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Title: The Ghost in the Tower
       An Episode in Jacobia

Author: Earl Howell Reed

Release Date: November 3, 2018 [EBook #58226]

Language: English

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The Ghost in the Tower


The Ghost in the Tower

An Episode in Jacobia

By Earl H. Reed

Privately Printed
1921


Copyright, 1921
by Earl H. Reed


HIGH UP ON ONE OF THE HILLS OF JACOBIA

“HIGH UP ON ONE OF THE HILLS OF JACOBIA”


[5]

The Ghost in the Tower

A

A GHOST never makes the mistake of appearing before more than one person at a time. There may be much logic in this, for the element of mystery, which is one of the essential attributes to comfortable ghostly existence, would be destroyed if that existence should be established at some one time and place by a preponderance of unimpeachable testimony.

There is a ghost in my friend Jacobs’ water tower over in Michigan, or at least there was one there last Christmas eve. To me he was visible most of the time during a long interview I had with him, and to me he had all of the elements of reality. Nobody who reads this narrative will be in a position to dispute his existence, for, so far as I know, he and I were the only occupants of the tower at the time. If my nebulous friend should choose to make himself known to somebody else, it may furnish material for discussion and comparison of experiences in the future, but in the meantime controversy is quite useless.

To those who do not live in the world of romance and errant fancy, the winter landscapes along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan offer few allurements.[6] The sweeping miles of piled and broken ice, the bleak and desolate bluffs, with their pale brows—fringed with naked trees—in moody relief against the dull skies, that are flecked with the white forms of the roving winter gulls, seem to repel every thought except that of hoped for creature comforts in some human habitation beyond. If it were not for these distant aureoles of hope—mirages though they often are—how gray and dreary the world would be.

Notwithstanding a love of Nature in her sterner moods, it was not for this that I journeyed to my friend’s country retreat in the winter time. I knew that warm hearted hospitality awaited me in the little farm house, nestled among the knolls back of the bluffs.

High up on one of the hills of “Jacobia,” the tower bares its lofty brow to the blasts of the gales. The huge structure seems calmly to defy the winter winds whistling through its upper casements and pounding against its sturdy sides. The swirling snows envelop its weather scarred top in the darkness, and an atmosphere of loneliness and isolation seems to pervade the great bulk, silhouetted against the flying legions of shredded and angry clouds, scudding across the gloomy and storm embattled skies at night.

The storm that had lasted all day subsided during the evening, and the skies cleared, although a mournful[7] wind still moved over the drifted snows. The genial glow of the Yule Tide spirit was in the little farm house. The small evergreen tree that stood in the front room had been cut on the bluffs and brought through the storm during the day. Its candle-lighted branches had been divested of the conventional gauze bags of popcorn, nuts and candy, much of which was now scattered over the floors, and the little ones, in whose hearts lived the happy illusions of childhood, had hung long stockings about in places where they thought that the expected Patron Saint would be most apt to find them. Their melodious saxophone band had become silent, and their tired loving mother had got them off to bed.

Melancholy reflections, that sometimes creep into older minds with Christmas memories of years that are gone, led me out over the moon-silvered hills for a walk.

There was a weird charm in the cold shadowed forest and the strange stillness of the sheltered hillsides. A subtle witchery brooded over the familiar landscapes in their robes of white. I spent some time in a dark nook listening to a sad old owl, located somewhere up among the grapevine tangles and sassafras trees on a hill about a quarter of a mile away. Periodically he sent forth his loud and dismal wail into the darkness.[8] Like a wild cry of mockery to the world of a soul in torment, the sepulchral notes echoed through the woods and mingled with the low moanings of the wind rhythms among the dead clinging leaves and bare branches.

It was nearly midnight when I approached the tower on my way back. Many times during my visits the thought had occurred to me that it was an ideal habitation for a ghost. The maze of timbers, water pipes, wires, and open winding stairways that led up to various landings in the successive octagonal rooms, on the way to the upper chamber of the tall edifice, seemed to provide a perfect environment for a discriminating specter. There was every facility for concealment, and for sudden and vivid apparition when desired. The height of the vast interior would permit of majestic upward sweeps of a wraithy shape into the darkness above, and dissolution into the overhanging gloom. The arrangement of the stairways would enable a phantom to await the coming of whoever was to be haunted, upon any one of the floors, without being visible from the one above or below it.

Architects have probably never studied construction with reference to the needs and convenience of ghosts, but if the builder of the tower had considered these things carefully he could not have designed arrangements more satisfactory from a spectral standpoint.

THE SAD OLD OWL

THE SAD OLD OWL

[9]I found the door leading into the big room on the ground floor unfastened and it was creaking sadly on its hinges. I opened it, stepped inside to light my pipe, and had just thrown the match aside when I noticed a tiny ascending wisp of something that looked like smoke at the base of one of the large wall stanchions near the first stairway. Thinking that it probably came from the dropped match I went toward it to make sure that it was quite extinguished. To my surprise the little wisp of vapor increased in volume as it ascended. There was a patch of moonlight on the floor, and a dim diffused light in the room that enabled me to make out various objects. The rising vapor seemed faintly luminous. I could not account for its strange visibility by the direction of the moonlight entering through the high window. The pale misty wreaths were slowly expanding in wavy convolutions and disappearing through the open steps of the stairway along the opposite wall that led to the floor above.

There was something uncanny in this and while I had often joked with my friend Jacobs about a possible ghost in the tower, and had read many thrilling tales of specters, both benignant and malign, I never had an idea that I would ever be confronted with a situation that would suggest the actual presence of anything of the kind. I had always prided myself upon freedom[10] from superstition, but I distinctly felt a cold chill between my shoulder blades, as if an icy hand had suddenly been placed there, and was conscious of a slight nervous flutter and a clammy feeling. Just then something dropped on one of the upper floors and rolled across it. It had probably been displaced by a gust of wind somewhere far up in the tower but this inference did not help matters any, and, although I knew of no reason for it, I concluded that my nerves must have got into difficulties among themselves and refused to continue their normal functions.

I began to consider the advisability of a cautious retirement from the scene, thinking that a good night’s rest would probably correct the state of mind that made such a medley of unpleasant sensations possible.

Just as I was about to leave I distinctly heard the words, “Good Evening!” uttered in a thin, quiet voice. I looked around the room but could see nobody. “Here I am, up here,” continued the voice. I saw what appeared to be the face of a very pleasant and dignified old man, who seemed to be sitting on the stairs near the top of the room, just above the wreaths of disappearing vapor. The smoky waves apparently continued through the stairway and enveloped all of him except the head—or rather he seemed gradually to materialize out of the wreaths, for the[11] head was the only part of the apparition that bore any semblance to reality. There were misty forms suggesting the shoulders, but they faded off down into the cloudy lines, which now seemed to have ceased rising and were slowly waving to and fro, as if they were suspended from something above and were being gently swayed by a current of air.

“Good evening,” I replied, not without some trepidation. “I hope I have not intruded. I had no idea that there was anybody here when I came in.”

“There isn’t anybody here but you,” continued the strange voice, “for according to your standards I am nobody at all; I am a ghost, but you needn’t be at all alarmed. If you’ll go over and make yourself comfortable on that empty box near the other wall we can have a nice little visit. I have not appeared to a mortal for a long time and it’s a relief to have somebody to talk to. Since I’ve been haunting this tower I’ve stayed in a little crypt I have down under it. I ooze up through that small hole that you see near the base of that stanchion, and I was just coming up when you happened in. It takes me some little time to get properly settled up here, or I would have made my presence known before. I am not quite settled yet, but as you evidently intended to leave I thought I had better make myself known before it was too late. Otherwise[12] I would have had to wait until some other Christmas eve, for that’s the only time I ever visualize. I’ll tell you the reason of this later. Just remain quiet where you are and excuse me. I won’t be gone more than a few minutes.”

With that the nebulous shape above the stairs changed somewhat. It became a little lighter and the face was more distinct. The wraithy vapor lengthened out and all of it, with the head at its upper end, drifted silently up through the stairway hole into the gloom above as gently and softly as the smoke from a pipe.

Naturally I was now much interested. The clammy and creepy feeling, that had come over me at first, had entirely ceased. I was enmeshed in what seemed a supernatural web that presented fascinating possibilities. I looked at my watch which I held in the bright moonbeam from the window and saw that it was exactly midnight. At that moment I heard an unearthly sound that I judged was issuing from the top of the tower. It was a loud prolonged wail that ended in a dismal shriek and a high treble, and was repeated three times. I repressed a slight return of the creepy feeling, resumed my seat on the box, and patiently awaited further developments. Heavy thumping noises became audible from the big water pipes in the tower[13] and reverberated away through the underground routes of the smaller pipes. It occurred to me that the ghost might have decided to take a plunge in the large tank in the upper part of the structure, or was preparing to pull it all down, or something of that kind, and I did not feel that I wanted to be among the debris. To use a favorite expression of one of my English friends, all this was “getting a bit thick.” I was again apprehensive and was tempted to slip quietly away, but was somewhat reassured when I saw the vapory wisps stealing back through the stairway opening. I was surprised to see them trail on down, becoming fainter and thinner, and disappear into the little hole at the base of the stanchion.

A SORT OF INDEFINABLE REMOTENESS AND ALOOFNESS

“THERE WAS A SORT OF INDEFINABLE REMOTENESS AND ALOOFNESS ABOUT HIM”

In the course of a few minutes the wraithy waves reappeared and I soon saw the kindly old face peering over at me from above the high stairway rail.

There was a sort of indefinable remoteness and aloofness about him—something abstract and far away—that seemed to discourage any familiarity, and I waited for him to speak first, as I felt embarrassed and in doubt as to how further conversation was to be conducted.

“I am very sorry if you have had any unpleasant sensations after what has just happened,” he began, after a few vague vibrations of the cloudy veil, that[14] might have been shifted slightly to insure comfort on the stairway, “but it was necessary for me to float to the top of the tower at exactly midnight for a manifestation, and I retired into the crypt below for a moment afterwards to partake of a light draught from a phantom flagon that I keep there. Like the widow’s cruse of oil mentioned in the scriptures, my flagon is always full, and you will at once perceive that in my immaterial state I enjoy some priceless advantages. My flagon affords me much consolation. The contents might seem a little musty to you if you were down there, but I assure you that the liquid was once of the very highest quality. I found it here when I came. Evidently something was once kept in that flagon that had highly reactive qualities—something like the kick of a mad bull—but this element had long been latent when I found it. I hope that you are perfectly comfortable down there. If you feel cold I can easily warm you up with some sensations that you probably have never experienced.”

I assured him that I was quite contented and did not require any more sensations than I was having, and begged him not to worry about me at all.

“You probably would like to know something about me and how I happen to be haunting this tower,” he continued. “It’s quite a long story, but I think[15] you’ll enjoy it. If there are any points in the narration that appear obscure to you, or any that you wish particularly to discuss, please don’t hesitate to interrupt me, as it’s no trouble to talk about my experiences, and there’s plenty of time, as long as we finish before daylight. If we should forget ourselves, and too much light should come, I may fade away quietly and become silent, but don’t be surprised or offended in any way, for if circumstances permit we can easily meet again and continue our little talk.

“My earthly name was Emric Szapolyai, and I died in Hungary in 1489. Measured by your standards that was a long time ago, but among the spirit fraternity time does not cut any particular figure, so, as far as my relationships in the abstract world are concerned, I might just as well have died hundreds of years before that or hundreds of years later.

“You may have difficulty at first in pronouncing my last name correctly, but if you sneeze slightly and try to say ‘Apollonaris’ while you are doing it, you will probably get it. I notice that a great many people in the material world are doing this now. Sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t.”

“But how is it,” I asked, “that you speak modern English so fluently, if you were a Hungarian and died so long ago, before we had any modern English?”

[16]“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he replied. “One of the great advantages of a spiritual existence is the ability of perfect adaptation to any language that is used by the person to whom a visualization is accorded. You have undoubtedly seen instances of this at seances conducted by spiritual mediums. While they are mostly ignorant fakes and their methods entirely irregular, you have no doubt observed that Julius Caesar, who only talked Latin when he was alive, and Napoleon, who only talked Corsican and bad French, always speak the language or dialect peculiar to the region in which the seance is conducted.

“Up to three or four years ago probably no two spirits were more popular or more imposed upon. They were called on hundreds of times every night by mediums all over the world. They used every known tongue from Choctaw to Chinese, and the funny part of it was that they seemed to like it.

“They talked with a pronounced Scotch dialect in Glasgow, their tongues became thick in Cork, and down among the negro spiritualists in Alabama you would think that they were both born in Dahomy and died in Mobile.

“They have been latent now for some time. The recent war in Europe has clouded them over and rendered them quite obsolete. Nobody will have to listen[17] to the stories of their exploits when they were alive for a good many years. The mediums are now invoking an entirely new class of spirits, and they are beseeching such peaceful shades as Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo and Edgar Allen Poe to come forth, and lots of people are asking for the late Czar of Russia. They all want to know what really happened to him. Even the spiritual fraternity has become very tired of Caesar and Napoleon. I know both of these shades well and have no more trouble in communicating with them than I have with you. Don’t give yourself any further uneasiness regarding spirit language.

“I hope you will pardon my digression. We must get back to Hungary. I was one of the Magyar generals who fought in the wars of King Mathias Corvinus. For many years I was a baron, but afterwards I became a duke and had special privileges over quite a large domain. It will interest you to know that I happen to haunt this tower for the reason that its builder used my old baronial tower in Hungary as a model, and I will tell you later how I happened to discover it. It looked so familiar and so much like home that I concluded to make it my headquarters as long as it stands.

“It was my custom to keep sentinels posted in the top of my old tower who watched for small parties of travelers and single wayfarers on the roads crossing my[18] lands. When they appeared my horsemen would go out and relieve them of two thirds of the money and other valuables that they happened to have with them. They would then be provided with a token which they could show to the minions of neighboring vassals of the king, over whose lands they might have occasion to pass, and these tokens would insure immunity from further high financing—to use a modern expression. We always respected these tokens from other domains, so you see the system enabled the traveling public to retain quite a decent portion of gold and worldly goods, considering the opportunities offered to business enterprise. We were called robber barons at that time, and the term may sound a little harsh, but we were universally respected throughout the country. Nowadays our practices would be called mild profiteering, and leaving the wayfarers a third of their pelf when there was a chance to get it all would be considered magnanimous charity.

“In return for these privileges from the crown it was my custom to send a wagon load of Turk’s heads to the King about once a month, and this was a source of great gratification to him. I was enabled to collect the trophies by frequent sorties with my forces against small bodies of Turks that were constantly hovering along our frontiers and making sudden forays into our territory.

[19]“After King Mathias defeated Frederick of Austria, who had had the impudence to proclaim himself King of Hungary, and who intended to exterminate all of us if he was successful, Mathias moved his army against the Turks. This war was successful, and after the capture of Jaicza in Bosnia by assault, I was placed in charge of the conquered districts and made a duke. After this we had another war with Frederick and I was one of the generals commanding the army that captured Vienna after a short siege in 1487.

“The Magyars were a wonderful people. There was a man named Kinisi in our army when we were attacked by the Turks under Ali Bey. In the heat of the battle he rushed among the enemy and rescued a fallen friend. We were getting badly worsted in this battle, but this signal act of bravery inspired the Magyars and the Turks were almost annihilated. In the midst of the rejoicing over the victory, Kinisi was seen holding the body of a Turk by his teeth, and two others in his arms, and executing the Hungarian national dance. I mention this as a sample of his hardihood and originality for the reason that I have asked his shade to visit me in this tower, and it may happen that he will appear to you if conditions permit. Kinisi was what the world calls an honest man—that is to say he would never pick up anything that was too hot to hold, or take anything[20] that was out of his reach. My reason for inviting my spiritual confrčre here may seem a little queer to you.

“Although our mutual friend Henry Jacobs, who owns this tower, does not know me at all, and I have never appeared to him, I have had a great liking for him, and have much appreciated his unconscious hospitality. All unbeknown I have accompanied him on many of his business trips to various places, particularly to the Island of Manhattan that I happen to know a great deal about, as will appear later, and am quite familiar with his affairs. While he is perfectly able to take care of himself, I feel that under the circumstances I have a sort of spiritual responsibility, so to speak.

“I confess that, although I am a ghost, and loneliness might naturally be considered my specialty, I am at times a little too lonely and it would be nice and sociable to have an old ghostly friend with me. We might think it best for Kinisi to go out after somebody we didn’t like sometime, and you may depend upon it, that if he starts, he will not come back alone. There will be other shades with him. He is one of the best terrifiers I ever knew. I have known him to frighten people so that they have jumped off the tops of high buildings, and he has caused many sudden exits from the material world.

LOOKING NORTH FROM THE TOWER TOP IN JACOBIA

LOOKING NORTH FROM THE TOWER TOP IN JACOBIA

“I have been sensible of this moral obligation and this is one of the reasons why I wanted to talk with you tonight. [21]I am sorry that our friend Jacobs has never happened to be up here at an opportune time. I always make it a point to be somewhere up stairs in the tower during the night before Christmas. Perhaps you might mention this to him and I may have the pleasure of talking with him next year, unless for some reason I should be called away.”

“But what happened after the victory over the Turks?” I asked, seeing that my pale friend was somewhat inclined to wander in his narrative.

“Oh yes, excuse me. After our triumph over Ali Bey we had no serious trouble with the Turks for some time, but one night when I was asleep in my tower a bloody gang of these dogs came and I was hacked into pieces with a dozen scimitars. It is the custom of spirits to wear a semblance of their earthly apparel at the time of passing into the immaterial sphere—merely as a recognition of absurd human conventions—and that accounts for what appears to you to be a night cap on my head. The light, wavy lines leading away from my face suggest the gown I was wearing when my mortal remains were tossed into the depression back of my tower. All this happened on Christmas eve. It is a rule with many of the spiritual fraternity to visualize but once a year. I usually select this anniversary for such few appearances as I care to make, unless the occasion is something very special.

[22]“I haunted Ali Bey for a long time after that little episode at the tower, and with the help of Kinisi, who subsequently joined me, we put him in the way of meeting a very unpleasant end. We scared him out of bed and into a big mosque for religious protection one night. Women were not allowed in mosques, as Mohammedan females were supposed to have no souls, but we knew that one of the members of Ali Bey’s harem was in there, who had fled in disguise the day before, and she got him with a knife that she had carried for use in case she was caught. I often talked with him after he became a shade, and eventually we became quite good friends. He wanted to go back after the girl but Kinisi and I persuaded him to let her alone.

“After we left Ali Bey I returned and haunted my tower for some years, but there was so much going on there I didn’t approve of, that I got tired of it after a while and went over into Dalmatia, and from there to the Adriatic. I established myself on board a ship that lay in the harbor and haunted the forecastle for over two years. I moved to the Captain’s cabin after that, and was on the upper deck at night much of the time. The captain was a very agreeable sort of a fellow although he was a bloody pirate, but I never liked the first mate. I chased him and four offensive members of the crew into the sea one night in a gale off the coast[23] of Barbary. I visualized to them separately, and as they were very superstitious they went easily.

“We roved over the Mediterranean and captured considerable booty. We were making new shades constantly. After the victims were thrown overboard, or had walked the plank, they would generally ooze back in the bilge water seepage in the hold so as to enable them to haunt the crew, which they did with a vengeance. They were mostly Spaniards and as a rule I found them quite pleasant.

“I was with the Mediterranean corsairs several years. I visualized before Sidi ben Musa on board a large brigantine that he had just captured with his galleys off the coast of Naples, and I was with him during the rest of his earthly career. He conducted numerous important enterprises. He once organized an expedition to capture the pope that would have been successful were it not for the fact that his men did not know the pope by sight and bundled a cardinal into their boat instead. This happened on the outskirts of the little village of Piano d’Orno not far from Rome. Sidi was one of the great terrors of the sea and wielded a baneful power on the Mediterranean during his lifetime. After he became a shade my association with him beguiled many dull periods.

[24]“After Sidi’s time there was a celebrated sea robber on the Ęgean who was called Red Beard. Sidi and I were with him four years. He was thick set and bullet headed. His heavy jutting lips, cruel eyes, and long fiery red whiskers gave him a rough and wild look. He was an excellent and formidable pirate. Wherever there was wealth to loot, involving wholesale massacre, he was always equal to the situation. It was estimated that he and his men killed over three thousand people and captured over four tons of gold during his lifetime. He had a most profitable career, but he finally came to grief and was captured by a war vessel of the Knights of Rhodes. He was rushed down a scuttle into the hold of the Christian ship, where he was subjected to misery and abuse with others of his crew. The ship was fighting its way in the teeth of a howling gale to the lee of some island and it was a wild night on board. The roaring and whistling of the wind, the howls and curses of the prisoners, the creaking of timbers and cordage, and the piercing shrieks of the galley slaves as the knotted thongs bit into their flesh to spur them to greater effort, naturally made conditions extremely unpleasant for those who were alive. The ship finally anchored. Red Beard succeeded in twisting out of his manacles and escaped into the sea. We went with him to the shore about a mile away, where he crept up to a fishing hut and recuperated. In a few days he set out[25] for Egypt in a merchant ship as a common sailor. He became a shade in a brawl in Alexandria and Sidi and I met him soon afterwards. He joined us and we went to my tower for a long rest.

“Red Beard informed us, after he was translated, that during his earthly existence he had led a double life. There were long periods during which his professional activities were suspended. He had a castle on an island in the Ęgean Sea where he lived in great splendor and was known as the ‘Freckled Duke of Patmos.’ Nobody there suspected that he was Red Beard the pirate.

“We found Kinisi waiting for us at my tower and we remained there for many years. The place acquired a bad reputation among mortals. Nobody who was alive was allowed to be there more than one night, and after several years visits to it were considered foolhardy and were entirely discontinued. When anybody tried to sleep there Red Beard and Sidi would appear before them and brandish big smoky knives and hop up and down, I would wave long white things in the background, and Kinisi would fly toward them with a rush and suddenly fade. The invaders were never able to stand much of this and would usually jump through the windows into the gully in the rear, so after a while we had peace and privacy there.

[26]“I hope I am not boring you with this long recital, but in order that you may understand and appreciate some points that I intend to bring out later it is necessary to go into all this historical data.”

“You are not boring me at all. On the contrary your story is of the greatest interest,” I replied, “but why did you spend practically all of your time with that swaggering Turk eater and those two pirates when one of your evident talents could have undoubtedly found more respectable society?”

“It does seem funny to you, don’t it? Kinisi and I were special friends in life and naturally the intimacy continued afterwards. As to the pirates, that was just a little fantasy of mine. I always had a penchant for making new acquaintances, and, until lately, I always liked the sea. It happened that, outside of the land wars that were generally going on, the pirates were in those times producing more shades than anybody else, not only from among themselves, but from the sea faring public, and I found that by remaining with them I could constantly mingle with new specters that were congenial. I was stationed at the ‘port of entry’—so to speak, and could select my new associates as my fancy dictated. I consorted with a lot of other pirates in a spiritual way, as you will hear later on. You see my experiences in conducting the affairs of my tower when[27] I was alive naturally predisposed me to association with those of that ilk in my disembodied state.

“I am inclined, if you will pardon me, to resent politely your implication that pirates were not respectable society. The live ones are much thicker now than they were then; they move in the very best circles, and sit at highly polished desks, instead of going out into the storms, fighting and killing clean for what they want. In our days a pirate was a gentleman adventurer, and everybody he hadn’t robbed thought well of him until he was captured and in chains, or killed, just as in the present day a pirate may be a ‘shrewd operator’ and a ‘successful business man’ until they get him, but we shall not discuss the ethics of piracy just now, for I am afraid our time will be exhausted before we get to what I would really like to talk about. With your permission I now return to the little company in my tower.

“For the sake of brevity I shall omit details of our stay there and many important incidents of piratical history with which I and my incorporeal friends were more or less identified. We sojourned for awhile in Algiers and other places along the North African coasts, where the pirate nests were numerous. These financial centers were in a flourishing state of prosperity. The Mediterranean yielded rich harvests to skilfully conducted enterprises at that time, mostly from Spanish sources.

[28]“In 1643, I think it was, we all drifted into the forecastle of a ship that was bound for the West Indies. The Spanish Main was the paradise of the bloody buccaneers, and the home of the far famed ‘Jolly Roger,’ that floated in congenial airs from the masts of sinister looking ships that roved the wide waters and gathered their fruitful spoils. We anticipated a long period of ghostly entertainment.

“We amused ourselves on the way over by keeping the captain and crew in a turmoil of apprehension. We muddled the compass, made phantom marlin spikes dance on the deck, and rattled the ropes at night when there was no wind. We made all sorts of bewildering noises on board, but were careful not to terrify anybody to such an extent as to cause a shortage in the crew. There was plenty of rum on the ship and the uncanny episodes were attributed to other spirits than us. We remained latent most of the time, but Kinisi insisted on visualizing in the captain’s cabin several nights just after eight bells struck, and he came very near causing the ship to be turned back. The tough old skipper didn’t care how many spooks infested the forcastle but he didn’t fancy them in his part of the vessel.

“These things may all appear childish to you, but you must remember that we of the spirit world have a superfluity of time on our hands and that we look at[29] everything from a standpoint entirely our own. All folly is dependent upon the point of view.

“When we arrived at Tortugas we found the whole island aflame with excitement over the exploit of a prominent buccaneer named Pierre le Grand, who had just bagged a big Spanish galleon containing fifty thousand pieces-of-eight, and was being overwhelmed with congratulations.

“We drifted among many famous freebooters at Tortugas and Barbados—Alvarez, Hooper, Lolonais and others—all of whom were hunting noble quarry and doing a profitable business. The treasure laden galleons bound for Spain were rich picking. Tons of bullion and millions of pieces-of-eight were garnered from the highways of the sea. The proceeds were spent in riotous dissipation and orgies by the merry buccaneers on shore and the rum dealers eventually acquired the greater part of the spoils.

“The folds of the black flag rose and fell on the long oily swells, and the West Indian sea floors were littered with sunken timbers and Spanish skeletons. Those were days of frenzied finance on the Caribbean.

“At Jamaica we had the pleasure of falling in with Captain Henry Morgan, who was one of the most renowned sea financiers of the seventeenth century, and we all settled on board his ship.

[30]“While Captain Morgan had to endure much opprobium from the world I know him to have been a gentleman and a perfectly honest man, for he always divided the profits of his expeditions with fairness and exactitude among his associates. This is something that is seldom done now days, except as a matter of policy, or under compulsion, and I think it is worth while to note it.

“We went with Morgan and his fleet on his famous expedition for the capture of Panama. We weighed anchor off the cape of Tibur on December 16th, 1670, and came to the island of St. Catherine three days later. The island was taken with little loss. We found few pieces-of-eight, but a much needed supply of powder. On the night of the 24th I visualized before Captain Morgan in his cabin. We had a long conversation, and I was able to give him much valuable advice and information which he deeply appreciated. I faded when seven bells struck just before dawn, and after he became a shade some years later he told me he had always considered that interview a most pleasurable experience.

“I shall not consume time by describing the toilsome ascent of the Chagres river in small boats, the historic march overland, the final victorious battle, and the capture and sack of the rich Spanish city, for all this is embalmed in the annals of heroic achievement in which the world records its worship of success.

[31]“We left Panama February 24th, 1671 with one hundred and seventy-five beasts of burden, carrying the profits of the enterprise, consisting of gold, silver, and valuable merchandise. We had six hundred prisoners to be held for ransom, and this brought forth much wealth that had been secreted when the city was taken. Notwithstanding the necessary misery and lamentations of these hostages, it was a merry throng of adventurers that wound in triumph through the forest pathways back to the headwaters of the Chagres.

“The Captain left the prisoners and a rebellious portion of his followers at the mouth of the river and we sailed to Jamaica, where he settled down to the life of a quiet gentleman. As he was wealthy he commanded respect and nobody questioned his record. Upon his transition into the immaterial state a few years afterward we had the good fortune to have him join our party, and we found him in every way delightful.

“Our ghostly little company was later augmented by the addition of Captain Teach, and no more blood-thirsty sea rover ever scuttled a ship, cut a throat, or blew open a treasure safe. He was of the roaring, ranting type that gives the tinge of the melodramatic to piratical annals. He had a black beard of inordinate length that reached from up around his eyes to his waist, and he used to twist it into tails with bits of ribbon and fix it up around his ears.

[32]“We were all with him on board his big ship, the ‘Great Allen’ mounting forty guns, the name of which he afterwards changed to the ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge.’ He was a hard drinker and we agreed that we had never seen a more turbulent and desperate character. For years he terrorized the sea from the Carolinas to Trinidad.

“One night we witnessed the capture of a Yankee vessel bound from New York to Jamaica, under command of a Captain Taylor. The pirates streamed over the larboard quarter of the fated ship, but they met with unexpected resistance. The attackers were nearly all disembodied when suddenly, with blood curdling shrieks, Teach bounded over the side on to the deck into the midst of the pirates, and Taylor’s shade told us afterwards that he had never seen a more horrible object. Lighted tapers hung from the rim of his broad black hat that revealed the whites of the gleaming eyes, the gnashing teeth, frightful red mouth, and flying masses of black whiskers. He waved a huge cutlass and a brace of pistols hung on his breast. With demonic howls and yells this fiendish figure plunged among the Yankees. Encouraged by this sudden apparition the pirates rallied and the ship was soon theirs. The dead were heaved overboard. From them we soon learned all of the particulars of the fight, and they were[33] most dramatic. Teach used to burn pots of brimstone in his cabin to make his crew think he was the devil, and many of them believed it. He kept a big green parrot in a cage on the deck of his ship. In the midst of the smoke and din of battle the raucous voice of the ill-omened bird would be heard above the roar of the conflict, yelling, ‘Go it!—Go it!—Pieces-of-Eight!—Pieces-of-Eight!’

THIS FIENDISH FIGURE PLUNGED AMONG THE YANKEES

“WITH DEMONIC HOWLS AND YELLS THIS FIENDISH FIGURE PLUNGED AMONG THE YANKEES”
(From “The Book of Pirates”)

“Teach once marooned a lot of his men, after an unusually rich capture, so as to avoid paying their share of the profits. He put them on a small desert island and, with loud curses and imprecations, sailed away. Some of them were subsequently rescued and accomplished his transition. When we met him afterwards he was much subdued but eager to square accounts with his old enemies—another illustration of the survival of a ruling passion under conditions that would seem to discourage its activity.

“Our party now consisted of Kinisi, Sidi ben Musa, Red Beard, Morgan, Teach and myself, and you will admit that this was quite a formidable troop of specters. We spent many years together which I shall pass over, as there were no events of especial interest—merely a long lapse of spiritual quiet.

“In 1818 we were all in New York and had the honor of meeting the shade of Captain William Kidd one[34] night on the steps of the sub-treasury. The Captain had been hanged in England as a pirate in 1701 and for over forty years his bones had rattled in an iron cage, suspended from a gibbet near the Thames. He informed us that he at one time buried considerable treasure in the neighborhood of the Island of Manhattan, and his object in staying in the vicinity was to haunt people who were constantly digging to find his gold.

“He seemed exceedingly good natured and charitable in his ideas. He wanted somebody to find the money who would devote it to some great benevolent use, that in a way would wipe out the foul stains of its acquirement. Doubtless you have noticed that nowadays many senile and repentant, successful and therefore honorable gentlemen are heaving great masses of gold into public benefactions to ease similar pangs of avenging conscience.

“We all assured Kidd that it was foolish to think of such things—that conscience was only a form of fear—that no stains were as fleeting as those upon gold, and that there was no odor in the world that could cling to it, not even that of sanctity.

IN THE MIDST WAS A CHRISTIAN SPIRE

“IN THE MIDST OF THAT WEB OF BELIAL WAS A CHRISTIAN SPIRE”

“For years we helped Kidd guard his idle capital. All sorts of men came after it. Several times Kinisi and Kidd visualized when the wrong people were getting[35] too close to the big iron chests. They could of course only do this at night. In the day time all we could do was to keep the dirt falling back into the hole until it became dark. Teach wanted to let the diggers get the hole well opened and then tumble them in and cover them up, the way he used to do when he had somebody help him dig a treasure hole. He always shot the digger and left him in there with the chest so as to insure future secrecy. Many business secrets are made safe now on the same principle but the method is more indirect.

“The years rolled on and there were many changes on the lower end of the island. Clusters of robber baron towers projected into the sky. The narrow streets became deep canyons through which ran streams of gold, and among them were congregated the mad hordes of avarice, including some of the most expert malefactors in the world.

“At the head of the principal canyon the tall steeple of Trinity Church stood like a monolith to the memory of Christianity, for in the midst of that web of Belial was a Christian spire. The money changers had engulfed the temple and its mission had become a mockery.

“We met many interesting spirits in the church yard. Countless suicide shades flocked to the island from all over the country, for it was here that the tentacles[36] of the octopi centered that had felled them. In life they had been tortured, crushed and driven to despair by organized rapacity and chicanery. Feeble salutes from among the sunken timbers of long lost galleons may greet these gray files as they drift away into time’s obscurities.

“We kept our little party well together and we had to be somewhat exclusive. There were many lady shades. They seemed fascinated with Teach and floated after him wherever he went. He had a peculiarly devilish and swashbuckling air about him, and a subtle suggestion of original sin that lured them on.

“The shade of an old money shark, who used to burn his warehouses and send out rotten ships to stormy seas for the insurance, and who had once sold his grandmother to a medical college, kindly offered us the hospitality of his crypt during the day time, provided we would agree that it would in some way benefit him later. He complained that just before he was translated he had been ‘trimmed’ and ‘ironed out,’ as he expressed it. Some skunks had high financed him and had filched practically all his gold by what he considered ‘dishonorable methods.’ We extended our heartfelt sympathy and moved in.

“At night we usually congregated in the belfry of Trinity, or down the street in the sub-treasury. We[37] enjoyed being there, and Red Beard and Teach liked to float through the small crevices and air pipes into the big steel vaults and fondle the gold. The vast piles of bonds and paper money did not seem to interest them.

“One night when we were out on the steps back of the Washington statue we saw a shade drifting up and down Wall street in a hazy, dreamy, uncertain sort of way. He looked queer. Evidently he had been portly, and had worn a gray suit, a mess of side whiskers and a straw hat when he had passed into the immaterial world. We made ourselves known to him. We learned that he had been translated early that afternoon and he was trying to find out what the market had done since.

“His name had been Waters and he had been shot by a woman for some reason that he did not explain. We invited him up into the sub-treasury, and while he seemed even more anxious than Red Beard and Teach to get his hands on the gold, he floated blissfully back and forth among the currency and bond stacks so long that we had difficulty in getting him out through one of the pipes and over to the church yard before dawn. We were only able to do this by assuring him that he could go in and mingle with the money every night forever, if it lasted that long, and he replied that he never had suspected that heaven was so fine as all that. We thought that anybody who could regard that[38] neighborhood as heaven was an abnormal optimist, and in the material world he would need immediate medical attention, but then you know some people are that way. After we had heard Water’s history we knew that there was no heaven anywhere that he could ever break into.

“The second night after it had happened, he took us up to what had been his office in one of the robber baron towers on Broad street, in which he had been shot. We found his partner there, a man named Rivetts, who was looting the safe and fixing the accounts so that Waters’ estate would come out at the small end of the horn. Waters visualized and haunted Rivetts so effectually that he jumped through the nineteenth story window into the street, to the great delight of Teach who regarded it as one of the best jokes he had ever known.

“Waters told us that when he was translated he was long a big block of U. S. Steel and short a lot of Reading, and some hyenas were trying to shake him out of the Steel and run him in on the Reading. He pulled over and studied with feverish avidity a basket full of paper tape, from what he called a ticker in the corner, and declared that if he had lived another two days he would have had all their hides on his back yard fence. You may know what some of these expressions mean. To[39] us they seemed technical and confusing, but we gathered that death had deprived Waters of a ship load of pieces-of-eight and we felt very sorry for him.

“After that he took us around to dozens of offices at night. We saw the daylight haunts of swivel chair buccaneers, whose quarter decks were mahogany desks, and who preyed upon the vitals of the country of their birth, and the nests of merciless super-piratical combinations that mulcted mankind by impounding the necessities of life. We went to a building on lower Broadway where Waters said there were huge vaults full of the products of the most highly refined rascality in existence. He took us to the vaults of several food trusts, corporation attorneys, and banks, and showed us various documents and other evidence of wholesale plunder and remorseless nation-wide robbery that would have taken our breaths away if we had had any. It was a sort of a travelogue—a sight seeing tour in a region of unbelievable iniquity. We were indeed in shark infested waters.

“It occurs to you no doubt that the word buccaneers and other sea terms that I am using, pertain, properly speaking, to nautical financeering only, but it is not out of place to apply them to similar professional activities on land, for it really makes little difference to a genuine pirate, or to those he despoils, whether he stands on a wooden deck or on an oriental office rug.

[40]“After these nocturnal rounds among the robbers’ roosts it was our custom to assemble in the belfry, where Waters would deliver thrilling talks on the methods of the ‘Wizards of Finance’ and the ‘Kings of the Street’, as he called them. These meetings were necessarily open, and many stranger shades often hovered about and listened. Hosts of evil spirits moved in the surrounding gloom and mocked with sepulchral and mephitic laughter when Walters dilated upon famous financial atrocities in which some of them had been participants.

“We naturally had a professional interest in Waters’ tales of present day freebooting, and for several nights he held us spell bound.”

At this point I asked my shadowy friend on the stairway if he didn’t think it rather incongruous, or at least in bad taste, for the shades of such a malodorous bevy of professional villains as he had with him, to hold spiritual convocations in a church belfry.

“Not at all! Not at all!” he replied. “We found after spending a few nights with Waters that we were as a small flock of babbling goslings, or like little twittering snow birds on a limb, so to speak, compared to the voracious human hawks and grand larceny specialists in the neighboring towers, from the tops of which no Jolly Rogers flew—they were too smooth for that.[41] The church was quite the appropriate retreat for our party, considering the character of the neighborhood, and it might not be out of place to suggest that we would not have been safe even there if we had had money. The gold of a stranger in these parts would disappear like autumn leaves before the wind. A doubloon dropped anywhere in the vicinity in the day time would scarcely have got to the sidewalk and might have caused instantaneous bloodshed. It would be like tossing a yellow canary bird into a cage of wild cats.

LIKE LITTLE TWITTERING SNOW BIRDS ON A LIMB

“LIKE LITTLE TWITTERING SNOW BIRDS ON A LIMB”

“Waters said that the Savior would not have been admitted to Trinity Church on Sunday on account of his clothes, and if he should appear and stand at the corner of Broad and Wall for two minutes somebody would take away his halo, his sandals and his robe. He would be divested of everything that was his and be cast adrift in the darkness when the day was done.

“I may say, parenthetically, there was one Spirit we never met in the neighborhood. In fact none of our party ever seemed to have been in its presence at any time.

“At night we saw troops of sinister and ravenous shades prowling among the gloomy evil hives in this lair of Mammon like famished wolves upon ground where they had once killed.

“Waters continued his revelations, with few interruptions, for a month or more, for it took a long time[42] to communicate his extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the up-to-date methods of gold accumulation. When he had finished I must admit that we shuddered at the damnable realities he portrayed. At one point we who had head coverings removed them reverently and bowed to Waters. Teach threw his semblance of a black wide brimmed hat into the air, with a hollow ghastly yell that brought many curious, pale peering faces up from among the old crumbling stones in the church yard.

“Captain Morgan observed that all these operations were evidently conducted without bodily risk—in other words, without the exercise of personal courage—and the necessary murder involved was accomplished by slow drawn out processes that inflicted needless suffering and misery on entirely too many people. The cutlass, the plank walking, and the ‘Long Tom’, loaded with grape-shot, were much more merciful, although less effective as profit producers. He made the point that old fashioned piracy was to a certain extent redeemed by the individual valor of the pirates. They took brave men’s chances and carried their lives in their hands, and that, at least, was one feature of their business that was entitled to respect. He considered on the whole that, from an ethical standpoint, modern methods were much more reprehensible than the old.

[43]“Waters’ continued narrations were like tales from the Arabian Nights. They made all of us feel so insignificant that after a while we concluded that we didn’t like him. Somehow we didn’t feel very prominent when he was about, and we began to avoid him. We spent much of our time in the sub-treasury and bank vaults watching new shades vainly clutching at the money stacks with their pale fingers.

“The insane strife of the hordes of mortals to see who can die beside the biggest gold pile has always been considered a rich joke in the spirit world, for when they come among us they are unable to bring any of it with them. The accumulation in the sub-treasury is very convenient for them to gloat over and it continues their worldly illusions perfectly. As a matter of fact it is just as consistent for them to gloat over this vaulted gold in their spiritual state as it was for them to strut and swell with pride over the earthly wealth on which they had their short leases during life.

“You might be interested in knowing something of the present state of a few well known shades. Washington, Lincoln, and many other translated statesmen are no longer here. Most of the mighty dead were men of settled convictions. Long ago a lot of these potent and highly respected phantoms became disgusted with political developments and with mundane conditions generally.[44] They left the earth’s atmosphere and are now flocking about on the moon, where there are no politics whatever and plenty of big holes and extinct craters to crawl into when perfect seclusion is desired.

“Since Pharaoh left the Red Sea he has been on Mars. Many of those who became famous in the world for murdering on a large scale are now there. They find the redness of that planet most congenial. Napoleon still remains in the earth’s atmosphere for he still hopes that some day he will come back. Socrates, Sir Isaac Newton, Columbus, and numerous other worthy shades, are on one of the satellites of Jupiter where finally they are beyond the reach of hostile criticism. Nebuchadnezzar, who built and worshipped an image of gold, and who was dethroned by the Lord and sent into the fields to eat grass, is now at the North Pole. In that frigid silence there is no grass or gold and there will he stay forever.

“This reminds me that great multitudes of shades are waiting eagerly for Bill Hohenzollern. While it is true that, in your modern and expressive slang, he is what might be called a ‘dead one’, he has not yet been actually translated.

“In suggesting the proper disposition of a particularly offensive public malefactor, one of your American orators once advised casting him out of the universe[45] through ‘the hole in the sky’. This hole in the sky, astronomers tell us, is somewhere off down near the Southern Cross. It is a vast void in the firmament in which there is no planet, star or other heavenly body. No starry worlds, in their eternal orbits, ever intersect that awful abyss. No stellar lights ever twinkle there—no meteors ever stream through that Stygian darkness, where creation has left an appalling and dismal blank. When William Hohenzollern comes among us there will be a gala event in the spirit world. He will be rolled up into a misty wad, loaded into a long pale tube with millions of feet of poison gas, and shot out of the cosmos through that awful hiatus among the constellations—that frightful chasm in the universe, where he will forever be beyond infinity itself—and where even the Almighty, whom he once claimed as his partner, may never again be able to find him for consultation. He will be beyond the limits of communication, and even the music of the spheres can never reach him. It’s the hole in the sky for Bloody Bill, and we are all looking forward in pleasurable anticipation to a day of great spiritual exaltation and rarefied enjoyment.

“During his eruptive period he probably acted no worse than a great many other humans would with the same opportunities—he was one of the results of a bad system—the point of a much aggravated protuberance that had to be lanced. We all realize that[46] history has finally demonstrated that autocracy is wrong. We greatly envy you who live in an age that is beholding the dawn of cohesive democracy, and the passing of conditions that have made it possible for one man to hold the destiny of millions in the hollow of his hand. Bill will be forgiven—but after he is projected.

“One night Kinisi and I were alone in the belfry. Out in the moonlight we saw Sidi ben Musa, Red Beard, Morgan, Teach and Kidd, lined up among the tombstones in the church yard. They appeared to be making unfamiliar movements. I asked Kinisi what he thought they were doing and he replied that they seemed to be kicking themselves, and that they had been acting that way every night for a week. He thought that, like the robins in autumn, they had flocked and were preparing to migrate.

“These shades, who, in life, had been relentless highwaymen of the seas—blood bespattered, remorseless, steeped in murder, arson, theft and unnamable crimes—the heels of whose boots had dripped with human gore on a thousand decks—held their spectral hands aloft and were aghast when they realized the pitiful inconsequence and puny achievement of their futile careers.

MY OLD TOWER IN HUNGARY

“MY OLD TOWER IN HUNGARY”

“There was a big storm one night and we never saw them again. The valiant and hardy little band may[47] have drifted out over the sea with the heavy off-shore wind and rolling mists, and may now be peacefully haunting the scenes of their former tame profiteering and modest killings, where spiritual life is not as strenuous as we found it in the twentieth century Gomorrah that we contemplated from the belfry of Trinity.

“Kinisi wanted to stay with Waters for a while longer, but I had had enough of modern money centers. I left one night in a freight car that was loaded with light wines and moving westward. Although it was marked for Atchison, Kansas, I had no difficulty in turning it up into Michigan, to where I seemed impelled by some unaccountable instinct. I may say incidentally that many wandering freight cars with spirits on board are now being diverted over strange routes by ghostly direction, and much of the present freight confusion is due to that cause. That was several years ago, and, so far as I know, the car is still at Benton Harbor.

“I drifted along the lake shore and around in the hills for some time, and one night I was amazed to see what looked like my old tower in Hungary. I promptly decided to haunt this place, after I had investigated it, on account of the old associations it brought to mind. It was impossible for me to go back to my old tower, for things have changed so much in Hungary that I would[48] take no comfort there, so you see I have turned over a new leaf and here I am.

“A little while after you came in you were doubtless surprised, and possibly startled, by certain sounds that it was necessary for me to make in the top of the tower. I was communicating with Kinisi, who at that moment was in the belfry of Trinity, and I have no doubt that he got my message and will be here before long. You see that in the spiritual world we have always used the Hertzian waves. You have only recently found them with your wireless telegraphy and telephony. By certain peculiar sound modulations, properly keyed, we are enabled to utilize the waves in a way that your modern science has not yet discovered. I imagine such communications might properly be called phantograms. Before many years you will be able to talk to friends in New York—if you have any—by simply raising a third story window and pitching your tones into the exact harmonic, as you heard me do tonight. It’s all quite simple when you know how. That heavy thumping in the pipes was just a local manifestation and it had nothing to do with the message to Kinisi.

THE CORNFIELDS IN OCTOBER

THE CORNFIELDS IN OCTOBER

“Any spiritual sound or demonstration, in which ghostly noise of any kind is produced, is known among us as a ‘skreek’. Skreeks have a wide range of utility.[49] They may be vibrated over vast distances, as I just exemplified from the tower top, or used in a merely local way, like the expression in the pipes.

“In the summer time you often hear funny squeaky noises and loud thumps in the water pipes that connect with the guest tents on the bluff. Well, that’s me. While I am among the tents a great deal in the summer, I play the pipes from the tower, so whenever you hear these skreeks after this you will understand the cause. I tried the main pipes tonight just to see if they were keeping their tonality in cold weather.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve greatly enjoyed myself. I take much pleasure in wandering about the farm at night. I spend considerable time in our friend’s cornfields during the warm summer nights where I meet many Indian shades. They are among the stalks in the dark, cracking the joints to make them grow faster. In October they stay in the shocks and rustle the dry leaves at night. They used to live all over these bluffs in their little wigwams. Sometimes I spend hours in the farm house between the walls, listening to our friend Jacobs and his guests. A lot of friends come to see him who interest me, and some of them I would like to meet in the way I have met you tonight. Please remember me to Professor Dientsbach, who has charge of the children’s saxophone band, when you see him, and get him[50] up here some Christmas eve if you can. He has had the band in the tower on several occasions, and it afforded me much pleasure. Give my regards to the small boy you call the ‘Hot Spot’, and assure him and his little sister Gertie that there is nothing at all in the tower for them to be afraid of, and I am always glad to have them come up here and play.

“Sometimes I go up to Thunder Knob, the big sand dune north of here. The shades of an Indian hunter and a large sand bear have been fighting inside of this dune off and on for many years. When they are quiet too long I go in and stir them up.

“I often visit the little chapel on the next hill during winter nights, and sit there until early morning—in fact it is one of my favorite haunts when I am outside of the tower. I also find much diversion in drifting about in the dark through the winter woods and along the lake shore when everything is frozen up. This winter I have spent several nights in the deserted pavilion on the beach, amusing myself with the phonograph records in the corner. Sometime they will learn to can heat and cold as they do sound. The winds down there in the winter are very wheezy and I like it.”

THE ROAD THROUGH THE WINTER WOODS

THE ROAD THROUGH THE WINTER WOODS

There was a long silence after this. I changed my position on the box against the wall and thought possibly that I must have dozed for a few minutes and[51] missed part of the story, but was not sure of it. I looked up on the stairway, but apparently my ghost was not there. Evidently he had faded with the first gray morning light that was now stealing into the tower, and had taken his long lingering thirst down below to his phantom flagon of musty wine.

I waited for some time, but remembering what he had said about a possible sudden disappearance, I concluded that it was useless to remain longer.

I arrived at the farm house just in time for breakfast, and, immediately afterward I began this tale of what I had seen and heard in the tower, while the facts were still fresh in my mind.

Up to that memorable Christmas eve I was entirely unfamiliar with Hungarian history, and did not know whether anybody by the name of Emric Szapolyia had ever lived or not. Naturally I was very curious on the subject and anxious to convince myself that I had not been dreaming in the tower.

I obtained a copy of Godkin’s “History of Hungary and the Magyars,” and succeeded in locating my ghostly friend in a chapter devoted to the career of King Mathias Corvinus, who reigned between 1457 and 1480. The account given of him coincided with what he had told me as far as it went. While he was referred to as a general and duke, it did not mention his tower, or the[52] fact that he had ever been a “robber baron,” but the omission of such trifling details in a brief summary of his period was to be expected. He was mentioned as “an able and experienced officer, never at a loss for an expedient in the midst of the most unpromising circumstances, always cool and collected.”

His friend Paul Kinisi was alluded to as “the Murat of the Magyar army—fiery, brilliant, ostentatious, galloping to the charge with flashing sabre and in splendid costume.” I also found confirmation of Kinisi’s exploit with the three Turks, related by the ghost. As the historical allusions in his narrative corresponded with such authentic fragments as I was able to find concerning him and his friend Kinisi, I assumed that the rest of his story was equally reliable. While I was unable to verify all of his statements, any doubts as to the reality of the interview were dissipated.

I carefully searched such piratical lore as I had access to and found that there was nothing in the tale in the tower that was inconsistent with recorded facts relating to piracy on the high seas from Szapolyia’s time on earth down to that of the sojourn of the ghostly crew on the Island of Manhattan. In “The Book of Pirates” I found the life stories of nearly all of the sea faring Wizards of Finance with whom he stated that he had associated. There appears to be no record of any of[53] them having been haunted at any time, but the haunter was of course much better qualified to tell of this than some skeptical, and perhaps careless, historian who was not there at the time.

One of our illustrations is from an old photograph of Wall Street and Trinity Church, probably taken some time before the ghost left New York. It is unfortunate that it could not have been made at night and possibly have revealed at least some of the filmy forms of the piratical crew on the sub-treasury steps. It would then be a welcome bit of corroborative evidence in case the specter’s veracity should ever be questioned.

I thought that some of the strictures and comparisons made by my phantom friend were somewhat severe, but I have included them in this chronicle for the sake of accuracy. We all have different points of view, and I suppose, from his standpoint, the elucidation of present day business methods by the shade of the case-hardened Mr. Waters, did make that spectral little band of freebooters feel rather cheap and disgruntled. The contrasts between their times and ours of course shocked them, but they should have remembered that in an age of progress everything must advance, and human villainy would naturally be deeper and greater now than during their periods. I thought[54] that Waters might have been a little more tactful and considerate. He should have revealed the situation in a way that would not have humiliated the gentle little crew in the belfry by making them feel that they had been out classed and, that if they had been alive, they would have been without professional distinction.

THE END

[55]

Postscript

I

I DID not mention my experience in the tower, until after I had finished writing the account of it, for the reason that I was anxious that discussion with others should not disturb any of my impressions of the visit with the ghost—at least until after I had recorded them. When the story was completed, I mailed the manuscript to my friend Jacobs, and, in a few days, received the following reply:

My dear Mr. Reed:—

I have read your narrative with much interest, and am delighted that a path appears to have been opened that may lead to an explanation of many queer and mysterious things that have happened on my Michigan farm during the past few years. I had no idea that my water tower was the abode of a distinguished spook, and I congratulate you on having met that fine old remnant of a past age face to face. I envy you this honor which I hope I may also enjoy at some time in the future.

Of course I have known for a long time about the ghost of Matt Jaeckel. It has been on the place for years and has chased so many people at different times that we have all come to consider it as an old acquaintance,[56] but you seem to have unearthed an entirely new specter. I am afraid that if any more ghosts appear on my farm I will have difficulty in selling the property if I should ever conclude to dispose of it.

I was deeply interested in the old robber baron’s spiritual history down to the time of the arrival of the little crew of eminent phantoms in New York. I must confess that I felt somewhat shocked at some of his comments on the business activities of that city. I have a great many friends there who would have materially changed his belief in the moral hopelessness of his modern surroundings if they had been in a disembodied state and in a position to explain many things to him which the shade of Waters apparently ignored.

Waters evidently had been a pirate, pure and unadorned—a type of the financial thimbleriggers and wild-cat operators who claw at everything and everybody they can reach. It seems quite natural that his spirit should mingle with the piratical wraithy flock on the steps of the sub-treasury, but I think if the phantom baron’s story is to go out into the world you ought to send some sort of an antidote with it.

While it is perfectly true that there is a lot of iniquity in New York just as there is everywhere else, it must not be forgotten that vast enterprises have originated[57] there that have been of infinite value to mankind. I think the observations of the ghost might well be taken as a text, and I am tempted to express some of the thoughts that came to me while reading the story.

Of course we cannot argue with a ghost, any more than we can convince a deceased writer that he was wrong, but we may always combat what we believe to be fallacy, whether its author is in existence or not.

The old robber baron lived and died in a sphere of life that gave him an unhealthy and morbid point of view and it seems natural that such a mental attitude should be in some way reflected in his spiritual state. Through him we have a shadowy expression of archaic ideas and obsolete conceptions of the mission and ideals of mankind. He is a faint echo of a tumultuous past, ruled by the lust of gold and blood, when men recognized only the law of the jungle. In the light of our present day civilization we may well forgive him.

Whatever my private beliefs may be as to ghosts and the activities of departed spirits, I am assuming that this old party in the tower is in a spiritual state, and that you did have the visit with him that you have written about, for I have always considered you perfectly truthful.

This old ghost’s continued association with that renowned sea faring gang of phantoms, and his contact[58] with the unholy shade of Waters, probably excluded him from the society of the departed spirits of those who helped to build up the world during the period of his story. Undoubtedly even in spirit realms the line must be drawn some where. Had he enjoyed the advantages of proper ghostly companionship in New York he might have learned that he was haunting a region where some of the great constructive problems of the age are being worked out—where, if he had been alive, he might have felt the financial pulsations of a continent. He would have learned that, outside of the tricky stock manipulators, iniquitous combinations, blue-sky schemers, and hosts of other parasites and pests that always flourish in centers of financial activity, great forces there have helped to lay the foundations upon which the prosperity of the nation rests. Many millions have gone forth from this great financial center that have webbed the map of our country with railway lines, encircled its sea borders with prosperous docks, established mammoth industrial enterprises, erected and endowed universities, libraries and benevolent institutions, founded innumerable charities and movements for the investigation and control of disease, and done hundreds of other things that humanity would never have done for itself without the initiative of individuals with power to give form and effect to ideas for the good of mankind.

[59]The hue and cry against what is called “big business” is the turbulent protest of the untutored mob—the yelp of the Bolshevik. In our modern social structure certain concentrations of wealth are inevitable and seem necessary to our economic life. The physical expression and realization of great individual ideas are impossible without them. Such ideas have developed the potential and latent resources of this country so that it has become a world power. The savages, who at one time owned the entire continent, could not have done this, any more than Captains Teach, Morgan and Kidd, and the rest of that destructive crew would have done it if they could. They would never have made it possible to transport a ton of freight a mile for less than a cent and a quarter, which is now done in America as a result of intelligent organization, co-operation and cumulative effort. In the absence of such highly perfected co-ordination a Chinese coolie, working for twenty cents a day, with two baskets suspended from a yoke on his shoulders, with the greatest physical effort, transports commodities at a rate which would be the equivalent of one ton per mile per day, or twenty cents per ton.

There are so many factors that enter into the intelligent carrying out of large constructive ideas that it would be quite hopeless to attempt to enumerate them[60] in a brief general reference to the subject. We might for illustration take certain enthusiastic promoters, who, with a vision of what transportation facilities might produce from some region with vast undeveloped resources, conceive the idea of the construction of a railroad. Through their optimism, persistent agitation and presentation of the commercial possibilities of the project they finally attract the requisite capital. First the funds are provided for preliminary surveys to determine the most feasible route. Reports are made by experts, money is furnished for grading, men in the forests are cutting timber for ties, cars, bridges, buildings, etc., others are toiling in distant mines extracting ore that long low steamers take over the Great Lakes to the steel mills, where it is swung out of the holds by huge cranes. In glowing furnaces it is metamorphosed into red streams that cool in the forms required for the infinite fabrications to follow. It enters into the construction of rails, locomotives, box cars, passenger coaches, telegraph wires, block signal devices, and all the countless other things that, in this age of steel and wheels, go into that great expression of the triumph of mind over matter—the modern railroad.

Perhaps several years elapse before the road is in running condition. It may have its vicissitudes, receivership, bankruptcy, and reorganization, but at last[61] the dream of the promoters comes true. All of the manifold forces and influences that have had their part in the growth and realization of the original idea have found fruition. Cumulative effort has succeeded and a ton of freight is carried a mile for less than a cent and a quarter. Out of a turmoil of varied fortunes a virile factor has been born into the economic world that has made life easier for those within its environment, and figuratively, has made “two blades of grass grow where but one grew before.” This is one of the gradual processes of civilization.

Conservation, utility, efficiency and economy are the watchwords of the day, and, while the cry of Teach’s parrot from the bloody deck of his pirate ship—“Pieces-of-Eight!—Pieces-of-Eight!”—may be echoed now and then within the shadow of Trinity’s spire, we who are alive and in the enjoyment of rational mentality, know that there are a great many things in that neighborhood that are entitled to our profound admiration.

I hope that you will not feel that I have intentionally written anything that may detract from the interest of your story, for it delights me very much. We may dismiss with smiles many of the observations of our ghostly friend, for after all—like himself—they are mere phantoms, and as such we may enjoy them. If[62] I had known of the wraithy guest in my tower, and his “phantom flagon” I would perhaps have spent more time up there than I have, for even a phantom flagon now would have certain attractions that it would be flippant to dwell upon in this letter.

Next Christmas eve I will go up to the tower, and possibly I may be favored with a “visitation.” If so I may go over some things I have mentioned in this letter, but, as I have before intimated, there would not be much use trying to convince a ghost of anything. There is too much of that kind of argument in the world already. It will be better to try and make him feel at home and as comfortable as possible. If he should fail to appear it might be well to leave another spirit on the stairway where he might find it. That possibly would change his views into a rosy glow of optimism, for the world is not nearly as bad as he painted it to you. He ought to have something to cheer him up, for, with the amount of time that he has on his hands he will find such a state of mind very wearisome.

Hoping that you will enjoy next Christmas eve as much as you evidently did the last one, I remain, with kindest regards,

Yours sincerely,
Henry W. Jacobs.


TOBY RUBOVITS
PRINTER AND BINDER
CHICAGO





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