What Knowledge Comes To Us From Dreams?

Arthur Conan Doyle’s sinister short story “The Leathern Funnel” deals with a phenomenon called psychometry:  the supposed ability of material objects associated with emotionally charged experiences to preserve and transmit a record of such events.  Published in 1900, the tale begins innocently enough with a meeting between friends, then slowly builds to an ominous crescendo of unease and sadistic malignancy.  Lionel Dacre, a wealthy owner of rare curiosities, owns a very old leather funnel from seventeenth-century France; the funnel has mysterious scratches, or bite-marks, on its neck.  Dacre persuades a friend (the unnamed narrator) to sleep with this funnel by his bedside.  In his dreams that night, the friend makes a horrifying discovery:  the funnel was actually used as a water-torture device during a pretrial procedure euphemistically called the “Extraordinary Question.”

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