NABOKV-L post 0023438, Wed, 31 Oct 2012 14:21:27 +0000

Vane Sisters precedent
Dear list,

Hurricane Sandy allowed me the leisure to catch up on some old research. A tangle of associations led me back to a report from the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. 27 (1915). The experiment described there involved a number of SPR automatists who claimed to be channeling (independent of one another) messages from a number of erudite spirits, including F.W.H. Myers. You'll recall that Myers (former head of the SPR and author Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death) contributes a poem in the séance scene in "The Vane Sisters." According to the Proceedings, one of the SPR sitters, Mrs. Piper, recorded a message from Myers which said "I gave Mrs. Verrall laurel wreath." Mrs. Verrall was another SPR automatist, and when they checked her scripts written during the same time period (but supposedly without knowledge of Mrs. Piper's scripts) they found that, three weeks prior to Mrs. Piper's message, she had written a number of lines containing references to laurels and laurel wreaths. This seems to me quite similar to the situation in VN's story, where spirits take credit for images given previously to a writer.

Matt Roth

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