Author, advertising and
publishing consultant, former
editor of Chicago and other
magazines, former creative
director of Campbell-Ewald and
other advertising agencies. For
more information, click here. Or
see Who's Who in America or
Consulting editor, historian, poet
and author of several books. For
more information, click here or
BLOGS and GLOBS: I have
been writing a blog since 1966,
only I didn't know it. In those
days, it came out in the form of a
newsletter on paper. Remember
paper? It never got lost in
cyberspace, although if it got wet
enough blog turned into glob. I
called it The Uncommentator,
and tried to make it amusing. To
read some of my favorites, see
Recent Books by the Frisbies.
WAY DOWN UPON THE SWAMI RIVER
The recent flurry of films having to do with ghosts and such reminded me of one of my first free-lance writing assignments. It was a series of 15-minute radio scripts.
The idea was to dramatize case histories from the records of the British Society for Psychical Research. Around the turn of the century, spiritualism, extrasensory perception and the like attracted the attention of many prominent persons. Horace Greeley and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among them.
The BSPR set out to investigate peculiar events. A team of level-headed interviewers could rule out charlatans, hysterics and boozers. The stories that remained might be true.When a producer came across the BSPR files, he was inspired to try to develop a radio series to be called ``Phantasms.'' With a bunch of scripts in hand, he hoped to get financial backing for production.
I don't think ``Phantasms'' was a good name. Too many listeners would have thought it was about some kind of seizure you can get from sitting directly in front of an electric fan.But the assignment appeared challenging enough that I quit my summer job as helper on a beer truck to write full time until college classes resumed.
I learned a lot. For instance, writing is harder work than hefting cases of beer. And, by the hour, it pays less. Also, a beer distributer pays at the end of the week. Producers pay when you can finally corner them in Brazil or Thailand or wherever they have taken refuge.
The case histories were impressive. Someone would be quietly drinking tea when he would leap up and cry, ``Something terrible is happening to Cousin Henry.'' He would run down the road to Cousin Henry's place and find him trapped under an overturned farm wagon.
Or someone would feel an unexplained chill and remark to witnesses at 10:23 a.m. that she had a premonition something was wrong with her brother John in far off Australia. Later would come a letter confirming that John had died at exactly that moment.
The obvious explanations occurred to me. If you leap up and cry, ``Something terrible is happening'' often enough, sooner or later you'll be right. As for the clock stories, I could never tell whether the spirit messages compensated for differences in time zones.
Still, the large number of similar unexplained occurrences did suggest that there might be some undiscovered phenomenon at work. Keeping an open mind, I tried to make myself sensitive to whatever messages might be floating around in the ether for me. I would sit still in a quiet place and try to plug in my psychic antenna.
The result invariably was a good nap, refreshing but not informative.
I would ask myself whether I felt that something terrible was about to happen. The answer was always no. Having been born with an optimistic disposition, I never feel something terrible is about to happen. As a medium, I am below the median.
Then a few years ago I began to realize I really could foretell the future.
For example, one day I was sitting in a meeting with a young client discussing a rush project. He said that because of budget and time constraints it had been decided to pick up 12 pieces of existing art.
I asked, ``Where is this art now?'' He said, ``We have a storage facility in the suburbs.''Suddenly, I could feel ectoplasm running through the room knee deep. A voice spake unto me saying we would find all 12 of those art boards at a storage facility in the suburbs about a week before the end of the world.
I said, ``You better send for them right now. Then we'll have more time to figure out what to do about the ones you can't find.''
At exactly 10:23 a.m. three days later he phoned to concede that my vision of the future had proved correct. Eight art boards were all they could find. The rest apparently had fallen into the River Styx and floated away.
Now I use my ability to foretell the future all the time. I photocopy a proof with the corrections on it before sending it back because I have already seen the original being snatched on the way to the printer by space aliens.
When starting a new computer procedure, I plan on everything going wrong at first. Everyone knows all computers are haunted by evil spirits. I have conversed with them. They scribble error messages across the bottom of the screen.
I hang up on securities sales agents. The instant I identify them I am carried away into a prophetic trance. I see swirling mists out of which gradually emerges a disembodied shirt. It looks like a lost shirt. My shirt.