Welcome. This is my blog, and you're my most coveted guest. If I seem a bit too intense, it's only because I have so much that I want to share with you, and I can see that you're eager to begin as well. So, please...make yourself at home, sip an East India cocktail (I blended the pomegranate juice myself), and sample some of my domestic and imported Arcana: useless, but fascinating information about Victoriana, Steampunk and other favoured topics; music which evokes that dark, lost Lenore sensibility; and other pleasant or, perhaps, unsettling non sequiters whispered in a darkened room. Linger long or short, leave a comment or refrain, but remember to come back soon to play a (shhhh) parlour game.
Velkommen. Dette er min blog, og du er min mest eftertragtedegæst. Hvis jeg synes en smule for intenst, det er kunfordi jeg har så meget at jeg vil dele med jer, og jeg kanse, at du er ivrig efter at begynde så godt. Så kan du ...føl dig hjemme, sip et East India cocktail (jeg blandetden granatæble juice mig selv), og prøve nogle af mine indenlandske o importerede Arcana: ubrugelig, menfascinerende oplysninger om Victoriana, Steampunkog andre begunstigede emner; musik der fremkalderdenne mørke, mistede Lenore sensibilitet, og andrebehagelige eller måske foruroligende, ikke sequitershviskede i et mørkelagt rum. Linger lang eller kort,efterlade en kommentar eller afstå, men husk at komme tilbage snart til at spille en (Shhhh) selskabsleg.
- I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.
Nocturne in G Flat major
Chopin, darkness, light, sand and wind, starlight tread. Beethoven, love, fear, madness, redemption in the night. Liszt, waltzing widows, desperate bargains, pleasure's secret plight. Now, then, before, always, forever. Promises made on lonely beaches, celestial summer's perfect kiss, passions quenched in salty breezes, the lure of distant mist-draped heights. Bitter interlude. Final, private nocturne. Burned down like a candle. Doomed bleeding beauty. Fated sacrificial night.
We love all things dark and mysterious, macabre and obscure, odd and unfathomable. Nothing is too strange or bizarre for our little blog. And although we would never presume to offer definitive answers to the great questions of life, we shall do our best to enlighten, inform and delight our visitors with our whimsical potpurri of facts, anecdotes, trivia and informational outpourings. We strive not to offend, but to edify those who wish to reach beyond their comfort zone and touch the fabric of another time and place, and of distant, but genuine worlds and lives. As Victorian-themed blogs go, ours may not be the most austere, nor the most comprehensive, but we know what we like, and if our readers like it as well, then all is as it should be in this ramshackle corner of our own personal Victorian empire.
A Musical Note
A Musical Note: We feel that our blog is best viewed when accompanied by one or more of the following musical selections. Then again, we also feel that our blog is best viewed when accompanied by a glass of absinthe, a bite of lemon cake, and a foot massage (preferably by someone you know). So, to paraphrase the otherwise completely irrelevant-to-our-blog Mr. Aleister Crowley, "Do what thou wilt...but be open to Chopin."
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Monday, March 26, 2012
THE STRANGE CASE OF PATIENCE WORTH
On a warm July night in St. Louis, Missouri in 1912, Pearl Lenore Curran, a middle-class housewife in her early 30s, accompanied her friend, aspiring author, Emily Grant Hutchings, to a friend's house where, for lack of anything better to do on a dull summer evening, the three women began playing with the friend's ouija board. The session was uneventful save for a purported message from one of Emily's distant relatives, the details of which have been lost over time. Whatever they were, Pearl was not especially impressed, but Emily was so taken with the supposed communication from beyond that she went out the very next day and bought her own ouija board. At regular intervals throughout the following year, Emily insisted on bringing the ouija board to Pearl's flat, where she cajoled Pearl into participating in more sessions, despite Pearl's lack of enthusiasm for what she considered to be a "silly" activity and the fact that she would have preferred to spend her evenings playing cards or going to a movie.
It wasn't until June 22, 1913, nearly a full year after Emily's alleged relative in spirit had first contacted her, that the two women received another coherent message via the board. As Emily and Peal sat at a small table in Pearl's parlor with their hands on the wooden planchette which was used to spell out the letters and point to numbers on the board that comprised the supposed spirit messages , the planchette reportedly spelled out "Pat-C." Two weeks later, on July 8, the women repeated the process, and the planchette began once again to move, seemingly of its own volition and with "unusual strength", this time spelling out what amounted to an entire paragraph as Pearl copied down the letters as best she could. When the planchette was finally still, the women read over what Pearl had written. It was a greeting, from an unknown source, which began, "Many moons ago I lived. Again I come. Patience Worth my name. Wait, I would speak with thee. If thou shalt live, then so shall I. I make my bread at thy hearth. Good friends, let us be merrie. The time for work is past. Let the tabby drowse and blink her wisdom to the firelog." Naturally, the women wanted to know more, and asked the "author" of the message when she had lived. The planchette spelled out the dates 1649-94. Asked where she was from, the unseen visitor replied that her home was "Across the sea."
The unexpected message from "Patience Worth" marked the beginning of what would become one of the most extended and well-documented instances of spirit communication in the 20th century. That "Patience" had chosen to make herself known to two, otherwise undistinguished women was in itself interesting, especially since Pearl had been, until that time, almost stubbornly resistant to the idea of spiritualism. Born Pearl Lenore Pollard in Mound, Illinois in 1893, she was, by her own admission, "an average student" who dropped out of high school the first year, the result of a supposed nervous breakdown brought on by "strenuous academics." Her academic fragility was compounded by what seemed to be remarkably low sense of self-esteem and unusual sensitivity regarding her looks, which she considered "ugly." Although she later returned to school and completed her education, she remained disinterested in academics as an adult, telling one reporter that the only thing she ever read were novels, and didn't own more than a few books. As a girl, her only real ambition had been to make a name for herself as a singer, but it was one that she quickly abandoned on marrying the much older John Howard Curran, who she met when she was 24 and giving voice lessons in Palmer, Missouri, where her family had relocated and where she spent her summers after moving to Chicago to further her own music career.
By the time the Currans moved to St. Louis, Pearl had slipped into the comfortable, uneventful life of a middle-class housewife, performing household duties during the day, and entertaining friends and her husband's business associates in the evening. According to Pearl, spiritual matters were the farthest thing from her mind, especially spirit contact with a spirit like "Patience Worth", whose penchant for "speaking" in archaic words and phrases whilst engaging in long-winded dissertations on political and theological matters was enough to give even the most ardent spiritualist a headache. But from the start, Patience made it clear that it was Pearl, not Emily, the aspiring authoress, whose physical presence she required at the ouija board in order to maintain contact with the earthly plane.
Over the next several sessions, as Patience continued to answer questions about her origins, Pearl found herself anticipating the answers, which were accompanied by mental images of Patience as a young woman "probably about thirty years. Her hair was dark red, mahogany, her eyes brown, and large and deep, her mouth firm and set, as though repressing strong feelings. Her hair had been disarranged by her cap, and was in big, glossy, soft waves." Pearl claimed she saw Patience on a ship bound for America, and, after the ship had finally reached its destination, visualized Patience in a small boat leaving the side of the ship and heading for the shore. During another ouija board session with Patience, Pearl saw her "sitting on a horse, holding a bundle tied in sail-cloth, tied with thongs and wearing a coarse cloth cape, brown-gray, with hood like a cowl, peaked. The face is in shadow. She is small and her feet are small---with coarse square-toed shoes and gray woolen stockings." In yet another session, during which Patience indicated that she had been killed in an Indian raid, Pearl claimed to have seen a vision of the former Puritan's death and to have been deeply moved by the image.
As might be expected, news of "Patience Worth" and the ouija board sessions that were now being held almost nightly at the Curran home, began to draw curiosity seekers from around the city, including Caspar Yost, the editor of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, who was known in newspaper circles for his hard-edged reporting style. Yost, a Missouri native who had landed his first job as a reporter at the tender age of 17, was a perfect example of the no-nonsense, unsentimental attitude behind Missouri's self-proclaimed status as the "Show Me" state. On hearing of Pearl Curran and the alleged communications from an ethereal entity calling herself "Patience Worth", Yost visited the Currans for the purpose of witnessing what he assumed would be an obvious display of fraudulence on the part of Mrs. Curran, who he then planned to expose as a fraud via an editorial that would put an end to the whole sordid business once and for all.
However, things didn't go quite the way that Yost had envisioned. As Yost took his place among the other guests in the Currans' parlor, he was surprised to find himself "outed" by Patience, who via the ouija board, immediately addressed him and took him to task for his skepticism. Yost was more than a little intrigued by what the alleged spirit had to say. He became a regular visitor to the Curran home, and soon began "conversing" with Patience himself, addressing his questions to her as though she was actually there in the flesh, to which she would respond through the ouija board. When Yost pressed Patience for details of her life while on earth, she replied, "...about me...thou wouldst know much. Yesterday is dead. Let thy mind rest as to the past." Asked why she used words and idioms from so many different historical periods, she retorted, "I do plod a twist of a path and it hath run from then till now."
Yost's plans to "expose" Pearl Curran as yet another fraudulent medium gave way to a wholesale endorsement of her as merely the vehicle chosen by Patience through which to share her "message" with the world. In his book, Patience Worth: A Psychic Mystery, published in 1916, Yost took firm issue with those who insisted that, at best, Patience Worth was simply a sub-conscious personality which had laid dormant in Pearl Curran's psyche and which had been somehow been triggered by her association with the ouija boat. Reminding readers of Pearl's less than illustrious performance as a student during her formative years, Yost wrote, "There are many reasons to suggest that this wasn’t the case, not least the fact that Patience spoke in a dialect not spoken for over 300 years and very peculiar to the England of the 1600’s." Yost's belief in Patience's authenticity was vindicated when, in 1917, following the publication of Patience's first novel, The Sorry Tale , a novel based on the biblical account of Jesus Christ's life, teachings, and death at the hands of the Romans, the New York Globe declared it "a quaint, realistic narrative" that surpassed similar works like Ben Hur and Quo Vadis. The highly- respected literary critic William Marion Reedy, who also attended a number of "Patience" sessions at the Curran home, lauded it as "a new classic of world literature" and dismissed critics' accusations of fraudulence with quotes from linguistic scholars who had studied the novel and found it "authentic as to the language of the time period", as well as devoid of any words not contained in 17th century English, and containing no anachronisms.
Unfortunately, these shining endorsements from Yost, Reedy, and others were tempered by some negative developments in Pearl Curran's personal life. Resentful of the attention her friend was receiving as "Patience's instrument", Emily Hutchings withdrew as an active participant at the "Patience sessions" and wrote her own novel, Jap Herron, which she insisted was also dictated to her through spirit communication, despite the fact that the book received good reviews from critics who had no knowledge of her association with the nation-wide hoopla surrounding Pearl Curran and Patience Worth. Even more distressing to Pearl, following her friend's defection, was the loss of her husband, who died suddenly in 1922.
John Howard Curran's meticulous record-keeping of the Patience Worth sessions had been a mainstay of the communications since the very start, and with his demise, records of subsequent sessions became fragmentary and characterized by long gaps. Six months after her husband's death, Pearl gave birth to her first child, a daughter, but the blessed event was shadowed by financial concerns, which were alleviated only when a devoted friend, Herman Behr offered to pick up the slack, putting Pearl on a $400 a month allowance on which she subsisted for the next several years, at which point she set out on the lecture circuit in an effort to support herself and her family. Two subsequent marriages ended in divorce. IN 1930, Pearl left St. Louis and went to live with an old friend, Dotsie Smith, in California, where she continued to hold "Patience Worth" sessions and give lectures on spirit communication. She died of pneumonia on December 3, 1937, one month after informing Dotsie that her death was imminent, telling her, "Oh Dotsie, Patience has just shown me the end of the road, and you will have to carry on as best you can."
Patience Worth's writings and novels are largely forgotten now, most of them long out of print, but the mystery surrounding her remains. Was she real or just a figment of a bored housewife's imagination? It's not a question that is ever likely to be answered to anyone's satisfaction, but we can at least content ourselves with Patience's own views on the subject of life via one of her long-winded answers to Yost's questions, in which the self-proclaimed "messenger of God" stated, "Life is a gaysome trickster. Yea, life poureth about the atoms o’ man wines of cunning, and equally is he filled up of Him. Thereby is man given freely and his lighting unto life leaveth him for his choosing. Aye, and the giving be wry-fallen atimes, for flesh to tarry long and dance with life, fearing the greater thing athin it.’