A Wireless Message

In the summer of 1936, Mr. William Holt, a wealthy manufacturer of Chicago, was living temporarily in a little town of central New York.Mr. Holt had had “trouble with his wife,” from whom he had parted a year before. Whether the trouble was anything more serious than “incompatibility of temper,” he is probably the only living person that knows: He is not addicted to the vice of confidences. Yet he has related the incident herein set down to at least one person without exacting a pledge of secrecy. He is now living in Europe.

One evening he had left the house of a brother whom he was visiting, for a stroll in the country. His mind was occupied with reflections on his domestic infelicities and the distressing changes that they had wrought in his life.

He was so deep in thought that Holt became lost, knowing only that he had passed beyond the town limits. So he simply turned around and went back the way that he had come.

Before he had gone far he observed that the landscape was growing more distinctwas brightening. Everything was suffused with a soft, red glow in which he saw his shadow projected in the road before him.

“The moon is rising,” he said to himself. Then he remembered that it was about the time of the new moon, and if that tricky orb was in one of its stages of visibility it had set long before. He stopped and faced about, seeking the source of the rapidly broadening light. As he did so, his shadow turned and lay along the road in front of him as before. The light still came from behind him. That was surprising; he could not understand. Again he turned, and again, facing successively to every point of the horizon. Always the shadow was beforealways the light behind, “a still and awful red.”

Holt was astonished”dumfounded” is the word that he used in telling ityet seemed to have retained a certain intelligent curiosity. To test the intensity of the light whose nature and cause he could not determine, he took out his watch to see if he could make out the figures on the dial. They were plainly visible, and the hands indicated 11:25 p.m.

At that moment the mysterious illumination suddenly flared to an intense, an almost blinding splendor, flushing the entire sky, extinguishing the stars and throwing the monstrous shadow of himself across the landscape. In that unearthly illumination he saw near him, but apparently in the air at a considerable elevation, the figure of his wife, clad in her nightgown and holding the figure of his child. Her eyes were fixed upon his with an expression which he afterward professed was “not of this life.”

The flare was momentary, followed by black darkness, in which, however, the apparition still showed white and motionless; then by insensible degrees it faded and vanished. Holt could only see the upper half of the woman’s figure: Nothing was seen below the waist.

In the dawn of the morning Holt found himself entering the village at a point opposite to that at which he had left it. He soon arrived at the house of his brother, who hardly knew him. He was wild-eyed, haggard and gray as a rat. Almost incoherently, he related his night’s experience.

“Go to bed, my poor fellow,” said his brother, “and wait. We shall hear more of this.”

An hour later came the predestined telegram. Holt’s dwelling in one of the suburbs of Chicago had been destroyed by fire. Her escape cut off by the flames, his wife had appeared at an upper window, her child in her arms. There she had stood, motionless, apparently dazed. Just as the firemen had arrived with a ladder, the floor had given way, and she was seen no more.

The moment of this culminating horror was 11:25 p.m., standard time.