The Squaw Hollow Sensation: Part 3 – The Discovery

“Mountain Democrat,” June 14, 1879 (continued)

“We had no tools with us, and the only steel instrument, besides a small quill knife, was a pocket corkscrew which Mr. Collins fortunately had in his pocket, by aid of which I made shift to completely loosen the cement that held the slab of stone in place. It was finally loosened, and on lifting it up a flight of stone steps was discovered. I essayed to descend, but for some time was unable to do so, as the lower chamber seemed to have been artificially filled with nitrogen gas, which I may add “par parenthese” (Note: parenthetically; while on this subject), is a great preservative.  We lighted a fire of shrubs in the upper cave, and throwing the burning brands down below, at length established sufficient draft to drive out the deadly vapors. We then descended, I going first, as became the leader of the expedition. For some time I was blinded with corruscations (Note: glitter or sparkle) of the soda crystals that covered the walls. We came into a chamber smaller than the first, and whose walls seemed to have no further communication with any other chamber. The room was 22 feet long by 11 in width. The floor was covered, as the other one, with the same “natron” dust. This is not naturally here, and evidently had been artificially placed. Around the room at intervals were small catacombs, running lengthwise in the solid rock, and each containing, as I afterwards discovered, a human body. Mr. Collins went up again and procured a large rock, with which to force the slabs that protected the openings. After we were all three nearly worn out with hurling the heavy weight, the center slab at the further end of the cell gave way with a hollow crackling, and fell ringing down to the floor. Anxiously I approached the opening. Yes, sure enough, there within was a familiar looking bundle. We carefully lifted it out and began unwrapping the long bands which were wrapped about it. Just then a most vexatious delay occurred, through a misapprehension of Dr. Lawyer’s in regard to his duty. It seems that this gentleman holds the office of Coroner, and, reading the law on the subject of “bodies found” a little too strictly for Science, although legally exact, he had near to have stopped my further investigations. “Here,” said he, “are some fifty bodies, and according to my oath I am forced to hold an inquest on each of them: fifty inquests at –.” I laughed at the joke, and was preparing to pull away the inner bandages from my first prize, but the Doctor stopped me. “Surely,” I exclaimed, “you are not in earnest?” But I saw that he was. I reasoned, begged, expostulated and implored, but all to no purpose. I was in despair. The mummies would be sat on by a jury, and then would probably be re-interred without my being able to examine. I was just cursing my luck in having thrown me in the way of this over-zealous official, when Nichtken’s fantastic theory popped into my head. “Sit down Doctor,” I asked. He did so, and I told him of what had been said in regard to these bodies. For a long while he held out stoutly in his disbelief, but I was now becoming so enthusiastic that he could not at length but be convinced. I even went so far as to assure him of my belief in the theory that these bodies were not dead, but sleeping, satisfying my conscience with the notion that Science was worthy of that much sacrifice. Indeed I went further, and promised the Doctor to revive the bodies within a month, and besides to conduct all my experiments in his presence. In a month, I thought, I surely could find all I wished to from the bodies, and could possibly juggle one or two out of the cave and send them to the Museum. I did finally prevail on him to give me a month’s probation. After swearing secrecy, we again replaced the slabs, and, pulling some brushwood over the opening into the other cave took our departure. That night, you may imagine, I slept but little. I worked late in refreshing my memory with Nichtken’s process of vivification. On the morrow I procured tools, had some bright lamps mounted by Weatherwax & Woodward for convenience, and had Mr. Kemp to make me two large vats for my experiment  (Note: Charles H. Weatherwax and Edward F. Woodward were Placerville hardware merchants and William Kemp was a barrel maker, or cooper). It then took us two nights to move all this paraphernalia out to the gorge and within the cave. I next with a quantity of rubber hose conducted the water from a spring into the lower room, and set up a laboratory. I had great difficulty in preparing my restoring solution, as all the chemicals were not ready at the chemist’s, but Dr. Meglone assisting me, I finally made what I considered a vast improvement on my first discovery (Note: Doctor William E. Meglone was a physician in Placerville). These things took time, as I could only work at night. At length all was ready and I stared to work.

“Mr. Collins and Dr. Lawyer were accustomed to sit in the upper chamber reading or playing at some game, while I worked below. I first loosened off the covers to a dozen of the catacombs, and noted the condition of the bodies. Those that were hollow-bellied I immediately rejected, as they had been disemboweled. Twelve perfect bodies then were in the vats, absorbing the moisture which they had lost. The human body, you know, is four-fifths of water, and this the mummies had been carefully and delicately deprived of. It would have surprised you if you could have seen Mr. Collins the first time he saw one of the restored bodies. At the time I was leaning over one of the vats, and feeling with my naked arm among the bodies which lay in the clear solution, for the softest one. Mr. Collins and Dr. Lawyer had been present when I consigned the blackened, dried mummies to the vats, but had not been curious to see them in the intermediate stages. I was just raising one of the bodies by the hair, when I heard an exclamation behind me. Turning, I beheld Mr. C. standing on the steps, his eyes protruding and fixed on the vat, his face lived, the perspiration standing in heavy drops on his brow. I saw that he had been horrified at what he had seen, nor could you blame him. It was midnight and he was coming down with my coffee. The blue flame by which I worked barely illumined my corner, and just as he looked he saw the face of my subject just rising through the liquid, its great staring open eyes and natural appearance being most startling to one of weak nerves. I was now working all night long, and writing up in the daytime, so you can understand the intensity of my fervor during those precious days. I was in the habit of dissecting a limb each night, superficially, and on consulting my notes after treating three bodies this way I was surprised to find how near I came to the same results as the best surgeons with living subjects. I was now busy also in improvising cells for a large Daniel’s battery which I wished to experiment with, and of which I shall speak hereafter (Note: The Daniell cell, also called the Daniel cell, gravity cell or crowfoot cell was invented in 1836 by John Frederic Daniell, who was a British chemist and meteorologist. It was a ‘wet cell’ battery that used copper and zinc electrodes immersed in a solution of copper sulfate and zinc sulfate respectively. It was especially useful for doorbells and telegraphs).

“So far I found additional evidence to convince me not only that the Incas were identical to the Egyptians, but I found that in embalming they were even more expert. Let me quote from Nichtken, and you will more easily catch my idea. In the second volume of “Alphabeta Genuina,” chapter of “De funera veterum Aegyptorum” (Leipsic 1878, Hamburg and Gotha reprint) page 217, you wil find the original of this passage: “In this so called ‘Book of the Dead’ of Lepsius, which he considers a set of rules for a heavenly life, and with instruction for burial, I find abundant internal evidence, allied to other bits of information taken from tomb inscriptions themselves, sufficient to justify me in saying that its title is ‘The Book of Caste and life in the future’ This does not mean a soul-life, but a material one. The instructions were the private words of the priests, showing that thy could and did kill people and brought them to life again. Full instructions were given for the manner of killing and embalming. The priests took advantage of this power, to suspend animation in examples for a while, and then, unexpectedly, restore it again in full sight of their followers, thus gaining credit for great miracles. The sect which possessed this secret comprised the kings, and they were always preserved in this manner. The bodies of many of these mummies are as perfect today as in the hour when they were deposited in their resting places, two thousand years ago or more. Dissection will show no derangement of any organ, now wound, no sign of any disease to cause death. In the ‘Book of Kem’ (Nature) the process is clearly described for resurrecting the, and the very chemicals are stored in urns and put into the tombs with the bodies. We much concede that numbers of these people voluntarily put themselves in the hands of the priests to be preserved in this manner.”

“Taking these statements, and bearing in mind the first quotation in regard to ‘Heaven’s fire,’ I came to the conclusion that direct reference was made to the vivifying influence of electricity. I prepared a modification of Daniels’ battery, with 10 good-sized cells, weighing probably 12 pounds each. The only thing now left undone was to find whether the nerves were still sensible to the fluid. I prepared a large slab of stone and placed a long dry board on glass standards upon this. My first experiment was on a leg which I had denuded of its skin. The first shock was too violent, and only resulted in a slight tremor. I worked away for a long time before I discovered that the nerves had snapped. With another limb I got better results with a gentle current, and finally determined to try the action of the spinal cord. This, to my great delight, I found sound in all its properties and delicately sensitive. In turn I tested the brain, the heart and other principal organs, all of which I found sensible. The next day I made grand preparations and had a body beautifully restored, when a defect in my battery caused me to suspend operations and repair damages. I had now a vexatious trouble with my eyes, which had been so strained through the many busy nights, that I was fain to rest them a couple of days and nights before my grand “coup.” However, I was not altogether idle, and my two friends, Mr. C. And the Doctor, were of great use in procuring necessary articles for me. The last night I took out in the wagon warm blankets, bottles for heating and holding hot water, hypodermic syringes of different sizes and delicate thistle tubes. We had already made ready a dozen sheep to procure fresh blood from, and I had under my cloak a fresh jar of artificial chyle for use at the supreme moment (Note: Chyle is a milky looking bodily fluid consisting of lymph and emulsified fats or free fatty acids). At about midnight everything was arranged, and I commenced operations in great anxiety for the result.”

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