2009-11-11

007 - There Is No Death, by Florence Marryat: Curious Coincidences, Brain Readings or Encounters of a Spiritualist Nature?






Why, not the most captious and unbelieving critic of them all can find fault with so modest and unpretending a title. Everyone believes in the occasional possibility of “curious coincidences”. It was not until the month of June, 1873, that we formed a home circle, and commenced regularly to sit together. We became so interested in the pursuit, that we used to sit every evening, and sometimes till three and four o’clock in the morning, greatly to our detriment, both mental and physical. We seldom sat alone, being generally joined by two or three friends from outside, and the results were sometimes very startling, as we were a strong circle. The memoranda of these sittings, sometimes with one party and sometimes with another, extend over a period of years, but I shall restrict myself to relating a few incidents that were verified by subsequent events.
The means by which we communicated with the influences around us was the usual one. We sat round the table and laid our hands upon it, and I (or anyone who might be selected for the purpose) spelled over the alphabet, and raps or tilts occurred when the desired letter was reached. This in reality is not so tedious a process as it may appear, and once used to it, one may get through a vast amount of conversation in an hour by this means. A medium is soon able to guess the word intended to be spelt, for there are not so many after all in use in general
conversation.
Some one had come to our table on several occasions, giving the name of “Valerie”, but refusing to say any more, so we thought she was an idle or frivolous spirit, and had been in the habit of driving her away. One evening, on the first of July, however, our circle was augmented by Mr. Henry Stacke, when “Valerie” was immediately spelled out, and the following conversation ensued.
Stacke said to me: “Who is this?”
And I replied carelessly: “O! She’s a little devil! She never has anything to say!”
The table rocked violently at this, and the taps spelled out: “Je ne suis pas diable.”
“Hello! Valerie, so you can talk now! For whom do you come?”
“Monsieur Stacke.”
“Where did you meet him?”
“On the Continent.”
“Whereabouts?”
“Between Dijon and Macon.”
“How did you meet him?”
“In a railway carriage.”
“What where you doing there?”
Here she relapsed into French, and said: “Ce m’est impossible de dire.”
At this juncture Mr. Stacke observed that he had never been in a train between Dijon and Macon but once in his life, and if the spirit was with him then, she must remember what was the matter with their fellow-passenger.
“Mais oui, oui… il etait fou,” she replied, which proved to be perfectly correct.
Mr. Stacke also remembered that two ladies in the same carriage had been terribly frightened,
and he had assisted them to get into another.
Valerie continued: “Priez pour moi.”
“Pourquoi, Valerie?”
“Parceque j’ai beaucoup peché.”

There was an influence who frequented our society at that time and called himself “Charlie”. He stated that his full name had been Stephen Charles Bernard Abbot; that he had been a monk of great literary attainments; that he had embraced the monastic life in the reign of Queen Mary and apostatized for political reasons in that of Elizabeth, and that he had been “earth bound” in consequence ever since. Charlie asked us to sing one night, and we struck up the very vulgar refrain of Champagne Charlie, to which he greatly objected, asking for something more serious.
I began: “Ye banks and braes o’ bonnie Doon.”
“Why, that’s as bad as the other,” said Charlie. “It was a ribald and obscene song in the reign of Elizabeth. The drunken roysterers used to sing it in the street as they rolled home at night.”
“You must be mistaken, Charlie! It’s a well-known Scotch air.”
“It’s no more Scotch than I am,” he replied. “The Scotch say they invented everything. It’s a tune of the time of Elizabeth. Ask Brinley Richards.”
Having the pleasure of the acquaintance of that gentleman, who was the great authority on the origin of National Ballads, I applied to him for the information, and received an answer to say that Charlie was right, but that Mr. Richards had not been aware of the fact himself until he had searched some old MSS. in the British Museum for the purpose of ascertaining the truth.

I was giving a sitting once to an officer from Aldershot, a cousin of my own, who was quite prepared to ridicule every thing that took place. After having teased me into giving him a seance, he began by cheating himself, and then accused me of cheating him, and altogether tired out my patience. At last I proposed a test, though with little hope of success.
“Let us ask John Powles to go down to Aldershot,” I said, “and bring us word what your brother officers are doing.”
“O, yes! By Jove! Capital idea! Here… you fellow Powles, cut off to the camp, will you, and go to the barracks of the 84th, and let us know what Major R. is doing.”
The message came back in about three minutes. “Major R. has just come in from duty,” spelt out Powles. “He is sitting on the side of his bed, changing his uniform trousers for a pair of grey tweed.”
“I’m sure that’s wrong,” said my cousin, “because the men are never called out at this time of the day.”
It was then four o’clock, as we had been careful to ascertain. My cousin returned to camp the same evening, and the next day I received a note from him to say: “That fellow Powles is a brick. It was quite right. R. was unexpectedly ordered to turn out his company yesterday afternoon, and he returned to barracks and changed his things for the grey tweed suit exactly at four o’clock.”
But I have always found my friend Powles (when he will condescend to do anything for strangers, which is seldom) remarkably correct in detailing the thoughts and actions of absentees, sometimes on the other side of the globe. I went one afternoon to pay an ordinary social call on a lady named Mrs. W., and found her engaged in an earnest conversation on Spiritualism with a stout woman and a commonplace man – two as material looking individuals as ever I saw, and who appeared all the more so under a sultry August sun.
As soon as Mrs. W. saw me, she exclaimed: “O! Here is Mrs. Ross-Church. She will tell you all about the spirits. Do, Mrs. Ross-Church, sit down at the table and let us have a seance.”
A seance on a burning, blazing afternoon in August, with two stolid and uninteresting, and worse still, uninterested looking strangers, who appeared to think Mrs. Y. had a “bee in her bonnet”… I protested, I reasoned, I pleaded – all in vain. My hostess continued to urge, and society places the guest at the mercy of her hostess.
So, in an evil temper, I pulled off my gloves, and placed my hands indifferently on the table. The following words were at once rapped out: “I am Edward G. Did you ever pay Johnson the
seventeen pounds twelve you received for my saddlery?”
The gentleman opposite to me turned all sorts of colors, and began to stammer out a reply, whilst his wife looked very confused.
I asked the influence: “Who are you?”
It replied: “He knows!... His late colonel!... Why hasn’t Johnson received that money?”
This is what I call an “awkward” coincidence, and I have had many such occur through me –
some that have driven acquaintances away from the table, vowing vengeance against me, and racking their brains to discover who had told me of their secret peccadilloes.
The gentleman in question (whose name even I do not remember) confessed that the identity and main points of the message were true, but he did not confide to us whether Johnson had ever received that seventeen pounds twelve.

I had a beautiful English greyhound called Clytie, a gift from Annie Thomas to me, and this dog was given to straying from my house in Colville Road, Bayswater, which runs parallel to Portobello Road, a rather objectionable quarter, composed of inferior shops, one of which, a fried fish shop, was an intolerable nuisance, and used to fill the air around with its rich perfume.
On one occasion Clytie stayed away from home so much longer than usual, that I was afraid she was lost in good earnest, and posted bills offering a reward for her. Charlie came to the table that evening and said:  “Don’t offer a reward for the dog. Send for her.”
“Where am I to send?” I asked.
“She is tied up at the fried fish shop in Portobello Road. Send the cook to see.”
I told the servant in question that I had heard the greyhound was detained at the fish shop, and sent her to inquire. She returned with Clytie... Her account was, that on making inquiries, the man in the shop had been very insolent to her, and she had raised her voice in reply; that she had then heard and recognized the sharp, peculiar bark of the greyhound from an upper storey, and, running up before the man could prevent her, she had found Clytie tied up to a bedstead with a piece of rope, and had called in a policeman to enable her to take the dog away.
I have often heard the assertion that Spiritualism is of no practical good, and, doubtless, it was never intended to be so, but this incident was, at least, an exception to the rule.

When abroad, on one occasion, I was asked by a Catholic Abbé to sit with him. He had never seen any manifestations before, and he did not believe in them, but he was curious on the subject. I knew nothing of him further than that he was a priest, and a Jesuit, and a great friend of my sister’s, at whose house I was staying. He spoke English, and the conversation was carried on in that language.
He had told me beforehand that if he could receive a perfectly private test, that he should never doubt the truth of the manifestations again. I left him, therefore, to conduct the investigation entirely by himself, I acting only as the medium between him and the influence.
As soon as the table moved he put his question direct, without asking who was there to answer it: “Where is my chasuble?”
Now a priest’ chasuble, I should have said, must be either hanging in the sacristy or packed away at home, or been sent away to be altered or mended. But the answer was wide of all my speculations: “At the bottom of the Red Sea.”
The priest started, but continued: “Who put it there?”
“Elias Dodo.”
“What was his object in doing so?”
“He found the parcel a burthen, and did not expect any reward for delivering it.”
The Abbé really looked as if he had encountered the devil. He wiped the perspiration from his forehead, and put one more question. “Of what was my chasuble made?”
“Your sister’s wedding dress.”
The priest then explained to me that his sister had made him a chasuble out of her wedding dress – one of the forms of returning thanks in the Church, but that after a while it became old fashioned, and the Bishop, going his rounds, ordered him to get another. He did not like to throw away his sister’s gift, so he decided to send the old chasuble to a priest in India, where they are very poor, and not so particular as to fashion. He confided the packet to a man called Elias Dodo, a sufficiently singular name, but neither he nor the priest he sent it to had ever heard anything more of the chasuble, or the man who promised to deliver it.

A young artist of the name of Courtney was a visitor at my house. He asked me to sit with him alone, when the table began rapping out a number of consonants – a farrago of nonsense, it appeared to me, and I stopped and said so. But Mr. Courtney, who appeared much interested, begged me to proceed. When the communication was finished, he said to me: “This is the most wonderful thing I have ever heard. My father has been at the table talking to me in Welsh. He has told me our family motto, and all about my birth-place and relations in Wales.”
I said: “I never heard you were a Welshman.”
“Yes, I am!” he replied. “My real name is Powell. I have only adopted the name of Courtney for professional purposes.”
This was all news to me, but had it not been, I cannot speak Welsh.

I could multiply such cases by the dozen, but that I fear to tire my readers, added to which the majority of them were of so strictly private a nature that it would be impossible to put them into print. This is perhaps the greatest drawback that one encounters in trying to prove the truth of Spiritualism. The best tests we receive are when the very secrets of our hearts, which we have not confided to our nearest friends, are revealed to us.
I could relate (had I the permission of the persons most interested) the particulars of a well-known law suit, in which the requisite evidence, and names and addresses of witnesses, were all given though my mediumship, and were the cause of the case being gained by the side that came to me for “information”.
Some of the coincidences I have related in this chapter might, however, be ascribed by the sceptical to the mysterious and unknown power of brain reading, whatever that may be, and however it may come, apart from mediumship, but how is one to account for the facts I shall tell you in my next chapter?

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