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


And yet materializations do have their place in persuading the ultra-skeptical that there are forms of life, or octaves of reality, that are entirely apart from the states we call Mortality. I bring to mind an instance of this in the case of a certain medical doctor who came down to the summer school in Asheville in 1932. I will give him the name of Dawley. That wasn’t his name—as I remarked of the woman in the previous chapter who knocked the sparrow hawk off her head—but I do have to be careful about using correct names in pages such as these, because of the unwelcome publicity from curiosity seekers that immediately results when such a book as this is published. I can, however, locate the gentleman if a situation arises where my claims are seriously challenged. Dr. Dawley came down to Asheville with his wife and remained throughout the summer. Originally he had been a physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, but subsequently had become one of the outstanding endocrinologists at the Rockefeller Institute in New York.

Late one night in August of 1932, I sat with him on a moonlit veranda in Asheville and asked him how or why he had contrived to acquire an interest in the subject I was publicizing at the school.

To explain satisfactorily, he said, I would have to tell you of a thing that happened when Ada and I were first married.

Ada was his wife, a former nurse at the Massachusetts General Hospital, whom he had married some ten to fifteen years in the past. She was sitting a few feet away, and confirmed what he presently said.

We had not been married many weeks, Dr. Dawley related, before I became conscious that Ada was leaving our apartment in Boston every Thursday night, going out somewhere in the city and not returning till after midnight. As she volunteered no information explaining these trips, I began to grow suspicious. Where was she going, and why didn’t she offer to explain her absence? It may have been a caddish thing to do, but I admit that after several weeks of it, I made up my mind to follow her.

The night that I did so, I saw her go over to Huntington Avenue and finally turn into a brownstone-front that was in every way a private residence. Then I loitered around outside till she reappeared—which was nearly one o’clock. I accosted her and demanded to be told what she had been doing in the place. She answered me: ‘next Thursday night, you come along with me. I haven’t told you about these Thursday-night absences of mine because I didn’t think you’d be interested. Your mind is so scientific.

I waited with ill-concealed impatience till the following week, however, and when Thursday night came, she kept her promise. Into the brownstone-front I went with her, and presently I found myself in a big front room furnished only with a rug, a floor lamp, a victrola, and a ring of hard-bottomed chairs. There were twelve to fifteen of them.

The people to whom I was presently introduced were refined, educated, and in every way desirable to know. They presently took their places in the big front room, alternating a man and a woman around the circle. Ultimately someone started the victrola playing soothing music. We were instructed to join hands. Ada was sitting on my left. I took her hand, and the hand of the strange woman on my right. It seemed rather silly at the moment, but I was determined to go through with it and learn what had made such demands on the fifteen minutes we had been sitting so, when a startling thing happened …

Ada’s chair began to wobble. It began to heave and rock, as though an invisible force were pushing it upward from the floor. Finally with a little cry, she got out of it. The leader—I suppose you’d call him a medium—made a quick cry for us not to break hands, but there was no doubt that something had pushed Ada’s chair upward and an instant later it went over with a thud. Something was actually under that chair. I was as close to it as I am to you at this moment. It was a great rotating ball of substance that looked like grayish-white molasses candy, some two feet in diameter, in convulsive motion. I watched it, stupefied.

Finally it propelled itself out before me in the center of the circle. The room was well enough lighted to watch closely exactly how it behaves. It writhed and contracted and elongated and took shape. Then it began to assume the form of a human torso, with arms and legs growing at the corners. A protuberance like a head came out. What I was actually watching was the ‘build-up’ of a mature human body—a woman’s body. Believe it or not, by the end of ten to twelve minutes a fully formed and respectably dressed girl of some twenty-five to thirty years was fully molded in the center of the group and to all intents and purposes quite the counterpart of any of the mortal women in that room. Somebody broke the chain of handholding then, and righted the wooden chair, which had tipped over under Ada. This strangely materialized person thereupon sat down in it. Right beside me!

I gather that she rather enjoyed my stupefaction. ‘Well, Doctor,’ she queried , ‘what do you think of that?’’

I interrupted the Doctor to comment: Then Ada had simply been going out each night to some sort of spiritualistic séance? Hadn’t you ever had experience of such phenomena?

No, said Dawley, and if I hadn’t seen what I had, with my own eyes, I would have taken it for fact that I had married a psychopath—that is, if she’d ever come back to the apartment and tried to explain what happened at these meetings she attended.

Well, the woman was fully materialized. What happened next?

Although I’d seen the apparition shape itself right before my eyes, Dawley went on, I still didn’t know what to make of it. A fully-grown and handsome young woman had evolved out of the great blob of ectoplasm that had somehow gotten under Ada’s chair—from where, I couldn’t say. She sat down beside me with a sort of Mona Lisa smile on her face and dared me to be skeptical. I seemed to be the only one in the room who was particularly startled. I remember that I asked her, ‘Are you real, or am I suffering some sort of illusion?’

She replied to me, ‘Oh, I’m real enough. Would you care to make an examination?’

Being a physician, I said to her, ‘Yes, I would—if you’ll permit it.’ She said that she would. You see, I wanted to find out to my own satisfaction if she was just a husk or shell of a female, or a regular woman all the way through.

Dr. Dawley paused to toss the ash of his cigar over the veranda railing. Well, he said, I motioned to Ada, and we took the materialized lady into a small side bedroom. I made an examination of her, all right. And believe me, she was as solid and substantial, internally as well as externally, as my own bride, Ada. That is what astounded me. All her organs were quite as normal flesh. She got a great kick out of my increasing stupefaction.

So you expected to find me a papier-mâché lady, did you? she bantered when I admitted I was satisfied.

I don’t know what I expected, I replied.

Anyhow, we went back to the group. And for the next half-hour I got a discourse on hyperdimensional reality that altered entirely my thinking and my practice.

What she told me was, that people on ‘dying’ merely pulled their spiritual souls or thinking consciousness out from their gross physical flesh, as a more tenuous pattern-body at once went into function on a higher frequency of electronic energy in Matter. They were by no means plunged at once into any theological courtroom, with God himself up on the dais to ‘judge the quick and the dead’. These were no sensation occurring to them that they were actually ‘dead’ at all. They were continuing to exist in the same scenes and orientations that they had known in mortality. They could see people in this materialistic third dimension but conversely the people of the third dimension couldn’t see them.

What this girl had actually done, after a clumsy fashion of explaining it, had been to lower her vibrations to a point where she became perceptible to people of the third dimension—using the medium’s ectoplasm to solidify her Light-Self and reduce it to a substantiality where I could see her and touch her as I had lately done in the bedroom. It was a real education in psychics that I got that night, and for a long time afterward I couldn’t make out whether I fancied it or not. Of course, whether I fancied it or not made not the slightest difference in the actuality of the conditions that people like her confronted when they passed through the change called Death. Still, it was all so novel, and counter to what orthodox theology had gotten me to believe since boyhood, that it took a bit of time for adjustment.

How did it end? I asked Dr. Dawley.

He cast a mischievous glance at his wife. I’ll bet you’ll never believe me, he said, but as I went on talking to this strangely materialized young woman, it seemed to me that she was not quite as big as she had been ten minutes before. In fact, she seemed to be shrinking in size, right before my eyes. I remember that I glanced down at her feet. They failed to touch the floor. Really, she was like the fantasy in Alice in Wonderland when Alice ate the Wonderful Cake that reduced her to a size to go through the gate into the magical garden. The girl was growing smaller as I watched—and as we talked.

By the end of a second ten minutes, she was obliged to jump down off the seat of the kitchen chair or she might have hurt herself getting off it at all. She finally walked out into the center of the circle, a doll-like creature some twenty inches high. And yet she still kept getting smaller.

When I last could distinguish her voice, she was standing out in the middle of the group, a little figure, still perfectly formed, some fourteen inches high. Then she seemed to pivot on her heel. With a little wave of her hand to me, she was gone. Yes, sir, gone! She had shrunk and evaporated into the atmosphere of that room not unlike the disappearance of smoke that dissolves into the atmosphere after coming from the stack of a locomotive.

It was a bizarre recital. So, after that, I said, ‘I take it you continued an interest in psychical research? I certainly did, he answered. I’ve never been able to get enough of it. Ada and I went regularly to the séances on Huntington Avenue every Thursday evening after that. I saw many strange types of materialization but nothing to equal that girl who ‘created herself’ from a ball of effluvia under Ada’s chair and then shrank to the proportions of a doll before my eyes.

It was remarkable, I contended, that she could make herself so solid. The medium must have been able to part with a lot of ectoplasm. I have often wished, Dawley told me, that I could have had a set of scales at hand to weigh her, during that physical examination.

You would doubtless have discovered, I said, that she by no means was as heavy as a normal mortal woman of the same proportions. We find uniformly in these materializations that if the medium weighs, say, a hundred sixty pounds at the commencement of the séance, and the materialized entity tips the scales at, say, eighty pounds, then the medium during the phenomena will reduce in weight to eighty pounds.

In other words, it’s a weighable physical substance that departs the medium’s body and is used by the Light Body of visiting spirit-soul to make itself opaque and substantial?

That’s it, I answered. And I understand that such ectoplasmic ‘material’ had in several celebrated cases been severed in a chunk from the materialized body, taken into a laboratory and analyzed. The great medium, Valentine, permitted this to be done on one occasion during an American visit. The ectoplasm was found to contain exactly the chemical components and in much the same ratios, as exist in the ordinary physical vehicle …

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