Introductory

In giving what follows to the world, no one can be more alive to the fact that this is the latter half of the nineteenth century, and that the present is emphatically the era of the grandest Utilitarianism, Revolution, Matter of Fact, and Doubt that the world ever knew, than is the editor of the following extraordinary tale. He has no apologies to make for offering it—no excuses, even as a novelist, for departing from the beaten track of “War, Love, Murder, and Revenge,” “Politics, Passion, and Prussic acid,” which constitute the staple of the modern novel.

Disliking all long exordia, we propose to enter at once upon the work before us, by inquiring: Is there such a thing as real magic—not the ordinary, chemical, ambidextral jugglery, that passes current among the vulgar as magic—but the real old mysterious thing, whereof we read in old black-letter tomes?

Utterly repudiating the pretensions of modern charlatans, and conscienceless impostors, who deal in “spirit photographs,” and utter misty phrases about “Life in the Spheres,” “Gloria,” and “Jubilo,” together with schemes to reform the world—namely, by means of Indiana divorces, improved “Lieceums,” “Air-lying dispatches,” via Caput Assinorum, and much other.

“Canting, radical jabber and jaw,
'Bout Mornia and Hornia, and Starnos and 'Cor,
Hocus and pocus, and nong-tong-paw;
All stupid crams, not worth a straw.”

Not because there are no spirits, for one case in a million of reported spectral phenomena, may be true, but all are totally unreliable—that is, they lie—and the person who places the least confidence in them in one thousand instances, is sure to be deceived nine hundred and ninety-nine times, and only reach approximate truth and fact in the thousandth.

Spiritualism is yet the great non sequitur of the age, so far as the vast majority of mankind is concerned—for while one portion of its phenomena may be really spiritual, the remaining nine hundred and ninety-nine portions are referable to something else than human ghosts. Spiritualism has done no good whatever, save in that it has called attention to new directions, thereby stimulating the spirit of inquiry; but in itself it is yet far from being among the certainties.

I here disavow all intention to deride true spirit phenomena, if such there be; nor do I question the transmundane life of man—for the belief in immortality is a part of my very being—but, while ignoring the claims, and deriding the absurd pretensions of the vast majority of modern Eolists and self-styled mediums, I repeat the question: Is there any positive means or ways whereby even a favored few can penetrate the mysterious veil that hangs like an iron pall between the great human multitude and the infinitely greater BEYOND? Is it possible to break through the awful barrier—to glimpse through the Night-Curtain that screens and shrouds us from the Phantom-World?—if such there be.

“Deep the gulph that hides the dead—
Long and dark the way they tread.”

Can we know it? Can we by any possibility scan its secrets? Nor are we alone in propounding questions such as these; for every intelligent person, at some period or other, puts them to himself and neighbor, but, in the majority of cases, vainly. The writer hereof, like the great mass of people, has often propounded these queries, the result being a confirmed and indurated scepticism—which scepticism was, almost ruthlessly, swept away by the extraordinary series of events about to be recorded in these pages.


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