Thursday, October 1, 2009

Alcotts and Brontës and psychic crime

When I first read some biographies of the Brontë and the Alcott families, I immediately noticed many connections and common patterns. Some of these features are also present in and relevant to my own family. There are large numbers of scholarly, well researched and comprehensive books and articles about these families of interest and many analyses of their literary works, but they do not cover the aspects that I am most interested in.

I always look out for possible examples of psychic crime or psychological black magic when researching the lives and works of people whose experiences and outlook on life have much in common with my own.

Louisa May Alcott was born on the same day as her father; she died a few days after he did, which could indicate some kind of psychic stranglehold. There was a lot of elevated and progressive ideology in the family, and Louisa bought the idea that the Alcotts were a breed apart. Her father opted out of supporting the family and Louisa was the sacrificial victim who was made to feel responsible for earning enough to support the lot of them. She disapproved when one of her sisters married a very ordinary man, who died a few years later - on the joint birthday. 

Much of this applies to my family, apart from the fact that the man my sister married is still alive - however they did divorce. If marrying into the elite family was not acceptable, neither was escaping. Her youngest sister travelled around Europe, then wrote to say that she had married and would not be coming back to the US. Her letters described the luxuries that she now had. She died some months later in Paris.

Perhaps something snapped when Louisa read about damask table cloths, plates like green leaves and delicious food, and she remembered the diet of bread and apples that was forced on her when she was young, in the days of ‘plain living and high thinking’. Maybe after having been made to feel that the whole family depended on her, Louisa did not like to see them do well for themselves, thus making her sacrifices unnecessary. People die anyway so perhaps it is all a coincidence, but I think that something sinister may have been at work in this family.

I have also noticed some chilling incidents in the works of Charlotte Brontë. For example, there is an interesting correlation between the amount of persecution that Jane Eyre suffered at the hands of each member of the Reed family and their eventual fates. Both daughters treated Jane quite well when she returned to Gateshead after a long absence. Eliza, who had persecuted Jane the least, got off lightly and retained her share of the family money and Georgiana got the wealthy husband that she wanted. John however had killed himself after making his mother very unhappy and tormenting her with his never-ending demands for money. Mrs Reed died not long after Jane’s return. By coincidence, unpleasant things also happened to many people who hurt certain members of my family.

There are many other examples of similar cases from both books and the real world: I am thinking of a disturbing incident in the lives of Jane Austen and her elder sister Cassandra, to whom she was very much attached. Cassandra became engaged to a military chaplain who was sent overseas and died of yellow fever somewhere in the Caribbean. His patron said that he would never have taken the young man out there if he had known that he was an engaged man. Why didn’t he ask, and why did no one tell him? The end result was that Jane Austen kept her chosen companion: Cassandra never considered marrying anyone else. Death from yellow fever was very common, but I do wonder whether something sinister was at work here too.  Energy vampires panic at the thought of losing their suppliers.

There is yet another chilling incident in Frost in May by Antonia White. Although the book is fiction, it is very autobiographical. The young subject of the story, Fernanda, is sent to a Roman Catholic convent school after her father's conversion. She does not fit in: she is separated from the few girls who also converted by her family's relatively low income; she is separated from the few girls who come from families with a similar income level by her conversion.

One of the nuns is hard on Fernanda because she is no good at sport and games. This nun is very healthy and strong: she used to play cricket with her brothers and can run like the wind. She persecutes and ridicules Fernanda, calling her ‘butter fingers’ for missing the catches. One day the nun does not appear; the girls are told that she is in the infirmary. Then they are told that she is dead.

Healthy people do wither away and die in a short period of time, but perhaps concentrated ill wishing or a psychic blast can cause illness and death when performed by a certain type of person in a desperate situation.  Both Jane Eyre and Fernanda were tormented, unable to defend themselves and pushed into a corner with no way out. They were vulnerable, and unprotected, feeling the pressure of fight or flight but unable to do either.

The belief that some people can cause bad luck, accidents, injuries, illness and even death has been around for a long time: perhaps this ‘superstition’ is based on actual experience.

Sylvia Plath’s father died when she was 8 years old. She called him a vampire and a Nazi. She hinted that she feared she had caused her father’s death by getting angry when told to play quietly because he was ill. She felt that he had a kind of psychic stranglehold on her, even after his death, which kept her under a bell jar and prevented her from living fully in the world. He died because he had serious health problems; the main point in this example is that Sylvia believed that her anger could kill. She was consciously involved with black witchcraft, and when Ted Hughes left her for another woman she became insane with anger and deliberately cursed the women, who a few years later killed both herself and her little girl.

Jacqueline Kennedy died on her father’s birthday. I have often wondered whether she was partly responsible for President Kennedy’s death: perhaps she wished to be rid of him at one point, and was later devastated when she got what she wished for. Sooner or later, the chickens will come home to roost.

Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath and Jacqueline Kennedy all died young or relatively young. Alcott, Brontë and Plath are known to have been souls in torment. All three of the latters' fathers slightly changed their last names. 

There is much more of this sort of thing to come.