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Weird Tales

MARCH, 1941

Adventure of a Professional Corpse
The Affair of the Shuteye Medium

By H. BEDFORD-JONES

He certainly took a dive when he invaded the spirit world!

IN RECOUNTING the singular affair of the shuteye medium, and my final appearance as a professional corpse, I desire to make it clear that I have no belief in ghosts or in the occult powers of any professional spirit guide. This understood, on with the tale!

Doctor Roesch and I dropped into a thriving western city, got settled comfortably in a small hotel, and ran our usual ad in the local papers:

Personal: It is possible to simulate death, as I can demonstrate to interested parties. Endorsement of medical profession, absolute discretion. All work confidential but must be legal and subject to closest investigation. News Box B543.

Our determination to stick to legal, ethical work was real. We had run close to the edge in the case of the miraculous healer's daughter, and wanted no more of it.

Roesch had developed many improvements in our technique. My peculiar physical attributes, having my heart on the right side in combination with a barrel chest and a very slow pulse, were not enough to trick any careful examiner into thinking me dead; but by a judicious combination of drugs that put me to sleep, Roesch was able to induce all the symptoms of death. The one thing he could not get around was the mirror test for breathing.

However, he could manage this by being in charge of the act himself, as he must be. I would trust no one else to administer the injection that brought me out of the trance.

Our advertisement brought the usual run of answers from curiosity seekers and crooks, which I discarded. Then came one of a different sort. It read:

Gentlemen:

I believe you can fit into my plans, which are entirely legal. In fact, they are philanthropic. You can assist me in saving unfortunate people from the trickery of a scoundrel. If you can convince me that you can do as you boast, and are honest, suppose we get together.

Yours truly,   
John McWhirt.

I tossed this letter over to Roesch. "Sounds interesting, Bronson," he said when he had read it. "But when a Scotchman claims to be a philanthropist, you want to keep your eye peeled!"

"Look him up," I said, "and get him here this afternoon if he's on the level. Tell him our price first."

Our price was high, naturally; I was not risking my life in any piker's game. Roesch disappeared, and did not return until lunch time. When we settled down over our meal, he disgorged his information.

"McWhirt's coming around to look us over, Bronson. Canny is the word for him, too; but he's straight as a string, financially good, and not a local man. He's about fifty and was a manufacturer of chemical goods in Chicago. Now he's retired."

All this whetted my curiosity, for our prospect had done little talking. When McWhirt was brought up to our hotel room an hour later, he was still slow to talk. He was a brisk, red-haired, hard-eyed man, cautious but to my notion extremely honest.

"Gentlemen, prove to me that you can do as you say," he told us. "Then I'll put my cards on the table; not before."

I had no hesitation in trusting him. I gave him ocular evidence of my peculiar physique, then went on to tell exactly how I played the part of a corpse. He shot in shrewd questions; he knew all about drugs.

"Sounds good," he said. "Hm! A bit of atropine, to dry up all secretions and stop saliva or sweating. Yes, antipyrin will cause coldness of skin and finger-tips, and blue lips—yes, yes. But breathing does not stop."

I told him how Roesch managed the mirror test himself, and showed how, by practice, I was able to breathe "via diaphragm" without moving the upper chest, forcing the lungs down instead of up and sideways. He nodded.

"I see. I believe you're honest enough; so here are my cards. Do you gentlemen know what a shuteye medium is?"

We shook our heads, and he went on.

"It's slang for a fake spirit worker who, in one way or another, comes to believe in his own powers. When this belief seizes such a person, he is overcome by remorse for his own rascality. In nearly every instance, he becomes a suicide. Now, here's the advertisement of a local spirit-worker. Look it over."

Unfolding a copy of a local newspaper, he pointed to the grandiloquent advertisement of one Professor St. Edward. The professor ran the usual religious racket, it seemed, thus avoiding all licenses or fees and other legal impedimenta; he was in direct contact with the spirit world, not to mention the Almighty.

"I'll have nothing to do with any such racket," I said. "He's a friend of yours?"

"We have never met, Mr. Bronson," said McWhirt frigidly. "He does not know me; but I know him. For five years I've been on the trail of this crook; and now I've got him."

His cold, implacable manner was impressive. He went on to explain.

It seemed that McWhirt and his wife, years ago, had lost an only child. Mrs. McWhirt had fallen under St. Edward's mystic spell, endeavoring to communicate with her lost child as so many grief-stricken parents do. St. Edward had kidded her along and taken her money in chunks. Then, one day, she learned he was an absolute fraud; the shock killed her.

Ever since, McWhirt h...

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