered from the public corridor through the main door in the rooms
southeastern corner. The room had only one other door, farther west in
the southern wall, opening into a little hallway off which were chamber,
bathroom, and kitchenette. These details are important in what followed.
The cabinet consisted of a collapsible wooden framework with heavy red
velours drapes on brass hooks. It made a little compartment about five
feet square and seven feet high, inside which was nothing but a plain
wooden chair turned sideways to the audience. Several people examined
this cabinet beforehand, finding it absolutely empty of anything but the
chair. At the right of the cabinet outside was a chair where the
mediums husband usually sat throughout his wifes sιances. He
personally greeted and interrogated the materialized people as they
emerged, and made certain that no sitter who was called close to the
cabinet, crossed between the materialization and the medium, thus
interfering with, or cutting off, the ectoplasmic cord. To the left of
the cabinet outside was a small table holding a portable victrola with a
pile of sacred records, subsequently played between manifestations. At
the northern corner of the platform opposite the cabinet was a small
spotlight with a ruby lens, focused on the front curtains. This
illumination, after the eyes became accustomed to it, was sufficient to
reflect throughout the whole room and show all the sitters in
silhouette. At least nobody could move in the room without its being
After a time Miss Candler came from the chamber in the
satin robe, nodded to acquaintances in the room who had been at some of
her sittings before, and went into the cabinet. Before the floor lamps
were switched off and the ruby spotlight turned on, she sat herself o
the chair, gathered the robe about her feet, lifted a corner of the
front drape and called out naively to everyone, Good
Unique to add, Miss Candlers
little Pomeranian trotted after her into the cabinet and stretched near
her feet. I had it whispered to me that the pet always did that, and
slept soundly throughout the whole proceeding.
It certainly was there asleep, and had to be awakened, after the
floor lamps were snapped on at the end of the sιance. Inasmuch as some
twenty-five entities were to materialize in the ensuing three hours, of
all ages and both sexes, it hardly seems possible that a dumb
animalespecially a dogwould have slept soundly while they passed in
and out of that cabinet, had they been mortal actors putting over any
One of them, at least, would have stepped on it!
WITH the floor
lamps snapped off and the red light turned on, the woman wh
Why I Believe the Dead
owned the apartment and acted
as hostess and who was herself one of New
Yorks most famous trumpet mediumsrequested
that we open the proceedings by reciting the Lords
Prayer in unison. That finished, our hostess put on the first record. It
was, Nearer, My God to Thee.
The record contained three verses. When it was finished, we waited.
Nothing happened. Our hostess put on another hymn, Abide
With Me. When its three verses had finished
in turn, a period of electric silence followed. Suddenly it was cut by a
voice. It was a girls voice, possibly
fourteen to sixteen years old. It came from behind the drapes.
it rang out, clear as a bell. Im
Now I had heard about
Silverleaf from George. She was not so much Miss Candlers
control, as her
mediumistic companion. Usually Miss Candlers
brother, Howardat whose decease, as
aforesaid, she had truly begun her mediumistic workacted
as her control. But Howard did not seem to be with her this night.
Silverleaf took charge of the sitting. She had not only talked with
George in Florida but had materialized at all of Miss Candlers
sιances, which George had attended. He had
come to know her rather intimately during the fortnight spent in the
South. He had described her to me as an attractive young Indian girl,
who usually appeared with a band of jewels around her head, two heavy
braids down her breast over an Indian jacket, and a skirt of a billowy
white material resembling poplin. On one occasion George had playfully
challenged her as to whether her braids were real. She had taken one of
them and brushed it across his nose and face. She called him Uncle
Jo-Jo. Many of those present had been at Miss Candlers
sittings before and met Silverleaf. They responded to her greeting.
Im coming out I a
minute, Silverleaf went on.
Medie, meaning the
medium, isnt quite
asleep yet. Hello, Uncle Jo-Jo!
Silverleaf, called back George.
Do you know who Ive
got with me? Sure I know who youve
got with you, she said with a rippling laugh.
Youve got Uncle
Billy with you. Hello, Uncle Billy!
Silverleaf, I returned, having been at
trumpet sittings before and not feeling inhibited at carrying on my end
of such conversations.
Thereupon Silverleaf began to call out
and greet other sitters personally. She never missed the correct name.
Finally she called to out hostess, Put on
another hymn, Nora, then I guess well be
about ready. The hostess put on
Lead Kindly Light.
NOW understand me, what I am about to relate I saw with my own
eyes, I heard with my own ears, and I touched with my own hands. There
is no secondhand information to any of it. And I had my friend George
for witness as to the accuracy of what I am reporting. When the final
verse of Lead, Kindly Light
had died away, the front of the drapes moved in the ruby lamps
focused illumination. Out of the cabinet stepped an Indian girl of about
sixteen years, with long braids down each side of a dark pretty face,
her shoulders covered by
Why I Believe the
Dead Are Alive
a beaded jacket, and a
flowing white skirt billowing down from her belt. She came out without
the slightest hesitancy and with a childs
delighted cry of, Well, here I am!
A chorus of greetings met her. Somehow it
seemed, despite my clandestine presence there, that I had to be singled
out for attention, though my last name never was spoken in the three
hours that followed. The room was then deathly silent. You could have
heard the proverbial pin drop.
Silverleaf came tripping over to where George and I
sat, about midway between the two doors along the southern wall. She
stood before us. Just what was expected of me, I wasnt
sure. George said, I wanted Uncle Billy to
meet you in person, Silverleaf.
told you I knew all about Uncle Billy,
repeated Silverleaf. See, Ive
got o the same dress tonight that I had no down in Florida, Uncle Jo-Jo.
The voice of Mrs. Candlers husband
interrupted us from across the room. Get up,
William, he suggested. Come
back nearer to the cabinet here. I arose. To
my astonishment, Silverleaf put her hand on my forearm and held me as
she backed before me toward the cabinet. It felt as the hand of any
16-year-old girl would feel. There was nothing waxen or ethereal about
it. it was no papier-machι hand.
What on earth we talked about
when I got in correct position facing her in front of the cabinet, where
I did not obstruct the beam from the ruby lamp, I dont
for the life of me recall. If I did I would set it down. But I remember
George calling out to the girl, Smooth Uncle
Billys face with one of your braids,
Silverleaf, just to show him theyre real, the
same as you did mine down tin Florida. With a
naive little chuckle, Silverleaf caught up her right-hand braid and
brushed it playfully across my features. I had expected to feel coarse
Indian hair. Instead it was soft as silk and delicately perfumed with
lotus. I say that I smelled that beautiful scent and yet I couldnt
have done it with nostrils alone, for unknown to many of my friends I
lost my sense of smell during a siege of typhoid in Vermont in 1921.
Later I had it explained to me that while the smell
buds in my nostrils were destroyed, the
nerves of smell back to the brain centers were not, and it had been
these that caught the s upernatural perfume. Then came another startling
incident. I thought that Silverleaf had done with me and started back to
my chair. To my astonishment, it seemed that she hadn't done with me,
because I sensed her running after me, I felt her hand in the crook of
my right elbow, and she playfully whirled me around to face her. I weigh
154 pounds. No ethereal phantom
grabs hold of 1 154-pound man and has strength enough to turn him
completely about. As I recall, it was some trivial promise about
listening at times for her voice in my clairaudient ear, so that having
thus met her I could identify her, that caused the whirligig. Anyhow, I
got back to my seat and Silverleaf turned her attention to the rest of
She stood in the center of the group, h alf-way down the room,
and addressed practically every person there in turn, calling each one
by his or her first name
Why I Believe the
Dead Are Alive
and asking after personal affairs or suggesting times when they had met
before. She seemed to take particular delight in her costume and showed
it off with the savoir faire of the professional manikin. Her poise was
adorable. Finally she said that she had to go back into the cabinet and
help build up the ray for others. I asked What ray? The
materializing ray, she answered. What she alluded to was, that to
obtain such results in actuality, this was what took place: As the
medium sank into deeper and deeper trance, her body began to release its
ectoplasmic content, which poured out through its orifices into a sort
of pool in the cabinet before her. This is one of the chief reasons for
the cabinet at all, that such exhibition does not frighten or disgust
the spectator. Into this flood of released ectoplasm, the more tenuous
Light Body of the materializing entity steps and concentrates with the
help of guides like Silverleaf who are in the cabinet discarnate on
what his or her physical appearance was in mortality. This concentration
acts as a sort of magnetic ray that begins to draw up the ectoplasm
aroung the discarnate Light-Body like mercury filling up the glass stem
of a thermometer. When the Light-Body, or pattern-self, is completely
substantialized, the materialization is accomplished and the discarnate
entity can leave the cabinet, to all intents a normal human being.
It cant be done!
It can be done, and is done in a thousand bona fide sιance
rooms on five continents year after year. It is the operating of a law
just as natural as the growth of a blood clot in a womans
womb into a perfectly formed human being, within the first twenty-five
days after conception, though too minute to be recognized for what it
is. One is no more a mystery than the other.
WHEN Silverleaf had withdraw into the cabinet,
out hostess put on a fresh sacred record. As its final verse died away,
the front drapes rippled and parted. Another young girl stepped througha
white girl. She was dressed in a pretty lace frock with a sort of bridal
net falling from her hair. Edward got her identity and called out to her
father and mother who were seated on Georges
left. They arose and hastened forward.
The mother gave a sharp
cry, Its really
you, dear! Recognition was instantaneous.
Gertrude, it seemed, had caught a chill at her high school graduation
dance, taken to bed, and Passed Over of quick pneumonia. This,
apparently, was the first time that the parents had seen her in
materialization. The reunion was poignant. I had noticed the careworn
father and mother seated beyond George just before the lights went off.
The father had something like a fold of cardboard in his hands and I had
thought it a pad of paper for taking notes. Presently I was to find out
what it was. They talked swiftly, eagerly, of events that had taken
place in the family since the girls passing.
She gave them what she could of her own experiences in the octave above
the mortal. Then still in the ruby light, the father opened the
I brought this along just in case we actually
saw you tonight, he explained.
Why I Believe the Dead
And he handed it to her. The
whole thing was played out not four feet from me and I could hear plainly
every word that passed.
The girl took the folder, opened
it herself, and held it down against her skirt in order to get the ruby
light-beam upon it.
me in my graduation dress! she cried.
dear, the mother said. You
remember it was taken the day you went to the dance, but you left us
before the photographer delivered it. And
theres another picture in here,
Gertrude said. She looked at it closely. Why,
its Tommy! I
gathered that Tommy was a younger brother. Somehow that recognition of the
picture hit me as being a more accurate proof of identity of a departed
soul than even the things that subsequently happened to myself.
Gertrude handed back the photographs. Suddenly, with a surge of emotions,
she threw both arms around her father and mother. The three of them
embraced therelike the three normal persons,
which they wereloath to give each other up.
Could that father and mother ever conceive thereafter that
their beloved daughter was dead, or that she had perished?
What Mosaic numskull was it who had written back over the years,
The dead know not anything,
and There is no device nor wisdom in the grave
whither thou goest? Rubbish!