Rolf Parker: Brattleboro's T.P. James - Spiritualist, writer ... and conman?

Отправлено 25 дек. 2017 г., 12:01 пользователем Sven Karsten   [ обновлено 25 дек. 2017 г., 12:01 ]

UPERSTITIONS has it that on Halloween, spirits of the dead come back to walk the earth. If true, T. P. James might choose to return to Brattleboro. This is where James claimed Charles Dickens' ghost dictated to him the ending to the unfinished novel "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." James published the completed novel in Brattleboro on Halloween, in 1873.

And if James's spirit was to come back to Brattleboro, the Market Block on Elliot Street, (the building which currently houses Taylor for Flowers and the Blueberry Haus Ice Cream parlor) might be a logical place to anticipate his return. James' book was first sold at E. J. Carpenter's store, which was in the center of the three shops housed on the first floor. James worked in the The Vermont Record and Farmer's print shop, which was in a narrow section towards the back of the building. The publishing office of the paper shared the second floor with apartments. Later in his career, James came to work as the co-editor and publisher of the Windham County Reformer, the forerunner of the Brattleboro Reformer, and entered the doorway which now fronts the ice cream parlor.

Did James believe his own story, that he channeled Dickens' ghost? Or was he a gifted literary con-man? Dickens died in 1870 leaving millions of people, who had been reading Drood in installments, without an ending to his murder mystery. This presented an obvious opportunity for writers and publishers.

News that work was being done in Brattleboro to complete the novel came in a long sensational article printed in The Springfield Union in July of 1873. Long excerpts of this article were reprinted in newspapers across the country, and in Brattleboro's Record and Farmer, in August of 1873. A shorter excerpt followed in the Record's competitor, the Vermont Phoenix as well as a vigorously skeptical denouncement of it. An anonymous "special correspondent" for the Union, claimed that in 1872, a poorly educated mechanic, a "Mr. A," encountered Dickens' ghost at s ances held by his landlady, who owned a boarding house on Oak Street. During his first s ance, which he attended reluctantly, the table "waltzed exuberantly around the room, and finally tipped over into the mechanic's lap." At another s ance, the mechanic, who "had never written so much as a newspaper paragraph for publication", fell into a trance, took up pen and paper, and proceeded to write.

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