A Voice In The Night

Apr 22, 2011 by

A Voice In The Night   Black Jack Morgans Woodcut 5

The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on
Nor all thy piety or wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line
Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it…
Omar Khayam.

I have long been fascinated by the dark subject of communications from the dead. The most famous examples of these have taken the form of appearances by ghosts delivering warnings to those still alive, but there are numerous other examples of phenomena such as automatic writing appearing via a medium & writing appearing independently on walls; the most celebrated example of this occurred during Belshazzar’s Feast, when a ghostly hand appeared and wrote a prophecy of doom on the walls of the palace at the climax of the King’s celebrations. The Bible contains other notable accounts, such as when the notorious Witch of Endor called up the ghost of the prophet Samuel at the behest of Saul.

In the 19th century, a German baron left notepads and pens at the feet of statues of famous deceased people with apparently remarkable results. As we’ve moved into the technological age, so the methods for communicating with the dead have become more sophisticated. The guiding light for this 20th century avenue of research into using scientific methods to commune with the dead was no less a person that Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931). In the 30th of October issue of the Scientific American, he wrote:

“If you personality survives, then it is strictly logical and scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect and other faculties and knowledge that we acquire on this earth. Therefore, if personality exists after what we call death, it is reasonable to conclude that those who leave this earth would like to communicate with those they have left here…

I am inclined to believe that our personality hereafter will be able to affect matter. If this reasoning be correct, then, if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected, or moved, or manipulated… by our personality as it survives in the next life, such as instrument, when made available, ought to record something.”

Edison worked on such an instrument, but was unsuccessful. However, a Swedish painter, musician and film producer named Friedrich Jürgenson apparently succeeded in recording voices from the dead, while a German named Klaus Schrieber went one better, recording an image of his deceased daughter on television. Doctor Konstantin Raudive recorded over 100,000 of these voices from the dead under stringent laboratory conditions and as a result, received a visit from two engineers from NASA in the late 1960s. It is a truly fascinating field and one I intend to explore further on another occasion.

I brought this matter to the attention of a friend of mine named Ian, an undisputed expert in matters of modern technology. I live next door to an disused churchyard in the middle of a old village in Wiltshire, but this proximity to the dead has never bothered me in the least. However, you may take it from me that I have long noticed some curious atmosphere to this shady room that is my study, something which especially manifests itself during times of tension or stress.

As a result of Ian’s interest, he provided me with and installed an Amstrad, the oldest functional word processor that we could find. A few months ago, when I’d finished my other writing for the night, I would switch off my modern computer, fire up the old word processor, turn off the lights and lock the door for the night. Admittedly, these were not stringent laboratory conditions, but I was nevertheless stunned by the results, which are presented in the following pages. I am no expert on Old English, but I have edited the text where I felt it was appropriate simply in order to facilitate the reading process for someone in our modern era who chose to peruse the pages. Be warned, however, because some of the content makes shocking reading.

Dennis Price
August 2004.

“This being the secret journal of Black Jack Morgan of Salisbury Plain, as I am indeed known by that name. It behoves me to record that three nights hence, while I went to extinguish the candles in my study, an infernal engine of ghostly form & unknown origin manifested itself on the table in my dark study, to what end, I know not. Before me glowed what I can only describe as a window with a flashing cypher, an image in aforementioned window seeming to me to be like that of a page of paper, but of insubstantial form.

Beneath said window appeared a board of some strange material like unto ivory, in which were set diverse buttons, all bearing the character of a letter of the alphabet, while some had numbers & other markings of grammar, along with some that I did not nor do not yet recognise. With much trial and error & no with small amount of apprehension, I betook me to press these buttons & lo! Upon the image in the window appeared same letters in order that I had pressed them, Thus, in this truly miraculous fashion, I was able to convey my thoughts into the aether, but to what end, I know not.

Be that as it may, it is not for me to question the mysterious workings of Providence, so whether it be the Good Lord or else Satan himself that hath provided aforementioned infernal engine with which I pen this account, I shall do such workings with it as I can, in the express hope that those of a future generation may be able to solve this mystery & thereby profit from my mysterious nocturnal experiences.

Said window blinked patiently whilst I gathered my frenzied thoughts. My lady wife & beloved whelps were always abed whilst this machine appeared, so I can only reason that it appeared by the dead of might so as to afford me some degree of privacy. I would further reason that the intelligence, whether it be Heavenly or else Infernal, behind this most curious manifestation, is desirous that I should entrust my most intimate thoughts to its safekeeping. I have decided that I have little choice in this matter, so rather than remain anonymous to future generations, here is my most truthful & intimate account, so help me God.

Black Jack Morgan, (Squire) Anno Domini 1727.

Sunday am:
Damnably scorching & intemperate weather, outside being as hot as Satan’s blistered back passage after a surfeit of raw horseradish, green onions & good English mustard, not your Frenchie or German slop. Gloom alleviated by arrival of thirsty messenger bringing glad tidings, namely that my agent has procured a publisher for my dark, autobiographical romance, A Stranger Among the Stones, to be printed under suitable pseudonym. Ulysses, Priapus, Achilles & Eros are suitable names that spring immediately to mind.

Messenger slobbered down nearly all ale in my abode, but I was so pleased by joyous tidings that I failed to notice until after he had left. Relieved I didn’t give him tip. Coffers impoverished enough as it is without dispensing charity to ne’er-do-wells. Situation should notably improve after publication of manuscript, as masses {those that can read, at any rate} can hardly fail to thrill to my adventures & hopefully clamour for more.

Note to self: Must put quill to parchment to communicate glad tidings to fellow worthy Alexander Grey in colonies, currently working on curious engine of mass communication.
Note to self: Must communicate glad tidings to Lord Lovecraft the local antiquarian, who is usually pleased to have any excuse, no matter how trifling, to sink a bottle or two of port.
Note to self: Thank agent & negotiate favourable terms.
Note to self: Must conceal income from Customs officials.
Note to self: Must remember to give thanks to Infernal Master who has watched over my Fortunes these many years. Association has not been singularly profitable from my side, it must be said, but it would not do to irritate him now at this delicate juncture. Perhaps I could leave tarnished brass button in parson’s collection plate? Or else go whole hog & urinate in font, those {of us} being born in this parish being for the most part piss-poor anyway.

Sunday pm:
Sent word to Lovecraft to join me with all haste. Betook me for constitutional by river with faithful dog Buboes while I awaited reply, Buboes being thus named on account of his colouring & equally on account of the unholy stench he is wont to emit. Amused myself by hurling local bailiff into weir-pond by way of celebration. Espied unusual village idiot with tall, bony stature & singularly protuberant ears, putting me in mind somewhat of presumably inbred apes I had seen in Gibraltar.
Note to self: Complain vigorously to Matron in charge of local asylum.

Sunday eventide:
Celebrated with roast suckling pig, onion gravy, parsnips, blood pudding & Yorkshire pudding, with clotted cream & rhubarb tart for dessert. Received intelligence that Lovecraft was indisposed on account of recent celebrations, messenger ominously announcing that Lovecraft had a ‘rising of the lights,’ whatever that may mean. Drank gin, as previous messenger had consumed all my beer, then retired to bed.

Monday am:
Humid. Highly alarmed by explosion that nearly shattered bowl of privy, then belatedly realised that it was probably blood pudding & undercooked rhubarb fermenting with gin from night before that occasioned internal volcano.

Note to self: Must not bolt food or else I will not live to enjoy fruit of labours.

Calmed nerves with more gin & tobacco; felt much better. Received another despatch from agent hinting at favourable terms, but sent messenger packing before he could drink me out of house & home. Oaf had sheer audacity to argue, so I had to produce bullwhip. Neighbours gathered to witness uproar, but felt too fatigued to harangue them. Instead dropped my britches, showed them my buttocks & retired inside to ponder on my good Fortune.

Monday pm:
Brimming with good-will for my fellow man, I despatched urchin to go to publisher of local broadsheet to place an advertisement. I shall offer my services for free, under pseudonym of an oracle, inviting those with diverse problems to write in to said broadsheet so that their torments may be ended by my sagacious advice. Received news from Lovecraft regretting his indisposition, but inviting me to join him at tavern in Salisbury on Wednesday. He adds that will probably be accompanied by Master Robert Stearne & “Mistress” Julian Grant. I cannot discern Lovecraft’s purpose in this.

Note to self: I have not yet forgotten the occasion – indeed, I confess I still brood on it – two years ago now in Reading, when Stearne thought it highly amusing to have his lowborn coachman Spiggot gallop past me as I wandered unsuspecting from tavern in morning to relieve myself in hedge. I thought it was thunder, but when I belatedly realised it was horses’ hooves & iron rims on cobbles, I whirled around to see coach flash past mere inches from my face, sending spume of foul, muddy ditch-water all over me. Heard uproarious cackles as coach vanished.

This was bad enough, but to add insult to injury, I can still see Stearne’s vile, smug features peering glassy-eyed through coach window as he hunched by door, so I strongly suspect he was simultaneously indulging in solitary vice to enhance pleasure of humiliating me. Bystanders were highly amused as well, but I was not. I have not forgotten or forgiven Stearne for this treachery.

Other than that, continued into night poring over agent’s manuscript, pondering change for better in my fortunes. Devoured cold onion & offal pie. As Lovecraft could not come, I cheerily sank two cloudy bottles of port myself while lady wife & whelps were abed. Last memory is of rosy thoughts re improvement in circumstances, for ‘tis rightly said “If Fortune torments me, hope contents me.”

Tuesday pm:
Warm but cloudy. Woke in log-basket in afternoon to find house deserted, aside from hastily-scrawled note bitterly complaining of grotesque flatulence & vapours, thereby fouling atmosphere within. Whelps & lady wife taking sojourn in hills, apparently. Ventured outside to find Lady wife’s carriage with broken axle & mine missing. Decided to walk off ill-humour with Buboes by river. Encountered spotty, lanky idiot from previous day laughing hysterically at tree-stump & discovered from local urchin that said idiot is known as ‘Simple Freddy’. Hurled pebbles at same to no avail, but hit my dog instead, who understandably bit my leg in return.

Note to self: Must complain vigorously to Matron of local madhouse or else to Justice of the Peace.

Tuesday eventide:
Lady wife & whelps returned from hills with some colour in their cheeks & giving me reproachful looks. Local cartwright has mended axle. Dog sick in kitchen, but I was still too elated to care. Made whelps clear up vomit as punishment for mocking my gaseous bowels, but curiously, they seemed to thoroughly enjoy said chore.

Note to self: Must count offspring, make note of total & urgently attend to their education.

Tuesday eventide:
Lady wife belatedly enquires after nature of Sunday’s communication from agent & miraculously ceases nagging when I shew her missive & impart glad tidings to her. Sends whelps to dog-kennel, produces vintage bottle of wine from I know not where & suggests early night. Neighbours complain of amorous screams from our bed-chamber around midnight, but I open window & hurl contents of chamber-pot into lane below, which shuts them up, aside from some muttered cursing & unwholesome dripping noises. Got to sleep in excellent good humour, if a trifle exhausted, for as the poet remarked “He that liveth in hope danceth without musick”.

Wednesday pm:
Glorious sunshine bodes well for this afternoon’s rendezvous with Lovecraft & others at tavern. Suggested picnic lunch with Lady wife & whelps by riverside, to which they agreed. Cooled off by swimming in river, but in the process alarmed local washerwoman, who was in visible distress at sight of what she took to be an outsize lamprey lazily undulating in gentle current, while at same time having seemingly attached itself head-first to my nether regions, to whit, the loins.

I reassured said chattel that she could be forgiven for thinking this was the case, but that I had indeed been blessed by the Good Lord & that there was no cause for immediate concern, unless that is, I emerged from river and wandered in her direction – hur-hur-hur! Aforementioned scrubber shrieked in glee & passed favourable comment in her vulgar fashion on the grotesque over-development of said part of my anatomy, to whit, by venturing to speculate that on a good day, it could certainly withstand the rigours of doubling for the rope in an inter-village ladies’ tug-o-war contest.

After this unexpected & highly uplifting exchange, I bade said scrubber a good-day, made mental note of her obvious availability & returned to clutch waiting on bank. Returned home past Simple Freddy, wailing pitifully on account of having caught his nob in a thorn-bush when passing water, but was in too much of a hurry to mock him. Left him to tender mercies of Game Keeper as aforementioned idiot was frightening pheasants with his hideous clamour.

Galloped into Salisbury like some latter-day Roman charioteer or Achilles dragging Hector around the Walls of Troy, scattering peasants in my wake. Arrived at pre-agreed hostelry, to whit, the Sign of the Shaking Bed, in rare good humour. Met Lovecraft, who confirmed that Stearne was also present. I confided my misgivings to my dear old friend Lovecraft about wisdom of also inviting along the notorious “Mistress” Julian Grant, who was darkly rumoured to be an Uphill Gardener. I hold no lofty moral views about such practices, because a sin is a sin in my book & I’m as guilty as the next man of offending the local Bishop in diverse manners. No, in these damned parts, if the locals suspect you of an unnatural vice, they will most assuredly bundle you into a Wicker Man more quickly than you can blink, so I hurriedly stated as much to Lovecraft.

To Be Continued……

Other Posts You May Be Interested In

Mindscape Blog Tagged with: Black Jack MorganengineKonstantin RaudiveMaster Robert StearneMattermindpuddingSalisbury PlainSatanThomas Alva Edisonwhilst

About the author

Dennis Price is a classical scholar and former archaeologist; he is also a writer, speaker and broadcaster, who lives in the West of England among the enchanted and sometimes unnerving relics of Britain's past. Regarded as an expert on Stonehenge, he is also the author of The Missing Years of Jesus and is co-author of Ancient Code.



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