There is a school of thought, I believe it’s called Gnosticism, wherein the God of this decaying, dying material plane is seen as mad, and we, the individuated conscious monads are trapped, as it were, in his nightmare. The True God, being perfect, CANNOT have any intercession with the material plane, as that God is in a state of perfection beyond the material. Until we find the enlightenment of transcendent knowingness, we cannot, as it were, “Go Back to Godhead.” Until then, we continue, as Buddha said, “to reenter the womb,” to stay mired in physical reality, which is the stuff that, cyclically. always sickens, decays and dies. The world of Maya, the Illusion.
Note: First chapter from a new book for young adults.
One of the most frightening places to be is on an old, deserted country road, in the middle of the night. Stories of ghostly encounters abound in such circumstances, and, of course, the most famous account is of “The Vanishing Hitchhiker.”
It’s a story with a few different variations, but the most common one is a person driving home down a lonely, unfamiliar stretch of desolate road. The driver sees, most often, a young woman in the distance. She seems to be in trouble, but is dressed unusually for being out so late, and all alone. The driver of the car, most often a concerned male, a father-figure type, stops and asks the girl if she needs a lift. She gets in the car, saying NOTHING, sliding in beside the driver, who suddenly realizes how cold it seems. He offers to lend her his jacket, and she accepts. They drive on in silence.
The girl says little, but directs the driver to go to an old house out near the cemetery. He does so, but when he pulls up, he at first thinks that the place must be abandoned. He gets out of the car, and the girl gets out too. She then seems to mysteriously vanish! Maybe in a cloud of strange, smoky fog.
Startled, the man goes up on the porch, noticing that there is a light burning in the front window after all. He knocks. A lonely old woman slowly opens the door.
“Hello, I picked up your daughter a few miles back. She was wandering alone, out near the old cemetery. She didn’t say much, but was very cold, so I loaned her my jacket. She told me she lived here, but, now it seems as if she has run away again.”
The old woman has a sad, knowing look on her face. Nodding her head softly, she says, “This happens every year, I’m afraid. She tries to come home.”
The man blinks, not understanding what he is being told. “She tries to come home? From where? What do you mean?”
The old woman heaves a gusty sigh, and answers, “It happened ten years ago. My daughter was invited to the prom by a handsome boy. She had never been asked out on a date before, and now the most handsome boy in class was asking her out. You understand, of course. She was a wallflower her whole life, so this night was pretty important to her. She got the best dress she could find, and dressed up like a princess that night. Oh, she was so beautiful! My only child! She had taken it so hard when her father passed on. She was so introvert, such a loner.
“I waited and waited for her, so happy that she finally was getting the attention she deserved from the boys, and was going to go out and have fun, and, what do you know, I even found out later that she and her date had been crowned Prom King and Queen!
“But, I waited up past two in the morning, and she never came home. Finally, just before dawn, I became frantic, and was headed out the door to go look for her, when the Sheriff knocked, and I knew something horrible had happened.
“They had been to a party afterwards, and there was drinking. She had never been to such a place before, and had no experience of such things. There was a fight started between her boyfriend, and the other guy pulled a knife. She jumped in between them, and she was stabbed. She died from her wounds just a few hours later.
“That was all twenty years ago, but this happens when the anniversary rolls around. She hitches a ride with someone, who tries to bring her home. But, she can’t come home, because she’s already in her final resting place. You go to the cemetery and look for her grave. I’m sure you’ll find your jacket. As for me, I’m an old woman, and I need my sleep.”
And with that, she closes the door, leaving the astounded man standing there, in shock and amazement.
He goes to the cemetery of course, to search out the grave. When he finds it, sure enough, there is his jacket, resting on the headstone of the murdered young girl.
Variations of the above include one story of a couple who pick up a vanishing hitchhiker who tells them, ‘Before the night is over, you’ll have a dead man in your car!” He then vanished from the backseat. The couple drive on and, in a short time, come upon an accident. Since the ambulance is taking too long, the policeman at the scene asks them if they can transport the dying man tot he nearby hospital. They put him in the car, but he dies en route. Thus, fulfilling the prophecy.
Yet another variation has a driver picking up a man that looks and scounds like Jesus Christ. The Christ-like figure relates a prophecy of the end of the world, right before vanishing.
Socialist reformer W.T. Stead was fascinated by spiritualism and psychic phenomena, so much so that when a medium told him he must not, under any circumstances, travel by sea, he went and booked passage aboard an ocean liner for her maiden voyage.
He died aboard the Titanic, April 15, 1912.
Consciousness is the laser pointer, or to use an old metaphor, the needle playing the groove of the vinyl record of what you experience as “waking life.” All is just a frequency field, emanations or vibrations of lighter and denser frequencies, and this is decoded by the conscious mind as the YOU. If you can transcend or escape this prison, find enlightenment, then you return to the ALL. But God experiences Himself as YOU, and you experience God as everything and everyone else. How could it be otherwise? Every physical sensation is simply an electrical impulse decoded by the central nervous system–all just illusions. More dreams, more “vibrations.” None of it, ultimately, any more real or permanent than a dream, a soap bubble, snowflake or flickering flame.
(Note: I have nervous little fingers and an impetuous personality. I always revise when I catch the typos.)
Two individuals can agree on a phenomena, and be at complete variance as to its ultimate cause and interpretation.
(This rather pathetic observation troubled me all day yesterday, from the moment I awoke until I finally relented and wrote it down. As to what it was referring to, and why it was implanted in my psyche, who can say?)
The Wheel of Time
Life can be seen to have its eddies and currents, time its waves and ripples. Sometimes events leave their resonances in the greater stream of existence, echoing down through the years like some sort of macabre curse, playing out in the Here and Now lives of ordinary people.
(We recently have re-read the story of Poe called “William Wilson,” which concerns the seeming doppleganger of an unfortunate, or dissolute young man–a being that seems to haunt his steps through life from school until, finally, he succumbs to the fury of his terror and stabs out at the phantasm, only to find he HAS KILLED HIMSELF IN THE PROCESS. In other words, he was his own worst enemy all along.
Of course, stories of such dopplegangers exist in reality. Or, at the very least, are said to exist, or have so existed. Goethe is said to have met his doppleganger or even future self while traveling a country road. Even more perplexing is the story of a Victorian teacher who is said to have exhibited a doppleganger while occupied in the classroom. The mysterious figure appeared before astounded students, who testified that this double imitated every action and mannerism of their teacher before disappearing. Apparently, the weird manifestation happened more than once.)
All arguments to the contrary, there is nothing new under the sun. Life sends forth its echoes, the Law of Averages dictates that certain outcomes are a given, taking into account certain correlates that, failing any great deviation, will manifest themselves, scientifically, as thus-and-thus, so on and so forth…
But over a century and a half? Can great and painful incidents, we must ask, repeat themselves in the lives of subjects separated by great gulfs of history, as if the same occurrences, widely separated by time, are still, nonetheless, fated to play on in a sort of sick autopilot of the world of real and tangible events? What are we to make of the uncanny coincidences and odd twists of fate that bespeak a larger intelligence? (Albeit, it is an intelligence that, because of the vast distances of time involved, must remain to us wholey inscrutable.)
So it must be with an obscure subset of happenings known as the Erdingtom Murders.
The facts as they stand.
On May 27th, 1817, the day after Whit Monday, the body of popular, pretty local girl named Mary Ashford was found in a flooded sandpit in Erdington, a small town outside of Birmingham, England. The girl had apparently been raped and strangled before being unceremoniously deposited, sometime after four in the morning, which was the last time she had been seen. She had apparently been in the company of young Abraham Thornton, a local bricklayer who had accompanied her from the dance to the house of a friend, so she could change her dress at the ungodly hour of three in the morning. According to Thornton, she had not emerged no matter how long he waited; exhausted, he decided to return home chastened.
(He also later claimed the couple had had sexual intercourse, although it had not been rape.)
Several witnesses attested to having seen the girl walking country lanes in the wee hours of the morning. She was last seen, alone, in Bell Lane, about 4:15 AM, by a Mr. Broadhurst. Another witness confirmed this.
It was at 6:30 that a local laborer discovered a set of bloody clothing, and alerted the police. Following the footprints of a man and woman, the police soon found the body–the girl had been sxually violated, then strangled.
Of course, the immediate suspect was Abraham Thornton, who in no wise did not initially suspect he was the main suspect. He willingly confessed his shock and outrage at the news of the death, confessed readily to having accompanied her to her friend’s house to change the dress. Then claimed to have simply gone home.
(The confession ot sexual congress did not come about until later, we are given to understand.)
Quickly arrested, Mr. Thornton was just as quickly tried. his version of events must seem idyllic and tragic in light of the later murder. (His stirring statement, “I cannot believe she is murdered, I was with her until four am.” is rather perplexing in light of later revelations.)
The couple walked, hand in hand, to the top of Bell Lane stile, crossing an open field under the stars. Their passionate ardor apparently spent, perhaps there was regret or shame, or deeply naive love, of a sort. Whatever the case, after four that morning, the life of Mary Ashford would end in brutal, ugly tragedy, at the age of twenty.
Mr. Thornton spoke briefly that morning with a gamekeeper of his acquaintance. He was alone. Within the house of Hannah Cox, Mary Ashford was trying on a dress, telling her friend with a mounting trepidation that she felt this week, especially, held some terrible tragedy for her.
Outside, her errant beau began to feel that his new love was jilting him. Perhaps he waited for the vanished star amidst the bushes and shrubs, a tear falling from the corner of his eye as his heart sank within his breast. But could he wait out there all night? Hardly.
Finally, shivering, he headed home. Independent witnesses, such as the gamekeeper, confirmed this account later.
It took six minutes for a jury to acquit Mr. Thornton. Which should have been t he end of the matter. However, the legal wrangling of 1817 permitted Miss Ashford’s brother William to appeal the acquittal (!), thus ensuring that a new trial would be held at the Court of the King’s Bench that 17th of November. Making an unprecedented move, Mr. Thornton quite literally stood, and casting down a leather gauntlet, proclaimed, “I am not guilty. And I am ready to defend the same with my life.”
In effect, Thornton had invoked the ancient English law of “Trial by Battel.” Which Lord Ellenborough declared to still be binding.
Thus, William Ashford and Abraham Thornton would duel. If Mr. Ashford won, Mr. Thornton would face summary execution. However, if Mr. Thornton won, he would, indeed, go free with no strings attached. If this challenge was not met by April 21st of 1818, Mr. Thornton would go free, no questions asked.
Mr. William Ashford, for whatever reason, declined the challenge. Mr. Thornton, ruined by the huge publicity and the hundreds itching to see him hang, immigrated to America, and leaves history forever.
Flash forward to 1975. May 27th. A young woman, Barbara Forrest, was found dead in a ditch in Erdington–around 300 yards from where the body of Mary Ashford had been found, in 1817. One hundred and fifty-eight years before, Btw. keep that in mind.
Both women had been raped, then strangled.
Both shared the same birthday.
Both had an eerie resemblance to each other.
Both had been to a dance on the eve of Whit Monday the day they were killed. Both had been to a friend’s house to try on a new dress.
Both had expressed deep, premonition-like misgivings about the coming week. Mary Ashford old Hannah Cox she had “bad feelings about the week to come,” although she could not specify why. Barbara Forrest was quoted as saying “This is going to be my unlucky month. Don’t ask me why. I just feel it.”
Death waited for them, like a mysterious kiss from a lover in the dark, down the long winding trail of their fast-disappearing dreams.
But (and this is the real kicker) BOTH women were twenty years old, and BOTH women were, allegedly, killed by men with that last name: THORNTON.
Abraham Thornton allegedly killed Mary Ashford by strangulation before depositing her body in a flooded sand pit, in 1817. MICHAEL Thornton allegedly killed Barbara Forrest, also age 20, by strangulation before depositing her body in a ditch only three hundred years from where the body of Mary Ashford had been found, over a century earlier.
(And, of course, Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln. Booth shot Lincoln in a theater, ran to a barn; Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse, and ran to a theater–if, in fact, you believe Oswald shot anyone at all that fateful November of 1963. But we think you rather get the point of this little aside.)
Echoes, Ripples, and Oz the Great and Terrible
What can be said for the nature of reality, based on such coincidences When a car with a man named Ted Gershuftyegg runs into another car with a man named Ted Gershuftyegg…what are the odds? How do we explain the ripples on the still, placid surface of the seemingly otherwise logical lake of our reasonings? perhaps God could be likened to Narcisse, who becomes entranced staring at an image of himself int he rippling water, until, finally, he transforms into a flower.
The opening petals of the flower…so many variant pieces of reality, all reflecting eachother perfectly. The same, yet different. each, in its own way, a part of the greater whole, yet each individuated piece unique and solitary.
New Age philosopher David Icke reminds us that every hologram is made up of smaller holograms, each a perfect representation of the larger whole. DNA encodes the patterns of the human form, so that even a mammal can be cloned like a common toad. Patterns of life and force reflect the larger whole.
As Above, So Below…
Icke claims that, after tripping on ayhauasca in the Amazon, he received a vision of the “Time Loop”: the vast Wheel of Eternal return, in which history, like the Ouroborous snake eating its own tail, repeats and reloops in an endless cycle, merely updating itself as an illusion, but fundamentally, always reflecting the same pattern back at the laser-point of consciousness.
(We’ve traveled far afield of our original story, I suppose.)
Is Oz the Great and Terrible manipulating events behind the smoking curtain of another reality? Are we merely stick-figure suppositions, experiencing our uniqueness only inasmuch as we are simply window dressing for events fated to happen, again and again, like a sort of macabre clockwork of the spirit? How much of Free Will exists, and what is fated, determined, predestination? And why?
And what does this mean in regards to the larger framework of our lives?
Why is so much coincidence merely absurd and eerie?
When, for instance, they were making the original 1933 version of The Wizard of Oz, the costume designers, when looking for a coat for their Professor Marvell character, purchased one from a thrift store that had been previously owned. When they looked in the collar of the coat, they found a tag of the former owner. The tag read: “L. Frank Baum.”
The wardrobe person, thinking it an unsettling coincidence, took some photographs of the coat and sent them to Baum’s widow. She confirmed the coat as one that had formerly belonged to her husband. Who, of course, was the author of…The Wizard of Oz.
We suppose we can finish there.
Addendum: We finished this piece yesterday. Unbeknownst to us, yesterday, coincidentally, happened to be the birthday of L. Frank Baum. Coincidentally.
The following poem was found, uncredited, in an edition of the book The Tower of Wye by William Henry Babcock. The book dates from 1901. This copy is inscribed to “Ethel Clem, 3-05” and a card inside proclaims “from Sophomore and Junior.” A yellowed piece of paper has the following poem written, uncredited, in shaky pencil.
The Silver Sixpence
Unknown (Ethel Clem?)
It was only a silver sixpence,
battered and worn and old,
But worth to the child that held it,
As much as a piece of gold.
A poor little crossing-sweeper,
In the wind and rain all day —
For one who gave her a penny,
There were twenty who bade her nay.
But she carried the bit of silver–
A light in her steady face,
And her step on the crowded pavement,
Full of childish grace.
Straight to the tender pastor,
And, “Send it,” she said, “for me,
“Dear Sir, to the heathen children,
On the other side of the sea.”
I don’t believe in coincidences, nor do I think a poem such as this should be lost. If anyone knows the true authorship, let me know.