| June, 1916, held no happiness for the bereaved Ella Wheeler
Wilcox. Widely syndicated poet and popular novelist that she was,
words would no longer come when she sat down to write. Her beloved husband,
Robert Marius, had died a few weeks before, on May 21st.
Their 32 years of marriage had been idyllic. But now one thought was paramount in Ella's mind: Death is so final. She thought of the promise Robert had made dur ing the years of their married life--to commenicate with her after his soul had left its mortal shell.
Robert's promise had been made so often during their life together that even now in the first grief of her bereavement, Ella believed that he would communicate with her. But, as she writes in her autobiography, The Worlds and I, "the awful days went into awful weeks and months, and there was no rift In the clouds, no blowing aside of the dark curtain, no sound to break the killing silence of empty space,"
Ella began to wonder if her steadfast belief was only delusion. And she began looking for proof She traveled all over the country, consulting psychics, mediums, and so-called seers. She visited religious cults, savants, and orthodox clergymen. But as desperately as she wanted to believe, she remained untouched. "I believed with my brain," she said, "but the soul of me cried in anguish for the proof, the proof. Other people, so many other people of sane minds and clear intellect, told me they received proof of continuity of memory and love from souls gone onward." But for Ella Wheeler Wilcox there was no proof.
Finally, in California, a medium named John Slater told her she must cease her endless visiting with mediums and so-called seers. "Save your time and money by staying quietly in your own room," Slater told her. "Through prayer and concentration you will attain that state of tranquility which will enable your husband to reach you. You do not belong in California. Your home is distant from here and your environment here is not congenial." Slater concluded, "You will receive other assurances than mine of his proximity before three weeks pass."
When this assurance failed to come after the specified three weeks had elapsed, Ella again resumed her desperate search. She went to other clairvoyants and mystics. The usual manifestations came through. But by now Ella was almost beyond believing.
Then she met a 95-year-old psychic, Mr. J. M. Peebles, the second man who advised her that her husband would never come through to her in a seance room. Only in the home they both loved would he manifest himself!
Sorrowfully Ella returned to The Bungalow, the home she and Robert had built in the early years of their marriage at Short Beach-on-the-Sound. The house had been built in 1891, and was the focal point for the Wilcox's legion of friends.
One evening as she sat by herself in the lovely living room of The Bungalow an idea struck Ella. Shortly before Robert's death, both had been enthusiastic about the best-selling book, Patience Worth, whose authorship involved the use of an Ouija board.
She consulted her friends and neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Ritter, who lived a few houses away. The Ritters were most receptive to the idea of attempting to establish communication through the Ouija board.
At first Mr. Ritter and Ella worked the board, but were unable to produce the slightest quiver of the pointer. Mrs. Ritter and Ella had better results. The messages were meaningful enough but came slowly and were not entirely convincing. Ella had suffered too much heartbreak and disappointment. Every night she wept herself to sleep with loneliness and frustration.
One evening in early September a Mrs. B-- from New Haven called on Ella. The Ouija board was on the table, and the conversation turned to occult matters. Ella asked her friend if she had ever tried the Ouija board. Mrs. B-- said no, but added that she would like to. What happened within minutes is documented in Mrs. Wilcox's autobiography as follows:
"In one moment the heavens opened! Both my caller and I were shaken by a power which beggars description. It was like an electric shock. The board seemed to be a thing alive; it moved with such force that we could not follow it."
Ella called to Mrs. May Randall, her close friend and companion who was in another room. They needed help, for two operators were unable to keep up with the pointer's speed. At last, with Mrs. Randall acting as scribe, these sentences were made out:
"Brave one, keep up your courage. Love is all there is. I am with you always. I await your arrival."
Robert's promise was fulfilled at last! This session marked the beginning of a series of remarkable "conversations," which grew steadily in value and importance.
The second sitting took place three days later. Mrs. B-- and Ella had been at the Ouija board for about a half-hour, when Mr. B-- who did not wish to disturb them, entered quietly. Ella asked the board: "Robert, can you tell me who just entered the room?"
"Yes," the reply was spelled out.
"Then tell me."
Mrs. Randall, in the capacity of scribe, claimed that the letters spelled only gibberish. But later when they were studied the sentence read, "Quinnipiac Bluc, our last game." To the women this sentence was meaningless but to Mr. B-- it carried great significance.
He told them how the last time Wilcox ever appeared at the Quinnipiac Club, he had been his partner at auction bridge. The incident was completely unknown to both Ella and Mrs. B--.
"Robert," Ella asked next; "have you a message for your friend?"
The pointer acted with dispatch. "Better try some other game, V.W.B., quitter.
Mr. B-- then related how that same night, while at the Quinnipac Club, he and Wilcox had played until after midnight. When he remarked that he had to go home, Robert had jokingly replied, "You are a quitter. You had better try some other game."
One evening during 1918, the final year of World War I, Mrs. Ritter and Ella were using the Ouija board when the pointer began to move with great strength. Robert was saying, "Go to France. Take very little with you; only one trunk. Humanity has need of you. Wonderful things will happen. Your spark of God is greater than that of 10 ordinary mortals."
Such a trip was the farthest thing from Ella's thoughts, but she took her husband's advice, and was soon excitedly making plans. Before she sailed Robert warned her via the Ouija board that she must not discuss this communication openly. "Keep these great truths with dignity and in the silence of the great masters until the opportune time comes to give them to the world."
Ella obeyed his injunction. Ten days after her arrival in Paris, when she was comfortably settled in the Hotel Vernet, she had her first experience with an air raid. Ten friends including Mrs. Wills, wife of Major Wills, sat huddled together. Suddenly Ella felt that the time was ripe to reveal all. She told the other women that they must not be afraid. "I am a mascot," she added. "I am eager to go out of the body and reach the realms which are more beautiful and satisfying than this earth, but I have to stay until my work is done." Following this, she related her experiences with the Ouija board. No one said a word, until the all-clear sounded, when Mrs. Wills remarked, "I feel as if death were indeed a beautiful adventure, as if it were something to anticipate instead of dread."
During a subsequent air raid, a mysterious power seemed to take possession of both Ella nd Mrs. Wills; swiftly and surely this message came through the Ouija board: "A great battle rages on the Oise," the pointer spelled out. "The odds are fearfully against the Allies, but a change will come. France will suffer terrible losses later. Glorious America will come in and bring success. Boastful Germany will be beaten."
Neither Ella nor her friend had any idea that a battle was raging on the Oise. However, the next day the announcement of the battle of the Oise appeared in black newspaper headlines. Mrs. Wills and Ella had received this message from Robert during the time the battle was raging.
A later message read: "Ella, go to Dijon--at once. Terrible air raids are coming. A strong will tries to hold you and a great force is around you. Go at once. Go tomorrow."
The next day the same message was repeated. However, there were seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Ella had not thought of leaving Paris for more than a day or two at a time. Now she began to concentrate on getting away. And somehow every obstacle dissolved.
On the evening of March 26 she was planning to leave Paris at six the following morning. Her luggage was gone and her tickets were ready. When Ella learned she would have to stand the entire 15 hour strip to Dijon she turned to the Ouija board. Instantly she received the following message: "Go in peace. I go with you. With all my strength I am strengthening you. Have no fear. You will be safe. You are taking your first brave stand in your efforts to help humanity."
Suddenly she was impelled to ask if she herself had much longer to remain on earth.
"You must stay and work for humanity," the message read. "I will wait for you. Go to bed and know that you are safe."
When Ella entrained in the morning a clear path seemed to open through the crowd for her and her party and she soon found a vacant compartment!
There was much for her to do in Dijon. Ella visited the American hospital where she entertained the patients and took them for walks. There were concerts and social obligations. She spent much time in camps and canteens where the distinguished American poetess was welcomed enthusiastically.
Ella had been in France for two months when she discovered exactly what her husband's spirit meant by the statement, "You have taken your first stand for humanity."
She went to a large camp where she expected to hear a concert. As soon as her party entered, the auditorium, filled with 3000 men, resounded with a great cheer. They were expecting Ella to speak to them. Although she never had talked to an audience before, a sudden, surging sense of power and dedication overwhelmed her. When her name was called she gave the first of what became a series of inspiring talks to American doughboys. These talks were one of the great morale-building forces of the First World War.
In Dijon she was guided by Robert's presence, and it followed her to Tours. Although Ella spoke little about her health, she actually was seeking a medical specialist now. Someone told her that only in Paris or London could she find the specialist she needed. However, the Ouija board ordered her to go on with her search, no matter what she was told. She soon learned that such a specialist was living in Tours, even though her friends in this city had never heard of him!
Ella Wheeler Wilcox's autobiography, The Worlds and I, was written that same year after she returned from France. It was published in 1919, the year of her death. She had published over 20 volumes of verse. Her daily syndicated column was read avidly by millions of persons. However, now with the changes in literary standards, Mrs. Wilcox's works, which include Drops of Water, Poems of Passion, Sweet Danger, and The Art of Being Alive are hardly quoted. Her novels also have been relegated to the forgotten shelf and are little read.
But Ella Wheeler Wilcox's effort to make her husband promise come true is an inspiring story of love and faith fulfilled.