A Field for Investigation

— Now that the investigation of what we agree to call occult phenomena is growing respectable, I wonder if it would be possible to get anyone to look into certain tolerably familiar and very curious experiences of levitation.

I say tolerably familiar experiences, because from childhood I have heard of them, and oftener than not, when I have mentioned this hearsay to other people, they too have been acquainted with it, as a hearsay. Occasionally, some one’s knowledge of the matter goes further ; he has seen or experienced levitation, usually when a child, under circumstances harmonizing with the children’s tradition.

The tradition may be put in this way : if John, — or let us say Mary, as the feminine human being is more apt than the male to make scientific experiments that are banned by science ; if Mary will lie down, and we four stand around her, each of us putting one finger of one hand under her body, say one finger under each shoulder and one under each knee, and then if we will each draw a long breath at the same time, — Mary, too, — and hold it, Mary will go up in the air.

Now, the interesting point is that Mary will go up in the air several feet, I know ; and another member of the Club tells me that she has often seen the Mary of the occasion go above the heads of the other experimenters. After, as I say, having heard all my life of children’s accomplishments in this phase of the incredible, I suddenly, some months ago, arrived at such a pitch of intelligent curiosity that I determined on a course of original investigation.

I have already, I fear, stated pretty much the whole result of my crusade : Mary will rise in the air.

I was the subject of the first of these successful experiments, and it was conducted under the management of that other member of the Club already quoted, and whose name I long to mention, that it may sustain me in my deviation from that wise rule which bids us, for the good of our reputations, to tell, not necessarily what is true, but always what is credible. Still, my best safeguard is in the ease with which any one can make similar experiments.

Generally speaking, the only difficulty, obviously a slight one, is to get five people to draw and hold long breaths in unison. The instant one “lets her breath go,” as the children say, down tumbles Mary.

I am not at all sure but that various other considerations, considerations of weight, perhaps of the weight of the subject relative to the size of the lungs of the experimenters,— considerations of I know not what, — enter into the problem ; but I am not fitted for scientific investigations, and having once levitated and seen others levitate, my patience for collecting facts is at an end. Usually four persons, taken as they come, can accomplish the levitation of a fifth picked up at haphazard, — of so much I am sure. Yet though I am not scientific, and am too femininely mindless to investigate conditions myself, I am not at all too modest to entertain a little contempt for those gifted beings, at once masculine and scientific, who let such things as this go on under their noses for generations without more attention than an ignorant assertion that they are not so.

Now, however, even if the denial direct is given my own experience, and to me personally, I can bear it with tolerable equanimity, if only some creature does not wave his ears in triumph and advance me the “explanation ” that I was lifted, in a horizontal position, straight up two feet in air by the strength of four young women’s right forefingers. If any one tells me that, I find myself justified in wishing him such an illness as may give him a chance to measure the difficulties of lifting an inert adult human being one inch from his bed.