Esoterica: Books Dictated From Beyond the Grave -- Spy Identified Through Psychic -- A Haunted Legislature?
Books Dictated From Beyond the Grave
It’s really hard to write a book; it’s even harder to sell one. Add a dead author into the mix (it’s pretty difficult to outline plot points and dictate precise punctuation from six feet under) and you’ve got a real publishing challenge. Enter the Ouija Board. Here are a few of the most famous instances of two frustrated creatives—one dead and one living—coming together to make literature happen.
1. The Sorry Tale: A Story of the Time of Christ (Classic Reprint)
Starting in the early 1910s, Pearl Lenore Curran and her friend Emily Grant Hutchings worked the Ouija board together twice a week, mostly to keep themselves amused while their husbands played pinochle. For almost a year, the planchette moved around the board but pointed to mostly random letters that didn’t form words, let alone sentences. Then, on July 8, 1913, Patience Worth made her presence known.
According to the frantic spelling across the Ouija board, Patience was born in either 1649 or 1694 “across the sea” and was killed in an Indian raid. Don’t ask which tribe, though. “Would ye with a blade at thy throat seek the [affiliation] of thine assassin?” she once responded to the question.
When really inspired, the Patience-Pearl duo could spell out about 1500 words an hour, which is how she came to be the author of books including The Sorry Tale and Hope Trueblood. Even spirits have their critics, though: Atlantic Monthly essayist Agnes Repplier declared the Worth pieces “as silly as they are dull.”
Curran may have hinted about the true origins of Patience Worth when she wrote a short story for The Saturday Evening Post in 1919 under her own name. The plot went something like this: A girl named Mayme believed she had a “spirit guide” named Rosa. After a bunch of hoopla about the whole supernatural affair, Mayme confessed to a friend that it had all been fabricated. “Oh Gwen, I love [Rosa]!” she admitted. “She’s everything I want to be. Didn’t I find her? It ain’t me. It’s what used to be me before the world buried it.”
“Patience Worth,” by the way, also happens to be the name of a character in a popular novel of the day that probably had some 1900s version of Fabio on the cover. Coincidence (or not): it was set in Colonial times. Pearl Curran said she hadn’t so much as flipped through the bodice-ripper before her own Patience started writing.
2. Jap Herron: A Novel Written from the Ouija Board; With an Introduction, the Coming of Jap Herron (Classic Reprint)
Emily Grant Hutchings, Pearl Curran’s bestie, also claimed to receive prose via spectral author. Unlike Curran, though, Hutchings’ ghostwriter already had a bunch of bestsellers under his belt. Hutchings, a one-time resident of Hannibal, Missouri, said that a spirit identified himself as “Sam L. Clemens, lazy Sam,” during a routine Ouija Board session, and requested help getting his final literary vision published so he could rest peacefully. “Every scribe here wants a pencil on earth,” Twain spelled out on the board. Not wanting to disappoint one of the greatest authors in history, Hutchings agreed. Throughout the course of writing Jap Herron, Twain offered his opinion on the homemade board (“That apostrophe is too far down. I am in danger of falling off the board every time I make a run for it”), the editing (“Will you two ladies stop speculating? I am going to take care of this story. Don’t try to dictate”), and the tobacco being used by Hutchings’ husband (“In the other world they don’t know Walter Raleigh’s weed and I have not found Walter yet to make complaint”).
Maybe being dead dulled Mr. Clemens’ gift for words and timing, because the end result was roundly panned. “If this is the best that ‘Mark Twain’ can do by reaching across the barrier, the army of admirers that his works have won for him will all hope that he will hereafter respect that boundary,” The New York Times declared in 1917.
The “co-authored” book had another major critic: Clara Clemens, Samuel’s daughter and the executor of his estate. She sued and was successful in getting Hutchings to cease production of the books and destroy any remaining stock. That means you won’t find Jap Herron next to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in bookstores, but it is available under Hutchings’ byline. You can also read it online if you like.
3. God bless U, daughter,
Apparently unwilling to let his deceased status slow him down, Samuel Clemens allegedly contacted Mildred Swanson of Independence, Missouri, decades after his dictation to Hutchings. In the late 1960s, Swanson wrote a book called God Bless U, Daughter, a diary of her planchette conversations with Clemens. The title came from the way Clemens signed out of each session. The author, Swanson said, was able to accurately predict events like her mother getting injured in a fall and told her that authors Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert Louis Stevenson were also watching over her.
4. The Seth Material: The Spiritual Teacher that Launched the New Age
In 1963, a “personality energy essence” calling itself “Seth” contacted Jane Roberts via the Ouija board, which she was using for research on a book about ESP. He wasn’t interested in parlor tricks or delivering messages from long-gone relatives, however. No, Seth preferred to divulge details about reincarnation, free will, telepathy, physical matter, anti-matter, and the subconscious.
As the sessions with Seth went on, Roberts became so comfortable with Seth’s thoughts that she no longer needed the Ouija Board and could simply dictate the messages he was sending through her brain. Together, Roberts and Seth developed enough material for 10 books from more than 1800 sessions.
5. Jane Roberts' A View From the Other Side
Jane Roberts died in 1984 at the age of 55. Naturally, she took it upon herself to channel her writings through someone else just as Seth had done through her. The result is Jane Roberts’ A View from the Other Side, a brief booklet about Jane’s own experiences since her death. Most of Jane’s fans denounce the work as utter fabrication, saying that not only does it not sound like her tone of voice, but it also expresses views that Jane never would have agreed with. - by Stacy Conradt - Mental Floss
Spy was identified through psychic, author says
One of the weirdest espionage cases in Australian history just got weirder.
A US intelligence officer is writing a book about how a psychic was used to track bumbling spy and former Brighton schoolboy Jean-Philippe Wispelaere during a secretive operation more than a decade ago.
Wispelaere was a low-level imagery analyst who should probably never have got through the security vetting process.
Scott Carmichael, an author and senior security and counter-intelligence investigator at the US Defence Intelligence Agency, worked on the Wispelaere case in 1999. He is writing a book about how he used a psychic to identify Wispelaere after the former Australian Defence Intelligence Organisation analyst tried to sell stolen US documents to Singaporean embassy officials in Thailand.
While Wispelaere had given his email address to the embassy during negotiations to sell 1382 classified documents for hundreds of thousands of dollars, US authorities were not sure of his identity or whether he would make contact with the embassy again.
The Australian National University graduate eventually did make contact. He was then tricked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into travelling to the US, where he was arrested, and sentenced to 15 years in federal prison in 2001.
The 41-year-old was released earlier this year and snubbed Australia, the country where he was raised and where his mother still lives, for Canada, his country of birth.
Mr Carmichael stated, via email, that the use of psychics to identify ''unknown subjects'' had been common among US intelligence agencies in the 1980s and was used until 1995.
It had been phased out by the time of the Wispelaere case, but Mr Carmichael said he decided to get in contact with psychic Angela Ford to conduct an operation that was not authorised by DIA.
''The agency was out of the psychic business,'' Mr Carmichael said. ''It seemed that I was out of luck. But I persisted. It was a purely personal endeavour to determine whether Angela could develop - through paranormal means - useful information about the walk-in event.''
Ms Ford said in an email that she had been told little detail about the case during her contact with Mr Carmichael, but had been able to establish that the man had called himself Baker, was an Australian, and was muscular and aged in his 20s.
She determined Wispelaere had tried to sell US documents at the Singaporean embassy in Bangkok, but she was confused as to why he had said he was involved with US imagery when he was an Australian.
Wispelaere, a steroid abuser and gym junkie, had used the name Jeff Baker when he approached the embassy, and had claimed to be an American.
''I was working many cases at this time and I was kept in the dark on all of them,'' Ms Ford said.
''I couldn't know anything about the cases I was working on because that would be cheating.''
US Naval Institute Press publicist Judy Heise confirmed Mr Carmichael was preparing a manuscript on the Wispelaere case and had previously had a book published by the company. She also confirmed his position with the DIA.
Clive Williams, a former intelligence analyst and army officer, said he was not aware of psychics ever being used in Australian operations. The visiting fellow at the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, and adjunct professor at Macquarie University's Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter-terrorism, said he did not think the US had ever had much success with their psychic programs.
Professor Williams said he often found the published accounts of those who had worked in intelligence agencies questionable.
''Wispelaere's espionage case was not very complicated. In fact, it was quite straightforward from an investigative perspective,'' he said.
''Wispelaere was a low-level imagery analyst who should probably never have got through the security vetting process.
''There is a cottage industry of writers who claim that bin Laden is not dead, the Israelis were behind the World Trade Centre attack, etc. Of course, it is often very hard to prove the opposite case and may be limited by releasability of information.'' - TheAge
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A Haunted Legislature?
She walks the upper galleries of the ornate legislative library late at night, when the lights are out and the only real people around are security guards.
She wears a long dress more in keeping with the early 1900s than today's fashion. Her grey hair is tied up in a bun.
She doesn't bother anyone.
Her ghostly shadow moves silently, re-stacking illusory books, folders and binders.
One time a security guard caught her reading at a table. When he asked her how she got into a locked room, she vanished.
Right before his eyes.
She's only been seen a few times, but the staff of the Manitoba Legislative Building library and security guards are keenly aware of her presence.
Although harmless, none of them care to spend the night waiting for her to reappear.
She's just one of the spirits said to haunt the legislative building, a Winnipeg landmark steeped in hidden-in-plain-sight mystic messages and supposed links to the occult. Its Masonic symbols and architecture are well-documented. But its ghosts?
No so much.
There's another female ghost that's said to wander the basement hallways of the building. This one sings, her voice gentle and quiet, but still echoing through the natural night noises of a building opened in 1920. The "ledge" was built on the original site of Osborne Barracks, which was established in 1873.
There are other ghosts, too, such as the one spotted by a security guard during a late-night walk-throughs of the hallways.
"I thought it was an intruder," she said recently.
Within seconds she realized what she saw, although human in form, was anything but.
"My hair just stuck up on end on the back of my neck and I froze," she said.
She said she considered hitting an alarm, but in that instant the apparition vanished. She hasn't seen it since.
Other security guards have heard similar stories, but they brush them off.
Ghosts aren't real, right?
Still, how to explain locked doors that open by themselves? The sound of a woman's high heels clicking on the marble floors when the building is empty? The books that fall off shelves when the building is closed?
"Sometimes you get a shot of static electricity that seems to float around in a ball," one guard said. "You're on a marble floor so you can't blame it on the carpet."
Other ghost stories include the man who walks the southeast, second-floor hallways wearing a long black suit and top hat. He's even been spotted on the grand staircase and when approached, he either vanishes or passes through one of the thick stone walls.
Then there are the ghosts of three men who have meetings each evening in one of the two large committee rooms. These rooms do not see daily use, but have seen their share of intense political debates. Maybe the walls harnessed that energy and release it... whenever.
Local tour guide Kristen Verin-Treusch says there are more unearthly visitors.
"Apparently, there's some spirit boys downstairs in basement area," she said. "You know how some of the doors have panes in glass in them? It's not clear glass, and from what I understand a security guard was doing his rounds and he saw these two boys inside an office with their hands cupped around their eyes looking at him in the hallway.
"He kind of thought, what-the-heck are these kids doing in here, and he went into the room and, of course, there's nobody there."
Verin-Treusch conducts tours of haunted places in Winnipeg through Muddy Water Tours.
She tries to get the boys, or their spirits, to interact with the tour group.
"We've had a medium come with us on several occasions and she thinks they're connected to another spirit person who has been seen in the building wandering around," she said.
Verin-Treusch said it goes without saying it's all very speculative whether these spirits exist.
"We have stuff happening. People experience tingling in their hands when they're doing the dowsing rods.
"People start freaking out."
Why he shot himself, nobody really knows
It'd be pushing it to say his apparition haunts the building, but his legacy definitely does.
Ralph McNeille Pearson, deputy treasury minister for the province for 26 years, shot himself with a .38-calibre revolver in his first-floor washroom of the legislative building on Feb. 19, 1947.
His is the only confirmed death in the Manitoba Legislative Building.
His suicide stunned the government of then-premier Stuart Garson. In the newspaper coverage that followed, Pearson, 54, was eulogized as one of the most dedicated civil servants to work for the province, but also described as being in "indifferent health" in the months leading up to his death.
Pearson, who took the job Sept. 14, 1920, helped steer the provincial treasury through the 1929 stock market crash, the Great Depression and the Second World War.
He's also considered one of the architects of what became the modern federal equalization payment system, in which the federal government shares revenue with the provinces. He was also on the ground floor of helping to create Canada's employment insurance system, having witnessed what happened during the height of the Depression when so many Manitobans were out of work and the province got caught with unexpected expenditures.
While Pearson's tenure covered some of the worst years of the past century, he was also dogged by a scandal that broke out under his watch.
On Dec. 30, 1931, police arrested cashier Maurice Jones and accountant James Spawls, both employees of the Treasury Department, after it was found $102,700 ($1.690 million in today's value) was missing. A year later, both men were sentenced to four years in prison. Both stole the money over five years, using a bookkeeping slight-of-hand, to "clean up" at the horse races, betting on out-of-town horse races with Winnipeg bookies, according to newspaper accounts at the time.
Pearson and other Treasury Department officials later had to fight off accusations that $1 million had actually been pilfered from the province's coffers.
Leslie Garden and Reginald Maybury made the allegation in a newspaper they printed called The Truth of Canada. They were arrested and charged with the rare offence of publishing false news likely to injure the credit of Manitoba, but were acquitted by a jury March 22, 1932, after two hours of deliberation.
Why Pearson shot himself 15 years later, no one knows. - Winnipeg Free Press
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