Lore (2017) s01e04 Episode Script

Passing Notes

1 AARON MAHNKE: On the evening of February 5, 1921 Thomas Bradford, an engineer and psychic, completed a book about the afterlife.
Then he tested it.
Weeks before, Bradford had placed an advertisement in a Detroit newspaper.
He was seeking someone interested in spiritualistic science.
Ruth Duran, a 40-year-old woman from one of Detroit's oldest families, answered Bradford's ad.
She did it out of simple curiosity.
The plan was as straightforward as it was unsettling.
He would attempt to speak to Ruth from the other side.
[TYPING] After Ruth left for the final time, Thomas locked his boarding house door and sealed the room.
Then he blew out the pilot light and turned on the gas [GAS HISSING] and began what he called "The Great Adventure.
" After his body was discovered, Ruth told a reporter, "I believe he will make his presence known to me.
" A week later, she said he spoke.
"I have not traveled far," the voice said.
"One feels full of rapture and happiness.
" What did Ruth actually hear? Well, we'll never know for sure.
She took that secret to her own grave.
I'm Aaron Mahnke, and this is Lore.
In 1843, life changed forever for the Reverend Eliakim Phelps.
With the passing of his wife Elizabeth, he was overwhelmed by crushing sadness, and it challenged everything Phelps had been taught to believe.
As a man of God, the boundaries between this world and the next were clearly defined.
For him, the door between life and death was forever shut.
But Phelps lived in a time when people were beginning to experiment with ways to communicate with the other side by repurposing the secrets of ancient mysticism and through séances.
It was even rumored that Mary Lincoln had held a séance in the White House for her deceased son.
What began with a handful of beliefs turned into a movement.
It was called Spiritualism, the belief that you didn't have to be dead to communicate with the dead.
The afterlife, the other world, whatever we want to call it, it's right there.
We just need to reach beyond the veil.
In spite of himself, the Reverend Phelps was drawn to the promise the Spiritualist Movement offered.
He tried to move on.
Two years after Elizabeth's passing, he married Sarah Nicholson, a much younger woman, recently widowed herself.
Phelps became stepfather to Sarah's children, and the new Phelps family moved into a large home in Stratford, Connecticut.
[THUNDER] Yet Phelps couldn't let go.
He still longed for his beloved Elizabeth for one final touch, one final moment, for a chance to open that door.
It's a desire we can all relate to.
But just because we want to doesn't mean we should.
Some doors, you see, are closed for a reason.
For the first two years in their new home, life was uneventful for the new Phelps family.
But on March 10 of 1850, as they return home from the morning church service, all of that changed.
[CLATTER] The silver.
Nothing was taken.
Where's Henry? Elizabeth? Take Henry out.
Who would do this? I do not know, and I do not care.
No one was hurt.
No possessions were taken.
There appears to be no further threat.
It was It was It's just a bluff.
Does everyone understand? It's just a bluff.
All right.
Let's Let's return our house to order, have our lunch.
We'll go to church for afternoon service.
Eliakim.
Give these to Pastor Richards.
They will instruct him on performing this afternoon's service.
I will remain here in case they come back.
[CREAKING] [THUMPING] [THUMPING] [GUN COCKS] [DISHES CLATTER] Who's in the dining room? I have a gun.
I demand an answer! [KNOCKING] [DISHES CLATTER] [KNOCK] [DOOR OPENS] [DOOR CLOSES] [CLATTER] [CLATTER] The Reverend Phelps took responsibility for the figures and the knocking.
He wondered if he'd unknowingly invited them in.
When Dr.
Isaac Bristol had visited Reverend Phelps a week before the first incident occurred, the two men may have heard of Spiritualism, perhaps even read newspaper accounts of a séance.
But neither would have known anyone who'd participated in such a ceremony.
I visited Austin while I was in Andover.
He's been promoted to Professor of Scared Rhetorics at the seminary.
Oh, I'm so proud of my son Austin, but he is ashamed of his father for marrying someone closer to his own age than mine.
He despises me for marrying Sarah, as does her son Henry.
I fear the only person that can reach him - is his own father.
- Oh.
Difficult to reach him six feet under ground.
I have read accounts of scientific discoveries regarding the use of mesmerism as a bridge of communication to those who have passed on before us.
I have to confess to you that I've actually thought of attending a séance, I believe it is called.
The chance to communicate with his departed wife, cross through the door into the world that Elizabeth now inhabited.
These were the desires that Phelps shared with a growing number of believers.
Séances were becoming ever more popular.
And in an era when the laws of nature were supplanting the laws of God, Spiritualists were convinced that newly discovered forces, still not fully understood, governed the interaction with the afterworld.
The ability to channel a force that could reach from this life to next found its origins 70 years earlier in the work of Franz Mesmer.
Franz Mesmer, A German physician in the late 1700s, believed he'd identified the vital force that flowed through all living beings.
He called this force animal magnetism.
Mesmer believed that when this force could not flow freely, people became ill.
He claimed he could cure his patients by removing this blockage.
He would send the patient into a trance by directing his own magnetic energy into their body.
People were said to be "mesmerized," a technique that would later become the basis for hypnosis.
His practice became so popular that in order to treat many people at once, he devised a device that connected patients to one another by means of metal rods so that magnetic energy could be conducted between them.
Mesmer himself never claimed to be able to communicate with the spirits of the dead, but the séance evolved from his belief that these unseen forces could be harnessed.
The passing of energy from one person to the other.
The power of the trance state.
These were the aspects of Mesmer's scientific experiments that the Spiritualist Movement would rely on to open the door to the spiritual world.
Eliakim, you're a leader in this town, looked up upon, a Christian minister.
When the Lord summons, our souls are called home to heaven or banished to hell.
There are no ghosts of those who once lived amongst us.
The only spirits that cross from death to life are demons offering nothing but temptation through doors which should remain closed and locked.
And I would be willing to open that door and to look inside that room, Isaac, to see Elizabeth one last time.
You risk scandal and loss of your position.
Your congregation would disown you.
To hear one last word from her.
Wouldn't you like to speak to your mother and father again? Wouldn't everyone in my congregation understand? Science is close to proving definitively the designs of God.
Science will prove God.
They are one in the same.
Eli these liberal Christian theologies that are bouncing around New York City will never be accepted in a town founded by Puritans.
Through the revelations of the orbits of planets, astronomy is proving the design of God.
Spiritualism may provide its own answers and unlock the door into and out of heaven as God intended, as science is just now finding.
We look through glass darkly, Isaac for now.
How does it work? A séance? Do you know? Only the accounts that I've read.
In 1848, something odd was happening at the home of John and Margaret Fox in upstate New York.
That's when their daughters Kate and Margaret first made contact with the dead.
They said it was the spirit of Charles Rosna, a peddler who'd been murdered five years earlier and who'd been buried in their basement.
They spoke with this unseen entity through a series of clicks and knocks.
[KNOCKING] Rosna was the first to speak with them, but it was soon clear that the girls had a talent for attracting the spirits of the dead.
Word spread quickly about what Kate and Margaret Fox could do.
The sisters began conducting séances in which they would translate these mysterious sounds for anyone eager to hear from a lost loved one.
It was a chance to say hello again or a final goodbye.
And it was understandably popular.
This hunger for communication with the dead was so strong that within a few years, even those not normally given to believing in the spirit world were open to accepting its existence.
We need to join hands.
My first wife Elizabeth, who died in 1843.
Elizabeth Phelps I need a sign from you.
Elizabeth I need a sign that you're okay.
Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, are you with us? Elizabeth, are you with me? [KNOCKING] [KNOCKING CONTINUES] [KNOCKING] [KNOCKING] [KNOCKING] [KNOCKING] [KNOCKING] It's just the wind knocking against the house.
Of course.
Reverend Phelps' longing for his first wife pushed him to question what he longed believed.
And half a century later, the pull of Spiritualism would force another man to question his own beliefs.
Harry Houdini was the 20th century's most famous magician and stunt performer or, as he'd refer to himself, mystical entertainer.
[APPLAUSE] But one of his most popular roles was as a skeptic of Spiritualism.
It was part of his act, but it was an attitude that had sprung from a personal experience.
Houdini had lost his mother Cecelia in 1913.
He'd been utterly devoted to her, and he was so devastated when she passed that he gave up performing.
Spiritualist friends urged him to rethink his skepticism, inviting him to reconnect with her in a séance.
The medium began to write out a message from the other side.
But Houdini instantly knew it was a cruel fraud.
The message was in English.
His mother spoke only a mixture of Hungarian and German.
Houdini was outraged that they had tried to exploit his grief.
He made it his mission to expose spiritualists as frauds, phonies, and bunk artists, skewering the Spiritualist masquerade in his stage shows.
After his own death in 1926, Houdini's widow Bess conducted a séance every Halloween.
MAN (ON RADIO): Houdini, are you here? Are you here, Houdini? The world is listening.
And Bessie is here, your Bessie, pleading in her heart for a prearranged sign.
Speak, Harry! We are watching and waiting, Harry.
MAHNKE: She would make the attempt every year for ten years.
MAN: Mrs.
Houdini, the ten years are up.
Have you reached a decision? BESS HOUDINI: Yes.
My last hope is God.
I do not believe that Houdini can come back to me or to anyone.
It is now my personal and positive belief that spirit communication in any form is impossible.
MAHNKE: But one of Houdini's friends refused to give up on the spirit world.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was an ardent believer.
I suppose I've sat with more mediums, good and bad and indifferent, than perhaps any living being.
Doyle, a physician by training, had read about the Fox Sisters and was convinced that communication with the dead was possible.
In the summer of 1919, Doyle visited a psychic and posed for a series of portraits.
As he watched the first photograph develop, he was amazed to see there was also someone else in the picture.
Doyle recognized the ghost of his son, who died from wounds suffered in World War I.
Doyle remained a staunch defender of Spiritualism his entire life.
I'm not talking about what I believe.
I'm not talking about what I think.
I'm talking about what I know.
There's an enormous difference, believe me, between believing a thing and knowing a thing.
Leviticus the 19th chapter Phelps wasn't certain that the disturbances from a month earlier were caused by spirits, but still he couldn't shake the feeling that they were somehow connected to the séance he'd held with his friend Isaac Bristol.
[THUMPING] If there were spirits in his home, however, they were challenging him, daring him to ignore their presence.
Anna! Henry! Who wrote this? - Who's responsible for this? - Eliakim.
This letter that appeared on my desk, this bluff, this plague signed by "Sam Slick.
" I will not have the name of the devil in a Christian house.
I didn't do it! Don't accuse me! Oh! Henry! Henry.
Henry! [KNOCKING] With Reverend Phelps being a prominent figure in the community, it wasn't long before word of the haunting spread and his son Austin and brother Abner paid him a visit.
Eli, a little across Fairfield County, they are talking about the Stratford knockings.
The Pennsyl Thank you, Anna.
The Pennsylvanian is reporting on the hauntings at the Phelps' house, how you are haunted by Goody Basset, a witch hung in the 1620s.
It is dishonorable and scandalous to your reputation as a man of God and the harm that you are committing to our family name.
The faculty at the seminary are asking me about why parishioners are beginning to leave my father's church.
"Is he involved with necromancy?" Since you have not by any full chug brought an end to the gossip, we are here to do so and be gone as soon as possible.
And if I succeeded in communication with the other side.
If I communicated with your mother, I engaged in an act of Spiritualism in an effort to see her once again.
Elizabeth is resting at peace with the Lord.
And I'm suggesting that the séance opened the door for some other spirit.
There are no spirits or demons.
Never again will the dead have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
Saul told the Witch of Endor that as the Lord liveth, there would be no punishment for raising Samuel.
The events in this house are not demons or angels or ghosts.
They originate with your stepson.
Henry is angry that his father was taken from him and his mother remarried.
It must be the boy.
[THUMP] [HISSING] [SCREAMING] [CHOKING, SCREAMING] [SCREAMING, COUGHING] [SCREAMING] Aah! Ohh! - Ohh! - [HENRY SHOUTING] Henry! Abner! [GASPING] [CLATTER] [CLATTER] - Henry.
- Oh, dear God.
- Henry.
- Henry.
Henry.
- Henry.
- Ohh.
- Ohh.
- Oh, God.
Oh, son.
Oh, son.
Henry.
Henry.
Henry? Ohh.
Henry.
Henry.
Oh, dear Lord.
Ohh.
Like they hung the witch.
Goody Bassett.
The fear of the witch was deep rooted in New England.
In the 17th century, hundreds of young women were accused of witchcraft then consorting with the devil.
Goody Bassett of Stratford, Connecticut, was one of them.
She was strong willed and outspoken, not shy about criticizing the elders.
A woman so brazen must be capable of sorcery.
Goody and her husband had moved to Stratford a few years earlier.
Shortly after their arrival, many of the townspeople died from an unknown illness.
Goody Bassett was suspected of casting the spell that caused it.
She was examined for marks of the witch.
Goody was given one last chance to confess.
But in 1651, 40 years before the Salem witch trials, Goody Bassett was hanged only a short distance from where the Phelps' mansion would stand two centuries later.
I insist that you move your family into my home until this matter can be explained and resolved.
And I appreciate the invitation, Austin.
However, what kind of lessons would I be teaching my Christian flock if I surrendered? What is happening in this house has nothing to do with my mother or any other ghost or spirit.
Do not feel as if you may eradicate some guilt or correct some wrong done to her by remaining here.
The dead do not return.
[CLATTER] We live in a time of rapid scientific advancement, Austin.
A séance is another such advancement.
I believe that science will prove once and for all, any day now, that there exists a life after this one and that we can return.
Science cannot save this house.
Or you.
I believe it was a séance that brought the spirit of Goody Bassett to this house, and so it's my hope of ridding us of her that we perform this séance tonight.
Please, everyone.
Let's join hands.
[SIGH] Let us pray.
We wish to speak with the spirit of Ruth Paine.
You were known in this life as Goody Bassett, the witch who was hung in 1651.
I believe I unjustly called you from the beyond, and I believe it is your wish to go home.
And that's why we are gathered here tonight to help you go home.
This house is not your home.
This house is not yours.
And so it is time for you to leave.
Goody Bassett, if you are amongst us, please knock once.
Elizabeth? Elizabeth Adams Phelps, who died in the year 1843 are you with us? Elizabeth.
You are welcome here.
We wish to help you find peace.
[KNOCK] [KNOCK KNOCK] [GASP] Mrs.
Combs, please, please sit.
If this is Elizabeth Adams Phelps, knock once.
If not, twice.
[KNOCK KNOCK] This is not the spirit of Elizabeth Adams Phelps? [GASP] Were you a member of my congregation? [THUMP THUMP] Do you know someone that is sitting here at this table? [THUMP THUMP] Help us know who you are.
[GASP] Oh.
[SNARLING] [COUGHING] [COUGHING] [COUGHING, WHEEZING] [RETCHING] Be gone from this house! October 1st.
We will be gone October 1st.
In today's language we'd say that the Phelps story went viral.
It became wildly popular after the account was published in newspapers, books, and magazines of the time.
In 1888, the sisters who brought Spiritualism to the mainstream confessed.
Both Fox sisters could rotate their ankles and bend their toes in ways that produced audible clicks.
Every séance they performed had been a trick, a fraud.
But people continued to believe.
[MAN MURMURING] Four years after the death of Sir Author Conan Doyle in 1930, a mass séance was held in London.
And unlike his friend Houdini, it's claimed that Doyle did return and his voice was recorded.
DOYLE'S VOICE: Whether or not you and I believe that the dead can communicate with the living, Reverend Phelps believed that something had reached out and spoken to him.
Yet his yearning for a final reunion with Elizabeth was never fulfilled.
And so now he no longer had any use for a way to speak to the other side.
But maybe there really is something beyond the veil.
Perhaps we can open the door to the afterlife, or maybe not.
It's an impossible question to answer, which is why we keep asking it.
[KNOCKING]