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Did Twain Write “Jap Herron?”
On April 21, 1910, Samuel Clemens a/k/a Mark Twain passed on to the other side. Six years later, in 1916, Emily Grant Hutchings born in Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri, claimed the famous author dictated a manuscript to her through the use of a medium, and a Ouija board.
In the Introduction to “Jap Herron,” Mrs. Hutchings says that Sam Clemens had been waiting for someone to come along with whom he could form a connection and dictate his book. She thinks he chose her because she was also from Hannibal, Missouri.
During a psychic session with Mrs. Hutchings in attendance, Medium Lola V. Hayes transmitted the words "Samuel L. Clemens, lazy Sam. Well, why don’t some of you say something? Say, folks, don’t knock my memoirs too hard. They were written when Mark Twain was dead to all sense of decency. When brains are soft, the method should be anaesthesia."
Clemens dictated two short stories, "Up the Furrow to Fortune" and "A Daughter of Mars,” and a 50,000 word manuscript to Mrs. Hutchings over a two-year period. At one point during the transmission, he told Mrs. Hutchings and Mrs. Hayes that they could take care of minor errors, but not to attempt to correct his grammar. He went on to tell them that he knew what he wanted to say. “And, dear ladies, when I say d-a-m-n, please don’t write d-a-r-n. Don’t try to smooth it out. This is not a smooth story.” The ladies were “greatly amused” that “Mark should fear the blue pencil” at their hands.
The longer story takes place in the Ozarks of southwestern Missouri. Mrs. Hutchings states in the introduction to the story that the natives speak words they had never heard of, and that weren’t even found in the dictionary.
At some points during the interpreting process, Clemens would say that he was tired or that the ladies were tired, so it would be time to stop for a while. He also warned the ladies several times to be careful of other spirits breaking in with their own ideas.
Emily’s husband, Edwin Hutchings, also sat in on the transmissions. He thought that the board’s lack of punctuation marks must make it difficult for Clemens, “whose thought could be hopelessly distorted by the omission of so trivial a thing as a comma, and whose subtle use of the colon was known to all the clans of printers.” Edwin helped speed up the process by adding ten punctuation marks to the board. Clemens said that “Edwin did a pretty piece of work.”
In 1917, “Jap Herron” was published in New York. Clara Clemens, Sam’s daughter, and Harper and Brothers, the publishing company that owned the sole rights to the books of Mark Twain, sued to stop the book from being published. The case never went to trial, as the publisher and Hutchings agreed to halt publication. Most copies of the book were destroyed. Fortunately for me, there is one in a museum in my hometown of Hannibal, Missouri.
Senate, Richard L. “Did Mark Twain Write a Book After His Death?” Fate True Reports of the Strange and Unknown Magazine. November 1994.
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