13. The modern sorcery company Ltd. Give a gratis performance
The days that followed were dark days for Gladys. Her father, whom she loved—and, until now, had never realized how much she loved—lay seriously ill. He had had a stroke which, although fortunately slight, must, as the doctor said, be regarded as a prelude to what would happen, unless he was kept very quiet. And to keep him quiet was not an easy thing to do. His mind continually reverted to what had just taken place, and he was for ever asking Gladys to tell him whether anything further had occurred in connection with it, whether there was anything about it in the papers.
Gladys, of course, was obliged to dissemble. She hated anything approaching dissimulation, but on this occasion there was no help for it, and what she told John Martin was the reverse of what she knew to be actually happening. The papers were full to overflowing with accounts of that fatal night's proceedings, and of the marvellous gratis exhibition given on the succeeding evening by the Modern Sorcery Company Ltd.
The Hooter, for example, had a full column on the middle page headed in large type—
"Extraordinary Scene at Martin and Davenport's"
"The Greatest Conjuring Tricks in the World Solved!"
Whilst the Daily Snapper, determined to be none the less sensational, began thus:
"Mysteries No Longer!"
"The Brass Coffin Trick" And "Eve at the Window" Done at Last!
"Martin and Davenport Lose Their Prestige"
This was bad enough, but the Planet published a paragraph that was even more galling, viz.—
"Now that Messrs. Martin and Davenport's great Illusions have been explained and their Hall in Kingsway, so long famous as the Home of Puzzledom, of necessity shorn of its glamour, one need not be surprised if those who delight in this kind of mystery, should turn elsewhere for their amusement. The British Public, which is above all things enamoured of novelty, will, doubtless, now resort to the Modern Sorcery Company, whose House in Cockspur Street bids fair to become the future home of everything uncanny. Their programme—to the uninitiated—presents possibilities—and impossibilities."
So said the Planet, and as the number of attendances at Martin and Davenports' fell from 820 on the night of the challenge to 89 on the succeeding night, whilst the Modern Sorcery Company's Hall was filled to overflowing, there was every prospect of its prediction being verified. The solution of Martin and Davenports' tricks had taken place (Hamar had so planned it) on the last night the trio possessed the property of divination, and, consequently, on the night that terminated the first stage of their compact. The following night they would be in possession of new powers, such powers as would warrant them giving a gratis exhibition—an exhibition of jugglery absolutely new and unprecedented. That the exhibition was successful may be gathered from the following article in the Daily Cyclone—
"MARVELLOUS DISPLAY OF PSYCHIC PHENOMENA IN COCKSPUR STREET.
"The Modern Sorcery Company Ltd., in their new premises in Cockspur Street, gave the most remarkable display of Phenomena it has ever yet fallen to our lot to report. Indeed, the performances were of such an extraordinary nature that the huge audience, en masse, was scared; not a few people fainted, whilst every now and again were heard screams of terror intermingled with long protracted 'Ohs!'"
A brief résumé of the entertainment ran as follows:—The first part of the Modern Sorcery Company's programme was carried out by Mr. Leon Hamar, solus, who, stepping to the front of the stage, announced that he was about to give a display of clairvoyance. Without further prelude he pointed to various members of the audience, and described spiritual presences he saw standing behind them. He did not say he could see a spirit, answering to the name of James or George—or some such equally familiar name—and then proceed to give a description of it, so elastic, that with very little stretching it would undoubtedly have fitted nine out of every ten people one meets with every day, but unlike any other clairvoyants we have known, he described the individual physical and moral traits of the people he professed to see. For example: To a lady sitting in the third row of the stalls, he said: "There is the phantasm of an elderly gentleman standing behind you. He has a vivid scar on his right cheek that looks as if it might have been caused by a sabre cut. He has a grey military moustache, a very marked chin; wears his hair parted in the middle, and has light-blue eyes that are fixed ferociously on the gentleman seated on your left. Do you recognize the person I am describing?"
"I think so," the lady answered in a faint voice.
"I will spare you a description of his person," Hamar went on, "but I should like to remind you that he met with a rather peculiar accident. He was looking over some engineering works in Leeds, when some one pushed him, and he was instantly whipped off the ground by a piece of revolving mechanism and dashed to pieces against the ceiling. Am I right?"
There was no reply—but the sigh, we think, was more significant than words.
Mr. Hamar then turned to a lady in the next row. "I can see behind you," he said, "an old dowager with yellow hair. She wears large emerald drop earrings, black satin skirt, and a heliotrope bodice of which she appears to be somewhat vain. She is coughing terribly. She died of pneumonia, brought about by the excessive zeal of—Ahem!—of her relatives—for the open-air treatment. Contrary to expectations, however, all her money went to a Society in Hanover Square—a Society for the Anti-propagation of Children. I think you know the lady to whom I refer."
Mr. Hamar had again hit the mark.
"Only too well!" came the indignant and spontaneous reply.
Mr. Hamar then turned to a man in the fifth row. "Hulloa!" he exclaimed. "What have we here—an Irish terrier answering to the name of 'Peg.' It is standing upright with its two front paws resting on your knees. It is looking up into your face, and its mouth is open as if anticipating a lump of sugar. From the marks on its body I should say it has been killed by being run over?"
Again Mr. Hamar was correct. "What you say is absolutely true," the gentleman replied; "I had a dog named Peg. I was greatly attached to it, and it was run over in Piccadilly by a motor cyclist. I hate the very sight of a motor bicycle."
After a brief interval of awestruck silence a voice from the gallery called out—
"You are in league with him!"
Then the man in the stalls stood up, and essayed to speak; but his voice was drowned in a perfect tornado of applause. He had no need—he was instantly recognized—he was J—— B——. With a few more examples of clairvoyance Mr. Hamar continued to entertain his audience for half an hour or so, by the end of which time, we have no hesitation in saying that every one was convinced that he actually saw what, he said, he saw.
The second part of the programme was entirely in the hands of Mr. Curtis, who now came forward with a bow. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said; "you all know that man is complex—that he is composed of mind and matter, the material and immaterial. I now propose to give you a physical demonstration of this fact. Will twelve of the audience kindly come up on the stage and sit around me, so that you may feel quite certain that I have here no mechanical devices to assist me?"—And amongst other well-known people who responded to Mr. Curtis's request, were Lord Bayle, Sir Charles Tenningham and the Right Hon. John Blaine, M.P. Having arranged these twelve volunteers in a semi-circle at the back of the stage, Mr. Curtis, standing in the centre of the stage, again addressed his audience. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said; "the secret of separating the mind—or what Spiritualists, who love to bolster up their pretended knowledge of the other world by the invention of pretentious nomenclature, call the 'ethical ego'—from the body, lies in intense concentration. If you wish to acquire the power, practise concentration—concentrate on being in a certain place. If nothing happens at first, don't be discouraged, but keep on trying, and a time will come when you will suddenly leave your body, in a form, which is the exact counterpart of the body you have left. You will visit the place whereon you are concentrating. Perhaps the best method of practising projection is to put your forehead against a door or wall, and concentrate very hard on being on the other side. It may take weeks before you get a result, but if you persevere, you will eventually succeed in leaving your physical form and passing through the door, or wall, into the space beyond. Now watch me! I shall concentrate on projecting my immaterial body, and of walking in it, three times round my material body."
Mr. Curtis closed his eyes, and for some seconds appeared to be thinking very hard. Then the audience witnessed a remarkable phenomenon—a figure, the exact counterpart of Mr. Curtis, stepped out, as it were, from his body, and slowly walking round it three times, deliberately glided into it, and apparently amalgamated with it. The twelve members from the audience who were within a few feet of the alleged ethereal body, as it walked past them, declared they saw it most vividly, and that feature for feature, detail for detail, it was the exact counterpart of Mr. Curtis, whose material body remained standing, upright and motionless, with its eyes tightly closed. Our representative questioned several of these eye-witnesses very closely, and they were all most emphatic in their belief that what they had seen was a bona-fide case of spiritual projection. At the request of a large part of the audience, Mr. Curtis repeated his demonstration, a further complement of men from the stalls joining those already on the stage to witness the operation.
Several tests were now applied to the ethereal body of Mr. Curtis, as it walked round his material body. One man, clutching at its sleeve, tried to detain it, but his hand passed through the sleeve, and held—nothing. Another man put out an arm to act as a barrier, and the projection, without swerving from its course, passed right through it; and, on the completion of the third round, disappeared as before.
In answer to inquiries, Mr. Curtis stated that the phenomenon might be taken as a good illustration of projections; and that he was prepared to project himself once again, in order to prove that it was erroneous to suppose that phantasms could not do all manner of physical actions. A deal table (upon which stood a tumbler and jug of water), a grandfather clock, and a piano were brought on to the stage, and Mr. Curtis once again projected his spirit form. The latter at once walked to the table, and, taking up the tumbler, filled it with water from the jug; after which it wound up the clock, and, sitting down on a seat in front of the piano, played "Killarney" and "The Star-spangled Banner." And then, amidst the wildest applause—the first time assuredly "a ghost" has ever received public plaudits in recognition of its services—it modestly re-entered its physical home.
Mr. Curtis then announced that not only could he project his ethereal body from his material body in the manner he had already demonstrated, but that with his ethereal body he could amalgamate with inorganic matter. He bade those on the stage approach the table in convenient numbers, i. e. two or three at a time, and listen attentively. He then took his stand on one side of the stage, about fourteen feet from the table; and the audience approaching the table and listening attentively, first of all heard it pulsate as with the throbbings of a heart, and then breathe with the deep and heavy respirations of some one in a sound sleep. The table then raised itself some three or four inches from the ground and moved round the stage; at the conclusion of which feat Mr. Curtis informed the audience that "table-turning"—when not accomplished through the trickery of one of the sitters—was frequently performed by the work of some earth-bound spirit—usually an Elemental—that could amalgamate with any piece of furniture, in precisely the same way as his own projection had amalgamated with the table in front of them. "Elementals," Mr. Curtis continued, "are responsible for many of the foolish and purposeless tricks performed at séances; and for the unintelligible and useless kind of answers the table so often raps out. The best you can hope for, from an Elemental, is amusement—it will never give you any reliable information; nor will it ever do you any good."
With these words Mr. Curtis's share in the entertainment concluded. He retired to the wings, whilst Mr. Kelson stepping forward—begged those several gentlemen who, on Mr. Curtis's exit, had reseated themselves among the audience, once again to step up on to the stage.
"Be good enough," he said addressing them in his most polite manner, "to observe me very closely. I am about to give you a few further examples of what intense mental concentration can do, thus proving to you to what an unlimited extent mind can gain dominion over matter. You all know that will-power can overcome any of the internal physical forces; for instance, when you have tooth or ear ache—you have only to say to yourselves: 'I shan't suffer'—and the suffering ceases. But what you may not know—what you may not have realized, is that will-power can over-rule external forces and principles—as for example—gravity. As a matter of fact, airships and aeroplanes are absolutely superfluous—and the time, money and labour they involve is a prodigious waste. Any man with strong mental capacity can fly without the aid of mechanism. He has only to will himself to be in the air—and he is there. Look!" And to the amazement—the indescribable, unparalleled amazement—of all present, Mr. Kelson knit his brows, as if engaged in intense thought, and, jumping off his feet, remained in the air, at a height of some four feet from the floor.
At his request members of the audience came up to him, and passed their hands under, over and all around him, to make sure there were no wires. He then struck out with his hands and legs after the manner of a swimmer, and moving first of all round the stage, and then over the stalls and pit, gradually ascended higher and higher, till he reached the level of the boxes, to the occupants of which he spoke.
Such an extraordinary spectacle—which apparently gives the lie to all our preconceived notions of gravity—has certainly never before been witnessed, and the effect it had on those who saw it, baffles description. When Mr. Kelson returned to the stage, and the terrific applause that greeted his arrival there had subsided, he gave the audience a few valuable hints as to how they, too, might accomplish this feat.
"Practise concentration," he said, "and develop your will power, if only by a very little, every day. Jump off a stool to begin with, saying to yourself as you do so: 'I will remain in the air. I won't touch the ground,'—and though you may fail for the hundredth time, if only you keep on trying you will eventually succeed. To keep your equilibrium on a bicycle is a feat which would have been pronounced utterly impossible by your ancestors of two hundred years ago; but just as that power came to you—after many futile efforts, all at once—so, in the end, will flying come to you. See, I am now going to rise to the highest point in the building. Gravity pulls me back, but I say to myself: 'I will rise—I will fly there'—and fly there I do!"—and, springing off the ground, he struck out with his arms and legs, flew swiftly and easily to the dome of the hall, which he touched—and then flew back again to the stage.
This completed the evening's entertainment. If only on the strength of its first performance, the Modern Sorcery Company, in our opinion, has more than justified its name; and although we understand they will give no more performances gratis, we feel confident in prophesying that, for many a long night, there will be no falling off in the attendance.