Don’t get the wrong idea that communication with the dead is an easy thing. Communication with the living ones is already quite complicated, so imagine with the dead! Because we don’t talk about the dead who have followed the advise of any self-respecting death manual (the Tibetan Book of the Dead, for example), which warn you about the necessity of heading for the Light-at-the-End-of-the-Tunnel. No. The dead we are talking about are like the one who is invited to a party and, instead of knocking on his host’s door, remains wandering the stairs without knowing whether to go up or down. To put it bluntly: they are a little weird. The minutes of the séances that we find in the archives of the Society for Psychical Research, either in London or in New York, prove it. The following example corresponds to a séance that took place on the night of November 24 in a luxurious apartment on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Eight months earlier, a wealthy stockbroker whom we will call Mister Smith although his real name is William H. Sagarly (we’ve been asked to keep his anonymity) had died in that apartment in intriguing circumstances (the corpse was found hanging upside down from the ceiling lamp and painted like a zebra).
Well, the nephew of Mr. Smith had hired the services of a medium famous for her striking trances during which the dead temporarily took possession of her body. At that time, the American Society for Psychical Research was already formally constituted, and some of its members were invited to participate in the séance on the condition of not touching anything. Apart from the ASPR members, the medium and the nephew, there was also a married couple (friends of the deceased) and an individual disguised as a cowboy (or a real cowboy: it’s not clear in the minutes) whose presence was justified by the fact that Mr. Smith was fond of the epic of the Far West. (In fact, he had started his fortune by selling a part of Arizona to the Indians without any contract or property title but with only a few puffs of pipe.)
The medium was in a hurry because she had a very tight schedule, so the séance began as soon as all the guests were present. She went quickly into a trance and in less time than it takes to say “Gee!” the deceased was already speaking through the medium’s mouth. “Is anyone here a doctor? (he began asking), I haven’t gone poo for eight months and that can not be healthy”. His nephew then made the imprudence of telling him that he was dead. “Dead?! (he exclaimed) Then I’m in a more serious condition than I thought! What are you waiting for? Call a damn doctor, quickly! Before it’s too late!” “I’m afraid it’s already too late”, said the male half of the married couple. “Your body has been lying underground for eight months, dear, at this point it must stink like a skunk”, the other half riveted. (Apparently, tact was not the strong point of this married couple). “What the hell are you talking about? I can not be dead if I’m talking to you. Or are you also dead? What happened, an epidemic?!”. “Bastard! (replied the cowboy with a little more tact) We are not going to conk out just because you’ve punched your ticket!”. “Is that you, Bill? Finally some friendly words! Bill, you have to get me out of here. I can not stand New York anymore. I want to go back to the West.” “Well, the Indians have put a price on your head, so I don’t recommend it.” “Damn bad losers!” exclaimed the deceased giving a punch on the table (on the understanding that it was the medium who gave it). “Uncle, if you want to be buried in the Far West, I promise to exhume your corpse and bury it in Arizona” “Bury me?! Do you intend to bury me alive?! Do you think that this way you will take possession of my fortune?” The nephew cleared his throat before continuing: “Since you bring up the subject, uncle, it would be useful if you told us whether you made a will.” “Yes and you are disinherited! When I die, everything will be for Gwendolyn.” Upon hearing this name, the nephew stood up as if impelled by a spring: “Gwendolyn? (he shouted) But she ditched you! She didn’t even attend your funeral!”. The furniture of the apartment wobbled when the deceased shouted: “The next of you who again imply that I’m dead, I’ll shoot him! Bill, bring me my rifle!”
At that moment a powerful alarm clock that the medium had brought with her to remind her of the tightness of her schedule, was heard. The medium came out of the trance, said she was late and, after collecting her fee, left hurriedly muttering that it was gross to make a dead person wait.