011 - There Is No Death, by Florence Marryat: Summoning the Spirits of the Living

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I had a friend many years ago in India, who (like many other friends) had permitted time and separation to come between us, and alienate us from each other. I had not seen him nor heard from him for eleven years, and to all appearance our friendship was at an end.

One evening the medium I have alluded to above, Mrs. Fitzgerald, who was a personal friend of mine, was at my house. After dinner she put her feet up on the sofa – a very unusual thing for her – and closed her eyes. She and I were quite alone in the drawing-room, and after a little while I whispered softly: “Bessie, are you asleep?”

The answer came from her control “Dewdrop”, a wonderfully sharp Red Indian girl. “No ! she’s in a trance. There’s somebody coming to speak to you! I don't want him to come. He’ll make the medium ill. But it’s no use. I see him creeping round the corner now!”

“But why should it make her ill?” I argued, believing we were about to hold an ordinary séance.

“Because he’s a live one, he hasn’t passed over yet,” replied Dewdrop. “Live ones always make my medium feel sick. But it’s no use. I can’t keep him out. He may as well come. But don’t let him stay long.”

“Who is he, Dewdrop?” I demanded curiously.

“I don’t know! Guess you will! He’s an old friend of yours, and his name is George.” Whereupon Bessie Fitzgerald laid back on the sofa cushions, and Dewdrop ceased to speak.

It was some time before there was any result. The medium tossed and turned, and wiped the perspiration from her forehead, and pushed back her hair, and beat up the cushions and threw herself back upon them with a sigh, and went through all the pantomime of a man trying to court sleep in a hot climate.

Presently she opened her eyes and glanced languidly around her. Her unmistakable actions and the name “George” – which was that of my friend, then resident in India – had naturally aroused my suspicions as to the identity of the influence, and when Bessie opened her eyes, I asked softly: “George, is that you?”

At the sound of my voice the medium started violently and sprung into a sitting posture, and then, looking all round the room in a scared manner, she exclaimed: “Where am I? Who brought me here?” Then catching sight of me, she continued: “Florence! Is this your room? Oh, let me go! Do let me go!”

This was not complimentary, to say the least of it, from a friend whom I had not met for eleven years, but now that I had got him I had no intention of letting him go, until I was convinced of his identity. However, the terror of the spirit at finding himself in a strange place seemed so real and uncontrollable that I had the greatest difficulty in persuading him to stay, even for a few minutes. He kept on reiterating, shivering convulsively: “Who brought me here? I did not wish to come. Do let me go back. I am so very cold… so very, very cold!”

“Answer me a few questions,” I said, “and then you shall go. Do you know who I am?”

“Yes, yes… you are Florence!”

“And what is your name?”

He gave it at full length.

“And do you care for me still?”

“Very much. But let me go.”

“In a minute. Why do you never write to me?”

“There are reasons. I am not a-free agent. It is better as it is.”

“I don’t think so. I miss your letters very much. Shall I ever hear from you again?”


“And see you?”

“Yes… but not yet. Let me go now. I don’t wish to stay. You are making me very unhappy.”

If I could describe the fearful manner in which, during this conversation, he glanced every moment at the door, like a man who is afraid of being discovered in a guilty action, it would carry with it to my readers, as it did to me, the most convincing proof that the medium’s body was animated by a totally different influence from her own. I kept the spirit under control until I had fully convinced myself that he knew everything about our former friendship and his own present surroundings; and then I let him fly back to India, and wondered if he would wake up the next morning and imagine he had been laboring under nightmare…

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These experiences with the spirits of the living are certainly amongst the most curious I have obtained. On more than one occasion, when I have been unable to extract the truth of a matter from my acquaintances, I have sat down alone, as soon as I believed them to be asleep, and summoned their spirits to the table and compelled them to speak out. Little have they imagined sometimes how I came to know things which they had scrupulously tried to hide from me.

I have heard that the power to summon the spirits of the living is not given to all media, but I have always possessed it. I can do so when they are awake as well as when they are asleep, though it is not so easy. A gentleman once dared me to do this with him, and I only conceal his name because I made him look ridiculous. I waited till I knew he was engaged at a dinner-party, and then about nine o’clock in the evening I sat down and summoned him to come to me. It was some little time before he obeyed, and when he did come, he was eminently sulky. I got a piece of paper and pencil, and from his dictation I wrote down the number and names of the guests at the dinner-table, also the dishes of which he had partaken, and then in pity for his earnest entreaties I let him go again.

“You are making me ridiculous,” he said, “everyone is laughing at me.”

“But why? What are you doing?” I urged.

“I am standing by the mantel-piece, and I have fallen fast asleep,” he answered.

The next morning he came pell-mell into my presence. “What did you do to me last night?” he demanded. “I was at the Watts Philips, and after dinner I went fast asleep with my head upon my hand, standing by the mantel-piece, and they were all trying to wake me and couldn’t. Have you been playing any of your tricks upon me?”

“I only made you do what you declared I couldn’t,” I replied. “How did you like the white soup, and the turbot, and the sweetbreads?”

He opened his eyes at my nefariously obtained knowledge, and still more when I produced the paper written from his dictation. This is not a usual custom of mine – it would not be interesting enough to pursue as a custom, but I am a dangerous person to dare to do anything.

madgie glenwood

The old friend whose spirit visited me through Mrs. Fitzgerald had lost a sister to whom he was very tenderly attached before he made my acquaintance, and I knew little of her beyond her name. One evening, not many months after the interview with him which I have recorded, a spirit came to me, giving the name of my friend’s sister, with this message: “My brother has returned to England, and would like to know your address. Write to him to the Club, Leamington, and tell him where to find you.”

I replied: “Your brother has not written to me, nor inquired after me for the last eleven years. He has lost all interest in me, and I cannot be the first to write to him, unless I am sure that he wishes it.”

“He has not lost all interest in you,” said the spirit. “He thinks of you constantly, and I hear him pray for you. He wishes to hear from you.”

“That may be true,” I replied, “but I cannot accept it on your authority. If your brother really wishes to renew our acquaintance, let him write and tell me so.”

“He does not know your address, and I cannot get near enough to him to influence him.”

“Then things must remain as they are,” I replied somewhat testily. “I am a public person. He can find out my address, if he chooses to do so.”

The spirit seemed to reflect for a moment; then she rapped out: “Wait, and I will fetch my brother. He shall come here himself and tell you what he thinks about it.”

In a short time there was a different movement of the table, and the name of my old friend was given. After we had exchanged a few words, and I had told him I required a test of his identity, he asked me to get a pencil and paper, and write from his dictation. I did as he requested, and he dictated the following sentence: “Long time, indeed, has passed since the days you call to mind, but time, however long, does not efface the past. It has never made me cease to think of and pray for you as I felt you, too, did think of and pray for me. Write to the address my sister gave you. I want to hear from you.”

Notwithstanding the perspicuity and apparent genuineness of this message, it was some time before I could make up my mind to follow the directions it gave me. My pride stood in the way to prevent it. Ten days afterwards, however, having received several more visits from the sister, I did as she desired me, and sent a note to her brother to the Leamington Club. The answer came by return of post, and contained (amongst others) the identical words he had told me to write down.

Will Mr. Stuart Cumberland, or any other clever man, explain to me what or who it was that had visited me ten days beforehand, and dictated words which could hardly have been in my correspondent’s brain before he received my letter? I am ready to accept any reasonable explanation of the matter from the scientists, philosophers, chemists, or arguists of the world, and I am open to conviction, when my sense convinces me, that their reasoning is true. But my present belief is, that not a single man or woman will be found able to account on any ordinary grounds for such an extraordinary instance of “unconscious cerebration”.


Photographs by Laura Burlton

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