Letter 1 – 1942

Thursday, May 14, 1942

Dear Thea,

Do you remember that long conversation we had about being in more than one place in the same time? And how we decided that although the actual physical body could not, how it was yet within the realm of possibility that mentally one could trandescend the limits of space. Well, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the subject recently, and some events have happened which have made me doubt just what is real and what isn’t.

It all started a week ago last Tuesday. I had been working late at the office four nights in a row, you may remember, and when I finally got home Tuesday night I was dead tired. I lay down on the bed for a few minutes, without even taking off my clothes. At least that’s what I thought I did. I remember looking at my alarm clock and seeing it was about quarter to ten. As all too often happens with me when I’ve been working at the same task for so long, I was unable to get my mind off it. I visualized myself back at the office, going over the same old figures. There was a brief instant when everything sort of went blank, and then I was sure I was at the office.

Everything was exactly as it had always been there–as though I had never gone home that night. The clock on the wall said exactly 10:03. I was sure I’d left the office about nine, but I was equally sure I was now back again. Not knowing what to make of it, and being too tired to care I wrote on a piece of paper “It is now three minutes after ten and I am going home”. I left this in my desk at the office.

When I arrived home I looked at my alarm clock and wrote down “it is now ten-forty, and I am going to bed”. Which I did.

The next morning, both pieces of paper were where I’d left them, so I knew I had really been at the office the second time, although I had no proof of having left at nine. The only reasonable conclusion I could draw was that I had fallen asleep for an hour at my desk, and had dreamt that I went home the first time. No one else was at the office all evening, and my landlady had not heard me come in either time, so there was no proof one way or another.

However, although that may have been the only reasonable explanation, I still was not satisfied with it. That feeling of having gone home the first time was far more real to me than any dream had ever been. So I experimented further.

I left on time the next night, with other people still there to witness it. In addition, I wrote down “I am leaving the office at five o’clock Wednesday, May 6, 1942” and locked it in the safe. I ate supper at the fraternity, and talked with my landlady a few minutes when I finally did get home at seven o’clock. I wrote all this information down right away, and then tried to duplicate my experience of the night before. I visualized myself at the office, sitting down at my desk, and ready to get to work.

Again, that brief instant of blackness, and then there I was. I again wrote down the facts of the case and left them at the office, and then, since I was tired, tried working it backwards. I imagined myself back in my room. Once more the blank, and then I was in my room. Once more I wrote it all down, and in the morning it was all still there. Either I was fooling myself by writing down a lot of things I didn’t know about, or else I was really getting from one place to another by some means I didn’t know about.

Either one was preposterous–yet it must be one or the other. I resolved to make another test. I repeated the same experiment as the night before, except that this time I had witnesses at every point. I talked with my landlady both times I was home, and had her sign my papers. And I did the same with the night watchman at the office. And once again, they were all there came the next morning.

Impossible as it seemed, I knew I had something, but I didn’t know just what. I was still too scared of it to try anything long range that weekend, but hitch-hiked to Antioch and back in the usual way, as I believe I wrote you. While there, I hunted up all the obscure scientific and psychological publications in the Science Library, and finally found one article which was very interesting.

It told of some experiments that were being made with the disintegration and reformation of cells. Working with the simple one-celled protozoa and amoeba, they were subjecting them to certain complicated electrical forces which seemed to disintegrate them entirely. However, when the forces were removed, there was the animal right back where they had left it. The article went on to say that although the results were not yet conclusive, a few similar results had been obtained with organisms as complicated as the earth worm. The worm would seemingly completely disappear–not only to the sight, but to all possible tests, including smashing with a hammer where he had been. Yet, when the electricity had been turned off, he had reappeared, apparently none the worse for wear.

Could there possibly be some tie-up between the electricity waves and the thought waves? I didn’t (and don’t) know enough about electricity to tell what kind of arrangement they had, but I did gather that it was very weak, yet finely adjusted, forces. Impossible, yes, but so was the whole situation.

Accepting it then as a fact (although I still felt that I might wake up any minute) I tried to find out more about it. First of all, how much could I take with me? I had always arrived at the office in the same clothing I’d been wearing. So apparently I could bring my clothes. I experimented further, holding my clock in my hand–then a fully packed suitcase–then a pile of books of which I was touching only the bottome one. Out of it all I formed a theory which was borne out in every case. I could bring something with me if two conditions were filled:

  1. It must be attached to me in such a way that it cannot become separated without something changing. Thus, my book, etc. would come if I was holding onto it so that no matter how I turned my hand it would not drop. Also, if my suitcase came at all, it would come full, since it couldn’t empty without opening. However, the other books on the pile would not come, unless I tied them to the one I was holding.
  2. I must visualize myself with the object concerned. It was no use my holding the book unless I also imagined myself still holding it in exactly the same way when I reached the office.

The second question was the matter of time. I bought a second hand watch (that is, a watch with a second hand) and experimented. I discovered that it took me exactly 30 seconds to get from home to the office. However, it also took exactly 30 seconds to get from one rrom to another at home. The conclusion was that the 30 seconds was the actual disintegragion and reformation of the cells–that the distance travelled was instanteous, at least over distances of less than two miles.

Third question was how did I get there. Since it was instanteous I didn’t believe I had to open doors, etc. but to prove it, I imagined myself inside the safe, after it was locked. It worked, and the safe was still locked. It seemed proved when I got out again, since although I might possibly have been able to instanteously open the safe from the outside, I knew I couldn’t have from within.

So far I had experimented with places with which I was already familar. So the question arose as to whether or not that was necessary. Off-hand, it seemed as though it would be, since I first had to imagine myself where I wanted to be. However, I took out my road map, and tried to visualize a corner about ten miles away, where two roads which I had never been on crossed. At first it didn’t work, but trying further, I found that keeping the map in front of me, and starting my imagination at the nearest point with which I was familar, I could follow along the roads until I cam to the corner. I could then see exactly what the corner was like, and arrive there almost immediately to verify it.

Experiments to points as far away as Cleveland demonstrated that although I could move instanteously to a familar spot, I could only travel at about five miles a minute over unfamilar roads. However, once I had been there once, and knew the spot, I could start from there and proceed further, rather than having to start from where I was each time.

Until this afternoon I’ve kept the whole thing entirely to myself. This letter is the first I’ve spoken of it, chiefly because I don’t yet really believe it myself. I feel sure I’ll wake up in bed and find it’s still the night of Tuesday, May 5. But all the evidence seems to point towards it.

That disintegrating cell theory sound screwy, but it does explain all the facts. I’ve written to the scientests performing it, asking for anything else they’ve come across but have received no answer as yet.

And I’m puzzled. Not about the why of it all–that’s so impossible that it doesn’t particularly worry me any more. But I don’t know what to do with it–this power I have. Can anyone else get it? Should I keep it to myself, or tell about it? No one will believe it, but it can be proved.

Just think of what it will mean just to me. I can live in New York and work in California if I want. And go see a show in Chicago at night. It just nullifies space–at least on earth. I haven’t dared try it yet, but why couldn’t I get to the moon–or Mars–or even beyond our solar system? It’s still completely appalling.

I want to talk to you about it, Thea. I’ve got to talk to someone or go completely crazy, and you’re the one, if you can stand it. I’m going down to Antioch this weekend, but I have no plans for Saturday night, so I’ll meet you in Philadelphia. I’ll start from New York (I’m all too familar with the corner by the Holland Tunnell there), about six in the evening, so I should arrive in Philly about 6:20. If you’re planning to go home, just leave word at the hospital as to how to get there, and expect me a little later, allowing for 5 miles a minute from the hospital. (A traced route on a road map would be the best instructions to leave)

If by any chance I shouldn’t make it by then, open the other sheet of this letter. It contains the other theory as to this whole thing, which is something I’d just rather not think about, so don’t open it until you’ve given me a chance.

Until Saturday evening, then,