Dr. Caltagirone of Palermo and the strange case of the falling light fixtures
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Death and its Mystery – After Death
From Dr. Caltagirone of Palermo. He gave it as his own experience. December, 1910.
I was a friend of Benjamin Sirchia; his physician, in fact Sirchia, well known in Palmero, was an aged patriot, and very popular. He had splendid civic and moral virtues. He was, like me, a skeptic, in the widest meaning of the term.
One day, in May, 1910, we happened to discuss psychic phenomena. I answered his questions by assuring him that, speaking from my own experience, certain of these phenomena were real but that the interpretations given them were debatable. In the course of this conversation he said to me jestingly:
"Listen, Doctor. If I die before you, which is probable, since I'm old and you're still young, strong, and. healthy, I give you my word that I'll come and give you proof of my survival, if I still exist."
Laughing, and in the same jesting way, I answered.:
"Then you'll come and manifest yourself by breaking something in this room-for example that gas-fixture above the table” (We were at that moment in my dining-room.)
And, to be polite I added:
“I'll pledge myself, too, if I die before you, to come and give you some sign of the same sort, in your house !"
I wish to repeat that all this was said jestingly rather than seriously. We separated, and some days afterward he left for Licata, in the province of Girgenti, where he went to settle down.
From that day I had no news of him, either directly or indirectly.
This conversation took place in May, 1910.
The following December, the first or the second, toward six o'clock in the evening, I was seated at table with my sister (the two of us compose the household) when our attention was attracted by several slight blows, some of them struck upon the shade of the gas-fixture which hung from the ceiling of the dining-room and some upon the little movable porcelain bell of the smoke-shield above the glass chimney. At first we attributed the tapping to the action of the heat of the flame, which I tried to lessen. But the blows increased in force, and continued with a sort of rhythmic noise. I then climbed upon a chair, to examine more carefully what was happening, and I ascertained that the phenomenon could not be attributed to the heat of the flame, which was burning at a very- usual rate of pressure. Besides, it was not a question of slight popping noises, like those produced as a result of extreme heat, but of sharp taps of a special tone, suggesting blows struck with the knuckles or with a finger ring with which one might knock purposely upon some porcelain object.
I sought to discover the cause of these strange blows. To no purpose. Meanwhile we finished dinner and the phenomenon came to an end.
The following evening the same tapping was repeated, as it was on four or five consecutive days; this continued to excite our intense curiosity more and more.
But on the last evening a strong, sharp blow split the little swinging bell in two; it remained in this state, hanging by the hook of the metal counterbalance. I could verify this by standing upon the table to observe closely the effect of the last blow.
I remember clearly, as does my sister, that even after we had extinguished the central light around which the phenomenon was taking place and had lighted another branch of the chandelier, the blows still continued with equal force.
I must also declare and affirm upon my honour as an honest man that during the course of these five or six days on which was observed the phenomenon which l could not explain, I never once thought of my friend Benjamin Sirchia, and still less of the conversation of the preceding May, which I had entirely forgotten.
The day following the evening when, as I have said, the little porcelain bell split, I was in my study; my sister had gone out on the balcony to look at something or other in the street; the servant had gone out; when we heard, in the dining-room, a tremendous bang as though a violent blow with a club had been struck upon the table.
My sister heard it from the balcony, and I from my study: both of us hurried to see what had happened.
It is strange, but however fantastic this occurrence be, I can answer for its truth: on the table, and as though it had been placed there by a human hand,, we found half of the little movable bell while the other half was still hanging in its place.
Evidently the violence of the blow was out of proportion to the result. This was the last phenomenon; it brought to a climax the strange happenings which had been repeated during five or six days. It had taken place in broad daylight and without the action of heat.
The half of the porcelain bell could not have fallen to the table perpendicularly, for, since it would have had to pass through the centre of the shade, it would have struck the gas-jet and its glass chimney. These must needs have broken beneath the shock, to allow the half-bell of the smoke-shield to pass through freely. But the two objects were quite intact and the empty space was not wide enough to allow for the passage. If the smoke-shield had fallen obliquely upon the porcelain shade, which was rather large, it would have been broken, or would have broken the shade. Or, granting that it slid without breaking, it must of necessity have rebounded to a point far from the centre of the table, and not fallen in line with the axis of the gas-fixture.
It follows that the noise was a warning of the accomplished phenomenon, and that the fragment of the bell was placed in such a way as to point to the conclusion that what had happened was not due to an accident-an accident which would, moreover, have been contrary to the law of falling bodies.
I must acknowledge once more that I had absolutely forgotten Sirchia and the pact which we had made in the preceding month of May.
Two days afterward I met Professor Rusci; he said to me, “Did you know that poor Benjamin Sirchia had died?"-"When?” I asked anxiously.-“On one of the last days of November-the twenty-seventh or the twenty-eighth."
I then thought: “The last days of November? Strange ! Could the phenomena which happened at my home have some connection with his death?" (The memory of our last conversation, with its peculiar details, had come back to me.) The phenomena began on the first or second of December and continued for five or six days. An attempt to break some-thing connected with the gas-fixture of the dining-room had been agreed on between us, in the month of May, and this manifestation did not end until the final carrying out of the agreement.
A thing equally strange was that when the compact had been carried out in this way, almost as though to signal its fulfilment, a terrific blow informed us of the fact ! The intentional carrying of the little bell to a spot where it could not have fallen of itself, in ordinary circumstances, thus eliminating the element of chance, completed this strange manifestation.
Such was my personal experience.
My sister and I have decided to keep, as a souvenir of this unexplained phenomenon, the two fragments of the little bell, among those things which are precious and dear to us.