Traubel, Horace – In his dying moments is helped by the ghost of Walt Whitman
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Journal of the American S.P.R. (1921, pages 114-122).
Mrs. Flora Mac Donald Denison, who was present at the death bed of Horace Traubel, reports the following:
On August 28 Horace was very depressed. Anne's illness and the departure of the Baths were afflictions too serious for his spirit. Mildred kept him company for a long time; we decided not to leave him alone even for a moment. When we were on the veranda to transport him to his room, we found him beaming with joy. As far as he saw me he exclaimed: "Flora, look, look! Quick, because he's leaving."
- Or? what do you see, Horace? I do not see anything.
- There, on this projection of the rock, Walt appeared to me. I saw the head and the trunk. He had the hat. He was splendid, radiant. He seemed surrounded by a golden halo. He greeted me with his hand, as if to encourage me and he spoke to me. I could hear the tone of his voice very well, but I only heard these words: "Come; I am waiting for you."
At that moment Franck Bains arrived, to whom he told the same story. Throughout the evening he was relieved, beaming, happy ...
On the night of September 3, Horace was ill. I watched him for a few hours. When I saw his eyes, hitherto motionless, turn slowly towards me, I thought he was going into agony. But it was not that: he only wanted to have his position changed. While I was fulfilling his desire, I noticed that he seemed to be listening for some noise.
Immediately after he said to me: "I hear Walt's voice; he's talking to me."
- "What does he tell you?" I asked.
- "He repeats to me: "Come with me; Come, I'm waiting for you."
After a few moments, he added: "Flora, all the friends gathered here with Walt, there is Bob, there is Bucke and the others ..."
Colonel Cosgrave arrived the same evening to watch over Horace. He saw Walt Whitman's ghost who appeared on the other side of the bed, approached him and touched him with his right hand, which he held in his pocket. At this contact, the colonel felt a kind of electric shock. And he said to Horace that Walt lives too. These apparitions had the effect of making all melancholy disappear, as if by enchantment. No one felt overwhelmed, a sense of triumphant exultation permeated the atmosphere of the house.
Signed: Flora Mac Donald Denison.
Dr. Prince, Secretary of the "American Society for P.R.", wrote to Colonel Cosgrave to obtain further details of this event. I extract from the colonel's letters these salient passages:
During the months of August and September 1919, I lived in a familiar relationship with Horace Traubel, known to all for his books and noble spiritual aspirations. Until then, I didn't know him personally; likewise, I had only a rather superficial knowledge of Walt Whitman's works and ideals. I point this out to show that my mentality, conscious and subconscious, was in no way influenced by the works or ideals of the writers in question.
I would also like to add that my long military service in France with the Canadian army, almost always on the front line from January 1915 to the Armistice, had naturally familiarized me with death; in such a way that the atmosphere surrounding the dying, while inspiring great respect, did not generate in me this nervous tension and emotional overexcitement that usually occurs in people unfamiliar with death. I also point this out to prove that I was in normal conditions of mind when the event that Miss Flora Denison wrote to you occurred, an event that I confirm in all its details. Anyway, here's what happened.
During the three nights that preceded Horace Traubel's passing, I was going to look after him in the last hours of the night. I waited for his end any moment, and my thoughts remained spiritually serene and elevated, in accordance with the solemnity of the hour and the atmosphere, as well as by virtue of a kind of special magnetism which seemed to emerge from the man who was dying - a great altruist who had devoted his life to the service of humanity. I had observed this curious species of spiritual magnetism many times before, and always in the presence of great characters - never with ordinary men.
Horace Traubel was extinguished by paralysis and exhaustion, but he did not seem to suffer. He was semi-conscious and hardly articulated the words because of the paralysis of the tongue. But his eyes, always lively and expressive, made you easily guess his desires.
In the last night, around 3 o'clock in the morning, he suddenly got worse. The breathing became almost imperceptible, the eyes closed; he seemed plunged into comatose conditions, while his body was shaken by convulsive movements. Some time later he opened his eyes again, staring at the feet of the bed; the lips moved in vain effort to speak. Assuming that he needed to breathe more freely, I gently put his head back in the normal position, but he turned at once, looking again in the same direction and fixing a point three feet above the bed.
So I was irresistibly led to look on this side. The room was insufficiently lit by a nightlight placed behind a curtain at the corner of the room. Slowly, the point, which we looked at, turned clearer; a small cloud appeared, which spread and grew rapidly, soon taking on a human form, in which Walt Whitman's features were traced. He was standing next to the bed of the dying man, dressed in a heavy, light jacket, with his usual felt hat on his head and his right hand in his pocket - a pose which was familiar to him and which is seen reproduced in some of his portraits. He looked at Traubel and smiled at him affectionately, as if he wanted to encourage him and welcome him. Twice he nodded to him.
It was understood from the expression of the face that he intended to raise his spirits. It remained entirely visible for about a minute; after which he vanished gradually. But before disappearing, while Horace and I looked at him intensely, he muttered himself, approaching Horace. He who, because of the paralysis, could not stay long with his head turned to one side, had to resume the normal position. In doing so, he murmured: "There is Walt here."
At this moment the ghost walked towards me, seemed to cross the bed and touched my hand, as if to say goodbye to me. I felt this contact as a slight electric shock. Finally, Walt smiled for one last time at Horace and disappeared right before our eyes.
This took place on the 6-th of September, two hours before the patient expired; hours that he spent largely in a coma. Paralysis also robbed him of the use of speech even in the waking intervals, but the look was filled with silent messages. We understood that he saw other manifestations that we did not perceive.
Signed: Colonel Cosgrave.