“Jap Herron,” the novel Mark Twain allegedly posthumously authored via Ouija board

Jap Herron
In 1917, two spiritual mediums published a book they claimed had been dictated by Mark Twain’s ghost via ouija board.

Mark Twain, beloved humorist and the “father of American literature,” died in 1910. Ordinarily, you’d expect this would mean the end of his writing career (especially since this time, reports of his death had not been exaggerated). He was so dedicated to his craft, however, that his work apparently continued even from beyond the grave — at least, according to two spiritual mediums who claimed contact with Twain’s departed soul.

Emily Grant Hutchings and Lola V. Hays profess to have begun receiving messages from Mark Twain via Ouija board at a St. Louis seance in 1915. Over the next two years, Twain’s spirit would allegedly dictate an entire novel to the duo from the great beyond. The book, titled Jap Herron: A Novel Written From the Ouija Board, was published in 1917.

Ouija boards were in vogue at the time, and this wasn’t the first ghost-written work of fiction to grace the literary world; St. Louis writer Pearl Curran (a friend of Hutchings) published several novels that she claimed had been authored by a spirit named Patience Worth. The gimmick was one the public seemed to respond to: the novel sold, and generated sufficient attention to warrant a “review” in The New York Times. An excerpt from the Times:

The ouija board seems to have come to stay as a competitor of the typewriter in the production of fiction. For this is the third novel in the last few months that has claimed the authorship of some dead and gone being who, unwilling to give up human activities, has appeared to find in the ouija board a material means of expression.


The story itself, a long novelette, is scened in a Missouri town and tells how a lad born to poverty and shiftlessness, by the help of a fine-souled and high-minded man and woman, grew into a noble and useful manhood and helped to regenerate his town. There is evident a rather striking knowledge of the conditions of life and the peculiarities of character in a Missouri town, the dialect is true, and the picture has, in general, many features that will seem familiar to those who know their “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn.” A country paper fills an important place in the tale, and there is constant proof of familiarity with the life and work of the editor of such a sheet. The humor impresses as a feeble attempt at imitation and, while there is now and then a strong sure touch of pathos or a swift and true revelation of human nature, the “sob stuff” that oozes through many of the scenes, and the overdrawn emotions are too much for credulity. If this is the best that “Mark Twain” can do by reaching across the barrier, the army of admirers that his works have won for him will all hope that he will hereafter respect that boundary.

The book caused its share of controversy: Clara Clemens, Twain’s daughter and executor of his literary estate, threatened legal action;  Hutchings, Hays, and their publisher agreed to cease publication and to destroy remaining copies of the work.

Of course, there are some who suggest that Twain didn’t die in 1910 after all.

You can read the full New York Times review here, or check out the text of Jap Herron (which did ultimately survive) itself here.


What’s the oldest song we still know the tune to?

Thanks to Redditor /u/dtxvsk, we have an answer to that fascinating question:

The oldest melody which is known to have survived in its entirety is the Song of Seikilos, which was composed in Greece around 200 BC. The song, which was written by a man named Seikilos in memory of his recently-passed wife, was found engraved on a pillar in her grave.

It’s so strange and moving that this simple dirge has endured for more than two thousand years. Would Seikilos be touched to know that his wife’s memory, through his music, has lived on for millennia?


If you can find it, you can swim in the secret pool in the Mojave Desert

Related to yesterday’s post is another harrowing true story about a mysterious body of water in the middle of a vast desert. Unlike that inexplicable Tunisian lake, though, the origins of this hidden swimming pool are no enigma: it is the work of an artist named Alfredo Barsuglia, who “created the minimalist sculpture to nod to other monumental works of desert-bound land art.”

Writes Gizmodo:
GPS coordinates can be obtained, along with the key, by visiting the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in West Hollywood, where the Austrian-born Barsuglia was a fellow last year. You can’t call to see if the key is there, and you can’t reserve it ahead of time. Of the destination, the artist will only say that it requires “several hours of driving from Los Angeles, plus a willingness to walk a long distance to reach the pool from the nearest road.”
What fun! Quirky, playful installations like these make the world a more interesting place. You can read more here.

British grandmother takes the European nightclub scene by storm

This just came in over the Atlantic wires via ABC News (and was helpfully spotted by Olivia):

Ruth Flowers is certainly not your typical grandmother. At 69, Flowers is a real phenomenon and the latest sensation on the European nightclub scene.

69-year-old Ruth Flowers is a big deal on the European nightclub scene.

Wearing large black sunglasses (a fashion statement, there is nothing
wrong with her eyesight), flashy clothes, bling jewelry, fake
diamond-incrusted DJ headphones on her white hair, the British granny
makes crowds go wild, spinning records behind the decks of the most prestigious nightclubs in Paris, Cannes and other European cities.

DJ Ruth Flowers, a.k.a Mamy Rock, began her new career when, four years ago, she attended her grandson’s birthday party. “Kids don’t play games anymore. They have discos after they eat,” she told ABC News.

You can see some YouTube clips of her below. She does indeed rock.


Drawing every person in New York

Jason Polan has embarked on an ambitious (almost comically so) project: he’s trying to draw every man, woman, and child in New York City. It sounds like something along the lines of the 2010 Census’s recent advertisements, but this is for real. In his own words, Jason is trying to

draw every person in New York. I will be drawing people everyday
and posting as frequently as I can. It is possible that I will draw you
without you knowing it. I draw in Subway stations and museums and
restaurants and on street corners. I try not to be in the way when I am
drawing or be too noticeable. Whenever I have a new batch of drawings I
will post them on this blog. If you would like to increase the chances
of a portrait of YOU appearing on this blog please email me (art@jasonpolan.com)
a street corner or other public place that you will be standing at for a
duration of two minutes (I will be on the corner of 14th street and 8th
avenue on the North-east corner of the street from 2:42-2:44pm this
Thursday wearing a bright yellow jacket and navy rubber boots, for
example). Please give me more than a 24 hour warning and please make it a
scenario that is not too difficult for you to accomplish (the corner
outside of the store you work at during lunch time, or in front of a
museum you were going to go to on a Saturday) because I may
unfortunately miss you and do not want you to have to invest more than 2
minutes of your time in case I cannot make it.

You can follow Jason’s progress at his website, here.


A sculpture that perpetually sells itself on eBay

via LaughingSquid:

Combining Robert Morris’ Box With the Sound of Its Own
Making with Baudrillard’s writing
4295492347_979fd8ee36.jpgon the art auction this sculpture
exists in eternal transactional flux. It is a physical sculpture that is
perpetually attempting to auction itself on eBay.

Every ten minutes the black box pings a server on the internet via
the ethernet connection to check if it is for sale on the eBay. If its
auction has ended or it has sold, it automatically creates a new auction
of itself.

If a person buys it on eBay, the current owner is required to send it
to the new owner. The new owner must then plug it into ethernet, and
the cycle repeats itself.

The sculpture, entitled “A Tool to Deceive and
“, recently sold
on eBay for $6,350.00
and is now being shipped to its next “owner”.

You can read more here.