A Message from Mr. Barr Leecorn
by Ellis Parker Butler
Whenever anyone wants to resurrect a moldy, fly-blown fad nowadays, and get a lot of free advertising for it, and give it a sort of respectability, he hooks it onto the late tremendous war and claims the war has given it new impetus and fresh meaning and placed it in a new and surprising light, whether it be ping-pong or phrenology.
Of late there have been vast masses of "incontestable proofs" that the dead speak to us from the "other shore". One man suggests that there must be something in spirit communications, because when a psychic is busy on the job something pokes out of her diaphragm like a spirit-elephant's trunk and rings bells. To prove it he refers to a book, printed in French many years ago, that has pictures in it. He says the book says someone once caught a piece of this psychic effluvium in a box, and when the box was opened -- lo! -- there were several drops of water in it!
If I am going to be "bunked" I prefer to have the job done in clean, high-class style, without psychic effluvium proof or any other kind of proof. I like much better the naive narrative of the lady who has recently aroused no little attention by the communications she has received from spirit-land. She used a ouija board until she decided that that was an unnecessary complication, after which she held the pencil in her own hand and just let it write!
I always knew this spirit-communication business would eventually reach a point where it was safe, sane and practicable. From the time when the spirits rapped falteringly "rap!" for "Yes" and "rap! rap!" for "No" -- or the other way around -- to the day when the medium was able to hold the pencil herself and write full tilt, things have progressed. I have always been too busy supporting my family to take time to take dictation by the "rap! rap" method from those on the sixth plane of the Thirteenth Spiritual Congressional District, but now that I can hold the pencil myself I am prepared to give any anxious inquirer the latest news from the far shore at my regular fiction rates.
My correspondent in spirit-land is a gentleman known as John Barr Leecorn, and I receive all communications with a yellow lead pencil on the earthly, or unpsychic, end of which is a nubbin of red rubber with which I promptly erase anything that is too silly to use. Sometimes John Barr Leecorn delights in being merely playful, as when I asked him, a few nights ago, what Marcus Aurelius and others "over there" thought of the League of Nations. He wrote:
"Potatoes are ripe in the gardens of Tilgath. Seventy-three. Strong odor of boiled onions. Blue overalls. Sam says -- Sam says -- Mary had a little lamb. Lamb. Lamb. Now is the time for all good men -- Peanuts."
Usually I do not take the trouble to preserve such messages as this, although I believe it has usually been the custom to keep them and print them in books, with explanations of their meaning. That was well enough when one had to use a ouija board or other complicated arrangement, but since the new era -- as I may call it -- began I preserve only those communications that are clear-cut and full of meaning. Last night, for example, I received one of the most important messages I have yet received from John Barr Leecorn. The question I had asked him was:
"What of the future of the human race and the Prohibition party?"
"I am glad you asked me that", he replied, "You must get together over there, and unite in a common impulse or you will be disunited and not acting in common. We are planning over here but you must help us. You must cooperate and join your forces, and all work for the same end."
"What end?" I asked.
"That is unimportant. The important matter is that you unite for a common result. Green silk stockings will do. Unite for green silk stockings, or high hats made of red flannel. We are working, but you must help us. You must send missionaries to Patagonia to unite Patagonians for high hats made of red flannel."
For a minute or two I thought that was the end of his message, for he said nothing; but my pencil began to write again.
"If you can't get red flannel", he wrote, "blue denim will do. You can get it at Munson and Gregory's for eighteen cents a yard, but not the best quality. They also have a good stock of shirtwaists now, but you had better make your selections before the stock is all picked over. Try not to go Friday, because that is their bargain day and the crowd is enormous."
"If what is desired is unity of action", I asked, "would it not be better to go on Friday, with the others?"
"You don't understand", he wrote. "I said red flannel. If a few on earth get together and think red flannel we will unite and think red flannel too. Even if it is midsummer. Personally. I prefer something lighter in weight next the skin but unity of purpose is the main thing, and they don't itch after the first few days. Sometimes one can reach the spot in the middle of the back with a long-handled kitchen spoon. Stick it in at the collar, convex side out, and push it up and down. It is grateful and comforting. If an entire community unites we can help you better. The bisons used to rub against the telegraph poles."
I do love books of spirit communications!