Stead Fast in the Titanic Library!

DATELINE:  Bookworms?

W.T. Stead & booksW.T. Stead, Spiritualist

Over 100 years ago, W.T. Stead was a big name in spiritualism.

He was one of the foremost proponents of life after death, and he used his pulpit of investigative journalism to publish many books and articles about the paranormal world. He was a man of steely gaze and intense demeanor.

Some historians credit him with being one of the founders of tabloid writing, in order to dismiss him as one of the age’s séance masters. Like Conan Doyle, he was an authority with the power of public support—and public ridicule.

So, what happened?

He booked passage on a ship across the Atlantic from his British home to lecture in New York about the occult topic of ghosts and spirits. Alas, the voyage was not a happy one: his accommodation was cabin C-89 aboard RMS Titanic.

Among the reports after the tragedy, his last night’s dinner table companions insisted that Stead told them how a medium friend had warned him that there was a chance of trouble on this trans-Atlantic trip.

Later, the witnesses to the comments were disparaged as exaggerating the story, though one wonders why anyone who survived the Titanic disaster would feel compelled to exaggerate their trauma or misremember a single detail of their vivid night to remember.

Among the survivor accounts, there was the stunning image: people saw W.T. Stead calmly sitting in the First-Class Reading Room of Titanic, smoking a pipe and perusing a book as it sank into the cold briny deep.

The image of the old man facing another world with singular and peaceful demeanor is striking amid chaos and panic of others unprepared to meet their destiny.

Like young Richard White, the elder writer loved the ambiance of a library—and chose to spend his last moments in such a haven. It is likely that Richard and Stead crossed paths, if not exchanged pleasantries at some point. They were both denizens of the Titanic library.

Poetic Richard may have been the only young man among the first-class passengers who might agree with Stead that the library provided a special comfort.

Years later, the daughter of Stead—herself a spiritualist—contacted a medium to conduct a session of automatic writing (Ouija board stuff) in which they contacted W.T. on the other side to give the particulars of the final moments of Titanic’s destruction.

He also provided a glimpse into the Blue Island, a dimension he called “beyond the veil”: a double metaphor for the Great Beyond, another part of the universe.

The saffron yellow sofa in the Library of the Titanic washed up on the shores of Nova Scotia several days after the sinking of the ship. Apparently, someone thought it might make a good life-raft.

Stead’s body was never recovered, like so many hundreds of his shipmates and fellow passengers who booked a date with destiny on Titanic.

Library of Dreams!

DATELINE:  Magic on the Bookshelves?

end table of Titanic   Brenda Duval’s Titanic End Table

We all know the famous baseball story by W.P. Kinsella, Field of Dreams, in which a man is inspired by a spirit of Shoeless Joe Jackson to build a baseball field in his cornfield.

As a result, he finds himself at the epicenter of spirit life.

We never presumed to be the builder of a “Library of Dreams,” yet it appears to be our role late in life. It was easy to change part of the house, the north wing, to a library to honor all the people who lived in the Spring Village area since 1800, but in particular we had a push by the main spirit who has reached out to us:  one of the passengers of the Titanic who met his end at an all-too young age of 21 years.

For decades, without knowing why, compelled by unknown forces, we have collected many items somehow associated with the infamous tragedy at sea that killed 1500 people: RMS Titanic.

Our part has been minor, pointing out only one more benighted victim of the arrogance of luxury and money in 1912. He is our spiritual chess-mate from Titanic.

Richard himself was privileged by birth, but also never had a chance to realize his potential as a poet and philanthropist.

Richard too loved libraries. The final library in his life was the First Class Reading Room on the Titanic. There is even a photo of him, back to camera, reading while his father was on deck, also photographed, looking for his son.

Within two days, they would drown.

Richard’s other favorite library belonged to his aunt, Julia White Castle, who married the Hawaiian pineapple king, James Castle. They had the largest library in Hawaii in 1900 in their Waikiki Diamond Head mansion.

Richard lived there for a year. While his brother went out to enjoy the climate and people, Richard enjoyed the hundred magazine subscriptions that arrived regularly .

Almost in irony, after Richard died, his brother Percy wrote over 25 books: they too adorn our library shelf.

Local artist Brenda Duval, painted a picture of Titanic at full steam atop an end table. It is a labor of love, as she has all four funnel stacks billowing dark smoke. Only three were functional: the fourth was for show. It was the one that fell off the ship after the iceberg hit. It smashed into the frigid water atop dozens who had jumped—and were struck by a lethal force before hypothermia killed them. Richard likely was one of these unfortunates.

All of this is part of our library of dreams, giving the spirits of Mill Circle their safe haven. Based on photos of the original First Class Reading Room, we proudly note that we have more books! We will maintain it as long as our own spirit holds out.