The following tale appeared in an old volume of forgotten maritime lore. Its author, the indefatigable historian Edward R. Snow, relates that he first heard in as a young man in Bristol, England. He frankly notes the difficulty of substantiating its details, but suggests that, like many sea-yarns, it may contain the seeds of actual events. The story remains, in any case, a powerful allegory of love, loss, and commitment. The setting is the Isle of Wight. The time is the end of the seventeenth century.Continue reading
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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