|The Ogden Standard-Examiner, February 21, 1921|
Houdini attempted to make intelligent contact between the dead and the living by sending a message to his beloved when he crossed over into the shadow world. For ten years his wife Bess held séances on Halloween hoping to hear him whisper the agreed upon phrase "Rosabelle believe" to prove that there was life after death. Despite being unsuccessful he inspired others to claim the quest as their own, with failing returns.
Perhaps Houdini himself was inspired by another gentleman, Professor Thomas Lynn Bradford, a Detroit psychic and lecturer, who not only attempted to make contact from the other side but committed suicide to hasten the act and prove that life after death was possible. And according to his assistant he did just that.
Mr. Bradford, said to have been an electrical engineer and a one time athlete and actor as well, devoted much of his last years studying and writing about the occult, particularly the after-life. He theorized in his last written words that "all phenomena are outside the domain of the supernatural." and sought to prove this theory through "scientific facts." Having conjured up the postulate he intended to prove it through experimentation with his own life as the guinea pig. First though he'd need an assistant to receive his message from beyond.
In early 1921 the professor posted an ad in a local newspaper, under the pseudonym Professor Flynn, searching for "someone interested in spiritualistic science" to which a woman named Ruth Starkweather Doran replied. Mrs. Doran, about 40 years old, was from a prominent Detroit family with deep roots in the area. She had only recently returned to the area from Duluth and was doing historical research in the city. A writer and lecturer herself, Doran's curiosity was piqued by the odd advertisement and answered it on a whim. A member of the Protestant Episcopal Church, she was neither a believer in psychic phenomenon or a spiritualist but agreed to meet with Bradford to further investigate a subject she had never breached beforehand. After several meetings--Doran herself claimed that there was no pact and that there was in fact only one brief meeting--in which Bradford presumably explained his theory and plan of action, they chose a date for the final meeting, February 5, 1921.
Shortly before Doran arrived that evening for their last conference, Bradford finished typing his final thoughts for the manuscript to an unfinished book which lay beside the machine, leaving the sheath interred in the carriage, and readied himself for the death experiment. First though, he calmly assured Doran that he would contact her and gave her instructions on how to carry out the reunion. When Doran departed he sealed off the rented room, blew out the pilot to the heater, turned on the gas jets, situated himself in bed for one last repose and eventually succumbed to the fumes.
In the days after Bradford's death, Doran and a congregation of Spiritualist leaders gathered around the parlor in her home awaiting the message. While skepticism abounded even among the sect, Doran also distanced herself from any self-aggrandizement saying that her part was more so as a human being than a Spiritualist or a psychic. While a fortnight of vigils would take place the first few evenings were rather quiet and no contact had come. Though Doran reported that she felt a strange sensation during this time, as if Bradford's spirit was hovering just waiting to call from the beyond.
If Bradford was indeed destined to call there would be competition for his attention. While Ruth Doran and her team hunkered down waiting for a missive, another spiritualist in the same city named Lulu Mack, of 300 Brady Street, claimed to have already had contact with the dead professor.
|The Pittsburgh Press, February 10, 1921|
Unaware of Bradford's story, Mack questioned her reverend medium. Who responded that Bradford had yet to pass entirely and was still aware of Earthly things, though unlikely knew of his own demise. The low murmur of his voice could be attributed to the fact that he was not yet strong enough to communicate properly from his astral body as much of his energy had been expended on death itself. She believed that as his spirit grew stronger and was purified the probability of contact would increase. Perhaps in a few years or so.
|The New York Times, February 18, 1921|
That evening she felt a presence in her dimly lit parlor. She stood staring into a dark corner for several minutes, placed her hands upon her temples and ordered the lights to be turned out. After a few moments of silence she professed to hearing his voice. It started out quite faint and grew even more distant but discernible nonetheless. "Write this!" she directed and one of the witnesses present transcribed the message that she dictated in a low voice. After a half hour she exclaimed that "The voice grows weaker." The clock then struck 10 o'clock and the lights were turned back on.
Appearing flush she looked over the notes, signed them to authenticate that she had dictated them accurately and began to recite the jotted passages:
"I am the professor who speaks to you from the Beyond. I have broken through the veil. The help of the living has greatly assisted me.
"I simply went to sleep. I woke up and at first did not realize that I had passed on. I find no great change apparent. I expected things to be much different. They are not. Human forms are retained in outline but not in the physical.
"I have not traveled far. I am still much in the darkness. I see many people. They appear natural.
"There is a lightness of responsibility here unlike in life. One feels full of rapture and happiness. Persons of like natures associate. I am associated with other investigators. I do not repent my act.
"My present plane is but the first series. I am still investigating the future planes regarding which we in this plane are as ignorant as are earthly beings of the life just beyond human life."Once done reciting the message she fainted but soon came to and was asked, "Are you certain beyond doubt that you heard from Bradford?
To which she responded, "I am convinced. I never heard a spirit voice before. That was the professor, without doubt."
Whether or not it was is a matter of conjecture. A betting man might be inclined to disagree with that sentiment. In a town that produced the likes of Shirley Tapp and Rose Veres he might do so against his better judgement.
Later that year Mrs. Doran wrote in an exclusive article that she had regular contact with Bradford thereafter, even in apparition form. Among the wisdom imparted by Bradford was the sentiment that life would one day be eternal on both the spiritual and physical plain:
"Through spiritualism the world will be reclaimed: sin will be vanquished, suffering will end. The physical in man will cease to be, and physical death--and that is the only death--will be no more. Men will live on earth forever, even as they live forever in the spirit world."
Detroit Student Of Spirit Communication Ends Life, Perhaps In Effort To Test Theory; The New York Times, February 7, 1921
Missed Ghost Pact, Is Sorry; The Detroit Free Press, February 8, 1921
Widow Of Spiritualist Suicide To Claim Body; The Detroit Free Press, February 11, 1921
Kills Self To Send Spirit Message; "I've Got it!" Declares the Woman; The Southeast Missourian, February 22, 1921
Waiting For A Message From The Dead; The Turners Falls Reporter, March 16, 1921
Detroit Woman's Amazing Story Graphically Told In Special Article For Journal; Syracuse Daily Journal, April 4, 1921