Maugham: Rain in the Face

DATELINE: Somerset

Willie Maugham was one of the most successful of writers in the 20thcentury. He wrote one short story, “Rain,” that made him over one million dollars in the 1920s. You could say he was the rich man’s Truman Capote.

A short documentary gathers together some rare photos and film clips of his high-living. It’s called Revealing Mr. Maugham. But it is mostly apologetic for his transgressions and motive to write for money.

Maugham suffered from a stammer that made him less media attractive—but like Capote, he wrote about the gossip he heard, transforming the mud in novels. He was no great writer, like many contemporaries (James Joyce, Virginia Woolf or even Noel Coward) but he made big bucks and commanded movie versions (The Razor’s Edge).

Being secretly gay, he never played out or up his personality like Capote. Yet, he was notorious in his world travels to seek gay pleasure spots around the world. His “secretary” was actually his lover and procurer.

Maugham learned about human nature at medical school where he studied with Dr. Bell, the model for Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. And, his understanding of sexuality was scientific and ahead of its time.

He was scarred by his brother Harry’s suicide over a homosexual scandal—and it may have sent Maugham into the closet for the rest of his life.

His companion Gerald Haxton helped him create Cap Ferrat, the idyllic “Fairyland,” that Edna St. Vincent Millay declared one visit. Her insight is not in the film. Nor does the film tell us of the monkey gland injections to maintain his masculine vigor in old age to host boys, boys, boys.

The documentary tries hard to give Maugham literary chops, but he was interested only in fame and money, whether as a playwright or as a story writer. Yes, he wrote spy stories before LeCarre and Greene, and he was an actual spy for the British government.

Yet, he became in senility a rather unpleasant, vindictive and manipulated old fool of his new “secretary,” who managed to steal everything through poisoning Maugham’s old mind.

The documentary shows how one can outlive his own standards.

My Topper Time Fun!

DATELINE: Ghostly Trifecta?

Topper & His Ghosts Leo G. Carroll as Topper with Ghosts

Who said dead people don’t have fun?

If I have learned anything by my experiences at Mill Circle, I now know that my haunting spirits have a strange sense of timing and a stranger sense of humor.

One morning at 5:30 a.m., I had a trifecta of paranormal incidents. It seems they were going to drag me into the library at dawn, no matter how much I resisted.

I had on the previous afternoon replaced the batteries in the smoke detector on the ceiling in the library. One might think nothing more of that for months—however, that was not the case.

At 3am the security camera came on, alerting me on the phone. I looked in a semi-groggy state to see nothing much in the grainy black and white video, but I did hear the smoke alarm beeping. Yes, the battery was drained within 12 hours.

It continued to beep every thirty seconds or so, but I could not hear it on my other side of the house.

But, at 5:30 a.m., I decided it was light enough in there for me to venture—and take down the smoke detector and its irritating beeper.

When I reached up to remove the ceiling unit, the Titanic shelf next to me had a reaction. Two items came flying off:  first fell a four DVD documentary series about Titanic, and then came the postcard in 3D of the Munch painting, “The Silent Scream”.

My blow-up Scream doll is across the room, hanging from another model ship where a spirit set it—and I had placed a postcard of the image of the Screamer on the deck of the 3-D puzzle model of the benighted ship.

Eventually, I expected the little postcard would come down, jumping off the ship like its counterpart doll.

As I reached up to remove the smoke detector, the postcard had its moment in conjunction with the DVD. Both jumped off the bookcase.

I bent down to pick them up and replace them on their perches. As I did so, from high up came a shooting orb, past my backside and under the table with the chessboard.

I did not see it until later when I viewed the security camera footage.

Yes, it was the trifecta all right:  batteries drained, objects falling off the shelf, and then an orb shooting past.

If you want a sense of humor from my ghostly residents, this example likely comes closest. It certainly made me feel like Cosmo Topper and his household of ghosts, George and Marian Kirby.

Indeed, the complete DVD set of Topper TV series was on the bookcase where the orb flew by.  Yes, it’s all caught on tape.

Don’t ever let it be said that ghosts don’t want to have fun.