A nice summer morning during breakfast, Gurney proposed to the junior members of the Society for Psychical Research to spend the day at the zoo. Everyone agreed except Roger Davenport, who does not know if he will have enough courage to face that challenge. Gurney reassures him that the animals are caged. But it turns out that what scares Davenport are precisely the cages, since when he was a child he was locked up by accident in the chicken shed. In the end they manage to convince him.
For a researcher of the paranormal, facing situations out of the ordinary, however normal, give him a sense of unease. That’s why as soon as they entered the London Zoo, Roger Davenport and his colleagues began to see paranormal phenomena everywhere. Cavendish, who remained ecstatic contemplating the neck of the giraffe, proclaimed that such unusual elongation would be a good topic of study. As a man of the world who had had occasion to see exotic animals in their own habitat, Gurney explained him that giraffes have a long neck by nature, like his own aunt Martha, who also had a long neck. (This is what gave rise to the ridiculous rumor, among the junior members of the SPR, that Gurney’s aunt was a giraffe.) A black bear stared at Davenport, who thought it was trying to hypnotize him. Philip Gresham III believed that the macaques read his thoughts and he tried not to think about anything. Sinclair studied the elephant’s trunk with suspicion. On the other hand, Osborne II was amused by the wild beasts and insisted that they put him in the cage of lions. Gurney began to suspect that it had not been a good idea to bring his pupils to the zoo, and decided to beat a retreat. But, on the way to the exit, when passing by the enclosure of the hippos, one of these beasts started to rise slowly in the air. (Levitation, as I said elsewhere, is one of the most frequent paranormal phenomena, even among animals.) Luckily, only Gurney notices it, and directs the attention of his pupils towards the funny kangaroos that bounce nonstop from one place to another. Osborne II breaks into laughter and begins to imitate them. A lady who passes protecting herself from the sun with an umbrella looks at him with a face of astonishment, and Osborne II jumps on her. She screeches hysterically. Other men come to her aid, and an uproar forms. Osborne II spends the night in a dungeon until Gurney bails him the next morning.