August 6, 1883
"Four months ago a little boy was born in Somerville with an unusually large head [hydrocephalus], which has grown constantly since, until at present it is all out of proportion with the rest of the body. Yesterday a Globe reporter called to see the child, and was met at the door by the mother, Mrs. E.C. Dickinson. The family live in a house on Broadway, a dwelling well known as one of the haunted houses of this vicinity.
The reporter was, however, unaware of this fact, and his experience was, consequently, rather peculiar. Mrs. Dickinson expressed perfect willingness to allow the baby to be seen, and led the way into a front chamber, where, in a large, comfortable crib, lay the most astonishing specimen of humanity ever seen by the writer.
A huge, round head, with full, even bulging forehead, attached by a slim little neck to as attractive and perfect body as any baby ever had. There was nothing whatever abnormal about him anywhere, except at the head.
"He's just as bright a baby as ever was," said the mother tenderly, "but we hardly expect him to live through the night. He has been failing seriously today, and my guide said last night that he was not long for this world."
The reporter looked up with involuntary surprise, but the mother continued without noticing it. "He has to be fed and washed and dressed right on his pillow, for his head is so heavy that we are afraid to lift him up lest it burst a blood vessel. The head measures 26 1/2 inches in circumference one way and 24 the other. You may touch him if you like."
The writer felt of the strange head, and found the skull soft and yielding to the touch, and it seemed as if the slightest pressure would break through the marrow-like bone. The little fellow was taking his supper at the time, contentedly sucking from a nursing bottle, and as the newspaper man leaned over him he looked up with intelligent expression in his clear blue eyes, and smiled and gurgled as happily as if he had the head of an ordinary baby.
"This is the baby's grandmother," said Mrs. Dickinson, turning to an old lady who had just entered the room, "and the spirits say that he knows more than she does, [and] she is 75 years old."
The reporter looked his question [in facial expression] at this statement, not knowing one word to say, but the grandmother said—"Oh, he is in spirits' care, and is in constant communication with them. Only today he was visited by spirits of departed people."
"You believe, then, that he is really conscious of spirit presence?"
"I know it. It was George Washington who came today to talk to us, and oh! he did talk beautifully, telling us to keep cheerful, and not get discouraged. 'Do not fear,' he said, 'I am George Washington.'"
The perfect solemnity, candor and sincerity with which these surprising statements were made, precluded any idea of aught but the most respectful attention.
"Does the spirit of Washington often communicate with you?"
"No, I did not remember that he ever came before, but we have many visitors from the other world who have been famous, and who have been dead to this world for thousands of years. Oh, they come during a trance," and Mrs. Dickinson explained that she was accustomed to enter the trance state, and during that time the spirits came and spoke. Turning again to baby, she said:
"I had another little boy, a perfect boy, concerning whom my guide said that he would die in three months, and he did to a day. That was last September. She says she is coming for this one soon, and though he looks well now, I hardly expect to keep him more than a few days at the most."
"See," said the grandmother, "how happy he is when we are talking about these things. He understands that it is of spirit friends, and I presume he is surrounded by them now, but that our eyes cannot discern them."
"When I first came here," continued Mrs. Dickinson, "I was told that I could not live here. People said it was a Haunted House, but I said I guessed I could stand it. One of the first nights I stayed here I awoke, and I saw sitting before the stove, just where you are now, a very old man, and near him stood a young woman and a child. There were three figures, clear, distinct and perfectly lifelike. I rose at once, and, going to them, I asked them who they were and what they wanted.
The old man said he was too feeble to talk much and that he used to live here; and then I said, 'Won't you please go away now, for I am tired and want to sleep?' and they vanished instantly. For some weeks afterward we used to be aroused by strange noises, rappings and the like, and they manifested their presence several times until they were identified by an old lady who was living in Somerville. She said she used to know the people when they were alive, that the old man used to sell flowers, and there was some story about a horrible murder connected with them. After they had been thus recognized they never came again."
"The house, then, is no longer disturbed?"
"No; you know this old lady did not actually see the spirits, but my guide described them while I was in trance, and thus they were identified."
Referring once more to the baby, the reporter asked if they knew its weight, to which Mrs. Dickinson replied:
"No, we don't dare to weigh him. You see we have to be very careful of him," and she proceeded to turn him into a more comfortable position. The great head lay perfectly helpless, regardless of the position of the body, and it was evident the little neck was wholly inadequate to support it.
After some further talk about the baby's spirit guardians, among whom is a personage who lived 4000 years ago, and now calls himself Dr. Boston during his brief visits to this world, the reporter left, fearing to disturb the unfortunate little sufferer, for he had begun to exhibit signs of distress in perfectly natural cries, such as one hears every day from healthy children.
Every one will agree with the mother's wish that suffering may be light, and if destined to the early death she expects for him, that it may come peacefully and without pain."