The third chronicle in the Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries series is coming along nicely. Those who have read either or both of the first two chronicles, Help for the Haunted and Guilt Is a Ghost, know that they’ve come to me via my great-grandaunt. She recorded these investigations with ghost hunter Vera Van Slyke for her immediate family — her husband first, and then her daughter — instead of for publication. This explains why they’re especially in need of some editing before I release them to the public.
I’m always intrigued by how something my ancestor says strikes me as pretty ridiculous at first. “Surely, Lida is making this up!” I say. Then I’ll do some simple research, and BOOM! Lida’s not making it up. It’s historically accurate!
For instance, Arthur Conan Doyle attributed the death of George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, fifth Earl of Carnarvon, to something like a mummy curse. Lord Carnarvon, you see, sponsored the expedition that found — and opened — King Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus in 1923. Yep! The creator of Sherlock Holmes said the death could maybe possibly be the result of an “elemental,” a supernatural being summoned to ensure long-lasting protection of the sacred burial site.
I knew the great author had become an evangelical for Spiritualism in the last phase of his life, but this seemed a bit much. Yet my great-grandaunt’s chronicle also mentions that, the prior year, Conan Doyle predicted that radio communication with spirits was within reach. Did he really believe this? It seems almost as if he was just stirring the pot, just saying things to get into the papers.
Vera Van Slyke was pretty charitable about the things Conan Doyle was claiming in the early 1920s. After watching him give a lecture on Spiritualism, she says: “[E]ven if he doesn’t fully believe in radio contact with the dearly departed—even if he doesn’t believe in fairies—you must admire the man’s championing a very fascinating view of the world.” In earlier years, Vera had been quite discerning — both picky and persnickety — regarding which supernatural phenomena she considered real. Ghosts are certainly real. Spiritualist mediums are completely fake. Clairvoyance is doubtful-but-maybe. Interestingly, in this forthcoming chronicle, Vera admits that she once spotted a leprechaun!
Had Vera become more open-minded by 1923? Or did it just not matter much to her anymore? My guess is the latter. Like so many others who had lived through the Great War and the Spanish Flu pandemic — Vera had grown jaded and disillusioned. According to my ancestor, she was even struggling to stay interested in ghosts. Maybe she admired Conan Doyle’s ability to combat disillusionment with, well, illusionment.
That said, the weird being called “the Hound” by the residents of the Seven Mounds, a rural community in Oklahoma, does seem to restore her sense of wonderment. It’s hardly a run-of-the-mill ghost, you see. Or you will see once The Hound of the Seven Mounds is available for purchase in a couple of months. In the meantime, Help for the Haunted and Guilt Is a Ghost are currently at a reduced price.