Composing From the Grave

Most ghosts are hopelessly vague, so much so that one wonders if you can accomplish anything at all in the afterlife.


Composing From the Grave

Woman writing

They appear and disappear transiently, leave us muffled and hard to understand EVPs, and for the life of them can't do anything on demand or repeatable to prove their existence beyond all shadow of a doubt. Of course, there are exceptions.

Two resounding examples come in the form of mediums who have made contact with dead novelists and composers. This in itself isn't out of the ordinary, famous people are allegedly channeled all the time. But this duet of cases stands above the crowd in that actual artistic work resulted from the contact in such a way that the medium should not have been capable of faking.

The first is the famous Mrs. Rosemary Brown who died in 2001. Early in life she had been visited by the ghost of Franz Liszt. At the time she had no idea who this white haired man in the flowing black cassock was until she saw a picture of him years later. At the age of seven he told her that he would make her a famous musician one day, before disappearing for decades. He showed back up unexpectedly in 1964, and literally began releasing new compositions through her. He was soon joined by the spirits of Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Chopin and others. Some of them dictated notes directly to her, others controlled her hands on the piano and she wrote the notes down. Often, she couldn't even play the compositions as they were beyond her skills as a musician, but as she got older her piano playing markedly improved. She claimed this was because Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Liszt had been tutoring her on the piano!

The consensus from the music world was, mostly, that the compositions bore a strong resemblance to the works of the composers. Some even stated that the compositions couldn't be faked without years of training, which she clearly never had. Some of the pieces were simple, but others were apparently very complex. In any case, Mrs. Brown was either a very talented composer herself, or she really was in contact with the spirits of a host of deceased composers.

The other outstanding example is that of Mrs. J. H. Curran of St. Louis, Missouri who in 1913 made contact through a Ouija board with a spirit calling herself Patience Worth. Claiming to have lived in 17th century America and killed by indians, the spirit of Patiences Worth dictated to Mrs. Curran a number of novels from a variety of different historical periods in multiple different literary styles. From a period novel written in medieval English, which Mrs. Curran had no way of studying, to her novel "Hope Trueblood" set in the 19th century which received critical acclaim even from reviewers that had no idea that the novel had been dictated by a spirit.

The Patience Worth spirit is strange in that it seemed capable of writing in many different styles, and in historical periods that Worth did not live. This might be suggestive that this was not a single spirit, but many functioning under some type of umbrella personality that Mrs. Curran had befriended. Typical Ouija board, nothing is ever simple. Never the less, it seems highly unlikely that a 17th century spirit, and a 20th century housewife would have had the knowledge and ability to write convincingly in these different styles set in such wildly different historical periods.

So can the creative force conquer death? It would seem so, as both of these women would have done better to have composed or written in their own name, rather than as hoaxers writing in the name of someone else. But they probably weren't hoaxers, and by some strange property of the universe they were able to make a connection to long dead artists, and give them a way to defeat the grave and communicate their work to the living.

And we all thought it was supposed to be an eternal period of rest...