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by Greye La Spina



SOME TIME DURING the latter part of May, 1924,1 received a communication from a well-known publishing house, a communication sufficiently out of the ordinary to merit my immediate attention. I had sold these publishers considerable fiction treating of the occult and supernatural; they then wrote me to inquire if I were an actual student of the occult or if I had merely gone into the subject superficially, to give more color to my stories. They intimated that there was a special reason back of their inquiry.

I wrote them in reply that I was a serious student of the occult but that the more I studied it the more I found to learn and the more I realized that I had only scratched the surface of the subject. The publishers wrote back that they had been requested to get in touch with a student of the occult and to ask such a person to communicate immediately with a Miss Sophie Delorme, Differdale House, Meadowlawn, Lynbrook. (It is understood, of course, that I am using the fictitious names furnished in the manuscript by Miss Delorme.)

I was greatly intrigued and wrote the lady at once. She informed me that she had a manuscript of about fifty thousand words which she had written in explanation of an extremely strange thing that had occurred in her neighborhood. She believed her story to be of vital import to the world and insisted that she dared not entrust the manuscript to any other than a person instructed along occult lines, as she had every reason to believe that efforts would be made to reach and destroy the papers before their message of warning could be transmitted to the world. She asked me to call on her and take over the manuscript personally and to see to it that it was published and distributed widely.

I ascertained that Miss Delorme was a responsible person, quite able and willing to defray the costs of printing her book in case it proved to be out of the line of the regular publishing houses. I arranged to visit her home on June 18th, an easy matter as I found I could get there by subway. On June 18th, therefore, I walked across the fields to the great wall which she had described in her letters and I rang the bell at the bronze gate. From that moment I was forced to realize vividly what Miss Delorme meant when she wrote that she feared for the safety of her manuscript.

Even as I stood waiting for the gate to be opened, things began to happen in a most bewildering fashion. I heard somebody throw up a window on the side of the house, to my right, and then there came a woman’s scream that sounded to me more resentful and angry than fearful. The scream was followed by a heavy metallic clang upon the pavement just around the corner from where I was standing. I left the gate and ran in the direction of the noise.

On the sidewalk lay a black tin box such as is often used to preserve papers of importance. It was dented badly where it had struck the cement pavement. I picked it up and then turned my eyes toward the windows above me.

An elderly woman stood at the open window nearest the corner of the house. She was clinging frantically with both hands to the window-frames at either side. Although she appeared to be alone, I received a strong impression that she was being pulled from behind, for she was struggling as if with all her strength to maintain her position at the open window. As I looked up, the tin box in my hands, she called to me anxiously.

“Who are you?”

I told her.

“Thank God that you came in time,” she cried excitedly. “Take the box and get away from here as quickly as you can. Don’t let it out of your sight until it has been printed and the books distributed. You’ll understand why, once you’ve read it. Never mind about me. My work is done!”

As the last words were flung down to me, she disappeared struggling into the room, as if pulled backward by invisible hands.

I did not doubt for a moment that I had been talking with Miss Sophie Delorme and I saw no immediate reason for lingering in the vicinity. She had spoken with a forcefulness that made a strong impression upon my intuition. I felt without reasoning that it was of infinite importance for me to leave that place at once with the tin box and its precious contents. As for Miss Delorme, even if she needed assistance of some kind, I should hardly have been able to clamber over that purposefully high wall; common sense urged me to call for other help if it proved necessary.

I hugged the tin box tightly in my arms and ran away just as fast as I could go, forgetting dignity in my anxiety to carry out that other woman’s wishes. Even had I known what was to happen, I doubt if I should have lingered; there are some things in the world of more importance even than a human life and when one recognizes this fact, one acts upon the knowledge when necessary. I know now that I did well to save the manuscript and to carry out Miss Delorme’s desire for its publication. It was well that I stood not upon the order of my going, for hardly had I reached the boulevard when a loud and terrible explosion rent the air.

I was actually flung face down upon the pavement by the force of the concussion, still holding (oh, do not doubt it!) that black box tightly in my arms. When I rose to my feet, dismayed by my premonitions, and turned to look, the Differdale residence with its high surrounding wall no longer marked the spot. A black and smoking mass bulked hugely and ominously in its place. Apparently Miss Delorme had not been far wrong when she had warned me that other than human powers would make their attempts to ruin the papers she had entrusted to me; I felt that something had, in a fury of disappointment, brought about her death and the ruin of that splendid and strange house, and that this same something would presently be upon my track.

The thought was more than sufficient for me. I rushed down into the subway and caught the first train back to town. Not that this ended the matter. Oh, no! Nor had I imagined that it would end it. I knew that while the devoted Sophie Delorme’s valiant and successful effort to place it in my hands had succeeded, even at the cost of her life, the attempts to destroy it would not cease until they had become futile; that is, until there were enough replicas of the manuscript spread broadcast to make it impossible to suppress the warning message entirely.

Things became quite too lively from that moment. I had little time to do more than admire the unflinching courage and fidelity of the woman who had undoubtedly perished in the explosion at Differdale House before I was myself involved in one “accident” after another. The motorman on the train I caught had, inexplicably, a fainting spell and the train ran wild, smashed into the one ahead and broke things up pretty badly. I escaped scratched and cut by flying glass but with the tin box still in my keeping.

I got out at the next station, having walked the subway rails with other passengers, and took a taxi which proceeded to have a blowout that skidded it into a telegraph pole. The driver was thrown out and injured severely, but I escaped—with a broken arm. My good arm still held the tin box tightly. When the ambulance came for the injured taxi driver, I persuaded them to take me to my home. My doctor could not understand why I insisted upon keeping that tin box under the bedcovers, where I could maintain watchfulness over it. He put my broken arm into a cast and I had to resign myself to some weeks of inactivity.

I went over the manuscript at the first opportunity, for I was consumed with a burning curiosity. I had to have the lock of the box broken open. This was done in my presence, of course, but in spite of my repeated warnings, the man who opened it clumsily let his tools slip and drove a gaping hole through several sheets, making some words indecipherable. Fortunately the damage was not great and the context gave us those words.

Meantime, I negotiated with several publishers for the printing of the manuscript. When I finally found what seemed to me the right publisher, my next difficulty arose. How was I to safeguard the manuscript until it was safely in book form? I explained this to the head of the publishing concern and two watchmen were provided who never for a single moment let that manuscript out of their sight during the day and at night it was locked into a safe in the presence of two people. Notwithstanding these precautions, things happened. I think I have never spent such a harrowing, nerve-racking time in my whole life as I spent that July and August of 1924.

Despite the care with which the manuscript was watched, a lighted match was somehow dropped upon the sheets but due to the watchmen it was put out in the very nick of time. Nobody seemed to know who had tossed that match. This near disaster brought a suggestion that the manuscript be typed in duplicate, which was thereupon undertaken. During the typing, the young woman typist—whose probity is unquestionable for she is a personal friend of mine, interested also in occult subjects—crumpled up quite a number of the sheets given her to work from and threw them into the wastebasket. Just how this happened was vague to her. Fortunately, the loss was discovered before the basket was relieved of its contents, and the pages were retrieved. The typist cried, she felt so badly about it, and begged that I take charge of the manuscript sheets myself. After that, I dictated it to her, and the papers did not leave my hands except to go into the safe at night. At last the duplicate copies were ready.

One copy of these typed pages was shut up in the publisher’s safe with the original manuscript; the other set was distributed in the composing room. A fire broke out in that room while the men were at lunch shortly afterward, and the fire engines came, and the place was drenched, the sheets being almost ruined. Happily, we could replace spoiled sheets with clean ones from the reserve pages in the safe.

After the books were printed, some person or persons unknown dynamited the entire plant and the books were destroyed in the resulting fire. I had luckily or providentially taken the proof sheets home with me, however, and from these I dictated the entire manuscript to a typist for the second time.

I know there are plenty of people who will sneer at the recital of these accidents, terming them mere coincidences. That word often covers a multitude of strange, inexplicable happenings, even among scientifically trained persons. But I know too much about those powers which are averse to publishing broadcast the message contained in Miss Delorme’s manuscript, to call those occurrences coincidences.

As I write these words, I know that at last Miss Delorme’s message of warning will go out into the world as she intended, a warning for those who can understand. It may be only a piece of fiction for those who are ignorant of what the most casual students of psychic phenomena now consider everyday occurrences. The declaration today that there “ain’t no ghosts” is nothing but a display of the speaker’s deplorable backwardness in current news, alone.

I wish to state, before closing my little foreword, that I have not altered, deleted or added to, Miss Delorme’s manuscript, except to separate it into parts, not chapters. It was a single long narrative as it came to my hands, the writer obviously considering it more important to get her message on paper than to divide and subdivide in the manner of modern letters. I found it awkward to draw dividing lines in the text, myself.

There is little doubt in my mind that that fine and noble woman lost her life because she was not sufficiently instructed psychically to protect herself against invasions from the darkness on the other side of the veil that separates the human entity from the mysterious and too-often malevolent entities of the astral plane. Fortunately for the world—at least for that portion of the world that can understand—she had secured with careful foresight the printing and distribution of her weird and terrible experience, even to the final detail of a generous check made out to me, and enclosed with the manuscript in the tin box. That she was safeguarded until her work was finished and passed on to me, is proof that other and higher powers of good watched over her while her presence on this mortal plane was deemed necessary.

It is my earnest hope that her devotion and her final sacrifice will not have been in vain.


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