The Quotable Wild Talents

  • "A squad of poltergeist girls ... discussing their usual not very profound subjects. The alarm - the enemy is advancing. Command to the poltergeist girls to concentrate - and under their chairs they stick their wads of gum. A regiments bursts into flames, and the soldiers are torches. Horses snort smoke from the combustion of their entrails. Reinforcements are smashed under cliffs that are teleported from the Rocky Mountains. The snatch of Niagra Falls - it pours upon the battlefield. The little poltergeist girls reach for their wads of chewing gum."


  •  "There was in these questions an appearance of childishness that attracted my respectful attention."


  • "Belief in God - in Nothing - in Einstein - a matter of fashion ... Come unto me and maybe I'll make you stylish ... I conceive of nothing, in religion, science, or philosophy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for a while."


  • "I am a collector of notes upon subjects that have diversity - such as deviations from concentricity in the lunar crater Copernicus, and a sudden appearance of purple Englishmen - stationary meteor radiants, and a reported growth of hair on the bald head of a mummy - and "Did the girl swallow the octopus?" But my liveliest interest is not so much in things, as in relations of things. I have spent much time thinking about the alleged pseudo-relations that are called coincidences. What if some of them should not be coincidence?"


  • "Is life worth living? I have many times asked that question, usually deciding negatively, because I am likely to ask when I am convinced that it isn't."


  • "I cannot say that truth is stranger than fiction, because I have never had acquaintance with either." 


  • "Before I looked into the case of Ambrose Small, I was attracted to it by another seeming coincidence. That there could be any meaning in it seemed so preposterous that, as influenced by much experience, I gave it serious thought. About six years before the disappearance of Ambrose Small, Ambrose Bierce had disappeared. Newspapers all over the world had made much of the mystery of Ambrose Bierce. But what could the disappearance of one Ambrose, in Texas, have to do with the disappearance of another Ambrose in Canada? Was somebody collecting Ambroses? There was in these questions an appearance of childishness that attracted my respectful attention."


  • "I have a story of a horse that appeared in what would, to any ordinary horse, be a closed room. It makes one nervous, maybe. One glances around, and would at least not be incredulous, seeing almost any damned thing, sitting in a chair, staring at one."


  • "I now have a theory that of themselves, men never did evolve from lower animals; but that, in early and plastic times, a human being from somewhere else appeared on this earth, and that many kinds of animals took him for a model, and rudely and grotesquely imitated his appearance, so that, today, though the gorillas of the Congo, and of Chicago, are only caricatures, some of the rest of us are somewhat passable imitations of human beings."


  • "I now have a theory that our existence, as a whole, is an organism that is very old."


  • "But my liveliest interest is not so much in things, as in the relation of things. I have spent much time thinking about the alleged pseudo-relations that are called coincidences. What if some of them should not be coincidence?"


  • "In comments upon my writings, my madness has been overemphasised." 


  • "In days of yore, when I was an especially bad young one, punishment was having to go to the store, Saturdays, and work. I had to scrape off labels of other dealers' canned goods, and paste on my parents' label. Theoretically, I was so forced to labor to teach me the errors of deceitful ways. A good many brats are brought up, in the straight and narrow, somewhat deviously. One time I had pyramids of canned goods, containing a variety of fruits and vegetables. But I had used all except peach labels. I pasted the peach label on peach cans, and then came to apricots. Well, aren't apricots peaches? And there are plums that are virtually apricots. I went on, either mischievously, or scientifically, pasting the peach labels on cans of plums, cherries, string beans, succotash. I can't quite define my motive, because to this day it has not been decided whether I am a humorist or a scientist. I think that it was mischief, but, as we go along, there will come a more respectful recognition that also it was a scientific procedure."


  • "The interpretations will be mine, but the data will be for anybody to form his own opinions upon." 


  • "Not a bottle of catsup can fall from a tenement-house fire-escape in Harlem, without being noted - not only by the indignant people downstairs, but - even though infinitesimally - universally - maybe - Affecting the price of pyjamas, in Jersey City: the temper of somebody's mother-in-law, in Greenland; the demand, in China, for rhinoceros horns for the cure of rheumatism ... Because all things are inter-related - continuous - of an underlying oneness."


  • "If "mass psychology" applies definitely to one occurrence, it must, even though almost imperceptibly, apply to all occurrences. Phenomena of a man alone on a desert island can be explained in terms of "mass psychology" -- inasmuch as the mind of no ma n is a unit, but is a community of mental states that influence one another."


  • "Sometimes I am a collector of data, and only a collector, and am likely to be gross and miserly, piling up notes, pleased with merely numerically adding to my stores. Other times I have joys, when unexpectedly coming upon an outrageous story that may not be altogether a lie, or upon a macabre little thing that may make some reviewer of my more or less good works mad. But always there is present a feeling of unexplained relations of events that I note, and it is this far-away, haunting, or often taunting, awareness, or suspicion, that keeps me piling on."


  • "I now have a theory that our existence, as a whole, is an organism that is very old - a globular thing within a starry shell, afloat in a super-existence in which there may be countless other organisms - and that we, as cells in its composition, partake of, and are ruled by, its permeating senility. The theologians have recognised that the ideal is the imitation of God. If we be a part of such an organic thing, this thing is God to us, as I am God to the cells that compose me. When I see myself, and cats, and dogs losing irregularities of conduct and approaching the irreproachable, with advancing age, I see that what is ennobling us is senility. I conclude that the virtues, the austerities, the proprieties are ideal in our existence, because they are imitations of the state of a whole existence, which is very old, good, and beyond reproach. The ideal state is meekness, or humility, or the semi-invalid state of the old. Year after year I am becoming nobler and nobler. If I can live to be decrepit enough, I shall be a saint."


  • "Most likely my last utterance will be a platitude, if I've been dying long enough. If not, I shall probably laugh."


  • "I have taken the stand that nobody can be always wrong, but it does seem to me that I have approximated so highly that I am nothing short of a negative genius."


  • "Science has done its upmost to prevent whatever Science has done."


  • "When I come upon unconventional repeating, in time and places far apart, I feel - even though I have no absolute standards to judge by - that I am outside the field of the ordinary liar."

Wild Talents



     YOU KNOW, I can only surmise about this - but John Henry Sanders, of 75 Colville Street, Derby, England, was the proprietor of a fish store, and I think that it was a small business. His wife helped. When I read of helpful wives, I take it that that means that husbands haven't large businesses. If Mrs. Sanders went about, shedding scales in her intercourses, I deduce that theirs wasn't much of a fish business.

     Upon the evening of March 4th, 1905, in the Sanders' home, in the bedroom of their housemaid, there was a fire. Nobody was at home, and the firemen had to break in. There was no fireplace in the bedroom. Not a trace of anything by which to explain was found, and the firemen reported: "Origin unknown." They returned to their station, and were immediately called back to this house. There was another fire. It was in another bedroom. Again - "Origin unknown."

     The Sanders', in their fish store, were notified, and they hastened home. Money was missed. Many things were missed. The housemaid, Emma Piggott, was suspected. In her parents' home was found a box, from which the Sanders' took, and identified as theirs, 5, and a loot of such things as a carving set, sugar tongs, table cloths, several dozen handkerchiefs, salt spoons, bottles of scent, curtain hooks, a hair brush, Turkish towels, gloves, a sponge, two watches, a puff box.

     The girl was arrested, and in the Derby Borough Police Court, she was charged with arson and larceny. She admitted the thefts, but asserted her innocences of the fires. There was clearly such an appearance of relation between the thefts and the fires, which, if they had burned down the house, would have covered the thefts, that both charges were pressed.



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