The Psychic Traveller

Acorn Street, Boston, by Childe Hassam (1919)

Acorn Street, Boston, by Childe Hassam (1919)

Creepy History 24. For the last couple of “Creepy History” articles we have been looking at the supernatural experiences of Bayard Taylor. They are merely a footnote in the life of this prolific traveller and adventurer, collected together in a couple of chapters of At Home and Abroad (1859). The first of the two relevant chapters focusses on the spirit world, with Taylor concluding that “I am fully satisfied that there was nothing whatever of a supernatural character” to the events described, despite a good deal of evidence to the contrary from his own experience. However, in the second chapter he looks at the realms of supernatural powers of the mind, and his opinions on this topic are quite the opposite. In fact, he is entirely convinced of possessing some special abilities of his own.

During a visit to Boston, four or five years ago, I accepted an invitation to take tea with a distinguished author. A gentleman who had often visited him, offered to accompany me, as his residence was in a part of the city with which I was then unacquainted. We were walking along the street, conversing very earnestly upon some subject of mutual interest, when all at once I was seized with the idea that we were passing the author’s house. “Stop!” I said. “Mr. – lives here.” My friend halted, surprised, and surveyed the house. ” No,” said he, ” that is not his residence; it is in the next block. But I thought you had never visited him.” “Nor have I,” I replied; “I never was in this street before, but I am positive he lives there.” ” And I am positive he does not,” my friend rejoined; “there is a large brass plate upon his door, with the name upon it ; and, you see, here is no name whatever. Besides, it is not in this block.” “I will go further with you,” was my stubborn answer; “but we shall have to return again.” The presumption of his certain knowledge did not in the least shake my confidence. We searched the next block, but did not find the author’s name on any door. With some difficulty, I persuaded my friend to return, and try the house I had pointed out: it was the right one! I can explain this curious incident in no other way, than by assuming the existence of a natural clairvoyant faculty in the mind.

Taylor was a successful American poet, who used his earnings from his poetry to fund travels in Europe in the late 1840s. He wrote about his experiences, and his articles were published in the Tribune, the Saturday Evening Post and the United States Gazette, leading to a career working as a correspondent for the Tribune during the California gold rush. When his wide died in 1850 he threw himself into his work, but his health began to suffer, so he instead embarked upon extensive travels around the world, and his journals were published in several volumes. We looked at one of his works in detail in Journals 7.


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