This story takes place in England in the immediate aftermath of Gene’s death. It’s unusual in that it’s a conversation between two new characters, but it also details Naru’s rise to fame and SPR’s history. I personally find it to be a fascinating (and heartbreaking) read.
Thanks again to witchuntress, without whom none of this would be possible! And thanks to my mom again for proofreading and helping me figure out some blurry kanji. Now please enjoy~
Confession for a White Crow
When Sir Dorey heard the news, he mentally prayed in gratitude.
“...And you’re sure it’s Eugene, Miss Barber?”
“Yes, sir. They say it’s the medium.”
“What horrible news. How could this happen?”
His secretary knit her eyebrows.
“I’m not entirely sure. There was only a call from Professor Davis, that Oliver is saying Eugene seems to have died.”
“...Is that right.”
Saying that, he gazed out at the large garden.
“If Oliver is saying it, then there must be no mistake. ...I shall offer my condolences.”
“Send flowers for me, will you? That’s right, I think roses will do.”
“All right, sir. What cultivar would you prefer?”
“Anything. As for the color...white or pale yellow will do.”
“I will have that prepared, sir.”
Nodding, Sir Dorey took his coat. He suddenly felt like visiting an old friend.
Dorey’s friend, Huxley, was a priest at Trinity Church. He was an eccentric fellow, but he was also a kind and flexible clergyman.
“Why Jack, this is a rare surprise.”
“You look well.”
Dorey shook hands with Huxley as he entered the living room of the parsonage. Huxley had been a priest for 40 years now. While receiving Huxley’s hospitality, Dorey wished him the season’s greetings. After talking about neighborhood gossip and how they were maintaining their gardens, Huxley smiled.
“And, what brings you here today?”
“Ahh... That’s right.”
Dorey wrapped both hands around the simple china cup.
“It’s about SPR.”
“You’ve been with SPR for a long time. For a time, you’ve even acted as their representative, in addition to researching your own specialty of medical science. You retired from the organization six years ago, but even now, you continue to be involved as an advisory researcher. --That SPR.”
Dorey nodded. This was Huxley’s characteristic way of speaking. This peculiar way of speaking exhibited an almost magic-like effect on those believers who came to confession.
“Right. Do you remember the Pratt Laboratory?”
“I do remember. I’ve visited several times, after all. The building in Cambridge that smells deeply of science. The laboratory for exclusive use that you had long been wishing for.”
“Right. And of the twins who were there?”
“Of course I remember. You introduced them to me. Your prized ‘twins.’ They were such exotic, beautiful children.”
“I’ve heard that one of those twins has died.”
Huxley’s smile froze in surprise.
“The doctor? Or the medium?”
“The medium...it’s Eugene.”
“I see... And he was still a child, the poor boy.”
“Exactly, he was only a child. A child like that passes on while a decrepit old fool like me lingers.”
To say that he was decrepit would not be a lie. Dorey was already over 90 years old. He could not walk the way he wanted without a cane, and no matter how many times he had surgery, white clouds still covered his field of vision.
“You appear to be torn by guilt, Jack.”
Dorey stroked his beard.
“When I heard the news, my first thought was ‘Thank God it’s not Oliver.’”
“And so now you hate yourself.”
“That’s half of it.”
“The other half?”
“Because everyone surely thought the opposite, I thought it couldn’t hurt for there to be one person like me.”
With a still gentle expression, Huxley poured fresh tea from the pot.
“Eugene was a cheerful and gentle child. He was adored by everyone. That’s right, I had many conversations with Eugene. But now that I think back, I have no impression of Oliver, although he ought to have been right there. I think he stayed mostly silent. --Yes, he hardly said a thing. It was as if he was hiding in Eugene’s shadow. Yes, a shadow. He was like Eugene’s shadow.”
“There are many who think that way.”
“Those people might have thought, ‘Oliver should have died instead.’ ...Humans are sinful creatures, after all.”
“Everyone feels sorrow for Eugene, and you felt joy for Oliver. But if the situation were reversed, you might still have felt joy. Just as others would still feel sorrow.”
“You are suggesting that if Oliver was the one who died, then everyone would wish it had been Eugene? And that I would be relieved that it was not Eugene?”
“Am I wrong?”
Dorey shook his head.
“That would be wrong. At least, as it pertains to me.”
“Is that right?”
“Of course. --It was 70 years ago that I joined SPR. At the time, SPR was thought to be the same as a curious recreational organization.”
“That’s around when I was born.”
Dorey laughed a little.
“You’re a young one. --Out of admiration for Buchanan, Reichenbach, and Mesmer, I entered into this difficult world.”
“In search of the ‘Blue Bird’ or ‘Unknown Guest’ spoken of by Maeterlinck.”
“That’s right. I became enthralled with the hypothesis that within humans, there exists another, superior version of myself filled with possibilities. I thought that there was nothing more worthy of research. And yet, the world I leaped into was in a wretched state.”
“That would have been after SPR had suffered a great deal. After its founding in 1882, the authority of most of SPR’s pioneers had crashed down to earth. Barrett, Gurney, Myers, Crookes, Barrett--. The fraud of the psychic Creery sisters, who provided the spark for SPR’s founding, had been discovered. Cook and Showers, who were endorsed by Crookes, also confessed to fraud. The Fox sisters, who started the Spiritualism movement, also confessed their fraud.”
“That’s right. Gurney was being deceived by Smith, who assisted in his research. When that came to light, Gurney ended up committing suicide.”
“Though Gurney entrusted Myers and Podmore as his successors, Myers was being deceived by the medium Freer, whom he had discovered, and in the end, out of despair, he died of illness. Podmore also found himself in trouble, and committed suicide.”
“Right. That was in 1910. I joined about ten years after. By then, SPR didn’t even have the dignity of being considered an intellectual group.”
“You’ve really persevered. Even if you were ignored or derided, you never quit your research.”
“Of course, aye. After a long period of time, I was finally able to restore SPR’s dignity. And then-- there came the great furor of 1960.”
“Uri Geller, and the frenzied Occultism movement that occurred in response to him. And then the witch hunts that occurred as a backlash to that. The criticisms by America’s CSICOP were harsh.”
“That’s exactly right, aye. SPR returned to chaos. It had been forced into a far corner of science. No one would look at us. Those who did so only turned to us in order to ridicule us.”
“The gulf between science and parapsychology is deep.”
Dorey nodded. In all his life of research up to then, he had never seen a light of hope. There had only been an endless battle against prejudice and blind belief.
“Oliver is hope. He might just be able to shine the light of science upon parapsychology. Aye, it’s unimaginable that I would ever feel joy at losing Oliver.”
“...I see, you might be right.”
“Everyone says that Eugene is the light, and Oliver is the shadow. I might be the only one who thinks of Oliver as the light. Yet I still put my hopes in him. Eugene may have been a ‘white crow,’ but he was not my hope.”
“James’s words, right? ‘To upset the law that all crows are black, there is no need to seek demonstration that no crow is black. It is sufficient to produce one white crow.’”
“That’s right. The twins were ‘white crows.’ For SPR, there was no greater treasure.
The twins did not object to SPR’s intentions of being scientific. They conducted themselves as scientists rather than as psychics. --Oliver’s influence.”
“Eugene may have been a little too carefree to continue on as a scientist.”
“That’s exactly right, aye. The twins were brought along by their father, Davis. It was just about 100 years after the founding of SPR.”
“Eugene was receiving Myers’s communications from the spirit world.”
Dorey nodded. At the time of his death, Myers said in his last words that he would send communications from the spirit world after he had died. Those Myers correspondences were in actuality received widely by psychics in Europe and America over a long span of time.
“--What’s more, Oliver was a child who caused poltergeists. At first, we were obsessed with Eugene. As a medium, he was perfect. A flawless ‘white crow.’ His abilities did not waver. What’s more, he was a rare medium with xenoglossy. The researchers excitedly recorded the words he spoke and took them to linguists.”
“What a great fuss that was. Researchers from all over the world rushed in.”
“Oliver accompanied Eugene to all of his experiments. But none of us knew of his abilities that surpassed even Eugene’s in uniqueness.”
“I remember the day you called me in excitement.”
“Of course. These were the first words out of your mouth. ‘He’s a pure white crow; Oliver is psychic.’ --It sounded as if you might start dancing at any moment.”
Dorey smiled wryly.
“Eugene had shown an ability similar to psychometry. But Eugene always said that his ‘neighbor from the other side of the door’ gave him the information. For close to two years, we did not know that this meant Oliver.”
“This time you all became obsessed with Oliver.”
“That’s right. A powerful Twin Channel existed between the twins. Oliver was an exceedingly capable psychometrist, and what’s more, possessed PK. His PK ability was extraordinary, and using the Twin Channel as an intermediary, functioned in a way so curious as to be unprecedented.”
“Toss Play, right? What you call the way Oliver uses Eugene as an amplifier.”
“That’s right. Oliver silently participated in our experiments. He spent one year mostly silent, and then he finally opened his mouth.”
“Ah, those famous words of his. ‘Is there any point to this kind of research?’”
Huxley laughed, and Dorey laughed with him.
“Right. He went and said it. That there was no point to this research. And he was only a child, just turned twelve.”
“I really do think he’s brilliant.”
“I completely agree.”
Now Dorey really raised his voice in laughter. That conversation he had with Oliver back then was the most thrilling he’d had in his lifetime. Even now, he remembered every word of it. Dorey had witnessed the birth of a psychical researcher.
“Is there any point to this kind of research?”
The child wore an expression of deep displeasure. Dorey laughed and tried to pacify him.
“It’s extremely important research. You might not be able to understand, but--”
“I can only think of it as pointless.”
“You must not have any interest in psychic phenomena.”
The child put on an even more disagreeable expression.
“I have plenty of interest.”
“I’m right at the center of it, so isn’t that only natural?”
“I suppose...it is.”
Dorey looked at the child before him in exasperation.
“Then what are you so unhappy about?”
“You’re searching for white crows, aren’t you, Professor?”
“That’s right. That’s what you two are.”
“Is there really a point to searching for white crows?”
“Now listen, Oliver. Psychic phenomena has not yet been recognized by society--”
Dorey’s words were cut off abruptly.
“If it’s William James’s words, you don’t need to explain them to me.”
Dorey was surprised. He didn’t expect a child like this to know about James.
“In that case, you understand, don’t you?”
“How do you verify whether the crow before your eyes is really white, or only painted white?”
“By thoroughly investigating them.”
“But isn’t that how so many parapsychologists have been deceived in the past?”
Dorey was at a loss for words. He had a sound point.
“Why won’t you understand already just how difficult and utterly fruitless it is to search for white crows?
“Half of what I did in today’s experiment was a trick.”
The child’s eyes were stern and serious.
“It’s about time you’ve learned that crows are prone to deceiving observers.”
Dorey had no words. It was a shock that he had been fooled by the child before him, but having it so brazenly pointed out came as an even greater shock.
“Crows like to pretend that they’re white. It’s because you people think that white crows have more worth. Even if they don’t have ill intentions, test subjects will want to be white crows. Because that is what you seek, they will come to have that mindset.”
“It’s difficult to actually verify whether the crow before your eyes is white. Isn’t that how it’s been up to now? That’s why you haven’t advanced a single step. You people have spent a hundred years continuously searching for white crows, doubting them, and being deceived by them. You’ve wasted your time on only that.”
There was nothing Dorey could say in return.
“People lie both consciously and unconsciously. If you want to research the truth, you should deal only with the truth.”
“And what truth do you suggest we deal with?”
“Phenomena will not lie. Not as long as those on the observing side don’t misread it out of ignorance, misunderstand it, or reject it out of blind belief. Am I wrong?”
“You people think you’re dealing with phenomena, but you’re dealing with people. If you really want to search for the truth, you should deal only with phenomena.”
“There are plenty of places where psychic phenomena occur. Why do you people rely on strangers’ testimonies to learn about spirits? Why do you not try to thoroughly, scientifically observe them by the researchers’ own hands? Even though that’s the only kind of phenomena that doesn’t pass through a human filter?”
“When a physicist compares the weight of objects, does he make someone hold them and ask which is heavier? That’s what you people are doing. You might think you’re being scientific, but all you’re really doing is asking a multitude of people to hold onto objects and turning their opinions into statistics.”
“It’s not like you want to study Sociology or Psychology, right? In that case, you should completely bar anyone who isn’t a researcher from entering the laboratory. No matter how much you study mediums, no matter how much you study psychics, the only files you’ll accumulate will be on how inexplicable people’s hearts are, or data proving that is the case.“
“Testimonies that experimenters or observers haven’t seen for themselves and are only hearsay should not be used. If I were to speak further, except for things with a physical recording, testimonies of observers shouldn’t be used either. No matter how many people have seen it, if you weren’t able to record it, it doesn’t exist. I think it’s necessary to have that level of decisiveness. Isn’t that what you call science?”
Dorey ran a hand over his face.
“...Do you...want to become a parapsychologist?”
“I do. If only because there’s not a single decent researcher among you.”
“Spirits will not show themselves the way we’d like them to. Researchers who want to record them are ten a penny, but we’re unable to because they are just too difficult to control.”
“You lack patience. Phenomena that can’t be recorded is the same as being nonexistant. If you can’t record it, you shouldn’t deal with it.”
“Then we would have to abandon psychic phenomena as a subject of research. We can’t do that. It’s our pride as researchers. That’s why...we search for white crows. At the very least, crows will call forth phenomena to where we are waiting for it.”
“In that case, I think you ought to study a little more.”
“On what topic?”
“On tricks, on human psychology, on physical phenomena, on biochemical phenomena. You people don’t know enough about things other than parapsychology. You deal with people, but you don’t look at them in the least. That’s why you’re deceived just because I used some amateur-level tricks.”
Dorey looked endearingly at the person before him.
“Would you like to come do formal research at my side?”
---And that was how the youngest member of SPR came to be.
“Those days you worked with Oliver, you looked like you were having so much fun. It was like you’d become young again.”
“Of course. It was truly thrilling and fun. I continued searching for white crows as usual, but Noll trained himself in seeing through fraud. He had apparently been studying magic tricks since he began accompanying Eugene to SPR.”
“He really is something.”
“Right you are. We would hold interviews with mediums. Oliver would record them at my side. He was the one who suggested that we take video recordings. Right as a medium would be causing some strange phenomena, he would reach out his hand and grab the medium’s arm. And once he did, we would always find evidence of a trick.”
“Oh, how the crows must have come to fear Oliver.”
“In reality, among those who’d worked with us for many years, there were even some who refused to participate in experiments if Oliver was to be present. I quickly abandoned those people. And to my exasperation, once I did, only Oliver and Eugene were left.”
“And then he’d say that because Eugene is his brother, and Oliver is himself, there would be no credibility, and took them out of consideration himself.”
“That’s exactly right. Those days, I felt like I had become a crusher. Oliver was the one who thought of calling in actors and filming comparison videos too. We would always find that a psychic’s behavior employed the use of suggestion on a level even greater than that of the actors’. And there would always be a trick hidden there. ...I felt an exhilarating sense of destruction. Our long list of psychics was wiped clean with not one name remaining, and I decided to entrust everything to Oliver.”
“So you quit SPR.”
“That’s right. I did all that I could. I sent my successor out into the world. I thought that was enough. And just as he’d said at the beginning, he showed interest in fieldwork.”
“Ghost hunting by way of taking in large amounts of data.”
“Right. He willingly played the part of the clown; as if entertaining at a party, he would make a gentleman’s lighter move, or reveal the romantic past hidden within a lady’s accessory. Half of it would be the truth, and half of it would be trickery or made-up nonsense. He would do things like that without a care. And so, he gathered together an incredible number of supporters, pulled money from them, and began an exasperating form of ghost hunting.”
“It truly is an exasperating story.”
“If you saw what Oliver is doing now, you would be even more exasperated. High sensitivity cameras, noctography, thermography, photometers, radar, computers. It’s as if he’s chasing after a physical law.”
“In reality, he is chasing a physical law of the extraordinary.”
“That’s exactly right, aye. He is, without a doubt, a scientist.”
Dorey clenched both his hands.
“He will definitely bring forth a new era of parapsychology. --So I was sincerely thankful that such a scientist did not have to die with his plans only half realized.”
“...I understand you, Jack.”
Huxley spoke with a persistently gentle voice.
“...I would like to pray for Eugene.”
“I’m sure you do. And of course, I will lend my help.”
“For a sinful old fool like me too.”
“Why don’t you come to tomorrow’s Mass, Jack. Let’s hold Mass for your sake, for Eugene’s, and for the sake of your hope.”
-Buchanan, Reichenbach, and Mesmer
Joseph Rodes Buchanan is known for coining the term “Psychometry.” Carl Reichenbach came up with the concept of the Odic force. Franz Mesmer came up with the theory of Mesmerism.
-The “Blue Bird” and “Unknown Guest”
This refers to Maurice Maeterlinck’s play The Blue Bird and to his essay The Unknown Guest.
-Barrett, Gurney, Myers, Crookes
Sir William F. Barrett, Edmund Gurney, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Sir William Crookes were founders and/or prominent members of the Society for Psychical Research.
-The fraud of the psychic Creery sisters
SPR’s first scientific study involved the Creery sisters, who claimed they were telepathic. It took six years for their cheating to be discovered.
-Cook and Showers
William Crookes’s endorsement of the mediums Florence Cook and Mary Showers was seen as controversial and his investigations widely criticized. Both Cook and Showers were exposed as frauds.
-The Fox sisters and Spiritualism
The Fox sisters were mediums who became known for communicating with spirits via rapping noises. Though they admitted this was a hoax in 1888, they played an important part in the creation of the Spiritualism movement.
-Gurney and Smith
Edmund Gurney, in his experiments into hypnotism and telepathy, was assisted by his private secretary, George Albert Smith, a stage hypnotist. However, it was discovered that Smith had faked the test results that Gurney was building his reputation on. Gurney died in 1888 from an overdose of chloroform, which was widely speculated to have been suicide.
-Myers and Freer
Medium and psychic researcher Ada Goodrich Freer joined SPR with the support of Frederic W. H. Myers. It has been argued that she was in an affair with Myers, though it has also been argued that she merely used her acquaintance with him to gain status. Following controversy over her work, Freer eventually abandoned psychic research.
Frank Podmore was a psychic researcher who worked often with Edmund Gurney and Frederic W. H. Myers. Podmore died in 1910 by drowning, an apparent suicide, though this might have been because he was suspected of being homosexual.
Uri Gellar is a self-proclaimed psychic known internationally for his spoon-bending, though critics have pointed out that he uses magic tricks.
The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, these days known as The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), is an American non-profit organization founded in 1976. They take a skeptical position towards the paranormal, though they have also been criticized for being prejudiced and been dubbed ”pseudoskeptics.”
-The Myers Cross-Correspondences
Frederic W. H. Myers was one of many researchers from SPR who wanted to prove that there was life after death, and declared that he would send messages from beyond the grave to do just that. After his death in 1901, mediums from around the world received fragmented and unintelligible messages from Myers that when put together, would form a complete message. This was considered to be the most convincing proof that life continued after death. You can read more here.
-Xenoglossy is the alleged ability to speak or write in a language one is not familiar with.
-William James and the “white crow” metaphor
American philosopher and psychologist William James was a one-time president of the Society for Psychical Research and a founding member of the American Society for Psychical Research. His famous quote comes from when he expressed his belief in the medium Leonora Piper. The “white crow” means a genuine psychic that would prove all psychics are not fake, and has become a popular metaphor in psychic research.