NABOKV-L post 0020819, Sat, 2 Oct 2010 13:16:57 -0700

Re: Poltergeists & DJ West
Needless to say, I'm gratified by Matt Roth's findings on the poltergeist
question. Furthermore, the quotations from the front and back of VN's index
card, taken together, suggest a deeper significance than I, at least, had
previously considered for Botkin/Kinbote's comment that "Hazel Shade resembled
me in certain respects."

I'm also struck by the fact that, although he often resorts to broad satire not
only of psychoanalysis but of academic psychology in general, VN was obviously
quite willing to turn to the authorities in the field when doing his research.

Jim Twiggs

From: Matthew Roth <MRoth@MESSIAH.EDU>
Sent: Fri, October 1, 2010 10:38:40 AM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Poltergeists & DJ West

Jim Twiggs recently argued that the poltergeist in PF was probably just Hazel
showing her unhappiness. This observation sent me back to VN's 1957 notes (from
the Berg archive) on Donald J. West's book Psychical Research Today. VN's
interest in the book clearly relates to PF, as on the front of the index card in
question, he wrote:

a victim of mental dissociation, he developed a secondary personality
wearing a radiant crown (the king as lecturer in Zembla)

In his recent book, SB wonders if this might have been the moment of Zembla's

But regarding, poltergeists, we should note the back of the card, where VN

household articles thrown about -- poltergeistic pranks

The phrases comes from page 123 of West's book. When we look at the whole
passage, it seems to affirm Jim Twiggs' interpretation. I will quote the
relevant passages:

Poltergeists have peculiar features all their own, a sort of family tradition,
like a pantomime, that repeats itself generation after generation. Noises,
household articles thrown about and smashed, untidy messes, and disappearances;
these are the stock-in-trade of the poltergeist....A naughty child is often
responsible, but there is more to it than simple mischief. A healthy child in a
normal family does not take to poltergeistic pranks, or if he does parental
firmness soon puts an end to the little joke. The typical poltergeist child is a
dull or frustrated boy or girl, seeking excitement or attention. The
typical parent in the case is anxious and insecure, with a considerable
emotional resistance to admitting that their child could be playing tricks. . .
. [A typical case was reported once in France]. . . The chief agent in the case
was Jeanne, aged 15. . . . The beginning of the affair was grandfather's bed
being found disarranged. [This happened several times]. . . . Then one day
Jeanne, summoning help with a piercing shriek, told how she had seen a vision of
a skeleton in the garden. Jeanne's mother became so scared she had to seek
refuge in a neighbor's house, and news of the haunt soon spread. . . . Then came
raps in the night, the disappearance of money from a purse, and the smashing of
some shutters. The editor of an occult paper, whose advice was sought, said that
there must be a medium in the house. Jeanne was sent away for a while, and all
the disturbances ceased until she returned. . . . [More rapping] . . . One
morning the family got into conversation with the raps, which came through the
wall leading form Jeanne's room. . . . Jeanne was removed to a hospital for
observation. The doctors found she suffered from anaesthesia of the throat and
contraction of the vision, both common signs of hysteria. She was subject to
hysterical crises and hallucinations. Her morals were frightful. She stole money
and tried to frighten her companions with pretended spirit raps, and she
invented scandalous stories with herself as the heroine. . . . As it is, the
case is an instructive example of the curious mixture of fraud, psychological
abnormality, and superstition that go to make the typical poltergeist.

Does this sound like our Hazel? I should also note another possible link to the
episode in PF. You will recall that the incidents stop after a visit by Dr.
Sutton. In the West book, there is a footnote at the bottom of page 123. It
refers to a passage about the Borley Rectory poltergeist, which West discusses
just before he starts the Jeanne narrative. West says there is no need to
discuss all of the details of the case, since an S.P.R. "lengthy survey of the
case" is forthcoming. This is followed by the footnote, which reads " Proc
S.P.R., li, 1954. (in preparation); C. Sutton in Inky Way Annual, ii, London,
1948." Farther down on VN's notecard, he wrote "see also Proc. S.P.R. 1954," so
he clearly noticed this footnote. Might it be that Dr. Sutton has his genesis in
this Charles Sutton, a debunker of poltergeists associated with the SPR? You
will recall that VN used a footnote in a similar way in reference to his
etymology of Shakespeare (Shalksbore, knave's farm). He got this info from
Baring-Gould's Family Names and Their Story, page 366. Just under the sentence
about knave's farm, which appears near the end of the page, there is a footnote
referring to a previous passage. The footnote reads "Harald Harf. Saga, c. 62."
The combination of Baring-Gould's note on Shakespeare/Shalksbore and his
footnote gives us Baron Harfar Shalksbore, aka Curdy Buff, man of fashion and
Zemblan patriot.

Matt Roth
Search the archive Contact the Editors Visit "Nabokov Online Journal"
Visit Zembla View Nabokv-L Policies Manage subscription options
All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: