Robert Bell - Stranger than Fiction – 05 The table rose entirely unsupported into the air
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Robert Bell, 'Stranger than Fiction', Cornhill Magazine 2 (1860), 211-24.
The ordinary movement of a table is that of tilting backwards and forwards, from side to side, sometimes slowly and gently, and at other times with great violence. The fury of the motion is often so alarming that a person witnessing it for the first time anticipates nothing less than a catastrophe, in which the smashing of the table itself may be only a minor feature. The rotary movement does not happen so frequently, but irregular action, and sudden changes of position, are of constant occurrence.
The ascent of the table from the ground is a phenomenon of so remarkable a kind that it deserves a more special notice. I speak only of what I have seen; and this independent action I have seen several times, the table rising entirely unsupported into the air. It is difficult to convey by description a satisfactory notion of this movement. Indeed, the whole series of these phenomena must be seen to be understood exactly as they present themselves. Of the ascent of the table I will give a single example.
Eight persons are seated round a table with their hands placed upon it. In the midst of the usual undulations a lull suddenly sets in. A new motion is in preparation ; and presently the table rises with a slight jerk, and steadily mounts till it attains such a height as to render it necessary for the company to stand up, in order still to be able to keep their hands with ease in contact with the surface, although that is not absolutely necessary. As there are some present who have not witnessed this movement before, a desire is expressed to examine the floor, and a gentleman goes under the table for the purpose. The whole space, open to the view of the entire party, is clear. From the carpet to the foot of the table there is a blank interval of perhaps two feet, perhaps three, —for nobody has thought of providing a means of measuring it, and we must take it by guess. The carpet is examined, and the legs and under surface of the table are explored, but without result.
There is no trace of any connection between the floor and the table; nor can it be conceived how there could be any, as the table had shifted to this spot from the place where it originally stood only a few minutes before. The inspection is hurried and brief, but comprehensive enough to satisfy us that the table has not been raised by mechanical means from below ; and such means could not be applied from above without the certainty of immediate detection.
In its ascent, the table has swung out of its orbit, but it readjusts itself before it begins to descend, and, resuming its vertical position, it comes down on the spot from whence it rose, without disturbing the circle. We cannot calculate the duration of time it has remained suspended in the air. It may be one minute, two minutes, or more. Your attention is too much absorbed to permit you to consult a watch ; and, moreover, you are unwilling to turn away your eyes, lest you should lose some fresh manifestation. The downward motion is slow, and, if I may use the expression, graceful ; and the table reaches the ground with a dreamy softness that renders its touch almost imperceptible.