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Part I.—In the Haunted House.

With all my high respect and admiration for the doctor as a gentleman and a searcher after Truth, I felt loth to comply with his desire that I should assist him in what he termed the scientific revelation of so-called spiritualistic phenomena. I fingered his letter uneasily. Though well-tutored in the doctor's philosophy that fear is a confession of deficiency of self-knowledge and self-reverence; that man is delivered to pain and sorrow by what is false within himself; yet I shrank from submitting to conditions that might be fraught with appalling contingencies. However, on receiving a second letter, urging me, on behalf of my fellow-creatures, to at once call and see him, and containing sentences of mysterious import deeply underscored, my curiosity was aroused. I found the doctor as usual in his study, surrounded by instruments other than those of his profession, with the gruesome skeleton grinning from its corner behind the half-drawn curtain. After a cordial greeting he removed his skull cap and seating himself in an easy chair studied me thoughtfully. His keen


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grey eyes, without losing their steady coldness, scintillated with pellets of steely light, betraying a suppressed excitement such as I had never imagined possible to his sternly intellectual character. But for his expressed disapproval I should make public his remarkable disclosure. The pith of it, however, will be found in his forthcoming work, “Experiments of a Physician,” that will fall like a bomb in scientific circles. I'm only permitted to introduce this story with such material as it requires, lightly touching, if I desire, on the fringe of his great discovery.

For some months the doctor had been investigating the phenomena of spiritualism as are manifested in haunted houses. He had built up a theory to explain them and required my services to demonstrate it.

“Just because you supply those factors required in an experiment of this kind. You are sensitive, imaginative, possess a picturesque vocabulary, and are easily inflamed—my antithesis, in short, as a scientific man,” he explained.

“The sounds heard in what are termed haunted houses have been explained in many ways—some foolish and some pseudo-scientific. I was led to my theory by my own great discovery of the reduction of matter to intangibility. But I must not digress on the cohesion and repulsion of molecules. I am speaking to you as a layman that knows nothing of scientific formulae.


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Briefly, then, these so-called haunted houses have gained their appellation by the belief that spirits are in possession. That is the vulgar notion not unshared by even notable men in the scientific world. As I am utterly opposed to such an opinion, I shall not further touch on it. There is little doubt, however, that these sounds are governed by forces with some characteristics of intelligence. In the particular house in which I have been investigating, this is markedly the case. I shall not describe the phenomena, nor relate the story I have heard concerning this house, since I wish no objective stimulus to suggest subjective impressions in you. It has been conjectured that since thought is indestructible, we must be surrounded by a sea, as it were, of thoughts more or less potent in proportion to their projected intensity. It may be reasoned, therefore, that minds of certain strata attract by chemical law from this universal sea thoughts akin to them. A thought passing into a poet's mind may have gravitated to it from the sea of thoughts into which it was first projected by another poet. Some thoughts are more vehement than others. A man in a death agony would project thoughts more intense than a man in a normal mood. The greater the personality behind the thought, the greater, of course, the vital force of the thought. You don't follow me, perhaps. Well, my theory of haunted houses is this: the sounds heard therein are


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mind emanations that have been projected by persons in them at some time or other under excruciating pressure, and affect our minds when brought under their influence. If my theory be correct, a person of creative instinct, offering only his subjective receptivity to these emanations should receive a full picture of the events from which they originated. I'm not yet sure whether a memory would retain it to enable one to present it objectively. We shall see. I have found the means to achieve the desired condition, and you are the man to receive these vital emanations confined in this haunted house in a series of pictures.”

The doctor paused and moistened his lips. I was too perplexed to speak for some minutes. The characteristic obscurity of the doctor's diction was, in this instance, thickened by my ignorance of the subject. Surely the belief in ghosts and haunted houses arose from ignorance and superstition. The doctor, with steady eyes fixed on mine, repeated slowly, and in curious language, the greater portion of his explanation.

“In other words, doctor,” I exclaimed, “if a murder had been committed in a house, I should, under a certain condition, see it?”

“Not exactly—how could you? A reflection of it, as in a dream. Let me explain.”

I could not, however, follow the doctor; I could only


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grasp something of his theory. Should I comply with his desire—that was the question to me. I had complete faith in his power, but there was something so uncanny about the experiment, especially so when he would not divulge what he knew concerning this particular haunted house, that, I'm not ashamed to confess, I didn't relish the business at all.

“Fear nothing,” said the doctor quietly, watching me gravely. “Nothing can hurt you but yourself. This is no idle investigation, but in the cause of Truth. You are the type of man I want. Your duty to your fellowmen demands abnegation of your physical self. Your soul is beyond every power but its own to do good or evil. We punish or reward ourselves. Our thoughts and acts are our shadows or lights, are the seeds sown that will bear crops of either pain or joy in this our life we know; of any other I know nothing. I would gladly undergo this ordeal—if such it seems to you—for experience in a new channel. How much more so when undertaken in the service of science, and, therefore, Truth.”

“You know, doctor, though recognising all science has done for man, I have no interest in it.”

“Exactly! The poetic temperament seldom has. Well?”

“But since you wish me, and I have confidence in you, as a man of high character and——”




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“Tush! That's right. To-morrow night we shall be in the haunted house.”

From the moment the doctor removed the rusty chain and padlock from the iron gate in the prison-like wall of weather-beaten brick, and pushed it, screeching on its stubborn hinges, and we advanced cautiously into the darkness of the court-yard, I felt a chill settle on my nerves. Apart from the weirdness of the coming work, there was something repellant about the ancient, square double-storeyed building, looming in the cold starlight amid its cordon of shadowy cypresses, their attenuated shapes ragged with age, their breasts of leaves heaving with long sighs in the bleak airs. A huge bat flapped heavily away from an ambush of branches as our boots trod on cracking twigs and little pebbles. Skirting a dried-up well we proceeded to the massive front door, the frameless windows on its either side agape as though stricken with amazement at our intrusion. Evidently no human creature had invaded the withering enclosure for some time.

“Excepting myself no one has entered this mansion for many years, I'm now its legal tenant,” remarked the doctor, as though divining my thoughts, as he struck a match and inserted the key into the lock, and with a twist that made the latch snap, threw open the door. “Be careful, the staircase is a man-trap; tread


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after me.” A scuttling under my feet, and a squeal, with numerous sparks flitting away into gaps, made me wary of my foothold. The creaking of our boots awoke a shudder of echoes in far-off chambers and along winding passages. Once my foot plugged into a hole and pitched me forward, sending out a volley of cracks from the stairs. A match spluttered, and with “Here we are,” the doctor entered a chamber and lighted a lamp.

“Mind the wires!” he exclaimed anxiously, as I stepped quickly after him, brushing with my foot something that twanged metallically.

The room was spacious, lofty, with embossed ceiling stamped with a design of the fable, “The Fox and the Stork,” that bore evidence, in spite of its tarnish, of the craft of a master. Under the lamp-gleam fading outlines of the design of the massive walls showed that it had been repeated by an artist's hand in rich autumnal tints. The hearth, heaped with cinders of a recent fire, was paved and walled in with polished tiles, continuing the same design, burnt into their surface. The cornices represented clusters of grapes escaping from curled leaves, now cracked, and also besmirched with sluttish time. The oaken floor dumb with dust, the long-shuttered window, the ponderous door of antique panels, the breadth and height of the room, its abject loneliness and melancholy aspect of decayed grandeur, all co-operated to produce a pathetic feeling in one's


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mind, sobered with memories of a dead past. Strangely out of place seemed the bare, plain, workman's table, with its shining instruments and litter of papers, the two cheap chairs, the camp-bed, the couch imported from the doctor's studio, the photographic camera, and the upstanding machines with mirrors and suspended chains and dangling wires, for what object I was quite ignorant, having never before seen their like. I was called to the business in hand by the doctor's voice as he examined the dial plate of one of the strange machines.

“Nothing has been recorded since my last visit. Every objective sound beyond human hearing is registered here. Science is prepared for everything—ghosts, spooks, spirits, visitors from other planets. I give them a cordial invitation. Now, when you are ready, I am. It's after midnight, and our disembodied guests, as the world thinks them, usually manifest their presence betwixt this time and dawn.”

I sat in a chair and stared blankly at him. What on earth was I to undergo? I felt my nerves slowly giving way. Were there really such things as ghosts? I glanced helplessly at the array of machines, of diabolical appearance, in the shadows, with much the same heart-sinking as a victim of the Inquisition must have had when surrounded by instruments of fiendish torture. The doctor strode up to me and bent his keen eyes on my face.




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“Suffering from the hereditary instincts of the race You must be above that. It's purely phantasy and therefore a weakness. The laboratory is the hatching nest of truths, not the windy emptiness of old women's minds. There are no ghosts, spirits, or wandering unfleshed identities. But there are thoughts of dead people in this chamber as vital as our own. Why these should manifest themselves at one time and not at another is yet beyond me. Much there is yet to learn, and I have patience and persistency to remove mountains. I envy you your opportunity to approach the altar of what is called occultism by a vaporing cult. Would that I could hob-nob to-night with a company of spirits, double-dyed murderers all of them. But there are no spirits, I repeat. Are you ready?” And he slipped his fingers on my pulse. His cool nonchalance and brisk business air somewhat reassured me.

“I wish you to be as composed as possible,” he went on, with the professional tone of a photographer to his sitter. “Lie on the couch and concentrate your mind on this,” and he passed into my hand a copper disc polished as a new penny. “Remember,” he continued, as I stretched myself on the couch and glanced up at his face, “whatever happens, you are in my charge, and, therefore, safe. You are the pioneer into unknown regions of knowledge, and the success of this experiment will revolutionise metaphysics. Kant's disposal of


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the bugbears of time and space is but a stride into the outer darkness in which you will journey. This is a monumental moment in the history of science. Disabuse your mind of old, exploded myths. Bend your attention on the disc with a determination to preclude every other impression. Hold it still,” and, shifting the lamp so that a gleam fell on my palm, he stroked my head lightly a few minutes till satisfied my mind was focussed on the copper sheen. I have a dreamy idea of what followed that must not, however, be related. I may say, without trespassing on the doctor's private ground, that several of the machines were wheeled towards the couch and their coils unwound ready to be manipulated. Meanwhile the disc seemed to flatten into a target of glittering bronze, and then bulge up, swelling towards my eyes. I have an hazy idea of endeavoring to shift my glance, and, being alarmed at my inability to do so, when, with a sharp click, a sudden curtain of dark crimson fell over my vision and deepened—then a blank.

I have no recollection of what happened till I emerged into the consciousness of what appeared a most vivid dream, with, however, most novel features. There was the aloofness such as one feels when a drama is being unfolded before the footlights, and yet a life-like representation, despite its unnatural accompaniment, beyond theatrical artifice. I suffer from lack of


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precise language to convey even an idea of what I mean. I must confine myself to a loose, haphazard method of bringing before the reader's mind some random notion of what I gazed upon.

Firstly, then, I felt I was not within the chamber, and yet I saw nothing else. Yes; despite its pristine splendour, its sumptuous furniture, the huge, old-fashioned, heavily-curtained bed, and the medley of nicknacks, I recognised the same chamber. And yet, strange to say, my own identity and every recollection regarding the doctor, the experiment, and, in short, everything connected with my past life up to that moment, were obliterated. To eliminate the inconsistencies involved in what I have just written, is beyond me. Moreover, I knew it was night, and felt no shock of surprise when my eyes, attuned to the neutral light, beheld a young woman of ravishing beauty, in a dressing gown, clinging imploringly to a man attired in riding costume, whose black moustache, swarthy skin, and negligent ringlets betokened him of foreign extraction. But, most curious to relate, the two figures were self-illumined, the woman with a frosty silver light, the man with a bluish haze that every now and again flushed redly. Though I heard no voices, I knew the woman was expostulating with the man, entreating him to depart. Her finger once pointed to the open window through which I seemed to know he had entered,


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and the more vehement her desire, expressed with wringing hands, the more unwilling he seemed to conply with it. It was now I became aware that their self-illuminations underwent changes as though in harmony with their feelings—the woman's dimmed and shaded into faint yellow, and the man's deepened into purple. Suddenly there was a blaze of light that dazzled me, during which I knew some approaching danger had warned the man to conceal himself behind the tapestry. In a little while I observed that an old man had entered the room, also self-illuminated with a wanish light, and felt he was rebuking the woman for disturbing him in his sleep, and impatient at her recital of some dreadful dream she had had. The frosty clear light about her was quenched in a dusky twilight. It was at this moment my attention was drawn to a vividly red light, peculiarly depressing, beyond the door, emanating from a red-headed man, with savage eyes, who crouched listening. It seemed as though the secret of the house was known to me. The old man was in the power of the listener, a relative, who demanded his daughter, the woman, in marriage, whose lover was behind the tapestry. Nevertheless, I had no sympathy or interest in the drama. It was being played before me without my volition. I began to notice the woman was frequently pressing her hand to her bosom with catching breath. The old man was sternly insisting on her consent


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to something abhorrent to her. A vaporish haze gradually enveloped everything. When it lifted the old man was gone, the woman dressed for a journey, and her lover waiting for her outside the window on a ladder, his head protruding into the room. There was a red, flaring discharge, in which I saw the late listener dash into the room with a dagger and stab the lover in the face that worked horribly. The woman fell—her light extinct. I knew she was dead. For a moment I saw the red-headed man on his knees beside the body, beating the floor with his hands as though demented. The window was void. Then everything vanished.

The doctor admits the condition in which I found myself on recovering consciousness was not deceptive. I was to all intents and purposes as much awake as ever I was in my life, with an accumulation of energy beyond expression. I was buoyant as air; my senses had increased their capacity a thousandfold; my sensations were being every moment multiplied and heightened to exaltation. As the dazzlement gradually became familiar, and I could take cognisance of details, I felt no surprise at what really was a very amazing spectacle. There was the room as I had entered it: the camp bed, the two chairs, the table with its lamp now just alight, the doctor seated on the couch, his head bent forward with scrutinising eyes, and white beard almost touching what appeared to be a replica of my face. But


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what first struck me as novel and deserving of attention was the thin, attenuated, unsubstantiality of everything but myself. It was some little time before it dawned on me that I was not on the sofa at all—that I was, in fact, suspended, as it were, in mid-air over the couch. Then came the first touch of surprise—the figure lying on the couch, so vague and shadowy, was not my thinking self, but merely a shell, a soulless body. And yet my body, the exact duplicate of the one on the couch, felt vividly real, and, I repeat, the only substantial object in the room. Desirious of removing this apparent illusion, I stretched out my hand to touch the doctor's arm and draw his attention. It was with a quick shock of alarm that I realised my hand had passed through his arm as through mist without his appearing to know it. Meanwhile such a glorious sense of freedom was in me, such an exuberant buoyancy, that without consciousness of the act, I was moving towards the ceiling when a jarring drag enlightened me that I was tethered to the shell on the sofa by numerous cords of brilliantly blue light, like currents of electricity. By this time I had also discovered my sense of vision was unimpeded by matter. Every object seemed limned on the atmosphere, a mere portraiture, only held from dissolving by a rapid interplay of conflicting forces that, however, hardly affected myself. The whole scene, indeed, was as baseless and bodyless as a noon-day


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dream. Nothing existed but my thoughts; even their investiture suggested latent impermancy, that forces at the moment unknown to me were capable of wilting it to nothingness. In every part of me tingled such divine energy that I was possessed with the sublime egotism of conviction that the more I was relieved of my embodiment the more substantial I should become, the more uncircumscribed would be my innate potencies, the more ideal my aspirations. And I yearned with a great passion for the sundering of the trammels of the flesh, for a beatific vision of perfection beyond time and space and being. I had no fear, no doubt, no hesitation. Then bulking in the expanse of self with a depressing weight of deliberate descension to the baseless stuff of matter all my animal instincts were gradually exposed, awakening memories of evil thoughts and deeds that had ministered to their gratification and the first premonitory pains of that agony, self-inflicted, assuredly mine after death. I suffered too acutely to descant on it here.

All at once, an impression was created that two terrible eyes were fixed on me with piercing scrutiny. A hush deepened like lowering darkness—deepened intolerably with freezing stagnation. Every sense was stiffened in the presence of some dreadful invisible mystery. The suspense was frightful. Though a train of figures was now passing through the chamber,


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yet there was not the faintest relief of the oppression of those staring, invisible eyes. Visions of crowded human faces, more or less sorrowful, some with light in their eyes, and others as though blind, and all vitally instinct with divine energy; visions of beings as substantial as myself wafting through the walls as through air, never for one moment relaxed the horror of those mysterious eyes. The more I cowered beneath that scrutiny, the more distant appeared the procession of figures, the throng of sorrowful faces. It seemed as though the ever-moving population in that unearthly medium shunned that mysterious presence. Then I saw it! At the same moment the doctor lifted his head and appeared to be listening in the darkened chamber. Draped in funereal gloom the gigantic presence loomed, his countenance contorted with lurid passions. To and fro he paced, wringing his hands, and seemed to live over again that dreadful night when he thrust the dagger into his victim's face. Never shall I forget the wild frenzy in those eyes, the doom of remorse on that implacable brow, the writhing misery of that sullen mouth. Several times I was sure the doctor had seen the appalling figure striding about the room when he darted to examine his dial-plates. Well I knew the presence could see him, and when in one of the doctor's rushes to a machine the furious eyes were turned on his face, and the funereal shape deliberately


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strode across his path and confronted him, I quailed. There was no obstruction, however—a passage of a body through air; nothing more. I knew then the doctor was quite unaware of his awful visitor, who strode through him unconcernedly. Bound to the locality of his own crime by abnormal physical desires and sleepless memory, driven by the inexorable law of destiny to expiate to the uttermost fraction the misery he had wrought when in the flesh, with intermittent cravings of the immortal essence within him, that would increase with the disintegration of the brute nature through exhausting and unavailing efforts to appease itself, the hapless wretch was probably too self-conscious of his own doom to entertain the slightest interest in the investigations of a man of science. Insignificantly trivial and infinitesimal must appear the experiments of inquisitive minds behind the barrier of matter to a spirit steeped in tragic anguish, earth-bound and self-condemned. Even as I gazed on that striding, self-torturing figure, encompassed about with awe and overwhelming loneliness, the horror of the spectacle inspired pity and compassion. Had it not been for my conviction that only by a process such as this could he issue to higher stages of spiritual evolution, I could not have borne the ordeal. When at last faint quivers played through my frame, and a drowsiness confused my vision of the doctor manipulating


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several of the machines, of the figure still engaged in its punishing tasks, and I knew unconsciousness was stealing over me, a feeling of gratitude for a lesson deeply felt mingled in my mind with a craving that others should feel it also.

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