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vol. 3, p. 67
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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< Persecution of M. Leymarie (continued from page 3-66) >

ample proofs of his sincerity as a Spiritualist. One need but look at his photograph to be satisfied that he is utterly incapable of any such baseness as the malignant renegade would fix upon him. Let M. Leymarie rest assured that he has the profoundest sympathy and confidence of all intelligent Spiritualists in America, and they hear with deep distress and indignation of the sufferings and wrongs to which he has been subjected by the French, judicial authorities. We grieve to learn that his health has been seriously affected by the brutal outrages of which he has been the victim; and we hope he will bear in mind, and take comfort in the reflection, that all such martyrdoms as his do ultimately but advance and elevate the cause of Truth.

The River Monster

[From the St. Louis GlobeDemocrat, Oct. 5.]

Friday afternoon, at a late hour— the sun being about a half hour high and the sky and air unusually clear— Captain John Carraway, of the towboat Bee Wing, having in tow six heavily loaded coal barges of the well known Brown Barge and Transportation Company, of Pittsburg, was passing a point on the river just above the village or landing known as Bradley’s five miles below Devil’s Elbow Cut-off and about fifteen miles above Memphis, when his attention was directed to a loud, puffing noise a considerable distance up the river. At first he thought it was the roaring of a broken escape pipe or the wheezing of a disordered engine; but, seeing no smoke, and having reason to believe that there was no steam craft within hearing distance, below or above, he very shortly came to the conclusion that the sounds emanated from another source. Five minutes passed and the noise continued to be heard at brief intervals, and evidently getting closer. From the deck of the towboat a view could be had for 1,000 yards up the river, a gradual bend commencing at that distance. The sun was almost dipping below the western horizon when, around this bend, there rose to view the writhing form of a terrific monster, darting impetuously in mid-channel down the river. When first seen the leviathan seemed more like an immense uprooted tree, floating in a semi-perpendicular position along the mid-channel. As it neared, however, its horrid proportions became mani est. The hideousness of this aquatic monstrosity is stated by Captain Carraway to be beyond the power of description. Its immense pelican bill, from five to ten feet in length, the gigantic bulldog head and the mammoth, slimy neck, appeared high in air ; the vast tail lashing the waters into fury, and the enormous fins, ten feet in length, sending out waves like the roll of a flying boat ; the frequent dipping of the monstrous beak into the water and spouting huge streams forty feet high in oblique directions, and the deep, cavernous roars that came thundering along at the briefest intervals—all those formed an internal panorama that made the blood of the tow-boat captain and his affrighted crew run cold and their very heirs to stand on end. The monster was in the exact wake of the boat and barges, but it travelled with such tremendous velocity that turning out of the course was impossible, it is believed that its locomotion was at least twenty miles an hour, and Captain Carraway at once realized that if the ponderous body, with its irresistible momentum, should strike his fragile vessel the boat would capsize in an instant or be shattered to splinters. He was making eight miles an hour. On the monster rushed, roaring with deafening effect, spouting from his horrid bill two streams of water that shot forty feet into the air and fell in torrents into the river on either side.


The serpentine body swayed tortuously and with frightful rapidity through the muddy waters, while the prodigious foreparts of the colossal reptile rose and sunk and swayed like a Stygian horror, threatening to swallow and devour all that came within its roach. When within 150 or 200 yards the horrid reptile, as if it had just discovered an obstacle in its track, slackened its precipitate pace and for an instant paused to contemplate the nature of the obstruction. With a tremendous snort, so loud and deep ana sonorous that it gave the boat a tremulous motion, the huge creature came to a dead stop, and with its monstrous bill, head and neck reared perpendicularly, seemed like a watery demon rising from the bosom of the deep. Here Captain Carraway, despite the terror that had necessarily taken possession of him, obtained a good view of the monster, at least the parts that were above water, and his description of the horrific spectacle is sufficiently minute and accurate to deserve reproduction. Carraway alleges that there is no doubt the monster has a pelican shaped bill, but that its length, which has therefore been described as being five leet long, will measure at least ten feet. It appeared more like an immense horn then a beak, and in shape was much like the pointed sword of the spear fish, though larger and longer, and decidedly more formidable as a weapon of offensive warfare. It was from through this bill that the monster spouted water, the water being thrown from a point hear the head. Captain Carraway, who is an old whaler, stated that the spouting, unlike that of the whale, which throws its stream upward in a straight column, was made in oblique directions, and that the volume of water spouted and the height reached were twice as great as that thrown by the whale. The head is described to have been four or live feet across, black and shining, and its shape bearing a close resemblance to that of the bulldog. Captain Carraway thinks the animal bore on its head two short horns, but of this he is not certain, as the time for observation was very short. There could be no doubt, however, as to the canine shape of the head, and of the phenomenal circumstance that to this dog's head was attached a bill or beak, fashioned like that of a pelican. The neck appeared to be ten or twelve feet in length, narrow and serpentine, and swaying and writhing with a motion like that of a snake poised in water. The sides and under portions of the neck were evidently covered with burnished scales of changeable hue, but from the lop of the neck there grew what had the appearance of a mane, resembling that of a horse, being thick and slimy and of a greenish tint. This mane reached from the base of the bead to the body and depended from the neck in long strands. Those were the only parts of the body that were visible except the fins. On the back there appeared to be a dorsal fin, fifteen or twenty feet in length, measuring along the back, and perhaps three or lour feet in height.

The body being sunk in the water, however, could not be seen, and Captain Carraway says he may be mistaken us to this dorsal fin, and only describes it as it appeared to him during the momentary opportunity he had for observation. the side fins were of monstrous proportions, extending fifteen feet on either side, and while the monster paused they rose and dipped back into the water rapidly, throwing immense waves in a forward direction, the monster by this means poising and steadying himself in the current.


This attitude was maintained not longer than three or four minutes, and the distance being nearly or quite 100 yards. Captain Carraway's description is necessarily imperfect, but, in the main, it is undoubtedly accurate, as it agrees almost exactly with the description which has heretofore been given of the monster by persons who have seen him wading in shallow water or outstretched on sandbars. Suddenly the immense head and neck disappeared under the water with a lashing sound that could have been heard a half mile dawn the river. For a few moments nothing was seen of the monster, but it was quickly discovered that he was making, in a direct course, for the towboat and barges. His track was indicated by a roiling, pointed wave that came rushing forward like water impelled by a great sub marine upheaval. There was groat excitement on board, and the captain and hands were all on deck, looking, with terror, upon the extraordinary spectacle. A young German named Henry Decker, was on the coal barge lashed to the right of the towboat, and it was under this barge that the monster ploughed his irresistible way. First came a violent shock and then the barge was thrown with tremendous force above the surface of the water and almost careened, the rear end being hoisted twenty feat into the air, half the cargo of coal being buried into the river, and along: with it the man Henry Decker. The lashings by which the barge was secured to the towboat were snapped, and the shock was so sudden and strong that the towboat itself was almost lifted clear on the water. In a moment the monster reappeared in front of the fleet, and, turning his body so as to face the barge it had passed under, again reared its body, suddenly dived into the water or and made for the boats. It was a fortunate circumstance that the barge had become detached from the towboat, for this seemed to be a special object of aversion to the leviathan, for he attacked it with a fury that was terrible to behold. First he drove into the sides with his huge beak, lifting it almost entirely out of the water and sending it fifty feet away. Then he lashed it with his tail, the blows resounding with deafening effect, while, in the meantime, the air was made hideous with successive roars and harsh, loud bellows. A second time he made an assault with his beak, striking it fairly in the gunwales and sending it scudding 100 feet down the river. This last attack seemed to satisfy the monster, for, with a howl, he suddenly sunk beneath the surface and shot down the channel, going at a speed which Captain Carraway affirms must have reached forty miles an hour. As he moved away no part of the body was visible, but the pointed wave that rolled before showed its course, while in its wake the waters rushed like those of a mill dam suddenly let loose. In two minutes he was out of sight.


In the meantime Henry Decker, the hand who was precipitated from the barge, swam to another barge and clambered safely up the sides, with no greater damage than a thorough drenching and a slight contusion on the head, made by a falling piece of coal. The engine had been stopped when the first shock came. It was put in motion as soon as it was apparent that the danger had passed, and Captain Carraway set about securing the detached barge. By the time he reached it it was 300 yards down the river, and in a sinking condition. The front end had already sunk, and the stern was raised ten feet above the water. As the towboat approached the wreck swung around, and a close view showed that the bottom had been ripped in half a dozen places, the portions of the gunwales still out of the water were split and splintered as it an axe had been used to cut and tear them to pieces. At one point the gunwale was torn off the entire depth. As the towboat flouted against the wreck one of the hands called Captain Carraway’s attention to a strange object that protruded from the rear end of the boat. It had the appearance of a huge splinter, but its appearance was so singular that Captain Carraway's curiosity was aroused, and he steamed immediately by the object in order to see what it was. Upon a close view it was discovered that it was nothing more nor less than a piece of the monster's bill, which had been splintered off and left in the gunwale of the boat. An effort was made to pull the splinter out, but this undertaking was found too difficult to accomplish, as it was driven entirely through the timber, and was as fast and hard as if it were part and parcel of the barge. Axes were brought, and the gunwale chopped down on either side, and the piece containing the splinter split off. An examination showed the splinter to be four feet long, and undoubtedly a piece of the monster’s bill. At one end it was twelve inches broad, gradually sloping until it reached a sharp point. It was quite thin, and looked as if it might be a mere outward covering for the end of the lower part of the bill. It was neither horn nor bone, but appeared more like ivory, though almost as tough and hard as steel. In color it was dark green and brown, mixed and varied, though the larger end was almost black. The piece weighed eighteen pounds, this heavy weight showing the unusual compactness of the material composing the beak.

An hour was spent at the wreck when Captain Carraway, seeing that the coal was a total loss and the barge in such a condition that he could do nothing then to save it, steamed on, reaching Memphis about nine o’clock at night, where he related his strange adventure and exhibited the splinter from the monster’s bill. Of course the majority of popple are sceptical about stories relating to monsters, and many were incredulous, but those who knew Captain Carraway felt certain that whatever he might relate could be depended on as truthful in every respect.

There certainly cannot be longer doubt that the Mississippi is inhabited by a monster that not only ranks in horrid proportions with the fabled creatures of fiction, but one that may do much to interfere with free and uninterrupted commerce on the great river. It is undeniable that among river men there is a feeling of insecurity, and it has been suggested that the matter is of such importance that an expedition ought to be organized under government management to hunt down and annihilate the leviathan. The New Madrid Gazette (from which place the Globe-Democrat published a special despatch concerning exploits of the monster) of Wednesday says that a number of valuable horses and cattle were mysteriously destroyed while the monster haunted that part of the river ; that no less than three boats were overturned, and one skiff shattered and its occupants drowned. the Vicksburg Pilot publishes an interview with Captain Cuthbert, of the Ohio River trade, in which the captain states that at a point ten miles above Henderson the monster attacked a flatboat, overturning the boat and throwing the ferryman and two passengers and their horses into the river. One of the men was drowned and the monster devoured one of the horses. These stories seem almost incredible, but they are so fortified by the testimony of unimpeachable witnesses that all unbelief is necessarily dissipated.

Imposture, and Fatal Results

On the 16th of September last, in Toronto, one Walker, pretending to be a spiritual medium, used phosphorus at a gathering causing the death of one John Saunders. We clip the following from the Toronto Globe. It is the verdict rendered by Coroner Riddell, at the General Hospital, in accordance with the facts of the case. It says,—

“That the said John Saunders, on the 6th of October, 1874, came to his death from the effects of certain burns inflicted while attempting to extinguish some burning phosphorus atJ. O’Brien’s hotel, Front Street, Toronto, on the 16th of September, 1874, which said phosphorus had been ignited by one Walker, for the purpose of deception, he pretending to be able as a Spiritualistic medium, to answer questions and delineate faces of spirits in fire, by virtue of his gifts as such medium ; that therefore the said Walker (the professional medium) feloniously caused the death of said John Saunders.”

<Untitled> (The sea! the sea!)

“ The sea ! the sea ! the open sea !
The blue, the fresh, the ever free !
Without a mark, without a bound,
It runneth the earth’s wide regions round ;
It plays with the clouds; it mocks the skies;
Or like a cradled creature lies.

“ I never was on the dull, tame shore,
But I loved the great sea more and more,
And backwards flew to her billowy breast,
Like a bird that seeketh its mother’s nest;
And a mother she was, and is, to me ;
For I was born on the open sea ! ”

<Untitled> (There the rose unveils)

“ There the rose unveils
Her breast of beauty, and each delicate bud
O’ the season comes in turn to bloom and perish.
But first of all the violet, with an eye
Blue as the midnight heavens, the frail snow-drop,
Born of the breath of Winter, and on his brow
Fixed like a pale and solitary star ;
The languid hyacinth, and wild primrose,
And daisy trodden down like modesty ;
The fox-glove, in whose drooping bells the bee
Makes her sweet music ; the narcissus, (named
From him who died for love ;) the tangled woodbine,
Lilacs, and flowering limes, and scented thorns,
And some from whom voluptuous winds of June
Catch their perfumings.”

Editor's notes

  1. The River Monster by unknown author. From the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Oct. 5
  2. Imposture, and Fatal Results by unknown author
  3. The sea! the sea! by unknown author
  4. There the rose unveils by unknown author