This Was Unexpected

I have some clues about where James spent the last years of his life.

Here’s what I know:

The Theatre Royal in Margate meshes well with my memory of working in a theatre in a seaside town. It’s exactly the right size to be the house I seem to remember, and it was remodeled in 1874 but it was about a hundred years old at the time. That might explain my memory of the smell being of a very old building.

Two things it lacks: a chandelier with red, white, and blue ostrich plumes (though that could easily have been removed) and a proscenium shaped vaguely like a seashell top and bottom (though that may have been a backdrop). Also, I don’t know if opera would have ever been performed there (though if I could place a performance of “Nabucco” or “Die Zauberflote” there between 1874 and the first half of 1877 that would help things a little).

From the outside on Streetview, I got chills. The neighborhood hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years and I was a bit blown away by it. But that’s only a subjective impression.

There’s one problem with Margate: there is no canal. This means either:

A. There was one at one time and it was filled in and built over (there’s a street in Charleston, SC like that) or

B. I was mistaken and the place where James drowned was the Margate Harbour Arm, which incidentally was built as a port for steamships and was already there in 1874.

Also, worth noting: in the early 13th century Margate was one of the Cinq Ports. Count William was the warden of the Cinq Ports.


I’m back to listening to music from the war, looking at info about the war, even talking about it.

I don’t know what I’m going to achieve by confronting these feelings again. I was afraid that giving it any of my time would make it real again, make it something I couldn’t handwave as eccentricity. Even now, those memories are still there. There’s probably more where they came from.

But it bothers me the way all this lumps together with the general chaos in my life. I want it to be mental illness. What’s the alternative except that I’m either damn good at scaring myself or I’m a legit anomaly.

I don’t want to be a legit anomaly. This whole thing has the stink of some of the darkest recesses of Tumblr. I never bargained to be a special snowflake, or an attention whore. I just want a quiet, normal life like everyone else. But I have to prepare myself for the very real possibility that I’m just a freak and there’s nothing anyone can really do about that.

I do know this: in the last 12 years I have undergone four religious conversions, several noteworthy supernatural experiences, and a gender transition. That doesn’t sound normal. That sounds like someone with TLE or some kind of severe personality disorder. There’s definitely some dissociation but that dissociation could be caused by trauma. On the other hand I’m never sure what exactly the trauma that did it was or if I have any business being traumatized by anything I’ve had happen to me.

I’m going to get to the bottom of this. But for now I’m having a smoke while “Mademoiselle From Armentieres” plays through my hazy thoughts.


I’m going through voc rehab to help with accommodation for some of the conditions I’m known to have (chiefly ADHD which is my biggest barrier to employment right now). They’ve scheduled me with a neuropsychologist who also does forensic psychology.

If anyone can tell me what I’ve got going on it’s this guy. None of my diagnoses fully explain the past life thing. I have long suspected I’m schizotypal or schizoid or some heretofore undocumented combination of the two.

It happened again, by the way. First time since 2016. Last night I had a flash of going to a magic lantern show in Blackpool some time around age 5 (circa 1882). The building had a big sign reading “Phantasmagoria” painted on it. The slides had a supernatural theme (ghosts, seances, spiritism, and the like) and were taken from multiple sets strung together into a sort of early version of a budget horror film with narration by the projectionist, who gave a dramatic spiel. He’d say things like “Behold, the Magus of the East, who from his fiery cauldron, summons spirits!”

I confirmed, at least, the circumstances moments after the flash of “memory” broke. My girlfriend was present. The type of show was bang on for the era; second-hand slides would have been cheap by 1882 simply owing to the volume of production over the previous 20 years or so, and they would have been spoiled for material of a supernatural variety. The time period was correct for a magic lantern show too; 1882 was midway between “The Horse in Motion” and “The Roundhay Garden SceneThe Roundhay Garden Scene” so film wasn’t up to much.

With this came a long-standing fancy that Jack had a taste for the supernatural and the bizarre. I’ve long had images in my head of a sort of arcade (in the old sense of the word) open to the sea breeze through which there was a band organ and any number of things. I seem to remember gravitating toward anything to do with ghosts, the supernatural, wild beasts, oddities, or the trappings of the far east. It would explain another long-standing image in my head, of a very stereotypical “Eastern” space with very little light, wafting incense, and silk all over. That could very well have been a fortune teller.

I talked to my girlfriend about it again today. She doesn’t think I’m crazy. She thinks this belongs firmly in the realm of the supernatural. I’ve had doctors and counselors tell me as much too. And I’ve been told by my father that I’m a magnet for weirdness. He would know. He was there for a lot of it. My husband doesn’t know what to make of it either. If I listen to the people who know me, I’d believe I’m just a haunted person who’s a magnet for spooks.

But can you blame me for not wanting that? I would rather it was schizophrenia or bipolar or something. At least you can fix that, sort of. Make it bearable at least. In some cases if you treat it early it goes into remission. But I’ve checked with several doctors and other providers; everyone’s at a loss. My counselor basically told me I’m a lot like a number of other unexplained reincarnation cases, like the ones Dr. Stevenson documented in Sri Lanka. A rarity in the West.

And still the idea rattles around in my head that I remember Jack’s life because he was receptive to the idea of the supernatural and spent time in a part of the world where belief in reincarnation is as commonplace as belief in the Rapture is in America. It was misguided colonialism and orientalism that brought him there (remember the fortune teller’s booth?) but maybe he did learn something in India.

Maybe. But I’d rather believe I was insane.

Incidentally, here’s a really awesome video I stumbled on when I was tracking down info on magic lantern shows with my girlfriend last night.