Seeing a wreck
Type of Spiritual Experience
This is very complex inter composer communication involving the aunt and the nephew in which communication is via perceptions and thus accounts for the pictorial nature of the scene. Her aunt is simply an intermediary bridge to her cousin
A description of the experience
Letters on Mesmerism – Harriet Martineau
The next evening (Monday, October l4th) J. did not come up as usual to our séance. There was affliction in the household. An aunt (by marriage) of J.'s, Mrs A, a good woman I have long known, lives in a cottage at the bottom of our garden. Mrs. A.'s son, J.'s cousin, was one of the crew of a vessel which was this evening reported to have been wrecked near Hull. This was all that was known, except that the owner was gone to Hull to see about it.
J. was about to walk to Shields with a companion to inquire, but the night was so tempestuous, and it was so evident that no news could be obtained, that she was persuaded not to go. But she was too much disturbed to think of being mesmerised.
Next morning there was no news. All day there were flying reports,-that all hands were lost-that all were saved-but nothing like what afterwards proved to be the truth. In the afternoon (no tidings having arrived) we went for a long drive, and took J. with us, She was with us, in another direction, till tea-time; and then, on our return, there were still no tidings; but Mrs. A. was gone to Shields to inquire, and if letters had come, she would bring the news in the evening.
J. went out on an errand, while we were at tea -no person in the place having then any means of knowing about the wreck; and on her return, she came straight up to us for her seance.
Two gentlemen were with us that evening, one from America, the other from the neighbourhood. I may say here, that we noted down at the moment what J. said; and that on this evening there was the additional security of my America friend repeating to me, on the instant, (on account of my deafness,) every word as it fell.
J. was presently asleep, and her Mesmerist, knowing the advantage of introducing subjects on which the mind had previously been excited, and how the inspiration follows the course of the affections, asked, as soon as the sleep was deep enough,
“Can you tell us about the wreck ?"
J. tranquilly replied, “Oh! yes, they're all safe; but the ship is all to pieces."
"Were they saved in their boat?"
"No, that's all to pieces."
“A queer boat took them off; not their boat."
"Are you sure they are all safe?"
"Yes ; all that were on board: but there was a boy killed. But I don't think it is my cousin."
“At the time of the wreck?"
"No, before the storm."
"How did it happen?"
"By a fall."
“Down the hatchways or how?"
“No, he fell through the rigging, from the mast."
She presently observed, “My aunt is below, telling them all about it, and I shall hear it when I go down."
My rooms being a selection from two houses, this "below" meant two stories lower in the next house.
She continued talking of other things for an hour longer, and before she awoke, the gentlemen were gone.
After inquiring whether she was refreshed by her sleep, and whether she had dreamed, ("No") we desired her to let us know if she heard news of the wreck ; and she promised, in all simplicity, that she would.
In another quarter of an hour, up she came, all animation, to tell us that her cousin and all the crew were safe, her aunt having returned from Shields with the news. The wreck had occurred between Elsinore and Gottenberg, and the crew had been taken off by a fishing boat, after twenty-four hours spent on the wreck, their own boat having gone to pieces. She was turning away to leave the room, when she was asked,-
"So all are saved - all who left the port?"
“No, ma'am" said she, “all who were on board at the time: but they had had an accident before;-a boy fell from the mast, and was killed on the deck."
Two evenings afterwards, J. was asked, when in the sleep, whether she knew what she related to us by seeing her aunt telling the people below? to which she replied, "No; I saw the place and the people themselves,-like a vision."