Photo by the author
As reported in the Boston Journal, November 23, 1904, “The skeleton of the man who first caused the rappings heard by the Fox Sisters in 1848 has been found between the walls of the house occupied by the sisters, and clears them from the only shadow of doubt held concerning their sincerity in the discovery of spirit communication.”
In Hydesville, New York, in 1848, two little girls, Maggie and Katie Fox, had claimed to communicate with the spirit of a murdered peddler in their house; through a series of demonstrations of their ability to communicate with the dead the sisters’ fame spread and helped to foster the growth of spiritualism in America.
Forty years later Maggie recanted their story, admitting it was all a hoax, but in 1904 the discovery of a skeleton walled up in the cellar of the house the girls had lived at the time of their communications seemed to contradict her confession. Further investigation, however, would reveal a further twist, that the bones discovered weren’t human and were in fact mostly from chickens, placed in the cellar as a practical joke. Some spiritualists still challenge that verdict.
There’s truth and truth, of course, and past truth and future versions of it. There are levels of reality. There is a reality just below this one, I’ve discovered, and you can access it by just a tip of the head. A slight downward gaze, and there it is, another version of the world, another plane of existence. Very similar to the one you’re currently familiar with, more or less; the differences are subtle yet significant. And I mean more than just a change of perspective on your life, although you may be inclined to see it as nothing more than that, simply seeing life from a different angle, from someone else’s point of view, even if that someone else is you. Another you.
I’m moving from a place I’ve loved, but no longer suits. “Why would you give this up?” a friend asks. “A drafty box you pay too much for,” another friend scoffs. “A fifth floor walk up.” “But the view,” someone else sighs longingly. “You can look on your Instagram feed when you miss it,” that other friend, the practical one, advises. “Don’t be surprised if they keep your deposit, landlords aren’t human you know.”
“I have a curse from a gypsy,” my neighbor downstairs offers, “I can give it to you but you only want to use it if you mean it, because I tried it on my last landlord and it really fucking worked, trust me.” I admit I’m tempted, but I don’t think it will be necessary. Most of the places I’ve lived in my life have burned to the ground or been demolished with no effort whatsoever on my part. Even school buildings. Dormitories. Family homes. Places of employment. I seem to have that effect. I don’t know why.
Change is a shift in perspective, a new development in the narrative, a reversal of what was previously thought, or debunked, or recanted or rediscovered. But reality itself is mutable, infinitely faceted, layered, and open to interpretation. I have lived many places. I have lived for the last eight years in a marvelous place, a perfect place, and then one day I tipped my head, I looked down, and I saw it differently. What I saw, however, was myself in another reality, another self going about his life, perhaps the self you see, or maybe not. I was somewhere I’ve been and haven’t been, had never really been but was only pretending. A home that said something once, that spoke to me, not quite rapping on the floor, but close enough. Spoke to me, described me the way I thought I was and wanted to be. Now that’s changed. I’m not sure why.
I’ve called this place the Poor Man’s Chateau, but it’s no chateau. Neither is where I’m going. But then again, I don’t know, maybe it will be, when I get there.