Archive for the ‘Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum’ Category


What, Write To A Dead Man?

May 12, 2011

From “Ghost Hunters” by Deborah Blum, documentation of crisis apparitions compiled originally for Phantasms of the Living published 1886

A British clergyman was taking a summer evening walk over the downs near Marlcombe Hill. He was composing in his head a congratulatory letter to a good friend whose birthday would be two days later, on August 20, 1874.

He had barely begun when a voice spoke sharply in his ear: “What, write to a dead man; write to a dead man?”

The clergyman turned hastily around, expecting to see someone behind him. There was only the fading light glazing on the grasses with gold. “Treating the matter as an illusion, I went on with my composition.” The same voice spoke again, this time louder with some impatience, “What, write to a dead man; write to a dead man?”

Again, he turned around. Again, there was no one there. But now he was afraid that it wasn’t an illusion.

After hurrying home, he wrote the letter and sent it anyway. “In reply [I] received from Mrs W the sad, but to me not unexpected, intelligence that her husband was dead.”


The Sittings of Leonora Piper: Gold Ring

May 9, 2011

– From the book “Ghost Hunters” by Deborah Blum, pg 188

It was in the summer of 1983, while still traveling abroad, that William James received an unexpected letter from a colleague at Harvard, a researcher who’d decided to sneak a visit to Leonora Piper, Boston’s most famous medium. The professor had contacted Hodgson using a fake name. Even after the sitting, he’d not offered his real one. Mentally, he’d been snickering as the medium slumped into her trance, as her hands began to write.

“I asked her barely a question, but she ran on for three quarters of an hour, telling me names, places, events, in the most startling manner.” Someday he’d promised he would tell James what she had revealed; for now, he’d just say it was information not meant to be shared.

Still, there were a few interesting details that he wanted to pass along. Once again, Mrs Piper had revealed her peculiar psychometric gift, as if she could read a story from a material object. It made no physical sense, but there it was:

The professor had brought a single circle of gold, one that once belonged to his dead mother. The ring had been one of two, a set that he an his mother had exchanged one Christmas.

Each ring had been engraved with the first word of the recipient’s favorite proverb. Long ago, he’d lost the one she’d given him. But the previous year, when his mother died, the ring he’d given to her had been returned to him.

The professor was holding that ring in his hand during the sitting, hiding the word as he enquired, “What was written in Momma’s ring?”

“I had hardly got the words from my mouth till she slapped down the word on the other ring – the one that Mamma had given me, and which had been lost years ago.

“As the word was a peculiar one, doubtfully ever written in any ring before, and as she wrote it in such a flash – it was surely curious.”

As an educated man, a scientist, no believer in the silly afterlife ideas of the spiritualists, the professor would admit to only being curious, as he carefully explained to James.


The Sittings of Leonora Piper: George Pellew

May 8, 2011

– From the book, “Ghost Hunters,” by Deborah Blum, year 1893

His investigation of the so-called ghost of George Pellow was based upon a simple idea, with a twist. He would bring more than a hundred visitors, eventually, to sit with Mrs Piper. Some would be friends of the dead man; some would be strangers to him. But she would be given no relationship clues. No participants would be allowed to tell their names or whether they had any connection to GP. They would be allowed to improvise personal tests, but they would not be allowed to give any explanation for them.

One visitor brought a photograph of a building.

“Do you recognize this?”

“Yes, it is your summer house.”

Which it was.

Another woman placed a book on the medium’s head.

“Do you recognize this?” she said to GP.

“My French lyrics,” he answered.

That was right too.

Another visitor, a man, simply asked. “Tell me something, in our past, that you and I alone know.”

As he spoke, Mrs Piper sat slumped forward into a pile of pillows on the table, her left hand dangling limply over the edge, her right hand coiled loosely around a pencil. Next to her right side, a pad of paper sat on the table. Suddenly, her fingers tightened and she began to write, wildly, filling pages, ripping them off, thrusting them away from her.

Hodgson moved to the other side of the room. The man began flipping through the pages. He paled and folded the papers.  They were too private to be read aloud, he told Hodgson.

But he was, “perfectly satisfied, perfectly.”

“I could not distinguish anything at first,” GP told a friend during one of the sittings. “Darkest hours just before dawn, you know that, Jim.  I was puzzled, confused.”

“Weren’t you surprised to find yourself still living?” his friend asked in return.

“Perfectly so. It was beyond my reasoning powers. Now it is as clear to me as daylight.”