Myra Cover Final 250



THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA
Starring
JEAN SOTHERN
as Myra

HOWARD ESTABROOK
as Dr. Payson Alden

MIKE RALE
as the Master of the Black Order

Story by
HEREWARD CARRINGTON
and CHARLES GODDARD

Novelization by EUSTACE HALE BALL


NOW COMPLETE & READY TO ORDER

The long-lost original novelization by real-life paranormal investigator Hereward Carrington and pioneer serial screenwriter Charles Goddard (author of THE PERILS OF PAULINE, THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, and many more early chapter plays) of the most horrific and captivating serial ever made--in fact, the only one that ever fully dealt with the supernatural. Myra Maynard's family is cursed by the devil-worshipping Black Order and she is marked for death by black magic on the eve of her eighteenth birthday. Dr. Payson Alden, the movies' first psychic detective, uses science to try and defeat the cult's evil spells, and is assisted by his friend Haji, a Hindu mystic. During the course of the 15 episodes of the serial, the clairvoyant Myra is assaulted by, among other supernatural menaces, astral demons, a fire elemental, even a "thought monster" brought to life by the malicious will of fifteen men, Levitation, crystal balls, automatic writing, mediums, witchcraft, a golden idol come to life, and many more bizarre elements which made movie history also figure into the story to make this a truly fascinating series that you will not want to miss.

You will see scenes in this serial that for years people have thought first appeared in DRACULA or FRANKENSTEIN--MYRA beat them to the punch by 15 years as well as defining the "black-robed cult members performing magic rituals" movie motif which soon afterward appeared in serials such as THE MYSTERY OF 13 and THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS and hasn't departed from cinema screens yet!

This is a series that cinema historians SHOULD have written about for years and Forrest J. Ackerman SHOULD have played up bigtime in FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND along with all the Universal horrors as it influenced all of them. But since it was not made by a major studio or re-released, and most of the Wharton films burned in a fire long ago, nothing was thought to remain of it. Well, we are changing that! Finally, after 94 years, THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA is reconstructed here in its entirety. Now, with 180 original photos from the serial, dozens of pages of incredibly rare "extras" including cast biographies, behind-the-scenes and publicity photos, and promotional items, and even unpublished photos from the unreleased "Voodoo" episode, banned by W. R. Hearst as too shocking for public viewing, you will be able to experience THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA as it was originally released, with numerous photos from each chapter all present to match the action. This is a VERY special project worth far more than the asking price and the KING KONG spider scene and LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT put together, due to the rarity of the groundbreaking and extremely influential material contained in it which no serial fan, classic horror aficionado, or classic cinema fan will want to miss. This isn't just one amazing lost scene, it's 15 episodes of phantasmagoria that's been hidden from view for almost a century. Will the publication of this volume change the way people look at classic serial and horror cinema history? YEAH. IT WILL. So be one of the first to own this treasure, to be available only at the Serial Squadron website. We look forward to offering this amazing volume of original material which will be a treasured addition to your cinema history and movie serial library.

Produced by the Mysteries of Myra Restoration Team: editor/designer
Eric Stedman, historical consultant Terry Harbin, researcher David Sorochty, and typesetter Tracy Renee Burton, with original material from private collections, the Library of Congress, British Library, Princeton University Firestone Library, and Ithaca-Made Movies of Ithaca, New York, where the serial was originally filmed.

ORDER THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA NOVELIZATION FOR YOUR PERMANENT SERIAL LIBRARY!

Paperback edition: $25
6" x 9" Bookstore-quality trade paperback with color cover and black and white interior, 400 pages, spine about 1", heavily illustrated with over 200 ultra-rare and sometimes full-page original photographs, introduction by Eric Stedman which provides observations and additional information about the restoration of the story and pictures, and many "extras" such as a 4-page history of the Wharton Studio, its cast and production personnel, and a behind-the-scenes production photo and memorabilia album.

Deluxe Hardbound Library Edition with color dust jacket: $40
Same contents as above, with additional color images of the two existing MYRA posters and other memorabilia printed on the interior dust jacket flaps.

The following is an excerpt from the original Mysteries of Myra novel by Hereward Carrington and Charles Goddard, Episode 1 of the original 1916 series.


THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA
1knf
EPISODE ONE:
THE DAGGER OF DREAMS

Chapter I
The Warning of Death


Dr. Payson Alden blinked amiably into the flood of morning which streamed through the bedroom windows.
“Great Scott! Eight thirty-five! And I have an engagement with Professor Haji at nine!”
As he hurried toward the bathroom for his morning shower he passed the broad mirror and stopped with a thrill of surprise.
“Am I still dreaming of this weird affair?” he asked himself. On the breast of his pajama was pinned a piece of note paper. Doubting his senses, he sat down on the edge of his bed to read it:
The message was simple, even in its mystery:

“Cease your investigations of the occult. The hand that placed this warning over your heart can also stop its beating.”

Alden pursed his lips into a quizzical smile as he recovered from the first surprise. A man of his splendid physique and scientific materialism was not easily terrorized by a scrap of paper, however uncanny its message. The matter-of-fact cheerfulness of the sunny room—the stimulating thrill of the morning breeze which toyed with the curtains of the half-open window—these were the irresistible antidotes of morbidity.
His expression changed suddenly, as he studied the lower right corner of the note. Two triangles, with their points in juxtaposition, were surrounded by some finely drawn hieroglyphics.
“The pentagram of the Black Magicians!” he exclaimed. “None of my friends know about this except Haji. And he never jokes—he knows the seriousness of it.”
Then he arose slowly and walked toward the door of the bed chamber. It was locked, as he had left it when entering the room hours before.
He hurried toward the window, half opened from the top.
Apparently all was just the same as he had left it.
Dr. Alden examined the upper portion of the two sashes with a reading glass. The delicate layer of dust deposited during the night was undisturbed on either side of the frame; in the center it had been brushed clean.
“Ah!” he muttered, lighting a cigarette and studying the situation with renewing confidence. “These devils cannot fly through the air, nor dematerialize themselves so they can enter keyholes and cracks. This particular message boy made his call with the aid of a rope.”
He hurried to his private laboratory in the rear of the house.
This curious place was furnished with a conglomeration of appliances for the investigation of mental and even spiritual phenomena. Here were the most modern creations of inquisitive scientists for the recording, on delicate psychological instruments, of human emotions—of love, hate, fear—all of those subtle radiations emitted by the nerves.
Dr. Alden glanced hurriedly about the laboratory.
“Ah, that’s good—nothing disturbed,” he muttered in relief. Then he discerned a slightly opened drawer in the filing cabinet in which it was his custom to methodically record all the details of his investigations.
The doctor was a precise man. He remembered distinctly having closed all these drawers the night before on leaving his workshop.
Nervously, he opened this one now, to finger each neatly labeled envelope in order. All were intact until he came to one marked “Maynard Case.” It was empty.
His valuable memoranda had been stolen since his last addenda to this baffling subject, recorded the night before.
“That’s their game, eh?” His brows contracted. “Well, they know my game! I have been ridiculed for my devotion to this work, yet here is the triumphant proof that I have been following the right trail in the darkness of theory . . . They cannot terrify me for, by heavens, I will fight them with their own weapons from behind the battlements of legitimate science.”
He hurried to his desk to telephone for a messenger. Then almost feverishly he wrote a note upon his professional paper.
“I have never been able to meet her yet—it is doubly unfortunate to have my chance under these circumstances”—he told himself as he sealed the envelope.
There was a timid knock upon the laboratory door.
“The messenger boy, sir.” It was the maid.
“Tell him to rush this and not to read a nickel novel on the trip.”
To her, as the other servants, the doctor was a man of uncanny ways.
Indeed, Dr. Payson Alden was a puzzle to all of his friends and relatives. Unusually successful for a man of his years, after a brilliant career in American and Continental medical institutions, he had surprised every one by his strange retirement from active participation in his lucrative medical practice.
Assured of comfort by a modest competence, he hermitized himself, neglecting his clubs, his social connections, and to their great chagrin, even his kinspeople, who had come to regard his career as a family possession. His absorption in laboratory work, his mysterious, unchronicled visits to India, to China, to Egypt, and other ridiculously unfashionable “resorts” elicited sarcastic comment from the blood-tie busy-bodies.
Yet Dr. Alden has smiled with imperturbable amiability at all remonstrance and advice.
“My life is devoted to a task that means more to humanity than you can possibly conceive,” he had told them. Adding the insult of cross-advice to the injury of withheld confidence he had ended the conference with: Many farmers have amassed fortunes by toiling on their own crops instead of those of their neighbors!”
During these two years of solitary plodding he had attained a distinguished reputation in the investigation of the psychic.
On this he had been secretive—for he had touched upon a field of the occult barely suspected by the most forward-looking scientists.
Dr. Alden had discovered an ominous, intangible yet shockingly powerful force of psychic evil in the life about him. Mysterious, inexplicable tragedies and crimes had baffled the police of the city. In every case he had discerned subtle similarities of method—so startling in their evil resemblances that he had even confided to the president of a psychical research society his conviction that they were all the work of a single organization of “Black Magicians.”
His theories had elicited nothing more than contemptuous though amiable incredulity.
But this morning had come the justification of his suspicions. Instead of the fear which might have been supposed to gnaw at his heart, there was the undeniable glow of boyish expectancy.
The man who labors with his brawn in the company of his fellows finds outlet for his inherited physical combativeness in toil, in the charge, the stress, the strain, the catharsis of his workaday environments.
But the man who broods in solitude, creating in a lonely universe of which he is the only tangible center, years for an opportunity to leave his subjective world for an adventurous relief of accumulated vitality.
As Dr. Alden returned to his bedchamber he paused by his chiffonier to open a drawer from which he took a small lacquered box. This contained a newspaper clipping, which he carefully unfolded and regarded with a curious smile in his kindly eyes.
It was cut from the society page of a metropolitan daily. In the center was the photograph of a young girl, whose low, broad forehead was framed on either side by a glory of blonde wavelets, modishly yet individually coiffed, clear, deep eyes, a perfect oval face and an adorably alluring mouth, completing a picture which gave just cause for the fire of admiration in the physician’s glance.
Beneath the “cut” was the simple caption: “Miss Myra Maynard, one of the season’s most charming debutantes.”
As Payson Alden replaced the clipping he smiled at his own reflection in the mirror.
“Well, doctor! To-day you embark on the Great Adventure! And you will win—if science and love can make a winning team!”


Chapter II
The Dream Lady


Mysteries, like misfortunes, are said to come in threes!
The second mystery of this curious forenoon was destined to be staged far from Dr. Payson Alden’s laboratory, yet close, indeed, were the mystic bonds between the two “theaters of action.”
At 10 o’clock Myra Maynard had risen from the bewildering dreams of a century-long night, to discover certain matters, simple in themselves, which cast a shadow of apprehension into the depths of those blue eyes.
She sat by her bed, her boudoir slipper in hand, studying it with bewilderment.
“I cannot understand it!” she murmured, scratching the silken toe. “Candle grease on the toe of the slipper?”
Myra walked toward her dressing table to examine the candlestick with increasing amazement. “The wick has been burned, and yet I’m sure I didn’t light it when I went to sleep . . . What did I dream?”
In vain she looked about the tasteful boudoir to conjure up by the faint memories of those queer night hours.
“I must have been walking in my sleep again,” she thought. “How silly! Where can the other slipper be?”
Even as she searched the room she heard a knock on the door.
“Yes? Who is it?” she answered.
“I beg your pardon, Miss Myra.”
It was the reassuringly domestic voice of the butler.
“Come in, Willis. What is it?”
The servant rattled the knob obsequiously and slowly opened the door.
“Your slipper, Miss Myra. I found it on the library floor. I’m sorry, Miss Myra.”
The girl laughed nervously, as she took it from his hand.
“Ridiculous! Why should you be sorry? I’ve simply been walking in my sleep again. Why do you look so worried, you silly old person?”
The butler was disturbed.
“What silly stuff!” she murmured, as she brushed the golden glory of her hair. “As if there were anything really dangerous in somnambulism!”
Yet even Willis retreated to the kitchen with a look of concern foreign to his customary placidity.
As he entered the room he beheld a disturbing scene. The cook and the maid were glaring at each other with rage and horror.
On the floor between them lay the glittering fragments of a broken mirror. Cook was the first to speak.
“Do you know what that means?”
“I didn’t do it a-purpose!” responded the maid. “I was just a-dressin’ my hair!”
“Somebody’s hair will be dressed for the last time—for that glass means there’s to be a death in this house.” And the cook shook a vigorous fist at the shattered mirror. “Sure, there’s been a curse over the place ever since old man Maynard died.”
“Don’t be so superstitious,” interrupted Willis.
The maid added tremulously. “Maggie, it ain’t safe to talk about such things, you know.”
“I know—I know entirely too much,” ejaculated Maggie. “I’m going to hunt another place. Don’t you know what killed them other two sisters of Miss Myra? Them two poor girls were cursed—each one died sudden on her eighteenth birthday.”
Willis touched the cook on the arm. “Maggie, stop it! Last night Miss Myra was walking in her sleep, and I’m beginning to be afraid for her.”
Maggie devoutly crossed herself to ward off a personal attack of this malignant influence. Willis hurried into the dining room with the first course of the breakfast.
“No good will come from this place,” murmured Maggie, as she absentmindedly broke two eggs into the pan of steaming oatmeal. “I seen a black cat spitting at nothing with its back up and sparks in its eyes last night. To-day is Friday the 13th, and I’m going to hunt another place before the banshee gets me, too.”

Chapter III
The Sign of the Devil Worshipers


Mrs. Maynard read the last of the morning letters as she waited for Myra. The old-fashioned dining room, with its dark wainscoting, the quiet elegance of the carved furniture, the well-chosen paintings and the etchings and the walls, the great glass bowl of roses in the center of the white oval of damask linen—all these combined to give evidence of substantial aristocracy, unaffected by parvenu fads. Myra’s mother, sweet-faced, silver-haired and to-the-manor-born in every poise, sat with her hands in her lap, now lost in thought. An ineffable look of sadness stole over her face, as her fancy went back to the happy mornings about this same breakfast table a few short years before. The tragedy of the room oppressed her. Yet she forced the thoughts away, to greet the young girl who entered.
“Good morning, dear. How do you feel?”
“Splendid, mother. Did I keep you waiting?”
“Not at all. But you look tired—not like yourself to-day. What will you have for breakfast?”
“I don’t feel hungry.” Then she laughed at the anxiety of the butler. “Willis is so worried because I walked in my sleep last night.
Mrs. Maynard drew back as though she had been struck with the lash of a whip. The girl, with her face buried in a fresh red rose had not noticed her mother’s agitation; little did she suspect the searing echoes of those moribund days when her father had acted so queerly, before his death; preoccupation by day, bitter tempers and mysterious disappearances by night. More than once, in his sleep, had he spoken of evil powers and eerie associates until the years that followed had been one hideous nightmare of apprehension. Unknown to Myra, his curious will left his entire fortune to some mysterious society in case his daughters should die before their legal coming of age.
Mrs. Maynard wondered if it were wise for her to keep Myra in further ignorance of the subtle dangers of impending.
“You are nervous, child,” cautioned the mother. “That is causing your somnambulism. We will take a long walk to-day.”
As the butler entered there was a ringing of the doorbell.
The maid brought in a letter, delivered by a messenger boy for Mrs. Maynard, who tore the envelope apart nervously. Her apprehension was unaccountably renewed. It was the message from Dr. Alden. One ominous phrase sent terror to her heart:
“Kindly allow me to call on you this morning, on certain matters regarding your daughter’s birthday.”
Mrs. Maynard crushed the note in her hands, as Myra mischievously leaned forward to peep. She was surprised at her mother’s agitation and sank back into her chair with a pout on the crimson lips.
One terrorizing thought that surged through the mother’s mind: Who could Dr. Payson Alden be? Why did he wish to see her about Myra’s birthday?
As Myra sat there, gazing at her mother with a look which had changed from jesting petulance to disturbed anxiety, she unconsciously placed her elbows on the table, resting her cheeks upon her closed fists, with the thumbs pointing upward.
Mrs. Maynard looked up suddenly; as she was about to lift a cup of coffee she screamed.
“Oh, my God! Don’t do that!” and, to Myra’s consternation her mother rushed at her almost savagely, to pull her wrists down from the accidental position. “Why did you make that sign? Who taught you to do it? You will drive me mad if you ever do it again!”
The mother was shaken with a paroxysm of sobs.
“Don’t you put your thumbs by your cheeks that way, Myra. Your father used to do that in his sleep; it is the sign of the Devil-worshipers.”
“Oh, mother, dear, you’re absurd! What a joke! You mean like this?” and again she repeated the posture.
“Myra, Myra. You are breaking my heart!” and Mrs. Maynard covered her eyes with her shaking fingers, to run from the room.
“Mr. Arthur Varney is calling. Miss Myra,” he announced.
The girl’s face lit happily as she nodded. Here was a welcome friend who would not be so morbid. She could ask him for a solution of the riddle.
The visitor had been ushered into the quiet library, which still reflected the bookish, antiquarian tastes of Myra’s father.
He looked about with a furtive glance, as he drew off his gloves. A glance at the rug and his eyes lighted with satisfaction. He stooped to scratch the waxen droppings of the candle.
“Good morning, Arthur,” and Myra’s smile as she entered was radiant as she extended her hand. “won’t you take off your overcoat and make it a real morning call?”
“Unfortunately, I cannot,” answered the other, walking toward the library table, after turning his dark eyes toward her with a strange, almost hungry look, which brought a blush to Myra’s white brow—she knew not why.
“I just dropped in to ask you to go to the opera on the night of your birthday. It will be ‘Faust.’ Will you come?”
“I should love to, unless mother has made other plans. I’ll ask her. But, listen,” and she leaned toward him with a confidential whisper, “do you know this sign?”
Tilting back her happy face she startled him by repeating the mysterious gesture which had frightened her mother.
Varney’s face registered a surprising gamut of expressions.
“Where-did-you-learn-that?”
“Ha, ha! Isn’t it funny? That’s what mother wants to know. But, Arthur, tell me—do you know anything about devil worshipers? I am so curious about it all.”
Varney smiled as though relieved of some great fear.
“Then no one taught you that?”
“No, I just did it unconsciously, and you should have seen how absurdly mother acted. Oh, she was so upset. Tell me what you have heard of them.”
Varney mopped his forehead as he laughed to gallantly add:
“I don’t know anything about devil worshipers—I, dear girl, am an angel worshiper.”
Mrs. Maynard entered the room.
“Mother, dear, I’m so sorry I teased you,” she began impulsively.
“It’s already forgiven, dear—but don’t do it again. It makes me nervous.”
“Mother, Arthur has invited me to go to the opera on my birthday,” said Myra. “It’s ‘Faust’—I’d love to see the Devil again. May I go?
Mrs. Maynard had to struggle to conceal her agitation, but answered softly: “No, my dear, we have other plans. It is absolutely, impossible—any other night in the week will be all right.”
Myra pouted in girlish disappointment, but Mrs. Maynard’s negative was adamantine. After a few bits of chatter, Varney made his departure.
At the door, he pressed Myra’s hand with unusual warmth.
“Never mind, dear girl—I’ll try to surprise you on your birthday night, even if mother is so selfish as to want you all to herself.”
And so he went leaving Myra wondering.


Chapter IV
The Intruder


The entrance of Willis forestalled further discussion. Mrs. Maynard studied the card with bewilderment.
“Dr. Payson Alden—who is he?”
Then she remembered. This was the same man who had written the disquieting message.
“Tell him to wait, Willis,” she instructed.
As Mrs. Maynard entered the drawing room she was astonished to see the visitor wrapt in admiration before Myra’s portrait.
“What is it you wish, sir?”
Dr. Payson Alden turned abruptly.
“Mrs. Maynard, I apologize for what may seem presumption. I have come to see you for the sake of your daughter.”
Myra’s mother bowed icily.
“To make a long story short, I have been devoting myself to a peculiar study for several years. My purpose in your daughter’s case is to prevent the commission of a great crime, for I have learned from my knowledge of the occult that—“
Mrs. Maynard’s face stiffened at the mention of what was to her the most dreadful word in the language, “occult.”
“You must excuse me,” she began.
“But it is a matter of life and death”
“I will not discuss this subject. If that is your purpose our interview is at an end.”
She nervously left the room. Alden turned to leave by the front entrance. He paused, irresistibly, before the portrait of the girl.
Why had she been marked for death?
Why had her two older sisters met mysterious deaths on their eighteenth birthday?
Must there not be some reason deeper than the possibility of obtaining her inheritance, now that the two older sisters had been put out of the way?
How, indeed, was he to strike back at the intangible band of human devils to whom stone walls and distance meant nothing in their annihilating power?
How was he to locate their secret place of communion?
Unconsciously his thought turned to his own personal interest in this beautiful young girl. It was curious how his early professional interest had been turned into a strong love for a girl he had never formally met.
In the days when he had first gained inklings of the mystery overshadowing her future he had made it a point to study her impersonally without her knowledge.
He had observed her at theaters and at dances. He had broken his rule of hermit life to attend and study her every action.
“Here am I,” he mused, “a man many years older than Myra Maynard, as sentimental as a schoolboy. I never believed in love at first sight—and yet each time I have seen her it has been an additional first sight, for every day I have discovered new charms. Love—love, as mysterious as anything else of the spiritual. All of my science cannot drive it out of my heart.”
He turned disgustedly away, just as a silvery “Good morning” greeted him. There before him stood the incarnation of all his secret dreams and hopes.
“What is the mystery about me?” she asked with girlish curiosity.
“You must pardon me Miss Maynard,” he replied, courteously. Alden believed in playing fair and there was so much at stake that he dared not antagonize her mother.
“What is all the fuss about this last day or so?”
She made the forbidden sign!
Alden was shocked out of his usual calm.
“Why, why, that is the sign of the devil worshipers! You mean this?” Sitting at the table he rested his head upon his clinched fist, with thumbs pointing upward. Myra realized now that the curious attitude gave the semblance of diabolical horns. She laughed at this ridiculous whimsicality.
“Yes, isn’t it funny?” and she faced him, holding her own hands in similar position.
At this juncture her mother returned to the room to behold the ghastly spectacle of her own daughter and this intrusive stranger making the horrendous sign to each other. She screamed and called for the butler as Alden sprang shame-facedly to his feet.
“You monster!” she cried, hysterical in her terror. “Go! Leave my house!”
She caught at Myra and dragged her frantically from the room, as the glaring Willis marched behind Alden.
Alden returned to his laboratory, to work with feverish hope upon his deductions of the case. His heart was singing, despite the apparently unsolvable nature of the affair, for had he not met and spoken with his divinity?
That evening Arthur Varney was the guest of Mrs. Maynard and Myra at dinner in the charming old house. A skulking figure moved across the grounds of the Maynard estate.
The man approached a window from which a stream of light poured forth. Peering in, he beheld the three sitting at the table.
He seemed satisfied, and with a surprising familiarity with the house, he darted down the side of the building, trying each window. At last he found one unlocked. He opened it softly and clambered through the aperture. The intruder had entered the library. On tiptoe he walked toward the stairs, using a pocket bulblight to pick his way by occasional cautious flashes. He tried first one door, then another, until he found the room which seemed the particular object of his search.
He entered this: it was Myra’s.
He took a small glass phial from a pocket and with the aid of a pocket light he rapidly smeared a dark stain over the knob. Then he left as silently as he had come, taking no jewels or other valuables with him, for this nocturnal visitant was no burglar.


Chapter V
The Underground Chamber


At midnight, as the last stroke of twelve died out from the dark belfry of the old church down the street, Myra stirred in her sleep, sighing as in some unhappy dream.
The girl sat up in bed and stepped to the floor, slowly adjusting her bedroom slippers.
Her lips moved as though she was speaking yet no sound came forth. With a curious tenseness she walked toward the dressing table, her eyes barely opened. The girl quietly lit the candle and then nodded, as though indicating obedience to some unseen instructor.
Turning toward the door of her bedchamber, she turned the knob and advanced with the candlestick in one hand, the other held forward as though she were being led by the invisible director of this curious trance.
Unerringly she walked down the stairs to the library.
Her fingers brushed along the woodwork until they reached a secret spring. The panel slid back, and Myra advanced—drawn by the irresistible urge of the unknown potencies.
She descended a deep stairway to a sinister chamber cunningly concealed within a solid enclosure of the foundations of the old house.
This was the secret communing place of Myra’s father and since his death nothing had been disturbed. It had been constructed in the house by workmen from another city while Mrs. Maynard and the little girls had been visiting at the seashore. The faded black velvet hangings which shrouded the stone walls made it seem much larger than its actual dimensions.
Cobwebs hung in the corners. A pall of dust covered the strange altar which stood in the corner farthest from the rickety stairway. This was black and covered with a moth-eaten scarlet cloth of some Oriental fabric.
In the center of this lay a parchment scroll held in place by a long Hindoo dagger forcibly jabbed into the wooden top of the altar. As the sleep-walker entered, the candles casting grotesque shadows across the barren floor, a number of rats, absolutely white, scurried into the corners of the stone chamber in which they had been mysteriously dwelling through these long years. What they could find in this room to eat was a mystery; their small red eyes sparkled venomously, emitting a dull glow.
Myra advanced to the altar, placing the candle beside the impaled parchment. She knelt before it, and even as a shudder passed through her thinly-clad shoulders, her fingers tremulously tightened and she placed her clenched fist, thumbs up, in the positioned which she had so accidentally learned that morning.
In the light of the flickering taper Myra leaned forward to read the threatening words. She drew the dagger from the table—her hand moving as though it were propelled by some unseen arm. Her muscles tightened against the force—she was resisting it with all her youthful vigor; and yet the glittering weapon came nearer and nearer her breast.
The girl was sobbing.
She averted her head as though pleading inwardly with the tyrannical will of the occult.
The dagger point was now firmly pressing against her breast. Suddenly the supernatural power seemed to jerk her arm high in the air plunging the cold steel blade downward—not into her flesh but into the altar, where it once more impaled the parchment.
Her hand relaxed limply, and dropped to her side. The rigidity of her pose now melted away, and she dropped like a dying flower as she buried her face in her hands, to sob miserably.
Then she spoke the first sounds which had come from the wan lips since her entry.
“Yes, yes—I will obey at the appointed hour.”
With a low moan the girl rose unsteadily to her feet, caught up the candle. Her left hand outstretched as before, she ascended the steep steps as though led by her invisible guide.
She closed the panel noiselessly.
The trance was unbroken when she extinguished the light, to fall exhausted into the comfortable embrace of the coverlets. In a twisted position of discomfort, Myra lay as one dead until the sunbeams strayed into her window, to play their tonal reveille upon the fantastic figures of the Bokhara rug by her bedside. When Myra awoke she discovered a peculiar stain upon the fingers of her left hand.
“What can this mean?” she thought. “I must not tell poor mother, or she would have another nervous spell.”
During breakfast the telephone summoned Willis to the library. He returned to announce that Dr. Alden was insisting on an interview with Mrs. Maynard.
Myra’s mother fairly jumped in her chair—then with a frightened look she answered: “Tell that man that I do not care to speak to him again.”
And Myra, her arched brows in an anxious frown, dropped her eyes to a rose as she nervously plucked the petals one by one.


Chapter VI
The Spell of Black Magic


Late that afternoon Arthur Varney dropped into the Maynard home for tea. He observed the haggard lines of Mrs. Maynard’s face, and even Myra’s nervousness was apparent.
More curious still, however, was Varney’s lack of the usual sangfroid—he smoked four cigars during the hours of enforced gaiety. There was unusual tenderness in his manner as he turned the music pages while Myra strummed the piano skillfully but distraughtly at this and that bit of the classics. Once he walked to the window to watch the busy heavers shoveling coal down the chute to the furnace room in the basement.
But he did not see them.
Myra was playing a heart-gripping nocturne of Chopin’s. Varney’s face, unseen by either of the two women, was twisted into a paroxysm of emotion and tears trickled down the face so generally phlegmatic in its cold calm.
“I can’t do it—I love her—I can’t!” he muttered between clenched teeth.
Then his thought changed and a frightened look came into his black eyes. “But if I don’t obey—ugh!” and he shuddered as might one pinioned in the choking grip of some monstrous reptile.
A man approached up the drive, garbed the same as the coal heavers.
He passed them unnoticed, reaching the kitchen door, where he asked the maid to admit him to the cellar to shovel the falling coal into the bin. The maid led the way. He began to work industriously. No sooner had she disappeared than he tossed aside the shovel, tiptoeing up the stairs again, to glide noiselessly through the deserted back hall into the dining room. Then he slipped to the stairway.
Upon the carpet of the steps were some telltale candle droppings. Into the empty library he stole, to study the paneling of the walls.
“Ah, there are the finger marks!”
The stains left by Myra’s fingers as they blindly felt for the secret spring of the sliding door were discernible. He paused to push back his lowered hat brim that he might search this panel the better.
Just then Myra’s voice came from the drawing room. “Just a moment, Arthur; there are more matches on the library table. I’ll get them for you—”
Before she had completed the sentence she had entered the room to exclaim, as she recognized his features: “Why, Dr. Alden! What are you doing here?”
The physician drew off his hat—for his disguise was useless now, he feared.
“Sh! Sh! Be quiet—I am here to help you.”
But Varney had followed the girl.
“What is this tramp doing here? He is a burglar!” and he sprang toward Alden who leaped aside just in time to avoid a vigorous blow.
Willis ran into the room and caught Alden’s arms. Mrs. Maynard screamed:
“That man is a criminal!” she cried. “I knew he planned some evil. Police! Police!”
The physician deftly wiggled out of his coat, leaving it in the hands of Willis. The sudden stop caused the unfortunate butler to topple backward.
At the same instant Alden sent a professional “right swing” to the jaw of Varney, who sank to his knees.
Myra and her mother, transfixed with alarm, stood watching this unusual contest; before they realized it, the physician had disappeared down the hallway, through the front door.
When Varney sought to pursue, the physician was leaping over a hedge on the lawn!
That night at six a private watchman armed with a revolver took his place in the library.
Consistent with the convention of his profession, he sought the most comfortable of the big padded library chairs.
At ten a belated delivery wagon brought up a large bundle. Willis received it—a new rug, which the expressmen deposited upon the library floor, still unrolled and tied as it had come from the shop. Willis did not disturb the ladies with any inquiries about it as major-domo he was accustomed to sign the receipts for all such bundles.
Alone again with his thoughts the watchman drifted into slumber to be awakened by the surprising touch of the rug.
It was rolling on the floor!
Before he had collected his drowsy senses he found himself covered by a revolver in the hands of no less a personage than the ubiquitous Dr. Payson Alden!
“Yell—and I’ll blow your brains out” was the curt command. “I’m a detective—keep quiet and watch what happens. Put that light out—I want it dark in here!



Chapter VII
Om Pari Hum!


Miles away, in another underground chamber, much larger than the compartment in the basement of the Maynard residence, a curious scene was taking place at this precise instant.
Within four walls hung with black curtains and before a strange revolving disc were kneeling twelve men in black regalia.
Upon the altar in the room stood thirteen candles, the smell of their smoking wicks mingling with a sickish-sweet incense. This exuded from a fantastic brazier in the center of the revolving disc, whose circumference was bordered with distorted cabalistic signs of baffling portent.
Swaying to right and left in rhythmic unison, the twelve celebrants continually chanted a weird mantra—“Om Pari Hum!”
A faint, reddish haze—a luminescence too faint to be called light—suffused these demoniac rites. From queer recesses in the walls peered the heads of crocodiles, owls, and bats.
An apparent master of ceremonies arose before the altar to renew the incense. Still persisted the grewsome cadence of the mantra:
“Om Pari Hum.”
The very atmosphere of this den of all conceivable horrors was oppressive with the concentrated energy of powerfully-minded men devoted to sin.
Suddenly ominous echoes of a great gong caused abrupt cessation of the mantra.
It was the summons of the Master of that black fraternity—the supreme pontiff of that religion of evil—the mortal representative in deed and force of the Prince of Darkness himself.
The leader of the ceremonies raised his hand while the mystic twelve waited for the command from the inner shrine.
In the ghastly silence came the tones of a sepulchral voice from behind the black and scarlet altar:
“Send Varney hither!”
The leader of the rites retired to the far end of the chamber, to reappear followed by Arthur Varney, wan and tense as though he had been drawn through a terrible struggle.
Facing the thirteen candlesticks upon the altar he made the fist-and-thumb sign. Then the newcomer was led to the velvet curtains behind which was concealed the master of the mysteries.
Varney groped with his hands, but remained standing expectantly.
“Master, where art thou” he asked, timidly.
Upon the far wall a phosphorescent figure began to appear—the appalling head of the devil. Varney breathed heavily in the dark silence.
A reddish haze from some mysterious source sifted into the chamber, to reveal sitting before him, arms upon a teakwood table with carved goblin supports, hands clenched and thumbs upturned—the sinister Master of the Black Order.
Varney raised his eyes to the glittering gaze of this serpentine monarch of cunning, answering with the dread sign of the order, and then awaited his bidding.
The expression on the face of this evil pontiff was an indescribable mixture of contemptuous self-confidence, craftiness and hatred of all things breathing and dead. A powerful face it was, with sharply chiseled lines about the mouth, the hose and under the eyes. Such eyes—keen as daggers’ points, inscrutable as those of a cobra!
“Have you accomplished your task? Is all prepared for the final moment?”
As he spoke his mouth did not seem to move; the words came through hard, rigid lips.
“Master, I have followed your bidding. Everything has been done as you planned and she advances hopelessly toward destructions—only—only—“
The eyes narrowed to slits as the master’s voice hissed: “Only—only what?”
Varney knelt before the Black Pontiff.
“Master, master! Why must I lead her on? I have learned to love her. I have obeyed you in all tasks—but let her live!” His voice rose to a wail of agony. “Let me die in her place. Let me marry her, and I will secure her fortune. I will turn it over to the order. Her death is unnecessary.”
The master snarled venomously:
“Unnecessary? Whose word is law here? This fortune must come direct to the Black Order with the baptism of blood and the sacrificial flame of death.”
His voice sank lower and he leaned forward.
“And, though you do not realize it, Varney, that girl possesses a power of which she is unaware. The psychic ability of her father, which he never learned to control, has been inherited in tenfold strength by her. She holds that within her spirit which might shatter the very existence of this order. I say, Varney, Myra Maynard must die!”
Varney shuddered as he replied: “Yes, master!”
As he spoke the reddish haze faded and the face of the master disappeared in Stygian darkness.
The crash of the great gong sounded again.
This time there were seven strokes.
It was the signal for the death ritual. Varney staggered to his feet and backed weakly toward the curtains through which he had entered the inner chamber. He fell headlong to the floor of the larger room, and the leader of the ceremonies lifted him to his knees.
“Om Pari Hum!”
The thirteen men now swung and chanted in unison.


Chapter VIII
The Message From the Dead


It was a dismal wait in the darkened library, but at last the nearby church bell dolorously chimed the hour of twelve.
There was a creaking on the stairs, and Alden drew the thoroughly frightened watchman into the corner behind some palms.
Myra came slowly down the steps, and the watchman’s scalp tingled with a new sensation. Only Alden’s grip restrained him from flight.
The girl approached the panel, moaning now, and seemed resisting the invisible pull of that phantom leader as she mechanically pressed the secret spring. The door slid back and she stepped into the dark opening.
Alden and the watchman crept across the room behind her. They followed silently down the steep steps until she approached the altar. As she leaned to read the parchment, kept in place by the impaled dagger, the physician crept behind her to read over her shoulder the words written in some red liquid upon its face:
“At midnight upon your eighteenth birthday you will pass into the next world. Here is the means.”
Myra began to sob as the unseen hand directed her own.
She lifted the dagger high in the air and the swift blade descended.
It rattled to the floor as Dr. Alden caught her rigid wrist.
Her eyes opened and she gazed at the strange surroundings, saw the unfamiliar face of the terror-stricken watchman, who stood rooted to the floor, revolver in hand, gave assistance, and with a piercing scream lost consciousness.
“Quick, help me to the stairs with her!” Alden commanded. They had just placed her on the davenport in the library when Mrs. Maynard and Willis rushed into the room.
Mrs. Maynard shrieked and pointed to Alden.
“He saved her life!” cried the watchman, equal to the occasion for once, while Alden ignored them in his professional efforts to bring the girl back to consciousness. The watchman explained to them. Mrs. Maynard knelt at the girl’s side.
Myra opened her eyes in a glassy stare, devoid of recognition. She waved her fingers as though writing a message.
“Be quiet!” commanded Alden. He drew forth a pencil and a memorandum pad, slipping the former into the tense fingers.
“She is not sick. She is in a trance. I believe she is a born psychic—a medium.”
Myra’s mother read what the girl had unconsciously written, screamed and staggered to her feet.
The pencil dropped from Myra’s limp hand. Alden looked at the pad, to read:
“Some one from the other world wishes to tell you that—“
“Oh, what a mistake to interrupt her!” exclaimed Alden. “It may have been the secret of it all. We must try again.”
The girl opened her blue eyes—the light of reason shone in them.
“Mother, dear, it’s my birthday, isn’t it?” And her mother, weeping with joy, threw her arms about her ecstatically. Alden turned away and beckoned to the watchman and Willis to follow him into the hall.
“So far science has had a good inning: white magic has scored against the black. But I wonder how love has fared?” he muttered, as he lit a cigarette in the hall, with a hand which trembled—and not from fear!
Within the chamber of the Black Order pandemonium reigned.
Suddenly the sepulchral tones of the master boomed forth from behind the black curtains.
“Varney! Come in here!”
The man staggered to his feet and, with head bowed upon his breast, moved unsteadily into the dark inner room. His companions listened with uneasiness.
They heard a hoarse scream.
Again and again this dreadful cry came to their ears, as they huddled together, holding each other in panic-stricken cowardice.
The voice grew weaker and finally subsided.
Then there was silence!

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