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Spiritualism in Java (S141a: 1868)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 92 of the February 1868 issue of The Spiritual Magazine (London). To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S141A.htm

     Sir,--In Madame Pfeiffer's Second Voyage round the World, Vol. II., p. 36, occurs the following curious narrative, which I believe has not been yet noticed in your pages. To every Spiritualist familiar with the phenomena which have occurred at home, it bears internal evidence of truth; and it is particularly interesting as repeating in a distant land and among a people who certainly never heard of similar occurrences in Europe or America, the exact form and conditions of some of the best attested and most extraordinary manifestations. I may add for the information of some of your readers, that "siri" is the pungent leaf chewed with the betel nut, and that to chew "siri" includes both substances. This chewing causes a great secretion of red saliva which is freely expectorated; and as all natives chew "siri" many times every day, and it is invariably offered to every visitor as a token of civility or friendship, nothing could more clearly manifest the presence of a human being in Java, than the spitting which accompanies chewing "siri." Madame Pfeiffer's account is as follows: "Speaking of marvels I am reminded of rather a puzzling occurrence that took place in Java a few years ago, and caused such a sensation that it attracted the attention of Government. In the residency of Cheribon was a small house, which the natives declared to be quite full of ghosts. As soon as ever the evening set in, there began in the rooms a continual throwing of stones and spitting of siri, without the perpetrator in either case being visible to mortal eye. The stones and the expectoration fell quite close to the people, but without exactly touching any of them, though this undoubtedly formidable shower seemed to be somehow specially directed against a certain little child. So much was said of this inexplicable affair, that at last the Government authorities commissioned a trustworthy officer to enquire into it and find it out. He had the house surrounded by soldiers, so that nobody could go in or out, and then entered and seated himself with the child on his lap. He had no sooner done so, however,--according to most authentic history,--than the shower of stones and siri set in as hard as ever, and fell close all round both officer and child, though still without touching them. Every hole and corner of the house was then searched, but of course without making any discovery. The officer could not get to the bottom of the mystery, but sagaciously bethought himself of having the stones marked, carried to a considerable distance, and buried--but in vain. The next night at the usual hour the customary projectiles began to fall about; and what was more, the very stones that had been so cunningly marked and hidden underground. At last, however, the Dutch Government proved more than a match for the ghost, and checkmated him by having the house pulled down; but the mystery who threw these stones, and who chewed the siri and ejected that preternatural saliva will remain profound and inexplicable to the end of time."

     I think it may be well to reprint this in your columns in case any of you [[sic]] readers should visit Java, and be able to obtain the authentication of names and dates.

Alfred R. Wallace.

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