Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Squaw Hollow Sensation: Part 8 – Sethos Continues to “Speak”

“Mountain Democrat,” July 26, 1879 (continued)

“SETHOS” AND PSYCHO-TELEGRAPHY (continued)

“I took a wild and devilish joy in seeing them mangled, and I took hold of men’s minds and put murder in their hearts. Blood Flowed, It was an intoxicating pleasure to see that fluid, which I would have given the hoarded wealth of ages for, flowing freely in the sand. But then I saw the goodness of men, and I repented. And I sorrowed for the evil I had done in senseless rage. And my soul warmed to those who were what I vainly strove to be. ‘And then I found a mind that listened to me!’ He was a little boy, and as he read or talked, fancies strange, and wild, and incomprehensible to his simple parents shaped themselves in his mind. And as he grew, I held his mind in dreams at night, whispering into his heart lessons of the other world.

“Days, weeks, months and years again, and the boy was a man. To Egypt he came, I leading and guiding until the tomb of the patriarch, Sethos Koma, my grand ancestor, the Prophet of Isis, was reached. The man was Von Herbst, and his youthful and keen mind took up the hints I made.

“Thank Heaven and overruling Destiny, the “Book of the Dead” was still legible, and I, confiding, little by little unfolded in his mind the true philosophy of the compact with Isis.

“Oh, thou being to whom I owe my life, think of the anxiety and care with which I tried to rule your mind towards me! Think of the dreams you had by night! Think how the praise of the scholars came to stimulate further exertion! Think of the chance that gave you the great parchment rolls of Nichtken!

(Note: as previously mentioned, the German Archaeological Institute’s offices in Berlin and Cairo have no record of a Professor Nichtken. They pointed out that Nichtken could be translated to “no-know” )

“Forever and forever will the memory live, oh King of Minds, for by thee my soul has been freed from the dreary expanse of space, and brought to a home to my beloved body. And the thought by day and the dreams by night brought about your search for my body, for from a thousand experiments which you had dreamed of making I guided your uncertain steps across the trackless ocean and up and down across the continent, till finally one night when your nerves were highly strung, and wine had freed your soul from care, I spoke to you through your friend at a social gathering, in the great City of the Sea.(Note: a friend of Von Herbst, a Mr. Brooks, met with him in San Francisco’s Union Club and directed him to the cave and mummies in Squaw Hollow).  From thence your footsteps never faltered. I kept above you, leading you step by step, making difficulties easy and invigorating your mind daily with hopes. Oh, how despair seized me, when your plans were imperilled by an accident, but finally what joy and turbulence of ecstasy I experienced when you found the cave and looked upon my body! During those dark nights of toil and trouble I was with you, intimate in every thought expression of your mind. My pulses seemed to throb before I had a heart to beat them, and finally, when the question arose in your experiments, as to how you should proceed, how I beset and besieged your brain with ideas and suggestions! I lay at times as one oppressed by a hideous nightmare, knowing my infirmities, yet without power to move. As I floated in the air above you, anxiously suggesting, and waiting to watch the result, I could look down upon my body, lying there so stiff and stark, and yet the eyes that were so fixed in death could see the airy shadow floating overhead. I seemed to be two persons, and yet ‘one’ of them seemed stranger far, and more awful than yourself. I knew that if my body and my soul should join, and the fearful situation should be discovered, the shock would kill me, and yet it was myself that reasoned thus about myself. Strange processes of the human mind! It was like someone insane, with regular intervals of reasoning between bursts of madness, preparing the body in peace to stand the lashings of an uncontrollable frenzy, knowing, as I seemed to know, that soon I would be myself no longer, and that now, while in possession of my senses, I must prepare for the conflict of soul and body. And all this time, while my body lay there, seeming to be thinking of this, my sprit was adjusting instruments convenient to your hand and putting into your head suggestions of the next experiments. When you paused in the dead of night so often, and looked about you, you know that there was some presence about you that you did not comprehend. It was I. And I became happy and could not tire. As my dried up features swelled out into their former hue, and my limbs became supple, I longed to take possession and walk. And then your battery came to work, and I knew that you had discovered the secret, and then —- a blank again!

“Oh, to be thus always! Every limb at perfect rest, no wants but to indulge the joy of ‘thinking.’ Can this be life or death? I may know by attempting to open my eyes, but shall I prove it? It would be better to never know. I can feel, true, therefore I must be alive, but all that made life so painful has passed away. No unhappiness? My love for Talaka! Ah!, but I know that Talaka is not. She has long since crumbled to dust. Her race had not the secret of the Sethi. The Sethi! I am a Sethos, but never more shall I find my people.

(Note: Talaka is an undetermined person or goddess that has been referenced several times in this story. In Swahili “Talaka” means “divorce”)

“In such lazy half-thoughts did I waken into being, but I did not open my eyes. I had not the will. Open my eyes? Yes, smile if you will, for you are reminded that my eyes were open all the while, but through them no light did come; the eyes have not ‘seen.’ When you held me by the intensity of your thoughts I was under a spell. I gave up my will entirely to you, and so I slept. I knew that I should not be forgotten. The anxiety that had made me so restless for so many days while my fate was uncertain, had been succeeded by a holy quiet, and I was waiting. Waiting for what? I did not know or care. I felt but little. I was only waiting. And while I lay thus so quiet, you, Doctor, were wrestling with the fever, and when your love of life came out victorious, I felt a new impulse and I waited  on.

“When you came to my bedside I knew you had been sick, and I knew that you were pale, and I knew that you looked at me wondering at the change in my features.

(Note: Dr. Von Herbst had been ill and had left the revived mummy, Sethos, in the care of others. Sethos had physically deteriorated during that time).

“Then my spirit took possession of you again, and you removed the pressure on my will. This is the simple story of my death and resurrection. At times my heart would have led me off into rambling byways and loitering nooks of fancy, but straight ahead I have steadily kept till I could tell the experience I have had while my body slept. This shall be a subject of never-ending interest to you. You may know all you ever fancied, and the true life of all the world, from the time of my birth, nearly eleven centuries since, shall all be clearly read to you. The old “Worship of the Sun” I now see was never understood. We did not call on Isis and Osiris because we thought ‘they’ heard us – for how could they? – but what he meant was that all life, all death, and all change lies in Nature. All knowledge is from Nature. When I called as though I thought they heard me, it was a call rather to that consciousness within me which answered again. I am weak now, and faint, but before I release you I must tell you how to rouse me when you wish to talk. This is a secret of the old Aztec priest, but mankind, throughout the world, at various times have partly stumbled on it, and I shall, as a Sethos and inheritor of the mysteries, make known the truth. Not only will I teach you to read all inscriptions without knowing languages, but you shall do better and go further. When you read by this peculiar power (which only needs to be educated and cultivated), you will read not half-understood words, whose meanings may change, but you shall read ‘thoughts,’ ‘intentions,’ and ‘ideas’ themselves. ‘Spoken words’ are but a make-shift for want of better means of communication. Language in its very essence is imperfect. It is not “divine,” as you think, yet your language is far ahead of what it had been, for now you express not only relations between tangibilities but between fancies. Your thoughts are growing more refined, but I shall show you how to send ‘thoughts themselves’ from brain to brain, and let ‘words’ get out of fashion. How often, in moments of deep feeling, when Death has snatched away some loved one, or when joy has filled the heart to overflowing, words tried are flung aside as worthless, and oppressed by a common woe, or joyfully sympathizing in gladness, your ‘eyes’ speak to one another. And then hands by one impulse seek other hands, and tender pressure, and gentle tinglings of delicate sense-words convey your thoughts better than you could shape them in worlds. There is a soul-language that I am talking by, and this, so subtle, so refined and ethereal, pervades all nature, and is Nature’s Language. This you understand, for your hand on my head already has conveyed to your receptive sensorium my argument.

“Poetry is not all fiction. The ‘language of flowers’ is their sweet perfume, and you with light nerves appropriate it and are pleased. Why will you not understand it? Ages ago man could no more than the beasts and trees speak in clear formed language. The cry of pain became repeated for all things horrible. The language of pleasure became the universal sign of joy. And so there is a natural language which, reduced to system and used without the feeling which first called it forth, becomes speech.

“You understand me. Explain to all mankind the truth I so freely give to you. There is a great prompting in man and other animals to communicate. The dog looks meaningly into our face. If you understand him, as you often do, you have done so by this ‘soul sense.’ The horse, the ox, the cat, and fowls, come to you and you can interpret their expressions. You know when they love you, but you know only by psychic telegraphy. So I can talk now to you without a language, and you know what I would tell you. But you have been subjected to my influence since your childhood. You in reading sometimes have felt bound to turn back and particularly attend to some special paragraph. That was through me, and thus you were led to study up my system. Cultivate this power! Do not let it slip you, I implore! Watch faces! Watch thoughts!”

The Squaw Hollow Sensation: Part 9 – Dr. Von Herbst Concludes; Additional Articles

“Mountain Democrat,” July 26, 1879 (continued)

“SETHOS” AND PSYCHO-TELEGRAPHY (continued)

“And now for my promise, and I release you to rest. Come when you will, and grasping both my hands in yours, make a magnetic circle. Then, as I begin to show the effect of your attention, bend your look, earnest, long, grave and full of deep wishing upon my eyes, through their depths into my soul, and at times gently stroke my forehead from the brows outward and backward with an intense soul-effort. And, if you fail to-day, try to-morrow, and whatever force you gain to-day, store up for to-morrow, and eventually the full effect will come. Then thoughts will pass from one to another, and our minds will be as clear as crystal waters. Wish questions, and I shall know them, and my answers shall be such as I would speak, and language will no longer be necessary for us.”  *  *

“The Aztec, on this my first perfect communication, was perfectly intelligible, and it did not seem necessary for me to put the thoughts in words, for they shaped themselves to my understanding. What was stranger still, when Sethos spoke of being tired, I felt fatigue. When he saw the emigrants coming across the plains, I was first overjoyed and then I despaired with him. My feelings followed his, mirroring all his changing temper. When he spoke of my boyhood and of his influence over my mind when I was so young, I seemed to see myself as a little boy, with the figure of Sethos always by my side. My childhood passed before me like a pictured series and I could see when I was delivered from threatening dangers, and when I learned truths that shaped my mind up to my present circumstances. And here a most remarkable thing was proved to me. Looking over my life, each incident showed its bearing on some other, and when I stopped to consider what I was, and what I might have been, I saw a thousand roads branching off, turning, twisting, but I saw that when sometimes I had halted, and hesitated at some seemingly unimportant turning point, a slight tendency was toward one out of the many, and this one was, I could now see, the only one that opened up the way to where I now am, and all the others would have led me off to other thoughts and other pursuits. Yet in the picture the Aztec presence by my side pressed me onward ever on the right path, and toward his body sleeping in the hills.

“And this soul-sense, or psychic telegraphy, I believe in for I have felt it and communicated by it, and so have you, all of you, to a greater or less extent, and now it is my purpose to teach you all, and reveal to you a purer and more perfect vehicle for thoughts.

“Sethos has given me many communications, and in addition is making most interesting comparisons between our civilization and that of the ancient dwellers in these hills. The inventions with which I had thought most to surprise him, have only excited him with amusement. It seems that he is to be most valuable to us in Science, and in correcting our methods in the Arts. I prefer having him learn the ways and manners of people, though, in Europe, where he will be surrounded by scientists, and where his peculiar mind can be thoroughly studied. His suggestions, too, must all be tested by practiced workers, and his psychic theories will be the wonder, I know, of our Royal Society (Note: The “Royal Society” that he mentions, is the R. S. B., or Royal Society of Berlin, of which there is no record of its existence). The daily communications of course are disjointed, and would not prove interesting unless all carefully written up and revised. And speaking of revision, I was trying to write up the foregoing statement the other night, after Sethos had sunk to sleep. I was in doubt about one point, and finally made one misstatement. Reading the revelation over again, I ‘felt’ the eyes of the invalid upon me. Looking up, I saw that he was not asleep, but wished to speak to me, and placing my hand upon his head I had my former mistake corrected, and he was satisfied. I asked him, “Is this correct? Shall I tell it from you?” And his eyed answered, ‘Speak the tidings to all!’

“And now, Mr. Editor, I must thank you for giving so much space in your excellent journal to writings which, being in advance of public opinions, must necessarily seem strange to your good people. I thank you, besides, for your kindness throughout my stay in your country, and I shall ever gratefully remember the aid you gave me when I first thought of trying my experiments here.

“This will probably be my last printed word in America, but when my book appears I shall take the great pleasure of forwarding it first of all to you.

“Respectfully, L. Von Herbst, R. S. B.

When the “Mountain Democrat” printed the story of Dr. Loerder Von Herbst and his revived Aztec mummy, Sethos, there was one other article in the newspaper regarding the event. It said it came from the “Carson Tribune” (a real newspaper of the period also known as the “Daily Nevada Tribune”) in Carson City, Nevada and was printed in the “Mountain Democrat” on August 19, 1879, at the same time the “Squaw Hollow Sensation” was running. It read:

“Squaw Hollow Sensation”

“An occasional frequenter of the sidewalks of the main streets of Carson City can be amused these dull days if he will halt now and then where some of those limber-tongued old stiffs who were among the early settlers of El Dorado county, California, sit in squads spinning out to an almost unsupportable length, sometimes, their narratives of incidents, notorieties, etc., that variegated the early and good told times of Placerville, Coloma and other interesting localities in the days of yore. These jolly old cane carriers are here by the dozens, and the least and most insignificant occurrence reaching their ears relating directly or remotely to “Old El Dorado” will as rapidly bring together squads of these harmless old creatures, each to take a twist at the occurrence by overhauling every feature of it with his own peculiar phraseology, as the prospect of an enjoyable treat of gossip would cluster together a circle of animated ladies. We were more than ordinarily amused yesterday evening while listening to the tongues of the old codgers elaborately dissecting the late Ed Dorado Squaw Hollow sensation created by the eccentric experiments of Professor Von Herbst. Some were inclined to express a disbelief of the stated fact that Sethos had been made to breathe, toddle and coo after having laid in a comatoes (sic) state for several centuries, while others were somewhat careful in asserting their disbelief of anything that they could hear as coming from that famous locality, Sqaw (sic) Hollow. Some suggested that perhaps Sethos was the same notorious dried-up Indian squaw that the Coroner of El Dorado carted from one locality of the county to another, for the accumulation of fees for holding inquests in the good old Democratic days of El Dorado.”

About what happened to Doctor Loerder Von Herbst little is known, other than the following very strange article which was printed in the “Mountain Democrat” on November 29, 1879, a few months following the conclusion of the “Squaw Hollow Sensation.”

“More about the ‘Missing Link.’

“Some time ago the papers contained notices of the discovery, in certain ancient mounds of Japan, of certain fossil remains of a creature existent in the pre-historic age, that seemed to be identical with Darwin’s hypothetical ‘missing link’ between the man and monkey. From our old friend, Dr. Von Herbst, who immediately hastened to the scene of the reported explorations, we have received an interesting account (in German, of course) of additional discoveries.

“In the same mound with the ‘missing link’ were found several large sections of tan-bark, on the inner surface of which were rude sketches, evidently rough scratchings by a member of the genus Canis, which afford a very good clue to the appearance and habits of the being whose remains have attracted some much interest. One of these sketches assures us that the creature wore a plug hat and ambrosial (Note: “worthy of the gods”) side-whiskers, and had lower extremities that were longer from the ankle-joint outward than from that joint to the junction with the body. Another sketch represents the creature with a goose-quill in one hand, while with the other he waves a nether garment that seems all covered with gouts of gore, from which is drawn the inference that he must have edited a prehistoric ‘Stalwart’ newspaper. Another sketch represents him as feathered, cackling like an old hen over an old Indian mortar, as though he had found a veritable ‘mare’s nest,’ and making a crazy attempt to scratch up a fossil joke.

“From all of which the old Doctor concludes that the ‘missing link’ is simply a link of the outside of a prehistoric string of sausages, not essentially different from a similar link that may be seen on our streets any day of the week.”

The Squaw Hollow Sensation: Part 10 – Afterword

When the discovery of the 1879 story in the “Mountain Democrat” regarding Dr. Loerder Von Herbst and his reviving of a 1,000 year old Indian mummy was brought to the attention of the newspaper’s editor in 1981, reporter Hal Silliman was assigned to write about it. His story, which is in two parts, looks at the facts leading up to the story’s discovery by local historian George Peabody and many issues of the story itself. Here is part one.

“The Mountain Democrat-Times – Placerville, CA  Wednesday, July 22, 1981
102-year-old mystery: resurrection of a mummy
By HAL SILLIMAN, Staff writer

A centuries-old man-made cave, a mummy brought back to life by an eccentric German doctor — an imitation of Frankenstein?

Hardly.

These were the facts according to a series of articles printed 102 years ago in the Mountain Democrat.

“The “Squaw Hollow Sensation,” as it was called at the time, is a historical mystery of sorts which begs to be solved. Lack of information frustrates attempts to do so, however.

Squaw Hollow is the name of a creek in Pleasant Valley flowing through the Victory Mine area. It was here that Dr. Loerder Von Herbst supposedly discovered a granite-tooled cave and inside a lower chamber — which was filled with nitrogen gas — lay numerous mummies.

During the summer of 1879, a series of “Letters to the Editor” and supporting articles told the story of how the German doctor resurrected a 1,000-year-old Indian mummy found in the cave and brought it to a hotel in Ringold — a long-gone settlement in Pleasant Valley. The mystery of reviving the body lay in writings of the Egyptians, the doctor wrote.

This incredible story came to light recently when George Peabody, an amateur historian, was researching history for the Pleasant Valley Area Plan. He said the county Planning Department wanted a historical perspective of the area.

Peabody, who lives near Hanks Exchange in Pleasant Valley, worked on gathering the history over a period of two years. After he was through compiling information for the area plan, he said, “I couldn’t quit. I was hung up on the project and I kept on writing, using old Democrat micro-film files.” He found the accounts of a Dr. Von Herbst in seven articles printed between May and July 1879.

“I thought (the story) was so entertaining I thought I would add it as a suffix to the historical perspective exactly as the Democrat had printed it,” recounted the retired industrial engineer for Lockheed Aircraft Corp.

Copies of the articles have been published in a booklet on Pleasant Valley History by the El Dorado County Historical Society. The booklet is being used to raise money for the society’s publications fund.

The story begins on May 31, 1879 with a small article titled “MYSTERIOUS.” In the article — not a letter to the editor — the Democrat tells of Von Herbst, “a wealthy and eccentric savan(t) of Berlin” who has been “engaged in testing an interesting theory as to an assumed connection between our Indian tribes…with the ancient Egyptians.”

Herbst reportedly worked the then-current county coroner and a former incumbent of that office. The three of them made a “number of mysterious trips, generally at night, to a dark gorge on Squaw Hollow” where the doctor has made some extraordinary discoveries, of great (scientific) interest…which will shortly be made public.”

Two weeks later, on June 14, 1879, an article headlined “THE MYSTERY SOLVED” appeared in the Democrat. The newspaper said it was devoting a large amount of space to a letter written by Herbst telling of his experiments and adventure in Squaw Hollow.

“These facts are so startling that we should, as we are confident many of our readers will, doubt their authenticity,” the newspaper wrote, “but no one who has become acquainted with Dr. Von Herbst, during his sojourn among us, will for a moment believe him capable of any willful imposition or misrepresentation.” The first letter was headlined, “A START LING DISCLOSURE. Buried for Centuries and Restored to Life!”

In that issue and newspapers of June 28, July 12, July 19 and July 26, 1879 appeared lengthy accounts — one even in German — of the doctor’s resurrection of the Indian “Sethos” and his attempts at communicating with the being using “psycho-telegraphy.”

“Gully-wash,” you say. “A fabricated story. Lies.”

Peabody, writing in a foreword to the reprinted articles suggested that “at the time the…..series was published the prevailing impression was that it was a hoax.”

However he added “As you read and judge for yourself notice that these more than 100 year old articles express surprisingly sophisticated insights of psychological medical surgical and electro-neurological concepts.”

The historian further noted that “the choice of local setting the exciting theme the unexpected complexity of the plot which weaves its way through ancient history the involvement of public officials and the open faced presentation all tend to stem suspicion and provide a credibility which cries for acceptance.”

The Democrat made many attempts to alert readers to be wary of the doctor s story but at the same time presented facts that would make the tale believable.

An examination of all the articles — including those that the Democrat wrote of the incident and the letters attributed to the pen of Dr. Von Herbst —seems to indicate that the newspaper was leaving the verdict up to the reader and provided enough facts to say, “I told you so!” if the Squaw Hollow Sensation was found either a truth or a hoax The newspaper — smartly enough — covered its tail both ways.

In its own explanatory articles, the Democrat put forth as previously mentioned, that facts of the incident are so incredible that they and the good doctor should be doubted. Additionally the paper in the June 14 article said that Dr Von Herbst s “recital has been largely corroborated by collateral incidents and circumstances.”

Further the paper said that “within a fortnight a large number of persons including the leading physicians of this place…the editors of the Republican and Democrat, will be offered free transportation to the neighboring town of Ringold where Dr. Von Herbst’s interesting patient is in quarters at the Continental Hotel.”

An invitation to visit and inspect “the wonderful cave” was also made the article said “The result of these visits will be laid before our readers in faithful and truthful detail,” the paper concluded in its June 14, 1879 article explaining the published account by the doctor.

In the June 28, 1879 article written by the newspaper it was noted that the majority of the people invited to witness the live “Sethos”… “shared the prevailing impression that the account we published was a hoax The names of the eight people who actually went and saw the doctor and his 1,000- year-old patient, however, were withheld from publication “until the doctor shall have fulfilled his intention of delivering a series of public lectures, in which he will exhibit his restored subject.”

The newspaper, in the same article reported that “Sethos is fast recovering the faculties and powers which for so long a period had lain dormant.  His first attempts at locomotion were comically like those of an infant.” And it was written that “Sethos’ articulation was a cooing sound.

“To those with whom he has been brought into personal contact,” continued the newspaper’s description of Sethos, “he has manifested a strange intelligence and power that have inspired a mixture of wonder and of terror both during such intercourse and afterwards.”

Following the June 28, 1879 article was one printed July 12, 1879.  This is the one written in the native tongue of Dr. Von Herbst. In an editor’s note the newspaper explained that the “linguist on its staff had taken ill and a translation of the doctor’s correspondence was not possible leaving our German patrons to communicate its contents to their non-Teutonic neighbors.”

On June 19 the Democrat reprinted a news item from the “Carson Tribune.” The article alluded to early day settlers of El Dorado County who were now living in Carson City and who would latch on to any news of their former home and retell it with a certain amount of exaggeration. The article reads in part, “We were more than ordinarily amused yesterday evening while listening to the tongues of the old codgers elaborately dissecting the late El Dorado Squaw Hollow sensation created by the eccentric experiments of Professor Von Herbst. Some were included to express a disbelief of the stated fact that Sethos had been made to breathe toddle and coo after having laid in a comotoes (sic) state for several centuries while others were some what careful in asserting their disbelief of anything that they could hear as coming from that famous locality Squaw Hollow.

Some suggested that perhaps Sethos was the same notorious dried up Indian squaw that the Coroner of El Dorado carted from one locality of the county to another for the accumulation of fees for holding inquests in the good old Democratic days of El Dorado.”

The reprinting of such an article by the Democrat can be taken several ways. It was a common practice in those days to publish what other newspapers had to say about the hometown. But also it might have been to really point out that the story of Dr Von Herbst was indeed false.

In the same issue of the Democrat an article headlined “SETHOS AND PSYCHO TELEGRAPHY” appeared.  In this story the German doctor tells how he communicates with Sethos using what is know today as mental telepathy. The letter Dr. Von Herbst writes is perhaps more unbelievable than the rest of the story. He is able to know Sethos’s thoughts by touching a wire protruding from the Indian’s head.

The last article, printed July 26, 1879, is a continuation of what appeared the week before Dr. Von Herbst ends his letter with thanking the editor of the Democrat for allowing him so much space in the newspaper to print his writing. He promised that when the book he was going to write was published the editor would receive one of the first copies.
“The Mountain Democrat-Times – Placerville, CA. Wednesday, August 5, 1981
Unanswered questions The mystery behind the ‘Squaw Hollow Sensation’

Editor’s note: this is the other half of the series on the 102-year-old historical mystery of a German doctor reviving and Indian mummy found near Pleasant Valley. In the summer of 1879, the Mountain Democrat published several articles about the incident. It printed several “Letters to the Editor” penned by Dr. Loerder Von Herbst. In those letters, he told his story of resurrecting the Indian named Sethos. In this article, some perspective is given to the “Squaw Hollow Sensation,” which thrilled El Dorado County residents in 1879.

By HAL SILLIMAN Staff writer

George Peabody, the amateur historian from Pleasant Valley who recently rediscovered the “Squaw Hollow Sensation,” has tried to find references to Dr. Loerder Von Herbst, the eccentric doctor who supposedly resurrected a 1,000-year-old Indian named Sethos.

Alas, Peabody, working through the California State Library in Sacramento has found no mention of Von Herbst or the Royal Society of Berlin, the organization which the good doctor purportedly represented.

“The fact that the information is not in the California State Library doesn’t preclude the possibility of its existence,” Peabody noted.

Further, Peabody could not find a book by Dr. Von Loerder which he had said he would be writing about his scientific experiments leading to the reviving of the mummy found in a Pleasant Valley cave.

In his last letter published July 26, 1879 in the Mountain Democrat, the doctor said he would be authoring the book and sending a copy back to the editor of the newspaper.

Peabody is convinced the article was published purely for entertainment. The existence then of a Dr. Von Herbst is improbable. However, what remains perplexing is the naming by the letter writer of two “real” people in the adventure — Dr. J. J. Lawyer of Coloma, the incumbent county coroner and the Honorable Fred Collins of Placerville, the former county coroner.

Von Herbst writes that both men aided him. The doctor and the two coroners discovered the cave in Squaw Hollow. Both men assisted Dr. Von Herbst in resurrecting Sethos. Interestingly, the Democrat itself never gave the names of Collins and Lawyer in the articles it wrote about Dr. Von Herbst.

Why would two public officials allow their names to be used in an apparent hoax? Could it be because they both ran for the office of coroner soon after the last letter appeared?

Their nomination to the office appeared in the June 28, 1879 issue of the Democrat. The two men [and the publisher of the paper] were both members of the county Democratic Central Committee. And the Democrat in 1879 was as partisan as its name indicated.

Was this story some way of getting the two men’s names in print? Yet, this would seem illogical since, if it was a hoax, Collins and Lawyer would run the risk of being discredited. On the other hand, maybe they realized even in the 1870s that any publicity (no matter how dubious) is beneficial.

Peabody noted that Collins became soon after an auctioneer but has yet to find any further reference of Dr. Lawyer retaining his position as county coroner.

There is another mystery too. If Dr. Von Herbst did not write the letters, who then did? Was it the imaginings of a bored Democrat writer? Something by which to spice up a hot summer?

“If it was a ghost writer,” Peabody said, “we don’t know who it was, except for the possibility that it might have been Coroner J. J. Lawyer or Fred Collins.”

The amateur historian added that neither one of the men complained — through Letters to the Editor — about their names being used in such a story. Beyond this, there were no letters printed in the Democrat denouncing the tale as a hoax.

Peabody also cited the article about the “Squaw Hollow Sensation” the Democrat reprinted July 19, 1879 from the “Carson Tribune” as perhaps being the newspaper’s way of saying the story was false.

In the article the Tribune doubted the amazing resurrection of the mummy. It even went so far to say it was “the same notorious dried-up Indian squaw that the Coroner of El Dorado County carted from one locality of the county to another, for the accumulation of fees for holding inquests, in the good old Democratic days of El Dorado.”

The reprinting by the Democrat of the article “is proof to me something behind the scenes was going on,” Peabody asserted. But what was going on? Today editors don’t keep a journal of the day-to-day events of a newspaper. And certainly, editors didn’t then. There is no recorded history of the Democrat from which to draw.

Another source Peabody checked was the “Sacramento Union,” then a rival paper to the Democrat. He found no articles substantiating or decrying the “Squaw Hollow Sensation.”

“They never made a word about it,” Peabody said.

In his search for some clue about the origin or intention of the story, Peabody has found some similar articles published in other newspapers at the time. He noted that the Union printed an article about the freezing of sheep for shipment overseas very near the same time that Von Herbst’s letters were appearing tn the Democrat.

In this Union article, the story is told that sheep were being frozen solid in Australia, shipped to England, unthawed, given some type of injection and put out to graze again. Other newspaper articles he found told about accident victims being brought back to life.

Peabody said the idea of the resuscitation of life was very popular at the time as it is now. He compared the interest with suspending animation and then reviving life to people nowadays who are having their bodies frozen in liquid nitrogen to preserve them for future resurrection.

He pointed out, also, that the mummies in the Squaw Hollow cave were supposedly preserved with a gaseous nitrogen which was floating about inside when the doctor pried open the stone covering the entrance.

“This merely shows that we today are just as excited about living again as were those pioneers whose imaginations were undoubtably excited about this series of articles,” Peabody said. “Even the Egyptians themselves who were mummified hoped to be resurrected from their pyramids.”

The Courtyard Deli – Placerville

“The salad, for which like everybody else I ever met, he had a special recipe of his own.”

— George Du Maurier (1834-1896)

The Courtyard Deli
Two of my morning walking partners returned last week from several months in a warmer clime, where they relaxed, played golf, relaxed, played golf … A couple of days later one of them asked me if I had tried The Courtyard Deli, the new deli at 312 Main St, Suite 104, in Fountain Plaza in Placerville. I didn’t even know it was there, so the next time I was in town I stopped by.

The owners, Jann and Tania Wells told me they had opened on April 10 and were steadily increasing the number of new customers every day.

“We are glad it has been a bit slow,” said Tania. “That way we could work out the kinks all new businesses have.”

I asked if they had any experience in the food business and Tania said, “Not really, but we both have a lot of experience in management and are real ‘foodies.’

“We are so into food that when we went on our honeymoon in San Diego, we made sure that they had the Food Channel on the television. A great view of the ocean and the Food Channel, that is what we wanted,” said Jann.

“We were always doing the food for family and company picnics and people asked us for our recipes,” continued Jann. “We often went to a deli in Sanger that we really liked and have modeled our business on theirs. Quality and customer service is what we want to provide. We are working with our neighbors, Zia’s and Dedrick’s Cheese, to make our businesses complementary to each other. We want to make this place a food court where you can get what you want and need,” Jann said.

“We make all of our sandwiches in house and our sandwiches have a quarter pound of meat or more. We have also added local things to our menu like chocolates from Annabelle’s Chocolates in El Dorado and strudel from Boa Vista in Camino,” Jann said.

“Jann did all the work in the place,” said Tania. “He put up the cabinets and refinished the tables. He made it look real nice.

“When we first saw the place, we liked it, but it was too big. Later, we decided to come back and look at it again. A new wall was up and the size had been reduced to what we needed, so we took it.”

“The first thing we were asked when we opened was if we were going to have the great Chinese chicken salad that the place had been known for,” added Jann. “We got the recipe from Nina, but it just didn’t work for us. We think we have come up with one that people will like as much. In fact, we are reprinting the menu to include it.”

Yes, I tried it. It has a nice Asian dressing that complements the salad quite well.

The menu at The Courtyard Deli includes a number of delicatessen style Hoagie (I love that word) sandwiches, including roast beef and cheese, ham and cheese, turkey bacon and cheese, a vegetarian and more, and they have seven different cheeses.

Speciality sandwiches include the Courtyard Cuban, pulled pork, tuna salad, chicken salad, club Hoagie, French dip and Ruben. The sides, which are made fresh daily, include potato salad, Cuban style chili, seafood salad (I liked all the salads, but really liked this one for its clean, fresh taste), broccoli salad, white albacore tuna salad, chicken salad and a fresh garden salad. Also, soup and Cuban style chili and, for the kids, peanut butter and strawberry preserves and grilled American cheese. Soda, water, tea and more available.

Salads, along with the Boar’s Head meats and cheeses are available by the pound.

“We are really picky about our ingredients,” said Jann. “The first canned tuna we got said, ‘white tuna,’ but it wasn’t what we wanted. Now we get nothing but real albacore. As I said, quality and customer service, and we mean it.”

The Courtyard Deli is open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., except on Monday when they take the day off. “But,” added Jann, “we get here at 8 a.m., so we are usually open then. We have bagels and cream cheese and other goodies in the morning. Oh, Tania also makes a great whoopie pie, for dessert. Here, try a piece.” It was good. I haven’t had a whoopie pie since I was in Maine and it brought back nice memories.

For more information call 530-344-7574.