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- Chapter 4a -

Class I: Clairvoyance. Instances of Knowledge about Contemporary Events


          FIRST, information concerning the assassination of Queen Draga and her brothers in Serbia. This was received by my friend Professor Richet, and was fully reported on by him to me at the time (1903). Briefly it is as follows:—

On the evening of the assassination (which naturally was entirely unknown and unthought of) he and some friends were sitting in Paris, while letters of the alphabet were being tilted or rapped out. These were taken down and subsequently interpreted. Neither the group nor the medium on that occasion is at all known to me: I am giving the account at second hand. After several ordinary messages had been received, the control seemed to change and become urgent, and the following letters were indicated by raps of special clarity:— BANCALAMO. On which Richet remarked, "It’s going to be Latin — ’ with a pen.’ " But the spelling went on, with apparently meaningless letters, RTGU. Accordingly he lost interest, but took down the rest mechanically:— ETTEFAMILLE. No meaning was attached to this, except that it seemed to have to do with some family. Soon afterwards he perceived that it could be split up into words thus:— BANCA LA MORT GUETTE FAMILLE. This message was received on Wednesday, 10th June, 1903, at 10.30 p.m.

Two days later the French papers were full of the brutal murder of King Alexander with his consort Queen Draga and her brothers at Belgrade; and the name of the Queen’s father, not long deceased, was given as Pança — whose whole family had been in danger of being wiped out by assassination. (The c with a cedilla might be the nearest approach in the French language to a letter in the Serbian language that I am told is pronounced halfway between s or ts and z or tz, for which in French there is no corresponding letter.) Richet, rather surprisingly, seeing this name in the evening papers of the 12th of June, was struck with the similarity between this hitherto unknown name Pança, sometimes quoted as Panka, and the beginning of the mysterious message with the unknown word Banca; the only real error being the confusion of B for P. Accordingly he now read the message as a sort of telegraphic communication from or concerning Pança or Panca, to the effect that at that moment death was lurking or lying in wait for his family. "La mort guette famille.

"On making inquiries, and going into the matter further, Richet found that the assassination occurred soon after midnight, so that at the time of the sitting it had not occurred; but the time at which the message was received in Paris, 10.30 p.m. on 10th June, 1903, must have been close to the time at which the assassins left the Hotel de la Couronne de Serbie, at Belgrade, on their fatal errand. There was no "summer time" then, and 10.30 in Paris would be practically midnight in Serbia. Thus, as Richet pointed out, the word "guette" was singularly appropriate — the kind of attitude of a cat lying in wait for a mouse. It would not have been so appropriate a few hours later, nor indeed quite so appropriate a few hours earlier.

The murder was near midnight on Wednesday, or rather "shortly before dawn" on Thursday morning, 11th June, 1903, to quote from Mijatovitch’s history (" Serbian Tragedy," 1906); "between 10.30 and 2.0 this morning, 11th," to quote from The Times of Friday, the 12th June, 1903. The news reached Paris, as he afterwards found, on Thursday at 2 p.m., but Richet did not read any details till Friday.

Why any communication should be made to unknown and uninterested people in Paris, to the effect that Pança’s family was in danger of extermination, Richet does not attempt to explain. All we know is that that collocation of letters was received on that special occasion, and that subsequently it was capable of intelligible interpretation. Richet treats it as merely a case of "cryptesthesia, over a distance of 2,000 kilometres "; though how such a term — suggestive of hypersensitiveness to physiological impression - can apply in this instance is beyond me. But on the spiritistic hypothesis — which I, though not Richet, am inclined to accept— it can be imagined that Myers, or one of the S.P.R. group "on the other side," saw an opportunity of demonstrating supernormal power by suddenly interposing, among the fragmentary messages then being spelt out to his friend Charles Richet, a sentence which, though spasmodic and obscure, would ultimately become intelligible and arouse interest.

This account of the incident (apart from hypothetical and needless attempts at explanation) is my vivid recollection of what Professor Richet told me at the time. He was much impressed with it, especially with the time coincidence. True, death might have been lurking for many families, but had it been an obscure family such a message would have been useless. The particular family intended was only specified by the name Banca, which is not accurately the same as Pança or Panka. In Professor Richet’s printed account of the incident (reproduced — with misprints in early editions — in his "Traité de Métapsychique," page 204, translated as "Thirty Years of Psychical Research," page 167) he discusses the amount of error so involved, on the doctrine of chances, and finds it incredible that the near approach to the name, in the punctual message, was due to chance. As to the absence of normal knowledge — that was complete. No one in Paris then knew of the secret plot against King Alexander and his consort, Draga; and of the five persons present at the sitting no one had relations with any Balkan state and probably they had hardly ever heard of Queen Draga. The message, if it was a message, was certainly given before the event was known; though it rightly comes under the heading "contemporary events" and not under the heading "prediction." The whole family of Pança was at that moment in dire danger: Draga and her two brothers were actually killed, though it turned out that her two sisters just managed to escape.

Remarks on the spelling method of receiving messages

The above message was apparently received by raps, but concerning the method by which similar incidents have been received by me, through private friends, I ought to say that one of the two ladies concerned has the power of spelling out sentences by a more elementary method than raps, namely by the very rapid tilts of a small table on which she places her hand. She rapidly recites the alphabet, and stops at the intended letter, which is at once taken down by the other lady, and by me also if I am present. The meaning of the series of letters is often not apparent at once — sometimes it is — and the wonder is that by this apparently laborious process any coherence is obtained. It is, however, quite easy, with practice, and the process is not very slow. Often a short series of communicators follow one another; each, having said what he had to say, spelling out his name and giving way to another. We sometimes do not know who the message is from until the name is given at the end; though habitual communicators are easily recognized by their manner and style. When Myers is the operator the medium feels screwed up and taut, so to speak; with others there is more relaxation.

In the case of this amateur lady medium, who has had the power for many years, the control often seems to be direct from the communicator to the arm manipulating the little table, so that her mind hardly takes in, and seldom tries to take in, what is being said. As the letters are taken down, the meaning of each sentence when completed becomes clear to the recorders. The records which follow are reproduced, with here and there a trivial omission for brevity, exactly as received. (see previous note)

Episode B

The following incident, which is a very short and simple one, concerns the election of Hindenburg to the Presidency of the German Republic. On the evening of Sunday, 26th April, 1925, my wife and I were sitting privately with these two English lady friends in Paris, having a domestic talk through table tilts with Raymond, not thinking of public affairs at all, and not in the least interested in anything happening in Germany, when at 10 p.m. Raymond suddenly broke off and spelt out :— "Hindenburg is in. I’m going to see the fun. Good-night."R.L."

Next day (Monday, 27th April, 1925) a Stop-Press announcement in the Continental Daily Mail ran thus :— " A Reuter message filed in Berlin at 1.18 this morning states that Hindenburg has been elected."

Episode C. Illustrative of Posthumous Activity and Effort at Righting a Wrong

The following case was received by the S.P.R. from one of its Canadian members who, having had his attention drawn to it by a newspaper report, instructed a lawyer resident in the State (North Carolina) where the events occurred, to investigate the facts on his behalf. The facts had already been put in evidence in a contested law-suit, so that they have on two occasions undergone the scrutiny of persons professionally trained to sift and weigh evidence. In due course the British Society for Psychical Research received certain sworn documents, and what follows is partly an abstract of these documents, and partly quotations from them.

James L. Chaffin, the Testator, was a farmer in Davie County, N.C. He was married and had four sons, in order of age John A. Chaffin, James Pinkney Chaffin, Marshall A. Chaffin, and Abner Columbus Chaffin.

On the 16th November, 1905, the Testator made a will, duly attested by two witnesses, whereby he gave his farm to his third son, Marshall, whom he appointed sole executor. The widow and the other three sons were left unprovided for.

Sixteen years afterwards, on the 7th September, 1921, the Testator died as the result of a fall. His third son, Marshall, obtained probate of the 1905 will on the 24th September of that year. The mother and the other three brothers did not contest this will as they knew of no valid reason for doing so. But afterwards, in 1925, some odd events happened, which are thus narrated:—

Extract from statement of James Pinkney Chaffin, Testator’s second son.

"In all my life I never heard my father mention having made a later will than the one dated in 1905. I think it was in June of 1925 that I began to have very vivid dreams that my father appeared to me at my bedside but made no verbal communication. Some time later, I think it was the latter part of June, 1925, be appeared at my bedside again, dressed as I had often seen him dressed in life, wearing a black overcoat which I knew to be his own coat. This time my father’s spirit spoke to me, he took hold of his overcoat this way and pulled it back and said, ‘You will find my will in my overcoat pocket,’ and then disappeared.

"Next morning I arose fully convinced that father’s spirit had visited me for the purpose of explaining some mistake. I went to mother’s and sought for the overcoat but found that it was gone. Mother stated that she had given the overcoat to my brother John who lives in Yadkin County about twenty miles northwest of my home. I think it was on the 6th of July, which was on Monday following the events stated in the last paragraph, I went to my brother’s home in Yadkin County and found the coat. On examination of the inside pocket I found that the lining had been sewd together. I immediately cut the stitches and found a little roll of paper tied with a string which was in my father’s handwriting and contained only the following words: ‘Read the 27th chapter of Genesis in my daddie’s old Bible.’

"At this point I was so convinced that the mystery was to be cleared up I was unwilling to go to mother’s home to examine the old Bible without the presence of a witness, and I induced a neighbour, Mr. Thos. Blackwelder, to accompany me, also my daughter and Mr. Blackwelder’s daughter were present. Arriving at mother’s home we had a considerable search before we found the old Bible. At last we did find it in the top bureau drawer in an upstairs room. The book was so dilapidated that when we took it out it fell into three pieces. Mr. Blackwelder picked up the portion containing the Book of Genesis and turned the leaves until he came to the 27th chapter of Genesis, and there found two leaves folded together, the left hand page folded to the right and the right hand page folded to the left, forming a pocket, and in this pocket Mr. Blackwelder found the will.

"That is to say he found an informally worded document dated i6th January, 1919, which ran as follows:—-

"After reading the 27th chapter of Genesis, I, James L. Chaffin, do make my last will and testament, and here it is. I want, after giving my body a decent burial, my little property to be equally divided between my four children, if they are living at my death, both personal and real estate divided equal, if not living, give share to their children. And if she is living, you all must take care of your mammy. Now this is my last will and testament. Witness my hand and seal. JAMES L. CHAFFIN,
This January 16, 1919."

This second will, though unattested, would, according to the law of North Carolina, be valid as being written throughout by the Testator’s own hand on sufficient evidence being adduced that it was in fact in his handwriting.

The Testator, having written out this will, must have placed it between two pages of an old family Bible, formerly belonging to his father, the Rev. Nathan S. Chaffin, folding the pages over so as to make a sort of pocket. The pages so folded were those containing the 27th Chapter of Genesis, which tells how the younger brother Jacob supplanted the elder brother Esau, and won his birthright and his father’s blessing. The sole beneficiary under the first will was, it will be remembered, a younger brother.

The Testator never before his death, so far as can be ascertained, mentioned the existence of this second will to anyone, but in the inside pocket of an overcoat belonging to him he stitched up a roll of paper, on which he had written the words "Read the 27th chapter of Genesis in my daddie’s old Bible.

Soon after its discovery, this document was tendered for Probate as the testator’s real will. The cause came on for hearing in December 1925. A jury was sworn, the hearing began, and the court then adjourned for lunch. When the hearing was continued, one of the lawyers announced that during the interval an amicable adjustment of the issues bad been arrived at, and that the new will would be admitted to probate without opposition. The following is taken from an official copy of the minute of the Judge presiding:—


In Re Will of J. L. CHAFFIN Decd.
In Superior Court,
December Term, 1925.


This cause coming on to be heard, and being heard, and the following issues having been submitted to the Jury "Is the paper writing dated January 16th, 1919, and every part thereof the last Will and Testament of the deceased — Jas. L. Chaffin?"Answer—" Yes."And the Jury having answered said issue Yes, It is now (on motion of E. H. Morris, A. H. Price and J. C. Busby, attorneys for the Plaintiffs) Ordered, Decreed, and Adjudged that the said last Will and Testament of James L. Chaffin deceased be recorded in the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court of Davie County in the Book of Wills, and that the Will dated November 16th, 1905, and probated on September the 24th, 1921, Will Book No. 2, Page 579, purporting to be the last Will and Testament of the decd. James L. Chaffin is hereby cancelled, rescinded, annulled and made void.

When the trial commenced Marshall the original heir had died, but Marshall’s widow and son were prepared to contest the second will. However, during the luncheon interval they were shown the second will. Ten witnesses were prepared to give evidence that the second will was in the Testator’s handwriting, and the widow and son themselves seem to have admitted this as soon as they saw it. At any rate they at once withdrew their opposition.Mr. James Pinkney Chaflin’s statement concludes as follows:—

"During the month of December 1925 my father again appeared to me, about a week before the trial of the case of Chaffin vs. Chaffin, and said ‘Where is my old will? ‘ and showed considerable temper. I believed from this that I would win the lawsuit, as I did. I told my lawyer about this visitation the next morning."

Many of my friends do not believe it is possible for the living to hold communication with the dead, but I am convinced that my father actually appeared to me on these several occasions and I shall believe it to the day of my death."

Certain confirmatory documentary testimony as to facts follows (see Proc. S.P.R. for November 1927, page 517 et seq). I only quote the neighbour’s (Mr. Blackwelder’s) statement:-

"My name is Thomas A. Blackwelder. I am 38 years old and the son of H. H. Blackwelder. My home is on a farm in Callihan township about one mile from the place where Jas. L. Chaffin died in 1921. I think it was on July 6, 1925, that Mr. J. P. Chaffin, the son of Jas. L. Chaffin, and a neighbour of mine, came to my house and asked me to go with him to his mother’s borne, and at the same time stated that his father had appeared to him in a dream and instructed him how he could find his will. Mr. Chaffin told me at the same time that his father had been dead about four years, and had appeared to him in a dream and made known to him that he should look in the breastpocket of his old overcoat and there he would find something of importance. Mr. Chaffin further stated that he had gone to this overcoat and had found a strip of paper in his father’s handwriting, and he wanted me to go with him to his mother’s and examine the old Bible. I went with him, and we made a search for the Bible and after some time we found it in a bureau drawer in the second storey of the house. We took out the Bible, which was quite old, and was in three different pieces. I took one of the three pieces, and Mr. Chain took the other two pieces, but it happened that the piece I had contained the Book of Genesis. I turned the leaves until I came to the 27th chapter, and there found two leaves folded inward, and there was a paper writing, folded in these two leaves, which purported to be the last will of Jas. L. Chaffin."



Contents / Foreword / Chapter 1  / Chapter 2  / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 4a / Chapter 4b / Chapter 4c / Chapter 4d / Chapter 4e / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7

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