Friday, March 15, 2013

Part 3: Bramwell's Final Notes

Bramwell, his Ephemerozoa, and a modern depiction
As mentioned in two previous posts (Part 1 & Part 2), Thomas Atherton Bramwell had resettled near the town of Springfield Missouri in January of 1898 in hopes of making contact with the occupants of the Martian Airship seen by W. H. Hopkins in that same location the previous year.  Suspecting that the Martians used unknown invisible rays to propel their craft and for communication, he continued to experiment with and modify his own version of Nikola Tesla's High-Intensity Discharge Lamp in hopes of creating new invisible rays and eventually contacting the Martians and emulating their remarkable flying machine.  It was during these experiments that a peculiar and unexpected effect was noticed:  Floating globular organisms, otherwise invisible, could be viewed during certain unpredictable and temporary modulations in the Discharge Lamp's radiance.   Bramwell was never able to purposely bring about their appearance for other witnesses, nor was he able to photograph them due to the limitations of his camera equipment, but these accidental events were frequent enough during the summer and autumn of 1898 that he could make a number of observations regarding the creatures.

During one event lasting a full five minutes he discovered that the organisms had remarkably short lifespans, leading him to name them "Ephemerozoa":
"The creatures, when visible, appear to live only a minute or little more before disintegrating into droplets resembling fine mist, then ceasing to exist altogether.  Just as quickly, new creatures coalesce to replace them." 
Bramwell also noted that the creatures appeared in various colors and sizes, but otherwise had the same basic shape and features.  They had no mouths or limbs, only delicate sensory tendrils hanging from their outer surfaces and one or more deep, eye-like organs.  They did not interact with each other, even when in groups.  Their only activity was to watch Bramwell as intently as he watched them.

Eventually, these observations led to his recognizing even more remarkable aspects of the globes:
"No means of reproduction...  These creatures neither produce nor consume, they simply form without ancestry out of the chaos of the elements, coldly observe us, then dissipate without progeny."
This implied that these were not creatures resulting from the pressures of natural selection.  Instead, some form of spontaneous generation was at work.

At this point Bramwell's notes become very confusing, and in the last three months of his experiments he appears to have made no attempt to leave any useful information for posterity, only nonsensical electrical schematics and cryptic statements such as:
"von Hohenheim is vindicated!  Sylphestri, Gnomi, Volcani - All these intelligences existing as complex standing waves of Radiopotentiality in the Aether"
"Sylphestre Globus... Each an ephemeral ocular aquastor of the mind of Nature, and in this way Creation's curiosity is satisfied and its knowledge made complete!"
From this it may be suspected that he had been influenced by the writings of the 16th century physician Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, more commonly known as Paracelcus, believed to be the author of Liber de Nymphis, Sylphis, Pygmaeis et Salamandris et de Caeteris Spiritibus.

Finally, in November of 1898, Bramwell's mad flurry of scientific inquiry came to a puzzling end.  On the 12th of that month visitors to his home and laboratory found that Bramwell was missing.  His dynamo was still, though the steam engine driving it was still hot.  No evidence was ever found explaining his disappearance.  A few joked that he had been devoured by his "invisible monsters", though there were no signs of violence.  With no known relatives or will ever found his property was auctioned to pay outstanding debts.  Many items of lab equipment and paraphernalia, including the contents of several darkened glass jars, were purchased by Ben Meyer and moved to the Lodge at Bethesda.  It is with these sad details that we end the story of T. Atherton Bramwell, as nothing further pertaining to his life or work is recorded in history.

Well, there is one odd footnote found in the writings of Nikola Tesla, the man whose demonstrations of electrical wonders in St Louis first inspired Bramwell...

On one clear night in 1899, while working on an improved radio device at his laboratory in Colorado Springs, Tesla began to receive extraordinary radio signals of mathematical progressions. Two years later in 1901 he shared this news to the world in an interview with Collier's Weekly and was heavily criticized, but he maintained until his death in 1943 that the messages had come from someone on the planet Mars.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it was proof that T. Atherton Bramwell truly had disappeared from the face of the Earth, having traveled to that planet in the Martian Airship whose occupants he had worked so hard to contact.

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