Twelve Stories and a Dream HTML version
The Stolen Body
Mr. Bessel was the senior partner in the firm of Bessel, Hart, and Brown, of St. Paul's
Churchyard, and for many years he was well known among those interested in psychical
research as a liberal-minded and conscientious investigator. He was an unmarried man,
and instead of living in the suburbs, after the fashion of his class, he occupied rooms in
the Albany, near Piccadilly. He was particularly interested in the questions of thought
transference and of apparitions of the living, and in November, 1896, he commenced a
series of experiments in conjunction with Mr. Vincey, of Staple Inn, in order to test the
alleged possibility of projecting an apparition of one's self by force of will through space.
Their experiments were conducted in the following manner: At a pre- arranged hour Mr.
Bessel shut himself in one of his rooms in the Albany and Mr. Vincey in his sitting-room
in Staple Inn, and each then fixed his mind as resolutely as possible on the other. Mr.
Bessel had acquired the art of self-hypnotism, and, so far as he could, he attempted first
to hypnotise himself and then to project himself as a "phantom of the living" across the
intervening space of nearly two miles into Mr. Vincey's apartment. On several evenings
this was tried without any satisfactory result, but on the fifth or sixth occasion Mr.
Vincey did actually see or imagine he saw an apparition of Mr. Bessel standing in his
room. He states that the appearance, although brief, was very vivid and real. He noticed
that Mr. Bessel's face was white and his expression anxious, and, moreover, that his hair
was disordered. For a moment Mr. Vincey, in spite of his state of expectation, was too
surprised to speak or move, and in that moment it seemed to him as though the figure
glanced over its shoulder and incontinently vanished.
It had been arranged that an attempt should be made to photograph any phantasm seen,
but Mr. Vincey had not the instant presence of mind to snap the camera that lay ready on
the table beside him, and when he did so he was too late. Greatly elated, however, even
by this partial success, he made a note of the exact time, and at once took a cab to the
Albany to inform Mr. Bessel of this result.
He was surprised to find Mr. Bessel's outer door standing open to the night, and the inner
apartments lit and in an extraordinary disorder. An empty champagne magnum lay
smashed upon the floor; its neck had been broken off against the inkpot on the bureau and
lay beside it. An octagonal occasional table, which carried a bronze statuette and a
number of choice books, had been rudely overturned, and down the primrose paper of the
wall inky fingers had been drawn, as it seemed for the mere pleasure of defilement. One
of the delicate chintz curtains had been violently torn from its rings and thrust upon the
fire, so that the smell of its smouldering filled the room. Indeed the whole place was
disarranged in the strangest fashion. For a few minutes Mr. Vincey, who had entered sure
of finding Mr. Bessel in his easy chair awaiting him, could scarcely believe his eyes, and
stood staring helplessly at these unanticipated things.
Then, full of a vague sense of calamity, he sought the porter at the entrance lodge.
"Where is Mr. Bessel?" he asked. "Do you know that all the furniture is broken in Mr.