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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Talk with the Ghost of Lenin

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Talk with the Ghost of Lenin is an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Daily Express No. 7522 on 30 may 1924.



Editions

As Talk with the Ghost of Lenin:

As A London Ghost:


Talk with the Ghost of Lenin (1924)

Daily Express No. 7522 (p. 1 & 7)

SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE'S LONDON THRILL.

By SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

For some days the "Daily Express" had contained accounts of a haunted house with in a few hundred yards of Piccadilly-circus, which had aroused the interest of its readers.

The allegations, founded on the actual experiences of its correspondent, were that in the lower room of this building there was a perceptible and evil psychic atmosphere, that raps were board, that a luminous ray was seen on the stair, and that a figure of an elderly man with an evil face had several times been seen by a young woman who is employed professionally on the premises.

It was to test this matter that a few of us assembled on the night of May 28, reaching the house at eleven o'clock. It is the theatre neighbourhood: it was a curious change from the streets, which were crowded with the returning pleasure seekers, to the absolute silence of the sinister old house which stands in a by street.

INVESTIGATORS.

Our party consisted of the young woman already quoted, whom I will call the clairvoyante, the secretary of the business, a young Dutch artist who claimed also to have psychic vision, Mr. Horace Leaf, who is a strong medium, a Wimpole street physician, the Rev. Vale Owen, and myself.

As I had organised the expedition I took it on myself to guard the party against practical jokers. All doors were locked and a piece of twine was tied across the only staircase which led down to the lower room.

In this lower room we assembled, and at 11.30, having grouped ourselves round a table so that we might be in a position to obtain table messages, we turned out the lights. No sound at all reached us from the street, and we sat quietly awaiting events, chatting occasionally among ourselves, as experience has shown that sound vibrations are helpful in psychic phenomena.

At first the darkness had seemed absolute. Gradually, however, we were able to discern a dim light on the stair. It had a spectral effect, but we were all in agreement that it was caused by a reflection from the glass roof of the building, and that it was our own vision, growing gradually used to the conditions, which had caused it to develop.

We were not aware of any particular psychic atmosphere, but those who had been present when the newspaper man made his report said that it had been far more noticeable on that occasion. There were a few distant taps, or cracks, but not more than is usual in an old house in the silence of the night time.

Our hands were all on the table, which occasionally thrilled and shook, but gave no pronounced movement. We had begun to think that our results might be entirely negative when the clairvoyante on my left whispered in an agitated voice: "I see him. He is there. He is standing on the stair looking down at us."

"An elderly man, bearded, with rather slit eyes and a cunning expression," was her description of the apparition. It was corroborated by the Dutchman. I could see the faint luminosity which marked the line of the stairs, but nothing more.

TABLE MOVES.

I do not, however, possess any psychic perceptions. The two seers reported that the man had descended a little, and the clairvoyante showed signs of considerable emotion.

We spoke, begging the unseen figure to approach us and to tell us how we could assist it. A moment later the two seers agreed that it was no longer on the stair.

In a minute the table began to move. It rose and fell in a steady rhythm. My experience of table-sittings, which is a large one, has shown me that undeveloped spirits always make violent and irregular — often circular — movements, and that steady movement is a sign of a deliberate, thoughtful control.

We were reassured, therefore, as regards the nature of our invisible visitant. Having explained the code, the dialogue between us ran thus, the answers coming clear-cut and swift.

"Are you a spirit?" — "Yes"

"A man?" — "Yes."

"Are you the spirit who has haunted this room?" — "Yes."

"Have you a reason for haunting it?" — "Yes."

"Is it money that troubles you?" — "No."

"Papers?" — "No."

"Remorse for deeds done?" — "Yes."

ADVICE.

I then explained to the spirit the conditions under which he lived, and the need to turn his thoughts away from worldly matters, which retarded spiritual progress. I begged him to cease to annoy innocent people, and I told him that he could only work out his own salvation by adapting his mind to the new conditions, by being unselfish, and by striving for higher things.

I said that we would pray for him, and Mr. Vale Owen, there and then, offered up a beautiful prayer that this, our unhappy brother, might be eased and helped. I then asked if he had heard and understood. "Yes," was the reply.

Had it affected his attitude of mind? Some hesitation, and then "No." Clearly he was a man of resolute character, not easily to be influenced.

I then said that we would take any message from him, and would like first of all to know his earth name. With that object I gave him the alphabet slowly, asking him to move the table sharply on the right letter. The following letters came out: L-E-N-A-N.

"LENIN."

"Is that right?" I asked. — "No," was the reply.

"Is L E N right?" — "Yes."

"Should the next letter be I?" — "Yes."

"Is Lenin the name?" — "Yes."

"Are you Lenin the Russian leader?" — "Yes."

All our company protested that this man's name was not in the minds of anyone. Certainly it was, up to the last moment, unexpected by me. "Could you spell something in Russian?" was the next question. — "Yes," was the answer.

Some lingual tests were then given, but I found it hard to follow them, for spelling out with the alphabet is hard work even in one's own tongue. The Dutch artist addressed the Intelligence in several languages, and received correct "Yes" or "No" answers, which showed comprehension.

"Have you a message for us?" I then asked. "Yes," was the reply. "Then I will give you the alphabet." It was slow work, but this was the queer sentence which finally was hammered out:-

"Artists must rouse selfish nations." I thought that by "artists" he was using a short cut to express the idea of all men of intelligence and imagination.

HYMN.

We asked if this was the whole message, and were told that it was not. As the alphabet procedure was so slow and clumsy, Mr. Horace Leaf suggested that we should put the table aside, sit in a circle, and invite the spirit to control one or other of us.

Both Mr. Leaf and the artist volunteered to be the subjects of the experiment. We rearranged ourselves, therefore, and sang "Lead, kindly light," for the sake of harmony and vibration.

Suddenly, in the pitch darkness, a strange voice broke in on a low, level, clear tone. It was Mr. Leaf's own personal guide.

"There is a spirit here who wishes to speak. He is a strong spirit. No, I would not say that he is an evil spirit. His aura is not evil. Yes, he is foreign. I could not say more than that." The voice died away once more.

Presently we heard gasps and short cries of pain. The spirit was endeavouring to possess Mr. Leaf. It was clearly ignorant of psychic things, and did not know how to set about it. What it really did was to produce violent muscular contractions.

PAINFUL FAILURE.

Mr. Owen on one side and the doctor on the other had all they could do to hold his twisting, convulsed arms. Then, with a long sigh, he came back to consciousness. The attempt had been a failure — and a painful one.

We were at a loss now how to proceed, and the table was reintroduced while the Dutchman took my place as questioner. "The spirit is laughing," said the clairvoyante. She had on other occasions observed this sneering laugh.

There is something slightly evidential here, for she had no recollection of Lenin's face as it was in life, but it may be recalled that he had a perpetual set contraction of his lips which gave the impression of a broad smile, which was belied by his serious eyes.

From our new attempts we gathered that the rest of the message was an expression of the desire that Russia and Britain should be friends, with the warning that unless they could come to terms they would drift into war, in which Russia would be very strong.

Such was the whole message. Immediately it was given the table turned dead, and we could obtain no further sign of intelligence. The clairvoyante reported the figure as sitting on the stairs for a time and then passing on.

CLEAR MESSAGES.

So ended our curious experience in the old house in mid-London. It cannot be said that there was anything objective to which the senses of all of us could testify. On the other hand, it is certain that we were all in earnest, that there was no pressure on the table, that the messages were clear, and that the whole course of events was consistent.

In answer to a question the Intelligence said that he had lived in London and that he had known these premises, though he had never actually lodged there. It may be added that it is a place frequented by foreign artists, with Russians among them, and that Lenin during his stay in London might well have been there.

Mr. Vale Owen's feeling was that the visitor took it for granted that we were artists also, and that in his message "artists" is in the vocative. If he were mistaken about our vocation it would prove that he was indeed external to ourselves. It was an appeal to us to rouse nations out of their selfishness — an appeal which could hardly come from an evil spirit.

I am not sure of the doctor's conclusions, but I am convinced that everyone else in the company was convinced that we were in touch with a real entity, with a real message, and it is our hope that, the message being delivered, the ghost of mid-London will be heard of no more.

Deception from the other side is an alternative and possible hypothesis, but we were all impressed by the extreme earnestness of this intelligence, and equally earnest were our own invocations to his honesty.


A London Ghost (1930)

For some days the papers had contained accounts of a haunted house within a few hundred yards of Piccadilly Circus, which had aroused the interest of the public.

The allegations, founded on the actual experiences of residents, were, that in the lower room of this building there was a perceptible and evil psychic atmosphere, that raps were heard, that a luminous ray was seen on the stair, and that a figure of an elderly man with an evil face had several times been seen by a young woman who was employed professionally on the premises.

It was to test this matter that a few of us assembled on the night of May 28th, 1924, reaching the house at eleven o'clock. It was in the theatre neighbourhood, and it was a curious change from the streets, which were crowded with the returning pleasure-seekers, to the absolute silence of the sinister old house which stands in a by-street.

Our party consisted of the young woman already quoted, whom I will call the clairvoyante, the secretary of the business, a young Dutch artist who claimed also to have psychic vision, Mr. Horace Leaf, who is a strong medium, a Wimpole Street physician, the Rev. Vale Owen, and myself.

As I had organized the expedition I took it on myself to guard the party against practical jokers. All doors were locked and a piece of twine was tied across the only staircase which led down to the lower room.

In this lower room we assembled, and at 11.30, having grouped ourselves round a table so that we might be in a position to obtain table messages, we turned out the lights. No sound at all reached us from the street, and we sat quietly awaiting events, chatting occasionally among ourselves, as experience has shown that sound vibrations are helpful in psychic phenomena.

At first the darkness had seemed absolute. Gradually, however, we were able to discern a dim light on the stair. It had a spectral effect, but we were all in agreement that it was caused by a reflection from the glass roof of the building, and that it was our own vision, growing gradually used to the conditions, which had caused it to develop.

We were not aware of any particular psychic atmosphere. There were a few distant taps, or cracks, but not more than is usual in an old house in the silence of the night-time.

Our hands were all on the table, which occasionally thrilled and shook, but gave no pronounced movement. We had begun to think that our results might be entirely negative when the clairvoyante on my left whispered in an agitated voice:

"I see him. He is there. He is standing on the stair looking down at us."

"An elderly man, bearded, with rather slit eyes and a cunning expression," was her description of the apparition. It was corroborated by the Dutchman. I could see the faint luminosity which marked the line of the stairs, but nothing more.

I do not, however, possess any psychic perceptions. The two seers reported that the man had descended a little, and the clairvoyante showed signs of considerable emotion.

We spoke, begging the unseen figure to approach us and to tell us how we could assist it. A moment later the two seers agreed that it was no longer on the stair.

In a minute the table began to move. It rose and fell in a steady rhythm. My experience of table-sittings, which is a large one, has shown me that undeveloped spirits always make violent and irregular--often circular--movements, and that steady movement is a sign of a deliberate, thoughtful control.

We were reassured, therefore, as regards the nature of our invisible visitant. Having explained the code, the dialogue between us ran thus, the answers coming clear-cut and swift.

"Are you a spirit?"--"Yes"

"A man?"--"Yes."

"Are you the spirit who has haunted this room?"--"Yes."

"Have you a reason for haunting it?"--"Yes."

"Is it money that troubles you?"--"No."

"Papers?"--"No."

"Remorse for deeds done?"--"Yes."

I then explained to the spirit the conditions under which he lived, and the need to turn his thoughts away from worldly matters, which retarded spiritual progress. I begged him to cease to annoy innocent people, and I told him that he could only work out his own salvation by adapting his mind to the new conditions, by being unselfish, and by striving for higher things.

I said that we would pray for him, and Mr. Vale Owen, there and then, offered up a beautiful prayer that this, our unhappy brother, might be eased and helped. I then asked if he had heard and understood.

"Yes," was the reply.

Had it affected his attitude of mind? Some hesitation, and then "No." Clearly he was a man of resolute character, not easily to be influenced.

I then said that we would take any message from him, and would like first of all to know his earth name. With that object I gave him the alphabet slowly, asking him to move the table sharply on the right letter. The following letters came out: L-E-N-A-N.

"Is that right?" I asked.--"No," was the reply.

"Is L E N right?"--"Yes."

"Should the next letter be I?"--"Yes."

"Is Lenin the name?"--"Yes."

"Are you Lenin the Russian leader?"--"Yes."

All our company protested that this man's name was not in the minds of anyone. Certainly it was, up to the last moment, unexpected by me.

"Could you spell something in Russian?" was the next question.--"Yes," was the answer.

Some lingual tests were then given, but I found it hard to follow them, for spelling out with the alphabet is hard work even in one's own tongue. The Dutch artist addressed the Intelligence in several languages, and received correct "Yes" or "No" answers, which showed comprehension.

"Have you a message for us?" I then asked.

"Yes," was the reply.

"Then I will give you the alphabet."

It was slow work, but this was the queer sentence which finally was hammered out:

"Artists must rouse selfish nations."

I thought that by "artists" he was using a short cut to express the idea of all men of intelligence and imagination.

We asked if this was the whole message, and were told that it was not. As the alphabet procedure was so slow and clumsy, Mr. Horace Leaf suggested that we should put the table aside, sit in a circle, and invite the spirit to control one or other of us.

Both Mr. Leaf and the artist volunteered to be the subjects of the experiment. We rearranged ourselves, therefore, and sang "Lead, kindly light," for the sake of harmony and vibration.

Suddenly, in the pitch darkness, a strange voice broke in on a low, level, clear tone. It was Mr. Leaf's own personal guide.

"There is a spirit here who wishes to speak. He is a strong spirit. No, I would not say that he is an evil spirit. His aura is not evil. Yes, he is foreign. I could not say more than that." The voice died away once more.

Presently we heard gasps and short cries of pain. The spirit was endeavouring to possess Mr. Leaf. It was clearly ignorant of psychic things, and did not know how to set about it. What it really did was to produce violent muscular contractions.

Mr. Owen on one side and the doctor on the other had all they could do to hold his twisting, convulsed arms. Then, with a long sigh, he came back to consciousness. The attempt had been a failure--and a painful one.

We were at a loss now how to proceed, and the table was reintroduced while the Dutchman took my place as questioner. "The spirit is laughing," said the clairvoyante. She had on other occasions observed this sneering laugh.

There is something slightly evidential here, for she had no recollection of Lenin's face as it was in life, but it may be recalled that he had a perpetual set contraction of his lips which gave the impression of a broad smile, which was belied by his serious eyes.

From our new attempts we gathered that the rest of the message was an expression of the desire that Russia and Britain should be friends, with the warning that unless they could come to terms they would drift into war, in which Russia would be very strong.

Such was the whole message. Immediately it was given the table turned dead, and we could obtain no further sign of intelligence. The clairvoyante reported the figure as sitting on the stairs for a time and then passing on.

So ended our curious experience in the old house in mid-London. It cannot be said that there was anything objective to which the senses of all of us could testify. On the other hand, it is certain that we were all in earnest, that there was no pressure on the table, that the messages were clear, and that the whole course of events was consistent.

In answer to a question the Intelligence said that he had lived in London and that he had known these premises, though he had never actually lodged there. It may be added that it is a place frequented by foreign artists, with Russians among them, and that Lenin during his stay in London might well have been there.

Mr. Vale Owen's feeling was that the visitor took it for granted that we were artists also, and that in his message "artists" is in the vocative. If he were mistaken about our vocation it would prove that he was indeed external to ourselves. It was an appeal to us to rouse nations out of their selfishness--an appeal which could hardly come from an evil spirit.

I am not sure of the doctor's conclusions, but I am convinced that everyone else in the company was convinced that we were in touch with a real entity, with a real message, and it is our hope that, the message being delivered, the ghost of mid-London will be heard of no more.

Deception from the other side is an alternative and possible hypothesis, but we were all impressed by the extreme earnestness of this intelligence, and equally earnest were our own invocations to his honesty.




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