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Volume 7402
A Rare Unfinished Script
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
NOTE: ERB started this story in March 16, 1920 - he abandoned the project for over 10 years.
He resumed writing in October 1930 and stopped writing October 22, 1930
Except for its appearance in ERBzine this unfinished story remains unpublished.

The Ghostly Script," a work of unusual complexity in which Burroughs devised a bizarre theory and philosophy of the afterlife, was begun on March 16, 1920, discontinued after the completion of five pages that included a foreword and chapter one, and not resumed until ten years later in October 1930. The manuscript at that time reached a total of some thirty-one pages, mainly in rough draft, handwritten form, and it was never finished. Allegorical in its effect, with the events in a super-natural environment clearly applicable to man's behavior on earth, the story opens with a foreword again in Burroughs' favorite style, with him as the narrator of happenings communicated to him by another person.

Some eight years after he had started "The Ghostly Script" and allowed it to remain half-forgotten in his files, an inquiry from a fan brought the story theme to life again. On December 27, 1927, Leo Baker of Port George, Nova Scotia, Canada, revealed a vision and perception of a remarkable nature. In an erudite expression of his ideas, he spoke of "the possibility of other forms and modes of life which our limited intelligence would not permit us to appreciate even if they were explained to us," and insisted, "There must be other worlds and other intelligent, living beings. . . ." He confessed having similar thoughts to Burroughs', thoughts "unuttered because of lack of coherent descriptive power. . . ." They had lain "latent" in his brain for years. Then, possibly as "a presumptuous interloper," he offered a tentative suggestion: "Why do you not write a story describing a world within our world. That is to say, suppose there were another world of living beings, inhabiting the same space which we occupy, but on account of being on a different plane, so to speak, not appreciable to us, nor to them. . . ." By way of analogy, Baker noted that before the invention of radio we were not aware of "the countless sounds and noises" that were in the air. Through science we were able to capture and record these. Similarly, could there not be certain elements in "our immediate vicinity" that remain unnoticed because we have not the proper means to detect them?

Highly intrigued, Burroughs, on January 11, 1928, mentioned "the rather remarkable coincidence of your suggestion that I write a story describing a world within our world." He proceeded to explain the theme of "The Ghostly Script," according to the brief section he had written in 1920:

I started a story along similar lines based on a supposed theory of angles rather than planes: If we viewed our surroundings from our own "angle of existence," the aspect of the vibrations which are supposed to constitute both matter and thought were practically identical with those conceived by all the creatures of the world that we know; whereas, should our existence have been cast in another angle, everything would be different, including the flora and fauna and the physical topography of the world.

Thus, Baker's ideas centered about an invisible world existing on a different plane, while Burroughs conjured up one based on a newly viewed "angle of existence." He wrote to Baker:

The thought underlying the story was that death was merely a change to a new "angle of existence," where from, viewed thus from a different angle, the vibrations that are matter took on an entirely different semblance, so that where before we had seen oceans, we might now see mountains, plains and rivers inhabited by creatures that might be identical with those with which we had hitherto been familiar or might vary diametrically.

Ed confessed that it was a "crazy story," commenting, "There was a reason why I did not finish it, though some day I may do so." Baker, in his letter, urged Ed to read Einstein's "theory of relativity," and noted that "Time, Space, Matter, are all purely relative and are simply artificial factors which we have adopted to suit our orthodox conditions of existence."

In reference to his MOON MEN
Within this setting Burroughs angles unexpectedly for the creation of one of his characters. In "The Ghostly Script" he had exhibited sympathy for the Negroes and had made his main character a Negro sergeant; now he chose to turn to a minority group again and deal sensitively with the Jew, old Moses Samuels, who made a living tanning hides.

For "Beyond the Farthest Star" Ed composed a brief foreword, and in it he repeated a device he had used in his "Ghostly Script": invisible hands, presumably from a spirit that was transcending the barrier of death, depress the typewriter keys with a "bewildering rapidity" and an amazing story appears on the blank paper
~ Reference: Porges
Danton Burroughs forwarded ERB's handwritten unfinished "Ghostly Script" manuscript to me many years ago -- one of many rare items he shared to be featured in our, and Websites.

I worked on this story, along with an unfinished Tarzan short story, and carefully "interpretted" ERB's handwritten words and transcribed them for an easier read.

Our plan was to circulate the typed versions to numerous well-known writers who might be interested in finishing the stories. A collection of these versions could then be collated into a book release. Sadly, Danton died before this ambitious project could be completed.

~ Bill Hillman


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