June's Book Review
June 1, 2002
This Month's Book Review
Nothing So Strange
The Autobiography of Arthur Ford in Collaboration with
Margueritte Harmon Bro
Harper & Roe Publishers New York
Nothing So Strange
There is Nothing so strange as the way the strangeness wears
off the strange. Experiences that now seem common-place
once shook me to the depths. Some people are introduced
gradually to the subject of psychic phenomena but my
introduction came as a bolt. One day I was a self-assured
young officer at Camp Grant, having recently arrived from
Fort Sheridan where I had become one of the ninety-day
wonders of World War I, a second lieutenant, and the next
day I was a mighty frightened boy in a different world. Not
because of the war, either, but because of a dream. Or
was it a dream?
That morning I had awakened from a night's sound sleep with
the roster of the names of those who had died of influenza in
the night plain before my eyes. I thought my experience must
be the hang-over of a dream. I told myself that when I got a
look at the real roster, which it was my duty to pick up from the
adjutant's office, I would know I had just imagined what I had
just seen. But when I picked up the list it was the same; not
only the names were the ones I had seen but they were in the
exact order I had seen them.
I tried to shake off the experience.
But the next morning the same thing happened. As I wakened,
there was the list of fatalities. And again it checked out.
Those were the days of the influenza epidemic and Camp
Grant was hard hit. At one time I was the only officer in my
company who was not down. Every morning at reveille men
who had just been called from their beds were dropping to
the ground; at night more men died in the hospital. Across
the United States over half a million people died of flu.
Everyone seemed under tension but mine was different--
The third morning I mentioned these strange goings-on to a
couple of my buddies. They said, "You're kidding." I said I
wished I were. So the next morning when we first wakened
I told them the names that would appear that day. Sure
enough, those names were posted. They said, " You're
pulling some kind of a trick." I started to remonstrate but
caught the look in their eyes, so I just laughed. "You figure
it out, " I said to them cockily. But I did not feel cocky and I
could not figure it out.
I had never heard of precognition; I had never heard of
clairvoyance; I did not know that the mind had an extra-
sensory reach. And if I had heard of such matters I would
have thought that the person who told me was as crazy as
the queer ducks he was talking about. In Titusville, Florida,
where I grew up, the word psychic meant spirits and good
Baptist boys had no truck with spirits. Ordinary people
sometimes talked about fortune-tellers and water diviners
and sometimes repeated ghost stories they had heard from
servants or from someone who knew a man who knew a
man who said....Premonitions of death were vaguely
considered a mark of spirituality. And there our para-
After a week of this dream business I wanted to go to the
chaplain or the doctor but I was afraid I might be sent to a
mental hospital. Surely this strange disclosure of facts,
which I could not know but did, would shut itself off as
suddenly as it had come upon me. But instead of stopping,
it took a different quirk. One morning I realized that the
names I was seeing were no longer the names of flu victims
but of men killed at the front. I would write down the names
seen on waking and then check the casualty lists in the
newspapers. Daily as new recruits moved in our men were
being sent overseas; we were replacements for the
Rainbow Division. Sometimes that very day, sometimes the
next day, but always within a week, the names I had seen
would appear in the newspaper and in the same order.
Along with my persistent feeling of being strange I now
became curious. Why did I get certain names, certain
sections of a list, and not others? None of the names was
known to me personally.
Finally I went to the Protestant chaplain. If he had met me with
a strait jacket I would scarcely have been surprised. What he
did was to listen to my story and then tell me to pray that God
would take away these silly dreams. Dreams? Delusions? As
though naming a process could control it, let alone stop it. And
with about 85 per cent of my current "dreams" verifiable.
Finally I wrote to my mother to ask if there were any history of
insanity in the family, not mentioning my reason for asking. She
replied that there certainly was no insanity; she would like me to
know I had some very smart forebears. But there was an aunt
on my father's side of the family who was somewhat unbalanced.
She was pleasant and harmless, my mother said, and the family
had never made any move to commit her to an institution. So that
explained Aunt Mary in Jacksonville. I had always realized there
was something wrong with Aunt Mary because she was never
discussed as the other members of the family were. Much later
I found that Aunt Mary was a medium! In the Baptist annals of
those days a medium was definitely unmentionable.
My unbidden knowledge continued. In a way, what I knew was less
upsetting than the method of knowing. According to the teaching
that had come my way, all knowledge was derived from sense data
which reached the brain through the approved channels of the five
senses. To be sure, I believed--more or less--that Jesus had had a
gift of foreknowledge but I took it for granted that such power, like
the ability to heal the sick without medicine, was a direct gift from
God and that the Son had passed it on only to his Twelve Apostles.
The reports of any miracles that happened after the Bible went to
print were mistakenly construed.
My most startling experience came the morning of the false
armistice. I wakened with an acute feeling of depression, a deep
misery not in keeping with my nature. When the annoucement of
peace came and people responded with hysterical joy, I knew the
report was false.
The morning of the real Armistice was marked by my first flash
of clairvoyant knowledge which had personal significance. As I
opened my eyes I was startled to see the face of my brother
George who was located at a southern army camp. He was
smiling but I felt a sense of apprehension. Later I found that
during the night he had come down with a severe case of
influenza, soon augmented by complications from which he later
The next month I was given the choice of going to Russia or
returning to school. I went back to Transylvania University at
Lexington, Kentucky. In my day the faculty included a handful of
real scholars. I still remember the intellectual excitement they
afforded a Florida Cracker.
Back in the familiar round of classes my psychic miseries died
down, but my anxiety nagged on, and in that fall of 1919 I elected
a course in psychology. It was taught by Professor Elmer Snoddy,
a big man of fine intelliegence and ample academic background
with a liberal theological point of view at a time when liberalism
was fighting for a toehold. Our textbook was written by William
McDougall of Harvard, then probably America's outstanding
psychologist. One day in the course of a lecture on abnormal
psychology Professor Snoddy made reference to the mind's
extraordinary ability to acquire knowledge, at times, in ways
outside the usual sensory channels. He documented a variety of
psychic experience vouched for by as authentic an observer as
William James. So I was not alone! But Snoddy presented his
material objectively without comment as to what he thought about
the subject. After class I pondered the matter. If I told him that I also
found knowledge entering through the backdoor of my mind, so to
speak, he might conclude that I was a queer one. At the same time,
I wanted to talk with him much to pass by this opening. I made an
appointment and broached my problem.
Professor Snoddy was an eager listener and before I left his office
he told me about the British and American Societies for Psychical
Research. Serious men were seriously interested in the kind of
non-sensory perception that had troubled me! I left Snoddy with
William James' Varieties of Religious Experience in my hand. Also
with an urgent invitation to come to his house and talk further.
We had many wonderful evenings. I know now how fortunate I was
to have fallen into the hands of a man of his stature. He thought
clearly, he was well-schooled, and he had great integrity. He wanted
to know all about my background, and not just an outline of facts but
the experiences that colored my thinking. This was certainly my
first self-conscious attempt to see myself........
This concludes the 1st chapter of Nothing So Strange.
This book has a total of 20 chapters,
250 pages, plus an index in back of the book.
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse inside of this book titled:
Nothing So Strange.
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