THE MARGINS: Oddly-Shaped Ideas
"I am not in the least superstitious."
This episode of The Margins “Jilted Blue Silk Dress” is adapted from an actual letter published in the 1889 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (pps. 13-15). SPR was founded in 1882 with a mission to “understand events and abilities commonly described as psychic or paranormal,” as described in its Wiki. It’s also the first science society to investigate paranormal and human “experiences that challenge contemporary scientific models.” Appetites & Indiscretions The Margins podcast has curated a vast assortment of these letters from people writing about ghosts, telepathy, psychic encounters and premonitions, such as this dramatized letter from J.H.S.
Somewhat noteworthy, J.H.S., in rationalizing, trying to explain what happened to him, mentions “animal magnetism” as a possible cause. It was a popular theory at the time. In fact, in the mid-1800s, “animal magnetism,” so named by Franz Mesmer who promoted the idea that humans, plants and other animals were all imbued with an invisible force that could be directed and used to heal, had hundreds of proponents in Europe and America, a cottage industry of published journal articles, studies and books, including the 1866 “Animal Magnetism and Magnetic Somnambulism: with Observations and Illustrative Instances of Analogous Phenomena Occurring Spontaneously,” by Edwin Lee, M.D. (I’m tickled that it also has an appendix of “Corroborative and Correlative Observations.”) The practice of mesmerism and doctors with a specialty in magnetism held a foothold in medicine for over 75 years, well into the 1920s. And then – poof! – it vanished like Keyser Söze. Pop culture trivia note: Alan Rickman played Franz Mesmer in the 1994 film “Mesmer.” — C.B.
About the Show
Writer-Producer: Francesca Robin
Audio Engineering: Tim Baron of TimBaronVideo
Production Company: Liquescence Media
Soundscape: “Jilted Blue Silk Dress” – Hypathia
End Credits Music: Lenski’s aria “Kuda, kuda,” from Eugene Onegin, op 24, Act II, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, (1879). Lenski: Piotr Beczala. Metropolitan Opera Final Dress Rehearsal, September 19, 2013.
00:45 “I am not in the least superstitious.”
02:35 “No sooner had I grasped the circumstances…the vision melted.”
05:17 “He had encounted something different than a dream.”