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The New York herald. [volume] (New York, N.Y.) 1920-1924, March 19, 1922, SECTION SEVEN, Image 91

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Dramatic Incidents That Lead the 1
Yama Yama Girl to Believe Brilliant
War Correspondent and Author Watches
Over Those He Loved Most Dearly
""" TARDLY any one doubts the old
| I saying, "Truth is stranger than
fiction." Yet always there is some
thing of surprise in any new proof that
the philosopher who coined the phrase was
indeed wise.
These are the days of "ghost stories," of
tales of the psychic and of constantly
newer manifestations of what some call
the spirits, and others, less convinced but
still inclined to believe, will designate as
"the unreal." Skeptics put all these ac
counts of strange and mysterious things
down as "ghost stories"?and call all of
them Action. But in the most unexpected
place a bit of what might be stubbornly
called a "ghost story" has made most seri
ous appearance, and there is so much of
the element of unquestionable truth about
it that it may well be credited to the ac
count of those truths which are, indeed,
stranger than all fiction.
The "truth" of this situation is that the
beautiful and vivacious Bessie McCoy
Davis, widow of the famous war corre
spondent Richard Harding Davis, believes
most sincerely that she is in daily com
munication with the husband whose death
was mourned by the English speaking
world some time ago.
Whether or not Mrs. Davis is right?
whether she is the victim of a hallucina
tion, there is, of course, the very grave
question. But that she sincerely believes
that Richard Harding Davis is watching
over her career, that he speaks to her every
day and advises her and guides her, and
particularly directs the education and
training of little Hope, the beloved daugh
ter he left behind, is undoubted truth.
Mrs. Davis believes it; all who know the
pretty "Yama Yama Girl," who was like
one of her husband's heroines, stepping
out of one of his books to give him just
auch a romance as he liked to write, do not
doubt for a "moment that to Mrs. Davis it
all is very much truth.
Went Out of Her Way
To Poke Fun at Ghosts
And that is the strangeness of it?that
of all people this young woman who is of
the stage, whose fame was built upon her
nimble feet and frolicsome mimicry, who
with her brilliant husband went out of her
way to poke ridicule at those who believed
in the supernatural, should be one of those
suddenly to meet with experiences which
to her mind should prove that the dead
may communicate with the living.
It is a most amazing circumstance that
has resulted. One may, or may not, be
lieve?not that Mrs. Davis is sincere, but
that she is right in her convictions. But
one's attitude toward the possibilities in
the situation does not detract from the in
teresting statements little Bessie McCoy
Davis makes to her friends and the inci
dents she describes.
Those who are familiar with the atti
tude of mind of the famous war corre
spondent know that he was bitterly op
posed to all beliefs in the supernatural,
the occult, the psychic or the "unreal."
One of his books is devoted to an exposure
of what he considered the charlatanry of
those who profess to believe in "spiritism."
He frequently said that all the funda
mentals of human existence were opposed to
credence in a bridge connecting the here
with the hereafter. He was impatient with
those who sought to convince him?im
patient with all but one, a close friend,
who will be spoken of later.
But Mrs. Davis declares that her hus
band, at the very moment of his passage
from this life to that beyond, was per
suaded that he had been wrong. And in
this moment, the young widow is certain,
he found a most characteristic method of
informing her that he had been wrong?as
she puts it?and that she must have faith
in his presence near her and in his ability
to communicate with her and guide her.
And?increasing the strangeness of it
nil?Mrs. Davis is not unsupported. Mrs.
Charles Belmont Davis, her sister-in-law,
and other relatives and intimate friends
have been as convinced as she and, with
her, are certain Richard Harding Davis is
as much of the world to-day as he was
when his body hovered between home and
wherever there was war or battle to write
Is Somewhat Reminiscent of
'The Return of Peter Grimm'
It is all reminiscent of the quaint and
delightful character in the play "The Re
turn of Peter Grimm." Those who remember
this play will recall that Peter Grimm was
skeptical when his friend the Doctor de
clared that he believed those who were
dead could return in spirit to the earth
and watch over those they left behind.
Peter Grimm, was angry at first that his
doctor friend should think him such a fool
as to believe such things. Then he was
amused. At last he made a pact, just to
quiet his old friend, that whichever should
die first should return and tell the other
about what was to come after death. Peter
Grimm smiled in his sleeve?in fact, smiled
outwardly behind his friend's back, when
he entered the pact. It was ridiculous to
But the play is built around Peter
Grimm's coming back. It is an entertain
ing play, pure fiction, of course, and not
supposed to be taken as other than a fanci
ful entertainment. But Mrs. Davis re
minds one of the circumstances in the
life?and death?of old Peter Grimm when
she tells of her own extraordinary state of
mind?and her experiences.
Mr. Davis, it will be remembered, died
suddenly while in a telephone booth send
ing a message. It was concluded that his
physical strengtlOhad been undermined by
the hardships and exposures incident to
his work as war correspondent at the front.
Death came so suddenly that there was no
alarm?his body was found crumpled in
the booth, the telephone receiver dangled
over his huddled form.
The day before, Mrs. Davis says, she and
her husband had entertained at their
charming Mount Kisco estate a mutual
friend, a woman who was the only person
Mr. Davis would allow to discuss with him
seriously the question of after death com
munications. This friend was one whose
intellectual attainments Mr. Davis pro
foundly respected. She was the only one,
he frequently said, who could talk with
intelligence on the subject that usually
irritated him?spiritism. He frequently
declared he rather enjoyed arguing with
her, as from her he could keep himself
acquainted with the "clever jargon," as he
called it, of the believers in the psychic
and the spiritualistic.
Called It Hypnosis and
Regretted It as Waste
They never talked together for any
length of time but the friend brought the
subject up. After she had left their home,
the day before his death, Mr. Davis re
marked to his wife:
"She makes vastly interesting deduc
tions. She is a victim of self hypnosis?
she has hypnotized herself into believing
her premises and she is capable of further
convincing; herself by the deductions her
brilliant mind conceives. It is to be re
gretted her talents are wasted in such a
hopeless field."
It is important to remember the conver
sation between Mr. and Mrs. Davis to un
derstand properly Mrs. Davis's feelings in
the light of an incident associated with her
husband's death.
Mrs. Davis herself describes what she
believes was the first sign that caused her
to think her husband would find a way to
communicate with her after death.
"When my husband fell in the telephone
booth his body scraped against the wall,
which was of plaster. It was a small place
and the body fell heavily. Part of the
plaster broke and showered over my hus
band's body. A cloud of plaster dust rose
and whitened almost every surface in the
"Of course I was too hysterically upset
to pay attention to anything but the body
of my husband when I found him. The
rext day, however, something drew me to
that telephone booth. I called Miss Made
line Fray, who was Richard's secretary,
and together we went to the booth.
Odd Trait of Author
That Led to Discovery
"Now let me explain a trait of Rich
ard's: When he was concentrating upon
some subject, often he would sit at his
desk and, absent mindedly, print big let
ters on whatever piece of paper was near.
Usually he printed my name at such mo
ments?'Bessie'?often some disconnected
words or even strings of disassociated let
ters. He had a peculiar way of shaping
these letters so that there never could be
any doubt as to who drew them.
"Now, to return to my visit to the tele
phone booth the next day after his death.
I drew open the booth door. Suddenly
Miss Fray caught my arm and pointed to
the pane of glass In the door. There, un
mistakably in Richard's peculiar manner,
was printed the name of the woman who
had so recently called upon us and who
had talked with Richard about psychic
"At once, without reason or thought, the
understanding came to me?to me, the
skeptic?Richard In some way had printed
there the name of this woman as his mes
sage to me that I should 'believe' in the
woman's theories?that, as she said could
be done, he would do?watch over me and
find a way to talk to me.
"I believed It?knew It. I was con
vinced and comforted. Half my loneliness
seemed to leave me that instant. I called
others of the family to see with me, and,
strange to say, they all felt that here was
the sign?that Richard had not left us ex
cept In the flesh."
Mrs. Davis, in the quaint loveliness of
sixteenth century crinolines and ruffles,
curls and garlands of her dancing costume,
talks to every one of her faith in the
manifestations of her husband's returning
spirit. The dean of Princeton University
had just left her when she gave this in
formation, after paying his respects to the
widow of one of the students of whom
Princeton is proud. He, too, had heard her
story, and he was grave and thoughtful as
he walked away.
"I understood the message on the door,"
continued Mrs. Davis, "as completely as
though I had heard it in my husband's
beloved voice. He was telling me that in
the new light, in the new world he had
entered, he knew that her belief was right."
Top picture shows
Bessie McCoy Davis
to-day. In oval
sha is
shown with
Hope Davis.
at right
is Yama
Yama Girl.
Then the little widow told of the next
incident that encouraged her:
"It was a few weeki after he had gone
away. My sister-in-law, Mrs. Charles Bel
mont Davis, and I were standing at the
entrance to the house in which Richard
and I had lived so happily for five years
and in which he had died. Suddenly my
sister-in-law drew a sharp, startled breath.
I looked at her in surprise. 1 saw that
her eyes were raised above the line of
trees. My gaze followed hers. As though
painted against the sky I saw a perfect
reproduction of the house before which we
were standing. Lintel for lintel, pane for
pane, gable for gable, chimney for chimney,
the house was duplicated there in the sky
before us. It was an aerial sketch. Such
an one as any one looking down upon it
would have made.
"Had I alone seen it I might have
thought that my grief and my fancy had
painted this duplicate of our home. But
my matter of fact sister-in-law was the
first to see it. It was equally clear to her
and to me. He who had loved that farm
home of ours more than any spot on earth
was looking down upon it from a far
sphere. The picture of It which we saw
wa? that which was visible to the eyes of
his homesick spirit."
The strongest, most striking proof, to
Mrs. Davis's mind, that fler husband
though absent is present, came to her
through their seven-year-old daughter
"Richard adored Hope. He could never
bear to hear her cry. She seldom cried.
When she did he was in a dreadful state
of mind until she stopped. He was op
posed to the modern method of leaving a
fretful child alone to cry it out. He said
it is an inhuman practice. Always he
would say 'When a child
cries it is because some
thing is the matter with it.
The sane, intelligent thing
is to find out what is the
"We were staying in a vil
lage in Nova Scotia one
summer. We were prepar
ing for bed. Hope was fret
ful. She lay with eyes wide
open staring at a framed
tintype that hung opposite
her bed. It seemed to us a
harmless picture. It was of
an elderly woman in a black
silk gown with tight waist
and full skirt. About her
thin neck and across her
high shoulders rested a
large, white lace collar. Her
smooth hair was parted in
the middle and combed
down over her ears.
"The child twisted her
body and turned her head
away from the picture. Finding her
self uncomfortable in that posture she
turned back again. When her eyeB fell
upon the picture she frowned, then began
to cry. We turned the picture to the wall,
but she still cried. We moved it to another
nail on the wall, but her impatient, tear
filled eyes still followed it. We took it
down from the wall and put it into the
drawer of the old fashioned bureau. But
she still fretted.
Hand and Arm Reached
To Little Hope's Shoulder
"I tried the modern method of letting
Hope alone. I fell into a doze. Miss Fray's
startled cry awoke me. She, the entirely
reliable, unimaginative woman of business,
had been sitting beside Hope when she saw
a hand and arm reach forth. The arm
was covered with a gray flannel sleeve, a
little Bhort at the cuff. The short cuff had
been a Joke in the family. Richard had
liked that old gray flannel shirt. He used
to wear it about the farm. After it shrunk
until the cuff was far from meeting the
hand he still wore it. Miss Fray recog
uized the hand. It was Richard's even to
the hairy covering on its back. The hand
reached the child's shoulder. Her crying
lessened. The hand gently stroked her
hhoulder, just as had been my hushand's
habit with our little girl in life.
"Hope's cries ceased. She did not cry
again. Soon, under the influ
ence of the hand, she fell
asleep?then the hand was
slowly withdrawn. It was
suspended for a moment
above our little girl's head,
as though in blessing. Then
slowly it vanished."
Mrs. Davis says that she
has always the consciousness
that her husband is near her.
She is confident that his eyes
are upon her.
"I have never done any
thing since my husband left
us of which he would not ap
prove," she said. "Even
though I were disposed to I
should not, for I am always
sure he sees every movement of mine. I
know that he reads every thought.
"One bit of evidence that he is present,
guiding and directing me in all I do id my
change of feeling toward a relative of his.
I always disliked this member of his fam
ily. I often spoke of our lack of congen
iality. I expressed my positive distaste for
the society of that person. This grieved
ttichard, for the relative was one of whom
he was very fond. He used to say, 'Some
time you two will understand each other
and he friends.' Gradually since his death
came that new state of feeling has come.
We are now excellent friends. I am confi
dent that he who loved us both so well had
brought us to an understanding."
Mrs. Davis is persuaded, too, that the
author of the "Van Bibber Tales" and a
hundred other more than worthy pen prod
nets attends all her business conferences.
She is satisfied that he looks over her
shoulder while she signs her contracts. He
would arrest the hand, she thinks, that
was about to affix itself to other than an
advantageous contract.
"That is the reason why no great mis
takes are made." she says in simple fashion
with the direct gaze of candid, childlike
pyes. "Things have gone pretty well with
us since my husband left us. I have sold
the motion picture rights to all his noveK
That money I have Invested for Hope's
future use.
"It has been conveyed to me silently, but
unmistakably, that It is his wish that our
laughter shall live In England part of the
time. So I have bought a little hou < In
London. From there I shall commute to
my work in America, say, spend six months
here and six months there. It is not my
choice, but his. He wants Hope to be a
citizen not of one country but of all. He
wants her to learn the languages. The
best way to learn is to spend much time
abroad. 1 am providing her with a gov
erness for French and another for her
music and a third for English. She is in
Bermuda now with one of her governesses.
He Wants Little Hope
To Live in England
"I am bringing up Hope as he would
have wished me to, for he holds before me
his ideal of womanhood. That was his
mother, Rebecca Harding Davis. Mrs.
Davis was a writer. Hope 1 think will be.
Although she is only 7 she already writes
verses. Many times, I know, Richard has
pointed the way for mo when I was In a
quandary about Hope. I have decided on
something?ho has warned and advised
me. and I have followed his advice."
The many suitors who hover about the
attractive young widow of the great author
will be Interested in this decision:
"I will never marry any one unless
Richard approves of him, and I shall know
If he does. He will make clear to me his
approval or disapproval. He wil! guide
me in that, as he does In all else."
As the facts concerning Mrs. Davis's be
lief are becoming noised among her friends,
more and more interest is being shown In
her experiences. Convinced that her hus
hrmd's keen mind Is guiding little Hope's
life, she Is devoting herself wholeheart
edly to her public work and is meeting
with even greater Biu.ce.s8 than iu days

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