Coincident Experiences Of General Fremont And Relatives
These are related on pages 69-72 of Recollections of Elizabeth Benton
Fremont, Daughter of the Pathfinder General John C. Fremont and Jessie
Benton Fremont His Wife.
After describing a terrible experience of her father and his men in
1853, while crossing the Wahsatch Mountains, and their rescue from
starvation by reaching Parowan, Utah, Miss Benton goes on:
"That night my father sat by his c
mpfire until late in the night,
dreaming of home and thinking of the great happiness of my mother. Could
she but know that he was safe! Finally he returned to his quarters in
the town only a few hundred yards away from the camp. The warm bright
room, the white bed with all suggestion of shelter and relief from
danger made the picture of home rise up like a real thing before him,
and at half-past eleven at night he made an entry in his journal,
putting there the thought that had possession of him and that my mother
in far away Washington might know that all danger was past and that he
was safe and comfortable.
"All this is a prelude to a most uncommon experience which befell my
mother in our Washington home on the night in question. We could not
possibly hear from father at the earliest until midsummer. Though my
mother went into society but little that year, there was no reason for
gloomy forebodings. The younger members of the family kept her in close
touch with the social side of life, while her father, whose confidant
she always was, kept her informed as to the political events of the
moment. Her life was busy and filled with her full share of its
responsibilities. In midwinter, however, my mother became possessed with
the conviction that my father was starving, and no amount of reasoning
could calm her fears. The idea haunted her for two weeks or more, and
finally began to leave its physical effects upon her. She could neither
eat nor sleep; open-air exercise, plenty of company, the management of a
household, all combined, could not wean her from the belief that father
and his men were starving in the desert.
"The weight of fear was lifted from her as suddenly as it came. Her
young sister Susie and a party of relatives returned from a wedding at
General Jessup's on the night of February 6, 1854, and came to mother to
spend the night, in order not to awaken the older members of my
grandmother's family. The girls doffed their party dresses, replaced
them with comfortable woolen gowns, and, gathered before the open fire
in mother's room, were gaily relating the experiences of the evening.
The fire needed replenishing and mother went to an adjoining
dressing-room to get more wood. The old-fashioned fire-place required
long logs which were too large for her to handle, and as she half knelt,
balancing the long sticks of wood on her left arm, she felt a hand rest
lightly on her left shoulder, and she heard my father's laughing voice
whisper her name, 'Jessie.'
"There was no sound beyond the quick-whispered name, no presence, only
the touch, but my mother knew as people know in dreams that my father
was there, gay and happy, and intending to startle Susie, who when my
mother was married was only a child of eight, and was always a pet
playmate of my father's. Her shrill, prolonged scream was his delight,
and he never lost an opportunity to startle her.
"Mother came back to the girl's room, but before she could speak, Susie
gave a great cry, fell in a heap upon the rug, and screamed again and
again, until mother crushed her balldress over her head to keep the
sound from the neighbors. Her cousin asked mother what she had seen, and
she explained that she had seen nothing, but had heard my father tell
her to keep still until he could scare Susie.
"Peace came to my mother instantly, and on retiring she fell into a
refreshing sleep from which she did not waken until ten the next
morning; all fear for the safety of father had vanished from her mind;
with sleep came strength, and she soon was her happy self again.
"When my father returned home, we learned that it was at the time the
party was starving that my mother had the premonition of evil having
befallen them, and the entry in his journal showed that exactly the
moment he had written it in Parowan, my mother had felt his presence,
and in the wireless message from heart to heart knew that my father was
safe and free from harm. The hour exactly tallied with the entry in his
book, allowing for the difference in longitude."
Further details would have been desirable, particularly just what was
the immediate occasion of Susie's fright, for she screamed before Mrs.
Fremont related what had befallen herself. The only escape from the
conclusion that Susie had some separate peculiar experience is to
suppose--which we may not unreasonably do--that the elder lady betrayed
her own agitation before she spoke, perhaps by dropping the sticks,
hurrying back, and looking strangely at Susie. We would have liked a
sight of the General's journal, also, and to have been permitted to copy
the entry exactly as it stands.
Nevertheless, though we leave Susie and her screams quite out of
account, we have a very pretty case remaining, however we explain it.
Mrs. Fremont's depression might be explained by the very natural fears
of a woman whose husband was engaged in a possibly dangerous expedition,
though she picked out for her fears exactly the period of the expedition
when there was an actual state of privation and danger. But why did the
fear so afflicting to her health and spirits so suddenly leave her,
while it was still winter in the mountains? And why did the hour and
moment of the cessation of these fears coincide with the hour and moment
when the explorer was occupied with thoughts of home and writing his
wish that his wife might know that he was safe?
Many a reader will be disposed to answer the question "why?" with the
facile answer "telepathy," but that word is a key which does not turn in
this lock with perfect ease. There are cases where one person thinks a
particular thing under extraordinary circumstances, and precisely that
thought, or a hallucination of precisely that nature, occurs to another
person at a distance. But in this case General Fremont thinks a wish
that his wife knew he was safe, and his wife seems to feel a hand upon
her shoulder, seems to hear his voice pronounce her name, and somehow
gets the impression that he proposes to play a trick on her sister
Susie. If exact coincidence between the thought of the supposed "sender"
and that of the supposed "recipient" is a support to the theory of
telepathy as applied to one case, then wide discrepancy between the
coincident thoughts of two persons in another case should be an argument
against the theory of telepathy as applied to that. There should be some
limit to the handicap which, by way of courtesy, the spiritistic
hypothesis allows to the telepathic.
If there are spirits, and if they have a certain access to human
thoughts, and if the limitations of space are little felt by them, then
the spiritistic theory would have an easier time than telepathy with the
facts in this case. A friendly intermediary might convey the assurance
that the Pathfinder wanted conveyed to his wife, and in doing so employ
such devices as an intelligent personal agent could think up, and were
within its grasp. The touch, the hallucination of a voice resembling
that of the absent husband, the sense of gayety, and even the very
characteristic trait of liking to startle Susie, might all be the result
of the friendly messenger's attempts to implant in Mrs. Fremont's mind a
fixed assurance that somebody was safe and happy, and that this somebody
was in very truth her husband.