Authors: Claire Mulligan
Copyright © 2013 Claire Mulligan
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication, reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system without the prior written consent of the publisher—or in the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, license from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency—is an infringement of the copyright law.
Doubleday Canada and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House of Canada Limited
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Mulligan, Claire, 1964-
The dark / Claire Mulligan.
PS8626.U443D37 2013 C813′.6 C2012-906561-7
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover Terri Nimmo
Cover images: Melanie Ezra/Millennium Images, UK; Moggara12/Dreamstime.com
Published in Canada by Doubleday Canada,
a division of Random House of Canada Limited
For Gibson, Marlow and Eleanor
“On Monday of this week the famous Fox house at Hydesville again furnished the people something to talk about. It will be remembered that in 1848 modern Spiritualism originated in this house while it was the home of the Fox sisters. At that time it was claimed by the Fox family that the spirit of a peddler who had been murdered and whose remains had been buried in the house wished to communicate to the world through the young Fox sisters, Maggie and Katie Fox. Persistent efforts to find any human bones failed, however, and that fact led many to discredit the demonstrations. Now, after a lapse of more than half a century, the old house has given up its dead.”
ARCADIAN WEEKLY GAZETTE
“What is known is that by the winter of’92-’93 Maggie had become critically ill and lay bedridden in a Ninth Street Tenement house. There, a Mrs. Mellon, a non-spiritualist physician of the Medico Legal Society of New York, attended Maggie for several hours a day. ‘Mrs. Fox Kane was unable to move a hand or foot,’ the physician recalled. ‘And yet the knocks were heard now through the wall, now through the ceiling, and again through the floor.’ ”
Nancy Rubin Stuart
THE RELUCTANT SPIRITUALIST
THE LIFE OF MAGGIE FOX
Wednesday, November 23, 1904
HUMAN BONES DISCOVERED
Children Find Body and Tin Peddler’s Box In Collapsed Cellar Wall of Fox “Spook” House at Hydesville. Find Corroborates an Old Story. Was a Peddler Murdered?
Testimony of Mrs. Alvah June Mellon of the Medico Society of New York, December 1904
he bones have been found? Found at long last? I am not amazed. My patient divined they would be, and by children yet, bored and full of jack-mischief and playing where they oughtn’t. “Bored children are worse than hobgoblins” was what she said, and as if she knew this better than anyone.
Bored those children may have been, but also brave to enter that blighted little Hydesville house, so famed for its hauntings, so long abandoned by all. Braver yet to continue on down down into the
dark of the cellar keep (or foolish, the line is needle-thin). As like those children wished they had turned back, and then it was too late.
Now, my statement of eleven years ago told only of the astonishing phenomenon that occurred just before my patient’s death, of the knocks and patterings, that is, and how they sounded through the walls and ceilings and floor, though my patient, by that time, could move neither hand nor foot.
The brevity of this original statement was unavoidable. I was duty-bound to the Society at the time, as well as to a promise I had made my patient. And, too, I had my own griefs to manage. But now the story of the Fox family can fulfill its course. The bones of the “peddler” have been found, after all, and I am beyond the thick of things. I am, to be frank, an aged step from my own long home, by which I mean it is high time my gratitude were made manifest, for without doubt my patient, though bedridden and deathly-ill, saved my mortal life and my immortal soul, perhaps, to boot.
To begin: On the first day of February’93 I was sent to one of New York’s 9th Street tenements from which reports had come of an indigent who, though set on dying, had no one to care for her, nor hear her last words, nor ready her for the last envisioning.
I arrived at the tenement in the fading light of later afternoon and trudged up a good many storeys until so high that even a brass band or a howling mob would become a muddled discord, and I found, at last, the garret. I stood in the vestibule, an Edison bulb crackling over my head, and from that vantage I saw a small woman in a small bed. She wore spectacles and a bedjacket of bishop’s blue but no head cap, as if she thought herself impervious to malignant draughts. Her grey-palled hair was neatly braided in two, alike a child’s; and her countenance, though drawn and pale, had a pleasing cast. You were once a very pretty creature, I thought then. I should add that she was reading, intently reading by candlelight.
“A reader! So that is what you are.”
She looked up with considerable surprise, then regained what I soon learned was her considerable composure. “I
a reader, but not a dear one, I assure you,” she said, and shut her book and set it hastily aside.
“I was only attempting a little jest,” I said. “A little jest often breaks the ice with my indigents.”
“And how many have fallen through and perished?” She gave a small and knowing smile, cornered with mischief (I would come to know that smile well).
I did not trouble with a retort, nor could I think of one. Instead I put on my professional airs and hefted my satchel and entered the garret to begin my duty. Now this garret was of the usual garret size and bleakness (though it did have three nicely linked windows) and within it raged the usual garret battle between the chugging heat of the basement furnace and the sweeping draughts of the outside world. For furnishings there was only a slat-back chair and a night table and that small bed, and in the scant light these appeared smudged and leaden, as if rendered with a penny pencil. There was, yes, a bible box on the nightstand, but no wardrobes, nor chests, by which I mean no hiding place for even the smallest mechanical to account for the otherworldly sounds that attended her final hour, and of which I will tell in good time.
“Ah, a whom-ever,” she said as I approached.
“A whom-ever. Someone whom I don’t wish to know. Or else someone whose name escapes me. But I suppose
must have a name or two.”
Her manner was flat-out rude, and so I considered a nonce before giving my usual explanation: “I am Mrs. Alvah June Mellon. From the Medico Society. We care for the abandoned, the aged and the dying. And you, I must say, fit all three categories nicely.” I took out my notebook and stylus. “To begin, I should need your name.”