The Victorian era was very fond of the supernatural, so famous cases abound. One of those that generated more shudders was the case of the flying lamp. Naturally, given the time, this lamp was an oil lamp. In our days this case would not have been possible because most table lamps should remain connected to a socket. In the Victorian era, table lamps had more freedom of movement. Anyway, the well-educated lamps waited for someone to transport them before moving from one place to another. Unfortunately, our lamp had not received such a sophisticated education. Imagine that you are reading by the light of a table lamp when suddenly the lamp gets up from the table and goes to the window. That is what allegedly happened to Mrs. Daisy Norwich on an ill-fated summer night.
Naturally, at first Mrs. Daisy gasped watching the strange phenomenon. She told her husband, who was cracking nuts with his head. He did not give importance to the case, attributing it enigmatically to the tide. But, since Mrs. Daisy was not willing to lose the lamp, she immediately reacted and ran after it. The lamp had come out the window, but Mrs. Daisy thought it more prudent to come out the door since the last time she came out the window she broke a few ribs and suffered a concussion. As soon as she reached the street she looked around for the rebel lamp, and because the street was poorly lit, she soon detected its faint orange light. She pursued it, but the lamp had already strained through the window of Mrs. Elizabeth Fellowes, her mortal enemy since the two women discovered that they were both married to the same man, the nutcracker.
Fortunately for Mrs. Elizabeth (who was quite more impressionable than Mrs. Daisy), she was absent when the wayward lamp penetrated her house through the window. With the knack of an interior decorator, it went through the house and ended up perching on the night table in Mrs. Elizabeth’s bedroom. Meanwhile, Mrs. Daisy, who had been knocking on the door with the large door knocker, considered the possibility of entering the house through the window following the example of her lamp. But she was no more skilled entering through the windows than coming out of them, and remembering the disastrous consequences of the occasion when she put that skill to the test, she turned back and, with contained anger, returned home.
In the days following this baffling event, the relationship between Mrs. Daisy and Mrs. Elizabeth could not be more tense. The first had not stopped demanding the return of her oil lamp, while the second, aware that any concession in this direction could easily be interpreted as a sign of weakness, had persisted in its radical negative. To aggravate things, Mrs. Daisy accused Mrs. Elizabeth of having stolen the lamp by witchcraft, which Mrs. Elizabeth took as a grievance. It is true that she had not overlooked the unexpected presence of an oil lamp on her bedside table. But when she interrogated her husband, he reassured her about it saying “that’s up to the tide”.
I have already mentioned that Mrs. Elizabeth was an impressionable woman. For that reason she could not help but notice with suspicion the nocturnal flutters of the lamp around her bed. Was the tide a plausible explanation, as her husband insisted on affirming? And in any case, what tide was he talking about? There were no tides in North London! This concern prevented her from falling asleep, so that night after night she was involuntary witness of the continuous fluttering of the lamp, which in turn increased her restlessness. That was a vicious cycle that the poor woman did not know how to get out of. It would have been easy if she had been willing to return the lamp to its rightful owner. But, in her mind disturbed by jealousy, that amounted to an intolerable cession on her part.
The nervousness of Mrs. Elizabeth had reached such a point that she had no choice but to resort to the Society for Psychical Research, a recently constituted parapsychological association based in London. It was then when the matter became accesible to the public through the tabloid press, which aired the phenomenon as a tangible proof of the existence of God. What could be the interest of God in the maneuvers of the damned lamp? That was a question nobody asked. Even the most obstinated atheists of London society saw their convictions wobble in the face of such evidence. The most renowned mediums, clairvoyants and lamp dealers of the time were required to give their opinion on the strange phenomenon. But to this day, no more reasonable explanation has been found than that of the nutcracker husband: “that’s up to the tide”.
STILL LIFE WITH LAMP by Marc Chagall