The first meeting of Sir William Barret with Madame Blavatsky, founder and undisputed head of the Theosophical Society, was most curious. Almost a paranormal phenomenon in its own right. It turns out that at that time William James had joined the Theosophical Society and was impatient for his friend to meet this extraordinary woman. The headquarters of the aforesaid Society were located in New York, where Barret was staying, so he had no problem being introduced to such a famous woman. On the contrary, he had heard wonders about her paranormal abilities, so he felt a natural curiosity.
James had not warned of their visit, so when both Williams showed up at Madame Blavatsky’s residence, no one was waiting for them. They found the door open and James invited his friend to go inside with the familiarity of someone who knows that he is welcome in other people’s home. They walked down a long corridor without seeing a living creature. Puzzled, James began to shout (Barret had the impression that James had an annoying inclination to start shouting at the most unexpected times). In particular he shouted: “Anyone there?”, and received the answer in a woman’s voice: “Is that you, honey?”. James was surprised that Madame Blavatsky called him “honey”, but he thought that it would only strengthen the impression he wanted to make on his friend, namely that he and the famous theosophist were as thick as thieves. So he humoured the voice: “It’s me, honey. I’m with someone who would like to meet you”. Meanwhile, the two men were going through the rooms in search of the one from which the voice came. The house was so big and the ceilings so high that it created a resonance that made it difficult to identify its origin. “Is he a friend of yours from the Hereafter, honey?” replied the voice. Barret showed his discomfort: “Your friend thinks I’m a ghost”, he said in a low voice to James, who had started to climb the stairs that led to the second floor. James laughed and reassured his friend by telling him that Madame Blavatsky liked to joke. “Yes, honey, directly from the Hereafter”, James answered loudly. “Why don’t you introduce us?” the voice asked. Then, James finally identified the origin of the voice and gestured to his friend to follow him. They both hurried up the stairs and burst into a room plunged in the semidarkness: “Here we are!” James exclaimed. The sudden irruption of the two men caused quite a stir: there were screams, tumbles and noise of fallen furniture. “What the hell is going on here?” said Barret, but he could not say anything else because a woman crashed into him and knocked him down just at the doorstep. Then, at least a dozen feet hurriedly left the room stepping on his body.
When he came around a little later, he found himself lying on a divan with a bag of ice on his head and a bloody nose. His friend and a woman whom he later introduced as Madame Blavatsky were leaning over him, asking how he felt. Still stunned by the stampede that had passed over his body, he heard the explanation that both Williams had inadvertently barged in the middle of a séance.