Black Sunday, 1935

14 May

Dr. Edward Low of Boise City, Oklahoma never revealed what his hobby was to any of his patients or neighbors. It was a secret that he had maintained in the ten years since coming to practice in the Cimarron panhandle in 1925. He was well-liked and enjoyed a high reputation as a sympathetic, effective physician treating local families. But he dared not tell anyone in the community how he spent his free time and off days.

Like all of Western Oklahoma, he had been witness to a decade of drought and severe dust storms. Dr. Low had seen the effects of the Depression and the climate crisis on many of his rural and urban patients, and he had tried to accomplish all that he was capable for them and their health. He had treated indigent families for free and was known as an individual with a very big heart. Edward had never married and seemed to be resolved to remain a bachelor till the end of his life.

The closest personal and professional friend of Dr. Low was another general practitioner, over in the town of Guymon in adjacent Texas county, in the middle of the Oklahoma panhandle. They were of the same age and resembled each other in character and personality.

Both doctors were involved with the same secret hobby of telepathic communication. Edward Low was more experienced at this type of activity and was willing to take ever greater risks in advancing the frontiers of psychic research and adventure.

Palm Sunday, on April 14, 1935 began as a pleasantly clear, sunny day in Boise City. Most families had been to one of the town churches that morning. Many were busy with family or church picnics early in the afternoon.

Edward Low stayed in his small bungalow, exchanging messages with James Hesse, his colleague and fellow psychic over in nearby Guymon.

The two physicians had met and befriended each other as undergraduates at the state university in Oklahoma City, then both were trained there at the College of Medicine. It had been James Hesse who had first become interested and enthusiastic about the subject of telepathy, and brought his friend into a small group experimenting with psychic phenomena. When the two young men graduated and won their medical licenses, they located their new private practices a few miles apart in the western panhandle.

The pair carefully protected each other from any public knowledge of their strange, hardly acceptable hobby. Over a decade of practical efforts, they came to believe all the more strongly in the activities that, if uncovered and revealed, would bring notoriety and censure upon both of them. Each partner knew that he had to be perfectly alone and unobserved when reaching through space and distance with his mind. Caution became second nature to them.

On Palm Sunday, both Edward and James remained at home, because of a difficult experiment that they had agreed to carry out. The original idea came from the thought of Dr. Low, who had read about certain tests that had been made in Europe the year before.

Ed was the one who introduced James to the idea of telekinesis of weather conditions through psychic thoughts. “It has been successfully achieved in both England and France,” said Low from a distance, alone in his own home office. “The most common term used for this process is aerokinesis, which I like and prefer. But some practitioners call it atmokinesis, and others like the title of meteokinesis. Whatever name is used, I believe that the possibility has been well established in our time.

“My dream, Jim, is that you and I make ourselves the pioneers in cloud and weather control through the mind here in Western Oklahoma. Certainly, there can be no greater adventure for us than the perfection of control over the storms and winds that trouble our land.”

“I agree with you,” dispatched Hesse through his mind, but with less enthusiasm than that shown by his friend in Boise City.

The two had decided to make an all-out effort on Palm Sunday. It soon appeared to both of them as the morning hours passed that some unfavorable winds and clouds were coming from out of the West.

Would they be capable of affecting or controlling these events?

It would be the responsibility of Ed Low to be the first to go into action.

The two telepaths felt profound sympathy for the residents of their towns and the surrounding farming families, suffering both an economic and ecological disaster. The clearest symbol of years of overgrazing and overplowing were the terrible dust storms that resulted when powerful winds picked up and blew the dehydrated top soil. Years of drought had taken their toll.

The warmth and brightness of Palm Sunday seemed a welcome respite from the dust storm of a month earlier, when birds had fallen to the ground dead and jack rabbits had suffocated from the powdery air. But a howling wind arose by afternoon, bringing a blinding blizzard of dark dust, first to Boise City. Edward Low communicated what he was seeing and hearing outside to his comrade in Guymon.

“An unexpected storm is striking here, with the wind accelerating and dust clouds appearing on the western horizon. People who were enjoying themselves outdoors have hurried into their homes, many getting ready for the worst in their storm cellars already.

“I can make out a wide, unbroken black roller moving toward Boise City from the countryside. It will soon be upon us here, and I will now begin to exercise the movements that I have learned are the appropriate ones for causing a reversal of blowing winds.

“In my thoughts, I am imagining and picturing circles that will turn around the pulling and the pushing of the wind from out of the West. I am thinking of the direction that I wish the wind to take, the opposite of how it blows at the present time. My vision is of the wind slowing down and turning away from Boise City, returning to the open prairie from which it came. I intend to alter the air current with the telepathic influence of my thought, so that further natural disaster can be avoided. My mind is now concentrating on that task with all its capacity, so I will now become silent for a time. We shall link up to each other as soon as I have succeeded in mastering the wind and the storm it is carrying.”

By then, Edward was slowly spinning his body around and around, throwing his arms outward as he accelerated his circular motion. He seemed to be losing awareness of what he was engaged in, his mind listening to the howling outside his window. His eyes stared at the whirling black dust as if mesmerized.

James Hesse, miles away in Guymon, grew impatient as he waited to learn what had happened. Already, the first strong winds were striking in Texas county, forecasting the arrival very soon of the dust storm that Edward Low was attempting to master and control.

This was going to be a greater natural catastrophe than the one experienced only a month before.

Edward made his circles with arms and feet ever faster, but did not attain the desired result of throwing back and diminishing the burgeoning storm. What is wrong? he wondered. Why am I not producing the victory over the wind that I was certain would come about?

A painful realization entered his mind. Could it be that reversing a dust storm was an impossibility? Or perhaps that he lacked sufficient potency of will to bring about such a condition? Whatever explanation might be true, it would surely be an embarrassing reflection upon himself as a creative telepathist.

The physician could already feel the bitter taste of failure and defeat in his mouth.

Over twenty different dust storms raged across the plains before the day was over. Besides Boise City and Guymon, other panhandle towns such as Beaver, Goodwill, Hooker, Texhoma, Adams, Balto, Felt, Forgan, Gate, Hardesty, Kenton, Keyes, Knowles, Optima, Turpin, and Tyrone were also struck and damaged. Further to the south, in the Texas panhandle, winds brought dust storm to Amarillo, Borger, Canyon, Dumas, Hereford, Pampa, Priona, Fritch, Memphis, Panhandle, Perryton, Shamrock, Spearman, Stinnett, Stratford, Sunray, Tulla, and Wellington.

Midnight darkness combined with zero visibility to make the dust storms the worst ever experienced. The entire state of Kansas, all of Missouri except the southeastern corner, and most of Nebraska, Texas, and Oklahoma suffered. It became so dark that most chickens went to roost that afternoon. A solid wall of black engulfed wide stretches of the countryside.

Edward Low soon realized that his psychic capability was useless in stopping this invasion of stormy weather. He came to understand that his telepathic efforts were having the opposite effect from the one he desired.

His mental exertions were serving to make the winds sharper and fiercer, not at all moderating or halting them.

The idea that he was only aggravating the dirt storm came to him a moment before he fell to the floor in a swoon of exhaustion.

Why did Jim Hesse walk out of his house, into the knife-like winds of the raging dirt storm? He could not have explained it if asked at some later date.

But there was to be no later date, for he was cut down and incapacitated within moments of going outside into the blowing wall of black. His end was to remain a mystery to all investigators, because his telepathic tie to his colleague in Boise City was to remain a secret never revealed to anyone from the mouth of Edward Low.

The latter came into consciousness after the winds subsided in the true evening, after hours of lying on the floor. The outside noise and the blowing dirt were gone by then.

Edward was in a state of shock and confusion. He immediately tried to raise communication with his partner in Guymon, but was not able to raise any response.

The physician tried again and again for over an hour, but had no success.

He then telephoned the number in the other town, but had no success in getting any answer.

Finally, Edward telephoned the police in Guymon, but they had no information to give him.

The doctor, all at once, thought of his professional responsibilities to his neighbors. He headed out for the nearest church, where a group of citizens had volunteered to help out anyone hurt or injured by the vicious storm.

He spent most of the night ministering to the medical and physical needs of families still living in a state of alarm.

Only the next morning did word reach him of the death of the physician over in Guymon.

Dr. Edward Low went home to get some needed rest, uncertain whether his experimentation in aerokinesis had somehow contributed to the demise of his friend and partner.

Till the end of his days, he never had a credible answer to that question.


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