The Price of Butter & the Fate of John Franklin

An Old Infidel Yet, “Dr. Olcott—Prophesying,” Boston Investigator, December 29, 1852.

Former clergyman and semi-retired physician James Sands Olcott, from Lowell, Massachusetts, wrote a series of letters to the Boston Investigator in which he described his development of mental and spiritual powers, which began in his childhood with somnambulism, and then progressed to clairvoyance.  He had lately found himself able to see into the future as well, he wrote, which allowed him the power of prophecy.  The Investigator’s editorial inclinations at the time were highly skeptical of Olcott, as well as of spiritualism itself.  The editors published a challenge to Olcott, from one of their readers, who signed himself or herself only “An Old Infidel Yet.”—JB

Let him prophesy, through the Investigator

1st. How many births, marriages, deaths, and fires there will be in Boston for the next three months.

2d. How many storms and shipwrecks on our coast during the winter—the names of the vessels, their rig and tonnage, where from, where bound, what their cargo, number of lives lost, and how much insurance.

3d. How many snow-storms this winter, and how many days or weeks of good sleighing.

4th. How the thermometer will stand on the 15th of January, 20th of February, and 25th of March—also, the price of butter, potatoes, and poultry in East Boston market at these several dates.

5th. How long the “Boston Circle of Originals” will continue to hold their meetings—likewise, how many people, made insane by the “Rappings,” are inside of lunatic hospitals, and how many outside.

6th. When the Japan Expedition will sail, how many days it will take to go to that country, whether it will be allowed to land after it arrives there, be obliged to fight or not, and what will be the result of the whole affair.

7th. Who are to be the men that will constitute the Cabinet of Gen. Pierce, the new President.

8th. Where Sir John Franklin is, whether dead or alive; if dead, where he died, and how, and when; but if alive, how he is to get out of his confinement; who is to discover him first and bring him back, and under what circumstances he will be found—how many of his men dead, sick, disabled, &c., &c.

James S. Olcott, “Dr. Olcott—Prophesying: Answer to ‘An Old Infidel Yet’” [concluded], Boston Investigator, January 19, 1852.

Olcott answered by reporting a vision, not of the price of butter a month from then, but of the fate of British Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin and his men.  His vision depicts the idea, bruited about by Occultists to this day, that the Earth is either hollow (with holes at both the North and the South Pole), or that the Polar regions are hot (due to the influx at the poles of electromagnetic energy).  Even leaving all that aside, as a practical objection to Olcott’s specific vision of Franklin’s demise, one may wonder how enough force might be conveyed to an iceberg from a hawser or two to make the iceberg roll over repeatedly in the open sea.  At any event, Olcott’s vision conveniently conjured information about a subject that was not easily verified (or at least could not be for another half-century), or financially useful, avoiding the more “trivial” information about the number of storms or days of snow, or the price of potatoes or butter.—JB

The Vision.—I saw an immense region and mass of fog or vapor, dense and warm, hot, oppressive, suffocating, for I was in it.  The vision opened upon the vessels grappled into an immense iceberg, and so fastened as if their salvation depended on an adhesion to it.  Over the largest hung an immense mass of ice towering up three or four hundred feet.  As the fog cleared, Sir John Franklin became sensible of his extreme danger—but too late to cut loose.  Orders were given to quit the vessel.  Sir John and a few had left and reached a sufficient distance to escape the crash by passing to the right along a slightly ascending fissure towards the other vessel.  The crew of this, seeing the movement, also escaped from the vessel, and were, with hooks, iron-caulked shoes and boots, ascending the eastern side of the iceberg, as the mass gave way.  The first vessel was crushed down and instantly gave way.  The iceberg rolled slowly over and drew up the remaining vessel until her moorings then gave way, and she sank to be dragged entirely under by some stern grapplings and the recurrent roll and pressure of the iceberg.  The men had on their winter overcoats over a summer dress.  They fell one by one, benumbed in part by cold and overcome by want of strength to sustain themselves on the proclivity.  The sky was brilliantly clear and calm, and the sea, unruffled by a breeze, motionless as to the eternal swell and heave which we see in other oceans, at the time the last fell from his resting place.  Two were remaining as Sir John sank under an entire exhaustion of bodily strength.

I saw the pole or central north of the earth.  It is a concave lens of water resembling the stem part of a well-formed apple.  There is a slow, steady motion, circular, spiral, the reverse of the diurnal motion of the earth.  Things at the center are drawn down.  An unchanging summer warmth within five degrees of the pole melts rapidly away above and below the masses of ice which chance to get into the region.  There are islands of granite rock covered with a deep soil of guano and moss, on which millions of aquatic birds incubate.  The waters of the regions around are filled with fish, an immeasurable multitude.

Sir John Franklin entered boldly these seas, passed the belt of ice, the regions of storm, and was on the rounded heave-off and draw-in of this polar sea, in ignorance of his course in consequence of storms and fogs, when he fastened to the iceberg which proved his destruction.  His vessels have sunk to be seen no more forever.  He and his men have perished, to be found no more forever.  I do not write this to make believe, but under the feeling that I would in body never visit those regions, that here perchance there may be an asylum left for myriads of aquatic birds and animals away from the cruelty and rapacity of man.

The special and abiding warmth of this region is a permanent current of electricity coursing in an unchanging stream on and back, and thus hanging suspended the earth to its present polar star or constellation.  The earth, the air, water, are saturated with it; hence no demand and no cold as a negative condition.  [. . .] I have seen the FATE of Sir John Franklin and of his crews, the CLIMATE and SCENERY of the north polar regions.  These things are so.


Hollow Earth Theories, a bibliography by the Library of Congress

The Fate of Franklin, by Russell Potter


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