Mr. Mystery is a generic name that encompasses various collaborators specialized in the subject of the supernatural or paranormal, each of them with his personal criterion in this regard. This criterion ranges from rigorous scientific skepticism to the most naive credulity.
When Frederic W. H. Myers, prominent member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), read Mrs. Cassel's monograph "Paranormal Waters", where she gives an account of the paranormal activity that happens in the spas, he was fascinated by the variety and scope of the phenomena presented in the book. Eager to do the test himself, he arrange a fifteen-day stay at a famous English spa, but nothing remarkable happens to him (except the loss of all his pants, which he attribute to no paranormal power but to the incompetence of his valet). Frustrated, he arrange an interview with Mrs. Cassel herself at her home in Clermont. There he unleash his disappointment claiming that his stay at the spa has been the most boring fortnight of his life (with the possible exception of the fifteen days that he spent hidden in a barrel). Besides, as a consequence of spending so much time submerged in water, he has become all wrinkled like a raisin, not to mention the loss of all his pants that now forces him to wear a kilt while his tailor makes him new ones. Mrs. Cassel listens attentively. And, when Myers finishes complaining, she explains that he has overlooked a detail of her book, namely that her paranormal experiences did not occur in the waking state. Faced with this revelation, Myers is baffled and it’s necessary to use a bottle of smelling salts to revive him. Then Mrs. Cassel asks him if the SPR has been concerned with analyzing the states of somnambulism. Myers tells her in confidence that, one night, he was awakened by the police when he was delivering a speech in Hyde Park in a state of somnambulism. Mrs. Cassel shows an interest in the subject of the speech, but Myers doesn't remember anything except that in it the word "weasel" abounded. Immediately, Mrs. Cassel realizes the complexity of Myers' sleepy nights and invites him to spend the night in the guest room so that eventually both of them can witness their respective altered state of consciousness during sleep. Myers accepts the proposal and, after dinner, the two retire to their respective rooms. It’s hard for Myers to fall asleep. He continually gets out of bed to peek into the corridor being alert in case Mrs. Cassel appears sleepwalking. While he is sticking his head through the half-open door, suddenly he hears noises at his back and flinches. He turns around and see Mrs. Cassel penetrating into the room through the open window. She is wearing her nightgown and walks with eyes closed and arms outstretched. Myers gets out of her way and watches her as she opens the door and goes out into the corridor. He dresses hastily to follow her… But, in the rush, he puts on the kilt over his head, and the plaid skirt gets stuck at the height of his shoulders immobilizing his arms. Even so, he goes out into the corridor and, with the kilt covering the upper part of the body and with the lower part uncovered, runs after Mrs. Cassel. But in the semi-darkness he stumbles and falls flat on his face. The bang awakens Mrs. Cassel, who, startled, stops and turns around and glimpses what seems to be an unshaped monster that pursues her. Before Myers can open his mouth to reassure her, she lets out a squeak and locks herself in her room slamming the door. Embarrassed, Myers returns to his room muttering a complaint under his breath and, after struggling hard to get rid of the kilt, collapses exhausted in the bed and falls asleep. A couple of hours later, both Mrs. Cassel and Myers have succumbed to a state of somnambulism, and each on their own wanders with arms outstretched through the dimly lit house but without stumbling. In their wanderings they cross each other repeatedly without saying hello. However, after much wandering, the both of them end up in the same bed deeply asleep. And that's when the unthinkable happens: Suddenly they wake up in a hotel room in the spa town of Baden-Baden, where both are registered as husband and wife, and behave as if they had been married for twenty years. They take the waters at the established times following the doctor's instructions: a bath at noon, another at dusk, and drink mineral water non-stop. Then, they play whist with other patients. All normal and predictable. Until that same evening, while walking arm in arm through the porticoed gallery, they see a being from another planet drinking from the mineral-water fountain. How do they know that it is a being from another planet? Because he has a sign on his chest announcing it. Besides, he is green and from the top of his head comes a long antenna that emits a beep. Mrs. Cassel (now Mrs. Myers) asks another passer-by about the stranger. "Oh, it's just Fghsdfkjr", he responds, "he comes from the Andromeda galaxy each year at this time to take the waters", and continues on his way. Shocked, the Myers immediately pack and return to their home in Clermont, where they wake up the next morning, flinch when they notice that they share a bed, and break up embarrassed.
Dr. Hugues made it crystal clear that sneaking into someone else's dreams was invading her privacy. However, his patient did not seem to mind the least that since four nights ago that man with the shell glasses and the wild hair interfered in her dreams. On the contrary, it would seem that Margaret Rowland was delighted with that intruder of whom she spoke with such familiarity and tenderness. That's why Dr. Hugues objected: a young woman should not rely so quickly on a stranger, let alone fall in love with him in such a frank and naive way. “Sometimes, strangers turn out to be simple opportunists who only seek to take advantage of young naïve women like you”, he instructed her, “How the hell have you known him?”. Then she told her dream: She was in Newport with her family. She went down to the beach and, as always when she went down to the beach in her dreams, the sea level grew and grew until the water reached her neck and she had to swim to save her life. Usually, after a lot of swimming she was exhausted and then woke up in anguish. But this time it was different, because a man came to her aid. He told her to hold on to his neck and had swum instead of her. According to Dr. Hugues that was the typical way of acting of an opportunist. And even more so when (as she continued telling him) the next night he had chased her around on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House while she was singing the aria of Leonora from “La Forza del Destino”. That, according to Dr. Hugues, had also been a lack of tact on the part of the stranger. What would the audience have thought when seeing this stranger with street clothes appear on stage? Tickets to The Met were not exactly cheap, so it would not please them to see an stranger stick his nose in the middle of an aria. And the intrusions of the next two nights did not seem spontaneous either: one could say that the man was following her, trying to meddle in her life. However, that did not seem to matter to Margaret: on the contrary, she was glad that he interfered. When the next week Margaret went to the weekly appointment at her psychoanalyst’s office, the first thing Dr. Hugues wanted to know was whether the man with shell glasses and wild hair had returned to meddle in her dreams. He got upset when he learned that this was the case. That relationship seemed to be strengthening! Hugues did not forget that Miss Rowland's father was paying him just to take those absurd ideas about romantic love out of his daughter’s head. On the contrary, he had to instill in her the need to accept as a suitor Mr. Nigel, his father's partner, with whom she would never lack anything. Hugues tried to persuade her that this intruder of her dreams was none other than Nigel himself. But Margaret knew Nigel well and they did not look alike. "You know," replied the doctor, "in dreams, the beloved sometimes adopt another identity, as in a costume ball." But the following week, Miss Rowland dropped the bomb: the stranger had ceased to be a stranger. She had seen him, talked with him, not in dreams but in reality. And it was not Nigel in disguise, but a certain Leo Rosenthal, who was an employee in his father's company. Dr. Hugues panicked and hurried to warn Mr. Rowland about the convenience of dismissing Rosenthal immediately if he wanted his daughter to marry Nigel. Margaret's father did not think twice. And at the next session, she was disconsolate: his father had restructured the workforce and, along with others, Rosenthal had been fired. Then Hugues told her about the wisdom of Destiny that, knowing that the man did not suit her, had taken him out of her life. “But then, why is he still present in my dreams?” she asked. Hugues scowled: he could not warn Margaret's father about the convenience of dismissing Rosenthal from his daughter's dreams. But maybe Hugues himself could fire him through a technique that he mastered to perfection: hypnosis. If by means of it he could induce to stop smoking, he should also be able to induce that silly young woman to stop dreaming of this Rosenthal. And indeed, after two weeks, Margaret had stopped dreaming about him. But Dr. Hugues paled when she add that now she was dating him! She had made inquiries, she had found him, she was dating him, and they were happy. Dr. Hugues gave up: Destiny had won the game. And so he told Mr. Rowland, who had no choice but to comply with the sentence of Destiny.
Year 1871. During Mrs. Cassel's stay in the spa resort of Vichy, she witnessed the discussion between the director of the thermal establishment and a client, who complained that, in the room she shared with her husband, strange noises were heard at night. The director insisted that it was her husband's snoring, to which she replied that she was familiar with her husband's snoring and this was another kind of noise, more like the one that emits a Patagonian Mara. The director said he wasn't familiar with the noise that a Patagonian Mara emits, but even so he would switch rooms. Intrigued by what the client had told him, the director set out to spend the night in the room in question. Mrs. Cassel got up early the next morning to see with her own eyes the result of the venture. When she was walking down the corridor, she saw from a distance a dozen strange rodents similar to jackrabbits leaving the room in single line. The last one to leave was the director of the thermal establishment, barefoot and in his pajamas and with his eyes wide open as if his face had frozen into a stupor. Later she found him wandering the gardens still in a stupor. She approached him, but he said "Don’t ask!" and kept wandering as in trance. But this was not the only strange phenomenon witnessed by Mrs. Cassel (author of the monograph "Paranormal Waters") during her stay in Vichy. One evening, while drinking in one go the three gallons of spring water prescribed for that time of day, she saw crossing before her “a shadow or a sparrow”. (It had already darkened and the gas light in the open-air venue where the fountain was located did not illuminate sufficiently to distinguish it.) Commenting later, in the course of dinner, the incident with his neighbors at the table, she found out that she was not the only one who had witnessed the strange shape in identical low light conditions. One argued that it was a shadow, another that was a sparrow, another that was the shadow of a sparrow, and there was even a gentleman who insisted that it was the sparrow of a shadow. Naturally, this last opinion provoked the hilarity of the audience. Well, made the pertinent inquiries, it turned out that the gentleman was right: in effect, it was the sparrow of a shadow. This discovery caused a commotion in the spa, whose clients demanded that both intruders, the shadow and its sparrow, were evicted from the spring venue. Capturing the sparrow was not an easy task, but it was finally achieved with the help of a coffee grinder. (The monograph does not give more details so I beg you not to ask me how to capture a sparrow with the help of a coffee grinder.) However, there was no human way to capture the shadow, which continued to be seen from time to time in the vicinity of the thermal spring. Until Mrs. Cassel woke up.
Someone asks me why the eight is such a paranormal number. The answer is simple but transcendent. The 8 is the symbol of infinity only that standing up in order to pass unnoticed. We all know that standing up is the best tactic when you want to infiltrate somewhere. Eight is a supernatural number camouflaged in the universe of natural numbers (colloquially called “cardinal numbers” or “ordinal numbers”). This paranormal essence of number 8 is the reason why so many mathematical operations where the 8 intervene give such crazy results. That is why mathematicians tend to avoid this number as far as possible, either by taking a detour or by vaulting over it by means of a pole. The latter, of course, implies obvious risks. The famous mathematician Martin Trollope broke his neck trying to vault 8 in this way. However, it is not always possible to avoid 8, for example when you try to add four and four. Unless you do not mind making a sucker out of you by claiming that four plus four equals nine with the hope of being able to remove surplus later when you have a chance. But there is always the risk that you have not a chance and then you look like an imbecile. Now, let's go to Numerology. In Numerology, 8 has healing properties provided that its application is not forced but the number arises spontaneously in the course of the operation. On the other hand, there is a danger of overdose as well as addiction. Indeed, the 8 has hallucinogenic properties, as is well known by the Spanish numerologist Garcia-Jordana, who during a Numerology exhibition in the Barcelona’s Athenaeum became delirious about the number of legs a frog has (his calculations pointed to an exorbitant figure) and began to bound and croak like a frog. However, the attending public did not notice the anomaly in the belief that he was just doing frog jumps exercises. They only worried when they saw that he preferred to spend the night in a pond rather than in his own bed.
Judging by the experiences that Jackie Cassel relates in her monograph "Paranormal Waters" (published in 1867 when the passion for the spa resorts was at its peak), the thermal establishments are not only sources of health but also of paranormal phenomena. Mrs. Cassel, a middle-aged and unmarried Frenchwoman resident in Clermont, suffered from cerebral lumbalgia and the doctor prescribed her some purple pills, but as she did not like that color, she preferred to prescribe herself a stay in the spa of Carlsbad in Czechoslovakia. Even with reluctance, her doctor agreed to pay for her stay at the Grand Hotel in that spa city, and that is how Mrs. Cassel began his career as an expert in spas. In that first stay in a thermal establishment, she realized that unusual things happened there. For example, the towels disappeared. You left the towel on a lounger and, when you returned, it was conspicuous by its absence. The jars of aromatic salts also disappeared and, on one occasion, the hotel manager disappeared too along with the last year's collection. But disappearances were not the most surprising. Once, Mrs. Cassel was submerged in spring water up to her neck in one of the pools of the thermal establishment, when suddenly the telephone rang. This would not have been anything special if there had been a phone or at least if the phones had already been invented. But its inventor had not been born yet in those years, so it is not strange that Mrs. Cassel was surprised. Anyway, she left the pool and picked up the phone: "Say", she said, and then she heard a female voice reciting verses by Emily Dickinson. This surprised her even more since Emily Dickinson still did not exist and, logically, she had not yet composed any verse. What kind of paranormal phenomenon was that? Clairvoyance? Fortune telling? Prestidigitation? That did not fit into any of the known categories of paranormal phenomena. The next day she commented the incident with a veteran user of spas, who downplayed the phenomenon by saying that sort of thing was common in the thermal establishments of that category. In cheaper establishments, that did not happen. And just at that moment the man received a phone call by means of which an unknown voice began to recite to him verses by Pablo Neruda. But the man hung up because he did not understand Spanish. That seemed funny to Mrs. Cassel: The man could hang up a non-existent telephone, he could hear non-existent verses… but he could not understand Spanish! The laughter of Mrs. Cassel made the man uncomfortable and he walked away cursing under his breath. That same afternoon, during the usual big early evening meal, she found him again on the phone. When, after listening a few minutes, the man hung up, Mrs. Cassel hurried to ask him who it was. "Well, how should I know?", he blurted out, "It was an unknown poet!" In fact, it was impossible for the man to know because it was Robert Frost, who had not been born yet. Disconcerted, Mrs. Cassel requested an audience with the hotel manager to clarify these strange phenomena. But it turned out that the hotel manager was not born either. On the way to her room, the phone rang again. This time, she refused to take it. But the phone kept ringing as if it were an important call. Mrs. Cassel was doubting whether to pick up the non-existent phone or not when she woke up in anguish in her Clermont bed and, after recovering from the anguish, remembered that she had an appointment with the doctor about the lumbalgia matter.
It is known that the famous gangster Al Capone flirted with the paranormal and that, in his luxurious apartment in Chicago, he used to perform mysterious rituals with Parmesan cheese during which he recited spells in an obscure Italian dialect. That's why one of the worst threats you could receive from him was to find on your doorstep a big piece of cheese. It is also suspected that he possessed clairvoyance skills, which would explain why Elliot Ness founded so difficult to hunt him down. To fight him with his same methods, Ness had in his office a rag doll named “Capona” to which he used to nail pins while performing a voodoo dance. That explains why, at the time of his arrest, Capone appeared before the press with endless pins stuck all over his body. (By the way, Ness was such an honest man that, when Capone tried to bribe him, not only did he not accept the money but gave his failed briber a monthly wage from his own salary, which was also paid out of his own pocket.)
Another famous gangster who flirted with the paranormal was Lucky Luciano, whose incredible luck he attributed to a gift of supernatural kind. Luciano's luck was such that, being once completely surrounded by the police, he managed to escape through a trapdoor that did not even exist. However, over the years it was discovered that his luck was not as supernatural as he claimed. Indeed, his fame of lucky was due in large part to the fact that every time he was machine-gunned (which happened several times a day), he came out of the shooting completely unscathed. Well, at his death it was discovered that he always carried in his pocket a huge magnet that deflected and trapped the bullets like a lightning rod the lightning.
For years, gang wars were a veritable plague in New York. There were five large families all at war with each other. But in each of these large families there were a lot of small families also at war with each other as well as with the small families of the other large families, while within each small family there were countless tiny families within which husband and wife were also at war with each other. And finally, all the families, large, small and tiny, were at war with one Seymour Talbot, no one knows for sure why (although everything points to his strange sense of humor). In short, family gatherings used to start and end with a shooting spree and the dead could numbered into dozens. For a gangster, living people had little value. Instead, they had the utmost respect for the dead. After each one of these bloody family gatherings, the survivors used to organize a heartfelt vigil in which the murderers sobbed inconsolably and tore their clothes and shouted for vengeance. Sometimes the vigil was followed by a séance, in the course of which the murderers requested the forgiveness of their victims. If the victims resisted giving it to them, then the murderers tried to bribe them. If the victims kept resisting, the murderers tried to compel the victims to forcibly pardon them. The medium Prosapia Giovo left one of these seances scandalized claiming that she had never witnessed a shooting between ghosts and living beings.
When profane people hear about paranormal phenomena, they tend to imagine great wonders, such as teleporting a cow to the moon, or going to bed one night without even knowing how to spell the word "zoo" and get up in the morning speaking seven languages with their dialects. However, such phenomena are as paranormal as the simple half-inch displacement of a pen left on the table ... unless, of course, you live next to an elevated railroad.
Since I’ve just mentioned the “els”, I remember a famous paranormal case that happened in New York at the beginning of the 20th century. The “Third Avenue El” that was designed to run, without leaving Manhattan, from South Ferry to 129th Street, ended sometimes in Flashing Meadows, on the other side of the East River, without anyone having clarified the phenomenon to this day. The rails were checked inch by inch and they were found to have the proper orientation. The reason why the train ended sometimes in Flushing Meadows remains a mystery that paranormal investigators do not hesitate to attribute to occult powers. The famous theosophist Alice Bailey lived near Flushing Meadows and it is known that following her visits to the Theosophical Society headquarters located in Manhattan, she used to take the “Third Avenue El”, which could shed some light on the enigma. Obviously this paranormal phenomenon caused a lot of uncertainty in the travelers, who could never be sure where they would end up. Something similar happened to George Cardiff, a Brooklyn merchant who many afternoons took the car to go to Manhattan but ended up in Rhode Island. Although this case is not so strange if you take into account that the car did not move on rails, as well as the circumstance that the man had a mistress living in Rhode Island.
The paranormal was so in vogue at the time that often the excuses that husbands gave their wives to explain certain inappropriate behaviors had to do with phenomena of this type. It is known the anecdote by the famous radio speaker Harold Quan who, having been caught by his wife in bed with another woman, he denied any responsibility in the matter, claiming that he didn’t know her at all and that she had simply appeared suddenly in his bed without him having part in it. In those Prohibition years, the paranormal also became a overused excuse during police raids to explain the presence of alcoholic beverages in lemonade glasses.
Another of the psychic abilities used by the secret services that operated during the Cold War, was the folding of spoons from a distance. It is known that the KGB had a whole department composed of more than five hundred psychics spoon benders. There were many Americans who, when preparing to take a spoonful of soup to the mouth, suffered the sudden folding of the spoon, with the consequent spilling of its contents. Determined to counterattack, President Kennedy hired a famous Dutch psychic, who after many unsuccessful attempts, managed to generate chaos during a gala dinner in the Kremlin by causing that the guests failed to introduce the food in the mouth nailing the fork all over the face. That night the guests did not taste a bite and left indignant the dining room without waiting for the desserts and with their faces full of punctures and pieces of food attached. This incident triggered the so-called “Cuban Missile Crisis”. The experiments with teleportation also had a stellar moment when the KGB psychics managed to teleport President Nixon from the White House oval office to an auction of the Sotheby's house, where the president was forced, in order to dissimulate his perplexity, to bid for a painting by Salvador Dalí. This moved so much the Surrealist painter that he donated to the White House a giant egg, more than six meters high, to be placed on its top instead of The Stars and Stripes flag. This incident triggered the so-called “Salvador Dalí Crisis”. Finally, we have to refer to the successful attempt, by psychics in the service of the NATO, to provoke, through telekinesis, the concealment of all the underwear of the members of the KGB, which unleashed a military plot in order to overthrow the Soviet regime. However, the plot was quickly disarticulated and its leaders deported to Siberia, where, in a show of magnanimity of the Kremlin, they were provided with the underwear they needed and whose concealment they had erroneously attributed to the Politburo chaired by Brezhnev, who in anticipation of future attacks ordered the acquisition of two million English cotton underpants. This extraordinary and (in the eyes of the soviet citizens) absurd waste emptied the state’s coffers, which triggered a popular revolt known as the “Underpants Crisis".
On the occasion of a question that I am asked, I am going to tell a little-known anecdote whose historical scenario was the Cold War that the two superpowers of the time fought during the second half of the 20th century. The question that I am asked is: "Are there people who have the psychic ability to understand the language of animals?". Well, the answer is yes, although this skill is very scarce. In fact, those few people were very sought-after by both the Western intelligence services and their Soviet Union counterparts. Nixon and Brezhnev, the leaders of both superpowers, were very interested in knowing what was being said in their rival's office. However (as Nixon would discover very soon), it was not easy to place microphones, which were bulkier than today, or spies, which were also bulkier than today (Vladimir Kozlov, the famous Russian spy, weighed 374 pounds, and Paul Blake, in whom the character of agent 007 was inspired, weighed more than 400 and needed two other agents to hold him up.) Both the CIA and the KGB had begun to use paranormal means to infiltrate the enemy country. And, for a time, the method most used by both sides was precisely the ability to understand the language of animals. The CIA recruited Frankie Mogliaro, an Italian-American gangster who had eliminated all his rivals from the black market of beans thanks to his ability to communicate with turkeys. The CIA taught to Mogliaro the Russian language and he in turn taught it to a turkey. When the turkey had been conveniently instructed through Mogliaro, it was parachuted into Moscow. Strutting before the gates of the Kremlin, the bird let itself be captured by the soldiers on duty, who intended to roast it. But the turkey escaped from their hands and landed on the head of Leonid Brezhnev without him noticing, whereupon the soldiers abandoned the pursuit. For more than ten days, the turkey remained on the head of the Soviet leader without anyone dared to comment, in the belief that it was the new hat of their leader. In this way the turkey had access to the most secret meetings of the Politburo, gathering sensitive information that later transmitted to the CIA through Frankie Mogliaro. For its part, the KGB was not so lucky when it came to recruiting someone with the ability to communicate with animals. (I have already said that such skill is very scarce.) After long inquiries, they discovered that the carer of the giraffes of the Leningrad Zoo had long conversations with those animals. They made preparations for a giraffe to infiltrate the White House, but the operation failed due to logistical issues.
Seemingly, Donald Dandish (aka Dandish The Scoundrel, aka Mole Don, aka Abe Sogrevevitch, aka Aka) was a determined activist in favor of ecumenism, since, even being of Jewish religion, for a month he had not stopped going regularly to the Church of Saint Mark, of Catholic confession. Only the Shabbat stopped attending the church to make an appearance in the synagogue. Every other day he attended the church with an unusual regularity: fifteen or sixteen times a day. He always occupied the same place, at the end of a side bench near the wall. He spent an hour there kneeling and with his head bowed, as if doing penance, then he got up, went out into the street, took a breath of fresh air and rushed back inside the Church. His neighbors considered him either a very pious man or someone who fled from justice and did not want to be seen in the streets. But even if that was the case, it was evident that he was deeply repentant. Because not only did he not dare raise his head towards the Highest while kneeling, but at the end of the day, he always left the Church carrying a heavy sand bag, no doubt by way of penance. Well, it turns out that carved on the wall, just above the place where Mr. Dandish used to kneel, there was an alcove that housed a majestic statue of the Archangel Michael, patron saint of the police, armed with a gigantic sword pointing down. Since Mr. Dandish never raised his head, he did not notice the growing interest shown towards him by the Archangel. If he had paid attention, he would have noticed that every day the sword was a little more lifted. The day came when the sword was upright, ready to strike a blow. It was what happened on September 29, just the day dedicated to the Archangel Michael. It was dusk. It was time for the church to close. Mr. Dandish got up while carrying on his back the heavy sack of his self-imposed penance. At that precise moment, the armed arm of the Archangel dealt Mr. Dandish a blow with such force that it knocked him down leaving him unconscious. When the sacristan returned from closing the door of the church, he saw the bundle lying on the ground, hurried and discovered the unconscious body of the pious Dandish. While trying to revive him, he noticed that the tiled floor was loose. He lifted the floor and then, suddenly, the mystery that lately had surrounded the figure of Mr. Dandish was clarified. The sack was full of the dirt extracted that day from the tunnel that Mr. Dandish (aka Dandish The Scoundrel, aka Mole Don, aka Abe Sogrevevitch, aka Aka) had been digging to access a rich landowner's house adjacent to the sacred building.