“THE SEANCE”

Lavinia Koppelman, the heiress of the immense fortune accumulated by her father the lamplighter Dove Koppelman throughout a lifetime of lighting streetlamps in the London borough of Kensington, organized a séance one warm night of August 1901. On the select list of guests were Viscount Rothermere, Lady Claire Rothermere, Frances Rothermere and the latter’s brothers Sir William and Sir Clive Rothermere, baron of Walden. Also, of course, the famous medium Anastasia Prim and her cheerful troupe of spirits. Although the Koppelman mansion had a new installation of electric light, the medium imposed as the only lighting the candles of a four-branched candelabrum.

One by one the guests arrived: the five privileged people who would attend the séance convened on the occasion of the recent passing of their relative Conrad, Duke of Rothermere, died recently because of an unfortunate accident occurred in the course of a séance in that same private room.

A slight restlessness could be perceived in the atmosphere, as if a bad omen floated on the white and gold panelling room. At the scheduled time, the medium invited those present to take a seat around the table that occupied the center of the private room. All of them had a powerful reason to want to contact the spirit of the deceased -otherwise they would have kindly declined the invitation. After lighting the candles and turning off the electric light, the medium sat among them and told them to put their hands together on the table. To the dull clarity of the candles, those present observed with ostensible restlessness how the medium rolled his eyes and loudly summoned the spirit of Sir Conrad. Suddenly there was a whimper, weak at first, then very audible. After a few moments of confusion, Sir William Rothermere apologized for that momentary weakness, and desiring to finish as soon as possible, he asked the darkness that surrounded them where the devil had the deceased kept his last testament. This was followed by a silence so thick that it could have been cut with a knife.

Suddenly the silence was broken by a loud laugh coming as out of the grave. Immediately the guests disbanded, which caused a stir of fallen chairs, smashed porcelain and terrible blows followed by cries of pain (it had been precisely one of these fortuitous blows with the chimney that had ended Sir Conrad’s life). Miss Lavinia, the hostess, ran to turn on the electric light while repeating hysterically “Who has laughed?, Who has laughed?”.

Everyone denied any responsibility, including Viscount Rothermere, who had jumped out the window and limped to his cabriolet, that waited next to the other coaches in front of the entrance of the mansion. The next day, at the suggestion of the medium Anastasia Prim, the testament of Sir Conrad was finally found: he left all his possessions, including his collection of erotic postcards, to the medium herself, who agreed enchanted. The disappointed relatives could not but reluctantly accept the design of the Beyond.

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