“Mummery?” repeated Dr. Vaughn, bending his penetrating eyes on Kennedy, as if he would force him to betray himself first.
“Yes,” reiterated Craig. “You know as well as I do that it has been said that it is a well-established fact that the world wants to be deceived and is willing to pay for the privilege.”
Dr. Vaughn still gazed from one to the other of us defiantly.
“You know what I mean,” persisted Kennedy, “the mumbo-jumbo—just as the Haitian obi man sticks pins in a doll or melts a wax figure of his enemy. That is supposed to be an outward sign. But back of this terrible power that people believe moves in darkness and mystery is something tangible—something real.”
Dr. Vaughn looked up sharply at him, I think mistaking Kennedy’s meaning. If he did, all doubt that Kennedy attributed anything to the supernatural was removed as he went on: “At first I had no explanation of the curious events I have just witnessed, and the more I thought about them, the more obscure did they seem.
“I have tried to reason the thing out,” he continued thoughtfully. “Did auto-suggestion, self-hypnotism explain what I have seen? Has Veda Blair been driven almost to death by her own fears only?”
No one interrupted and he answered his own question. “Somehow the idea that it was purely fear that had driven her on did not satisfy me. As I said, I wanted something more tangible. I could not help thinking that it was not merely subjective. There was something objective, some force at work, something more than psychic in the result achieved by this criminal mental marauder, whoever it is.”
I was following Kennedy’s reasoning now closely. As he proceeded, the point that he was making seemed more clear to me.
Persons of a certain type of mind could be really mentally unbalanced by such methods which we had heard outlined, where the mere fact of another trying to exert power over them became known to them. They would, as a matter of fact, unbalance themselves, thinking about and fighting off imaginary terrors.
Such people, I could readily see, might be quickly controlled, and in the wake of such control would follow stifled love, wrecked homes, ruined fortunes, suicide and even death.
Dr. Vaughn leaned forward critically. “What did you conclude, then, was the explanation of what you saw last night?” he asked sharply.
Kennedy met his question squarely, without flinching. “It looks to me,” he replied quietly, “like a sort of hystero-epilepsy. It is well known, I believe, to demonologists—those who have studied this sort of thing. They have recognized the contortions, the screams, the wild, blasphemous talk, the cataleptic rigidity. They are epileptiform.”
Vaughn said nothing, but continued to weigh Kennedy as if in a balance. I, who knew him, knew that it would take a greater than Vaughn to find him wanting, once Kennedy chose to speak. As for Vaughn, was he trying to hide behind some technicality in medical ethics?