On 28 June in 1914, the heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, were assassinated in Sarajevo setting off a chain-reaction which led to the horrors of the Great War.
In the world of Spiritualism, nothing and no one is lost. Franz Ferdinand was said to have communicated on the Other Side with one Judge David P. Hatch, also known as “X” to the readers of Letters From a Living Dead Man and its two sequels. The book’s American author, Theosophist and Rosicrucian, Elsa Barker, said that she had started communicating with “X” by automatic writing in 1912 and in War Letters from the Living Dead Man , we find Hatch’s account of his meeting with the late Archduke, giving a unique look into the tormented post-mortem world of “him whose murder precipitated this war.”
Have you ever thought of the posthumous feelings of him whose murder precipitated this war? No, you have not; but I have, and I sought for him and found him.
Others were seeking him too, the souls of the dead and the astral souls of those who slept on earth.
Truly his was not a peaceful passing, either in flesh or in spirit.
The dread of assassination which had long hung over him like a dark cloud predisposed him to a dark and stormy period after death, even if he had not been shocked out by the murderous assault. This was another illustration of that law by which the thing we fear attacks us sooner or later.
At first he passed into darkness and a period of somnolence, like a vague nightmare; then as he gradually awoke to a more vivid consciousness he awoke with pain and anxiety and wailing of soul. The dreaded thing had come at last, and he knew that he was outside his body and searched for it.
The customary funeral was even more dismal for him than it is for most souls, because the slight opening of vision which his passing had given made him realize that far more than his personal death was bound up with this change.
He was not attacked by the evil things which had brought about his death. What more could they want with him? He had served their purposes.
Had there been anyone else round whose murder so much obscurity and so complex a series of misunderstandings and suspicions could have gathered, probably that other man would have suffered in his stead. But whose murder could have served that purpose so well as this man’s? Whose relations placed him in such a focus of rays? His relations with the German Emperor, the relations of his family with those for whom he had no sympathy, the relations of the present heir with Russia—all these and many other sources of error and doubt and confusion formed an ideal centre of tumult.
And the soul felt this tumult in addition to his anger and disappointment at being driven from the world. His anxiety for his children was not small, for they stood in a peculiar position regarding the families around them.
Imagine the thought of every man, woman and child capable of following an event like that, centred on one soul, in anger, love, grief, curiosity, doubt, uncertainty—every mind in almost every country of the world! It was enough to shatter his astral body altogether.
Generally when a ruler dies he is followed by loving thoughts, or thoughts of dislike, but not by confusing thoughts. His race is run. The King is dead, long live the King!
For some time this heir to a great throne was even driven away from the companion whom he loved. He had nothing to lean on. He was drawn upon and victimized by thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, from all directions and in all stages of intensity.
Even the prayers offered for the repose of his soul in purgatory had not the effect which such prayers of love generally have. They were only a drop in the river of thoughts which rushed in his direction. Yes, I say in his direction; for he remained a long time in that storm-centre of thoughts.
Even the band of helpers, of whom I told you when I wrote for the world before, were not able to assist him very much; for they too were attacked by the beings of evil who made war in the astral regions.
As a rule the death of one man makes little difference to the world. Those who love him grieve, and those who dislike him or who profit by his death are glad. This man went out with the flaming torch of war in his vapory hand.
After a time he sought and found his friend, the ruler of Germany; but that ruler could not see him, though he sensed a presence in the room. He was half afraid. What was the presence? he wondered. Was it his own genius? Did it come to remind him that the hour of his “great destiny” was at hand? The hesitation of his weakness was rather shameful to see; but the determination of his strength, of his evil self, set its heel upon the weakness and the preparations for war went on.
The soul of the Archduke was too confused to play a part in those counsels. He had been a strong man, and will be strong again; but during the time when he might have exercised an invisible influence, he exercised none; he strove to make himself visible, and in one instance at least succeeded.
Yes, I spoke with him and advised him; but I had other things to do just then and left him with a priest of his own church, a gentle and strong soul who stood like a rock in the tumult.
I only mention my seeing the Archduke because of one who will some day read these lines. I cannot offer much comfort, but she will be glad to know of the strong and quiet priest, and I shall have kept a promise which I made but have so far been unable to keep in any way save this.
War Letters from the Living Dead Man, Elsa Barker, Judge David Patterson Hatch, 1915
All fairly standard Spiritualist stuff with a dash of Theosophy. The Spiritualists would probably say what a shame it was that the Archduke’s spirit was too weakened by his transition to turn Kaiser Wilhelm from the path of war!
“X” seems to suggest that Franz Ferdinand at least once managed to appear as an apparition to the living. I’ve found no mention of it anywhere. Was he said to perhaps return to visit his children? “His anxiety for his children was not small” for a reason. As the issue of a morganatic marriage, they were excluded from the Austro-Hungarian succession and instead of being brought up at the Imperial court, they were taken in by a friend of their father’s. The family’s properties were confiscated in 1918; and in 1938, Franz Ferdinand’s sons Maximilian and Ernst were imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp.
If you know anything about an apparition of Franz Ferdinand, write (with the pen propped loosely on the knuckles until it begins to move in circles) to chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.