There was a séance in town a few nights since. As I was making for it, in company with the reporter of an evening paper, he said he had seen a gambler named Gus Graham shot down in a town in
Illinois years ago by a mob, and as he was probably the only
person in San Francisco who knew of the circumstance, he thought
he would "give the spirits Graham to chaw on awhile." [N. B. This young creature is a Democrat, and speaks with the native
strength and inelegance of his tribe.] In the course of the show
he wrote his old pal's name on a slip of paper, and folded it up
tightly and put it in a hat which was passed around, and which
already had about five hundred similar documents in it. The pile
was dumped on the table, and the medium began to take them up one
by one and lay them aside, asking, "Is this spirit present? or
this? or this?" About one in fifty would rap, and the person who
sent up the name would rise in his place and question the
defunct. At last a spirit seized the medium's hand and wrote "Gus
Graham" backward. Then the medium went skirmishing through the
papers for the corresponding name. And that old sport knew his
card by the back! When the medium came to it, after picking up
fifty others, he rapped! A committeeman unfolded the paper, and
it was the right one. I sent for it and got it. It was all right. However, I suppose all Democrats are on sociable terms with the devil. The young man got up and asked:
"Did you die in '51? '52? '53? '54? "
Ghost "Rap, rap, rap."
"Did you die of cholera? diarrhea? dysentery? dog-bite? small-pox? violent death? "
"Rap, rap, rap."
"Were you hanged? drowned? stabbed? shot? "
"Rap, rap, rap."
"Did you die in Mississippi? Kentucky? New-York? Sandwich
Islands? Texas? Illinois? "
"Rap, rap, rap."
"In Adams county? Madison? Randolph? "
"Rap, rap, rap."
It was no use trying to catch the departed gambler. He knew his
hand, and played it like a major.
About this time a couple of Germans stepped forward, an elderly
man and a spry young fellow, cocked and primed for a sensation.
They wrote some names. Then young Ollendorff said something which
"Ist ein geist hieraus?" (Bursts of laughter from the audience.)
Three raps signifying that there was a geist hieraus.
"Vollen sie schriehen?" (More laughter.)
"Finzig stollen, linsowfterowlickterhairowf-
Incredible as it may seem, the spirit cheerfully answered 'Yes' to
that astonishing proposition.
The audience grew more and more boisterously mirthful with every
fresh question, and they were informed that the performance could
not go on in the midst of so much levity. They became quiet.
The German ghost didn't appear to know any thing at all
couldn't answer the simplest questions. Young Ollendorff finally
stated some numbers, and tried to get at the time of the spirit's
death; it appeared to be considerably mixed as to whether it died
in 1811 or 1812, which was reasonable enough, as it had been so
long ago. At last it wrote "12."
Tableau! Young Ollendorff sprang to his feet in a state of
consuming excitement. He exclaimed:
"Laties und shentlemen! I write de name fon a man vot lifs!
Speerit-rabbing dells me he ties in yahr eighteen hoondred und
dwelf, but he yoos as live und hefty as "
The Medium "Sit down, sir!"
Ollendorff "But I vant to "
Medium "You are not here to make speeches, sir sit down!" (Mr. O. had squared himself for an oration.)
Mr. O. "But de speerit cheat! dere is no such speerit "
(All this time applause and laughter by turns from the audience.)
Medium "Take your seat, sir, and I will explain this matter."
And she explained. And in that explanation she let off a blast
which was so terrific that I half expected to see young
Ollendorff shot up through the roof. She said he had come up
there with fraud and deceit and cheating in his heart, and a
kindred spirit had come from the land of shadows to commune with
him! She was terribly bitter. She said in substance, though not
in words, that perdition was full of just such fellows as
Ollendorff, and they were ready on the slightest pretext to rush
in and assume any body's name, and rap and write and lie and
swindle with a perfect looseness whenever they could rope in a
living affinity like poor Ollendorff to communicate with! (Great
applause and laughter.)
Ollendorff stood his ground with good pluck, and was going to
open his batteries again, when a storm of cries arose all over
the house, "Get down! Go on! Clear out! Speak on we'll hear
you! Climb down from that platform! Stay where you are! Vamose! Stick to your post say your say!"
The medium rose up and said if Ollendorff remained, she would
not. She recognized no one's right to come there and insult her
by practicing a deception upon her, and attempting to bring
ridicule upon so solemn a thing as her religious belief. The
audience then became quiet, and the subjugated Ollendorff retired
from the platform.
The other German raised a spirit, questioned it at some length in
his own language, and said the answers were correct. The medium
claimed to be entirely unacquainted with the German language.
Just then a gentleman called me to the edge of the platform and
asked me if I were a Spiritualist. I said I was not. He asked me
if I were prejudiced. I said not more than any other unbeliever;
but I could not believe in a thing which I could not understand,
and I had not seen any thing yet that I could by any possibility
cipher out. He said, then, that he didn't think I was the cause
of the diffidence shown by the spirits, but he knew there was an
antagonistic influence around that table somewhere; he had
noticed it from the first; there was a painful negative current
passing to his sensitive organization from that direction
constantly. I told him I guessed it was that other fellow; and I
said, Blame a man who was all the time shedding these infernal
negative currents! This appeared to satisfy the mind of the
inquiring fanatic, and he sat down.
I had a very dear friend, who, I had heard, had gone to the
spirit-land, or perdition, or some of those places, and I desired
to know something concerning him. There was something so awful,
though, about talking with living, sinful lips to the ghostly
dead, that I could hardly bring myself to rise and speak. But at
last I got tremblingly up and said with a low and trembling
"Is the spirit of John Smith present?"
(You never can depend on these Smiths; you call for one, and the
whole tribe will come clattering out of hell to answer you.)
"Whack! whack! whack! whack!"
Bless me! I believe all the dead and damned John Smiths between
San Francisco and perdition boarded that poor little table at
once! I was considerably set back stunned, I may say. The
audience urged me to go on, however, and I said:
"What did you die of?"
The Smiths answered to every disease and casualty that men can
"Where did you die?"
They answered 'Yes' to every locality I could name while my
geography held out.
"Are you happy where you are?"
There was a vigorous and unanimous "No!" from the late Smiths.
"Is it warm there?"
An educated Smith seized the medium's hand and wrote:
"It's no name for it."
"Did you leave any Smiths in that place when you came away!"
"Dead loads of them!"
I fancied I heard the shadowy Smiths chuckle at this feeble joke
the rare joke that there could be live loads of Smiths where
all are dead.
"How many Smiths are present?"
"Eighteen millions the procession now reaches from here to the
other side of China."
"Then there are many Smiths in the kingdom of the lost?"
"The Prince Apollyon calls all new comers Smith on general
principles; and continues to do so until he is corrected, if he
chances to be mistaken."
"What do lost spirits call their dread abode?"
"They call it the Smithsonian Institute."
I got hold of the right Smith at last the particular Smith I
was after my dear, lost, lamented friend and learned that
he died a violent death. I feared as much. He said his wife
talked him to death. Poor wretch!
By and by up started another Smith. A gentleman in the audience
said that this was his Smith. So he questioned him, and this
Smith said he too died by violence. He had been a good deal
tangled in his religious belief, and was a sort of a cross
between a Universalist and a Unitarian; has got straightened out
and changed his opinions since he left here; said he was
perfectly happy. We proceeded to question this talkative and
frolicsome old parson. Among spirits I judge he is the gayest of
the gay. He said he had no tangible body; a bullet could pass
through him and never make a hole; rain could pass through him as
through vapor, and not discommode him in the least, (so I suppose
he don't know enough to come in when it rains or don't care
enough;) says heaven and hell are simply mental conditions;
spirits in the former have happy and contented minds, and those
in the latter are torn by remorse of conscience; says as far as
he is concerned, he is all right he is happy; would not say
whether he was a very good or a very bad man on earth, (the
shrewd old water-proof non-entity! I asked the question so that I
might average my own chances for his luck in the other world, but
he saw my drift;) says he has an occupation there puts in his
time teaching and being taught; says there are spheres grades
of perfection he is making very good progress has been
promoted a sphere or so since his matriculation; (I said
mentally, "Go slow, old man, go slow, you have got all eternity
before you," and he replied not;) he don't know how many spheres
there are, (but I suppose there must be millions, because if a
man goes galloping through them at the rate this old Universalist
is doing, he will get through an infinitude of them by the time
he has been there as long as old Sesostris and those ancient
mummies; and there is no estimating how high he will get in even
the infancy of eternity I am afraid the old man is scouring
along rather too fast for the style of his surroundings, and the
length of time he has got on his hands;) says spirits can not
feel heat or cold, (which militates somewhat against all my
notions of orthodox damnation fire and brimstone;) says
spirits commune with each other by thought they have no
language; says the distinctions of sex are preserved there and
so forth and so on.
The old parson wrote and talked for an hour, and showed by his
quick, shrewd, intelligent replies, that he had not been sitting
up nights in the other world for nothing; he had been prying into
every thing worth knowing, and finding out every thing he
possibly could as he said himself when he did not
understand a thing he hunted up a spirit who could explain it,
consequently he is pretty thoroughly posted. And for his
accommodating conduct and his uniform courtesy to me, I sincerely
hope he will continue to progress at his present velocity until
he lands on the very roof of the highest sphere of all, and thus