Friday, October 17, 2008

Voices from beyond

Face it, no family is complete unless someone threatens to haunt someone. That has happened in our family.

My dad once threatened to haunt my brother-in-law David. Why he made that threat is a long story and I almost told it, seeing that my sister Katie never reads my blog anyway. But then I had a rare attack of editor common-sense and I hit "delete."
But here is what is important: I remember saying: "Dad, if anyone could haunt, you could."
And I remember he nodded with satisfaction, confident in his powers and abilities.
Luckily my father never had to make good on that threat. But now that it is October, I am telling daily tales of the supernatural and we have frost -- frost! -- in the offing, I found myself remembering that very odd exchange we had. Is anyone else shivering the way I am? I cannot pile on enough sweaters. But I refuse to turn on the heat. I refuse.
As I have mentioned a couple of times, my dad and I shared an off-and-on preoccupation with the occult. We were intrigued by it. Which, even if you are Catholic, it is no crime, to be interested in that kind of thing. You are not supposed to seek out the other side but it is excusable to wonder what is out there.

Once when I was about 13 my dad took me to see this ancient newsreel about Arthur Conan Doyle. He had read Katie and me the Sherlock Holmes stories when we were younger so I knew who Conan Doyle was. I always remember this grainy old film. It showed Conan Doyle sitting on a bench, wearing a tweed suit, talking about the occult. Conan Doyle was obsessed with establishing contact with some dead person -- I think it was his wife. But no matter how many seances and mediums he tried, he never pulled it off. My father and I chewed on this extensively after seeing the movie. We marveled that Conan Doyle could not do that and we wondered if anyone could.

Later we learned that Harry Houdini made a pact with a friend that whoever crossed the Great Divide first would contact the other. Houdini died first, my dad told me, and the friend never heard from him.

I wonder if after you pass on you do not care about certain things as much as you did on earth. Perhaps in the afterlife you have other priorities.

Personally I would be interested in tracking down Leonard Pennario as soon as I could and start asking the millions of questions I keep kicking myself for not thinking to ask him. So if I go, don't expect to hear from me right away.

But we can hear from the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Here is a video of Conan Doyle that isn't the one we saw but he talks in it about his spiritual leanings and how his interest in the occult has replaced his interest in detective stories.

He says: "I am certain I could fill a room of my house with the letters from people who have telling me of the consolation which my writings and my lectures have given to them, how they have once more heard the sound of a vanished voice and felt the touch of a vanished hand."

At the end, Conan Doyle's dog shakes himself, and the author says: "Well... Goodbye."

That is great October watching.

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