The Black Cat (magazine)/Volume 22/Number 2/Dematerialization
BY C. MASON
It is a simple matter to dematerialize a body by cremation. In this case, a man locks a good, healthy girl in a bank vault for two hours and tries to send her soul into the infinite with the aid of soft music instead of fire.
FAIR young thing, with tender blue eyes, entered Woodworth's office and calmly seated herself. A glance at her portfolio impelled him to seek refuge in the cool brick vault of his neighbor across the passage, Barker, who called himself a banker; but the lady barred the way.
"No," he said desperately, without waiting to be interrogated, "I don't want to subscribe for a History of the War, nor Lives of the Candidates, nor Picturesque Anything."
"But, honored sir," replied the mild, simple and rather simpering young person, "I do not ask you to subscribe for anything, unless, indeed, you would honor me by taking a ticket—"
"Ticket nothing!" again interrupted Woodworth. "I've no leisure for amusements. My time is all taken up with my profession—and science."
"Ah, that is what drew me hither!" beamed the beautiful girl. "I perceived by your sign that you were a lawyer, and I have heard that you are a member—a prominent one—of the Psychical Research Society. In one, or both capacities, I think you can do me an inestimable service."
Woodworth, touched at two vulnerable points, unbent.
"You see, kind sir," she continued, "I am a materialized spirit. My manager, Mr. Shockton, who is stopping at the hotel—here is his card—called me forth from the spirit world by mistake for Martha Washington, with whom I was contemporaneous."
Woodworth had noticed the antique style and courtly bearing of his visitor.
"He delayed so long in endeavoring to correct his error," she went on, "that, instead of remaining in the misty, indistinct form in which spirits are preferably presented, I became as thoroughly substantial as when I was before on earth, one hundred and forty-six years ago."
"Upon my word, young lady—or, venerable dame—" the lawyer corrected with halting courtesy, "this is a very extraordinary statement. Do you not know that you render yourself liable to prosecution for obtaining money under false pretences when you attempt to sell tickets on such a tale as that?"
She smiled trustingly. "No, sir, I did not know that. Indeed, I am only beginning to learn the strange things of your wonderful century—but I like them very much. Though my familiarity with the distaff and spindle, the needle and quill pen will no longer afford me a livelihood, I have an ardent longing to learn the sewing machine or the typewriter—and become a New Woman. I am most anxious to resume the life prematurely cut short in 1770, in my eighteenth year, when I died from what was erroneously diagnosed as a quinsy. I have reason to believe that, had I been properly treated for diphtheria with an antitoxin serum, I should have lived to a good old age."
"What is there to prevent you from doing so now?" asked Woodworth, touched and interested immeasurably by his singular client.
"Because my master—for so I must call him—Mr. Shockton, who brought me from the other world, is determined to send me back. I hear that, from mercenary motives, he means to dematerialize me at his very next séance."
Woodworth hurriedly thought of all known legal processes, but neither habeas corpus, ne exeat, nor any other writ with which he was familiar seemed a remedy against the peculiar form of extradition proposed by Shockton.
Putting on his hat, he exclaimed: "You sit right there while I interview this tyrant, Miss?"
"Amy Alright was my name before," she answered sweetly.
Finding the spiritual manager in his improvised office at the hotel, the lawyer addressed him by name, saying: "I warn you to desist from your persecution of my client, Miss Amy Alright. She is perfectly satisfied with 'this mundane sphere,' as the reporters call it, and intends to remain here. I shall take steps to enjoin you from making her the subject of further experiment."
"Take a ticket," was Shockton's cordial response, thrusting out a card. "One dollar, please; 7:30 this evening. We are going to dematerialize the chit this very night, and if it doesn't come off, call me all the liars you like. Next!"
"One moment, Mr. Shockton," and Woodworth severely. "I understand you to say that you intend to dematerialize, which I suppose means to disembody—to cause to disappear—"
"Into thin air—evaporate—vamose!" answered the medium, in a businesslike tone.
"Cause to disappear a person now living? That, my dear sir, is murder!"
"Wrong!" replied Shockton. "Who is this girl? Where does she hail from? She has been dead one hundred and forty-six years. Can't kill a person twice, you know. What good is she, anyhow? She's way behind the times—can't even sell a ticket to her own dematerialization."
"Then you are determined to dematerialize the lady again?" demanded Woodworth, somewhat demoralized.
"Sure; come and see for yourself. Take a ticket, and one for your wife."
"I shall certainly come—with the police. You insist on making this preposterous experiment?"
"Fact. But tell you what I'll do. You may take the young woman—lock her up—do anything you like with her, and I'll bet you a cool hundred I'll dematerialize her all the same."
Woodworth clutched at this proposition—he began to see a way out. The Psychical Research Society was hastily summoned in special session, and Amy Alright was introduced to President Barker and the members. Her frankness and timidity convinced the most sceptical among them that she, at least, was innocent of collusion with the medium. She appeared terribly to dread the threats of Shockton.
"Oh, gentlemen," she pleaded, "put me under ground; put me in some strong place, where it will be impossible to get at me. I am so tired of being a spirit. Don't let me be dematerialized again!"
Provided with a lunch from the hotel, wrapped in napkins, she was smuggled into Barker's Bank—it was dignified by that name in the village—and locked into its roomy old brick vault, and a committee signed an affidavit to that effect.
Then all the Psychical people attended Shockton's seance. It was very long and very mysterious. For two hours the audience—they could not be called spectators—sat in darkness, listening to soft music and waiting for Amy Alright to appear.
At last there came a gentle tapping. "Ah, ha!" exclaimed Shockton, "she comes! Who goes there?"
"The spirit of Mistress Amy Alright, who died of the quinsy in 1770."
"Are you in the flesh, or in the spirit?"
"A spirit, alas! Oh, woe is me!"
"There you are, gentlemen!" said Shockton, switching on the light. "Now produce your Amy, if you can."
The audience, led by the Psychical Research committee, trooped back to Barker's Bank. Heavens! The man had won his bet—Amy had dematerialized after all.
So had the contents of the bank!
The only material evidences remaining of the guileless girl and her "work were the crumbs of her luncheon, the napkins in which it had been wrapped, and a hotel table knife—snapped short off—which had served as a screwdriver. The big, old-style locks, with their screws, lay on the floor.
- In the December issue: PUTTING ONE OVER ON ADAM, by Leland S. Chester, a business story in which rival firms in the meat packing industry strive to gain control of the local market.