Article 4 – On Science and Spectres

The origins of the great universities of the world, the bastion of intellect and pillar of progress, can be traced back to ancient times, thousands of years into the forgotten past. In the times of pagan practices and superstition en mass, the few learned scholars of ancient times could be convinced, or often bribed, into teaching young and malleable minds of the great wisdoms of their times. These lessons of basic algebra, linguistics and history held very nearly out the front door of the wise men’s homes started as informal, and occasional, teachings or musings. And while King’s waged wars with soldiers only numbering in the dozen of thousands, and constructing their fortresses of piled mud and wooden beam, these predecessors of academia were laying the foundations of education as we understand it.

In time, notoriety would spread from these learned few, and the occasional lesson would become regular courses, elevating the minds of the young and old who partook. As time would progress, the need for established locales to hold such lessons would give rise to the school house, though the proper historical terminology eludes me at present. Ages would come and go, empires rise and fall, but the school would continue to flourish. Spiritual teachings would give way to scientific progress; the spooks and the fairies of yore would lead the peoples to the enlightened understanding of naturally occurring phenomena and physics. And as the world of education became a pillar of civilization, so would the prestige of those who would dedicate their lives to learning and advancement.

And like so many other great institutions of learning, the foundations of the University of Hendricksburg is wreathed in history, tradition and pride. I ought not count the number of years that this magnificent institution has stood, lest I find myself completely dwarfed by the sheer permanence of this structure. The core of the university is many hundreds of years old already, continually improved and added upon as architecture and cultural preservation techniques develop, oftentimes within the confines of these very walls.

My office, that drab little cove I oft reside within, is upon the very fringes of the oldest parts of the building. Right nearly cut in twain, as it were, between the modern and medieval worlds; where ancient stone meets modern oak in construction. In my vast understanding of the southern wing’s antiquity, this nook has withstood the ages as a permanent office of learning. Far from a converted classroom, this office has always served its original purpose.

Within the confines of the wood paneled walls and beneath the low whistle of the gas lamps that dangled from the high, brass-paneled ceiling I conducted much research in my years. When I had first settled into my position as a teaching aide for the university, I had exceedingly little to my name: a bookcase of sad condition, a filing cabinet that had been discarded by a now deceased professor, a modest desk to write reports and report marks upon, and the same wicker chair that I still begrudgingly use to this day.

The additions to this room have been many over the years: an odd assortment of mish-mashed cabinets and book shelves with which I could store an ever increasing continent of old papers and theses, a few framed maps of an admirable age from early scrawlings of our earliest continental maps or ancient documents that were, while not insignificant, hardly otherwise. A student who I had largely dragged through his education gifted me with a fine ship in a bottle, a collectable piece that had since been buried behind more stacked papers and spent ink cartridges. There were also the leering eyes of an oil-painted Lord Woolney, a sponsor of the university, glaring just above a pile of tied bundles of fresh paper.

To this day, however, my office has a scant five square feet of available floor space to maneuver within. Many a time a student or, more embarrassingly, a professor has remarked upon the unsightly nature of my keepings. It is only now that I finally find an acceptable excuse for keeping every report ever handed in to me for marking.

Having feigned a wicked cough to Professor Attenborough, I had engrossed myself in the writings of the late Ashley McGuffin. It took a considerable effort to locate where precisely his various treaties and theorems had been stored, loosely speaking, and upon the collection of every scrap of paper of his I possessed, I began reading and note taking in earnest.

Much of it was of little consequence or value to my interests. However, there were some fascinating and potentially useful concepts he had began to outline in his later pieces. I had compiled one such draft as follows; though I might note here that I have made some minor corrections to his otherwise abhorrent spelling and improper grammar on occasion. I am sure he doesn’t mind.

Within certain academic fields, there is the unshakable belief that the supernatural and otherworldly has all but been expelled with the advent of scientific reason and methods. And indeed, many unusual phenomenon have been completely destroyed as a result. For proof, one need only look at the longstanding history of what folklore today refers to as “Spectres”. These “spectres”, or fragment memories, are the residual feelings and impressions left behind by those who felt particularly strongly about certain environs or possessions.

To this day, very nearly everyone who has encountered such a belief that such occurrences are possible are either explained away using logic and reason, or a stern reminder of the lunatics who find refuge within Blecheim Asylum. However, there are many rituals or practices around the world that involve communicating with these “Spectres” to varying degrees of success. These practices, allegedly, only occur in some of the more primitive parts of the known world that see very little, to no, contact with our developed and rapidly industrialized nations.

These rituals are of significant value to our academic community; imagine for but a moment that we eliminate the concept that no such thing as the supernatural exists. Could it not be entirely possible that, using unique chemical compounds and meditative methods that the human mind could serve as a receptor to such energies that are, as of current, completely unreceptive to our modern machines and devices?

Significant studies performed by a Doctor Sidney S. Maurstein have revealed fascinating electromagnetic frequencies that are present in not only pig brains, but brains of the recently deceased. Our most advanced probing and surgical techniques have failed to find an applicable function of these frequencies for standard human bodily procedures, and it begs the question as to what these unusual readings serve. Were it not for the ethical dilemmas involved, one would find it entirely feasible that those same lunatics who claim to be possessed by devils may very well have found method to tap into these abnormal signals to detect what cannot be perceived by the basic sensory functions.

Upon first receiving this thesis, I had taken little note of it. Most of the suggested material was, at best, preposterous. Remarkably, McGuffin had overlooked in his study the fact that, only a few months prior to his writing of this paper, that Doctor Maurstein had been interred into a sanitarium for treatment of opium addiction. This addiction is largely believed to be the reason for Doctor Maursein’s work and has, as a result, had all official papers discredited.

Now, however, I was beginning to wonder if there was some value to these propositions that McGuffin had suggested. If we were to take his hypothesis at merit, perhaps the eerie sensation I had encountered could be considered a “Spectre”. As my understandings into the history of Dentonn’s Abbey is concerned, the final abbot was found brutally murdered in a closet late upon a blood moon. As a result, the building was boarded up and ne’er used again. That could explain the uncanny hostility I sensed.

But, that is only one potential explanation to what had transpired. This, of course, ignores everything science has striven to accomplish over the ages: to demystify the world and to put control of nature into the hands of man. The supernatural: what a lark. Stories of will-o-the-wisps have been sufficiently debunked by the discovery of gas pockets in bogs or fireflies as the environment warrants. The crying of ghosts in the night disproved by rattling chains or a particularly insistent gale. And need I even explain the absurdity of monsters in closets?

No; there was a perfectly sound, logical and, I cannot stress this point enough, sane explanation as to the strange sensation of dread I felt in Dentonn’s Abbey.

However, McGuffin had been entirely convinced of otherwise. Perhaps he had been working on something to prove his theory in full. I was not familiar with his partner, whose only name I knew as Gears; given the location and aroma of the office that McGuffin had been discovered in, I think it would be a not entirely unreasonable to assume that the poor dead man had been the co-owner of a machine shop.

There was postulation of machines being unable to detect such spectral presences; and if I recall correctly, McGuffin had taken a keen interest in physics late into his academic career. Physics are, however, not part of the department I typically work alongside, so my understanding of that field is rudimentary at best, underwhelming at worst.

With all this newfound information, I find myself set further back than ever. Not only does this research yield to me no clues as to why McGuffin wished me to Dentonn’s Abbey, but it seems the fates themselves transpire against me. As Gertrude and I had discussed we were to meet late into this previous afternoon to conduct her ritual to cleanse the abbey.

As it goes: two steps forward, one mile back.

It seemed that, late into the night prior, the building had taken to fire. Very little of that strange beast remained, save for the charred bones of its supports and a twisted weather vane. A macabre grave marker for an even more macabre place. I had arrived at very nearly the same time as Gertrude, and she seemed very nearly at violent convulsions at the sight. Her reasons for this were beyond me, but I was in no position to care.

I had been preparing, as well, for my return to this place. And in an interest to dispel my own doubts and, pardon the pun, but ghosts: I had a few devices and small experiments of mine own to perform. A constable was nearby and informed us that the building was unsafe to approach: the fire had weakened the structural integrity of the grounds surrounding it, and crews were in the cisterns below to ensure no major structural damage had occurred. As such, we were not permitted to investigate ourselves.

In its own way, this may be a blessing in disguise. With the building sufficiently gone, mayhaps I could move on from this strange case that had been bestowed so anonymously upon me. Beware Dentonn’s Abbey, Mister Whyte? What was there to be wary of? The building was in ruins, and I had every reason to believe that, if there was some form of ghost for me to “expel”, it’d have been evicted quite conveniently on its own.

And still, there is a nagging sensation in the back of my mind. Everything about this little mystery I’ve found myself in bothers me. A bizarre series of coincidences strung together with improbability and a dashing of impossibility? I refused to believe it.

What a strange turn of events. Not too long ago I criticized Miss Miller for fancying herself a detective. What in Gods’ name was I turning into myself?

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