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Scene-Hotel at Port Said and Steamboat

I was a curly haired boy of sixteen called Gerald returning from India with my father a retired Colonel, and a nurse, as I was ill. The boat stayed two days at Port Said, so I was carried ashore for a change. During the night I was aroused by a sharp prick on my forearm similar to that caused by a hypodermic injection and found nurse in a trance. A voice proceeded from the chandelier in the centre of the room saying I had had a dose of cholera bacilli injected, that for one minute afterwards I could speak about it, but if I exceeded the minute I should receive a fresh injection to increase the virulence of the disease at 11 a.m. the next day, and after that other diseases would follow. The speaker was a Hindu using the chandelier as a telephone.

For a moment I was panic stricken and became delirious, seeing streams of my blood corpuscles chasing round and round the ceiling, staphylococci, streptococci and the cholera bacillus at work, on the walls; leucocytes were engulfing them, yet still they multiplied with extraordinary rapidity. Millions of cholera bacilli ran down the drains to spread the infection, the ceiling was thick and sticky with infectious suppurating matter. At last I aroused nurse from her trance, and at that moment my father came in. Hastily I told them I had cholera, imploring them to warn people in the hotel to avoid all chance of spreading the disease1. The old colonel, my father, refused to take any notice, saying we would sail as arranged next day. My minute was up, yet still I implored, but father remained firm, assuring me that I had not got cholera. Then I begged them to look after themselves which, to pacify me, they promised to do. I explained that I had been inoculated with the cholera bacillus, whereupon they declared no one had been in to do it. I said in that case, it must have been done hypnotically, but I could not say I had incurred a stronger dose by speaking beyond my time limit. Finally, exhausted by my unavailing efforts to make them take precautions against the spread of the disease, I stopped talking.

At 11 a.m. I was again aroused by a prick, to see nurse once more entranced. Hastily I called "nursie, nursie," and told her I had had a fresh injection. I heard voices outside in the street saying that two rats had been found dead of cholera and that after 6 p.m. that night no one would be allowed to leave the town. My father came in and I called out "For God's sake go and warn the people the cholera is here." At the end of my minute I felt so ill that I dared not risk another injection by exceeding it, so signed for paper and wrote in a weak, almost illegible scrawl, though I could only express part of what I wanted to through physical weakness.

1 Vera really warned everyone she saw and implored them to warn others.

Remember I won't die

Copy of what was thus actually written1

To speak means waste of a minute
in battling the cholera germ.

Inquire all boats leaving after 6 p.m. to-night
Are in quarantine for a time

Can you hear them call in the street
I guarantee cholera bacillus 40 cases.
Excitement increases temperature.

I guarantee I'll keep mine down if its possible and
Warn in God's God's warn

I dare on speak further and ask to see
particulars downstairs.

I'll pull through here if you take the others.
I can but not so bad for the others

I can't speak for a time


I love you

When I found my father still determined to go, delirium again supervened. I saw pictures of the ship we were on ploughing its way across the sea, calling at fresh ports; and at each port numerous rats carrying thousands of cholera and plague germs swam ashore and whole towns were nearly wiped out by disease while the old Hindu laughed and chuckled at his diabolical revenge upon the white man.

The next thing I became conscious of was that I was once more on board and that all the symptoms of cholera were fully developed. Again a prick and with a mocking laugh a voice said "plague this time."

I remembered I had made a promise to someone that whatever happened I would not die, though I did not remember to whom I had made it, and for a moment I wondered how I could keep it with so many different germs at work, but only for a moment. Then I knew that my will power would enable me to keep my word, though the price of life was terrific suffering. But I was afraid for the others who would not so will themselves to live.

Soon my arms and legs were covered with suppurating sores, my hands and wrists grew rainbow hued, purples, blues and greens predominating. My face of course I could not see. Everything inside me seemed upside down-my head was absolutely on fire. All this time the medical cinematograph was still running, but as my confidence in my power returned the bacteria began to clump and I knew I should beat them.

To my horror my father came in absolutely livid with a great sore on his temple, so I knew he had got the plague too. Again I exceeded

1 Original paper kept by Vera's father and handed to her later.

my limit, imploring my father to send for proper remedies for himself and for nurse, assuring him they could not kill me, but would kill nurse and him. Finally to pacify me he said he had a remedy and would take three drops1, and would give nurse some too, since I saw signs of plague. commencing in her.

So I struggled on. The old Hindu continued re-inoculating me with many germs because I always exceeded my time limit by trying to convince and save others. Each time I saw a fresh batch of germs at work, only to 'clump' once more as I willed to live; but I felt very weak and ill and exhausted with the effort and wished heartily I'd never made the promise that was taking so much keeping.

That night I thought nurse's pulse was very slow, so begging her to hold my hand and sit in a little chair beside me, I (though so weak I could scarcely move, and in agony) tried to increase her pulse rate by forcing the blood along about one beat in ten faster through exerting all the pressure on her wrist I could2. I hoped thus to keep it going so that she should not die.

Soon my own pain [neuralgia] grew too intense, and I was fighting agonisingly for self-control, so nurse brought a dose of a sleeping draught that I had been taking; but at last I realised that the delirium tremens was caused by morphia I had had before and by this draught [chloral and bromide]. So, rather than make my brain worse, I refused the draught that I knew from experience would give me relief from pain in sleep, saying I would fight it through unaided and would not be beaten. Nurse said, "You can't, you can't go on suffering like that and live, it will kill you to go on as you are. Do take it and get relief or you'll die”; but I stood firm and fought the harder, and slowly the night wore on.

As my brain, drunk with drugs, cleared, so the pictures on the walls ceased their rapid motion. The snakes and grinning faces stopped squirming and grinning. The stream of corpuscles slowed down and stopped. The clumps of bacteria remained clumped instead of splitting up again. I no longer went down through a mixed-up scene of horrors in the nether regions where antediluvian monsters roamed around. Horrid prehistoric reptiles ceased their attempts upon my life. So my refusal of the draught was justified and I asked that it might be taken out of the room altogether, so that I should not have the terrific struggle of refusing it when pressed upon me3.

Then father came in and tried to convince me that the cholera and plague were entirely subjective too and on the same plane as the delirium tremens, and at last got the fact home [actual]. I, seeing and feeling my arms and legs still suppurating said, "Well, if my brain has created

1 Vera's father actually took three drops of something.

2 Later nurse told Vera that she had patted her wrist gently for some time. The utmost strength Vera had been able to exert had not amounted to much, though measured subjectively by effort it seemed great to her.

3 Vera asked this because she could not trust her nurse not to press it upon her when the pain was at its worst, as she had done the previous night.

all these symptoms and pains it can destroy them again. Give me three days and I'll have clear skin again." I concentrated my mind on the disappearance of all signs of the imaginary disease, and the next time I felt the prick of a fresh inoculation and saw nurse entranced, I simply ignored it and realised nurse was asleep. The second time inoculation was due it was not given, my skin cleared (it had been clear all the time of course) and soon I announced myself cured of all the delusions1 I had had, being left only with the fearful neuralgia from which I had been suffering so long.

'Atila' episode

Suddenly a dazzling light shone out from the centre of the chandelier and a voice spoke saying it had come at my bidding. Then I remembered I had seen an advertisement saying that a 'spirit' would be sent which would materialise at a certain time and date, or, in default of this £350 would be paid to the applicant. I had written arranging time and date, and then forgotten about it until so reminded. I (Gerald) asked who was there. "Atila," was the reply: and the figure of a lovely woman in a black lace evening frock, tiny at first, but expanding until it reached full size on touching the ground, floated down from the light. A soft voice said, "I have come to help you in any way possible." I said, “Ease this awful pain. Help me to get well."

Atila then approached the armchair in which nurse sat and I realised nurse was in a trance. She then deliberately sat on nurse's knee, whereupon nurse's clothes just emptied themselves of nurse, remaining limp and flat just where they were. Atila reclined gently on top of the empty clothes, sank into them, filled them out appearing clad in nurse's garb, rose and came to me. I felt her bare arm finding it firm round flesh; she put her arms around me to soothe me, promising to help all she could [this was nurse, of course]. She returned and sat pensively looking into the fire. A moment later I heard a voice saying, "Evil is present in the room, beware!" I knew the voice was subjective and put it down to telepathy from some other friendly spirit. Atila heard nothing. So, thinking she was a good spirit who had come to help me, I said, "Atila, beware, it is time you went before harm comes to you." She poked the fire, smiled a farewell, sank back in the chair, rose to a sitting position, clad in her own black dress once more, leaving nurse's empty clothes behind, rose to her feet and nurse filled out her clothes

1 "This did not remove the delusion that I was Gerald and on board ship, since I had taken it for granted that I was a boy (in spite of the fact that I was menstruating at the time, a fact which did not enter consciousness). Throughout this I implored them to fetch Dr D. as he would believe I had cholera, plague, etc., and would cure these diseases. I wrote several notes to him begging him to come, but when he did I rarely saw him, for frequently at the time of his visit, one of the other personalities which did not know him had temporarily appeared on the scene. Whenever he came when I was Gerald I knew him and had long discussions with him." [This was written by Vera in brackets in her original account.]

again. So for a moment I saw nurse in a trance, with Atila, erect but ethereal, beside her, before Atila floated up and was not.

Only after Atila's disappearance did it strike me that the warning might have been addressed to me on my own behalf, that Atila might be an evil spirit whose help I had accepted. However, I felt too weak and ill to be able to decide whether she were good or evil, though I wanted her help, but not if she were evil. Next day I sent for the Vicar, telling him the whole episode, asking if I should accept her help or not. He, with solemn face advised me to have nothing to do with her1. I promised I would not, saying I would see she never came again, adding proudly, "I can prevent her materialising again."

Next night I was alert just before the time I expected her, and made the sign of the Cross round myself, nurse and the room. The light flashed outside the window, a medley of spirits raved and gibbered at me from outside, but none could get in because of the power symbolised by the sign of the cross. So I knew they were evil. For a night or two they still attempted to break through, heralding their approach, hours before, by thin red and gold spider webs spun from window poles to chandelier. Webs that no one but I could see or feel, yet if anyone walked through they seemed covered with the broken threads. The webs were immediately remade after anyone had thus broken through them, but the top two sections were unfinished in every case. I had many arguments with my father who, materialistic old colonel as he was, denied the reality of the webs, the spirits and Atila, which were so obvious to me. However the spirits soon realised their impotence against my faith and gave up the attempt. At first I had made the sign of the cross with wide sweeping movements of both arms, so that nurse should not realise what I was doing. Later I became bolder, even asking anyone present to go round the room and make the mystic sign for me, to keep the spirits out. Atila never appeared again.

[Probably due to a mixed idea of Maskelyne and Devant's challenge to reproduce 'faked' spirit phenomena, and the materialistic spiritualism with which I do not agree2.]

Scene-South America

I was fighting a terrific battle against tremendous odds. My foes the spirits of fire in every shape and form, my only defence my faith and will power. The attack commenced by a long tongue of flame shooting out from a picture of two bonny little children standing in front of the fire after a bath3. This shot through my head and set it on fire inside. I insisted at once on nurse burning the picture so that the spirit could not shoot again. As it burnt I saw an evil face gleam malevolently out from the burning embers.

1 The Vicar really so advised Vera.

2 Original interpretation included in Vera's notes.

3 This picture was really seen as described, and the nurse burnt it to pacify Vera.

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