Statement of the Late Julia Hetman, through the Medium Bayrolles
I had retired early and fallen almost immediately into a peaceful sleep,
from which I awoke with that indefinable sense of peril which is, I think,
experience in that other, earlier
life. Of its unmeaning character, too, I was entirely persuaded, yet that
did not banish it. My husband, Joel Hetman, was away
from home; the servants slept
in another part of the house. But these were familiar conditions; they
had never before distressed me. Nevertheless, the strange
terror grew so insupportable
that conquering my reluctance to move I sat up and lit the lamp at my bedside.
Contrary to my expectation this gave me no relief;
the light seemed rather an added
danger, for I reflected that it would shine out under the door, disclosing
my presence to whatever evil thing might lurk outside.
You that are still in the flesh,
subject to horrors of the imagination, think what a monstrous fear that
must be which seeks in darkness security from malevolent
existences of the night. That
is to spring to close quarters with an unseen enemy-the strategy of despair!
Extinguishing the lamp I pulled the bedclothing about my head and lay trembling
and silent, unable to shriek, forgetful to pray. In this pitiable state
have lain for what you call
hours-with us there are no hours, there is no time.
At last it came-a soft, irregular sound of footfalls on the stairs! They
were slow, hesitant, uncertain, as of something that did not see its way;
disordered reason all the more
terrifying for that, as the approach of some blind and mindless malevolence
to which is no appeal. I even thought that I must have
left the hall lamp burning and
the groping of this creature proved it a monster of the night. This was
foolish and inconsistent with my previous dread of the light,
but what would you have? Fear
has no brains; it is an idiot. The dismal witness that it bears and the
cowardly counsel that it whispers are unrelated. We know
this well, we who have passed
into the Realm of Terror, who skulk in eternal dusk among the scenes of
our former lives, invisible even to ourselves, and one
another, yet hiding forlorn
in lonely places; yearning for speech with our loved ones, yet dumb, and
as fearful of them as they of us. Sometimes the disability is
removed, the law suspended:
by the deathless power of love or hate we break the spell-we are seen by
those whom we would warn, console, or punish. What
form we seem to them to bear
we know not; we know only that we terrify even those whom we most wish
to comfort, and from whom we most crave tenderness
Forgive, I pray you, this inconsequent digression by what was once a woman.
You who consult us in this imperfect way-you do not understand. You ask
foolish questions about things
unknown and things forbidden. Much that we know and could impart in our
speech is meaningless in yours. We must communicate
with you through a stammering
intelligence in that small fraction of our language that you yourselves
can speak. You think that we are of another world. No, we
have knowledge of no world but
yours, though for us it holds no sunlight, no warmth, no music, no laughter,
no song of birds, nor any companionship. O God!
what a thing it is to be a ghost,
cowering and shivering in an altered world, a prey to apprehension and
No, I did not die of fright: the Thing turned and went away. I heard it
go down the stairs, hurriedly, I thought, as if itself in sudden fear.
Then I rose to call
for help. Hardly had my shaking
hand found the door-knob when-merciful heaven!-I heard it returning. Its
footfalls as it remounted the stairs were rapid, heavy
and loud; they shook the house.
I fled to an angle of the wall and crouched upon the floor. I tried to
pray. I tried to call the name of my dear husband. Then I
heard the door thrown open.
There was an interval of unconsciousness, and when I revived I felt a strangling
clutch upon my throat- felt my arms feebly beating
against something that bore
me backward-felt my tongue thrusting itself from between my teeth! And
then I passed into this life.
No, I have no knowledge of what it was. The sum of what we knew at death
is the measure of what we know afterward of all that went before. Of this
existence we know many things,
but no new light falls upon any page of that; in memory is written all
of it that we can read. Here are no heights of truth
overlooking the confused landscape
of that dubitable domain. We still dwell in the Valley of the Shadow, lurk
in its desolate places, peering from brambles and
thickets at its mad, malign
inhabitants. How should we have new knowledge of that fading past?
What I am about to relate happened on a night. We know when it is night,
for then you retire to your houses and we can venture from our places of
concealment to move unafraid
about our old homes, to look in at the windows, even to enter and gaze
upon your faces as you sleep. I had lingered long near the
dwelling where I had been so
cruelly changed to what I am, as we do while any that we love or hate remain.
Vainly I had sought some method of manifestation,
some way to make my continued
existence and my great love and poignant pity understood by my husband
and son. Always if they slept they would wake, or if
in my desperation I dared approach
them when they were awake, would turn toward me the terrible eyes of the
living, frightening me by the glances that I sought
from the purpose that I held.
On this night I had searched for them without success, fearing to find
them; they were nowhere in the house, nor about the moonlit dawn. For,
the sun is lost to us for ever,
the moon, full-orbed or slender, remains to us. Sometimes it shines by
night, sometimes by day, but always it rises and sets, as in
that other life.
I left the lawn and moved in the white light and silence along the road,
aimless and sorrowing. Suddenly I heard the voice of my poor husband in
exclamations of astonishment,
with that of my son in reassurance and dissuasion; and there by the shadow
of a group of trees they stood-near, so near! Their
faces were toward me, the eyes
of the elder man fixed upon mine. He saw me-at last, at last, he saw me!
In the consciousness of that, my terror fled as a cruel
dream. The death-spell was broken:
Love had conquered Law! Mad with exultation I shouted-I must have shouted,
“He sees, he sees: he will understand!” Then,
controlling myself, I moved
forward, smiling and consciously beautiful, to offer myself to his arms,
to comfort him with endearments, and, with my son's hand in
mine, to speak words that should
restore the broken bonds between the living and the dead.
Alas! alas! his face went white with fear, his eyes were as those of a
hunted animal. He backed away from me, as I advanced, and at last turned
into the wood-whither, it is
not given to me to know.
To my poor boy, left doubly desolate, I have never been able to impart
a sense of my presence. Soon he, too, must pass to this Life Invisible
and be lost to
me for ever.