from William Pelley's Why I Believe the Dead Are Alive

IT IS one thing to enter upon strange premises as a paying spectator, and see what appears to be phenomena occur before the eyes, realizing that the human vision is the easiest of the senses to deceive. It is quite another to have the phenomena projected within one’s own home, where one is arbiter of every condition, where one knows to a certainty there can be no secret entrances, where certainly none of the fifteen to twenty materialized types of humanity, either sex and all ages, could have been present five minutes before the doors were fastened and the lights turned off. Insinuations as to fraud or deception are unqualifiedly eliminated. Strangely enough, therefore, it was in the first séance thus held in the Indianapolis home, that my eldest daughter, Harriet, staged her initial appearance to me in her recreated “body” … Inasmuch as Harriet herself has since grown into a Soulcraft institution, no volume listing my evidence as to would be complete without description of that memorable first séance.

Harriet, my first child, had been born in Springfield, Mass. in November of 1912. Two years later, in Wilmington, Vermont, she succumbed to cerebral meningitis. You may recall my recounting in an earlier chapter how Pauline, my brother-in-law’s bride, had first gotten in touch with her soldier-husband at Lake Pleasant, Mass., when learning about “the nurse of the Mohawk Trail.” “He’s got a violet-eyed little girl with him who’s inseparably attached to him,” Pauline had reported. She had not known Harriet as a baby... not ever seen her in the flesh. But such description had caused us to pay attention. Harriet had been noted for her strange violet eyes—not blue, not grey, but an out-of-this-world violet. Who would “be with” Ernest but our long-lost baby? He had been a member of our Vermont household all through her prolonged illness and demise.

It was a May evening of 1941 that Bertie Lilly and Edward gave us their first séance in our Indianapolis library, where the George Fisher of previous mention had personally supervised the sealing of the windows with beaver-board and created a “cabinet” by stretching two heavy velours drapes across the southeast corner of the twenty-foot-square room. The Candlers had motored up from Miami; George had driven over from Darien, Conn. I had invited a choice assortment of guests and employees to witness the wonders, one of the former being the chief of the state vigilante police, another a leading attorney of the State Capital. Some two dozen people had gathered at eight p.m. in chairs around the north and west walls of the library. The front door had been locked and doorbell and telephone disconnected. The general program of the séance followed the one previously described. The room was illumined by a red spotlight turned on the front of the velours curtains from a position atop the bookshelves in the northwest corner.

The first soul-spirit to substantialize was, as usual, Silverleaf—who greeted each guest by his or her first name, although almost none of them was known to the medium and some of them had only been invited on the spur of the moment within the hour before the affair was called. The second materialization had been a portly stranger of advanced years who called lustily to his adult son seated in a back corner, one of the Miehle pressmen at the Noblesville plant. Charley came forth from his corner astounded.

It was his father, who had “died” before World War I. He proved to Charles’ satisfaction that he was the parent, not only by his appearance and voice but by narration of an incident that had occurred in Minnesota when Charles had been a lad of ten—and in 1940 he was in his fifties. “Remember how you got some poison oak on a camping trip we took?” he reminded his son. “What was the fool thing I tried for it, when we didn’t have any other antidotes?… No, let me tell you … It was a mustard plaster I happened to have along, wasn’t it?”

Charles cried afterward, “He was one hundred percent correct. But no one in God’s world but he and I knew anything about it! I’d never even mentioned the incident to my wife.” What do we want for proof that the “dead” are alive? Mustard plasters on poisoned oak assailments … the very quaintness of the incident gave it validity. Then, for the first time, I saw me beloved first daughter, grown to womanhood …

THE PRESSMAN’S father had scarcely retired within the cabinet, after general banter about the son’s vicissitudes since the father’s death, when I beheld a great “snow ball” of whitish effluvia beginning to quiver and contort in front of the drapes. It seemed to be forming and growing not fifteen inches from my left foot, where I was seated on a low divan to the east of the curtains. Edward, the sleeping medium’s husband, exclaimed, “Someone’s building up right in plain sight for you!”

The “snowball” lost its rotundity and became elongated vertically. It oscillated, it writhed, it mounted higher and higher. Reaching a pillar of five feet two or three, it gave a peculiar shuddering twist. Then even in ruby light I blinked my eye. A particularly handsome young woman stood before me, gowned in white. Her long chestnut hair fell in curls down her back from under a Juliette cap. She was personable, she was graceful. In a voice whose chuckle did not cancel its culture, she accosted me …

“Well, Daddy, how do you like that?”

I could scarcely speak. “You’re … Harriet?” I managed to exclaim on my second attempt.

“Uh-huh, … of course! Are you surprised to meet me for the first time, full-grown?”

What could I say to her? Unfortunately, the ruby light—wholly adequate as it was otherwise—did not permit me to determine the color of her eyes. But she placed warm pulsating hands on my shoulders. She looked into my face from a distance of twelve to fifteen inches. Was this actually the beloved child who had waved me a final and scarcely audible “Bye!” from her crib in the kitchen that long-ago winter’s morning in Wilmington, Vermont, two hours before the town’s physician had rushed her to Brattleboro Hospital? She chuckled again.

“I know what you’re thinking. You’ve carried the notion about you for years—while I’ve been growing up on the Higher Side—that Adelaide might have been my reborn soul. Coming along as she did five or six months after I made that Wilmington Passing. Am I not right?”

Yes, she was right. But I had never mentioned it to anyone that I recalled. She tossed her adorable chin.

“Well, I certainly am no one but myself, and Adelaide is no one but herself. And at last we’re together, daddy, face to face. Isn’t it wonderful?” Words had no effect in translating the wonderment of it. The lump in my throat was interfering with speech. And Harriet pivoted lightly on her toes and swung completely about for me to view her total figure.

“Don’t you remember Aunt Pauline telling you from time to time she saw me in company with Uncle Ernest?”

Here was family evidence that could not have existed even in the medium’s mind, since up to then my acquaintance with Bertie Lilly had not been replete enough to rehearse my past domestic affairs with her. So I asked about Ernest. It was the beginning of a colloquy on family relationships that established beyond all doubt that I had met up again in truth with my long-lost baby girl. It was likewise the beginning of a sixteen-year intimacy in other and greater matters, during which I have watched her grow from a vivacious maiden in her middle twenties to a sedate woman of forty-one. I was to confront her equally vividly time upon a time when visiting Mary Beattie at Chesterfield and Anderson, Indiana—the same girl, same Juliette cap and white gown, same characterful profile, same dainty and cultured voice, same personality in every respect.

That to me is the big test of personality survival, to the utter demolishment of fraud. No matter what medium I visited for such sessions, identically the same girl unerringly materialized. Moreover, time and again she made references to matters we had discussed or mentioned at earlier sessions when the medium was some other person.

Remember, this was occurring in my own house and library, in which no such physically living girl had been contained when the séance started. She greeted her younger sister, Adelaide, who was present, and her brother, William, warning him, incidentally, to draw in his long legs from where he sat on the rug directly in front of her so that she wouldn’t trip over them. Then she asked the loan of my handkerchief. What on earth could she want with that? I stammered that I had no handkerchief but the honestly soiled one that I had used all day out at the plant in Noblesville. No matter, I must let her have it. She was going to do something with it I would never forget.

I handed across the wobbed square of cloth. Standing in the rug’s center in plain sight of all guests, she pulled it taut across all four corners. Then grasping it by right and left edges she started a peculiar motion of seeming to throw it away from her. She called it “weaving”.

Presently we were thunderstruck to note that the fabric was increasing in size. It was big as a towel. She continued to give it that outward-throwing motion, till it became so wide that she could no longer keep it taut between her hands. Rapidly it was increasing to the size of a bed sheet.

“Harriet, darling, how in the world are you contriving that?” I wanted to know. “I’m increasing the distances—by the power of Thought—between each electron and proton in the linen atoms,” she replied. “It’s the way, too, that we weave clothing for those of you who come up onto Our Side naked when they’ve quitted their physical bodies for good.”

She was commencing to pant from the exertion of it. And the fabric was so sizable and so filmy that it floated and billowed on the still air of the library where twenty spectators about three walls were feeling its gossamer edges against their faces. Suddenly she tossed her clutch of it in air, darted under it, seized it in its center, and began doing a ballet dance under it—unfortunately without music, but no less graceful for that.

Then she retreated to her origin position before me, reversed her efforts, “wove” the gossamer fabric closer and closer to herself—and we watched it diminish in proportions. Back to bedsheet and towel size she worked it, back to the dimensions of a man’s everyday handkerchief. Suddenly with a dexterous flip of her fingers she had seized it by opposite corners, twisted it and tied a knot in it. Knotted thus, she tossed it down upon my lap.

Later in the evening when the electric lights were on, I examined the knotted fabric. It was some sort of fourth dimensional knot she had tied. The diagonal handkerchief corners were inside this knot. Try to tie a knot sometime with the corners enwrapped inside, and tell me how you did it.

I have that handkerchief and knot preserved to this moment among my psychical keepsakes, and the diagonal corners are still hidden inside it. “We’re going to have lots of good times together, you and I, Daddy, from here on out,” she promised before leaving us. “It’s the Beginning of something, wait and see!”

And how truly she spoke!

How many times I have confronted my eldest girl in the past sixteen years I cannot say accurately. When Mary Beattie was alive in nearby Anderson, I had only to get into my motorcar after arranging an appointment, and be with my beautiful child in half an hour. I am concluding the writing of the revised version of this book of an afternoon in early September, 1954, and I have met and conversed with her three times under Mrs. Candler’s sponsorship since the first of this past June. During my political incarceration at the hands of the Red fellow travelers in the Administration during World War II, Mrs. Candler paid a visit to Seattle, Wash. One Sunday afternoon she went into trance on the platform of Silver Lodge, I am informed, and Harriet thus materialized, came to the edge of the dais, and talked to two hundred of my followers in a public address for a matter of twenty minutes. After expounding to them the exact significance of my temporary imprisonment and bidding them to be of good cheer, she disintegrated before their eyes …

“THAT is why I had to leave you, Daddy, when I was a baby, and come out here,” she explained to me in a materialization last October, “to be able to work in association with you—you on the earth-side and I on the heavenly side—to demonstrate to a world of bewildered and error-tormented people that there is no such thing as Death.’

And how she is doing it!

Yet always my mind reverts to a winter’s morning in early 1914 when they had phoned from the hospital in Brattleboro for me to come over the twenty miles from Wilmington as fast as I could travel, if I wanted to see my child again alive. As I urged my panting horse up the western grade of Hogback Mountain, alone in the sleigh, I groaned aloud in my anguish, “Oh, God, don’t let her die! … don't let her die!” but I arrived too late.

That was forty-one years bygone, and yet it had been on Kismet’s cards to happen, that the very Soulcraft work in which I am currently engaged in my sunset years could go forward. I am still in the mortal role this lazy September afternoon as I write; yet Harriet is back with me and has been sixteen years continuously back with me. I have her piquant and distinctive voice on fifteen electronic tape recordings. Never have I gone to a psychical séance since that first appearance of hers in our Indianapolis library, that she has failed in coming and conversing with me.

Are the dead alive, indeed!

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