“When I was a high school student, some schoolmates of mine taught me a sort of game. We drew three circles, all were the same size as a saucer, in the center of a large sheet of paper. In the middle circle, we put a saucer. In the right circle we wrote ‘Yes’ and in the left circle we wrote ‘No.’ Along the borders of the sheet, we wrote the letters of the alphabet from A to Z, spacing them out about five centimeters from each other. After that, we sat around the table and put our forefinger, it didn’t matter if it was the right one or the left one, on the saucer.
Then, we concentrated on the spirit of Tom, Dick, or Harry and said silently to ourselves ‘Spirit of Tom, Dick, or Harry, if you are here, move to the Yes.’ After a little bit of concentration, sometimes the saucer moved from the middle circle to the circle where ‘Yes’ was written. At that time, I suspected that my schoolmates moved the saucer with their fingers to get me scared. We continued to do the experiment for some months.
Sometimes the saucer moved, sometimes it stayed stuck in the middle circle despite our concentration. However, it never moved toward the letters written along the borders of the sheet.
“A few years later, when I entered the university, I introduced the game to some friends of mine. One night, we four students were in the room of a friend from Apulia, whose name I don’t remember, yet I remember his surname, Lastrina. There was also a Corsican called Paul and a student named Marco from Venice. We were all different from one another, both physically and in character.
“Lastrina was lean and constantly moving, as if electric shocks through his body prevented him from standing still. He was an engineering student, extremely shy and educated. In his room, there was a bookcase with hundreds of books. He was possessive about them and seldom allowed his friends to enter his room.
“Paul, like many French, had a snub nose and fair complexion. He was quite stout and tall. His big, black eyes were always overflowing with love. He was incapable of hurting even a fly.
I could never make out what sort of mystery led him to study medicine in Italy, since there were many excellent universities in France. I felt that he wanted to flee his country.
“Marco was a physics student. A little bit shorter than me, with black eyes and hair. Like most Venetians, he loved music. Thanks to him, I started listening to classical music. Whenever he spoke, his marked Venetian accent sounded like a melody. I loved Venetian accents! He was a hilarious fellow. Whenever he told jokes, we screamed with laughter.
“As for me, I was a law student. At that time, I was a bit fat despite an athletic frame. I practiced all kinds of sports, from tennis to soccer, from horse riding to bodybuilding and weightlifting.
“That night, we played the game as usual, but unexpectedly, the saucer started moving easily and quickly through the letters to answer our questions. We raised Ugo Foscolo’s spirit, a famous Italian poet. All of a sudden, Lastrina removed his forefinger from the saucer and stood up. ‘I want to see if it is the spirit that moves the saucer or you three are making a fool of me!’ he said, with an angry and strident voice like that of a scared crow. Then, still standing, he addressed the spirit. ‘Tell me, O Ugo Foscolo’s spirit, what are the initials of your mother’s name and surname!’ Only three of us kept our forefingers on the saucer, which quickly moved towards the letter ‘D’ and then stopped on the letter ‘S.’ My friend from Apulia turned pale and panted. ‘You all knew that!’ he shouted. ‘What?’ we all asked. ‘Ugo Foscolo’s mother was Greek and her name was Diamantina Spathis!’ ‘I didn’t know that. I think none of us knew that name. But now I am the one who wants to ask something to the spirit,’ I said.
“I took off my finger from the saucer and stood up. ‘What are the initials of the name and surname of my maternal grandfather, O spirit?’ Obviously, none of my friends could know the right answer. They lived far from Sicily and had never met me before I came to study at the university. I want to stress that I was out of the chain, standing far from the saucer. Nevertheless, the saucer, without hesitating, went towards the letter ‘F’ and stopped on it. Then, it moved toward the letter ‘R’ and finally stopped on it. Incredible! My grandfather was called Federico Ruvolo! I couldn’t believe it. For the first time in my life, I was observing a paranormal, or rather an immaterial phenomenon with my own eyes. I thought that the game with the saucer was just a game, but it was not like that. The thing was getting serious, too serious. ‘How is it possible?’ I exclaimed, staring into space.
“My Apulian friend was too upset. Since we raised the spirit in his room, he didn’t want to go to bed and asked for an exorcism to be carried out. About half an hour later, he calmed down. We all went back to each one’s room. I, too, was very upset and shaken. All night I ruminated on what had happened. Maybe there was no spirit, no wandering soul! Perhaps, by keeping our concentration on the saucer to get it moved, we triggered a sort of nonverbal communication with one another. In that way, each one could read the others’ minds, I thought.
“The following night we met again, but this time I told my friends, ‘We have to repeat the experiment in a different way. We must not raise any spirit, but only concentrate upon the saucer in order to make it move. That is, through our force of concentration, we will order the saucer to go to the ‘Yes.’ That night, even without evoking a spirit, the saucer moved a little bit. But it couldn’t go toward the letters of the alphabet disposed along the borders of the sheet, nor did it answer any question. Anyway, I was very shaken by these experiments and asked one of the priests in the university to tell me something about evocation. ‘Why does the Catholic Church condemn the raising of spirits?’ ‘It doesn’t want the dead persons’ souls to be disturbed. Moreover, it is not possible to rule out that Satan disguises himself as the raised spirit,’ answered the priest.
“His answer upset me so much that from then on I didn’t play that kind of game anymore. Paul, my Corsican friend, kept conjuring spirits. I was told that he continually asked the raised spirit, ‘Tell me when I shall die! I want you to tell me when I shall die!’ The raised spirit answered, ‘Soon! You will die before long definitely!’
“That very summer, my dear friend Paul was murdered, along with his brother, while they were spending their holidays in Corsica. In the autumn, Paul’s parents came to the university to meet their son’s friends. During lunch, I sat at their table in the refectory. I didn’t feel like asking them about the cause of the double murder. I just asked, ‘Did you have only two children?’ ‘Yes, just two!’ Paul’s father answered…”
This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind