In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s native town of Salem, Massachusetts, at a bustling wharf, was a brick building. There, wrote Hawthorne, at a civil post of Uncle Sam’s government, the Custom House of the port, a row of venerable persons dozed away their government sinecures. These were the Custom House officers, and Nathaniel Hawthorne confides his own temporary presence there. While at the Custom House, amongst barrels filled with musty papers, on “one idle and rainy day, it was [Hawthorne’s] fortune to make a discovery of some little interest.” There, amongst the historical debris, Hawthorne chanced to lay his hand on a small package. There was “something about” the small package which grabbed Hawthorne’s interest. Opening the package, one item therein especially drew Hawthorne’s attention: it was “a certain affair of fine red cloth” wrought with “wonderful skill of needlework.” This “rag of scarlet cloth” carried “the shape of a letter. It was the capital letter A.” Pondering the object, Hawthorne happened to place it upon his chest. “It seemed to me, – the reader may smile, but must not doubt my word, – it seemed to me, then, that I experienced a sensation not altogether physical, yet almost so, as of burning heat; and as if the letter were not of red cloth, but red-hot iron. I shuddered, and involuntarily let it fall upon the floor.” (From “The Custom House” (Introductory to “The Scarlet Letter”))
Nathaniel Hawthorne had experienced psychometry, a form of extra-sensory perception characterized by the claimed ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical contact with that object. When Hawthorne placed the scarlet letter upon his heart, some of the agony once felt by Hester Prynne was felt by the author of the superb story, The Scarlet Letter.
During the American Civil War, and especially around the time of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, there had been dark doings at the Navy Yard, located in Washington, DC. Hooded prisoners were chained aboard ironclads and slowly driven mad by sensory deprivation. An aura of extreme secrecy surrounded the supposed body of John Wilkes Booth, purported to be laid out on another ironclad at the Navy Yard. Reported the New York Times on April 28, 1865: “The greatest curiosity is manifested here to view the body of the murderer, BOOTH, which yet remains on the gunboat, in the stream off the Navy Yard. Thousands of persons visited the yard, today, in the hope of getting a glimpse at the murderer’s remains, but none not connected with the yard were allowed to enter.” When enough of such dark doings associate themselves with the location of the Navy Yard, a psychometry develops. A baneful spiritual miasma began to attach itself to the Navy Yard. Almost 150 years later, Aaron Alexis, supposed “lone nut” shooter, already mentally unstable, was finally pushed over the edge by the psychometry of the Navy Yard. (Background: Dark Doings at the Navy Yard, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of September 18, 2013.)
A highly-charged psychic energy pervaded not just the Navy Yard, but also the environs of Washington, DC. For example, the ghost of Abraham Lincoln is said to still haunt the White House. Gideon Welles, the Navy Secretary under Abraham Lincoln, kept a secret diary. This diary did not dare to be published until 1911, long after the events it describes. Ever since the later 1960 edition of same, Welles’ remarkable revelations have sadly gone out-of-print (except for Volume 3, published by forgottenbooks.org). (LATE-BREAKING: All three volumes now seem to be at last again in-print, courtesy of forgottenbooks.org.) Not just the Navy Yard, but the entire town of Washington, DC became psychically charged consequent to Civil War evil plots and conspiracies. To give some idea of the overall ambience which led to this, here are some brief extracts from Volume 2 of the Gideon Welles diary:
April 7, 1865: (Memo): “This Rebellion which has convulsed the nation for four years, threatened the Union, and caused such sacrifice of blood and treasure may be traced in a great degree to the diseased imagination of certain South Carolina gentlemen, who some thirty or forty years since studied [Sir Walter] Scott’s novels, and fancied themselves cavaliers, imbued with chivalry, a superior class, not born to labor but to command, brave beyond mankind generally, more intellectual, more generous, more hospitable, more liberal than others.”
April 13, 1865: Lincoln asks Welles for his views on General Godfrey Weitzel’s calling the Virginia legislature together. “Said [Edwin] Stanton and others were dissatisfied.” Welles also doubted allowing the Virginia legislature to convene, and thought they might be inclined to conspire again against the Union. But Lincoln “had no fear of that. They were too badly beaten, too much exhausted.” Lincoln favored having the defeated Rebs police themselves, rather than sending in an army of occupation.
April 14, 1865: At the Cabinet meeting, Edwin Stanton proposed a “reconstruction” plan for the South. “The plan or ordinance embraced two distinct heads, one for asserting the Federal authority in Virginia, the other for reëstablishing a State government.” President Lincoln “remarked that this was the great question now before us, and we must soon begin to act. Was glad Congress was not in session.”
Lincoln also told of a “strange dream” he had had the previous night: “…he seemed to be in some singular, indescribable vessel, and that he was moving with great rapidity towards an indefinite shore…”
April 15, 1865: At the White House, “all was silent and sad.” As Welles descended the stairs from the library, “Tad”, youngest child of Abe and Mary Lincoln, was looking out a window at the foot of the stairs. “Tad” turned from the window, saw Gideon Welles, and “cried aloud in his tears, ‘Oh, Mr. Welles, who killed my father?'”
April 18, 1865: Funeral arrangements were planned in detail. “From every part of the country comes lamentation. Every house, almost, has some drapery, especially the homes of the poor. Profuse exhibition is displayed on the public buildings and the dwellings of the wealthy, but the little black ribbon or strip of black cloth from the hovel of the poor negro or the impoverished white is more touching.”
April 25, 1865: Welles writes, in a footnote, that the Cabinet had been made to believe, “by the representations of Stanton, that he and Judge-Advocate-General Holt had positive evidence that Jeff Davis, [Clement] Clay, [Jacob] Thompson, and others had conspired to assassinate Mr. Lincoln, Mr. [Andrew] Johnson, and most of the Cabinet. Strange stories were told us…”