The Strange Case of John Ferguson
AFTER THE LAPSE of some years I find myself in a position to make public certain remarkable information about the Ferguson case. I can still see John Ferguson as he was on the night after his
trial, huddled in an armchair in my room, his eyes blazing out of his white face, his long hands grotesquely gesticulating as he emphasized some point with, “I tell you, I’m giving you the thing just as it happened.”
His sanity, you may recollect, was questioned at the trial. Personally, I think the man’s mental balance was gone; but whether his experience was the figment of a diseased mind or his diseased mind was the result of his experience, I find it difficult to judge.
I first became friendly with John Ferguson when he was a medical student at Edinburgh University and I was studying for the Scots Bar, and it was on the very day I was admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates that catastrophe overtook him. At that time he was engaged in some sort of scientific research and had given up the idea of practising medicine itself. The business, from his late father’s share of which he drew most of his means, suddenly crashed owing to the defalcation of a partner and he found himself faced with a burden of debt and the end of his study.
I le took it pretty badly. I have an idea, too, that he was half-engaged to some girl who turned him down, though he never referred to this directly. He disappeared suddenly, and I next heard of him six months later when a search was being made for him in connection with the murder of Dr. Krohn.
Let me recall the bald facts of the Ferguson case. Dr. Krohn was a strange, elderly recluse, reported to be an Austrian, who lived in the old, remote house of Auchengarth, in the Galloway highlands. Each Wednesday Dr. Krohn came to the village of Kirknewton, made household purchases, and, except occasionally, was not seen again until the next Wednesday. He had only one servant, an inexpressibly repulsive deaf-mute, who seemed also to be something of an imbecile.
ON MONDAY, 15th March, Dr. Krohn drove early in the morning to the station, where he took a railway ticket for Carlisle. On Wednesday night, the 17th, he returned accompanied by Ferguson and they drove out to Auchengarth. On Thursday morning, the 18th, he appeared unexpectedly in the village with Ferguson, ordered various supplies and visited the local banker who was also an agent for the South Western Assurance Company. With the banker he deposited £1,000 in the name of Ferguson and took out an insurance policy on his own life payable to the latter.
Dr. Krohn was never seen again. During the next two weeks people going to the house saw only the imbecile servant. About 8 p.m. on Thursday, 1st April, Mr. Grieve, the farmer at Torlands, the nearest dwelling to Auchengarth, was startled by an explosion not unlike the sound of a heavy fowling-piece being discharged. Concluding that somebody was shooting and that the sound was intensified by the peculiar atmosphere at the time, he did not investigate.
An hour later a wind had sprung up and the night had cleared. The ploughman, Kennedy, came to the door and told him that Auchengarth was on fire. Mr. Grieve thereupon collected a few people and, proceeding across to Auchengarth, found tne building raging in flames. They vainly endeavored to put out the fire, which eventually gutted the whole place. In the yard the deaf-mute was discovered lying stunned from a heavy blow on the head. Water dashed over him revived him, but he was unable to give any account of what had happened. A search of the ruined premises revealed no trace of either Dr. Krohn or John Ferguson, save that in an underground laboratory where the explosion ¿reared to have originated, some burnt clothing was found wmch proved to be the doctor’s.
The mystery created something of a sensation. Where were Dr. Krohn and John Ferguson? It was rumored that Ferguson had been seen and it was stated that the police wanted him on a charge connected with the disappearance of Dr. Krohn. F'inally, a week later, as I was reading about the affair in the papers, the door opened and John Ferguson v'alked in.
I have never seen anyone look so ghastly. He was wan and weary, and his eyes burned as though he had not slept for a week.
“I have telephoned the police,” he said calmly enough. “They’ll be here presently.”
"Good heavens, Ferguson,” I cried, “then you are giving yourself up?”
“Yes.” He laughed strangely. “Don’t mistake me, Dairymple,” he went on. "I did not kill Dr. Krohn. He murdered me, body and soul.”
Within a few minutes he was arrested at my house, and in due course was tried for the murder of Dr. Krohn. No evidence w'as led for the defense, the rambling account that Ferguson gave to his lawyers being so incoherent and fantastic as to be worthless. He got off with a verdict of “not proven,” mainly on the ground that there w'as no positive evidence that Dr. Krohn was dead. After it w'as all over he lifted his deposit from the bank and disappeared. It w'as on the night following his release that he told me his story.
IT APPEARS that, being thrown on his beam ends through the financial disaster to which I have referred, he answered an advertisement in a newspaper for a young man with experience and enterprise to assist in a difficult and possibly hazardous scientific experiment. In reply to his enquiry he received a letter from Dr. Krohn instructing him to report at an address in Carlisle. There he met the doctor who seems to have selected him from a number of applicants.
“You have no idea what an amazing fellow he was,” said Ferguson. “Fie was small and thin with a great head perched so grotesquely that he looked top-heavy, and long, pendulous arms like an ape’s. Flis cleanshaven face was as wrinkled as a hag’s, but his eyes were wonderfully clear and penetrating.”
They reached the lonely old house after dark, and Ferguson seems to have felt his first forebodings of disaster on seeing the deaf-mute servant, who appeared to have no name. The man was a monster rather than a human being. He w'as hunchbacked, squat and misshapen, his legs w'ere bowed and his arms were even longer than his master’s. Out of his bestial face there gazed eyes that were brown and mild and trustful like a spaniel’s. Such mind as he possessed was utterly under the doctor’s control. He served a simple but well-cooked dinner, which, however, Ferguson ate with little relish.
“You’ve got to picture my position, Dalrymple,” Ferguson told me. “The room in which we dined was damp and barely furnished and full of quivering shadows. The log fire spluttered and smoked and the candles winked in the
shapen creature kept appearing and disappearing in the candlelight like some old goblin and seemed to take his instructions from the doctor by signs, although I think he may have been able to lip-read. Sometimes the doctor merely concentrated his gaze on the monster and willed it to perform some duty. It was horrible.
“But my uneasiness soon gave way to interest. Toward the end of the meal the doctor began to tell me what he was after. ‘You must know,’ he began, ‘that I have been studying radiation and radioactivity for thirty years. I have spent a fortune, I have worked early and late, I have travelled to the ends of the earth in search of what might be called the philosopher’s stone, and at last success has crowned my efforts.’ His extraordinary eyes glowed with triumph. He leaned across the table and his bony fingers gripped my wrist. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I have found my philosopher’s stone. I could, if I wished, transmute the baser metals into gold, but I have greater things to do.’ ”
Ferguson paused, staring as if at something in the room which I could not see. Then he shivered violently.
“You know, Dalrymple,” he burst out, “I think he first cast his spell on me at that moment and he had me for good. He talked for an hour, his eyes on mine, while I smoked cigarettes and put in an occasional question which he answered with the utmost readiness. He had discovered a new radioactive mineral which he called Brazilian camotite. From this he had extracted an element to which he gave the name of krohnium. It was quaint to see the old fellow’s pride in the name. The pure krohnium salt, dissolved in water, diffused an emanation. Perhaps you know that these radioactive emanations are inert gases like helium and argon. This particular emanation was immensely active for two days. It gave off the usual alpha, beta and gamma rays,
draught. That mis-
though, curiously ♦ enough, the last were not so penetrating as those of radium and were easily absorbed by thick, non-conductive mica. It vas, however, immensely more powerful than radium, and a few ounces would have radiated enough energy to turn granite into vapor.
“You know, Dalrymple, we talk of a thing being blown to atoms. The doctor talked of things being blown to electrons. He had discovered a new ray which he called the theta ray. When a certain charge of electricity was passed through the krohnium emanation it gave off this ray, w'hich was of enormous and peculiar power and seemed temporarily to absorb the other rays. Briefly put, it had the effect of etherealizing all animate matter.” I remember staring at him.
“I don’t understand, Ferguson,” I told him.
He laughed queerly.
“It’s simple enough, really,” he declared. “This theta ray could smash inorganic matter to electrons or, properly applied, could transmute one element into another. But applied to organic matter, there’s a mighty difference. Organic matter is life, it has a soul, Dalrymple; you can dematerialize it without destroying it. For a time that varies in each individual case, it will retain its cohesion. Reverse the process and you have a sort of synthesis. Dr. Krohn had succeeded not only in etherealizing living objects, but in materializing them again.”
“Come, come,” 1 interrupted incredulously. “You are talking nonsense, Ferguson.”
HE THREW OUT his hands in an urgent gesture.
“I tell you I’m giving you the thing just as it happened.” He leaned forward, fixing his feverish eyes on my face. “Listen,” he w'ent on rapidly, “the doctor took me presently down into the cellars of that old house. There were twroof them—spacious, brick-lined, and floored with cement. They w-ere filled w'ith apparatus and gadgets of the most extraordinary kind. In the smaller cellar wras the electrical plant, in the larger the chemical plant. Two huge vessels or retorts, of what looked like mica supported in lead frames, stood in the midst of a jungle of w'ires and tubes.
“In the side of each retort there was a narrow airtight door fitted into a lead frame. At the top of the larger retort was an apparatus which quickly exhausted the air so as to leave empty space; at the bottom was a valve connected wñth a pipe that led into a liquid air condenser which froze the krohnium emanation. The whole thing was designed to force the emanation into the retort when the air was
“The doctor moved a lever, setting the apparatus in motion. Gradually the big retort became filled with a ghostly greenish light that reminded me of the wavering streamers of the aurora borealis. Presently he pressed an electric switch and a faint hissing sound seemed to fill the room. The radiance within the vessel changed from green to violet.
“He clutched my arm. ‘The theta rays,’ he whispered. Then he moved the lever and switch and the radiance disappeared. He went to a wooden box by the wall and
returned in a minute with a white rabbit. I asked him w'hat he meant to do with the little animal. His smile was a grimace.
“ ‘You have often blown out a candle?’ he said. ‘You shall see my theta ray blow' out a rabbit. ’ “I must own that I was trembling with excitement as with one hand he began to loosen the screws that held the airtight door while with the other he held the struggling rabbit. The rabbit, indeed, proved too much for him and he thrust it into my arms where it lay suddenly still save for little tremors that ran through its body. I think it had suddenly sensed what was in store for it and was petrified w'ith terror.
"Soon the narrow door stood open and the doctor placed the rabbit on the platform inside the
retort, where it sat motionless with its ears back. The door was then screwed into position and the lever was moved. Almost immediately wisps of the greenish light began to form and the whole vessel was filled with the queer radiance. In the centre of this strange luminosity the rabbit sat as though turned to marble. I thought it was dead. Suddenly it raised itself on its hind legs, its short front paws fighting space ridiculously. Then the doctor pressed the electric switch. The radiance changed to violet and in the same
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instant the rahhit disappeared. It was simply blotted out in a moment, as though it had never been.
“ ‘Great heavens!’ I cried. ‘Where has it gone?’
nrilE DOCTOR chuckled. ‘Blown out,’
lie replied, ‘or rather, etherealized. Its ethereal body is now being carried away in what we call empty space. I have no means of testing exactly how long it will survive. An hour or two, perhaps, as we judge time. But, as it is no longer subject to terrestrial influences such as gravitational pull for example, the earth will be moving away from it in space. If 1 could force its etherealized body into that other vessel, before disintegration, I could materialize it again by my process of synthesis.’
“I stared at him aghast. ‘You don’t believe me?’ he went on. ‘But I can prove it.’ Once more his bony fingers hit into my arm as he unfolded his amazing plans. It was possible, he said, to control and direct the etherealized body so long as it retained what he called its ‘identity.’ From experiment he had worked out that the maximum ‘safe’ period for the average human being was two weeks. It was possible to transport the etherealized body over such parts of the universe as could be traversed with the speed of light in that period. But it was necessary to return to the materializing plant at the end of the fortnight, otherwise one ran the risk of even the etherealized body disintegrating beyond the hope of restoration.
“ ‘In four or five minutes or so one can reach Mars,’ said the doctor. ‘All the other planets can be easily attained. The nearest of the fixed stars, however, involves a journey of at least twenty billion miles.’ He gripped my arm harder and swung me round so that his penetrating eyes gazed into my face. ‘Within the last three months,’ he said, ‘my etheric body has visited many parts of the solar system. But it is difficult and exhausting work. I must have someone to come with me who is willing to observe and collate his observations with mine, who is willing to risk something more than death. I think you have the necessary special qualities, Mr. Ferguson, but I do not expect you to undertake the work without proof that what I am telling you is true, and I propose to give you a practical demonstration.’
“He turned to the smaller retort which was connected with a variety of strange apparatus by wires, cables and tubes. ‘This,’ he said proudly, ‘is my machinery for the materializing or synthetic process. Just as the atom may be split up by disintegration in radioactive bodies, so it may be built up from them. By reversing my process I can materialize the living etheric body. Observe this lever. I am going to dematerialize myself, and I want you a few moments later to move this lever over.’ To my amazement he began to strip off his clothes. ‘I am not a rich man,’ he remarked with a chuckle, ‘and though I can reconstitute my living body I can’t save my inorganic clothing. Economy dictates that I leave it behind.’
“In a few minutes he was stripped to the skin and, unfastening the aperture in the larger vessel, he stepped inside. From there he instructed me to screw the door securely into position, move the lever and then press the electric switch. Finally he cautioned me to set the materializing apparatus in motion exactly one minute later.
“My first impulse was to laugh. I’ve never seen anything more comical than the grotesque, scrawny body of Dr. Krohn standing inside that giant retort like some weird white bird under a glass bell. Yet I was afraid. My hand trembled as 1 moved the lever. Soon the green radiance bathed the doctor’s form. He stood stock still with a faint sardonic smile on his face. That and the gleam of his eyes were the only signs that he was alive. I touched the switch. In an instant he dissolved before my eyes and I
found myself gazing at the empty violet-lit space. Then I turned to the other retort and moved the lever as instructed. This time no light appeared, but there was a faint sharp concussion, a vibration rather than a sound, and the doctor stood before me inside the vessel which a moment before had been empty. I íe signalled to me to open the door, and stepping out, began calmly to resume his clothes.”
AFTER THE doctor’s demonstration a long discussion ensued and it was only in the early hours of the morning that they concluded their strange bargain. The next day, the 18th of March, Krohn took Ferguson to Kirknewton, where, in accordance with their agreement, he deposited £1,000 in Ferguson's name with the local bank and took out a policy of insurance on his life in Ferguson’s favor. Ferguson said the arrangement was that he should lift £500 on the completion of the first experiment and the other £500 at the end of a further three months service. Meantime, if Krohn lost his life and Ferguson survived, the latter would benefit under the policy. Ferguson had, he told me, no doubts as to the hazardous nature of the undertaking. Briefly, a visit was to he made in the first place to Venus, and a careful examination conducted of the various forms of life, which, Krohn maintained, subsisted on that planet. It was not difficult, the doctor explained, for the etheric body, after a little practice, to perceive and survey material objects.
By the evening of the 18th all was in readiness. Dr. Krohn called in the deafmute and, putting him into a hypnotic state, impressed upon him that at eight o’clock exactly a fortnight later he must go into the cellar and move the lever of the reversing apparatus. Following that, the doctor wakened the creature from his trance, explaining to Ferguson that the deaf-mute would go automatically to the lever at the hour fixed and thus set in motion the means of restoring their material bodies.
At about eight-thirty Ferguson and Dr. Krohn stripped off their clothes and stood side by side on the platform within the sealed etherealizing vessel. The deaf-mute, acting on instructions given just previously, pulled the lever and, thirty seconds later, pressed the electric switch.
“You can’t imagine my feelings, Dalrymple, as I waited in that confined space,” said Ferguson. “I was waiting the advent of something hitherto outside human experience except the doctor’s—unless the recorded cases of translation of the astral bodies of yogis and fakirs supply anything analogous.
I had the most curious sensation as the green emanation mounted and submerged me, as though my body was being burnt up by an utterly intense cold. But I suffered no pain and my mind remained furiously active during a period that might have endured for years. Outside I could see the deaf-mute moving infinitely slowly toward the switch. He pressed it.
“Suddenly I seemed to be rotating like a top at a terrific speed. I can’t tell you if I lost consciousness. All I know is that the spinning sensation ceased and I was able to perceive my surroundings. I didn’t see in the ordinary sense, you understand, and there seemed to be a prolonged process of adjustment. Gradually I became aware that the earth was moving away from me.
II was a great greyish surface, then concave like a colossal saucer filled with some dark substance, then it became convex and plainly spherical, with one half, containing the American continents, illuminated by the sun. I had a feeling of tremendous exhilaration and wellbeing, as if my body was without mass or form. And presently I realized that Dr. Krohn was beside me, guiding my movements.
“Suddenly he quickened his pace. I followed instinctively and in a moment we were
moving at incredible speed. The earth dwindled with extraordinary rapidity. It was a large globe, then a crescent like a quarter moon, then a point of steady, brilliant light. As it shrank, the planet Venus grew. We approached it on the sunlit side and found ourselves above a tremendous sea of rolling clouds, bright like snow on a clear winter’s day.
“Our pace slowed abruptly. We floated down through the cloud bank at a speed that cannot have been greater than two hundred miles an hour to begin with, and that diminished greatly as we neared the planet’s surface.
“Suddenly I became aware that something was wrong. Dr. Krohn must have felt it too, for he tried to warn me. It was too late. I lost all perception of my surroundings, and the next thing I remember was finding myself in my terrestrial body lying naked on a moist, crystalline sand beneath a towering red cliff. Beside me was Krohn, in like condition. He was sitting up gazing round him, more in interest than perturbation. The atmosphere was misty so that it was impossible to see far in any direction. The heat was intense and humid, like the interior of an orchid house.
“Dr. Krohn gave a chuckle. ‘Well, they seem to have, got us,’ he said. ‘Obviously we’ve struck a belt of influence which has had the effect of materializing us. I wish I knew how they did it, but I fancy they use it as a protective measure. It remains to be seen what they mean to do with us.’ ”
TT IS NOT my purpose here to try to repro-
duce Ferguson’s account of his adventures on the planet Venus. The notes I took at the time are fragmentary and probably inaccurate. My immediate task is to give to the world his own explanation of the mystery surrounding the Ferguson case.
According to Ferguson's statement, he and Doctor Krohn succeeded in clothing themselves roughly with the immense leaves of some neighboring vegetation. Then they proceeded to cross an elevated plateau which brought them out of the cloud-belt and into a desert region where the sun shone pitilessly, and they suffered considerable hardships from thirst and cuts in the feet and hands. At last they descended to a lower level through a long fissure in the rocky surface and came to a plain where the atmosphere changed. Here they were seized by some of the inhabitants and carried farther down the valley to a region of gardens where there was a great building into which they were taken.
For the next ten days (as we count days) they were constantly interviewed and examined by certain Venusians, who showed no inclination to harm them, but were unwilling that they should leave the precincts of the building. They were not closely guarded, however, and facilities were given them to wander about the vast pile of rooms, corridors, workshops and laboratories, and to inspect the remarkable things that were to be found everywhere. It was during a tour of inspection that they discovered, through the good offices of one of the lower race of Venusians (to which I shall refer presently), the bath of etherealizing liquid.
This “bath” — I quote the expression used by Ferguson—was a dematerializing apparatus, operating by a process similar to that of Dr. Krohn, except that the medium employed was liquid rather than gaseous. It was used by certain Venusians of the upper race for exactly the same purpose as Krohn employed his—that is, for etherealizing themselves and then indulging in interplanetary travel.
It became obvious to Krohn and Ferguson that unless they could travel in their etheric.bodies to the earth before the time appointed for the deaf-mute to set the materializing apparatus in motion, they might never dwell on the earth again. You
can imagine their feverish anxiety as the time passed. The discovery of the etherealizing bath gave them fresh hope, but they were given no opportunity of utilizing it.
“If we can’t reach the earth in time,” said I)r. Krohn, “the chances are that that stupid fellow will simply leave the materializing apparatus running and it will burn out in less than twenty-four hours. Even if he stops it, how can I instruct him to start it again should we ever reach the earth?" And the doctor waved his long arms in despair.
“We could always return to Venus,’ Ferguson had suggested.
“If they allowed us,” said the doctor. “If not—” he paused and added grimly, “we might last a fortnight and then—complete annihilation.”
TT WAS AT a period corresponding to the
fourteenth terrestrial day after their forced materialization on Venus that their opportunity came. Through the instrumentality of their friend of the lower race a diversion was created which enabled them to enter the etherealizing bath. In a moment they were travelling with the speed of light back to earth.
“We were less than an hour too early,” Ferguson told me. “Dalrvmple, the suspense was awful. We hovered around the doctor’s house at Auchengarth watching that half-witted deaf-mute shuffling atout his duties. Darkness was falling. The fellow switched on some lights in the house and returned to the kitchen, where he sat biting his knuckles and staring into the lire. In other circumstances I’d have been astonished and amused by the ease with which the etheric tody can spy out what material todies are doing. Think of it, Dalrvmple. Someone you can’t see may be watching you at this moment.” He laughed harshly and I glanced over my shoulder.
“But at the time I was only conscious of my limitations,” he went on. “I longed to scream at the brute, to seize him and thrust him down into the cellar. I needn’t have worried, though. When the hands of the kitchen clock pointed to three minutes to eight the deaf-mute rose quietly and shuffled slowly down to the cellar. There was, you remember, only room for one of us, in material tody, to stand in the smaller vessel. Dr. Krohn courteously indicated to me that I should go first, and before the deaf mute had reached the apparatus my etheric body was waiting within the retort. The deafmute put his hand to the lever. I felt a violent choking sensation, a sensation which I think could only have been communicated after materialization. Momentarily I lost consciousness, then recovered to find myself leaning against the mica wall of the vessel.
1 signalled weakly to the deaf-mute to switch off and to open the door. He understood and presently I tottered out and stood shivering beside him.
"It was now Dr. Krohn’s turn. I refastened the door and when all was secure moved the lever over. Then an appalling thing happened. There was a blinding flash, and a terrific explosion that hurled my naked body, scorched and bruised, across the cellar.
“For a minute or two I lay stunned; but soon I was roused to a sense of my imminent peril. The laboratory had become a coruscating inferno. Sparks hissed and crackled in all directions and flames were curling up the walls. Blinded by the smoke, 1 groped for some clothes and rushed for the stair leading up from the basement.
“I’ve only the most confused recollection of what happened after that. I remember hurriedly pulling on some clothes with the house blazing all atout me and running out by the kitchen door. In the backyard the deaf-mute stood in my path. He was mouthing and gibbering strange little sounds such as I hadn’t heard him make before, and he thrust out a long arm to stop me. I seized a small coal hammer that lay beside a heap of coal in the comer and struck wildly at his head. He went down in a heap and I t(X)k to my heels.
“The rest you know, Dalrvmple, but you can have no idea what I went through during that week I dodged up and down the country with the police on my track. It wasn’t the police I feared. It was Dr. Krohn. All that week his etheric tody hovered round me, sometimes menacing, sometimes mocking, sometimes appealing, When at last 1 slept, he appeared in material form and spoke to me. He warned me that he could not risk the ethereal state any longer and would have to return to Venus. He ordered me to collect the money in the bank and search for a fresh supply of Brazilian carnotite. That’s only the beginning of my task, Dalrvmple. I must work and search and slave, for years if may be, until I can reproduce Dr. Krohn’s apparatus. If I fail—”
He stopped with a violent shudder. Suddenly he sat up, his eyes searching the comers of the room.
“He’s back,” he gasped. “The doctor’s in this room. He’s watching me, and one of those cursed Venusians is with him. . . ”
"^TEXT MORNING he was gone, and for over a year I heard nothing of him. Then he wrote me from Brazil. It seems he had succeeded in extracting the krohnium from Brazilian carnotite, and had interested some scientist as mad as himself in his crazy schemes. Since then I have had several letters in which he states that the work is proceeding slowly under the direction of Dr. Krohn himself, who periodically dematerializes on the planet Venus and visits the earth in his etheric body.
Ferguson’s letters contain some account of conditions on the other planet, his material being derived from communications made to him by Dr. Krohn when he is asleep, and the account is consequently somewhat scrappy and incoherent. As I have already indicated, he states that there are two races of reasoning beings on Venus. There is a lower race fashioned somewhat like earth men, and a superior race of what he terms Angels or Bird Men. The latter are smaller in size, having tiny bodies and rudimentary legs, but well-developed hands and arms projecting in front. They move by means of large membraneous wings like those of bats. They have large heads with beak-like noses, and the eyes are big and very dark and luminous.
These Bird Men do not use language as we understand the term, but converse in thought waves if near enough. They can, however, speak to the lower race in a queer little chirp. They have discovered how to etherealize themselves, and in the etheric state have wandered over the solar system ' and have even traversed a portion of the galactic universe. In so doing they have made a special study of PJarth, which interests and amuses them a good deal.
In his last letter, which I received some months ago, Ferguson retried that the construction of his plant was nearly completed. He hoped to join Dr. Krohn on the planet Venus for a short visit. Thereafter they would both return to Earth and communicate the results of their investigations to the various scientific todies. The Venusian Bird Men, he stated, were well disused toward this enterprise.
Some six weeks after I received the lastmentioned letter a newspaper cutting was sent to me from Rio. In a few lines it reported the death of Professor Lopez and his assistant John Ferguson as a result of an explosion in their laboratory at Santa Luzia de Fora.
I have set out the remarkable case of John Ferguson with his own explanation of the mystery just as he gave it to me. Was he crazed or is there something in his strange story? Sometimes when the winter dark is drawing on, or again in a wakeful ¡xriod of | the night, I think I can feel the half pitiful, | half malignant presence of Dr. Krohn hov¡ ering near, waiting and watching for that ¡ return to earth which can never be his until j one more skilful than John Ferguson opens | the material doors.