Observations placeholder

Lieutenant Jacquot and the Kammara garrison; and the rapping table’s story

Identifier

025294

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

A description of the experience

Death and its Mystery – After Death – Camille Flammarian

A friend lived in the same house in which we were. One fine evening we went into his room, for he had invited us to a table- turning seance.

The evening party was a gay one, and we received a multitude of revelations as to the contents of our pocket-books, the number of buttons which each of us had on his trousers, and the numbers on our watch-cases. One of us, who had mislaid his watch found it again, thanks to the numbers stamped on the gold watchcase.

Every evening there arose in our conversations the question whether in what we had seen, proved, experimented with, there was something supernormal: the manifestation of an intelligent entity, apart from that which we agreed to call the soul of each of the persons taking part.

Can the mingling of fluids emanating from the organisms of several human beings produce another intelligent soul, which has access to our inmost consciousness, can read numbers in our pockets, and count pieces of money in our purses, the contents of which we do not know? Or is all that the marvellous feat of a clever conjurer or a potent trickster?-a trick which may deprive a whole gathering of the power of reasoning, of memory, and of feeling?

Can the trickster draw from every one present everything he wishes to know, and, waking his subjects once more, restore each person's self-control, and astonish us with the result of his robbery of our pockets and our thoughts?

Or can there be really a manifestation on the part of a disembodied soul and for that reason could we find in life, once again, an object, an ideal, a driving force?

Such were the deep thoughts which glowed in our minds and lifted us to dizzy heights! How could we know? Why not ask this unknown thing to answer the question which was burning on our lips: “Who are you? Where did you come from?"

One evening we gathered in my room, about a small, round, three- legged table. We had placed this table in the very center of the room, with only our four chairs around it; all the other furniture had been moved away. We examined everything, so that we could see that there could be no tricks, and that no strings were tied to anything. On the mantelpiece were two lighted lamps. We promised one another that we would do nothing either to help or to hinder anything that might take place, and sat down, with our hands flat on the table, forming a continuous chain with our fingers. Ten minutes passed without anything happening. We were serious, and in a rather painful state, perhaps (at least I was), but were not in the least nervous. I was praying, under my breath: “If there is really something beyond terrestrial life, may a gleam come to us from this unknown source of light.”

Suddenly, within the table-in the wood of the table, seemingly- a sharp blow was struck. 'We looked at one another. This cracking noise seemed to me so characteristic, of such a special kind, that the idea that it might have been caused by one of my three friends did not occur to me, and I felt a shiver run through me from head to foot.

Soon another sharp blow was struck; the table rose on two of its legs and struck three very distinct blows. I had the feeling that the cracking noise could not have been caused by any of us, but that the movement of the table, in striking the floor with one of its legs, might have been so caused, and without a doubt we all had the same thought: that perhaps without wishing to, one or the other of us, bearing down too hard, had pulled the table toward him.

We confided these thoughts to one another, honestly, and then decided to make use of the alphabet, and agreed that the various letters should be designated by the number of blows. After stipulating, besides this, that one blow should mean 'no' and two blows should mean ‘yes’ we sat down again.

It was not long before the table tilted again. I asked:

"Is this table being moved?"

“Yes."

"May I know who is moving it?"

“Spirit."

“Spirit? The spirit of whom?-of one of us?"

“No."

“Have you a name?"

“Yes ; Baudelaire."

The blows had been struck distinctly, and the letters designated without any mistake. One of the party, even if we had not been watching him, could not have made the table rap with such precision.

In a painful state, we looked at one another, without daring to say anything. The table answered some questions as to the existence of the soul after death, and as to certain great moral and religious subjects; it stated the dominant defect of each one of us, and advised:

"Read Fleurs du Mal [Flowers of Evil]."

All this time, the rappings had been sharp. We were growing accustomed to this long and difficult mode of conversation. At times we would guess a word before it was finished, would utter it, and the table would rap out, more sharply, "Yes."

We sometimes guessed the wrong word, and the quick, jerky blows seemed to express the impatience of the spirit who was speaking to us; they were somewhat like:

“No, no ! No, no ! No, no !"

After a silence the table said, of itself, “Jacquot doubts !"

“Why, yes, I do doubt !" cried Jacquot, getting up. “Haven't all of you doubts?"

No one answered, and the table rapped out, "Kammara!"

Only three of us had our hands on the table; Jacquot had gone over to the mantelpiece and had put his elbows on it. These seven letters meant nothing to us three. I asked that they be repeated, and said to Jacquot : “Get a pencil and take this down ; it's growing complicated."

And the table said once more, “Kammara!"

But then something happened which froze us with terror and made us rise suddenly and leave the table. Scarcely had the last letter of the word been rapped out when Jacquot, who had written it down, advanced toward the table. I had never seen him so pale ; his voice was raucous, though he had had a mocking, almost joking air before. He said,

“Lieutenant, when you ordered me to stay, did you know of the danger?"

“Yes”

“But, then, why did you tell Ravan to lead the men?! It was my turn.”

“Because I was fond of you."

We three from Madagascar witnessed this scene without understanding it.  We felt only that something fearful was happening before our eyes. Our comrade, who had been skeptical a short time before, was standing before the table, and speaking to it respectfully, as he would have spoken to a real person, and the table, which we had left suddenly, was moving of itself, rapping replies which we spelled out, mentally, Ietter by letter.

It was terrible!

The dialogue went on, and we learned in this way that Lieutenant Maucorge was speaking; he had been in command of the military post of Kammara, in western Africa, where he had under him the French non-commissioned officers Ravan and Jacquot, our friend.

Since the lieutenant was fond of Jacquot, and knew that a reconnoitering expedition, which was to be made, was dangerous, he had chosen Sergeant Ravan to accompany him, leaving Sergeant Jacquot at the army post. He went away and never came back.

The whole of the reconnoitering party was massacred; the bodies of the two white men were not found. Before us, the lieutenant told his former comrade the story of the ambuscade in which he and Ravan were wounded. Both were roasted and eaten by their cannibal foes ; the infantrymen were massacred, and no one ever knew what had happened.

The guilty native chiefs would not be found, and this somber drama of the African brush was forgotten. The lieutenant gave our comrade the names of the traitorous and rebellious chiefs; he stated where his and Ravan's revolvers might be found, and Ravan's watch. On that evening in February, 1904, we lived through hours which we shall never forget. When he had told his story, this entity went away; Baudelaire returned to say that he was fond of Jacquot, that he would always come back when he called him, and that we, too, had in him a familiar spirit and a protector. Then we parted company.

The examinations were held. Three out of the four of us entered Saint-Maixent that year. I, the fourth, went to Indo-China, where I served with the Native Guard. Some years later, in Saigon, I saw one of my three friends, and we talked of the past.

I learned that, through information given by Lieutenant Jacquot to the Ministry of War, Lieutenant Maucorge's weapons and watch had been found, and Sergeant Ravan's weapons. They were discovered in the hands of the black chiefs who had planned and carried out the ambuscade in which a part of the Kammara garrison perished.

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Commonsteps

References